Lord Alistair's Rebellion





In the Pot it is called Scum
In the Sea it is called Foam:
In the Sky it is called Light.



Copyright 1910 by
Mitchell Kennerley






Night clad the imperial city in a black robe stitched with fire.

The misty river rolled in from the sea through its illuminated bridges with the subdued swish of some great snake writhing its way through hoops of gold.

Out in the fog-haunted region between the bridges the movement of the red and green-eyed steam-tugs, clutching invisible barges and dragging them away into the darkness, seemed like a shadow-show in which grotesque demons were hunting the souls of men.

The two banks of the river offered a contrast full of significance.

Along the left bank white lamps that slit the dusk with the hard, bright glare of diamonds were strung like beads at measured spaces apart. A broad, smooth-paven road rattled with the wheels of traffic, and the long bend of the river revealed a sweep of[10] stately buildings representing the power and splendour of a great civilization.

Education, law, science, government, police, had their homes side by side along that mighty façade, which thus became an entablature on which the characters of civilization were legibly impressed. Beside the ancient universities of the law stood the headquarters of the vast machinery for the teaching of the populace—that is to say, for the taming of successive generations of barbarians. The power of wealth was expressed in luxurious hotels and club-houses, in the mansion of the noble and the estate-office of the millionaire. The revenues of empire flowed in and out through the gates of one majestic pile; from another the guardians of the social order waged war against the restless ranks of crime. Last in place towered the huge palace of the imperial Legislature, supreme over all.

Across the river the low mass of the southern shore lay in obscurity. All that could be distinguished over there was a dark roof-line broken by a few tall, smokeless chimneys, rising above the water like the walls and towers of a beleaguered city encompassed by its moat. The solitary illumination on that side of the river was afforded by a high square building which broke the gloom from instant to instant with huge letters of yellow fire, spelling out uncouth, barbaric syllables in what might have been the jargon of some subterranean race of men. Seen across the river mist the tower flared out like those burning[11] mosques beheld from afar by the voyager in the Underworld as he drew near to the city of Dis.

All night the square, ugly minaret continued to flash its monstrous hieroglyphs upon the darkness, as though the dwellers on the southern shore were signalling a message from their camp. And from time to time, when the rattle of the wheels on the hither side stayed for a moment, there was borne across the water the low, sullen hum as of a vast multitude swarming in the narrow streets and stunted houses of the hidden region beyond.

Thus the two banks of the river faced each other with something of a mutual threat.

On one side of the gulf, that low, sombre roof-line with its fitful torch-fires; on the other side, the broad illuminated rampart of civilization, crowned by its imperial keep.

A light more brilliant than the rest streamed from the summit of the ponderous clock-tower that guards the foot of Westminster Bridge.

This was the answering signal of the northern shore to that sullen camp across the river. It burned there to proclaim that the sovereign power of empire was at work beneath, judging over five hundred millions of men, and two and a half continents. All the forces of the mightiest society the world has yet beheld were focused here in the High Court of Parliament, the Board of the Anglo-Roman Raj.

Here the decrees were shaped in obedience to which invincible fleets crossed the ocean; armies were transported[12] from one hemisphere to the conquest of another; kings were dethroned in Africa and other kings were crowned in Asia; warlike republics were extinguished under the Southern Pole, and tottering dynasties propped up in the shadow of the Himalayas; whole races of men, speaking strange tongues, and reckoning time by other constellations, had their laws and manners and religions changed for them; immemorial savagery was thrust into the forcing-house of civilization, and immemorial civilizations were rooted up; from this centre the hardy freemen of the Baltic North spread the ancient Mediterranean culture and Semitic folklore wherever the Raj extended round the globe.

Here throbbed the great piston-rod which drove the myriad wheels of government and slowly stamped deeper age after age the same Roman-Semitic imprint upon the subjugated populace at home.

Night after night, as the dwellers on the southern shore gazed across at the majestic citadel of the Raj, they saw that beacon burning, the symbol of the unresting watchfulness of their rulers against the assaults of foes within and without. That steady flame shone out defiance alike to the foreign invader and the traitor within the gates; to the rebels who scoured the African veldt, and the more dangerous rebels who skulked through the streets and alleys of the imperial capital. On all alike, on the encroaching Tsar as on the plotting Maharajah, on far-off savages and[13] on felons crouching at the gates, the Genius of the Raj was seen to keep its never-closing eye.

More than a mile away, round the curving bank of the river, where the warehouses of Mammon clustered thickly round the temple of Jehovah, there rose another Symbol, invisible in the night, soaring high above the intervening territory of squalor.

This Symbol was intended to represent a Roman gibbet, the gibbet on which a Redeemer had been put to death two thousand years ago, in a remote corner of that ancient Mediterranean realm of which this modern civilization was heir.

In the night these two Symbols confronted each other, the Flame and the Cross, as though they were the warring ensigns of Ahura-Mazda, the Spirit of Light, and Anru-Mainya, the Spirit of Darkness.

On the midmost arch of Westminster Bridge a young man stood alone, leaning over the parapet, and sounding with his eyes the black depth of the water below.

His whole air and appearance were out of harmony with the spot where he found himself, and suggested that he must have strayed there from some gayer quarter of the town. An opera hat was thrust back on his head, and a silk-lined overcoat, thrown open in front, allowed his waistcoat, of white satin, to become soiled by contact with the grime of the bridge. He held a cane of rich and fanciful design in one hand; the other hand, resting loosely on the ironwork[14] of the balustrade, showed more than one curious and valuable ring.

He leaned on the bridge dully, his head drooping as though he were tired. Although his face was that of a man not yet thirty years of age, it bore marks which showed that he had lived too eagerly, without heed to life’s immitigable laws. Already the forehead was crossed with faint lines, though there was no thinning of the black hair that curled above. The beauty of the face was marred by the flush of intemperance, and the sensuous underlip contradicted the refinement of the sensitive nostrils. The dark, restless eyes and delicate chin completed the impression of passion and weakness which was left by the whole face.

On the pavement of St. James’s such a figure would have seemed at home. Seen where it was, like a tropical bird blown ashore on some bleaker landscape, it provoked the curiosity of the passers-by.

Some of them took offence at the unusual sight. A group of roughs returning from some haunt of vice on the north side to their dens across the river eyed the well-dressed loiterer with envious contempt, and tried to hustle him as they went by. Their leader, a hulking Irishman, encouraged them in a coarse speech, which still breathed faintly of the sea-scented glens of Connemara.

Something in the voice or in the words startled the lounger. He turned his head quickly, and gave the ruffian a questioning look, under which he slunk[15] to one side, and passed on with his friends. In the dark streets where their homes lay they might not have been abashed so easily. But their courage for violence ebbed on the well-lighted bridge. Few crimes are committed at high noon.

A policeman sauntering on to the bridge shortly afterwards caught sight of the stranger, and seemed to become interested in his doings. Instead of pursuing his way when he had reached the farther end of the bridge, the officer halted, and stood about on the pavement by St. Thomas’s Hospital, keeping his eyes fixed on the figure that overhung the balustrade so persistently.

Two shop-boys coming along in their turn had their sense of humour tickled by the young man’s forlorn attitude. One of them gave vent to a ribald jest.

“Look,” he said aloud to his comrade, “there’s Jesus Christ.”

So closely wrapped in his own thoughts was the lounger that it was many seconds after they had been uttered before the words succeeded in penetrating to his consciousness. The last sound of the youths’ trampling feet had died away at the end of the bridge before he woke up sufficiently to ask himself with a resentful air: “What made him say that?”

He found himself unable to dismiss the jeer from his mind, in which it went on echoing with such tormenting insistence that at last he stood up and shook himself, unconsciously making a physical effort to change the pattern in the brain’s kaleidoscope.

[16]But the suggestion which so irritated him was not to be got rid of in that fashion. It chimed in too well with the whole tenor of his meditation since he had found his way on to the bridge. The half-formed questions which had been baffling his attempts to give them definite shape now all at once began to come together and settle down into one question, precipitated, as it were, by that profane mockery.

“Why,” he reflected, with a growing sense of anger at the comparison—“why did he call me that?”

It was not because he attributed any serious intention to the jester that he argued thus with himself. He was in that mood when everything around us appears mysterious and fraught with some revelation to which we only need a key. The words of the shop-boy became for him a hint from the night itself, like the cryptic utterances of the characters in a play of Maeterlinck’s.

“What likeness is there between Christ and me?” he went on, putting the problem before himself more distinctly.

What likeness, indeed, between this spoilt child of civilization, to whom the world seemed to have given of its best, for whom Christianity could be no more than a legend, and that buffeted Redeemer hanging on his gibbet in the Syrian sun of two thousand years ago?

And yet an insult cannot rankle unless it is barbed with truth. From the inner cells of memory, where they had been stored up in past days by a religious[17] mother, certain words and phrases were already coming forth, as though moved by some subtle affinity, to answer that uncomfortable question.

Despised and rejected of men—they ran something like that. And again: Stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. There were other words which should have followed, surely, but he tried in vain to draw them forth.

Despised and rejected of men. The flush darkened on the young man’s cheek as he flung back his head with a rebellious and angry glance at the river’s northern bank, where the shining walls and towers of the city of Ormuzd seemed to overhang the gulf—the glance which an exile gives at the city which has driven him forth.

He had fled to the spot, stunned by one of those buffets which life is ever waiting to deal to those who have not learnt their lesson aright. And his ears still smarted with the scream of the newsboys who were proclaiming in every street that Lord Alistair Stuart had failed.

In London men like Alistair Stuart fail every day, and go under, leaving scarcely a ripple on the smooth surface of a society which hastens to forget all disagreeable things. But Lord Alistair’s catastrophe had been able to eclipse for one night the comedy of politics and the tragedy of war. For he happened to be one of the few in whom the world is interested, and when the world is interested in a man it will not suffer[18] him to go down to sheol in peace. Its hisses are the reaction of its cheers, and those who court its notice put their lives to the hazard, like Esther when she went to touch the sceptre of Ahasuerus.

The world knew Alistair Stuart in two characters—as the brother and heir-presumptive of the Duke of Trent and Colonsay, and as the lover of Molly Finucane.

To the outer world, for which newspapers are written and formal histories compiled, he was the brother of one of its most important citizens. The Duke of Trent was distinguished not only by his rank, but by his service to the State. By an ironical coincidence the same Gazette which revealed the fact that Lord Alistair Stuart had filed his petition also contained the notification that his brother had kissed hands as Secretary of State. It was impossible that the moralists of the pulpit and the press should overlook the striking example of the idle and industrious apprentice, and the younger brother’s disgrace was deepened by the elder’s triumph.

In that inner world whose newspapers are the boudoirs and the smoking-rooms, and which goes for its history to memoirs and chronicles of the back-stairs, the name of Alistair Stuart had gained celebrity in connection with a personage of whom the pulpit might not know, and the press might not tell.

Molly Finucane had achieved one of those reputations which have given certain women a place in history. In the ancient world she might have had[19] princes to fight for her, and poets to sing her praise. In the modern world she was a figure of evil, regarded with a feeling like that which inspired the legends of the succubi. An element of mystery attached to her extraordinary career. It was said that she could neither dance nor sing, that she was astonishingly ignorant, and that her speech and ways smelt of the gutter. Even beauty was denied her. The men whom she had ruined themselves could not explain the secret of her power over them; she overcame her victims like a malarial fever. Some men could meet her day after day without succumbing; others lost themselves from the first; others again began by despising her as an ugly little street-girl, and ended by giving her their wives’ jewels.

How many had perished in the maelstrom of desire which she created none could say. But there was a ghastly story of the young Earl of St. Luc, who had put an end to his life at the age of twenty because his trustees refused him the means to set up an establishment for Molly Finucane. An ineffaceable impression had been made by the two contrasted pictures of the desolate mother weeping over her boy’s dead body, as it was dragged all stained and dripping from the moat surrounding the ancient keep of the St. Lucs, and of the wide-mouthed, stupid Irish girl, planted in a reek of tobacco smoke on a table crowded by tipsy youths, repeating to them in her cracked, shameless voice the latest and most brutally coarse refrain of the street.

[20]It was a year, perhaps two years, since the tongue of scandal had first singled out the name of Alistair Stuart from among the rest of those who singed their wings in this fatal flame. Gradually it became known that Molly Finucane had given him a devotion which no other man had ever been able to buy with gold or blood or tears. For his sake she had refused at the last moment to take possession of the miniature palace furnished for her by the great Brazilian broker, Mendes; who had simply shrugged his shoulders and ordered the house to be kept vacant and ready for her. Stuart and she had gone to live together in a faded corner of Chelsea, in a house surrounded by elms with black trunks and yellow leaves.

The house in Chelsea loomed large in the mind of the new generation. It was regarded as a citadel of sin, as the headquarters of a cult which gloried in its moral degeneracy. Alistair Stuart assumed the character of a high-priest among the pagans, as they chose to call themselves—poets whose verses echoed still more faintly the faint autumnal sighs of Verlaine; wits whose epigrams were brilliant with the phosphorescence of corruption; men in whom genius was a vice, and vice an affectation. Hatred of the middle classes was the watchword of this sect, which was recruited from penniless younger sons, from university failures, from a whole class for whom the Protestant Church has no refuge, but who in Catholic countries end often in the monastery. They waged war on the Victorian Age, on its religion, on[21] its art, on its commercialism, but, above all, on its Puritanism.

In the eyes of this brotherhood of the unfit bankruptcy was rather meritorious than disgraceful, and the fifty thousand pounds which Stuart had spent without possessing represented so much spoil taken from the Philistines. Stuart’s own first proceeding after he had signed the warrant for his civil degradation had been to send forth invitations for a supper to celebrate the event.

His bankruptcy had been in one sense voluntary. Although he had cut himself off from intercourse with his family when he took the house in Chelsea, he knew that Trent would have helped him to make terms with his creditors. But he knew also that Trent would have required him to give up Molly Finucane. He had filed his petition with a light heart, in the belief that the disgrace would fall more heavily on his brother than on himself.

For the éclat resulting from his act he had been prepared, but not for the effect of the éclat on his own mind.

He had been on his way to a club in Piccadilly overlooking the Green Park, which served as a meeting-ground for those members of the cult who kept on terms with respectability. Almost on the club steps he was arrested by the sight of his name in large letters on a news-bill, bringing the sharp reminder that he had forfeited his right of entry.

It was a shock to him to find that his exploit had suddenly lost its charm. He bought a paper as he[22] walked on, and read of his brother’s promotion to the Cabinet. The unforeseen coincidence intensified his discomfiture. This brother of his, whom he had always looked on as a dullard and a prig, whom he had so often sneered at among his own friends, was standing there crowned in front of the footlights, while he, Alistair, was being hissed off the stage. In a flash he saw the ruin he had made of his life, and was dismayed.

And as he wandered miserably through the streets the question that had risen and struggled for expression in his mind was—Why? Why had his brother so far surpassed him in the race? Why were the honours and rewards of life bestowed on some and not on others? Why had he, Alistair, steered his bark upon the rocks?

Standing there between that visible theatre of his brother’s triumph, on the north side of the river, and the unknown hooligan realm upon the south, with which there stole upon him a daunting sense of affinity, he pondered the question; and while he pondered it, the feeling grew upon him that it would not be answered by itself, that it was a part of a more tremendous issue, that the meaning of life was involved in it, and the eternal mystery of the world.

Alistair looked back for some clue to the tangled skein of his career; and by-and-by the vista of the past took on distinctness, like one of those marvellous canvases of Rembrandt from whose dingy surface there gradually peeps out a whole magical landscape charged with light.



The lustre of the rain was over the grey lochs and green Hebrides.

The broad sound that stretched between the Island of Oig and the mainland was crinkled in furrows, on whose torn edges the foam-spit flickered like driving snowflakes. Whenever the indigo folds of the rolling rain parted for a minute the white beaches of Kesteven gleamed out like a picked bone. Away to the southward, where the fishing-boats were slowly reaching round the Mull of Oig, their taut sails glistened like new-washed tiles in the sunshine; then, as they twisted about and came up into the wind, the light emptied out of their sails like water being spilt, and each boat in turn became a murky phantom gliding forward along leaden grooves.

When the rain-wreaths closed round again, the mainland was blotted out with its hills and pine-forests, and the fishing-boats were no longer anything but blurred hints of things behind a screen. The mist wrapped the Island of Oig round with a great stillness, as though it had been removed a thousand miles off into the midst of the sea.

[24]When at last the heavy cloud phalanxes broke and drifted overhead, and the lochs and isles lay in clear day, something new had crossed into the magic ring of the horizon.

Down in the south-east, in the far-off corner of the landscape, where the pale rose-purple of the hills melted into the dark slate-purple of the waves, a low black smudge had come like a flake of soot on a glorious stained-glass window. Seen at first as a mere speck on the picture, it swiftly spread and grew till it became a great dingy smear trailing across the heavens. And there was something about this new presence in the landscape which made it seem strange and hostile to the rest. It was as though a harsh, unexpected note had been struck in the middle of a symphony. All the other things there—the clouds and the sunlight, the hills and the sea—seemed to have grown used to one another during the ages, and to keep up a stately accord together; but this smoke giant forced himself in amongst them, like an upstart that had not learnt their ways—an ugly gnome of the underworld breaking into the haunts of the fairies and the nixies.

Beneath the inky banner a small black steamer lifted its hull above the wave-line and came on obstinately, beating defiance with its paddles to the mother elements. The fishing-boats that for thousands of years had put in and out from the little haven of Oig had never done aught but coax the elemental forces in order to turn them to service. For[25] them the winds and the tides had been instruments on which they searched, as it were, for the right chords. But this masterful intruder snapped the strings in careless discord; compared with the others, it seemed to be a burglar breaking the locks of Nature with a crowbar instead of opening them with a key.

Fussing and fretting as it came, the steamboat struck right through the fleet of fishing-boats, and hurried on. It churned its way noisily into the harbour, driving small rowing-boats to right and left like frightened birds, and took up its berth against the pier with the air of an invading column taking up its quarters in a surrendered town. At the same time everything seemed to wake up to meet it: the old men who leant all day against the harbour wall started out of their dreams to handle the ropes flung to them from the steamer’s deck; the harbour master and the factor of the company hastened along the quay, and all the folk of the little town issued from their houses and swarmed down to the water’s edge. The whole Island of Oig roused itself from its six days’ peace, and began to bustle for its life.

Having taken fast hold of the pier with its rope tentacles, the masterful black monster rapped out a wooden gangway, down which there walked quickly a passenger who looked as much estranged from the surroundings as the floating machine which had transported him from the mainland.

The strangeness was not so much in his black clothes as in his gait and bearing. He walked jerkily,[26] with short, quick steps, casting glances to right and left through his spectacles, as though he were moving through a crowd, on the lookout for hindrances. His feet struck the ground in the helpless, violent fashion of one who wore boots and used his feet merely as the ferrules of his legs on the pavement, instead of as claws to grasp the ground with. The muscles of his neck had suffered a similar atrophy; a long course of high collars and top-heavy hats had drilled his head into a fixed pose, and it moved on the socket of the neck stiffly and jerkily within certain narrow limits. That his eyes had also become cramped by gazing at books instead of fields and clouds was shown plainly enough, for this man of the town wore glasses. He had only to open his mouth to speak, and you saw that his very teeth were no longer Nature’s handiwork.

The townsman’s speech was as outlandish in the Island of Oig as were his dress and gait. He stopped half-way down the pier, before a group of boys, who had left their play to come and see the steamer, and put a question in English.

“Can one of you boys direct me to the house of Mr. Duncan Gilderoy?”

Now, nearly everyone on the Island of Oig bore the name of Gilderoy; and this was all the more noteworthy because Gilderoy was not their real name, but one which the whole clan to which the islanders belonged had taken to hide their own, in order to escape the enmity of other and more powerful clans[27] on the mainland, which had sworn to wipe them out. This wholesale exchange had taken place more than three hundred years before, and only a few of the very old islanders, living in the most out-of-the-way corners of the isle, any longer remembered what their real name was; and they were not believed by the rest, because the story sounded so strange beside the sober narratives of events told in the books written by people in Edinburgh, and called the “History of Scotland.” Therefore, though the Pax Britannica was now established in Oig, the inhabitants still clung to their cloak-name, so that all of them but those whose families had come into the island since the sixteenth century called themselves Gilderoy. And of these Gilderoys every third man had been baptized Duncan, because Duncan was the lucky name of the island, and it was well known that if you were baptized by that name you could not be drowned, unless the nixies made a mistake;—though even that was not known to the present generation, who had been brought up on the Edinburgh books, and who therefore thought they had their children baptized Duncan because it was the custom.

So when the outlander put his question the boys stood dumb at first, staring at him and wondering at his stupidity. The invader on his part wondered at theirs.

“Don’t you speak English?” he demanded crossly, as though ignorance of that tongue were wrong in itself, a sign of natural depravity which even the benighted[28] heathen must know in their hearts they ought to be ashamed of.

The boys seemed to feel the force of the rebuke. They turned their eyes to one who stood in the forefront of the little group, as if calling on him to defend them. The leader answered instantly:

“What Duncan Gilderoy is that?”

He spoke the outlander’s tongue as easily as the outlander himself, though each of them sounded his words in a way that seemed a little strange in the other’s ears. The man from the mainland crowded his words in that habit of hurried speech which towns beget. The boy intoned his words with a slight shrillness caught from the winds and waves that battle round the Hebrides. The boy had already learnt from the stranger’s speech that he was an Englishman; the Englishman thought he learnt from the boy’s that he was not a Scotchman. To the Englishman a Scotchman was a person who spoke the dialect of old Northumbria. He had expected to find the islanders of Oig speaking either Gaelic or the speech of Burns.

“Are you English?” he exclaimed.

The boy flushed darkly.

“No,” he said, and held his tongue.

This time the invader looked at him closer. He was a handsome boy of eleven or twelve years of age, tall, and rather slender, and although he wore old, worn clothes, he did not look in the least humble or ashamed of them, a thing which struck the Londoner’s[29] mind as reckless and a little bad. Below his kilt of dark green tartan, variegated with stripes of black and white, the boy’s legs and feet were bare, like those of his companions. Above the kilt he had on a shabby jacket of black velvet with tarnished silver buttons, and a round bonnet set on the back of his black curls made a frame for his face.

The man repeated his first question in another form.

“Do you know Mr. Duncan Gilderoy?”

“Do you mean Duncan Gilderoy of the Old House? Or is it the minister?” asked the boy.

“No, it’s not the minister. He is a farmer, and they told me his house was just outside the town.”

He said “town,” because he had heard it called that on the steamer. But his London eye called it “village.” Two rows of squat houses struggling up from the harbour’s edge to a small kirk just under the ridge of the hill—that was all he could see.

“Then that is Duncan Gilderoy of the Old House,” put in another of the boys.

The man turned to him.

“Has he a young gentleman living with him, named Stuart?” he asked.

All eyes were turned to the boy who had been the first to speak. This boy gave a distrustful, searching glance at the stranger.

“If that is the Duncan Gilderoy you want, I can take you to him,” he said, rather unwillingly.

“Come on, then.”

[30]The other boys fell back, staring hard, as their comrade walked off beside the man in the English clothes. The man carried a small travelling-bag in one hand, and before they had gone many yards he offered it to his guide.

“Would you like to earn a sixpence?” he said pleasantly.

The boy flushed again and frowned angrily. Then he stopped dead, and, turning round, shouted back to the group they had just left:

“Here, Jock, carry his bag, and he’ll give you sixpence.”

Jock proved to be the boy who had guessed which Duncan Gilderoy the stranger wanted. He darted from the rest, and ran up to seize the bag, and then, having taken possession of it, fell in on the other side of its owner.

The Londoner felt he had made a mistake of some kind. The boy who had refused an offer of sixpence commanded his respect. Gazing at him again, it began to dawn upon him that this bare-footed young Highlander carried himself with dignity, and that he held up his head in a way that is not taught in Board-schools. The next moment the boy, aware that he was being studied, lowered his head with a defensive instinct, and glanced at the man out of the corner of his dark eyes. The glance was at once sly and naïve, like that of some bright, wicked bird.

“And what is your name, my boy?” the Englishman[31] asked, with a touch of middle-class patronage. He could not quite get the bare feet out of his mind.

“I am Alistair Stuart.”

The stranger uttered a sound of surprise.

“The Stuart who lives with Mr. Duncan Gilderoy?”

“Yes.” The answer came unwillingly again.

“Then you are the boy I have come here for.”

“I knew that,” said Stuart. And a slightly cunning look came into his eyes.

The man was baffled. He could not quite make up his mind whether the boy had been playing a practical joke on him from the first, or had been merely too dull to explain himself. Londoner-like, he leant a little towards the second supposition, for he was managing clerk to a firm of solicitors in Theobald’s Road, and firmly believed that human nature contained no depths which he had not sounded to their very bottom. He believed that all men were animated by one supreme motive, the making of money, that they were distracted and impeded in their progress towards the goal by the counter-attractions of woman and wine, and that he was the wisest who best withstood these allurements, and kept his gaze steadily fixed on that yellow bull’s-eye of endeavour. He regarded the law as the rules of the game, and knew to a hair exactly how far it was possible to go without breaking them. There was only one irrational element in the man’s life: he was a Wesleyan, and holding it for certain that the doctrine of that sect[32] amounted to an immediate communication to himself from his Maker, of whom he was a good deal afraid, he paid in reluctantly but largely to the Church funds, which he regarded as a species of blackmail levied by God on business men.

The three walked up through the narrow street together. The street was paved with cobble-stones, and ascended in layers or great steps, with one or more houses to a step. The houses themselves would have been called hovels in London, and looking at them, the law-clerk considered that he was walking through a slum. He wondered almost mournfully how human creatures could submit to pass their lives in such miserable conditions. The sight of the bare-footed lads and lasses with their red cheeks and shapely legs woke actual pity in his breast; for he was naturally kind, and his kindness could only find expression in the benevolent wish to take control of all these lives which he understood so little, and shape them into the image of his own.

Stuart had been looking forward to the coming of this man ever since he could remember. He had always known that Duncan Gilderoy was only his foster-father, and that his life would not be lived out on Oig. They had told him that his father and mother lived in France, and that his father was too ill to have his children with him. He could not recollect these legendary parents, who were only known to him by portraits which he religiously cherished, and by letters which came to him regularly[33] from his mother. His father, from whom he received only occasional messages, was the object of a devotion that filled his whole heart; his yearning for that unknown father’s love was one of those passions of childhood which are never told, and which are never forgotten. There was more of awe than love in his thoughts about his mother; she was an Englishwoman, and the tenderness that her letters expressed was overlaid with pious monitions and references to Bible texts. He learned that he had an elder brother, James, who was being educated at a school in England under the casual supervision of the head of the family, who had never noticed Alistair. At some time or other—he was doubtful when—the perception had come that the character of his upbringing was at least partly due to lack of money. The islands and moorlands, the castles and broad acres that made up the great inheritance of Trent and Colonsay were all tributary to certain men of law in London and in Edinburgh, whom the clansmen of Oig hated as a conquered nation hates the invader encamped upon its soil.

Alistair knew also—for these things were the history and politics of Oig—that his father stood next in succession to the dukedom, and that his brother’s favour with the reigning Duke was in right of his exalted destiny as heir.

Thus the boy, reared in the society of herdsmen and fishers, who were to him as kinsmen of a lower rank, had had always before his eyes the vision of[34] the great world in which he was one day to play a part. Civilization shone for him afar off, as it shines for the native of some colonial wilderness, in all the hues of hope and wonder. How often had he climbed to the top of the cliff that overlooked the Sound of Oig, and laid himself down on the wind-mown grass, looking and longing for the first peep of that sooty feather which he had taken for the signal of emancipation. No instinct had ever warned him that the little noisy packet was a slaveship, the galley of the great Anglo-Roman Raj, coming to make him captive, and carry him off to be tamed and trained into a citizen of the Raj, to speak its tongue and wear its dress, and learn its manners, and its laws, till the innermost pulse of his being should be timed to the Anglo-Roman time, and the ancient Pictish blood in his veins should forget its source, and run as if through Anglo-Roman ducts.

Looking back across his life to this point of departure, it seemed to Alistair that he had found the clue of his tangled skein, and that he might in time achieve a complete answer to the riddle of his fate. For a moment the longing of his heart returned to that green islet in its grey sea, and he bitterly regretted that he had not been left to live out his life there among the clansmen whom he loved, and by whom he was beloved, who esteemed him as a prince among them, and would have still esteemed and shielded him had he become the outlaw of the Raj. He was an exile—surely it was this, he told himself—he was[35] an outlander adrift amongst a race to which he did not belong; which he never could understand, and by which he never could be understood.

The first great misunderstanding with his captors had come when he was a boy. There was a Velasquez-looking portrait on the walls of Colonsay House of a lad of fifteen, long-legged and slim, with eyes like the night—a night haunted by the slumber of wild beasts that the first footfall will disturb. The dress of this boy was touched with the girlish delicacy that betrays a mother’s darling: the collar was of lace, the jacket was of velvet, the straw hat, thrust back from his forehead, was costlier than lace or velvet. At night he slept in silk, in a tapestried chamber. His days were passed within the stately walls, or in roaming through the glorious demesne, of one of the historic homes of England, watched over with all the care that love and wealth could afford.

He had lived with his mother ever since his father’s death. It was not until she had clasped him in her arms that she had told him of his loss, and she had never suspected the bitterness of the boy’s grief. The father whom he had never known remained a sacred memory still, all the more sacred because his mother never talked to him about the dead. By this time the old Duke was dead as well, and James had succeeded him, so that the days of hardship were over, and the inheritance was being nursed back into something like its former splendour.

[36]A fond yearning to regain some of the lost years of their childhood had caused their mother to keep both her boys beside her, giving them a tutor instead of a school. But she had another motive which she tried to believe was paramount—the desire to bring them early into her own religious fold.

During four years Alistair had had his mind steeped day after day in the emotional atmosphere of primitive Christianity. This was his mother’s native air, and she could not have been brought to believe that it might be drawn with difficulty and pain by any human creature. If the knowledge had been forced upon her that such a training was unwholesome for either of her sons, her universe would have become a maze without a plan; her God would have been shattered like Dagon.

To both the boys this training came as part of the yoke which age imposes on youth. Boyhood is always surrendering its secret convictions at the bidding of authority; the process called education is one long defeat of the barbarians by the legions. Their mother heard them repeat the phrases which she had taught them, and believed in her work.

A cold temper and unimaginative mind enabled the elder boy to take this religion in the formal spirit in which it has been taken by a great part of mankind for two thousand years. As a theory of the universe it received his unquestioning assent; as a life-motive it left him practically untouched. He became the unconscious hypocrite whom the Gospel was[37] written to make us loathe, and who has governed the Church ever since the Gospel was written.

On Alistair his mother’s teaching had another effect. A poet’s sensitiveness on the score of words made him shrink at times from the familiar language of his mother’s creed. But his temperament responded readily to the exciting influence of religious emotion, and the cunning which usually accompanies hysteria taught him to use this faculty for his own protection. When he had been naughty during the day—and Alistair was already marked out as the naughty one of the two brothers—it was his mother’s habit to come into his room after he had gone to bed, and try to soften him. She knelt beside the bed, and talked and prayed with him till the boy melted in a confession of wrongdoing, and the two made it up with kisses and tears.

These scenes had endeared Alistair to his mother, whose tenderness for her younger son aroused the elder’s secret jealousy. They had been ruinous to the boy himself, whom they made an emotional debauchee. He spent his sincerity in spasms of repentance which left him worse than before. There were yet other consequences: the nervous organization is a sensitive instrument, which ignorant fingers do not touch for nothing.

For a year past Alistair had inspired his mother with hopes that he was ripening for the change of mind which she called conversion. He had become more serious; his gaiety was sometimes dashed with[38] melancholy; he wrote verses which she treasured up as evidences of the direction his intelligence was taking. The verses were echoes of the poets whom she had placed in his hands, and her favourite poets were Miss Havergal and Dr. Bonar. He had taken to wandering much by himself in the park; sometimes on returning from these rambles he posed her with strange questions about the nature of the Deity and the contradictions that abound in every positive system of the universe.

The mother drew happy auguries. Like Hannah, she dedicated her son to the Lord, and wrote to the Archbishop who was his godfather, to interest him in the boy.

All this time one half of life had been carefully hidden from Alistair. Of the great mystery of life he knew less than an animal knows. For him, as for all his generation, the divine lore which was once communicated in solemn temples and amid consecrated groves, which is still given the character of a revelation among the worshipping millions beneath the Himalayas, lay under the blight of the great ascetic frenzy which spread round the Mediterranean zone two thousand years ago. The temple had long been a stew, the revelation a vulgar jest bandied about on furtive lips; the groves were cut down, the torches were blown out, the musical instruments were broken, and the rite of initiation had passed from the holy places into the sewers. The road of darkness was esteemed the road of safety; and Alistair walked upon[39] it in ignorance alike of the law of Heaven and of the taboo of man.

The Garden of Eden is like that flying island of Arabian geography which descends unawares in front of the adventurer, and tempts him to tread its enamelled turf, surrendering his senses to the hymeneal music of its birds, and the perfume of its myriad flowers. The earth was changed for Alistair by a keeper’s daughter, a girl of his own age, with a face fair as an apple-blossom, in whose heart the seed of ambition had been early sown by a vain mother’s hand. All through one summer-tide they met by stealth among the woods of Trent; while she, intoxicated by the young lord’s notice, listened with uncomprehending ears to that passionate romance which youth pours out at the first touch of love: and for him the sunshine sprinkled all the air with orange-blossoms through the green network overhead, the silver birch-stems rose like rejoicing fountains in the glimmering shade, the hum of insects lapped his enamoured ear like the vague music of a shell, the very ground distilled a rapturous scent, and all his pulses sang within him as his life swept into the great throb of the universal world.

The retribution which followed on discovery tortured him still in the remembrance. What such a discovery must have cost a mother like his, he could not gauge. He only knew that every sacred feeling in his own breast had been outraged, the innermost sanctuary had been profaned, the delicate blossoms[40] had been uprooted and trampled in the mire. He had a recollection of hideous scenes, of questions that were intolerable insults, of a visit from the Archbishop, who came too late to mediate, and, finally, of a term of penal servitude passed in an institution abroad, from which Alistair returned a Roman Catholic.

In his mother’s eyes this was a moral bankruptcy. Fresh influences were brought to bear on the perverted one; the rest of his youth was passed in drifting from one guardianship to another, under a perpetual cloud, and manhood found him without faith and without a career.

That his mother had loved him throughout Alistair knew well, though even he did not know how much she loved him. Perhaps the love between them had been strengthened by the tragedy of the past. It seemed to Alistair now to have been the old story of the hen that has hatched out a duckling from the shell. He thought of his mother with a painful mingling of wrath and tenderness, believing her to have been cruel to him, and knowing that she had been cruel to herself for his sake. The mother whom his instinct taught him to demand was one of those mothers of the passionate races, who live only to be the slaves of their sons, to hear their confessions, to soothe their remorse, to abet them in their worst crimes. His grievance against his own mother was that she had not taken him for what he was. The[41] changeling had been tormented in the hope of giving it a human soul.

When he came of age he took the problem out of her hands. “You do not understand me,” he told her one day; “I must live my own life.”

His brother, Trent, had granted him an allowance of a thousand a year, which his tradesmen raised to five thousand. The contents of every shop in London were at the command of the brother of the Duke of Trent and Colonsay, on condition that the brother of the Duke paid double for them. The shopkeepers began by cheating him, as though they foresaw that he would end by cheating them.

Stuart hardly knew that he was extravagant. Most of the ways in which he spent money were ways in which he heard other men praised for spending it. He collected miniatures; he bought old cabinets, which were repaired for him by skilful workmen; he published tiny volumes with his own poems, in which a strain of southern passion mingled with the dreamy melancholy of the northern seas. His pleasures were those of a poet, not a man about town. He lent money to those about him, to the poets whose names were unknown to the readers of magazines, to the painters whose pictures were abhorred by the Royal Academy, to the musicians who could not make bright tunes. Such men have no right to live; but Stuart fed them at his table, and rejoiced in the incense of their praise.

It was the difference between Lord Alistair Stuart[42] and the men who surrounded him which had first fascinated Molly Finucane. He had been for her a mystery which she was bent on exploring. When after a time she found that this intellectual side of her lover’s character was out of her reach, she became jealous, and sought to choke it. It was of such as she that a certain acquaintance of Stuart’s in those days wrote that all men kill the thing they love.

In her own way, and with what truth was left to her, Molly Finucane did love Alistair Stuart. That was the part of it which others could not be expected to allow for. The life in the house in Chelsea had been as regular as that of any married pair. The only visitors received were Stuart’s friends. Molly had discarded all her old associates as completely as though she had been really married—always with the exception of Mendes, whom Alistair sometimes asked to dinner. She had practised what in her eyes was economy, playing the novel part of housekeeper, enjoying the strange experience of giving orders to tradesmen, and calculating the prices of household stuff. Unfortunately, she could not shake off at once the habits of reckless expense which she had been taught. Her nature had come to crave for excitement as an opium-eater’s craves for the drug, and the only amusements she knew were costly ones. The play, for Molly, meant a brougham, a little dinner at a smart restaurant, a private box, and a supper at some Bohemian night-club—in short, the spending of five or ten pounds. She went to the theatres and[43] music-halls very often. On the nights when she did not go she felt disastrously bored, and wished herself dead. Then she had to have flowers every day, and a new bracelet or some such trifle every week, or she felt herself neglected. She had acquired the fatal idea that the love of men was only to be gauged by the money they spent on her. An unbroken stream of these offerings was necessary to convince her that Stuart had not tired of her.

In reality, it was the attempt to live within his means which destroyed Lord Alistair’s credit. As soon as his tradesmen heard of the house in Chelsea they began to send in their bills, and as soon as the money-lenders heard that he was paying his debts they refused to help him. It was the Duke of Trent whom they had trusted to, and now they recollected that the Duke’s estates had come to him heavily mortgaged. They told Lord Alistair to apply to his brother, and his brother told him to leave Molly Finucane. Like the rest of the world, he believed that it was the house in Chelsea which had brought his brother down.

Alistair had retorted by filing his petition. It was to be open war at last, he told himself. If the head of his house would not heed him, neither would he heed the honour of the house.

And now, as he stood on the bridge and gazed at the spectacle of the night, it was borne in upon him more fully and more clearly that he was not without companions; that his case was not a solitary case, but[44] that other houses besides the house of Trent and Colonsay had their younger sons and their failures; that other lands besides Oig had given their children to be devoured by the minotaur called Civilization; that his was only one of those broken lives which underlie the pageantry of empire, like the rubble underneath rich palace walls.

He turned once more to regard the spectacle of the night, and his eye swept over the two edifices that confronted each other immediately above the bridge, the palace, and the hospital; the chosen of the race gathered in the one, its victims in the other, as if civilization were an army whose headquarters and whose ambulance stood side by side. His eye rested long where the road leading down into the dark purlieus of poverty and crime flared and roared like the mouth of sheol; then it returned to the northern side, where the roof of a great mansion was just visible above the trees.

What he saw there was the form of a grey-haired woman seated alone, thinking of her prodigal son, perhaps praying for him, perhaps expecting him. He threw one last backward glance towards the city of Ahriman, and then, with a shudder, he set his face towards the gates of Ormuzd, and walked swiftly off the bridge.

All the time he had been standing there a prayer had been going up to Heaven: “Give me back my son, O Lord! Give me back my son!”



Alistair walked past the lights of Palace Yard, and turned into the broad avenue of Parliament Street, bordered by the vast offices of the British Empire. When he had gone half-way to Charing Cross, he turned aside again, and presently found himself in front of a high and sombre house, one of a row whose windows overlooked the river and the bridge. It stood back in a bleak garden enclosed in tall iron railings, where nothing grew but grass and trees and ivy, all of the same shade of soot-encrusted green. This was Colonsay house, a relic of the days when the Thames had been a glorious highway between the cities of London and Westminster, a highway lined with the dwellings of great nobles, and bright with painted barges and fluttering banners.

Now a slight air of decay hung over the old house, and it seemed conscious that it had outlived its generation. The tide no longer washed the foot of its lawn, and rich brocades and jewelled sword-hilts no longer sparkled under its trees. It stood there with its few neighbours, isolated among the encroaching[46] buildings of a newer age, and waiting its own turn to be devoured.

Stuart hesitated for a moment as he stood outside the door. There had been a time when he would have walked through that door as of right. But it was long since he had lived under his brother’s roof, and more than a year since he had passed this doorway last. During the time that he had been living in Chelsea he had shunned all intercourse with his family. His mother had written to him more than once, but her letters had remained unanswered. The letters were entreaties to him to abandon the woman who was dragging him down, and he had not abandoned her.

He raised his hand to the bell, and jerked it roughly. Then he stood waiting, half ashamed to encounter the gaze of his brother’s servants, and resenting their curiosity in advance.

“Is the Duke in?” he asked of the man who opened the door. He had no wish to meet his brother that night.

In the first moment the footman did not recognize his questioner. The next his face lit up with an expression of respectful sympathy.

“No, my lord; his Grace is at the House of Lords. But will your lordship come in?”

As he threw the door wider the butler, an old family retainer, stepped forward. His face wore the same expression as the footman’s, a little less subdued, and he ventured on a word of welcome.

[47]“I hope I see your lordship well? Her Grace is upstairs, and I believe would be very glad to see your lordship.”

“Very well, Stokes,” said Stuart shortly, giving the footman his hat and stick. “I’ll go up.”

The servants fell back with faces of demure congratulation as he passed between them to the foot of the staircase. It was evident that they viewed this home-coming of the prodigal as the pleasant and appropriate ending to a deeply interesting history. Perhaps Lord Alistair’s transgressions had aroused in their breasts a secret fellow-feeling such as they could never have for their upright, decorous master. The conduct which had disgraced Lord Alistair in the eyes of his equals had made him a hero in theirs. Disgrace, after all, is a relative term; what is ignominy in the schoolroom is often glory in the playground.

Alistair reached the first floor, and took his way to the well-remembered little drawing-room, where his mother always sat when she was alone. Tapping softly on the panel, he opened the door and went in.

It was an old-fashioned room with narrow Georgian windows, and the walls were decorated with painted panels, set in elaborate gilt scrollwork, with small tail-pieces underneath, in the style of an Italian altar-piece. A picture of sportsmen in a coppice was completed by a dead pheasant below, and a sea-piece was similarly finished off with a group of shells. In contrast with this eighteenth-century elegance the furniture was of that ungraceful, stereotyped pattern[48] which has not yet been out of date long enough to be esteemed for its curiosity. It was the work of an age which valued the useful above the beautiful, and preferred the accurate production of machinery to the irregular handiwork of the craftsman. It was the age of the political economists, when Free Trade was the gospel of humanity, and the world’s ideal took shape in a huge bazaar. It was an age in which England ruled the world, and the shopkeeper ruled England, and men deemed that the millennium could not be far away.

The religion of this age was Evangelical Christianity. The work of Wellesley and Whitefield still leavened the national life from the cottage to the throne. The Catholic conspiracy had not become formidable; the rising tide of knowledge had not yet sapped the foundations of the old beliefs. A miscellany of Hebrew literature, half savage, half sublime, bound up with the cryptic legends of the Roman catacombs, and rendered into English by the intellect of the sixteenth century, was accepted as the personal composition of the Creator, inspired, infallible, and irrevocable, from the first letter in the word Genesis to the last in the word Amen. Salvation by faith was the watchword of the Churches; the unbeliever was assured that his best actions were but additional sins until he had gone through that spiritual experience which brought him within the pale of the redeemed.

Yet this strait, remorseless creed educated women who were gracious and beautiful in their lives, and[49] of such women Caroline, Duchess of Trent, was one. She accepted her creed, as the scientist accepts the law of cause and effect, without understanding it, but her logic was able to reconcile it with hope and charity, and with a tireless devotion to the good of all about her.

They who are willing to sacrifice themselves will never want those who are willing to accept the sacrifice. In her girlhood Caroline had been a maid of honour in the Court of Queen Victoria, and she had ever since been one of that small circle whom the widowed monarch counted as her personal friends. The needs of selfish parents had forced her into an early marriage with a sickly old man whom she nursed faithfully and kindly, but whom she could not love. He died before she was thirty, leaving her with enough wealth to attract Lord Alexander Stuart, the penniless younger son of a great but impoverished house.

To this man, as handsome as he was worthless, she gave her heart and her fortune, in accordance with the common law which mates the best with the worst, and he had become the father of her children before she made the discovery that he was an irreclaimable drunkard and gambler. For their own sakes she consented to part with her children, and she passed the next ten years of her life in accompanying the man to whom she believed herself bound, from Continental hotel to hotel, keeping up a hopeless[50] struggle against the vices which were dragging him down to the grave.

Her loyalty, and perhaps some relic of her love, survived him, and no word of hers had ever betrayed his memory to his sons. In the face of the younger she found a resemblance to his father which had insensibly gained on her affection, and although she had tried to disguise it from them, and from herself, both the boys soon knew that Alistair was their mother’s favourite. When the courtesy rank of Duchess was conferred on her by royal patent, she did not value the distinction for herself, but her mother’s heart felt a secret pride that her handsome, naughty Alistair should be given the style of Lord.

The catastrophe which opened her eyes to the meaning of heredity rendered her frantic with grief and shame. That likeness between Alistair and his father which had fascinated her for so long now became a source of terror. The handsome boyish face, with its ruddy cheeks and bright eyes and clustering curls, which had gladdened her sight, was now a dreadful chart in which she read prophecies of evil to come.

Under the stress of panic she took that step which she had since bitterly regretted, which had cost Alistair his religion, and had cost her his confidence. Ever since that miserable time mother and son had remained apart, gazing at each other wistfully across a chasm which neither could bridge.

The life which he had been leading since his manhood[51] seemed to her a dangerous, if not an evil one. She saw him moving in a world which was wholly strange to her, a world in which her own ideals of conduct were ignored or despised. She heard that he had written poems which she was advised not to see. Trent told her they were unfit for any decent woman to read, and the Archbishop added that they were blasphemous. When she ventured on a remonstrance with Alistair he replied by telling her that art was above morality, and that a poet must be a law unto himself.

Like all the mothers of her generation, she would fain have shut her eyes to one side of her son’s life. But even she could not help but hear of such a portent as Molly Finucane. The Archbishop felt it his duty to warn her. Trent openly complained that his brother was disgracing the family, and threatened to forbid him the house. He might have carried out the threat if Alistair had not ceased his visits of his own accord.

By this time sorrow had helped her sixty years to make the Duchess an old woman. Her figure was still upright, but her hair was silvered. Her face, at once sweet and venerable, was marked by a settled sadness. Her elder son had been as great a comfort to her as his brother had been a trial, and she had learned to value him more and more. Yet not all her pride in Trent’s career could soothe her inward grief and yearning over the marred life of the son who had gone astray.

[52]Alistair came in softly, and found his mother in tears. At the sound of his footstep on the threshold her face flushed, and she rose up, breathing fast, and went quickly to meet him, with a great joy shining in her eyes.

“My boy!” she cried hysterically. “My boy Alistair!”

They stood there silently for a space, with their arms round one another’s necks, and both felt comforted, for these two loved each other very tenderly, and they had not met for a long time.

Such moments do not last. The first gush of affection spent, they were left face to face, two natures belonging to different worlds.

While Alistair led his mother to a seat he asked anxiously:

“When is Trent likely to be back? I don’t want to see him.”

The Duchess looked troubled.

“He won’t be in till late, I expect. He is introducing a Bill in the House to-night, and he told me not to sit up for him. I think there is another debate on first, about the Church.”

Alistair heard her listlessly. The doings of the House of Lords sounded in his ears just then like the fretting of phantoms on a stage. He had struck his foot for the first time against reality. What does anyone know of life who has never risen in the morning wondering under what roof he shall lay his head at night?

[53]“But you ought to see him,” the mother went on to say. “He is your brother—neither of you should ever forget that. You want his help, dear, and I am sure he will help you if you will only let him.”

“He should have helped me before,” Alistair returned in a resentful tone. “I know Trent; he would not lift a finger to save me from being hanged unless he were afraid of what people would say.”

“Don’t be bitter,” the mother pleaded. “Your brother means well by you, I am sure.”

“Nonsense, mother; he would be only too glad to get rid of me altogether. I have always been a thorn in his side. He looks upon me as the black sheep of the family, and always will. Trent would like to pack me off to the Klondike for the next ten years, I expect.”

As this was one of the suggestions which had actually fallen from the Duke’s lips that day, when the news of his brother’s insolvency had been brought to the house, the Duchess found it difficult to answer.

“Klondike would be better for you than the life you have been leading here,” she said as gently as she could. “Don’t you think it would be better for you to leave London and go abroad for a time out of the reach of temptation?”

The young man frowned. He knew very well what was meant by the word “temptation.”

“I can’t go without money,” he said shortly.

“I could let you have a little, dear, and James, I know, will let you have as much as you want, as long[54] as he knows that it won’t be spent”—she hesitated an instant—“in bad ways.”

Alistair scowled.

“What business is it of his how I spend my money?”

His mother raised her hand with a certain quiet dignity.

“It is my business, at all events, to know what kind of life my boy is living, and to sorrow when I know that he is living in open sin and shame.”

To this speech Alistair made no answer. He could have made none that would not have added to his mother’s pain.

“How much do you want?” the Duchess asked presently in a weary tone. It was not the first conversation between them that had ended at the same point.

The young man started up.

“Look here, mother, I didn’t come here to ask for money; I’m past that now. It doesn’t matter to me whether I stay in London or go abroad. Trent can decide for himself about that. Anyway, I must go under for a time, I suppose, and I don’t much care if I ever come up again. I was out on Westminster Bridge just now, wondering whether it wouldn’t be the easiest way to drop over, and put an end to it all; and then I thought of you, and felt sorry for your sake more than my own; and so I made up my mind to come and see you—and here I am.”

The poor lady shook a good deal as she listened to[55] this speech; and, remembering her prayer just before Alistair came in, she breathed a silent thanksgiving, and the tears came back into her eyes.

“Oh, my poor boy, can’t you see that all this is the result of the life you have chosen!” She would have liked to make a more direct reference to her religious belief, but feared to do so. She had learnt by this time that her son and she had no common ground in that direction. “Why—why don’t you leave that wicked woman, and start a new life? She is ruining you, body and soul.”

Alistair frowned impatiently.

“I can’t let you say that, mother. It’s not her fault, Heaven knows! The poor little thing has tried to do her best for me. She is a great deal better than some of your good women, who would draw their skirts aside if they passed her in the street.”

He spoke roughly, but not disrespectfully.

The Duchess sighed heavily.

“My unhappy boy, you know nothing about good women. You never meet them; you might be a different man if you did. If I could only bring you under the influence of some really good, devoted girl, such as I know”—a name rose to the Duchess’s lips, but she deemed it wiser not to pronounce it at that moment—“who would love you well enough to overlook the past, she might redeem you even now.”

Alistair sighed, too, at the picture called up by his mother’s words. He thought of poor little neurotic Molly, with her spasms of utter wretchedness, her[56] hysterical fits, her occasional drunken outbreaks in which all the gutter in her blood came to the surface; he thought of her perpetual, feverish craving for excitement, of her secret hatred of his intellectual pursuits, of their ill-managed, disorderly household, with insolent servants going and coming every month. And then he contrasted the portrait with that of some sweet and gracious maiden—such a girl as his mother must have been in her youth—who would bring peace into his life, whose presence would be soothing as the sound of church bells heard at evening across the autumn fields, who would guide and rule their home through happy years of wedded friendship. Alistair sighed.

His mother heard and drew courage from the sigh. Already her mind was busy in working out a scheme for her boy’s salvation. Her eagerness led her to make a false step at the outset.

“If you will go away even for a short time I shall feel happier,” she pleaded. “Won’t you try to separate yourself from this woman? If you like to go abroad I could come with you, perhaps. You have often said that you should like to visit Rome?”

Alistair shook his head stubbornly.

“I cannot go away without Molly.”

The Duchess of Trent flushed. It seemed to her that this answer was an insult, even though she had in a manner forced it from him.

“I wonder that you dare say that to me,” she said, with a touch of anger.

[57]“I beg your pardon, mother. But it’s no good our discussing such things. I can’t expect you to understand how I feel about her. She has given up everything—you may say she has reformed—for my sake, and if I were to send her adrift now I should feel myself a blackguard. Why, God help me, I believe the poor little thing’s been selling her jewels to pay the housekeeping bills for the last few months. If she’d been my wife she couldn’t have done more than that.”

His mother started, and a look of dreadful apprehension came into her eyes.

“Don’t talk like that, Alistair! I’m getting old, and it frightens me. Promise me, promise me, my own dear son, that you will never marry her?”

In her agitation the poor lady rose and went to him, laying a pleading hand on his shoulder as she looked into his face.

“No, I don’t suppose I shall ever do that,” he said.

But he spoke in a tone of dejection, like a man not certain of himself, and the mother’s fear was not relieved.



The Duke of Trent and Colonsay, after shaking hands with the Prime Minister, and receiving the congratulations of several colleagues on his first appearance as a Minister in charge of an important measure, was walking out of the House, when he felt himself tapped familiarly on the shoulder from behind.

He turned round in some annoyance, for he was careful of his dignity, but the look of rebuke was exchanged for one of respectful pleasure as he perceived that the hand which had touched him was the Duke of Gloucester’s.

“Are you going back to Colonsay House?” the Prince inquired.

“I was going,” the Minister returned, conveying by the change of tense that his movements were for the Prince to dispose of.

“That’s right; then I’ll walk round with you, if I shan’t put you out,” Prince Herbert said, linking his arm in friendly fashion in the Duke’s.

The two companions were old acquaintances; they might almost be called friends. They had been boys[59] together, in so far as a Prince is allowed to be a boy. Their houses were in the same part of the country, and the cordial relations between the Duchess Caroline and her royal mistress had been renewed by their descendants.

At that time, indeed, Prince Herbert had been more intimate with Alistair Stuart than with James. The younger boy’s merry, versatile disposition had made him a favourite, while his brother was rather a dull companion. But the course of their later lives had tended to keep up the intercourse between the Prince and the Duke, while Alistair had gradually drifted away into paths in which it was impossible for his royal friend to keep him company.

The new Home Secretary expected to receive some compliment as they passed out under the vast vault of the Victoria Tower and turned eastward. His speech that night had been a marked success. The Bill he had just introduced was one to provide the punishment of flogging for the gangs of street-boys who infested the southern side of the river. He had denounced the enemies of order with conviction, and the House had cordially endorsed his righteous anger. No one had been weak enough to think, or bold enough to suggest, that there was any better way to deal with the hooligan than to flog him. There had been a time when England could export her savages to savage lands, but, by some wonderful political alchemy, no sooner did she cast her convict colonies on the shores of America and Australia than they[60] rose up mighty states, and with the zeal of renegades refused to harbour the next criminal generation. Even the army, so long the last refuge of the blackguard, was become respectable. Science was already lifting a confident voice to preach extermination for the unfit, and society, puzzled between the old creed and the new, found itself too weak to crucify, but not too weak to scourge.

It was with a sense of disappointment that the young Minister found that their walk was to be a silent one. The Prince said nothing till they were in Colonsay House.

“I suppose the Duchess is not up so late as this?” the Prince asked, as they entered the hall.

“My mother generally goes on about this time, but I will ask. Stokes, go and see if her Grace is in her room, and if so tell her his Royal Highness has asked for her.”

The Duke led the way into a Japanese smoking lounge which opened off the stairs. A large bow-window revealed the panorama of the night-enchanted river, the reflections of the bridge lamps veining the tide with molten gold.

Prince Herbert walked to the window and gazed out speechless for several minutes, during which his host strewed a lacquered table with cigars of a rare brand, named after the Prince himself.

“The grandest view in Europe, I always think,” the Prince observed, as he turned reluctantly from the window. “And yet there is something dreadful[61] in it. It is so utterly removed from Nature. It makes one think of the underground life which we are told the race will one day have to take to.”

“We have taken to it already, it seems to me,” Trent answered. “We travel underground, our light and water come to us underground, our food is cooked underground, and I am told there are underground stables in some parts of London.”

Prince Herbert closed his lips as he walked across to choose a cigar. It was not the first time that he had found James Stuart a heavy person to talk to. He could not help comparing this commonplace mind, with its prim grasp of daily life and its impotence to rise to any higher plane, with the brilliant and sensitive imagination of Alistair, like a soaring bubble, one moment glowing with the reflected radiance of a thousand stars, the next moment smashed against the coarse paling of the roadway.

Yet it was this man who enjoyed honour and favour, while the other was become an outcast. It was to this man that he himself was about to sue for some toleration of the other.

He had just struck a light when the door opened to admit Alistair’s mother. With the quick instinct of sympathy she had divined the object of the royal visit, and she pressed a warm kiss on the Prince’s forehead as he came forward to greet her.

“My dear aunt,” he exclaimed, using the title which he had given her in his boyish days, “I hope you[62] haven’t come downstairs on my account. I ought to have gone up to you.”

“I would much rather sit here, and see you smoke,” she said, with an affectionate smile. “That is, if an old woman is not in the way of two young men.”

Prince Herbert hastened to draw forward a chair, but the Duchess refused to sit down till the visitor had lit his cigar. As soon as some servants who had brought in a tray of spirits had left the room, the Prince opened his appeal.

“I am very sorry about Alistair,” he said.

A frown passed quickly over the Duke’s face at this allusion to the family trouble, but his mother looked up gratefully.

“I was sure you would be,” she responded. “Poor foolish boy! If only I could find a way to save him!”

“Couldn’t this have been prevented?” inquired Prince Herbert, glancing at the elder brother.

James shook his head decisively.

“It was impossible. My mother will tell you I did everything I could. Twice I have got him to give me an account of his debts, and settled them, as I thought. But I don’t believe now that he ever let me know one half of what he really owed. It is like pouring water into a sieve to try and help Alistair.”

“Do you know what the amount is now?”

“Fifty or sixty thousand, I understand. I don’t suppose he knows within ten thousand or so himself. It is two years’ revenue of the property. Everything[63] is entailed; I can only mortgage my life interest, and that means paying a heavy premium for life insurance. Ever since he came of age I have given him a thousand a year, and of course he could have his rooms here if he chose to lead a decent life. My mother knows that that is the very utmost I can do for him if I mean to keep up the estates as they ought to be kept up. I have to think of a jointure for my wife, if I should ever marry, and some provision for my own children.”

The Duke delivered his defence in an injured tone, as though he felt that the sympathy of his audience was against him. Prince Herbert, in his quiet way, returned to the attack.

“I have really no right to ask you, but I should have thought your properties brought you in a great deal more.”

“They are still heavily encumbered,” was the answer. “There are mortgages on nearly everything except the Scotch land, and that brings in nothing. I might let the moors, I suppose, but in my opinion that would be another disgrace. I am very strongly opposed to giving these Americans and stockbrokers the pick of all the historic places in Great Britain. I blame Cantire for letting Mull.”

This time the Duke spoke with undisguised warmth. It was a relief to him to silence the misgivings from which his own mind was not entirely free on the subject of Alistair.

[64]“After all, I owe a duty to my people, as well as to Alistair,” he continued. “I am the head of the clan as well as the landlord. I regard myself as a constitutional monarch on my own estate, and I have no right to sacrifice my tenants in order to enrich Molly Finucane.”

Prince Herbert felt himself rebuked. He doubted no more than others that the house in Chelsea had been Alistair’s undoing.

“Is there no hope of rescuing him?” He looked hesitatingly at the Duchess.

“I have just seen Alistair,” she confessed, not without some fear of her elder son’s resentment. “He came here to see me to-night.”

“To ask for money, I suppose,” said the Duke.

The Duchess was wounded by the taunt.

“He did not ask for any, and I did not give him any,” she said with dignity. “I told him I was sure that you would help him if he would only leave that woman.”

“And what did he say?”

“I don’t think he meant what he said; I can’t think so. But he talked about her in such a way that for a moment I thought he wanted to marry her.”

A fierce exclamation broke from the Minister, a milder one from Prince Herbert.

“If he does that, he shall never have another farthing from me; I will never acknowledge him again!”

“His infatuation for her is terrible,” the mother[65] went on. “He even defended her to me. He told me that she had made sacrifices for him—that she was paying for the house.”

The two men exchanged glances. This was a deeper depth than either of them had suspected. Perhaps the Duchess would have suppressed this part of her information if she had understood how it would strike a man.

“Is there no chance that the woman herself may give him up now?”

The Duchess shook her head doubtfully.

“I should think not, from what he says. I hardly know what it is best to do. I think perhaps he might be induced to give an undertaking not to marry her, in return for some assistance.”

The Home Secretary made a face of disgust.

“So I am to be blackmailed, am I? I have to bribe my brother not to make a street-girl the next Duchess of Colonsay.”

Prince Herbert looked distressed.

“Are you sure that is the right way to go to work with Alistair?” he asked gently. “I have always believed that there was good in him, you know. Perhaps if you tried to appeal to his generosity you might do more than you suppose.”

Alistair’s mother gave the speaker a grateful look.

“Thank you, Bertie. It is very good of you to plead for my poor boy. I think, James dear, you may have been a little harsh with him sometimes.”

[66]“If you were to go to him now,” the Prince pursued, “not to scold him at all, but just to say, ‘Well, old fellow, you’re in a mess; let’s see if I can get you out,’ I think you would find him very different to deal with.”

The elder brother still frowned.

“You don’t know Alistair as well as I do. He would most likely insult me. The last time I wrote to him, nearly a year ago, enclosing his allowance, and pointing out to him how the life he was leading was bound to end, he wrote back to me—my mother saw the note: ‘Dear Jim, your cheques are better than your sermons. Affectionately, Alistair.’”

Prince Herbert by a severe effort checked the smile which rose to his lips.

“After all, he is your brother,” he reminded the aggrieved senior.

“I’m sure I don’t know why he should be,” the Duke muttered, but he let his voice drop at the sight of his mother’s sorrowful face.

“I would see him myself,” the Prince added, “only I have to leave for Birmingham to-morrow to lay the foundation stone of a cathedral, and I am under engagements which will keep me in the district for several days.”

The Duchess rose and walked across the room to where her son was seated, tapping a fretful foot upon the floor. She laid her hand on his arm, and looked him beseechingly in the face.

“My son, my eldest son!” she murmured softly.[67] “You need not be jealous of the poor prodigal. Say that you will go?”

And James said that he would go.

That night Alistair’s mother did not sleep.

The bankrupt himself slept heavily after emptying a bottle of champagne, at whose expense he no longer hesitated. The new Minister tossed to and fro till the excitement of debate had evaporated, and then sank into a calm, health-giving slumber. Prince Herbert slept too; if he had passed a troubled night the wires would have flashed the news next day from Auckland to Vancouver.

But the Duchess of Trent could not sleep. She spent a night of fear and sorrow, her mind haunted by the terrible word that spelt the wreck of her darling—the word wife.

Rather than see her son married to Molly Finucane she could have prayed that he might be taken from the world. To her apprehension such a marriage meant ruin final and irretrievable, ruin social, moral and religious, ruin in this life and the next.

As the first streak of dawn slanted through the window the poor lady crept from her bed, and throwing a dressing-gown round her shoulders, sat down at a small writing-table to write a letter.

She began by addressing the envelope, with fingers that shook partly from cold and partly from anguish: Miss Finucane, Elm Side, Chelsea.

She had made up her mind to take the desperate[68] step of writing to Molly Finucane to implore her not to marry Alistair.

She had first entertained the idea of going to Molly to make the appeal in person, but she had found herself unable to face the reception which she feared was possible. Molly Finucane’s reputation daunted her. The courage of this gentle, pious, pure-minded woman was not great enough to brave the scoffs of a girl whom common fame reported as more foul-mouthed than a bargeman.

The letter took a long time to write. The words came slowly, and more than once the writer felt inclined to drop the pen in despair. But at last it was finished.

The letter ran like this:

Dear Madam:

“Will you pardon the liberty I take in addressing you? I write on behalf of my son Alistair. I hardly know how to express myself without seeming unkind, but you will understand what a shock it has been to his mother to see him in the Bankruptcy Court. He was here last night, and from what he has said to me I feel sure that you do not wish him ill. His only chance of salvation is an entire change of life, and that can only be brought about by your influence. The tremendous hold you have over him is my only excuse for appealing to you like this. I have no doubt you see as clearly as I do how his present life is likely to end—in misery and distress.[69] Nothing I could do would be too much to show my gratitude if you would consent to let his friends extricate him from his present way of life, and give him a fresh start. He is still a young man, and unmarried, and therefore we hope it is not too late to save him. If you are really his friend you will yourself be anxious to do nothing that would drag him deeper down into the abyss. In his present state of mind I fear for him; he is hardly master of his actions, and might be led in a thoughtless moment to take some step which he could never recall. It is even possible that he might contemplate marrying you, which—forgive my saying so—would entail certain misery on you both. He would lose all his friends, and as soon as the awakening came he would regard you as his bitterest enemy, and the cause of his ruin. I hope you will not resent my speaking thus plainly; I need not say I do so solely out of the natural anxiety of a mother for her boy, and not out of any desire to say anything harsh or unkind toward you personally. Most earnestly I implore you, I appeal to you in the name of your own mother, to let me save my boy! With many apologies for thus addressing you, believe me,

“Yours very sincerely,
Caroline Trent and Colonsay.”

The letter finished, the Duchess betook herself to her praying-closet, where she remained till her maid appeared.



The Duchess of Trent would never call the little chamber which she used for her devotions an oratory, thinking that term savoured of Romanism. The furniture of the praying-closet was as downright and old-fashioned as its name. There was a little table against the wall, supporting a plain cross of silver, a Bible, a Book of Common Prayer, a small book of devotions called Bogatzky’s “Golden Treasury,” containing portions of Scripture, with hymns and prayers for each day. An armchair and a kneeling-cushion were the only other articles in the closet, except on the walls, which were hung with a few illuminated texts of Scripture, and a fine engraving of one of Holman Hunt’s pictures. It was such a room as might have been used by the pious Countess of Huntingdon, or one of those saintly dames who kept alive the lamp of Evangelical Christianity through the days of the Regency.

Here the Duchess was accustomed to spend many hours in pious meditation. Her nature was inclined to the tenets of the Quakers, but, like the royal mistress whom she had formerly served, she deemed that[71] questions of ecclesiastical forms and government were unimportant, provided they did not come between the soul and its Maker. Her horror of Romanism had its root in the natural strength of her character; she revolted from the devotional practices of that communion as a healthy man might revolt from the use of crutches. Her education had taught her to consider that the claims of the Roman Church were a deliberate imposture, but she was too charitable to think evil of the individual members of its priesthood. The great wave of medieval reaction which was now sweeping over the English Church, and in a lesser degree over the Nonconformist bodies, had passed her by. The ecclesiastical subtleties which had exercised the mind of Newman and his followers were meaningless to her. She lived, as she humbly believed, in direct communion with God, whose Holy Spirit afforded her what light was necessary to salvation, and the Sacraments she regarded as mere outward tokens of a spiritual allegiance.

Believing thus, her piety overflowed, not in the observance of fasts, nor in attendance at public services, but in works of benevolence. In the country parish where she had formerly lived she had discharged all the duties of a curate, except those connected with public worship. The cottagers believed in her more than in the Rector; on several occasions she had been asked to baptize some new-born infant whose little life seemed to be guttering out. Those of such children who survived were regarded as singularly[72] blest, and their parents showed great reluctance to let the ceremony be repeated in the church with the proper forms. She had been in still greater request as a peacemaker; no quarrel ever outlived her interference in that office. Yet she never scolded the people, and seldom rebuked them. Her method was to take the causes of mutual offence upon herself, and ask forgiveness from each in turn. It became imprudent for her to speak severely to any of the villagers, even when rebuke was called for. She found out once that a drunkard whom she had sternly reproved for ill-treatment of his children was set upon in consequence by the entire village and beaten dangerously. Her removal to London was felt like death. The whole country-side was downcast. She arranged to keep up the payment of all her alms by the hands of the Rector, but this was not felt as a consolation. Half the population of the parish followed her on the day she went away from them, the mothers crying and holding up their babes to take a last look at her, the children silent and hanging their heads. The fathers at work in the fields cast down their tools as the carriage went by, and came and stood in the road, with bared heads, till it had disappeared.

Afterwards the Rector, himself a well-meaning but dull man, meeting one of the men on his way home, said that he was glad to see so much love shown by the people for her Grace.

The man stared at him.

[73]“Us love she, sir? Why, that’s nought. ’Twere her as loved we, sir, better than us love each other.”

When the Duchess settled in her son’s London house, she sought at once for the spot where such service as hers was most needed. She did not apply to the minister of the parish in which Colonsay House was situated, lest, tempted by her great rank, he might exaggerate the claims of his own district, and perhaps push out some humbler worker. For though every Calvinist is something of a republican, and the Duchess of Trent made it a point of conscience not to set value on the title she bore, a wise prudence taught her never to forget the importance attached to it by others, and the unwholesome influence it was likely to have over a certain class of minds. She knew how to distinguish with perfect clearness between the courtship paid to her rank and the love which she inspired on her own account; in this respect again resembling the monarch who was her friend.

After a careful investigation, carried out quietly by herself, the Duchess chose for her sphere of charitable labour a district lying in the south of the Thames, between Lambeth and Westminster Bridges. Here, under the shadow of the Archbishop’s Palace, she found heathendom as utter as, and vice more rank than that the Church was sending out missionaries to cope with in China and Hindustan.

The Vicar of the parish in which this region was included, whose name was Dr. Coles, was a pious, learned, and zealous divine, but he was believed to[74] construe his ordination vows according to a code of honour more Roman than English. The services at St. Jermyn’s bore little resemblance to those of a Protestant place of worship, and it was suspected that they were but the outward and visible signs of a still deeper cleavage between the Doctor’s private beliefs and those affirmed in the articles of religion which he had subscribed. The Vicarage was the resort of a great number of young men from the theological colleges, among whom the Vicar of St. Jermyn’s appeared to enjoy an authority not explained by his rank in the Church.

Being a man advanced in years, and not being able to afford more than one curate, Dr. Coles was glad to avail himself of the services of helpers from outside the parish. Most of these were women of wealth and position, who came from their homes in the fashionable quarter to minister to the dwellers in the back streets of Lambeth. The reader of the society paragraphs in the daily press sometimes little suspected that the women whose names he saw in the list of guests at a grand dinner-party or dance the night before had spent their morning going about the slums of St. Jermyn’s.

The Duchess of Trent and Colonsay went to work without fuss, calling herself at the homes of the poor, and winning an easy entrance by her own kindly and modest demeanour. The sullen drudges of these dark precincts soon learned to look for her coming, not as that of a patroness, but as that of a dear friend,[75] who was interested in the small details of their daily lives, and ever ready to sympathize if a drunken husband overnight had left a black bruise on the poor thin arm, or a ne’er-do-well son had been sent to the cells for fighting in the streets. They never knew how closely their own stories often tallied with the experience of the lady who listened to them so wistfully, and who found in soothing their sorrows the means of living down her own.

It was to this district that the Duchess took her way on the morning after she had seen her son.

The carriage set her down at the corner of a small street, called, as if in mockery of a more splendid region, Little Bond Street. Walking down this street, where she was well known, and nodding pleasantly to those of its inmates who were at their doors, the Duchess presently came to a small court or yard, which bore on the wall of the archway opening out of the street the legend “Beers Cooperage.”

Beers Cooperage no longer retained any trace of the manufacture of casks and barrels which some departed cooper had doubtless carried on there in bygone days. It consisted of a row of half a dozen very small cottages, with still smaller enclosures in front, which looked as though they might once have been meant for gardens. A last reminder of the time when Beers Cooperage had considered itself to be in a rural neighbourhood lingered on the window-sills of some of these cottages, which were ornamented with miniature wooden railings and five-barred gates, a[76] touch of rustic fancy of which the modern Londoner has become incapable. Yet though the inhabitants of Beers Cooperage could not have originated these quaint decorations, and had probably never seen the country sights they were meant to recall, they took a pathetic pride in possessing them, and as soon as one of the railings or gates showed signs of decay it was carefully repaired.

Who knows what influence such trifles have over all of us? It is certain that the dwellers in Beers Cooperage were generally quieter and more decent in their lives than most of their neighbours. One or two of them kept singing-birds, instead of terriers to kill rats with. The inmate of one house, a poor cripple, had even set himself resolutely to make his front garden a reality instead of a name, by planting a row of wallflowers, bought full-grown from a coster-monger, in what he evidently considered a bed. These plants, which perished periodically, and were regularly renewed, were regarded with reverence by the neighbours, and attracted pilgrims to view them from two or three streets away. But on the rare occasions when they burst into bloom of their own accord, no profane hand was allowed to come too near them. After being reverently smelled at a distance by the dwellers in the Cooperage, the blossoms were culled with anxious pride by their proprietor, and made into a nosegay for the Duchess, who carried them home with her, and set them on the table of her oratory.[77] They were the only flowers ever seen on that simple altar.

There was one house in Beers Cooperage, however, which differed strikingly from the rest. This was the hovel at the upper end, where the yard terminated in a high blank wall. There were no five-barred gates on the window-sills here; nothing but fragments, which hung rotting over the edge. Half the panes in the window were broken, and stuffed with dirty scraps of paper. The paling before the house was also fast disappearing, and the space in front was littered with broken tins and refuse not sufficiently noisome to attract the notice of the sanitary inspector. In the corner stood a kennel tenanted by a mongrel bulldog, the terror of the small children in the Cooperage. The door of this cottage generally stood half open, and through it came all day and night long sounds of angry scolding, or of oaths and drunken yells. The inside of the place matched with its outside. The floors and stairs looked as if they were never washed; the germs of a dozen fevers might have lurked in the dirt which was thickly piled everywhere. The miserable crockery and kitchen stuff was in as deplorable a condition as the windows. The bedding chiefly consisted of heaps of unwashed rags.

This was the one house in Beers Cooperage into which the Duchess had never yet ventured to go. It was tenanted by an Irishman, who had threatened to[78] wring the neck of any —— Protestant who came meddling inside his doors.

For the last fortnight the Cooperage had enjoyed a blessed spell of relief from the presence of this man, whose formidable strength, added to his choleric temper, rendered him the terror of his neighbours. He had been taken in the act of kicking an old man whom he had first knocked down. The magistrate before whom he was brought, who had just previously imposed a sentence of six months on a boy for the theft of a pair of boots, desirous, perhaps, to show that he could be merciful on occasion, sent the hooligan to prison for fourteen days, thereby releasing the rest of the inhabitants of Beers Cooperage for that exact length of time.

On this morning, as soon as the Duchess came out from under the archway which formed the entrance to the Cooperage, she saw that something was amiss.

Several of the cottages showed broken windows, and in one or two places even the cherished gates and rails had been damaged or destroyed. A broken birdcage lay on the ground in the far corner of the yard beside the dog’s kennel. All the doors of the houses were closed, except the Irishman’s, through which shrill screams were issuing. Lastly, the poor lame gardener was standing in his little plot disconsolately regarding the wreck of his cherished flowers, which looked as though they had been trampled over by a regiment.

“Mike Finigan done it,” he explained, in answer[79] to the Duchess’s sympathetic exclamation. “’E got outer prison yisterday, and ’e come in drunk lorst night with ’is crew, and played old ’Arry all over the place.”

As if the presence of the Duchess had instantly become known, by what is called mental telepathy, to every resident in the Cooperage, all the other doors were thrown open, and the women crowded about her, recounting the tale of the Irishman’s misdeeds, and denouncing their author. The owner of the broken birdcage pointed to it, not without a certain melancholy pride in her pre-eminence of wrong.

“’E broke it ’isself, and ’is mates killed my bird; and there I’m going to let it lie till I ’aves the law of ’im, the roughing.”

Whether the woman believed that the continuance of the broken cage on its present spot would be a strong confirmation of her story, like the bricks in Jack Cade’s chimney, or whether she had some obscure feeling like that which causes a Brahmin creditor to starve himself to death, in a spirit of revenge, on his debtor’s doorstep, and considered the wrecked cage as a talisman which would work harm to the wrongdoer, she failed to explain. But the threat of legal proceedings was not taken seriously by her neighbours, the inhabitants of Beers Cooperage regarding an appeal to the constituted authorities with much the same feeling as schoolboys do a complaint to a master. The poor have an instinct which teaches[80] them that the State is their enemy; they are a subject population within the borders of the Raj.

While the group round the Duchess were still shrilly vociferating, evidently with the object of making their reflections reach the ears of the Irishman in his retreat, they were interrupted by the appearance of two figures in the mouth of the archway.

One of these new-comers was a man, the other a girl of nineteen or twenty. At the sight of the first the Duchess of Trent frowned slightly, but her face brightened again as she caught sight of his companion, whom she had come out this morning in the secret hope of meeting.

There is a type of womanhood known all over the world as English, and in that bright and gracious type Hero Vanbrugh was completely moulded. It is not a type of classical perfection, like that associated with the Roman virgin; it does not cast that intoxicating spell over the passions of men which Southern poets mean by love. The Southern language has no word for this type; it is only the dear old Northern names of maid and sweetheart and wife which express its tender charm.

Hero Vanbrugh, as she stood framed in the archway, was a picture to gladden the eyes. It was not only that her features were delicately chiselled, and her body a harmony of slenderness and strength; there were men who declared that at some moments she seemed to them to be actually plain; but the freshness of the rain was in her face, and the laughter of[81] the wind in her hair, and the blue breath of the sea in her eyes, and there were other men to whom at many moments she seemed the fairest sight that they had ever looked upon.

The dress which she wore was of that unpretending serviceable pattern which would have been deemed almost masculine a few years before. In the eyes of a man the simple coat with its white collar, and the plain skirt, might have appeared homely, but the eye of another woman would have been quick to note the marks of an artist’s hand in the cut of each garment, and would have credited the wearer with perfect taste, coupled with the means to gratify it.

The man who stood beside her in the archway was as unlike her as it was possible to be.

If Hero Vanbrugh might have been taken as a type of all that was best in English humanity, the same could scarcely have been said of her companion. Big and bull-necked, with coarse, flushed features, small, deep-set eyes, and a round fleshy chin, he might have passed, in a different dress, for a comrade of Mike Finigan himself. His costume would have marked him out in any other country as a Roman priest. He wore the shovel hat, with a long brim projecting before and behind, which is associated with the stage priest of comic opera, and his whole figure, from the neck to the ankles, was enveloped in a long black robe of design similar to that worn by Noah and his family in the toy arks. The priests of Rome in this country being in the habit of adopting a dress corresponding[82] with the character of that worn by the people among whom they live, this outlandish disguise served to indicate that the wearer was in Anglican Orders. He was, in fact, the Rev. Aloysius Grimes, curate of St. Jermyn’s parish.

The Rev. Aloysius was one of that class which has flowed into the ranks of the clergy of late years in increasing numbers, to fill the gap created by the falling off in the supply of graduates from the Universities, a falling off due as much to the decline in the value of the Church’s preferments, perhaps, as to the decline of belief in her doctrines. The son of a small tradesman in the suburbs, he had passed from a higher-grade Board School into a theological college. He had entered the college an ordinary sharp London lad of the lower orders, and left it the social equal of dukes.

Such a youth, strongly conscious of the importance of the step he had gained, was not likely to listen with reluctant ears to any doctrine which exaggerated the dignity of his profession. The Rev. Aloysius came out into the world firmly impressed that he was a priest, commissioned by the Maker of the Universe to teach and to rule mankind, endowed with power to bestow the absolution and remission of sins, and supernaturally enabled to work the awful miracle of Transubstantiation.

Between the Duchess of Trent and Mr. Grimes there was an instinctive antagonism, which each strove to veil beneath the outward forms of courtesy, the[83] Duchess because she respected the curate’s cloth, the curate because he respected her Grace’s rank. To the Duchess the doctrines held and taught by the Rev. Aloysius were simply and literally blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits. She supposed that they had been abandoned as such at the Reformation, and she understood them so to be condemned by the Articles of the English Church. Yet she perceived that they were now freely tolerated within its pale by those to whom the government of the Church was committed, and she shrank with real pain from setting up her own judgment against that of the Episcopal Bench.

What added to her distress was the fact that she was unable to credit the head of that Bench with any belief in what she had always regarded as the cardinal doctrine of Christianity. That doctrine in her mind was the Atonement. The great truth which Catholicism images in the crucifix seemed to her the central one of Christianity, and those who doubted it became in her view mere Deists, with a reverence for Jesus of Nazareth. Such a Deist she believed Dr. Dresden, the then Primate, to be, and, believing it, she regarded even the Rev. Aloysius as more worthy of his place in the Church than the Archbishop.

Mr. Grimes glided in front, fawning over the hand of the Duchess, before Hero could come up.

“I am so delighted to meet you here, Duchess. It is so good of you to do so much for our poor people. They are always singing your praises.”

[84]The Duchess made the briefest response to these compliments as she turned to greet Hero.

“My dear, how well you are looking! One would think that St. Jermyn’s was a health-resort, to see you. Now I wonder whether you will take compassion on a poor old woman, and let me carry you home to lunch with me presently?”

Hero blushed as she listened to these old-fashioned compliments.

“You are exceedingly kind, Duchess. I shall be delighted. I came here in the brougham to-day, so that I shall be able to send a message to my father to let him know where I am. But what is all this about?” She turned to the excited women who were now repeating the tale of Mike Finigan’s outrages in the ears of Mr. Grimes.

The Rev. Aloysius was listening with a troubled brow. In his secret heart he had a great respect for Finigan, partly because he knew that the Irishman had no respect at all for him, and regarded him as an impostor, dressed in plumes borrowed from his own clergy, partly because of the superior example which the Finigans showed to his own flock in the matter of reverence for the priesthood. The hooligan and his family in their wildest moments treated their own priest as being invested with dreadful sanctity and tremendous powers. They firmly believed that Father Molyneux could strike any one of them dead without moving an eyelash; if one of them had been betrayed into lifting a hand against the Father’s[85] person, they would have expected to see it wither to a stump. Yet Father Molyneux was a very insignificant-looking little man, with a jolly smile, and a brogue like the scent of an onion, who went about dressed in a shabby overcoat and a disreputable hat of the ordinary chimney-pot shape. He said “Sorr” to Mr. Grimes when that gentleman condescended to greet him in the street, and never showed by a word or look that he did not regard him as a superior by whose notice he was honoured. It was true that the little priest had a reputation for humour among his own friends; a sound as of laughter was sometimes heard issuing from the presbytery as the Rev. Aloysius passed by; a book entitled “The Secret History of the Romish Conspiracy” had been found by the priest’s housekeeper in the cupboard where his reverence kept his whisky and his slippers; but those things were mercifully hidden from the curate of St. Jermyn’s.

Mr. Grimes turned towards Hero, as she came forward, shaking his head.

“I’m afraid it’s a sad business, Miss Vanbrugh. Finigan has broken out again. I can’t understand how it is that a man so well conducted in some respects, with such genuine faith in his religion, schismatic though it may appear to us, should be guilty of outrages like this.”

Hero flushed up. She did not share the elder woman’s deep-rooted prejudice against the Catholicizing movement, which attracted her strongly on its[86] æsthetic side, but her English common sense remained to her.

“The man is a drunken brute, who ought to have been sent to penal servitude for fourteen years, instead of being let off with a paltry fourteen days!” she exclaimed. “What are prisons for, I should like to know, except to protect peaceful folk from ruffians like that?”

The Rev. Aloysius shook his head doubtfully. He was inclined to read the text, “Thy faith hath made thee whole,” in a very broad sense, and to consider that Mike Finigan’s admirable loyalty to his creed ought to atone for any trifling disregard of his neighbours’ peace and comfort.

But the inhabitants of Beers Cooperage, whose rude minds failed to appreciate the beauty of Mr. Finigan’s theological attitude, in the face of their broken flower-pots and slaughtered pets, were quick to perceive that Hero was the champion of whom they stood in need. They deserted the curate to besiege her with their complaints; the owner of the birdcage renewed her direful malediction, and another woman, who could boast no injury on her own account, drew the sympathetic young lady to the scene of the trampled wallflowers.

The sight aroused Miss Vanbrugh’s wrath in real earnest.

“I have a great mind to send for the police myself,” she declared. “I only wish I had seen him do it, so that I could give evidence.”

[87]The women shrank back at these words. Their anger against Finigan, already partly relieved by the mere exertion of denouncing him, was cooled at once by Miss Vanbrugh’s threat.

“That ’ud only mike it wuss, miss,” the lame man responded dolefully. “’E’d come out again at the end of a week like a mad Calico, an’ not leave a roof over our ’eads.”

Before Hero had time to resolve this extraordinary expression into an allusion to the late Khalifa of the Soudan there was a stir among the little group behind, caused by the sudden appearance of Mike Finigan himself at the door of his abode.

Now that the women perceived that their clamour had achieved its purpose of rousing the evildoer, they suddenly became silent. Finigan lounged forward, with a masterful air, his hands in his pockets, and surveyed his neighbours disdainfully.

It said, in the history-books out of which the small Britons of Beers Cooperage were taught in the Board School, that Ireland had been conquered by England in the year of grace 1172. The history-books said nothing about the conquest of Beers Cooperage by Mike Finigan.

Seen close at hand, the Irishman did not look a remarkably vicious or ill-disposed creature. His face was of the dark, heavy, animal type to be met with in some of the western counties of England itself. He represented that mixed remnant of old, forgotten races which is found washed up in out-of-the-way corners[88] of the land, the relics of prehistoric wanderings and subjugations, the rubble of European man.

Because his ancestors during a thousand years or so had spoken a Gaelic dialect, learned language-mongers called Mike Finigan a Celt. His name might have told them that he was a mongrel Finn, between whom and the fair-haired, blue-eyed Gauls who took Rome there was no more kinship than between the Chinaman and the Greek. The traditions of his own land, had the language-mongers cared to study them, would have disclosed to them the existence of half a dozen strange older races, some of whom in all likelihood were still speaking Neolithic dialects of their own when the armies of Cæsar landed in Britain.

This primitive savage had been brought from his native bogs, and set down among a peaceable town-dwelling population, chiefly of Dutch descent, by the economic machinery of the Raj. The Raj had taught him to speak its language, and bestowed upon him a voice in the choice of its administrators.

Now the Raj was trying to digest Mike Finigan.

In his own country, dwelling on some bare hillside beaten by the rains of the Atlantic, the Irishman might have seemed a picturesque figure. Living the life that was natural to him, digging his native peat, and finding an outlet for his brutal instincts in the folk-fights that formed the immemorial pastime of the country-side, he would have been a harmless subject.

[89]In the streets of London he was a dangerous criminal. The civilized life brought out all that was worst in this wild nature. It galled him with its manifold restraints. It stunned him with its monotony of work. It teased him with its decorum. It stifled him with its lack of air and space. Finally, it drove him to the public-house.

If dirt be matter in the wrong place, so is crime conduct in an unfit historical or geographical environment. If the hooligan had lived a few thousand years earlier he would have been a hero. He would have refreshed himself with his native mead before going into battle, and his strength becoming as the strength of ten, he would have been deemed of supernatural birth. His exploits would have become the theme of bards, divine honours would have been rendered to his memory, and, his figure shining through the mist of saga like a demigod’s, learned students would have been engaged to-day in identifying him with the solar orb.

As it was, Mike Finigan’s history was already written to its end. After a long or short series of savage atrocities, after wounding and maiming a certain number of peaceable citizens, and being punished by sentences ranging from a small fine to six months’ hard labour, according to the magistrate before whom he happened to be brought, one of Mike Finigan’s kicks some day, probably by pure accident, would cause a death; when society, seizing the excuse for which it had been waiting all along, would hang Mike[90] Finigan. A pity that you could not have passed the sentence before the murder, and commuted it to transportation, back to the little shieling in the potato-patch from which you dragged his father, Your Majesty the public!

The effect of alcohol is different on different constitutions, a truism which fanatics forget. On Finigan its effect was to make him a raging wild beast. His unfortunate neighbours would have been the first to bear witness that when the drink was not in him the Irishman was harmless enough. His speech was always coarse, and he was a stranger to soap and water, but those were venial faults in the light of his drunken frolics. At such moments the appearance of the Khalifa himself in their archway would have struck less consternation into the dwellers in the Cooperage than Mike Finigan’s.

After one of these outbursts the Irishman was usually sullen and silent for a day or two, during which period his neighbours found it wisest to leave him alone. He was in that condition, surly, but not dangerous, as he strode forth to silence his assailants.

At the sight of the Duchess he paused, uncertain. Though he had uttered a coarse threat against any Protestant who should invade his own home, he had acquired a tacit respect for the quiet lady who visited his neighbours, and perhaps there were times when he would not have been sorry if the Duchess had disregarded his words, and included his wife and family in her friendly ministrations. A secret shame at having[91] disgraced himself in her eyes caused him to assume a defiant and insolent air as he demanded of the women:

“And what have yez got to say agin me, now I’m here?”

The women shrank back terrorized.

The Duchess thought it useless for her to speak. But Mr. Grimes, anxious to show her Grace how well he could administer a priestly reproof, rashly undertook to answer the bully.

“I wonder you are not ashamed to ask the question, Finigan. You have been behaving in a shocking, scandalous manner. Do you consider what disgrace you bring, not merely on yourself as a man, but on the Church to which you belong?”

The Irishman turned red.

“Here, Mister, yez lave me Church alone, an’ I’ll lave yours,” he muttered.

The Rev. Aloysius smiled at the success with which he had touched the man’s weak spot.

“I am not blaming your Church,” he said impressively. “The teaching you have received is good enough for you to know when you have done wrong. I am pointing out to you that your neighbours here, who do not know and understand the Church of Rome as I know and understand it, are not likely to have their opinion of it raised by such conduct as yours last night.”

The curate was warming to his work, and would have gone on to inflict further stabs on the sensitive[92] place, when suddenly the Irishman clenched his fists, and stepped towards him.

“Say another word about me Church, good or bad, and, be the Howly Moses, I’ll knock yer teeth down yer Protestant throat!”

The Rev. Aloysius fairly recoiled, stunned, to do him justice, as much by the insult conveyed in the description of himself as a Protestant as by the threat of personal violence. It was too bitter; the serpent of schism had raised its baleful crest, and stung him in the very midst of his flock.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, no one suspected the true cause of his agitation. Before he could frame a suitable retort an unexpected ally came to his rescue.

Hero Vanbrugh had listened impatiently to the curate’s attempted admonition of the hooligan. Her indignation at the brutalities whose effects she had just seen was still hot within her, and the Irishman’s hectoring demeanour made it boil over.

She walked up quickly, and confronted him with blazing eyes.

“You coward! How dare you stand there and bluster! How dare you come out and show yourself, in the face of all the mean, silly, brutal, wicked things you did last night! Where is the bird you and your friends killed? There is its cage! Look at it, and stay here and brazen it out if you dare! Look at that poor man’s flowers all trodden down and broken! I wonder you can bring yourself to pass them! To rob a poor lame man! a cripple! I suppose you will[93] beat him next, or murder him if you are not afraid of the police. I tell you, you are a coward, nothing but a big hulking coward, who goes about bullying women and children—and cripples! Go! Don’t stay out here! Go and hide yourself, lest a man should come along and see you!”

Then a great thing happened. For Mike Finigan, the tyrant of Beers Cooperage and the terror of the police, raised his finger to his forelock, and with a muttered—“Beg pardon, miss,” turned round, and shrank back into his house like a thoroughly ashamed man.

The Duchess turned to Hero with a look of grateful admiration.

“You did that splendidly, my dear. Thank you.”

The women, relieved of the presence of their enemy, would have burst out in a triumphant chorus, but Hero restrained them with a gesture, and the next minute they were surprised to see her turn white and totter against the side of the Duchess, who hastened to draw her away.



As the two ladies passed under the archway from Beers Cooperage into the street they were followed by Mr. Grimes, anxious to efface the rather humiliating figure he had cut in his encounter with Mike Finigan.

“I wonder if we may have the honour of seeing you at our bazaar this week, Duchess?” he said smirkingly.

“What bazaar is that? I don’t think I have heard of it,” the Duchess responded, with indifference.

“The Legitimist bazaar—to obtain funds on behalf of the cause,” the curate explained.

The Duchess of Trent knitted her brows.

“I am afraid I don’t understand. What cause is that, if you please?”

The Rev. Aloysius faltered somewhat in his speech as he answered:

“It is the cause of the legitimate monarchs who have been excluded from their thrones by—ah—popular insurrections, and—ah—constitutions and republics, and so on. The Duke of Orleans is one of our principal objects,” he went on rather hurriedly, observing[95] a significant frown come over her Grace’s brow at the word constitution—“rightfully Louis XIX of France; and then there is Don Carlos of Spain, and the Duke of Cumberland, and others. Many of us consider that the Bishop of Rome has been wrongfully deprived of his sovereign rights by the House of Savoy.”

“Any more?” asked the Duchess, with some scorn. “I shall be glad to know whether you consider the Queen as a usurper, because I have served in her household as a girl, and I have no desire to conspire against her in my old age.”

The curate of St. Jermyn’s cast down his eyes.

“Oh, I dare say there are a few members of the Guild who hold, in an academical spirit, of course, that the elder branch of the Stuarts are entitled to our allegiance, but that is really more a pose than anything else. No one intends the slightest disrespect towards Queen Victoria. But the French Republic is very different; its intolerance towards the religious orders must make every Christian wish to see its downfall.”

“I am afraid that I do not sympathize with your views sufficiently to care to come to your bazaar,” the Duchess said dryly. “It appears to me that Legitimism, according to your account of it, is another name for Roman Catholicism, and I am a Protestant.” The Rev. Aloysius looked pained. “Besides,” her Grace went on severely, “even if this nonsense about the Stuarts is only a pose, as you say, it seems[96] to me in very bad taste. I only trust it is not actually treasonable.”

Mr. Grimes bit his lip. Then he put on a touch of bravado as he replied:

“I am sorry you should think so harshly of us, Duchess. I should not have ventured to broach the subject, only Lord Alistair Stuart is among our patrons, and we hope to see him on Saturday. Miss Vanbrugh also held out a hope that she might drop in for an hour.”

“I was only coming out of curiosity, remember; I told you that, Mr. Grimes,” put in Hero promptly. “As it is, I think I shall follow the Duchess’s lead, and boycott you. I have no objection to Louis XIX, but I think I must draw the line at Mary III.”

It was under this name that the Bavarian Princess whom the Legitimist Guild honoured with their homage, figured in their recently published calendar of true and lawful Sovereigns. It must not be supposed that in so styling her the Legitimists were inconsistent enough to acknowledge the title of the wife of William of Orange to a place in the list of British monarchs. The Mary II recognized by them was the ill-starred rival of Queen Elizabeth. Further back than the martyr of Fotheringay their genealogical inquiries did not too curiously extend, lest, perhaps, they should find themselves confronted with that direct descendant of the Plantagenets who plied the trade of a chimney-sweeper in the last generation, and who, as a base Protestant mechanic, would have[97] been ill-deserving of the sympathy accorded to such illustrious figures as Don Carlos and Leo XIII.

But a change had come over the face of the Duchess while Hero was speaking. Now she said to her:

“After all, I expect it is a mistake to treat Mr. Grimes’s friends seriously. Suppose we agree to look in on the conspirators together? I should like you to meet my boy Alistair.”

And without waiting for the expression of the curate’s exuberant delight at this decision, the elder woman gave the signal to enter the carriage that was to convey them to Colonsay House.

On the way thither the Duchess made no further reference to what was in her mind. But while they were waiting for lunch to be served, she took her guest into the little drawing-room where Alistair had found her the night before.

“I want to talk to you about my boy,” she said, making Hero sit down beside her on the couch. “I dare say you know he is in sad trouble just now.”

This was by no means Hero’s first visit to Colonsay House. The friendship between her and the Duchess was of some standing. Encountering each other among the squalid byways of St. Jermyn’s parish, a mutual liking had quickly sprung up between them, which rested on no more occult base than the simple goodness of heart which was common to the two. The older woman admired Hero Vanbrugh for her courage and plain good sense, and Hero on her part[98] revered the Duchess for her antique piety and single-mindedness. Thus it came about that the two were constant companions, visiting in the same district and helping in each other’s work.

It was a source of secret regret to the Duchess that Hero did not share her own old-fashioned prejudice against the Catholic practices and teachings of Mr. Grimes and his Vicar. Hero had an æsthetic appreciation of the ritual of St. Jermyn’s, with its banners and processions, its incense and its worship of the consecrated elements, and this led her to listen with outward tolerance to the utterances of Dr. Coles and his disciple on the subject of the Catholic doctrines which lay behind these outward symbols. But the native strength of her mind forbade her to make that surrender of her own judgment to priestly authority which is the real test of the Catholic temper.

Perhaps this obstinacy was due more largely than she suspected to the personal antipathy inspired in her by the Rev. Aloysius. A young woman’s religion is generally coloured by her personal relations with the man who is her religious teacher; and Hero secretly despised Mr. Grimes as a man, though she tried to respect him as a clergyman. A suggestion from the curate that Miss Vanbrugh would derive spiritual benefit from a visit to his confessional had been so discouragingly received that he never ventured to renew it.

The curate did not help himself in Hero’s eyes[99] by his rather too evident admiration of her as a woman. If he had not been vowed to celibacy it might have been supposed that he was courting her; and even as it was, there were jealous eyes, belonging to older and plainer women in the St. Jermyn’s flock, which watched him with distrust, and jealous minds which dwelt upon the fact that Anglican vows of celibacy are a poor security. Perhaps it is not doing much injustice to Mr. Grimes to suppose that there were moments when he himself recollected with some satisfaction that in his Church such vows resemble the treaties of civilized Powers, and are liable to be repudiated the moment they become inconvenient.

Be that as it may, it is certain that Hero Vanbrugh was heart-whole as far as her clerical admirer was concerned. Lord Alistair Stuart she had never met, her intimacy at Colonsay House dating since the separation due to Molly Finucane.

She was familiar with Lord Alistair’s story, in so far as it had become a social scandal, but this was the first time his mother had pronounced Alistair’s name in her presence, and her interest was strongly roused.

She gave the Duchess a nod of sympathy and understanding.

“I saw what had happened in the papers. I was very sorry. It must have been a great blow to you and to the Duke.”

“It is a crushing blow,” the mother answered.[100] “Not only in itself, but because of what lies behind it. My boy would never have come to this if he had not fallen under the influence of that dreadful woman.”

In saying this the poor mother spoke quite sincerely. In spite of Alistair’s disclaimer, in spite of her own experience with him in the past, she could not bring herself to forego the mother’s consolation of laying her darling’s sins upon another’s shoulders. In the eyes of a true mother the whole world is full of wicked men and women busied in laying snares for the destruction of her child; she never deems it possible that her child may be himself the tempter of others.

Hero did not doubt that the Duchess spoke perfect truth. What woman likes to think that another woman’s influence is otherwise than hurtful to a man in whom she is interested?

“I am sure of it,” Miss Vanbrugh said with conviction. “But perhaps what has happened”—they both shrank from the word “bankruptcy”—“may be the best thing in the end, if it compels him to leave her.”

The Duchess shook her head despondently.

“I hardly know what will happen yet. I hinted that his brother might come to his help if he would give up his present life, and he refused. Do you know what I am actually afraid of? I believe that woman is scheming to make him marry her!”

Hero Vanbrugh was as much shocked by this suggestion[101] as the Duchess could have desired. Her training had not been severely Puritanical, but an instinct older than copybooks and Sunday schools taught her to look on Molly Finucane as her natural enemy. Such women as Molly were traitors to their sex; they were the blacklegs of the feminine trades-union. The wage which the others had worked from time immemorial to establish—honour, a home, the half of all a man’s possessions, and the chief place in his life—all this the free-lance had foregone, to snatch the miserable gains of adventure.

The announcement that lunch was on the table did not interrupt the conversation. But it added another interlocutor in the person of the Duke of Trent.

The new Minister had passed a busy morning at the Home Office. His first care had been to send for his solicitor, to consult him about Lord Alistair’s affairs. The lawyer told him that, though the nominal amount of his brother’s indebtedness was not less than fifty thousand pounds, the creditors would probably be willing to accept one-half to cancel the proceedings. Twenty-five thousand was a large sum to a man circumstanced as the Duke was; nevertheless, he had made up his mind that it should be forthcoming, and he had instructed the solicitor to open the negotiations on his behalf.

The most important item of official business had been a call from the Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who reported a fresh piece of hooligan violence from the neighbourhood of Bermondsey.[102] A policeman was again the victim, and the Force were beginning to show a dangerous temper, and to demand permission to carry revolvers for their own protection.

The Home Secretary privately sympathized with this demand, but he foresaw that such a departure would be the signal for a storm of protest in the workmen’s papers and in the House of Commons. The particular quarter of London where the latest outrage had occurred was represented in the House by a sturdy demagogue who was not likely to sit with his mouth closed while his constituents were threatened with what he had already described in advance as martial law. The very gangs which were now defying the police were believed to have done effective work during the last election, and on one memorable occasion their popular representative had led them to an armed encounter with the forces of law and order in the heart of the capital.

These considerations had to be weighed by the Home Secretary. A Cabinet Minister in these days holds the position of a buffer between the permanent heads of his department, who really govern the Raj, and the assembly elected by the populace to supervise them. The first duty of the Minister, no doubt, was to support his staff, but it was also imperative to take no step that might endanger the popularity of his party in the constituencies. In this dilemma the Duke of Trent had reserved his decision till he should have[103] had an opportunity of consulting Major Berwick, the trusted chief of the electoral machine.

A smile of pleasure betrayed his gratification at the entrance of Miss Vanbrugh, who greeted him with the ease of old friendship. He told his mother briefly of the steps he had already taken on Alistair’s behalf.

The Duchess gave him a grateful look.

“Thank you, dear; I knew you would do what you could. I was just talking to Hero about the poor boy. The one thing we have to try for now is to make this trouble a means of rescuing him from his present life.”

“I ought to make that condition, of course,” the elder brother observed doubtingly; “but from what you told me last night he would only refuse it if I were to.”

“It is very difficult,” the Duchess admitted. “I am afraid you are right. Perhaps if you say nothing about conditions, and simply let him know that you are helping him generously, he will feel ashamed not to make a return.”

The Duke of Trent had his own opinion as to his brother’s sense of shame, but he did not care to express it before Miss Vanbrugh.

“What I want most,” the Duchess proceeded, “is to induce him to come here again. I dread the consequence of his always being with that woman. If I could get hold of him sometimes, and bring him into contact with women of a different kind, I feel sure[104] that the contrast between them and the woman he is living with would soon disgust him with her.”

Even if the Duchess had not stolen a glance at Hero Vanbrugh as she spoke, her drift could hardly have been misunderstood by the girl. The Duke failed to see the personal application of his mother’s remark.

“If you could find some decent woman who would overlook the past, and get him to marry her, she might be able to keep him straight,” he said bluntly. “On the other hand, she might not.”

“I feel sure that he might be saved by the right woman,” the Duchess said earnestly. “I am convinced that the poor boy is secretly sick of the life he has been leading, and only his pride keeps him from giving it up. A noble, pure-minded girl, who really cared for him, would be able to do anything she liked with Alistair.”

This time the allusion was too plain to be mistaken. The Home Secretary intercepted the blush on Hero’s face, and his eyes were opened. A look of dissatisfaction replaced his indifferent air, as he replied with some bitterness:

“I am not so sure of it. Many a good woman has sacrificed her life before now in the effort to reclaim a man who was unworthy of her, and the sacrifice has been in vain.”

In saying this he was thinking of the history of his own father and mother, of which he had learned more than his mother suspected. He had sometimes felt[105] surprised, as well as mortified, that he should have had such a parent as Lord Alexander. Never having seen his father since early childhood, and being free from any tendency to romantic idealism, the Duke was able to judge the dead man quite impartially, and to think of him as if he had been some remote ancestor, whose virtues and vices were merely matter of curiosity for his descendants.

“I wonder my mother’s own experience has not taught her the folly of thinking that a worthless man can be redeemed by a good wife,” he reflected impatiently. “Alistair takes after his father; no doubt that is why she has always loved him better than me. Her whole soul is absorbed in trying to save him from the consequences of his own follies, and I am merely a pawn in the game. Now she wants to enlist Hero Vanbrugh in the same task, as if a girl like that were fit for nothing better than to be the keeper of a drunken prodigal.”

The Duchess observed the frown on her eldest son’s brow with wondering dismay. It did not occur to her that he could be moved by any other feeling than fraternal jealousy. Old-fashioned in her ideas on this subject, as on most others, she had never contemplated it as possible that the Duke of Trent and Colonsay could marry out of his own class. And the class in which, with perfectly unconscious pride, she placed her young friend was that middle one which appeared to have been created to supply doctors and lawyers and men of business for the service of the[106] aristocracy. In her eyes the girl’s father, Sir Bernard Vanbrugh, was simply a successful medical man. The scientific achievements which had made him a European personage, greater than any Secretary of State, were outside her ken.

If she had come to entertain the project of marrying Hero Vanbrugh to her prodigal son as a last means of averting the terrible catastrophe of Molly Finucane, she did so honestly, considering that she offered a privilege to Hero, corresponding with the greatness of the interest at stake. It was in the perfect simplicity of this conviction that she had so candidly revealed her design. In the same spirit she had been ready to take Alistair’s brother into her confidence without any apprehension that she might be applying the spur of rivalry to a slumbering admiration.

She was familiar with the Duke’s expressed views on matrimony, which she respected, although they struck a little cold on her own more emotional nature. She knew that he had made up his mind from an early age to two things—that he was one of the best matches in Great Britain, and that marriage was the most important card he had to play in the game of life. It had long been understood between them that Trent was in no hurry; that what he required in a wife was a great fortune, accompanied by those social graces which count for so much in politics; and that when he found a possessor of both these gifts who pleased him she would become his Duchess. The[107] mother lived in the mild expectation of hearing some day that her young sultan had thrown the handkerchief to a fitting aspirant, whom it would be her part to welcome with what tenderness was permitted, and in whose favour she would cheerfully resign her place in Colonsay House.

Thus it lay altogether outside her calculations that her eldest son could take any interest in Hero Vanbrugh warmer than a passing friendship. The prudent young statesman was the last person in the world whom anyone acquainted with him would have believed capable of a romantic passion. And the last person in the world to believe it would have been the young Minister himself.

A man who has lived to the age of thirty without ever losing his head in the company of a woman naturally regards himself as love-proof, and perhaps insensibly relaxes his self-defence. But Hero Vanbrugh enjoyed one great advantage over almost every unmarried girl whom Trent had ever met, inasmuch as she had not come before him as a candidate for the orange-blossoms.

If he had met her in one of those crowded ballrooms where her sisters are paraded nightly in the London season for the allurement of intending purchasers, Trent would have carefully guarded himself from giving her a second thought. He had met her for the first time at his own table, lunching in outdoor costume with his mother, who introduced her as a helper in her charitable work. The Duke, presuming[108] that Miss Vanbrugh came from some humble clerical circle, unbent from his ordinary reserve in the desire to put her at her ease. He was rewarded for this kindly effort by the discovery that she was beautiful and charming.

It was not until afterwards that he learned from his mother, who rallied him playfully on his fascination, that he had been entertaining the daughter of the great Vanbrugh. It was chance, therefore—one of those chances that every now and then take over the control of our lives and change them for us—that had caused Trent to meet Hero Vanbrugh on this easy footing instead of in the cankered atmosphere of fashion. But the ice, once broken, could not be re-formed, and the relations between Hero and her host at Colonsay House had developed into intimacy.

Up to this time the Duke’s mental attitude had been that of a man who views a tempting object in a shop-window, and stands hesitating, purse in hand, wishful to buy, but unable to make up his mind to give the price. Now he suddenly became aware that another possible purchaser was coming up, and that if he wanted to make sure of the bargain, he must lose no more time.

An embarrassing silence was broken by Hero, who undertook to divert the thoughts of the Home Secretary by asking:

“What do they think in the Home Office of the Legitimist Guild?”



It was some time after dinner when the Duke of Trent, faithful to his promise to their mother, drove up to the gate of Alistair’s house in Chelsea.

On the way James considered what line it would be best for him to take. He reckoned on finding the prodigal in a despondent mood, perhaps half estranged from the temptress already, under the stress of poverty and disgrace. If so, it should prove an easy task to appeal to him by the picture of the welcome awaiting him in Colonsay House. Alistair could not but be touched by his brother’s generosity—and James meant to be generous. He meant to say—to say a little condescendingly, perhaps, but kindly: “I take your debts on myself. Your name is cleared. Your mother and I only ask you not to forget that you have a home to come to when you like.”

By the time he had reached the house the Duke had half persuaded himself that he should be able to bring the repentant one away with him that very night.

The house was surrounded on all sides by a high brick wall, pierced at the entrance by a tall narrow[110] gateway, the gate of Georgian ironwork. Ordering his coachman to wait, the Minister strode up a covered pathway that led to the door of the house, and knocked.

As he did so he was aware that the lower part of the house was brilliantly lit up. He caught a murmur of voices coming through the windows of a room which overlooked the front garden, and even heard what sounded like applause.

Before he could frame any explanation to himself of these sights and sounds the door was opened by a smart lad in a rather untidy page’s livery, who stared at the visitor with the vulgar impertinence of a servant who does not respect his employers.

At the same instant a loud burst of laughter came from the interior of the building.

“Is Lord Alistair at home?” the Duke demanded sharply, incensed by this reception.

“He’s engaged,” said the boy glibly, giving the Duke a cautious look. “What name, please?”

“The Duke of Trent. I am his lordship’s brother,” returned the Home Secretary, frowning.

“Oh, that’s all right, my lord—I mean Your Grace,” the page responded, with an air of relief. “Come in, please.”

And, scarcely giving the visitor time to remove his hat, he threw open the door of the room from whence the sounds had proceeded, and announced him.

The new-comer took two steps through the doorway, and stopped astounded.

[111]He had arrived on the scene of a festivity. Around a dining-table, crowded with a confusion of dessert-dishes, champagne-bottles, coffee-cups, cigar-boxes, and spirit-stands, with the ashes of innumerable cigars and cigarettes soaking in the spilt wine and coffee on the tablecloth, were seated some seven or eight men, most of them young, all wearing evening dress, and seeming to be in the highest spirits. At the head of the table, facing the Duke as he came in, the woman he had come to snatch his brother away from lolled back in her chair, puffing a cigarette, her hands monstrously encumbered with coloured stones, and her powdered bosom resplendent with five or six chains of jewellery. At the foot of the table, beside the door by which James had just entered, the brother he had come to pardon and to redeem turned languidly in his seat, and, rising with studied nonchalance, removed a cigar from his lips to say:

“That you, Trent? So good of you to join us.” And, turning to the company again, he added the careless introduction: “My brother.”

His second glance round the room had warned the angry Duke that, however he might be disposed to treat Molly Finucane, her guests were not men whom he had any right to object to meet. Too well-bred to make a scene under the circumstances, he choked down his indignation, and, after a haughty bow, which neither included nor excluded the lady of the house, he accepted the chair which someone offered him. It was with a sense of satisfaction not unmingled[112] with surprise that the Secretary of State discovered on sitting down that his neighbour was a personal acquaintance, the great Mendes, head of the South American Bank, and a financier with whom Cabinet Ministers were obliged to reckon.

Lord Alistair vouchsafed a light word of explanation.

“Been having a little feed to celebrate my smash,” he said, waving his hand over the dirty table. “These are my friends. You see before you the members of the Dishonourable Brotherhood of Decadents, an association for the spread of corruption among the upper classes. Dishonourable Brother St. John, I call upon you for a speech.”

“What on earth is all this?” the Duke demanded in a whisper of his neighbour.

The millionaire shrugged his shoulders, as though he were slightly ashamed of his company.

“I suppose they intend it for humour,” he answered in the same key. “It’s one of your brother’s ideas. He’s always starting something of the kind. It used to be a Chinese Guild, and they all dressed as mandarins and wore pigtails. Last year it was an anti-Semite show, and Stuart had the cheek to ask me to join it.” The Jew’s smile as he said this was a trifle threatening. “They parody everything. That Frenchman opposite, Des Louvres”—he nodded towards a man with a thin, wicked-looking face and small dark beard and moustache—“he is at the bottom[113] of it, I believe. They may know something about him in your Office.”

The Home Secretary was staggered. Possessed of too little imagination to see anything in the proceedings but a rather scandalous jest of the kind that undergraduates indulge in at places like Cambridge and Oxford, he felt that the mere fact of the jest being carried out by grown men made it doubly unbecoming. And he felt personally aggrieved that these men should be making merry over an event which had cast a shadow on the house of which he was the head. He recalled his mother’s grief, Prince Herbert’s gracious interest, the money sacrifice which he himself was preparing to make; and his heart swelled with inward wrath and shame.

He could not help wondering privately what Mendes was doing in such company. The keen, remorseless man of business who had executed a masterpiece of legal robbery, and thereby made himself one of the new world powers which were taking the place of Kings and Cabinets, seemed strangely out of place among that crew of mockers. The Brazilian sat for the most part silent, his lips set in an ironical smile. But from time to time his glance wandered in the direction of Molly Finucane, who moved restively in, her chair whenever she caught Mendes’s black eyes fixed on hers.

The rest of the revellers were all excited in different degrees by the wine they had been drinking, and their remarks and interruptions formed a sort of[114] ground-bass to the speech which Alistair had called for. Mr. Gerald St. John, whom the “Court Guide,” more tender of his dignity than he seemed to be himself, described as “Honourable,” was a man of about the same age as Stuart, though his bald forehead gave him the appearance of being older. He had some little reputation as an amateur in music and painting; he had composed songs which were occasionally sung, and painted pictures which the New Gallery did not disdain.

Addressing his friends as “Dishonourable Brethren,” he hailed them as the missionaries of a new gospel. Theirs was the task to purge society of Puritanism and propriety. They were to set the example of becoming artists in Beautiful Sin. It was impossible for Trent to tell how far he was serious. His speech mingled echoes of the cant of a certain class of literary and artistic critics with what appeared to be broad farce.

But two passages in the address made an impression on the Minister, by their curious connection with his recent interests. The first was a surprising compliment to the Church of Rome; the second was a panegyric in a much broader vein of the hooligans.

Of the Roman Church the speaker said that it was the only form of Christianity which deserved their toleration and respect. He regarded it as the true Church of the Decadence, and as such he called upon the Brotherhood to support it. He was not himself a Catholic; he was a polytheist. But he considered[115] that, next to polytheism, the Church of Rome afforded the best rallying-point for all that was beautiful and corrupt in the art and life of the age.

This extraordinary eulogy was received with vociferous applause, especially by the French Count, whose air was that of a man enjoying a personal triumph. Molly Finucane, who had not been to Mass or Confession for many years, but who had not quite shaken off her early impressions, tried to disguise her nervousness by hammering the table with her wineglass till it broke—an accident which she was half disposed to interpret as the work of an offended Power.

The Duke of Trent, who entertained a vague respect for the Roman Church as a venerable institution whose influence was generally exerted on the side of the Conservative party, hardly knew what to think of this equivocal homage to its merits. The Honourable Gerald St. John passed on to the question of hooliganism, not without a shy glance in the direction of the Home Secretary, which showed how much the jest was enhanced by the presence of hooliganism’s official adversary.

The hooligans, he declared, were crusaders fighting for the same cause as that Dishonourable Brotherhood. They were martyrs of the new individualism. Their so-called outrages constituted a protest—the only form of protest which dull and hidebound statesmen could understand—against the iron yoke of Socialist civilization, under which they were all groaning. He regarded the hooligans as saviours. It was[116] significant that so far the man whom they had selected for attack was that embodiment of everything vulgar and virtuous, the suburban ratepayer. When they had exterminated the ratepayer, he hoped they would go on to the millionaire. He had always regretted that their fellow-workers, the Anarchists, should show so much antipathy to Kings. It was an unreasonable prejudice. Kings were picturesque survivals in the midst of the hideous monotony of modern life. Kings were rarely respectable, and were not seldom steeped in crime; and this applied particularly to those romantic claimants—he, the speaker, preferred the dear old name “Pretender”—whom their Dishonourable Brother on the left was seeking to restore.

This allusion was accepted by Des Louvres with eager manifestations of approval. Once more the Secretary of State felt an obscure uneasiness as he compared these mocking utterances with the recent experience of his own department, and he began to ask himself if he was indeed listening to the first whispers of a coming storm.

Hero Vanbrugh’s question about the Legitimist Guild had not fallen on deaf ears. He had had the curiosity to ask his permanent staff if they knew anything of the Legitimists, and he found they knew very little. There is nothing Government Departments dislike so much as information, except the trouble of acting on it. No one in the Home Office could say exactly who the Legitimists were, or how they had[117] come into existence as a guild. Their very number was unknown, but it was believed to be insignificant. They were wholly without influence or following, and would never have been heard of but for the fact that the newspapers regarded their proceedings as a good joke. Every sensible person put them down as a clique of vain and foolish young men who made themselves supremely ridiculous by trying to revive a cause which had been dead for a hundred and fifty years.

Such was the official view. Sixty or seventy years before a similar view had been taken of the action of a little clique of Oxford men who were setting themselves to undo the work of the Protestant Reformation. That little clique had undertaken to break up a settlement which had taken root for two hundred and fifty years, and had survived twelve reigns and six rebellions. In the course of a single reign they had come within sight of their goal. They had driven the word “Protestant” out of polite conversation, and made it a synonym for everything base, ignorant and malicious. They had made it dangerous for a Protestant to object publicly to Catholic practices which were still forbidden by the letter of the law. They had sent an informal embassy to the Vatican to negotiate the re-entry of England into the Roman obedience; and they had delivered the first open attack on the legislative bars which still hindered that consummation.

Fresh from the assurances of the Home Office, it was a shock to the Minister to find himself for the[118] second time that day confronted with this ridiculous but offensive movement. It was true that Mr. St. John’s remarks bordered on satire, but the serious-minded are apt to resent satire at the expense of what they fear, as much as at the expense of what they revere; the only notes they wish to hear are the snap of cavil and the rumble of denunciation.

If the Duke of Trent had consulted his own inclination he would have risen and protested against this trifling with treason. But, like most men who are deprived of the sense of humour, James Stuart was keenly sensitive to ridicule, and he dared not expose himself to the merciless wit of this crew of profligates. He bitterly repented the false step he had taken in sitting down amongst them, but he sought in vain for any means of extrication.

Meanwhile the orator concluded with a felicitous reference to the occasion of the feast.

One Dishonourable Brother—in fact, the founder of their Order, he said—had shown that it was possible to emulate, if not to surpass, the exploits of the humble hooligan. By his magnificent defiance of the day before he had struck dismay into the mercenary ranks of their hereditary foes—he need not say he meant the trading class, whose shameful supremacy had made England unfit to live in. Their gallant host had plundered the hostile camp of a sum which represented one of the greatest triumphs ever achieved over the Philistine. He called upon him, in their name, not to pay this canaille a farthing in the[119] pound. And he called upon them to drink confusion to the respectable classes, coupled with the name of their Arch Decadent!

Everyone rose to his feet to drink the toast, with the exception of the bankrupt himself, and his brother, who tried to conceal his disgust under an air of amused tolerance.

Alistair Stuart was conscious of his brother’s real feeling, and resented it all the more because he was half ashamed of his own part in the buffoonery. His tone became louder and more insolent as he gulped down glass after glass of spirits, and called upon one or other of his guests to keep up the entertainment.

Nobody dared call upon the Secretary of State. They all knew enough to feel that he was a stranger in the camp, if not a spy, and only the emphasized indifference of Stuart to his brother’s presence gave them courage to go on. The presence of this representative of all that they professed to loathe and despise, looking on with chill disapproval, dashed their spirits unexpectedly, and even to their own ears their customary jests took on a hollow sound.

Presently it came to the turn of a youth seated opposite to the Duke. He was of a pale and sickly countenance, the whiteness of his face being accentuated by the black locks which he allowed to grow down to his neck. His tie was a black sash with flowing ends like that worn by French Art students in the quarter of Batignolles. He did not appear to[120] be much more than twenty, and answered to the name of Egerton Vane.

“Who is he?” Trent asked his neighbour.

“The lunatic with the scarf round his neck? That’s a minor poet. I don’t suppose you have ever come across his works. He publishes two volumes every year, at his own expense, of course, with about twenty poems in each. No one ever reads them, except the provincial reviewers. He has got an album filled with cuttings from papers like the Pembrokeshire News and the Berwick-on-Tweed Gazette. ‘A volume of verse from the graceful pen of Mr. Egerton Vane’—that’s the kind of incense he feeds on. Once he got a puff in a paper called the Librarian, and carried it about with him for months. He said to me with tears in his eyes: ‘This is recognition!’”

Everyone in the room seemed to have some literary or artistic vocation, except Mendes himself. The motive which brought the South American there remained unguessed by Trent, but it was clear that he extracted some amusement from his strange associates.

“That other young fool over there is his brother, Wickham Vane,” the millionaire continued, indicating a boy of eighteen or thereabouts, at the other end of the table.

“Does he write poetry, too?”

“No, he doesn’t do anything so material as write. He thinks beautifully about old tapestry.”

Wickham Vane might have been pursuing his peculiar[121] vocation at that moment from his absorbed expression. But he roused himself from his abstraction to pay the homage of attention to his elder brother.

Egerton Vane held a large sheet of paper in his hand, but before reading from it he prepared his hearers’ minds by a short allocution.

“The poem I am about to read you strikes an entirely new note in literature, the note of the unreal. It is a ‘Sonnet to a Drawer in a Japanese Cabinet.’ I have come to the conclusion that all the poets who have preceded me have been mistaken in thinking that Nature was poetical. The artificial only is poetical, because only Art can be artistic. Nature is incapable of symbolism, and the symbol alone is truly beautiful. All the glorious sins which reveal themselves crudely and grossly in mere human beings are latent in exquisite suggestion in the divinely precious works of Art. Even the handicrafts of the East are steeped in the splendid sensuality of its peoples. In this poem I have attempted to do justice to the subtle and elusive vice which clings like the aroma of putrefying rose-leaves to the workmanship of a Japanese cabinet in my possession.”

The poet proceeded to read:



What shadow of dead secrets, lemon-eyed,
Lurks in thy black recesses, frightful drawer,
Crowned with the Pagan scent of delicate gore
Fresh from the veins of some green suicide?
Behold thy lacquered sins are glorified
In frantic fowls that round thy handle soar,
Mad with obscure desires, like those that tore
Unclean blue Mænads by the Phrygian tide!
And horrors like vermilion rats awake
And crawl about thee, crooning in my ears
Dim, vampire songs of shrivelled souls that ache
With the strange lust for torture-baths of pain;
Sick with the thirst of poison drunk in vain,
And bleeding with the clammy blood of tears.

The new note thus successfully struck in literature was applauded with a vehemence that concealed some jealousy on the part of the other poets present. Only Molly Finucane, who was beginning to feel herself left out in the cold, asked the author impertinently what his work meant.

“Nothing!” was the rapt reply. “All Art is quite meaningless.”

The Duke of Trent turned to Mendes.

“And is that absurd and disgusting rubbish the sort of thing which passes for poetry to-day?”

“Not to-day, perhaps, but it will pass for it to-morrow. If Egerton Vane goes on long enough, I have no doubt he will found a school. But I have noticed that most young fellows who begin like that end by going into a monastery.”

The Duke began to see a new usefulness in the institutions which he had been brought up to regard with aversion.

The Brazilian, who knew the weak spot in most[123] of his fellow-men, maliciously threw an apple of discord among the company by asking Egerton Vane across the table what he thought of the poems of Rowley Drummer.

The quarrel which instantly arose and raged over the merits of this distinguished writer showed that envy of a rival’s renown may be a stronger passion than hatred of the middle classes.

The chief apologist for the poet was a man who had recently achieved a scandalous success with a novel in which he dealt faithfully with the vices of all his most intimate friends. The terror inspired by this performance had made him for the moment the most courted man in London society, and persons like the brothers Vane followed him about everywhere in the hope of finding themselves pilloried to fame in Basil Dyke’s next libel.

Dyke, who found his antipathy to the bourgeoisie sensibly diminished by every cheque which reached him from his publisher, and who was already meditating desertion from the decadent ranks in favour of marriage with an heiress, put forward a claim on behalf of his client which it did not seem easy to refute.

“He has made vice popular in the person of the British soldier,” he urged. “He has stamped with brazen hoofs upon the Gordons and the Havelocks and the prayer-meeting heroes of the Victorian Age, and has called upon the drudging taxpayer to bow down and worship a swearing, drinking blackguard.[124] His patriotism is nauseous in itself, I grant, but then he has made it patriotic to break the Ten Commandments. He has identified Imperialism with immorality.”

“And therefore, I suppose, you would say with Art?” retorted Egerton Vane, with ill-concealed annoyance. “All Art is immoral, but it does not follow that all immorality is artistic.”

“Vulgarity is never artistic,” added the thinker about old tapestry, coming to his brother’s support. “Rowley Drummer has no sense of the unreal. He sees life in all its blinding vulgarity, and therefore the better he paints it, the worse is the result.”

Dyke saw that he had gone too far. It is always bad manners to praise one poet in the hearing of another. He tried to qualify his praise.

“I do not defend him as an artist,” he explained, “but as a demagogue. I say that the coarse passion called patriotism, in his hands, has been turned to a good purpose. After he has taught the public to acclaim the hooligans of the barrack-room, they cannot very well flog the hooligans of the street.”

To the Minister, fresh from his legislative essay, this remark sounded like a challenge. Once more a doubt invaded his mind as to whether all that he was listening to was sheer ribaldry, or whether there were not underlying it some serious purpose, or at least some serious tendency, of which Cabinet Ministers one day might have to take heed.

Molly Finucane had been feeling bored for some[125] time, and, what was worse, feeling that her exclusion from the conversation reflected on her position as the lady of the house. She seized this opportunity to assert her prerogative.

“Who talks of flogging the hooligans?” she asked, with a good deal of scorn. “They’ll have to catch ’em first.”

She stopped short, warned by the uneasy looks of the rest that she had committed herself in some way. Molly did not read the papers, and so was ignorant of the recent proceedings of the House of Lords. But she was aware that Lord Alistair’s brother was identified in some way with the Government, and therefore with the cause of law and order, and she guessed that her expressions might contain some element of offence.

There had been a time when Molly would have enjoyed nothing so much as shocking a Cabinet Minister by telling him across her own table that her brother was a corner-boy. But for the past year a great change had come over her disposition, as great as that which transforms the roystering medical student into the serious family practitioner. It had not needed the letter from Lord Alistair’s mother to put before her the idea of becoming Lord Alistair’s wife, nor to teach her the way in which his friends would take such an alliance. To become Lady Alistair without at the same time obtaining the social honours which other Lady Alistairs enjoyed would do little to satisfy that yearning for other women’s respect[126] which is the torment appointed for such as Molly Finucane. And there was enough good in Molly to make her anxious for Alistair’s sake not to be a permanent blight on his career. It was for his sake as much as for her own that she had been striving painfully for the last twelve months to acquire the habitudes of a lady.

The unexpected arrival of the Duke of Trent had caused her a thrill of pleasurable excitement. To make a good impression on the head of the family, she felt, would bring her half-way to the goal. Now, at the thought that she had been so near to disgracing herself, she could have bitten her tongue.

Molly’s preoccupations were not shared by Alistair, who took it for granted that his brother had come to reproach him, and resented what seemed to him an impertinent intrusion. By this time he had drunk too much to care what he said or did, and the desire was strong upon him to wreak his bitter feelings on the head of his favoured elder.

Staggering to his feet, and casting a disdainful look at the silent and annoyed Duke, he burst out:

“I am a hooligan. I’ve been trying to disguise it ever since I was a boy, but I’m not going to try any more. I hate your law and order; I hate your respectability; I hate your civilization. Our forefathers were thieves and murderers, and I envy them. They lived a jolly life among the heather and the hills, and they were gentlemen. They didn’t cringe to cobblers and butchers for votes, and go to church[127] on Sundays to please their grocer. They swore and drank and diced as much as they liked, and never asked what the Dissenters thought of them. I am sick of the strait-waistcoat; I am sick of swallow-tail coats and prayer-books. Why should I torture myself in the effort to lead your unnatural life? I protest against it all. Life is one long persecution of men like me, by men like you. Why can’t you leave me alone, as I leave you alone? I don’t force you to drink and gamble, and lead what you are pleased to call an immoral life. Why do you try to force me to lead a moral one?”

He paused for a moment, and then, as if the overflow of his wrath had sobered him, went on in a more serious vein:

“What is your ideal? Show me the man you honour, and I will show you the value of your morality. The hero of to-day is the successful cheat, the tradesman who has made a million by selling rotten food to the poor or to your own soldiers in South Africa; the bandit of the Stock Exchange; the monopolist who has broken the hearts and ruined the lives of a hundred struggling rivals, and who three hundred years ago would have been hanged as an engrosser. That is the man to whom you kneel, for whom all the doors of all the churches are thrown open, in whose name I am ordered to reform my ways.”

The speaker seemed to feel the need of pointing his denunciation with a personal application.

“I am your victim. I am the man whose life is[128] ground out beneath the Juggernaut wheels of what you call your social system. Why? Because I cannot become hard and selfish and stupid like your model. It is monotony that you want; it is originality that you hate. Go to the tombs of your martyrs—most of them are buried in Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s—Goldsmith the bankrupt, Nelson the adulterer, Pitt the drunkard, Shakespeare the debauchee. Those are the men whom you are trying to exterminate, and you have nearly succeeded. I—I had something here, perhaps”—he smote his forehead with his hand—“and I might have done something if I had ever had the chance. But you have killed me. All the bright instincts, all the golden wings that fluttered in the dawn, all the magic whispers, all the reveries and dreams—they are dead and still and silent now. Your work is done.”

A slight shiver went round the room and touched even the Cabinet Minister, who had been more than once on the point of rising and taking his departure.

Suddenly Alistair Stuart broke into a loud laugh.

“Thank you, my Dishonourable friends—thank you for your support to-night. You see before you a bankrupt, but a merry one. You will hear of me again before long. I think of taking a house on the south side of the river, and turning hooligan. I invite you to become members of my band. I hope to give some trouble to the authorities. We are fortunate in having one of them here to-night. I invite you to drink his health, gentlemen—my brother, the[129] Home Secretary, author of a Bill to punish the hooligans by flogging. In your name I defy him, and drink damnation to his Bill!”

The thickness of his speech and the increasing wildness of his behaviour relieved Lord Alistair’s hearers from the necessity of treating this as anything but the utterance of an intoxicated man. But it was clearly necessary to put an end to the scene.

Mendes and the Duke of Trent rose together, but the financier was the first to speak.

“Gentlemen, it is time we were going. Stuart, sit down! You don’t know what you are doing!”

He thrust Lord Alistair down into a chair and held him there, while the others made their hasty farewells and streamed out into the hall.

“I am obliged to you, Mendes,” said the Duke. “Do you think,” he added in a whisper, “you could get that girl out of the way?”

“It’s her house, I believe, but I’ll try to send her to bed,” was the answer.

The Brazilian went up to Molly, who sat looking rather frightened at her end of the table. He said a few words in a low voice which appeared to produce the right effect. Molly Finucane glanced timidly at the Duke, and then came towards him with an evident desire to propitiate.

“I’ll leave him with you, if you like,” she said, “but you won’t find it much good talking to him to-night, I expect. You’d better come again in the morning, if it’s any business.”

[130]Trent confined himself to bowing silently, and Mendes accompanied Miss Finucane out of the room, leaving the brothers together.

Alistair had remained still, with his head resting in his hands, as though exhausted by his passion. Hearing the door close, he looked up sullenly.

“Well, what do you want with me?” he asked.

Faithful to his resolve to be gracious, in spite of the provocations he had received, the Duke made a mild answer.

“I want you to come home, Alistair.”

“This is home.”

“My house is your home,” said James, not unkindly; and, with a tact of which he was not always capable, he added: “Our mother’s house is the home of both of us.”

Alistair reddened.

“How is she?” he muttered.

“She is very anxious and unhappy about you. I have promised her to save you, if you will let me.”

This time the elder brother’s words were not so well chosen. It always grated on Alistair to be reminded that he was dependent on James.

“I can’t leave my friends,” he said stubbornly.

Trent thought of the company he had just seen depart, and his indignation got the better of him.

“Friends!” he repeated. “Friends who have landed you in the Bankruptcy Court!”

“Well, you didn’t keep me out of it!”

Trent made a strong effort to keep his temper.

“I have seen my solicitor to-day with the object[131] of preventing the adjudication. Alistair, I will do it, if you will only pull yourself together, and make it possible for your mother and me to help you. I will pay your debts once more, though I can ill afford it, and start you again with a clean sheet, if you will only take advantage of it. Come! I have got the brougham waiting outside. Why shouldn’t you get up now, and let me take you straight away with me?”

He tried to speak cheerfully and confidently. But there was no encouragement in the bleared eyes that looked up at him.

“What! and leave Molly after she’s stuck to me all this time? D’you think I’m a cad, Trent?”

“You called yourself a hooligan just now.”

Trent regretted the retort the moment it had passed his lips. But it was too late. Alistair started up angrily.

“And, damn it! I’ll be a hooligan before I will sell the little woman for a few miserable thousands, like that! Go to the devil, you and your clean sheet! I’m sorry for the old mater, if she feels it, but I can’t stand your patronage, and I won’t have your moralizing; so you can just leave me alone.”

“I will leave you alone!” exclaimed his brother. “God forgive me, I sometimes wonder what I have done to deserve being cursed with such a brother as you!”

He turned and strode out of the room, leaving Alistair to sway and sink down with his head upon the table among the ashes and wine-stains of the extinguished revel.



The carriage which brought the Duchess of Trent and Miss Vanbrugh to the Legitimist bazaar set them down at the door of a mean-looking, brick-built schoolroom, over the door of which was a niche containing the statue of a woman holding a babe in her arms.

This woman was intended for a Jewish peasant, wife of the carpenter Joseph of Nazareth. This babe was her Divine Son, the second person of the Christian Triad.

The woman wore an emblem of glory in the form of a crown on her head. The babe’s head was undecorated. The group was copied without alteration from the ancient pagan idols of the Great Mother and her Child, worshipped for countless ages in the Mediterranean zone.

Beneath the niche four letters were cut. They were the four initials, A.M.D.G., of the Latin words, Ad majorem Dei gloriam—“To the greater glory of God.”

It was the motto of the famous Society of Jesus, set up over a building in which the children of Protestant[133] Churchmen were being educated. Only the Jesuit motto was not set out in full; it was merely hinted at by those cryptic letters. This was a touch that Ignatius Loyola would have admired.

Neither of the two ladies observed the unobtrusive initials, nor, if they had done so, would they have understood their significance. But they could scarcely avoid seeing the idol in its niche; and just as they were stepping out of the carriage a bright little lad, attractively robed in a white gown with a red vest above, evidently a singing-boy from the church hard by, passed through the doorway, bowing reverently to the sacred image as he went up the steps.

The Duchess of Trent was amazed. Her works of charity had never brought her into this part of the parish, and she had always kept herself from contact with the religious activities of St. Jermyn’s.

“If that is not Popery, I should like to know what is?” she exclaimed bluntly to her young friend. “Did you see that boy bowing to the Virgin Mary? I have no doubt they are taught to pray to her as well.”

This surmise was perfectly just. Such slight control as the episcopate, or at least the lay judges of the Privy Council, exercised over the services in St. Jermyn’s Church, appeared to cease altogether on the threshold of the school. Within that building Dr. Coles was supreme, and taught what religion he pleased. If it had suited him to set up an image of Siva for the adoration of his scholars, or to inculcate the most degrading beliefs of primitive savagery, no[134] one would have interfered with his discretion. Thus, while the Vicar maintained some of the forms of Anglican worship in the parish church, in the schoolroom he had long laid them aside. The catechism taught to the boys was one prepared by a clerical secret society, and was carefully contrived to fill the learner’s mind with hatred for the Protestant heresy, and to turn it in the direction of Catholic Unity.

A special liturgy, compiled by the same hands, was also provided for the use of the scholars. In it the Mother of God figured as the principal, though not the sole, object of worship, the Apostle Peter taking the second place. Among the prayers, precedence was given to one for the Patriarch of the West—“Thy servant Leo, that he may be inspired rightly to define and zealously to defend the faith once delivered to Thy saints.” After this came petitions on behalf of a personage discreetly referred to as “the lawful Sovereign of these realms,” the souls of the dead “now awaiting Thy judgment,” and the reunion, “under one visible Head on earth,” of all branches of the Holy Catholic Church. Dr. Coles himself was responsible for a supplementary prayer in which “our blessed patron, Saint Jermyn,” was complimented on his influence with the Mother of God, due to the continence of his life on earth, and implored to use that influence on behalf of the area for which he was, as it were, the spiritual County Councillor.

It was a document breathing the spirit of the Dark Ages, when God figured in men’s minds as a sort of[135] Byzantine Emperor, surrounded by a court of heavenly chamberlains and eunuchs, each dispensing favours to his own train of followers, and none incapable of being bribed.

Miss Vanbrugh, regarding the symbolical sculpture with the indifference born of ignorance, smiled at her friend’s indignation.

“Let us go in,” she said; “I don’t think it’s so bad inside.”

The whitewashed walls of the room in which they found themselves offered a curious medley of science and religion, evidencing a painful struggle in the mind of Dr. Coles between proselytizing zeal and a desire to earn the grants of an heretical Government. A large crucifix over the teacher’s desk was flanked by a geological map of Great Britain, and a glass case containing silk in various stages from the cocoon to the finished skein. The Ten Commandments on one wall were faced by the two hemispheres on the other; and an illuminated calendar of Holy Days was half concealed by a chart depicting screws, wedges, levers, and other mechanical appliances. The cloven, or at least the clerical, hoof peeped out in a series of cartoons illustrative of English history, the scenes chosen being all in one category—the landing of Augustine, the martyrdom of Edmund, Thomas à Becket defying Henry II., and Langton, with a formidable crozier, extorting Magna Charta from King John apparently by the threat of physical violence, while the barons respectfully looked on.

[136]On this particular occasion the eye was quickly distracted from these mural decorations by the exhibition beneath. The room, which was large enough to contain one or two hundred people, was lined round three sides by stalls loaded with that extraordinary description of articles which are manufactured specially for sale at bazaars, and in which the greatest possible uselessness is combined with the greatest possible fragility. Children’s frocks, which no child could wear for an hour without damaging them, embroidered tobacco-pouches sufficient to dismay the most stout-hearted smoker, weird contrivances of paper and cheap ribbon described as toilet-tidies, ridiculous pin-cushions, and impossible patchwork quilts formed the staple of the display. In one corner a lottery was being conducted by the Rev. Aloysius Grimes, happy in that immunity from the law which newspaper editors cannot obtain; and pretty little choristers, in their sacred vestments, were passing to and fro among the ladies doing a roaring trade in the sale of tickets. But the great attraction of the afternoon was the theatre, which had been organized in an adjoining classroom, and in which it was announced that a Miracle Play would be produced at four o’clock, under the direction of Egerton Vane, Esq.

As soon as Mr. Grimes caught sight of the Duchess of Trent and her companion, he handed over the care of the lottery to a young lady assistant, and hastened forward to greet them. He was just shaking[137] hands, when a stir in the doorway announced the arrival of Dr. Coles.

In appearance the Vicar of St. Jermyn’s contrasted very favourably with his curate. It was easy to see that he was a man of education and refinement, and his white hairs gave him a certain dignity. His face was that of a sensualist, but the benevolent smile, which had become almost stereotyped on his lips, produced an impression of cordiality and goodness of heart. The Doctor’s career had not been quite untroubled by the voice of scandal. But any bygone slips on the part of a saintly man had been forgotten or forgiven. The reverent murmur which welcomed his appearance among his flock was a striking testimony to the influence he had secured over those among whom he worked.

The Rev. Aloysius, breaking away from the two ladies in the middle of a sentence, without apology, was the first to cast himself on both knees before his employer, and respectfully kiss a large ring on the Vicar’s extended forefinger.

“What in the name of goodness does that mean?” the astonished Duchess asked of Hero.

She spoke loudly enough to be heard by several persons in the throng, who turned and cast rebuking glances at her. Directly afterwards she saw a number of well-dressed women advance one after the other and salute the Vicar of St. Jermyn’s with the same ceremonial as that observed by Mr. Grimes.

“Are they all mad, or what is it?” the Duchess[138] whispered. “I have never seen such a thing before in my life, except when I was abroad, in Roman Catholic society. But even they don’t kneel to their priests, only to a Bishop.”

Hero blushed guiltily. She was better informed than the Duchess, but she was not sure that her knowledge might not damage her in her friend’s eyes.

“Perhaps these people regard Dr. Coles as a Bishop,” she suggested timidly. “Have you never heard it whispered that he had been secretly consecrated by—an Armenian Bishop, I think?”

The Duchess stared at her in honest bewilderment.

“How could that be? I don’t understand. Why should an English clergyman go to Armenia to be consecrated?”

Hero saw that she must make her revelation complete.

“I understand the object was to renew the Apostolical Succession in the Church of England.”

“It has never been broken,” said the Duchess, with decision. She had been told so as a girl, and had never given the subject a second thought. To her devout mind, too candid to be taken in logical snares, the presence or absence of one or two or three Bishops at the consecration of another could not seem a matter of real concern. To attribute to such details the awful consequences they possess for Catholic minds would have seemed to her to attribute the technical instincts of a small attorney to the Maker of the sun and stars.

[139]“The Pope of Rome refuses to recognize Anglican Orders, you know,” Hero explained gently. “The application was made to him the other day by Lord Bargreave on behalf of a third of the clergy, and he told them that the English Church had no Bishops, no priests, and no Sacraments.”

The Duchess flushed to the roots of her hair.

“When I was a girl,” she said sternly, “the Church of England would have refused to recognize the Pope of Rome. I was brought up to believe that the Roman communion was a half-pagan, half-political body, which had corrupted the Gospel with idolatry and superstition, and forfeited its right to be called a Christian Church.”

It was Hero’s turn to be astonished as she listened to the language of an extinct generation. Brought up in the age which had witnessed the triumph of the Ritualist propaganda, it was news to her that the national Church had ever occupied any attitude but one of envious imitation or suppliant apology towards that of Rome. And yet Hero Vanbrugh was a girl who had read a good deal, travelled much, and used her own powers of observation and reasoning. She had seen the ignorant priesthoods of Spain and Italy, and their brutish flocks, the most degraded element in the European population. The sight of the Rev. Aloysius Grimes cringing to Mike Finigan had roused her indignation. And yet the spectacle of a great society of Grimeses cringing to Mike Finigan’s master,[140] in the name of Elizabeth’s and Cromwell’s countrymen, had scarcely moved her to a passing sigh.

“Times have changed,” she murmured to the Duchess.

And times had. Even the Duchess realized dimly that it had become unsafe to utter aloud her sentiments of loyalty to the English Church or to the English Throne in a Church of England schoolroom, while it had ceased to be unsafe for Dr. Coles to parade openly his treason to both. His episcopal character was no secret in the theological colleges from which a steady stream of young men like the Rev. Aloysius turned their steps to the obscure Lambeth Vicarage in search of those supernatural powers which they deemed the neighbouring Archbishop had no power to bestow. In this way the whole Church was being gradually leavened, so that the time was at hand when some portion of the mysterious virtue brought from Armenia would have found its way into all the channels of ordination, and obstinate Evangelicals would be receiving Armenian Orders unknown to themselves, and would be working the great Transubstantiation miracle in which they personally did not believe.

For the sake of achieving this object Dr. Coles had put on one side the prospect of promotion in the English Church. With abilities sufficient to have raised him perhaps to the House of Lords, he had deliberately accepted the part of priest of an obscure parish, content if his underground revolution was allowed[141] to proceed without interference. His motives were mixed, perhaps, but great revolutions are the result of mixed motives, and never of wholly small and base ones. The Vicar of St. Jermyn’s was blinded to the degrading character of his methods by the loftiness of his aims. He took the guilt of fraud and perjury on his conscience, and he did so contentedly, looking forward to the time when the Church he served would re-enter the Catholic unity, and the Body of Christ be made whole.

As soon as he had finished receiving the homage of his peculiar adherents, the old priest went up to the Duchess of Trent, for whom he had a warm regard. In spite of the theological gulf that sundered them, she commanded his sympathy far more than the vain and hysterical women who grovelled in his confessional, and her simple and unselfish piety displayed in those good works which all religions enjoin had won his gratitude and respect. Had he been able to make a convert of the Duchess he would have felt it as great a triumph as when the State-appointed Bishop of Linchester, laying aside his jewelled crozier and mitre, came and knelt in the humble study of St. Jermyn’s Vicarage to receive them again at the hands of the “Bishop of Lambeth.”

On her side the Duchess was not blind to the merits of Dr. Coles, his indefatigable zeal, unworldliness, and kindly temper. They met as friends meet, seated in different trains, and going in opposite directions,[142] who exchange a brief word of greeting before they pass out of each other’s sight.

The Duchess had never referred to the religious aberrations of the Doctor, but she thought she might safely challenge him on the subject of loyalty to the Throne.

“I had no idea that you sympathized with the Legitimists,” she observed.

The Vicar smiled indulgently.

“This bazaar, I suppose you mean? It is more Father Grimes’s doing than mine. I hold entirely aloof from politics.”

“But you have lent your schoolroom.”

Dr. Coles frowned.

“My schoolroom, as you call it, is a public building,” he said, with a touch of anger. “I find I am expected to lend it for the purposes of political meetings, even to the party which almost openly aims at Disestablishment. I sometimes wonder I don’t receive an application to lend it for an infidel lecture.”

The Duchess was impressed. Dr. Coles had struck the one note which brought them into perfect accord, in his reference to infidelity.

In the view of the Duchess this was the one thing worse than Popery. Her religious scale was made up of five degrees. At the very bottom came Infidelity, in which term she was disposed to include the Unitarian denomination and those divines of her own Church whose Hebrew studies had led them to take different views as to the authorship of the Old Testament[143] books from those at one time prevalent. The second head, Popery, covered practically the whole Christian Church during the ages between the death of Paul and the conversion of Martin Luther, and two-thirds of existing Christendom. The third division, under the word Idolatry, embraced the religions of the rest of mankind, including the stern monotheists of Islam. The Jews formed a class apart; the Duchess was too good a Conservative to blame that ancient race severely for their stubbornness in resisting even a Divine reform; she regarded them as a species of embryo Christians, whose development had been arrested in the caterpillar stage. Her fifth division, Protestantism, applied to the sects dating from the Lutheran revolt, and to stray heretics of the past, such as the Socialist Lollards and the freethinking Albigeois, who possessed the merit of having been persecuted by Rome. Among these, of course, she distinguished between the converted Christian and the much larger class of sinners for whom she wished to take for granted a death-bed repentance.

It was not an unimportant matter that the Duchess of Trent should have held these views. Money is always important, and the Duchess was one of a very large moneyed class who were always ready to open their purses on behalf of their favourite propaganda. The infidel and the sinner were supposed to be reached by the ordinary machinery of the Church, and the Papist and the Jew had been wellnigh abandoned as hopeless, though a few Englishmen of the lower class[144] still prowled through countries like Spain and Portugal, distributing Protestant tracts and increasing the dislike felt for their nation. But the great field for missionary effort, of course, was that section of mankind labelled idolaters or heathen. In the spirit of the hymn which singles out the inoffensive Buddhists of Ceylon to brand them with the epithet vile, the good Duchess firmly believed that to thrust, not merely the theology, but the morals, social customs, marriage institutions, language, manners, and even clothing of her own age and country upon all the peoples of the earth was a Divine injunction to be neglected at her peril.

This generous zeal had long been encouraged by the statesmen of the Raj, who saw its possessions widened without the expense of arms. The British Empire resembles no other that has ever existed in having come into existence unconsciously. England has sent forth her outlaws on the shores of distant continents, and they have come back soldiers for her. Her merchants have gone forth seeking merchandise, and realms Alexander sighed for have fallen like ripe fruit into their hands. Her missionaries have Anglicized where they should have Christianized; the bigoted worshippers of Allah and Vishnu imitate the language of Macaulay, and every new church in Africa gives a new cotton-mill to Lancashire.

Dr. Coles had a more personal argument in store for the Duchess of Trent.

“Surely you cannot be very bigoted against the Legitimists,”[145] he urged. “I thought that all the old Scotch families were Jacobites at heart. And Lord Alistair Stuart is a member of the Guild.”

“I have heard my mistress, the Queen, say: ‘I am the greatest Jacobite of them all,’” the Duchess responded. “But I don’t think she ever expected to hear of real Jacobites in the twentieth century. I don’t take your friends very seriously, Dr. Coles, and I dare say my son doesn’t either.”

Before the discussion could be carried further Alistair himself came into view. His mother watched him anxiously, half afraid of seeing him accord the same homage to Dr. Coles as the others. But whether because he was wanting in reverence for Armenia, or because he was ashamed to show greater respect to a man than to his own mother, Stuart contented himself with shaking hands with the priest, after he had previously greeted his parent.

He was surprised at first to see her at such a function. But the diplomacy of the Duchess was very transparent. She at once turned to Hero, and pronounced the formula which entitles two people in English society to know of each other’s existence.

It was the first time Alistair had seen Miss Vanbrugh, but not the first time he had heard her name. The eyes of society are very keen where a man like the Duke of Trent and Colonsay is concerned, and its whispering-gallery is very wide. Although the Duke himself had never given any significance to his intercourse with Hero, the correct significance had[146] already been given to it by others, and the rumour had reached Lord Alistair. For him the girl who stood before him was the girl who was on the point of becoming his brother’s betrothed.

He raised his eyes to her face, and when he saw that picture of calm, sweet maidenhood, with all the bloom of youth and purity upon it, and those eyes radiant with high and happy thoughts, and when he recalled that other face he had just quitted, with the paint peeling off under the haggard eyes, and the cracked lips set in a querulous scowl because he had not dared to bring her into the company of reputable women, and when he compared his own lot, cast with that unhappy creature, with the life that lay before his brother, blest in so dear a wife, then his heart failed him, and he had to turn away his eyes to hide the unexpected smart.

On her part Hero was not much less moved. She saw standing before her the figure around which her imagination had already woven its romance, and he was handsomer than the hero of her romance. The gracefully-knit form, with its statuesque neck and curling dark hair, breathed the very spirit of the lays of Oisin. The swish of the heather was still in his elastic tread, the sunlight of the rain-washed Hebrides was in his glance. She seemed to see him in his kilt and plaid, the eagle’s feather nodding in his bonnet, and the claymore by his side, a young chieftain of the glens, starting at daybreak from his bed among the fern, and setting forth perhaps to woo a[147] maiden like herself with the immemorial charms of song and dance. In the strait garb of the decorous capital he seemed to her like a shorn Samson, and she thought of violets fading in a city garret, and skylarks caged in a dark cellar beating their wings in want of light and air.

She, also, drew her comparison, and the cold and perfect courtier of Colonsay House suffered by it. For the first time she felt in its full strength that instinct of self-sacrifice which lies at the core of every noble nature. The task which Stuart’s mother had offered to her, and in which she had only taken a sentimental interest, now became a fascination. The longing to save this glorious soul, fallen among weeds and briars, to lift it up and wipe away its stains, and set it on its true path again, overcame her like the touch of love; the touch of love overcame her like the longing to save, and her hand trembled in Alistair Stuart’s.

The two Vanes sidled up, anxious to be recognized by their chief.

“So glad you have turned up, Stuart,” bleated the elder. “It’s quite a demonstration, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Wickham echoed, “it is a blow. I think we are striking a blow.”

He meant at the hated middle classes. It was the only kind of a blow he was ever likely to strike against that or any other enemy.

Stuart heard them with impatience. Somehow the presence of Hero made the two brothers look tawdry[148] and ridiculous with their decadent cant, their untidy hair, and their silly, outlandish neckties. He answered with irony:

“No doubt the middle classes will be frightened when they hear of this bazaar. But you must see that it gets into the papers, otherwise the effect will be lost. Are there any reporters here?”

The brothers looked around a little nervously.

“I hope so,” said Egerton, whose vanity was slightly greater than his cowardice.

“It might vulgarize the thing,” suggested Wickham whose cowardice was slightly greater than his vanity.

Stuart understood their fears, and played on them by way of distraction from his secret emotion.

“I expect the place is crammed with detectives,” he observed. “I fancied I saw one or two suspicious-looking fellows with notebooks as I came in.”

Hero grasped the situation, and smiled.

“No; do you think so?” exclaimed the elder Vane in a tone of exultation, tempered by alarm. “But surely there is nothing they can take hold of—nothing illegal, I mean—in a bazaar?”

“They may shadow us after this, though,” muttered the junior, in whom alarm had got the better of exultation.

“They may treat the bazaar as evidence of a conspiracy,” Stuart suggested cheerfully. “But here comes St. Maur; you had better ask him.”

He turned, and led Hero away through the crowd,[149] to escape from the person he had indicated, leaving the brothers in a state of cruel apprehension.

But Mr. St. Maur was not to be shaken off so easily. This gentleman, who had spelt his name “Maher” in his native city of “Dahblin” (as he was accustomed to pronounce it), was the son of a decent butter-merchant, who had put him to the Bar. Coming over to the Temple, in accordance with old custom to keep his terms, the ambitious youth was surprised and charmed to find that his membership of the Roman Church, which had stood somewhat in his light in the society of the Irish capital, was here a fashionable distinction. To drink the Roman Pontiff’s health before that of the British Sovereign appeared to be in some mysterious way a passport to Court favour, and a Roman missionary had just been given precedence over the heads of the English Church. The policy of the Primrose League had been adapted to the purposes of proselytism, and a club had been founded in the West End in which the middle-class aspirant could enjoy the privilege of lunching in the same room as a Roman Cabinet Minister and receiving the Times fresh from the hands of a Roman Duke. Unfortunately the Duke and the Cabinet Minister failed to play their parts with sufficient zeal, or else there were not enough of them to go around, and St. Bridget’s Club gradually sunk from depth to depth till not merely Protestants, but Jews, profaned its portals, and it became a refuge[150] for all the suspicious characters whom other clubs refused.

Young Maher was not long in deciding to forsake the Irish Bar for the English, and a slight alteration in the spelling of his name enabled him to pose as an offshoot of one of the greatest families in Britain. The difficulty of an accent which clove obstinately to his tongue was met by a well-constructed legend of an Irish branch of the family in question, supposed to have settled in the Emerald Isle about the time of Strongbow. On the strength of this genealogy, which would have done credit to the Heralds’ College in its best remunerated moments, Mr. St. Maur was in the habit of referring to a nobleman of lofty rank as “the head of our house,” thereby causing intolerable anguish to his friends, the Vanes, who were only nephews of a baronet. Unfortunately they were prevented from questioning the genuineness of St. Maur’s pedigree, inasmuch as they had laid every stress upon it in introducing him to their acquaintance. But they had an uneasy sense that the Irishman was an impostor who had beaten them by mere bluff.

On his part the barrister having, as he conceived, surpassed the Vanes, was seeking for loftier heights to scale. As soon as he met Lord Alistair Stuart in the brothers’ flat he promptly marked him out for attack. Undaunted by Stuart’s evident dislike for him, the Irishman persistently forced himself on his notice. With this object he had thrown himself heart[151] and soul into the Legitimist cause, as he would have thrown himself into the Independent Labour Party the day after if the leaders of that movement had been members of the peerage.

Having come to the bazaar chiefly in order to push his acquaintance with Lord Alistair, Mr. St. Maur was not the man to be balked of his prey.

“Grand success, this, isn’t it, Stuart?” he bawled out from afar, as he hustled his way through the throng.

Much as Stuart disliked his follower, he failed to give him credit for the naked singleness of his aims. Had he fully understood the Irishman’s character, he would have got rid of him before this by the easy expedient of introducing him to his brother. Once anchored to the coat-tails of a Duke, St. Maur would have left a mere younger brother severely alone. As it was, Lord Alistair saw no way of repelling the intruder except by a harshness which was not in his nature.

Mr. St. Maur shook hands effusively, and then, finding he was not going to be introduced to Lord Alistair’s companion, began enlarging on the prospects of the movement.

“I consider this affair will launch us as a serious party,” he declared. “The public will begin to reckon with us. It will soon be time to think of a Parliamentary candidature. What do you say, Stuart?”

Alistair shrugged his shoulders.

[152]“I should think you would get about ten votes in any constituency in England.”

“Ah, but what about Scotland? There is a feeling up there that might be appealed to. If a man like yourself, now, a member of an old Highland family, were to stand in your own part of the country, don’t you think the clansmen would rally round you?”

“You forget that I should have my brother’s influence dead against me. He is a member of the Government.”

“He would have to disavow you officially, of course. But privately, you know? Don’t you think the Duke might be brought to show some sympathy for the movement?”

“He would simply laugh at it, I expect,” said Stuart.

“The Duke of Gloucester does not laugh at it,” returned the other.

Alistair’s face darkened at the name, and he cast down his eyes.

“How do you know that?” he asked.

St. Maur swelled with importance.

“I happen to have private information that he watches the proceedings of the Guild with the closest attention. He has everything that appears in the press about us sent him by a press-cutting agency.”

“I wish I had known that before,” said Alistair. And, turning to Hero, he explained: “I have let them have an autograph letter of the Prince’s to sell at one of the stalls.”

[153]The absurdity of this did not strike Hero so much as its ingratitude.

“A letter from the Prince to you, do you mean?” she asked, with an accent of reproach.

“Yes; I used to know him very well when we were boys. I came across it the other day among some old papers. But I shouldn’t like him to hear that I had let it be sold.”

A purpose had swiftly formed in Hero’s mind.

“Whereabouts is the stall?” she inquired.

“Over here.”

Turning his back on Mr. St. Maur with unwonted rudeness, he conducted Hero to a stall presided over by a pretty, overdressed little woman, who had been persuaded by Mr. Grimes in the confessional that she would thus atone for certain errors to which pretty, overdressed little women are prone. Prince Herbert’s autograph had been entrusted to her for sale, and by good luck it had not been disposed of when the two came up.

“What is the price of this letter?” Miss Vanbrugh asked quickly.

“One guinea,” the stallkeeper simpered. “It is from His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester to Lord Alistair Stuart,” she added in ignorance of who stood before her.

“Let me buy it, and give it to you!” cried Alistair, guessing Hero’s design.

She took up the letter. It was a short schoolboy’s note, and contained a misspelt word.


Dear Alistair:

“I cannot meet you to-morrow, as the Crown Prince of Austria is coming, but I will go out fishing on Saturday if you like. Come over here at ten o’clock—mind, be punctual.

“Yours affectionately,

“P.S.—Sorry to break my promise, but they made me. Mind, bring your fishing-rod.”

Hero handed the letter to her companion.

“I would rather you let me buy it, and give it back to you,” she said.

She handed the money to the lady of the stall, who was looking considerably astonished.

Alistair understood the delicate rebuke. His glance took in the contents of the friendly, boyish note afresh, and he felt ashamed that he had parted with it.

“I am very grateful to you, Miss Vanbrugh, believe me,” he said earnestly, as he slipped the letter into his pocket. “I ought not to have let it go into strange hands. But I hope I needn’t count you as a stranger. You are often at Colonsay House, aren’t you?”

“I have never met you there,” said Hero pointedly.

And Alistair was silent.

The Miracle Play was a great success, though not, perhaps, in the way anticipated by Dr. Coles.

The Vicar had understood that the text of the[155] Ober-Ammergau performance was to furnish the basis of a version only slightly modified by Mr. Egerton Vane. But Mr. Vane, being deeply imbued with the spirit of Maeterlinck, had allowed his adaptation to become tinctured to an unforeseen extent by the vein of symbolism peculiar to the work of the Belgian master. The orthodox Christian interpretation being repugnant to his feelings as a Pagan, he had, moreover, boldly replaced it by something more congenial to his own sympathies.

The result was somewhat as though a conscientious Buddhist should rewrite “Paradise Lost,” endeavouring to make it illustrate the doctrine of metempsychosis.

In the opening scene Mary was introduced as the Spirit of Form, receiving the Annunciation from the Angel Gabriel as the representative of Creative Genius. The dialogue, which was fortunately unintelligible to nine-tenths of the audience, turned on the sterility of the Jewish nation in the department of the plastic arts. Mary was informed that her Son would remove the prohibition contained in the Second Commandment, thereby opening the way for the Christian school of statuary and painting.

The whole of the sacred narrative was dealt with from the same standpoint. The Wise Men were presented as the exponents of the three arts of Poetry, Music, and Painting, whose respective merits were discussed at some length. The dispute of the child Christ in the Temple was made to turn on Keats’s[156] famous identification of Truth with Beauty. Satan, in the scene of the Temptation, appeared as the genius of Utilitarianism and the middle classes, urging the Christ to abandon the principle of Art for Art’s sake. Towards the end of the drama Byron’s jest about Barabbas was almost literally incorporated, Barabbas being designed as a type of commercial success in literature—a Jewish Tennyson or Ruskin.

Every allusion to the Jews as a people was barbed with the bitterest malignity. The Semitic spirit was branded, with some historical confusion, as that of Philistinism par excellence; and Isaiah and other prophets were ingeniously represented as having fallen martyrs to their literary excellence rather than to their reforming energy.

The allegory was so vague and the dialogue so obscure that most of those present entirely failed to grasp the enormity of the author’s transgression. But it was otherwise with Dr. Coles. The Armenian proselyte was a learned and thorough-going medievalist, and he had taken it for granted that medieval traditions would be strictly adhered to. He had left the work of superintending the rehearsals to his curate, never deeming that Mr. Grimes was capable of betraying the trust. Nor was he, had he been sufficiently intelligent to perceive that he was being made a cat’s-paw by his pagan librettist. The actors in the piece, being the choir-boys, were even less capable of judging of the drift of the performance.

The deeply mortified Vicar restrained his wrath[157] till the moment when the High-Priest Caiaphas came upon the scene in the thinly-disguised character of the proprietor of a morning paper with an enormous circulation, when it became impossible to mistake the dramatist’s intentions. Rising from his seat in the front row of the audience, Dr. Coles gave a peremptory order for the curtain to be let down, and the thoroughly mystified spectators seized the opportunity to escape.



As he turned away from St. Jermyn’s schoolroom, after putting his mother and Miss Vanbrugh into their carriage, Lord Alistair Stuart made a curious discovery. Thrusting his hands into his pocket in the act of nodding to a cabdriver, he found that he had no money.

The brother of the Duke of Trent and Colonsay had often known what it was to want a thousand pounds, but he had never been without sovereigns in his pocket, and it took him some moments to realize that this state of things was not accidental, but natural in his new circumstances.

Much to his own surprise, he felt the first cold touch of poverty distinctly exhilarating, like a bather’s first plunge into the sea. It was not hardship so far; it was merely adventure. He apologized to the disappointed cabman, and set off to walk to Chelsea, with that sense of superiority to fortune which Aristippus may have felt when he bade his tired slave throw away the bag of gold.

Voluntary suffering has always exercised a powerful charm over a certain order of mankind. The[159] starvation, the confinement, and the self-torture of the Hindu fakir and the Catholic saint have not been practised solely with a business-like view to reward in a future life; they have satisfied a need—morbid, perhaps, but real, since it is found among races that have scarcely risen to the conception of another world. It is as if diseased human nature instinctively sought its own remedy, as the suffering animal seeks out the herb possessed of healing powers.

As Alistair Stuart took his way through the mean streets of Lambeth and Vauxhall, with their narrow dirty pavements, their scanty shops at the street-corners and their taverns in which the only touches of brightness and prosperity seemed concentrated, he felt the temptation growing strong upon him.

“After all, it would not be so bad to live this life,” he said to himself. “One might be very cosy in one of these small old houses, tucked up against some great dead wall, with unknown things taking place on the other side of it, or buried beneath some huge railway arch, with trains thundering overhead all night to unknown destinations. I seem to be an outlaw; why shouldn’t I live among outlaws? I could loaf about in flannel shirts and dressing-gowns all day long, and Molly would fetch me my beer from the public-house. I should smoke long clay pipes, and write an epic poem, like the ‘City of Dreadful Night.’”

But the recollection of Thomson and his poem[160] turned the current of his thoughts into a darker channel.

“How many men of genius has London brained with her paving-stones!” he reflected bitterly. “The poet asks for nothing but liberty to sing, and the world will not give it to him. ‘Give me money’s worth for my bread and raiment and shelter’ is her harsh demand; and she drags the poet from his fountain in the wilderness to sweep the dust of the bazaar.”

His fellow-feeling for the poor drunken schoolmaster rested on sentiment. In Alistair the seed of genius, delicate from the first, had been choked, not by the pressure of physical needs, but by a profound moral discouragement. During the years in which genius begins to recognize itself, to try its wings, and point its first shy flight towards the empyrean, he had found himself living the life of a criminal on a ticket-of-leave. He had been kept in a state of spiritual starvation, deprived of the food for which his nature pined, and choked with the dry bread of Calvinism. The budding tendrils of his mind had shrivelled, vainly searching for the air of sympathy and the warm sun of praise. He had been made to feel afraid of his own intelligence, his dreams and guesses after truth and beauty were imputed to him as iniquity; and if he ever sought to give them expression, he wrote as Crusoe might have written on his desert isle—for the ears of savages.

His genius had emerged from this ordeal maimed[161] for life. If he sang now, it was not as the birds sang, rejoicing in their Maker’s gift to them, but stealthily, as prisoners sing in dungeons, apprehensive of the passing warder’s tread. Even the desire for fame was now a broken spring. He had tasted too deeply of the bitter cup of disapproval to hope to cleanse his mouth with the honey of applause. He felt vaguely that he had been sent into the world to teach his fellow-men to rejoice with him in all its beauty and its wonder, and that they had struck him brutally across the lips, and bidden him become dull and timid and mean-hearted, like themselves.

A whole generation in England had endured an experience more or less like Alistair’s, and the literature of the age still breathes a suppressed bitterness against the cruelties of Evangelicalism. The persecution was all the more oppressive because it was not sanctioned by any public authority, nor embodied in any law. It was carried on privately, around every hearth, and in every hour of family life, poisoning the springs of truthfulness and self-respect, and breaking the hearts of the young. It was the memory of such wrongs that had made easy the triumph of the Catholic reaction; the Protestant tyranny had fallen, as other tyrannies fall, more by its own abuses than by the strength of its assailants. The fires of Smithfield were forgotten, and the little pagan group who surrounded Alistair Stuart patronized the Roman Church as their most powerful ally against the Nonconformist conscience.

[162]But Alistair was beginning to look deeper. The play he had just witnessed, in spite of its absurdities, had embodied certain sentiments of his own. “There is no cure,” he reflected as he walked along. “There is no help for men like me; the crowd will always persecute us. They have set up the image of the Crucified One that they might crucify others in his name. The memory of Otway did not save Chatterton; the sufferings of Chatterton did not redeem Poe. Their flattery of the dead is only a deeper insult to the living. They kneel at the tomb of Shakespeare, and if Shakespeare rose again they would cast him into Reading Gaol.”

It was Alistair Stuart’s misfortune to be only a half-hearted sinner. The world likes its men to be thorough-going. Confronted with a mixed individuality it is disconcerted and annoyed, like a reviewer called upon to judge a poem by a prose-writer, or a serious volume from a humorist’s pen. Alistair’s natural instincts had been cowed by his boyish experience. Without sharing the convictions of the righteous, he lacked the courage to despise them utterly. He would have had them pardon him, though he could not repent.

His embittered mood lasted till he came in sight of the river below Battersea Park. The sunlight sparkling on the water, and the fresh breeze blowing over the trees of the park, refreshed him for the moment, and his thoughts turned to Hero Vanbrugh.

A sigh rose to his lips.

[163]“If I had only met her a year ago!”

The rebuke which Hero had administered so delicately in the matter of the royal autograph had moved him to the heart. It had been an appeal to his self-respect, a proof that she credited him with honourable instincts like her own, and at this crisis in his life the compliment was like the touch of balm upon a sore. With such a hand as Hero’s to restrain him, that plunge into the social underworld which he was contemplating lost its fascination. How was it that in all the years they had known him neither his mother nor his brother had ever been able to strike the chord which this girl’s finger had touched unerringly at their first meeting?

In searching for the answer to this riddle, he recollected whither his steps were bound. The figure of Molly Finucane rose before him like a faded portrait over which a breath of discoloration had passed, leaving it tarnished and dingy, and he shivered slightly, and unconsciously relaxed the quickness of his pace.

His heart sank within him as he ascended the familiar path, and let himself in with his latchkey. Missing the expected figure of the page, he hung up his hat himself, and passed into the drawing-room.

“Where’s Tom?” he inquired, not without some foreboding of the reply he should receive.

Molly was lying on the sofa in a low-necked dress, pulling a cigarette, and trying to amuse herself with an illustrated ladies’ paper, which did not amuse her[164] at all—it was much too severe in its decorum. She sat up yawning at Stuart’s entrance, and frowned as he put his question.

“I had to get rid of him for insolence,” she replied, with still smouldering wrath. “I told him my shoes hadn’t been cleaned this morning, and the young brat contradicted me to my face, and said he couldn’t do them any better. The lazy little wretch hadn’t touched them. I asked him if he knew who he was talking to, and he became insolent. So I just ordered him to pack up and leave the house.”

Stuart listened without much interest to this story, the counterpart of which he had often heard before. Somehow Molly’s servants were perpetually incurring dismissal for similar behaviour. It was rare for her to keep them more than a couple of months, and it was not uncommon for them to be sent away the day after they arrived; and always for the same cause—disrespect to the mistress of the house.

“I can’t think what’s the matter with the servants nowadays,” Molly complained. She was not the only mistress to whom it had never occurred that there could be, by any possibility, a servants’ side to the great question. “I had a Scotchwoman here to-day, applying for the cook’s place”—the cook had been under notice to leave for some time—“and she was most impertinent.”

Molly stopped rather unexpectedly, as though she had been going to give particulars of the impertinence, but had suddenly thought better of it. The[165] Scotchwoman, in fact, had presumed so far as to inquire into the character of the relationship between the lady of the house and the Lord Alistair Stuart who was indicated as its master, and had withdrawn her candidature for the situation on learning that the tie was merely one of friendship. Being told rather fiercely by Miss Finucane that this was not her business, the offender had replied uncompromisingly: “Excuse me, miss, I don’t set up to blame you, but I have my character to think of, and if it was known that I had taken a place in a house that wasn’t respectable, I might not be able to suit myself elsewhere.”

It was no doubt the irritation caused by this plain speaking which had vented itself on the unlucky page. Alistair shrugged his shoulders as though in sympathy, but inwardly the question suggested itself whether Miss Vanbrugh ever had to encounter insolence on the part of servants. He did not think it likely.

He had to go upstairs to dress for dinner, this being a point about which Miss Finucane was very particular. If ever a man ventured to present himself at her dinner-table in morning dress she was apt to take it as a carefully studied reflection on her character. Her own time hung so heavily on her hands that she spent half her day over her wardrobe. She breakfasted in a fur-lined dressing-gown, put on a walking-dress during the morning, lunched in a third costume, wore an æsthetic tea-gown in the afternoon, made a grand toilet for dinner, and exchanged it for[166] a loose night-robe in which she drank whisky and water before going to bed. In all these changes of costume jewels played a great part. Diamonds and sapphires meant to Molly much what a table well covered with briefs means to a barrister, or the strips of ribbon on his breast to a soldier; they were the tangible tokens of success.

When Stuart came downstairs there was no sign of dinner. He sat down and tried to talk to Molly about the bazaar, but she listened sulkily, offended because he had not ventured to take her with him.

“There were lots of women there, I suppose?” she asked, in a grumbling voice.

“Yes, a good many. Women belonging to the Church, most of them, I expect.”

“Was there anyone you knew?”

She fixed a shrewdly questioning glance on him, and noted the momentary hesitation that preceded his reply.

“No, no one.”

Molly gave a scornful smile.

“That’s a lie, Alistair. Was your mother there?”

“I prefer not to talk about my mother,” returned Alistair, who dreaded Molly’s coarse tongue.

“Do you think I didn’t know why you wouldn’t take me?” Molly retorted. “Who else was there?”

“No one I had ever met before.”

Molly pounced on the concealed admission.

“Your mother introduced you to someone. Who was it?”

[167]Stuart rose to his feet, beginning to get angry.

“The only woman I spoke to the whole afternoon was a young lady who, I believe, is going to marry my brother.”

“What’s her name?”

“I decline to tell you.” He walked over to the bell and rang it impatiently. “What the deuce are they keeping dinner for?”

Molly sat silent, watching him with all the cunning of a narrow intelligence concentrated on one point. No one in the world was more ignorant than Molly Finucane was of the things that are written about in books, but the keenest counsel who ever sifted the evidence of a lying witness could not have matched the sureness with which she detected anything in Alistair’s mind that threatened her supremacy over him. Her instinct now warned her that some danger had arisen for her, and her fear, overpowering her jealousy for the moment, made her hold her tongue.

No notice was taken of Lord Alistair’s ring, but after another ten minutes or so an untidy parlour-maid put her head into the room and announced that dinner was ready.

The dinner was badly cooked, and not appetising, and the parlour-maid had neglected to warm the claret. Molly called for champagne.

“There’s none left, ma’am,” the maid retorted, speaking in that hostile tone which her servants generally assumed towards Miss Finucane.

[168]“Yes, there is, unless you’ve drunk it in the kitchen.”

An altercation between mistress and maid followed, high words being used on both sides. Stuart went on with his dinner in silent disgust, trying not to listen. He had sat through similar scenes often enough before, but they had not made the same impression on him. It was as though his whole nature had been set throbbing like a bell with a certain note, with which his surroundings were all out of tune.

The dinner was not only badly cooked, but it quickly appeared that there was not enough of it. On seeing a few slices of ham set before her in the place of a joint, the mistress of the house lost her temper.

“Go and tell the cook to make an omelette,” she ordered angrily. “It’s disgraceful that we can’t have enough to eat.”

The parlour-maid departed. A minute or two afterwards the door was flung open violently, and the cook advanced into the middle of the dining-room.

“You can’t have an omelette. I’ve no eggs, and the fire’s gone out,” she remarked loudly and aggressively.

“What do you mean, cook?” said Molly, evidently rather alarmed.

The cook saw her mistress quailing, and raised her voice.

“I mean that I’ve cooked as much as I mean to, and I’m not going to do any more. I’m tired of it.”

“This is disgraceful!” exclaimed her mistress, appealing[169] to Stuart. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself, to come in and talk like that, simply because I asked for an omelette.”

“Well, you can’t have it, then,” the cook returned, with a ring of triumph.

“Very well; that’s enough. Go downstairs!” commanded Molly.

The cook tossed her head, and marched out of the room, slamming the door behind her.

“Do you owe the woman any wages?” Stuart asked, as soon as she was gone. He knew by experience that it was useless to interfere in these periodical scenes between Molly and her household.

“Not a farthing,” Molly protested. “And I’ve always treated her kindly, too. I can’t think what makes her presume like that.”

The cook went down fuming and snorting into the kitchen, and gave the explanation to her sympathizing sisters.

“I’ll teach her to send haughty messages out to me, and me a respectable woman whose father had a farm, and six men under him; and her out of the gutter, and no better than a street-walker, if you come to that, though she do ride in her carriage, and wear as many jewels as a Martinet.”

“You mean a Marchioness, don’t you, Eleanor?” inquired the housemaid, who had moved in higher spheres.

“I mean a lady, that’s what I mean,” said the cook, with grim emphasis. “Consequently I don’t mean[170] Miss Finucane, as she calls herself, though her real name’s Finigan, and she’s low Irish down to her boot-soles.” She took a long breath, and concluded: “And so I’d have told her to her face if his lordship hadn’t been there; but he’s a gentleman, when all’s said and done, and I’m sorry for him.”

The cook spoke for her sex. Most women were sorry for Lord Alistair Stuart.

When Molly saw Alistair rise from the table immediately after the cook’s stormy exit, her face fell.

“You’re not going out again?” she protested.

“I’ve got to,” was the answer.

“Take me with you, then,” Molly demanded.

“Can’t. I’m going to see Des Louvres.”

“You’re always going there. What do you want to see him for?”

“It’s on business to do with the Legitimists.”

“Bother the Legitimists!” Molly was not a politician. Beyond the vague notion that all these pretenders of whom she heard so much enjoyed the secret patronage of the Pope, and must therefore be in some way inimical to that Protestantism which it had been her first lesson as a child to abjure and abhor, she was completely indifferent to their cause.

“I won’t have you go,” she continued. “You’ve been out all day, and left me alone with those wretched servants. I want you to take me to the theatre.”

“I’ve no money,” said Stuart impatiently.

“Can’t you borrow some?”

“Who from?”

[171]A name rose to Molly’s lips, but she hesitated to pronounce it. She looked at Stuart, and as their eyes met each knew what the other was thinking of.

“No,” he declared hastily. “I’m sorry, Molly, but I must go. I promised. There’s to be somebody there that I must meet.”


“Well, it’s a sort of secret. You won’t talk about it?”

“Who have I got to talk to?”

The retort struck painfully on Alistair. That compassion for Molly which lay at the root of his refusal to leave her was stirred by the reminder of the poor little woman’s loneliness. She had no friends, she could have no friends in their present circumstances, and she had no interests in life apart from him. He felt that he was ill-treating her by this second absence in one day, and his voice softened as he explained:

“It’s Don Juan. Des Louvres told me he doesn’t want it to be known that he’s in England.”

The name was not familiar to Molly.

“Who is he?” she asked, more with the object of detaining Stuart than from any real curiosity on the subject.

Don Juan, in fact, only ranked as an heir-apparent in the Legitimist almanac, his father being still alive. He represented one of those families of decrepit and priest-ridden despots which were everywhere driven from the thrones of the Mediterranean by the great[172] Liberal flood of the nineteenth century. Now the flood was beginning to abate, the wrongs of the past were fading from men’s minds, and the figures of these discrowned Princes stood forth once more, surrounded by the halo of romantic misfortune.

But all this did not concern Molly in the least. Don Juan’s only importance for her was as a new acquaintance for Stuart. She took a jealous interest in all Alistair’s friends, not as individuals, but as influences over him which might or might not tend to detach him from herself.

“Why are you going to meet him?” she asked, hardly waiting for the answer to her first question.

Alistair gave a half-ashamed smile.

“Well, he is going to give me a decoration, I believe—the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.”

Molly looked impressed. She was sensitive about Alistair’s social position, which she was conscious of having compromised, and this decoration, coming on the morrow of his bankruptcy, seemed a welcome rehabilitation.

“Then he really is a Prince?” she asked, with floating recollections of police-court cases in which adventurers had obtained money by pretending to titles not really theirs.

Stuart laughed good-naturedly.

“Yes, he’s a Prince right enough; at least, he’s as good as the Comte de Rouen.”

Molly had heard of the Comte de Rouen, whose party had just given proof of its vitality in a neighbouring[173] country in one of the most extraordinary episodes recorded in history. A conflict, extending over years, and threatening at one time to assume the character of a civil war, had taken place between the heads of the army, on the one hand, and the civil Government on the other, over the body of an obscure Jewish officer. If the guilt or innocence of the victim of this famous persecution had not yet been placed beyond the reach of doubt, at least it was made clear that his enemies had steeped themselves in perjury, forgery, and every kind of subornation and conspiracy. It became equally evident that the motive of their action was rather religious than political; a chasm was revealed running through the nation, and sharply dividing the clerical persecutors from the anti-clerical defenders of the accused man. The army chiefs appeared as the tools of the priesthood, which was seen in full cry on the trail of a Semitic victim. The contagion spread to other countries, and prelates of the Roman Church in England proclaimed their sympathy with the crusade. A shock ran through Europe and America. It was as if the mask of saintly meekness under persecution worn so closely by the Roman Church for a century had been suddenly lifted for a moment, and modern men had obtained a glimpse of the Fury’s visage underneath, with its writhing snakes and its teeth gnashing for blood, the visage which they had almost come to think of as a fable of Protestant historians.

The name of the Comte de Rouen silenced Molly,[174] and Alistair was allowed to depart without further objection.

As soon as he had left the house she went upstairs, took out his mother’s letter, and read it through again for the fourth or fifth time, with her lips tightly pinched and her forehead wrinkled in the effort to devise some reply calculated at once to teach the Duchess manners, and yet to neutralize her opposition.

This was what she wrote:

Dear Madam:

“Don’t worry about Alistair. You are about as likely to see me marry him as you are to see”—she named a sacred personage—“riding down Piccadilly on a bicycle.

“Yours truly,
Mary Finucane.”



The Duke of Trent and Colonsay sat at his great office table in his room at the Home Office thinking.

The table was piled high with official papers. The permanent staff of a Government Department are quick to detect the weakness of each new chief put over their heads by the changing tide of parliamentary warfare. The weakness of the new Home Secretary was for details and statistics. A return of a hundred foolscap pages showing exactly how many pounds of beef and how many pounds of rice are consumed in the prisons of the country every year, or how many miles a policeman tramps over in the same period in the course of his beat, afforded a real satisfaction to his intellect. His staff catered for this taste as if they had been the conductors of a popular magazine. They kept their new chief busy and contented, and he let them alone.

But it was not about his important functions in the State that the Minister was thinking at this moment, but about a more personal concern.

His discovery of his mother’s project had left him for some time in a state of indecision, due partly to[176] the fact that his desire was not so much to marry Hero Vanbrugh as to prevent his brother from marrying her. The appearance of a rival on the scene is generally sufficient to decide a hesitating wooer, but then the Duke had not been exactly a wooer, and this was another cause of embarrassment. Suddenly to begin paying the attentions of a lover to a girl whom he had been accustomed to treat familiarly as his mother’s friend seemed to a man of the Duke’s stiff habit of mind an awkward, and possibly a ridiculous, proceeding.

On the other hand, he saw that his mother was actively pushing her design, and he could not shut his eyes to the fact that Alistair was a rival to be feared.

It is difficult at all times for a man with a strong sense of his own dignity to make love, and for a man animated by the calm and temperate regard of the Duke of Trent to try to make love according to the accepted English convention struck even his imagination as dangerously foolish.

He condemned in his own mind the national custom which requires the man to do his own love-making.

“Now, in France,” he reflected, “there would be no trouble about the matter. I should tell my mother to send for Sir Bernard Vanbrugh, and they would settle it between them.”

Sir Bernard’s name suggested an alternative which recommended itself the more the longer he considered[177] it. He would carry his proposal to Hero’s father, and leave it to him to break the ice with Hero herself.

His acquaintance with the great scientist and physician was of the slightest, but he could hardly distrust the reception such a son-in-law as himself was likely to receive, and he might count on the father’s influence with his daughter to overcome any possible hesitation on her part.

Desirous to give every possible distinction to his overture, the Home Secretary drew towards him a sheet of the official notepaper, and wrote a few lines requesting the physician to name an hour at which he would receive him on a private matter. The note folded and sealed, he handed it to his private secretary, with injunctions to send it by a messenger, and bring back the reply.

Sir Bernard Vanbrugh’s answer, which arrived within half an hour, was even more formal than the Duke’s request, simply stating that the physician would be at liberty that day at five o’clock.

The Duke ordered his carriage, and alighted at Sir Bernard’s door in Stratford Place punctually at the hour named. Rather to his surprise, but even more to his relief, he was taken, not into the drawing-room, but into the physician’s consulting-room, and offered the patient’s chair.

The man whose grey powerful eyes, under their square wall of forehead, were turned on him with something of the penetrative power of a searchlight,[178] across a fragile-looking desk in some decorative wood, was a man with a remarkable history.

There are some men of whom their friends are accustomed to say that they should like them better if they were not so clever. Vanbrugh had started in life with this handicap. He was an intellectual monster, a brain-giant whose understanding was to the understandings of those about him what the magnesium light is to a tallow candle.

Those into whose company he was thrown suffered somewhat as they would have done in a strong light. Moreover, they were conscious that Vanbrugh silently looked through them and over them, and they resented the process in proportion to their conceit of themselves.

Thus it happened that the ablest man of his time was the most unpopular.

The unpopularity was the most marked among the members of his own profession. To Vanbrugh the usages and traditions of his class were so much rubbish. He saw in the etiquette of medicine nothing but the precautions of dunces to protect their incapacity from discovery. He was unable to make allowance for that infirmity of the human mind which clings to custom through sheer terror of the unknown. Where he ought to have imputed cowardice he imputed fraud.

He was a revolutionist by sheer force of insight. His mind covered at a single bound the slow progress of years, and he was too impatient to wait for the[179] laggards to catch him up. The stupid are in a great majority at all times, and in all situations, but some men, not less great than Vanbrugh, have possessed the art of coaxing them, and leading them on. It was just this art that Vanbrugh lacked. Unconscious of his own brutality, he trampled on folly and dullness with feet of iron, and the dull and foolish turned and rent him.

Up to the age of forty Bernard Vanbrugh’s life had been one long record of disaster.

As a student he had been deeply unpopular, even with his professors, who saw that they had in him a critic rather than a pupil. While still walking the hospitals, the young man had ventured to argue with the great lights of the profession whom he was there to watch reverently and believe implicitly. He had had the audacity to suggest to a celebrated gynecologist the use of ice at a critical stage of a well-known operation; and though the specialist found himself obliged to act on the advice, and subsequently enhanced his reputation by adopting the treatment in his private practice, he never forgave the young man’s presumption.

The medical authorities treated Vanbrugh with strict justice, up to the point at which justice ceased to be obligatory; that is to say, they awarded him as examiners every prize for which he chose to enter, but they refused him a house-surgeoncy. When the astonished and mortified young man tried to learn the reason for this refusal, he was met by polite excuses[180] and the recommendation that he should start in practice as a consultant.

One old professor told him the truth.

“Our honorary staff will not have you,” he said bluntly. “Not because they haven’t confidence in you, but because they think you haven’t confidence in them.”

With a bitter smile Vanbrugh acknowledged the justice of the excuse.

He made up his mind that he must accept a house-surgeoncy in the provinces. But when he came to apply for the usual testimonials from those who had superintended his education, he received documents so frigidly worded as to show clearly that they were given as a matter of obligation merely, and not with any good will. The local doctors in whose hands the appointments lay discerned the actual disapproval beneath the formal recommendation. Vanbrugh, the most distinguished student of his year, or for many years, was not even invited to present himself for a personal interview when he applied for a post of two hundred a year in a small country town.

He abandoned this useless attempt without much regret. He knew well enough that London contained his destiny, and that he had been guilty of treason to his own powers in seeking to escape it.

His enemies had advised him to become a consultant—that is to say, to take rooms in an expensive street in the West End, and wait for other doctors to send him patients as to a superior. Vanbrugh took[181] this advice, and for fifteen years no patient ever crossed his threshold.

A consultant depends absolutely on the support of his own profession, and in his own profession Vanbrugh was hated as few men are hated. There were men who, if they had heard of a patient intending to consult him, would have walked across London to prevent it.

Vanbrugh was a poor man. The whole of the funds remaining from his scholarships, together with the remittances doled out grudgingly by his family, were set aside to pay the rent of the rooms in Brook Street. His brass-plate, once affixed to the doorpost there, became his flag, which he would not strike while life remained. In the meantime he had to live.

After endless trials in all directions, Bernard Vanbrugh succeeded in getting employment on the staff of one of those bureaus which undertake to supply information on any subject. Vanbrugh’s was the medical department, and he was paid at the rate of half a crown an hour. The work had mostly to be done at the British Museum, and his weekly earnings averaged about two pounds.

This, then, was the situation. The most brilliant follower of medicine in Europe, perhaps the keenest intellect of his time, was compelled to spend the best years of his life among broken-down journalists, and stranded governesses, and all the sad jetsam of the educated class, doing drudge’s work for the wages of[182] a drudge. The celebrated Huxley had a narrow escape from the same fate. How many other Huxleys and Vanbrughs are to-day dreeing the same weird, while the millions of philanthropy roll about the gutters, and the billions of endowments pass into the pockets of the dunce?

Vanbrugh divided his scanty earnings into two equal portions. Fifty pounds a year paid for his food and clothes and the rare holidays conceded to health, with the other fifty he bought books and scientific instruments.

The subject he had chosen to investigate was the cells of the brain.

At the age of forty he completed his work on the brain, and the fifteen years’ penal servitude to which he had been sentenced by human stupidity and spite approached its term.

He carried the manuscript to an important publisher, and solicited a personal interview.

Strange to say, the publisher granted it. Vanbrugh’s name was well known to him. Some hints of his researches had leaked out from time to time, and the hospitals were already trembling. The meteoric career of the student had not been forgotten. Every now and then his brethren spoke of Vanbrugh as of a man from whom the world was certain to hear sooner or later. While he was toiling in the dust he was already reluctantly recognized as the coming man.

Vanbrugh placed his book in the publisher’s hands[183] with something of his old arrogance, which half a lifetime of hardship had not been able to crush.

“This is a book which will, directly it appears, supersede every other book on the brain. But if your reader sees my name on the title-page, he will tell you it is rubbish. I ask you to submit it to him without allowing him to know whom it is by, and then he may tell you the truth.”

The publisher smiled. He glanced from his caller’s proud, harsh countenance to his shabby clothes and patched boots, and thought he could understand. “The man is a crank,” he said to himself. “His troubles have unhinged him.”

Nevertheless, he gave the required promise. He even went beyond his word. Lest his English reader should suspect the authorship of the book and be prejudiced in consequence, he took the trouble to forward the manuscript to Vienna, to a renowned specialist in that capital, saying that his usual advisers differed as to the merit of the work, and requesting an impartial opinion. This was the first stroke of fortune in Vanbrugh’s favour.

In less than a month the publisher was astonished by receiving back the manuscript with a letter in which the Viennese authority repeated Vanbrugh’s very words.

“I cannot understand what you tell me about your advisers,” the Austrian wrote. “This is one of the greatest works I have ever had the good fortune to read. It will supersede every existing work on the[184] brain. The author has done you a high honour in offering this book to your house.”

The great publisher winced. It so happened that he had in the press a voluminous book on this very subject by a baronet and physician-in-ordinary to the Court, a book on whose preparation he had already spent a considerable sum. It was clear that one of these two books must kill the other. In either case he must be at a loss. On the other hand, if he were to refuse Vanbrugh’s work, it might be taken by the great rival house which divided the trade with his.

In this uncertainty he decided to submit the manuscript to his reader in the ordinary way. Scarcely had he sent it off when he received a second call from Vanbrugh.

The Austrian specialist, not dreaming that his opinion could be disregarded, and filled with enthusiasm for Vanbrugh’s achievement, had addressed a letter to him, congratulating him in the warmest terms. The letter did not elate Vanbrugh in the least, but it brought him round to the publisher to find out what was being done with his book.

He came, taking it for granted that its acceptance was now out of doubt. The publisher, compelled to give a definite answer, made up his mind on the spot, and proposed terms which Vanbrugh accepted.

Two days later his reader returned the manuscript with a brief note, dismissing it as the work of a charlatan. Vanbrugh had beaten this man in one of the hospital examinations.

[185]When the book came out, the medical reviewers were staggered. They dared not attack, and they would not praise it; it was therefore allowed to fall dead from the press. The distinguished baronet, whose book had been thrown over by the publisher, was furious. He threatened to have Vanbrugh’s name taken off the register as a quack.

The publisher was wringing his hands, when suddenly an offer arrived from Leipzig for the German rights of the book, an offer larger in amount than what he had paid Vanbrugh for the copyright. Similar offers came tumbling in from Paris, from Rome, and from St. Petersburg. Rival editions appeared in New York and Chicago, the publishers of which, more honest than their legislators, sent considerable sums to the author. The scientific press on both sides of the Atlantic rang with the name of Bernard Vanbrugh, and the popular journals followed suit.

As Vanbrugh had foretold, his book superseded every existing treatise on the brain.

The first part of the work was a careful and exhaustive monograph on the brain-cells, their morphology and physiology. Vanbrugh had applied every available tool of scientific investigation in his experiments—chemical agents, electric discharges, the microscope, and the photograph. The reaction under the different rays of the spectrum had been tested separately and in combination, and results of the highest interest obtained. But the epoch-making character of the book was given to it by the second part.

[186]Here Vanbrugh had boldly essayed the feat of building a bridge between physiology and what is called psychology. He had explored what are known as mental phenomena in the light of his physical analysis. Into this dim and distrusted region of knowledge Vanbrugh had projected the searchlight of his merciless intellect, and had made it scientific ground.

Even the lay reader could follow him here, and understand most of his conclusions. Vanbrugh disdained the hieroglyphic vocabulary of the new priesthood of science, and forced the words of daily life into the service. In this part of the book occurred his famous comparison of the brain to a biograph, with the process of thought carried on by a series of films, succeeding each other with inconceivable rapidity, but yet with a gap of pure annihilation after each.

“Science is measured knowledge,” was the keynote of his triumphant peroration.

“Science is measured knowledge, and the only measures we can apply are physical ones, and we can only apply them to physical phenomena. Slowly but surely, as we succeed in identifying these processes called mental with the processes of the brain-cells, we shall be enabled to reduce them to a plan, to evolve order out of confusion, and to regulate human passion and intelligence as we regulate the secretions of the stomach and the circulation of the blood, the alternation of the harvests, and the courses of the tides.”

[187]Such thorough-going materialism shocked and terrified not a few readers, but the day was gone by for any objection to be raised on that score in scientific circles. Before the book had been out a year it was the recognized authority on the subject with which it dealt in every civilized country, and the London colleges were obliged to give it a place upon their shelves.

Honours and distinctions flowed in upon the author from abroad. Vienna was the first to offer him the honorary membership of her first learned society, and other capitals hastened to do the same. A great foreign ruler, who considered it a part of his own greatness to befriend greatness in others, sent his most coveted Order to the poor English doctor, of whom his Ambassador in London had never so much as heard till he was directed to call upon him with the decoration. Not content with that, the Emperor wrote privately to the English Court, remonstrating with it warmly on its neglect of so illustrious a subject.

The English Court took the hint, and Sir Bernard Vanbrugh figured in the next list of birthday honours. Then at last the sullen opposition of the profession gave way. His brethren realized that they were compromising their own reputation in the eyes of the world, and on the next vacancy Vanbrugh was offered, and he accepted, the Presidency of his College.

He was now sixty years of age; his appointment-book[188] was filled up for weeks in advance, and his only child was an heiress.

The Duke of Trent, with all the prestige of his rank and office, yielded to the same involuntary fear that Vanbrugh always inspired, and sat down like a schoolboy in the master’s presence.

“I don’t think we have met very often,” he began, “but I dare say you know that Miss Vanbrugh is a great friend of my mother’s.”

At the mention of his daughter the scientist moved slightly, and his expression became less severe.

“I have had many opportunities of seeing her at Colonsay House,” the Minister pursued, his tone unconsciously betraying his intimate sense of a favour about to be conferred, “and, so far as I am able to judge, she is disposed to like me. I will come to the point at once, and say that the object of my visit is to ask you to give her to me. I don’t suppose it is necessary for me to say anything to you on the subject of my own feelings. I show them sufficiently by my proposal. I am not a sentimental schoolboy, but you may believe me when I say that, should your daughter honour me by becoming my wife, I shall do the utmost in my power to make her happy.”

Sir Bernard listened without any further sign of emotion to this speech, the formality of which did the wooer less harm in his eyes than it might have done in Hero’s.

“What does Hero say?” was his sole observation in reply.

[189]“I have not spoken to her yet. In fact, I have never given her any reason to expect this proposal. We have been friends, and nothing more, so far. I confess I have felt some difficulty about approaching her. I have had no experience in love-making, and it occurred to me that you might be willing to sound Miss Vanbrugh on my behalf.”

The physician made no objection to this suggestion. He remained thinking for some little time, and then answered deliberately:

“You have done me an honour, of which I am entirely sensible, in asking for my daughter’s hand. As your wife her position would be a very proud one, and perhaps most fathers in my place would accept your offer without a moment’s hesitation. But Hero is my only child, and I am a man who has always held strong views on the question of marriage. I trust you will not think me wanting in appreciation of your high claims to consideration if I put exactly the same questions to you which I have always intended to put to any man who came to me in the character of a future son-in-law.”

The Secretary of State was a little surprised by this reception of his offer, but on the whole he was pleased by it. He told himself that few candidates for matrimony would be better able to withstand a father’s scrutiny than he.

“I shall be very pleased to answer any questions you wish to put to me. You are most fully entitled[190] to know everything I can tell, and I have nothing to conceal.”

Sir Bernard Vanbrugh nodded. Opening a drawer in his desk, he took out a large printed form and spread it out in front of him.

“I had better begin, perhaps,” the suitor suggested, “by giving you the names of my solicitor and banker. They will give you every information with regard to my financial circumstances.”

The physician shook his head slightly.

“I do not doubt that your means are ample, and my daughter will not be a portionless girl. I am the medical adviser to a number of insurance companies, and this paper contains the questions it is my duty to put to a person who desires to insure his life. In my view, I ought not to have to say, marriage is an infinitely more important step than the granting of a policy. Are you willing for me to examine you with the same care as if you were asking my employers to insure you for a few thousand pounds?”

The Duke opened his eyes. Not even Sir Bernard Vanbrugh’s reputation for originality—eccentricity it is called in Government departments—had prepared him for such a proposition. But any momentary irritation was quickly swallowed up in the comforting reflection: What sort of reception would this man give to Alistair!

“I am at your disposal, Sir Bernard!”

The physician began his methodical examination exactly as if he were dealing with an ordinary patient.[191] He weighed the Cabinet Minister, he measured him, he took his pulse and temperature, and sounded his heart and lungs. As test after test was applied the examiner did not conceal his interest and satisfaction, and at the close of the ordeal his manner became almost enthusiastic.

“I can congratulate you,” he reported, “on being an almost perfect life—I may say, a remarkable life. Do you know that you are as nearly as possible a normal man?”

The twelfth subject of the Queen looked ever so slightly disconcerted by the compliment.

“You don’t understand, I see,” said Vanbrugh. “I must explain to you that scientific anthropologists have arrived at certain standards of bodily proportion, of the energy of the vital functions, and so on, which they have fixed as constituting the norm of humanity—that is to say, the perfect balance which ought to be found in every member of the species. The normal man is therefore a scientific abstraction: he is the imaginary type with which actual individuals are to be compared, and to which they should as far as possible conform. Now I find that you fulfil to an extraordinary degree every requirement which anthropological science has laid down for the species. You are, therefore, a normal man—the first I have ever been fortunate enough to come across.”

The Duke of Trent tried to persuade himself that this was a flattering report, though in his ear the[192] word “normal” sounded disagreeably like commonplace.

“At all events, you are satisfied?” he asked.

“I am more than satisfied so far. Now as to your family history——”

For the first time a misgiving stole into the Duke’s mind, as he remembered Lord Alexander Stuart’s career. Surely this scientific inquisitor was not going to visit the sins of the father on the son, as his words foreboded?

“Is your father living?”

“No; I have the title,” the Duke reminded him.

“True. At what age did he die?”

“As far as I can recollect, at about thirty-eight or forty. I could easily ascertain.”

“That may not be necessary. What did he die of?”

The Duke’s cheeks burned. But he saw the folly of temporizing with a man like Vanbrugh. The story of Lord Alexander was perfectly well known in London.

“Of delirium tremens, I am afraid.”

Sir Bernard’s eyebrows lifted, and he shot a painful glance at the unfortunate son.

“Your mother,” he hastened to say, “I know is alive. What is her state of health?”

The Duke was glad to be able to reply altogether satisfactorily. He was beginning to breathe again when the scientist put the fatal question:

“Have you any brothers or sisters?”

“One brother.” As the admission escaped him all[193] his old bitterness against his junior returned with ten-fold force.


“Yes, he is living.”

“Surely I have heard something about him lately?” Sir Bernard said reflectively. “What is he called?”

“Lord Alistair Stuart.”

The words might have been red-hot coals on the Duke’s lips and not have given him a greater wrench to utter.

Sir Bernard Vanbrugh laid down his paper and leant back in his chair.

“I cannot congratulate you on your family history,” he said gravely.

“Surely, sir, you will not hold me responsible because I had an unworthy father, and have a brother who takes after him? I am not like them. Ask anyone who has ever known me, and they will tell you that my life has been absolutely free from reproach. I neither drink nor gamble; I have never indulged in any kind of vice——”

The physician interrupted him with a quiet gesture.

“I am not a priest, Duke, but a scientist. I am not here to deal in moral blame or praise, but to decide whether you are a man whom I can welcome as the father of my grandchildren. Your family history is against you.”

“Every family has its black sheep,” the unfortunate suitor urged.

“Every existing family is the result of ill-assorted[194] marriages, brought about by any consideration rather than the desire to have healthy offspring. You must forgive my saying that Lord Alistair Stuart is a very black sheep indeed.”

“Alistair is not hopeless,” said the Duke, astonished to find himself defending his brother. “He is young yet, and he may settle down and marry some respectable woman.”

“Heaven forbid!” Sir Bernard Vanbrugh noted his listener’s bewilderment at this unexpected rejoinder. “The greatest service a man like your brother can render to society is to lead the life he is leading. Nature understands these things better than we do. She takes a man like that and unites him with a woman like Molly Finucane in order that the vicious strain may die out. To take your brother away and marry him to a healthy woman, in order that they might have diseased children, would be the worst of crimes.”

James Stuart shuddered as he listened to the voice of the new morality preaching its relentless gospel.

“But you didn’t find any strain of disease in me?” he pleaded.

“These things often pass over a generation. The law of heredity is still mysterious. It is the most important of all the problems awaiting scientific solution. You ask me to take a risk—a tremendous risk. I can only promise to consider it carefully.”

Of his own accord Sir Bernard added:

“As far as you are personally concerned, I could[195] not hope to meet a man to whom I should give my daughter with greater confidence. Your temperament is exactly what she needs to correct her own tendency to emotionalism. You see, I am frank with you, Duke, as frank as you have been with me. I have watched over my daughter with all the powers of observation I possess from her earliest years, and I cannot shut my eyes to her weakness.”

“Miss Vanbrugh is as near perfection as any girl I have seen!” exclaimed the wooer, with unwonted enthusiasm. “If she has a weakness it is in being too ready to sacrifice herself for others.”

“That is the weakness I mean,” the scientist resumed calmly. “Her attraction towards Catholicism has given me some anxiety, and would give me more if I thought it went below the surface.”

“But you are not a Protestant?”

Sir Bernard Vanbrugh smiled at the old-fashioned word.

“There are no more Protestants,” he pronounced. “There is Science and there is Superstition. Religion, as I understand it, is a form of hysteria, skilfully exploited in the interests of the clerical class. To me as a physician this Catholic revival is the symptom of a widespread cerebral disease which attacks individuals of morbid temperament. I have watched the class of persons who exhibit the symptom, and I have seldom failed to trace the disease. On the whole I am inclined to diagnose it as an obscure form of sexual[196] perversion. A woman does not want to go to confession unless she has something to confess.”

The Home Secretary shivered, as he listened to this brutal analysis, with the same sense of discomfort as a thinly-clad man exposed to a cold blast of air. He was not the first man who had experienced the same sensation in listening to Bernard Vanbrugh.

A week later he received the scientist’s decision.

“It gives me great pain,” Sir Bernard wrote, “not to be able to accept your proposal for my daughter’s hand, but your family history is too bad. Personally, you are everything that a father could desire, but my grandchildren must not have in their veins the same blood as Lord Alistair Stuart.”



That mood of deep dissatisfaction with his life which had been growing upon Alistair Stuart of late was strongly with him as he left the Underground Railway-station at Westminster, and walked across the bridge on his way to see Des Louvres.

The night was misty, but not dark, the lamps were lit, and the Palace showed up grey and spectral beside the water, while farther on there stretched a dim line of river-shore unillumined by any spark of light, as though night and slumber had overcome and blotted out that quarter of the city, while the other parts were still awake with feverish life.

As Alistair reached the southern foot of the bridge all the lights and sounds of Lambeth burst upon him with an effect of squalid but stirring energy.

He plunged into the bustling thoroughfare, with its noisy street-stalls, its jostling tramcars, and its hurrying passengers, as a bather plunges into the sea, and took his way along the road which branches southwards in the direction of Kennington. The sense of bankruptcy and failure no longer affected him disagreeably as it still did in the region he had just quitted.[198] Here his poverty seemed to bring him into touch with the life about him, and he looked at everything with pleased, expectant eyes, like a traveller wandering through the picturesque slums of some romantic town of Spain or Italy in which he thinks of settling for a time.

He drew a deep breath of anticipation, like a man about to be released from prison, as he reflected that the poverty which he had been afraid of might become a glorious incognito, under which his nature would have freer play than it had ever had in the world which had held him hitherto. The thought of this new, strange freedom caused his blood to tingle. Strange, formless instincts and yearnings began to stir within him. He glanced curiously to right and left as he walked along, down dark, narrow turnings with narrower courts and alleys leading out of them, and the impulse grew upon him to throw off the ways and hampering conventions of his class, and mingle in the mysterious, half-naked life of this underground world of which he seemed to catch glimpses all around him.

“There are adventures to be met with here!” he whispered to himself. “There are men who commit crimes!”

All the old lawless blood of a hundred generations of highland manslayers and freebooters surged up into his brain, and he fidgeted in his civilized bonds as a boy on a hot summer’s day fidgets in his clothes before the splash and sparkle of the sea.

[199]For a moment he stopped in front of a house which was to let, but a glance at his watch caused him to move on at a quickened pace. He was amused with the idea that the watch, which he had bought in Paris, would pay for a year’s rent of the house.

By this time the character of the thoroughfare had begun to change. He was passing by terraces of lodging-houses standing back behind long narrow strips that had once been gardens. In some of them the sickly grass still struggled for existence, in others it had frankly given up the ghost and been replaced by gravel. Decayed notice-boards behind the railings announced the various ways in which the tenants of these houses struggled for a livelihood; one aspired to be a coal-merchant, one deemed himself a dentist, others would have liked to give lessons in shorthand or book-keeping; none of them, it was to be feared, got much beyond the stage of expectation.

Presently Stuart came to a street in which the houses seemed to be of a better class; it was a street which still preserved some features from the time when this neighbourhood had ranked as a residential suburb for the prosperous middle class, on a level with Dulwich or Finchley of to-day. The name painted on the side-wall was Chestnut-Tree Walk, and the first house in the street was detached, and surrounded by a high wall, over which a few straggling shoots of dirty ivy hung their heads, while at the side of the house rose up one or two trees which, if the thick black crust upon their limbs and stunted foliage could[200] have been washed off, might have proved even to be chestnuts.

This house was the end of Alistair’s walk. It was the residence of the Comte des Louvres.

The situation was happily chosen for privacy. The neighbourhood was not quite poor enough for a well-dressed man to be conspicuous, and not quite respectable enough to possess an organized social vehmgericht, while it was altogether off the track of the ordinary foreign outlaw. Such of his neighbours as had noticed his existence at all supposed the tenant of Chestnut-Tree House, known simply as “Monsieur,” to be a teacher of the French language, who had seen better days. The last supposition was not very wide of the mark, but the better days were those of the Count’s ancestors, real and fictitious. His great-grandfather, a wealthy furniture-maker, had conferred the title on himself in the confusion of the great Revolution, after the last of the true Des Louvres had perished by the guillotine. Similar occupations of vacant honours were too common at the time for this one to attract much attention, and the furniture-maker’s son, by a great display of zeal for the Bourbons and for Holy Church, had succeeded in firmly establishing his position in the aristocratic sphere. It was the grandson who had dissipated the family fortune, leaving the present Count only the inheritance of a good name.

The merits of his ancestors, or his own Legitimist zeal, had secured for Des Louvres the patronage of[201] the Pretender who passed as the Comte de Rouen, but whom the Count invariably referred to in private as His Most Christian Majesty Louis XIX. In the service of this personage Des Louvres filled a position half-way between that of a press-agent and a chargé d’affaires, supplying the English newspapers with paragraphs in the Count’s interest, and generally watching the course of events on his behalf.

Des Louvres had made no mystery of these functions, but a certain obscurity hung over whatever other transactions he was engaged in. Some persons believed him to be in the employment of a Government celebrated for its elaborate secret police organized in every capital of the world; others suspected the Count of rendering services even less creditable to a certain foreign potentate, and hinted that the house in Chestnut-Tree Walk, if it could speak, would be able to tell some very strange stories indeed.

Among these activities of Des Louvres which he took less pains to hide was his connection with the English Legitimists. It was he who kept them in touch with the more important organizations abroad—in France, in Spain, in Italy, and in Portugal. He cheered their flagging spirits, oppressed by the sense of their insignificance at home, by making them feel that the Guild was taken seriously on the Continent, and that they themselves were persons of note in Paris and Madrid. It brought consolation and refreshment to Egerton and Wickham Vane to know that their toy conspiracy bulked largely in the columns[202] of such trusted organs of the Papacy as the Osservatore Romano or the Paris Univers.

Des Louvres was one of those who know human nature only by its weaknesses. Such men seldom come to grief, though they never come to greatness. He had been the first to perceive that Lord Alistair Stuart’s bankruptcy would change his point of view in certain respects, and to lay his plans accordingly.

As soon as Stuart touched the bell-knob of Chestnut-Tree House—the door abstained from the indiscretion of a knocker—he was admitted by the Count’s confidential servant, a fellow whom it did not require the science of M. Bertillon to identify as a hardened criminal. Leclerc, as this respectable felon was called, received Lord Alistair with an exaggeration of his customary deference, and ushered him towards what Des Louvres called his cabinet.

On the way he observed respectfully:

“You will find Monsieur le Comte alone. His Royal Highness has not yet arrived.”

He spoke in a sort of church whisper, as though the coming princeling already cast a shadow of awe before.

Des Louvres came out to receive his visitor, whom he greeted with enthusiasm.

“I am delighted you have managed to get here. Don Juan is most anxious to make your acquaintance.”

Stuart had come to keep the appointment with a certain feeling of interest in the romance of Don[203] Juan’s exalted claims, tempered with an insular distrust of foreign royalties and foreign decorations. His prejudice softened insensibly under the Count’s blandishments.

“Has his father much of a party left?” he asked.

“Undoubtedly a very strong one. The priesthood has never taken kindly to the constitutional dynasty, and you know that in those countries the Church is still a power.”

“I suppose there is no prospect of his taking the field?” Stuart said wistfully, as he thought of what a glorious escape it would be from the ruins of his present life to take part in a romantic expedition to a sunburnt land, to recover a lost crown.

The watchful Frenchman caught the note of yearning in Alistair’s voice, and his answer was tuned in sympathy.

“On the contrary, there is every prospect just now. Not the father himself, of course—he is too old—but Don Juan as his representative. His father intends to abdicate in his favour, I believe.”

“And you think he has a real chance?” asked Alistair. His eyes lit up as he pictured himself lying out on the wild sierras, making the camp-fire under the cork-trees at night, and in the daytime taking part in that great game whose stakes are death and renown. Already he was marching, crowned with myrtle, through Gothic cities bedight in flags and flowers, his ears deafened with the clang of joy bells[204] and the roar of exultant throngs, and his veins throbbing with the intoxication of victory.

“If I did not think so I should not have asked you to meet him,” answered Des Louvres, following up the impression he had made. “The Prince has come to England in order to organize an expedition. All he requires are the necessary funds to arm his followers with modern weapons. As soon as he succeeds in landing the first shipload of magazine rifles and ammunition the country will be in flames—I ought to say that I mention this for your ear alone. You are the only person in England beside myself whom the Prince is willing to take into his confidence.”

Alistair received this compliment with satisfaction not unmixed with surprise. Hitherto he had not been very serious in his support of the Legitimist cause, for Alistair was one of those who are wiser in judgment than in action, and it did not escape him that a party which rallied to it such adherents as the two Vanes contained no very formidable menace for existing institutions. To find himself thus singled out as the one English partisan whom Don Juan considered worthy of his confidence was therefore as unexpected as it was gratifying.

“If Don Juan would care to have me, I should like to volunteer for the expedition,” he said eagerly.

“I know that you could not please him more than by such an offer,” Des Louvres responded. “He will certainly invite you to serve as one of his aides-de-camp.[205] This will make it especially appropriate for him to give you the Holy Sepulchre.”

Alistair could not resist a slight grimace. He was unable to overcome the fear that by his acceptance of this doubtful honour he might be making himself ridiculous. He had recently been forced to contrast himself rather sharply with his elder brother; the contrast would be sharp indeed between the Garter which Trent expected soon to receive and this mock badge bestowed by a foreign adventurer.

Des Louvres was aware of Stuart’s feeling, which he had manœuvred skilfully to overcome.

“Of course, the Prince recognizes that in the present state of his affairs it is you who confer a favour on him by consenting to take this decoration,” he said. “You must not suppose that he does not understand the difference between you and a man like Egerton Vane.”

Alistair smiled.

“I shouldn’t think you would have much difficulty in persuading either of the Vanes to accept the Order of the Holy Sepulchre.”

Des Louvres shrugged his shoulders.

“I have promised them the second or third class, as a matter of fact. They are gentlemen, and it will make a good impression abroad if the Prince appears to have a strong connection in England.”

He had scarcely finished his explanation when the faithful Leclerc opened the door to admit the two brothers.

[206]As Stuart had judged, Des Louvres had encountered no misgiving on their part. At the first mention of the Pretender and his decoration their flushed cheeks and sparkling eyes had betrayed the eagerness within. In fact, their feelings had been so unmistakable that Don Juan’s agent thought he might safely slip in an intimation that there were fees in connection with the Order of the Holy Sepulchre, as in the case of better known and more highly coveted distinctions. The fees payable by a Chevalier, he informed Egerton, amounted to sixty pounds in English money, while Wickham might compound for the lower dignity of a Companion with forty pounds. This disagreeable preliminary had caused much anguish to the brothers, who were both misers at heart; but after a severe struggle vanity triumphed over avarice, and they handed their cheques to the Count as Chancellor of the Order, on his assurance that the sums named represented little more than the actual cost of the jewels they would receive from His Royal Highness.

The sight of Lord Alistair Stuart in the Count’s study came as a considerable shock to the Vanes, who had looked forward to patronizing Stuart on the strength of their new honour. “In foreign Courts they attach more importance to a decoration than to a mere courtesy title,” Egerton had already laid it down to his admiring brother. “I am not sure that, as a Chevalier of the Holy Sepulchre, I am not entitled to take precedence of Alistair Stuart.” The[207] study of ancient tapestry not throwing any light on this important problem, Wickham received the observation with that soothing docility which his brother had been accustomed to exact from their nursery days.

But a bitterer stroke awaited the Chevalier Vane, as Egerton had now instructed his servants to call him. For scarcely had the new-comers exchanged greetings with the rival they found before them when a confident ring at the front-door was followed by the entrance of the one man whom they had most wished to crush with their newly-acquired rank—in short, Mr. St. Maur.

Neither of the Vanes could conceal his chagrin at this turn of affairs, and Des Louvres perceived that all his tact would be required to smooth them down. As soon as the intruder had planted himself, with his customary simple strategy, beside Lord Alistair as the person of highest rank present, their host put his lips to the ear of the Chevalier.

“It is a thousand pities that we have no better Irishman among us than this fellow,” he whispered. “His Royal Highness insisted on my presenting some representative of Ireland to him; and what could I do?”

“I think you should have declined,” the Chevalier Vane returned acidly. “I consider that the dignity of the Order will be lowered if the Prince bestows it on a man like that.”

“His family is very ancient and illustrious,” Des Louvres suggested.

[208]The Chevalier Vane put on a pitying smile.

“I am afraid his family doesn’t much appreciate the connection. I have never heard of St. Maur’s being asked to——” He named the ducal seat to which St. Maur was in the habit of referring as if it had been his childhood’s home.

“I am a foreigner; I do not understand these things,” said the Frenchman. “But I have met this man in your flat, and I have heard you introduce him to others as a relative of the Duke’s.”

The charge was a true one, and Egerton winced. The Count pursued pitilessly:

“Besides, it is a very common thing in this country, is it not, for the elder branch to ignore the existence of the younger ones?”

This was hitting Vane on a raw place. The abiding sorrow of the brothers’ lives was that their titled relative, a vulgar Philistine immersed in field-sports and such coarse pleasures, had never taken the slightest notice of a cousinship which should have been his pride.

Further discussion was prevented by the sound of wheels outside. Des Louvres instantly excused himself to his guests, and went out to the front-door to receive his royal guest with fitting honour.

The personage who now alighted from a hansom-cab, and walked up the steps to where the Count stood waiting with bowed head, was a tall, swarthy young man of a rather heavy type of face, and sombre eyes. The face and figure were not lacking in[209] distinction, though they could scarcely be called handsome. Their chief defect, however, was an air of listlessness and lifelessness, as though the unfortunate bearer of a great name had been crushed beneath its weight from his birth.

Life had, in fact, had nothing to offer Don Juan that he could accept as compensation for what his forefathers had possessed and lost. The misery of opposition, the misery of exile, and the misery of ruin had accumulated their shadows over his cradle. The secret of earthly happiness is to have found the work we are best fitted for, and to be doing it with all our might. The only work for which this young man had been formed by birth or circumstance was to saunter in black velvet beneath the shade of cedar-trees, in a park wide as a province, with a falcon on his wrist, and silk-clad favourites on each side of him, while behind a curtain a queen and a confessor played chess for his kingdom. It was thus that his ancestors had discharged their office for two centuries; it was thus that he himself would have discharged it had the kingdom been still to lose.

It is unhappiness to gaze too long at the unattainable. The memory of the past had been to Don Juan what a glimpse of London is sometimes to a savage, unfitting him to take up his daily task, and rendering his life a dull ache of longings for the remote and unachieved. In understudying the great part he was never likely to play he had missed the chance of success in some humbler rôle.

[210]The poor Royal Highness mounted the steps of Chestnut-Tree House and greeted Des Louvres in a tone of intimacy.

“I am not too soon, am I? Those gentlemen have come?” he asked, using the French language.

“They are awaiting you, sir,” the Count returned with a nice mixture of cordiality and deference. “Leclerc, marshal His Royal Highness to the audience-room.”

Leclerc, looking more like a gaolbird than ever, led the way upstairs, while his master walked respectfully in the visitor’s rear. They entered a large drawing-room in which the furniture had been disposed with some care, so that an armchair stood by itself against one wall in the manner of a throne.

“This chair is for you, sir,” the Count said persuasively, as the Pretender stood hesitating. “If I may venture to advise, it will be better to rise to receive Lord Alistair Stuart, as he is the heir to a dukedom. The others are simply gentlemen, and you may receive them seated. It will do good to maintain a little reserve with them, but of course that does not apply to Lord Alistair, who is, or has been, intimate with the Royal Family in this country. In his case I have ventured to waive the question of fees.”

Don Juan’s face fell slightly at this last intimation, the exchequer of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre being a not unimportant item in the princely civil list.

“I have never given the Order to any one for nothing,”[211] he objected. “The price of the Grand Cordon is two thousand francs.”

Des Louvres put on his most conciliating air.

“You remember, sir, that you are going to ask Lord Alistair to render you an important service. It is well to establish a claim on him beforehand.”

“Still, Des Louvres, I think he should pay something. As a favour I am willing to let him have the collar for a thousand francs.”

“I am afraid in that case he would decline it. I must tell Your Royal Highness frankly that there is a very strong prejudice amongst the British nobility against foreign decorations, no matter of what kind. I had almost to urge Lord Alistair to accept your Order.”

The poor Pretender winced at this plain speaking.

“I trust, Count, you have not degraded my family Order,” he said, with a flash of pride.

“On the contrary, Prince, I have given it prestige in British eyes. Lord Alistair Stuart belongs to the highest nobility; his brother is Minister of the Interior. Permit me to assure you that the moment it becomes known that he has accepted the Order of the Holy Sepulchre its value will be greatly increased. You will be able to sell as many of the second and third classes as you like.”

“Of course, if you tell me that”—muttered the disappointed Prince.

“But I do tell you,” Des Louvres returned, with some impatience. He was used to dealing with these[212] waifs and strays of royalty, and their airs and pretensions frequently tried his temper. “You have brought the jewels with you, I suppose?”

Don Juan fished in his pockets, and brought out four small boxes covered with imitation leather, and lined with cheap plush.

The boxes on being opened revealed small badges in different metals—gold, silver, and bronze—in the form of a cross enamelled with a Latin motto. The one intended for Lord Alistair was attached to a neck-ribbon, and the intrinsic value of the four together might have been about five pounds.

As soon as Des Louvres had arranged these gimcracks on a small table beside the Prince he withdrew to summon the four candidates. On the way he passed into his dressing-room, and selected his own collar and badge from a number of other decorations more or less real.

Entering the room where the others were waiting, he drew a paper from his pocket, from which he read aloud with perfect gravity, for though Des Louvres was a rascal he was a Frenchman, and perhaps took the proceedings more seriously than any of his English puppets.

“This is the protocol approved by His Royal Highness,” he explained. “We shall enter the room in the following order: myself, as Chancellor; Lord Alistair Stuart; Mr. Vane; Mr. St. Maur; and Mr. Wickham Vane. I shall present you in the same order, and as I pronounce each name you will advance,[213] bowing low, and kiss the Prince’s hand. As soon as the presentations are finished I shall recall you to receive your decorations. Each of you will then advance in turn, and go down on one knee, the Prince rising. His Royal Highness will throw the Collar of the Order over Lord Alistair’s neck, and kiss him on one cheek; he will fasten the Chevalier’s badge on Mr. Vane’s breast, and hand the Companion’s badges to the other two.”

No one raising any objections to the ceremonial indicated, the Count led the way upstairs, where his man was waiting to throw open the door.

As Stuart approached him, bearing himself with the dignity of one who was himself a descendant of kings, Don Juan rose instinctively, and, departing from the protocol, courteously shook hands. He sat down again to receive the other three in the manner prescribed. The Vanes showed their superior acquaintance with Court etiquette by merely approaching their lips to the royal hand; the Irishman’s smack betrayed the warmth of his nation.

The bestowal of the decorations followed, causing a disagreeable surprise to the two brothers as they perceived the difference between the value of their jewels as bullion and the substantial sums they had paid for them.

The formalities happily accomplished, Don Juan, who had played his part with a mixture of pride and uneasiness, at once put aside his state, and invited the company to treat him as a friend.

[214]St. Maur instantly clutched the chair nearest to the Prince’s, and drew it forward, cleverly cutting off the new-made Chevalier, while Des Louvres rang the bell for champagne and cigars.

The Pretender at once began to talk about the prospects of his cause, not saying anything directly about the proposed expedition, but giving his listeners to understand that he hoped before very long to receive them more suitably in the palace of his ancestors.

The Prince’s French being rather too fluent for some of his British hearers, and theirs not quite fluent enough, Des Louvres helped out the conversation with hints and explanations of his own, now throwing in a respectful question, and now reminding Don Juan of some point he had passed over.

Alistair had suffered from a sense of awkwardness during the previous ritual, and he still felt half ashamed whenever he glanced at the gaudy ribbon on his shoulders. But as the conversation went forward his reserve melted away, his eyes began to sparkle, and he questioned the Pretender, as eagerly as good manners allowed, on the state of the country and the chances of a campaign.

Don Juan noticed the interest he had aroused, and his tone towards Lord Alistair Stuart became evidently more friendly, while the Chevalier Vane as evidently bored him by disquisitions on the art and literature of the promised land.

Finally, after throwing a look at Des Louvres, and[215] receiving an imperceptible nod in return, the Prince rose to his feet, saying, as he did so:

“I shall hope to receive you again before long, gentlemen. Will you remain behind a few minutes, Milord Stuart? I have something to ask you.”

The others were obliged to take their leave, the Chevalier remarking with some bitterness to his brother on their way home that even royalty in these days is tainted with the Philistinism of the triumphant middle class.

Another bottle of champagne was opened, and as soon as Stuart had emptied his glass, Des Louvres approached the real object of the conference.

“The Prince wants to buy arms for his partisans, as I told you, and he is over here in order to raise the money. I have taken the liberty of saying that I think you may be willing to assist him.”

“I!” exclaimed the astonished Alistair.

The Frenchman bent forward, and murmured softly:

“I ventured to tell His Royal Highness that you were on intimate terms with the head of the South American Bank.”


“Exactly. The suggestion is that you should sound Mendes on the Prince’s behalf.”

Alistair sat as one dumbfounded, and for some moments the other two watched him without speaking a word.

A repugnance, which he could hardly explain to[216] himself, battled within him against yielding to the Pretender’s request. Mendes was his intimate acquaintance; Mendes sat at his table, and entertained him in return. He was a banker; it was his business to grant loans, and this was a loan for an object which Alistair heartily sympathized with. And yet he felt he would have gone to anyone rather than Mendes.

Des Louvres understood the silent struggle better, perhaps, than Alistair himself. He also knew the way to end it.

“You are not taking any champagne,” said the tempter, refilling his glass for him.

Mechanically, weakly, Alistair lifted the glass to his lips, and drained it. As he set it down again a flush overspread his face, and he cried out thickly:

“Why not? I’ll tackle old Mendes with pleasure. He’s not a bad sort; he would like to oblige me, I know.”

An hour later the Frenchman and his servant were helping Lord Alistair Stuart into a cab, to the driver of which the Count gave the necessary directions, while the sober Prince looked on with a face of regretful dismay.



When Alistair woke up on the morning after his promise to Don Juan, he did not feel happy.

Apart from the headache left by his overnight excess, he suffered from the recollection of the pledge extorted from him. He owed nothing whatever to Mendes, and yet it put a strain upon his sense of honour to ask a favour of the Brazilian.

Mendes and he had been friendly for a long time, without being friends. Their acquaintance had begun and continued, so to speak, along two parallel lines. Molly Finucane had brought them together. And Molly Finucane kept them apart.

Molly had known the financier longer than she had known Alistair Stuart. When she gave way to that touch of real sentiment which united her to Stuart, Mendes had shown no resentment and made no unpleasant scenes. Perhaps it was partly for that reason, out of a kind of mild remorse, that Molly had continued to receive him as a friend, and even to encourage his visits; although with the new sense of honour which had been developed in her by her passion for Stuart, the little woman steadily refused to[218] accept the smallest gift from the millionaire. Perhaps, also, she saw that the presence of Mendes, seated at their dinner-table day after day, bland, reserved, and calmly expectant, like a player whose turn to play has not yet come, acted as a talisman on Alistair, who was made to see that another was waiting to snatch the prize from him if he once loosened his grasp.

It was noon by the time Alistair got down to the breakfast-table, and he sat picking at some tough, half-cold kidneys, and grumbling to Molly, who was in a dressing-gown pouring out his coffee.

“These things are not fit to eat,” he complained crossly, pushing away his plate.

Molly reminded him that the cook was under notice to leave.

“Our servants generally are,” he retorted. “But we don’t seem to get any better ones in their place.”

“I know I am a bad housekeeper,” was the meek response. Complaints of this kind on Alistair’s part were a new symptom, and Molly was frightened by it. “Good servants expect such high wages nowadays,” she added.

“They expect their wages to be paid regularly, you mean. No wonder they won’t do their work properly when they don’t get paid for it.”

“We have no money.”

Alistair coloured up as he was again recalled to his position.

“Well, we can’t get any now, at all events,” he[219] said. “I don’t suppose Trent will be such a cad as to stop my allowance, but the next cheque won’t be due till Christmas, and we can’t very well borrow any more. What about Carter’s?”

Carter’s was the establishment from which they were accustomed to get their household supplies, one of those huge bazaars which deal in everything from a landed estate to a packet of pins.

“I paid them a hundred pounds the other day,” Molly answered. “I expect they’ll give us credit for a time.”

Alistair said nothing, but sat tapping the table with his fork, and thinking.

“I must sell some of my jewels, I suppose,” said Molly bravely, after a short silence.

Alistair looked up and studied her face.

“Why not sell the furniture and everything, and let’s clear out of this place? We can’t go on like this much longer, any way. What should you say to disappearing for a time?”

“Where to?” asked Molly, startled.

“Somewhere over on the south side. I thought of Lambeth. If we’re going to be poor, it’s best to live where everybody else is poor around us.”

Molly stared at him in consternation. In her ears the proposal, if it were serious, sounded like the end of everything. Molly had been born and bred in Lambeth. She knew what life there was. The idea of returning to it, after her experience of luxury, struck her as a dismal form of suicide. And not being[220] able to divine the curious, half-romantic attraction which the scheme had come to possess for Alistair, she credited him with her own feeling of repulsion. The suspicion quickly followed that this suggestion covered a design to give her up. Stuart meant to demonstrate that it was impossible for them to live together any longer, and on that pretext to accept the offers of his family to rescue him.

The spectre of parting, never really laid, always peeping out at odd moments to grin at her, now showed its haunting features plainly, and she cried out with passion:

“No, no! Don’t talk like that! Don’t talk like that, Alistair!”

Alistair shrugged his shoulders as he rose from the table. He had not expected his proposition to be very eagerly welcomed at first, and he was content to let the idea rest in her mind.

“Well, I’ve got to go into the City this morning,” he said.

Molly glanced at him inquiringly, but thought it wiser not to ask whom he was going to see.

He took a third-class ticket on the Underground Railway, in accordance with his resolution to experiment with poverty. But he had donned a frock-coat from Savile Row in order to give his mission a serious character, and he noticed that this incongruous dress seemed to be a cause of offence to his fellow-passengers. Two workmen with a roll of leaden piping, whom he found in his compartment, stared at[221] him with resentful scorn, and made remarks to one another in an undertone which he could see were disparaging.

Alistair had to discover that to be the outcast of the aristocracy does not of itself constitute one a member of the democracy. To acquire a low position in life something more is necessary than to have lost a high one.

He got out at the Mansion House Station, and made his way towards the great whirlpool of traffic formed by the eight streets which debouch in front of the Royal Exchange.

Here he could not resist the inclination to stand still for a minute on one of the small islets of pavement which divide the stream. He told himself that this was the centre of the world’s business, the heart of that vast invisible machine which steadily converts the labour of fifteen hundred millions of men into the wealth of a prosperous few. The low brown building, blackened with London grime, which faced him with such solid immovability, needed no letters on its front to tell that it was the Bank of England. It was here, surely, and not in that pretentious palace further west beside the river, that the true centre of gravity resided; this really was the core of that political and social system with whose genius his genius was at war; it was for the men whom that brown square of building sheltered, and not for anyone else, that the legislators travailed, and the police went their daily rounds, as the soldiers fought on far-off continents[222] and the sailors adventured in uncharted seas. In the interest of wealth it was, in the last analysis, that the Raj had been built up, that the firm framework of society had been compacted, and that such outlaws as himself were held in check. Not Yahveh, and not Christ, neither Ormuzd nor Ahriman, but Mammon was the God of the Anglo-Roman Raj—Mammon, whom that Syrian Redeemer had so much hated; Mammon, who had built all the churches ever since unto this day.

Alistair’s head drooped on his breast as he moved slowly on. He found himself presently in a narrow turning off Lombard Street, a sunless retreat giving no outward indication that the great spiders of finance set their webs within.

It was the quarter of bankers’ bankers. A clerk from the head office of some limited company with branches in half the towns of England would walk in quickly through a swing-door, pass through an outer office without stopping, and approach a long table at which two or three men were seated side by side. A name would be mentioned, a bundle of bills exhibited, and some figure pronounced. The two or three heads would turn and exchange glances; one would give a nod across the table, and the clerk would walk out again. The nod had meant the loan of a million for twenty-four hours.

It was the first time that Alistair had visited Mendes in his business quarters, and it took him a minute or two to discover the brass-plate which bore the name[223] of the South American Bank. Even then he had to grope his way through what seemed to him a maze of stairs and passages before he reached a small wired counter, protecting a pale clerk who asked him his business.

“I have called to see Mr. Mendes.”

He handed in his card with a patronage of which he was quite unconscious. The clerk received it respectfully enough, and passed out of sight round a partition. A minute then elapsed before a man in sober livery came out from a side-door and asked his lordship to be good enough to follow him.

He showed Lord Alistair into a small, comfortably-furnished room, in which a man of forty or thereabouts, well dressed and fully self-possessed, was seated at a writing-table.

He rose politely as Alistair entered, and offered him a chair.

“Mr. Mendes has someone with him at the moment,” he said, speaking courteously, but without any particular deference. “Perhaps it may save time if you can tell me what you wish to see him about.”

“I am a personal friend of Mr. Mendes,” returned Stuart haughtily.

The other did not seem to feel rebuked.

“If you have not called on business it might be better for you to go to his private house,” he said quietly. “Mr. Mendes is a very busy man, and it is against his rule to receive his private friends here, except by appointment.”

[224]The last words seemed to be underlined with meaning. Was it possible that this courteous intermediary was already aware that Lord Alistair had no appointment, and was taking it on himself to refuse him an interview with the principal?

“I have business of an important character with Mr. Mendes,” Stuart declared in a tone of resentment.

“In that case I think you had better let me send in a message of some kind,” persisted his questioner.

Alistair flushed up.

“Does Mr. Mendes know I am here?” he demanded.

The other shook his head slightly.

“Mr. Mendes’ orders are very strict, and I am obliged to respect them. I am not authorized to send in a visitor’s card without some intimation of the business on which he has come.”

Alistair sat dismayed. A sense of impotence stole over him, at the same time that the figure of the man with whom he had been familiar for so long began to grow larger and more formidable of outline before his awakened eyes. All these precautions interposed between him and the millionaire taught him a new estimate of their respective positions in the world. He, Alistair Stuart, might be called a lord, but which of the two really was lord? His courtesy title, his historic lineage, his royal friendships—all these things might give him a sentimental prestige in the eyes of women struggling on the fringe of society,[225] and still cherishing the delusions of the snob. But in this grim City office, where only realities counted, what was he but a needy insolvent, regarded with suspicion as a probable would-be borrower? The feudal age was past, and the trappings of feudalism stood revealed for the worthless, threadbare frippery they were, as if a strong beam of daylight had suddenly fallen on the painted canvas of a theatrical scene. The feudal age was past, the old Viking race, whose stone keeps dot the English shires, had gone down, never to rise again, and to-day the barons of steel were being broken in pieces by the barons of gold.

While these reflections were passing in one compartment of his brain in another the decision formed itself to accept the conditions.

“My business is confidential,” he ventured first.

The intermediary bowed.

“I am in Mr. Mendes’ confidence.”

“Well, I have come on behalf of Don Juan.” And seeing that the Pretender’s name made but a faint impression on the confidential secretary, or whatever he should be styled, Lord Alistair entered earnestly into the history of the Prince, his claims, his hopes, and his prospects of success, winding up with the explanation that Don Juan had authorized him to negotiate a loan.

“Do you offer security?” was the confidential man’s sole comment on this appeal.

[226]The question dragged Alistair promptly down from the height of his enthusiasm.

“The Prince would guarantee repayment out of the taxes, I suppose,” he said a little doubtfully. “Or couldn’t he give concessions for railways, or mines, or something? He would leave that to Mr. Mendes, I should think.”

A very faint smile creased the mouth of the City man. He took a slip of cardboard from a stand in front of him, and wrote a few words on it: “Lord A. Stuart. Loan for Pretender. No security.”

With this in his hand he rose and passed into an adjoining room.

In less than a minute he returned, accompanied by a younger man, who bowed respectfully to Lord Alistair as he said:

“Will you come to Mr. Mendes, my lord?”

Alistair rose eagerly and followed him, feeling pretty sure that the banker had been disengaged the whole time. But the barriers he had had to surmount had considerably weakened his self-confidence, and he experienced a sensible relief when Mendes, rising at his entrance, shook hands with his accustomed friendliness, and offered him an easy-chair.

“I hope my people haven’t bothered you too much,” the millionaire said. “But you find me here with my armour on, keeping guard over my money-bags. Who is your royal friend?”

Alistair repeated the story he had just told in[227] the other room, but in a distinctly lower key of enthusiasm.

“You met him with Des Louvres?” remarked the Brazilian. “Why didn’t Des Louvres come here, or, better still, the Prince himself?”

“He will come, I have no doubt, if you are willing to entertain his proposals.”

“I can hardly say that till I have seen him.” Mendes touched a bell, and the young man who had introduced Alistair promptly appeared in the doorway.

“Ascertain what is known in Rome about Prince Don Juan de Bourbon, and let me know when I come back from lunch.”

The young man hesitated an instant.

“The telephone does not go beyond Paris, sir,” he said, speaking with just perceptible hesitation.

“Our agent there can telegraph on. Cipher.”

Mendes spoke quietly. As soon as the door had closed on the young secretary, his employer made a mark upon a sheet of paper.

“You won’t see that youth next time you come here,” he observed to Stuart. “That is the second time this week he has asked me to think for him.”

Alistair shivered as he heard the ruthless sentence. A picture rose before him of a young man proud in his employer’s favour, and filled with ambitious dreams for the future, going home to an old mother, or perhaps a newly-married bride, in some pleasant little suburban home, and breaking the news that he[228] was ruined. It was in this way that money-bags were guarded.

Mendes sat considering for a moment.

“You don’t know why Rothschilds refused them, I suppose?” he threw out.

“I didn’t know they had applied to Rothschilds!” exclaimed Alistair in astonishment.

“All these people do, as a rule. Rothschilds have the name, you know. Every financial scheme that gets floated in London goes there first. We smaller men have to subsist on their leavings.”

He sat up to his desk, and wrote a short note, which he sealed up and addressed himself. Then he touched the bell again, and handed it to the doomed young man, whom Alistair gazed on with a fascinated interest.

“Take it yourself. They may see you. Now,” he said, turning to Stuart, “come and have lunch.”

Mendes conducted his guest to a big club-house behind the church at the corner of Lombard Street. In the hall he stopped and wrote down Lord Alistair’s name in the visitors’ book with satisfaction. Regard for race is a sentiment deeply rooted in the Semitic mind, and Mendes took a genuine pleasure in the thought that his companion was a descendant of Scottish Kings.

They took their seats at a small table in the midst of a vast room filled with similar ones, nearly all of them inconveniently crowded. The lunchers were mostly middle-aged men of prosperous appearance,[229] and their talk seemed to run chiefly on gambling as it is carried on at the legalized Monte Carlo in Chapel Court. They all spoke to each other without formality, and a man who came and sat down at the same table as Mendes and Stuart at once plunged into a story of some speculator who had been gambling in copper, and owing to an unexpected desertion of the market by other speculators found himself suddenly left with some hundreds of tons of ore on his hands, which were actually brought in waggons to his office in Billiter Buildings, where he had one small room and a boy. The idea that a buyer and seller of anything should be called upon actually to handle it evidently appealed to the narrator as a superb joke.

Generally speaking the lunches were of a very substantial description, and champagne seemed to be the only wine in much demand. Mendes catered liberally for his guest, and over their coffee offered him a cigar which the Duke of Trent and Colonsay could not have afforded to smoke. But most of the men round them were smoking similar cigars. It was impossible to think that everyone in that crowd was as rich as Mendes. Alistair could only suppose that they represented the winners of the moment, who were spending their gains with a gambler’s recklessness in the belief that their luck would never turn.

In this judgment he was not wholly right. The world of the Stock Exchange is as small as other worlds, and those who inhabit it have to consult the opinions of their neighbours. If anything, the keeping[230] up of appearances was more important to these gold-hunters than it is to the village tradesman or the retired officer in his seaside villa. To have ordered a modest lunch or a cheap cigar would have been to hoist a signal of distress, perhaps to bring an unstable fortune tumbling to the ground.

Among these earthen pots the solid vessels of wealth floated calmly, sure sooner or later to crush the greater part of their venturesome rivals. As they rose from the table, Mendes moved his head slightly in the direction of the story-teller.

“That man will not last six months,” he whispered. “He has gone in for American rails.”

“Are they going down, then?” asked the ignorant Stuart, attempting to adopt the jargon he had heard around him.

Mendes smiled good-naturedly.

“It doesn’t matter whether they go up or down. Dealing in American rails is playing roulette against a croupier who can make the ball roll where he likes.”

The spectacle of all these men feverishly engaged in the hunt for gold had excited Alistair in sympathy. For a moment he felt a pale reflex of their passion, and wished that he too could be among the winners instead of the losers.

“How do men make money?” he asked wistfully of the millionaire.

“No one can make money,” the rich man replied grimly, “in this world. He can only take it. And[231] the only way to take it is to be a little more greedy and cunning than the man you take it from.”

It was the gospel of Mammon. And Alistair Stuart knew that here at least he could never find salvation.

On their return to George Yard, Mendes was stopped in the outer office by the gentleman who had interviewed Alistair. He excused himself to Stuart for a few minutes, and nearly a quarter of an hour elapsed before Alistair again found himself in the financier’s room.

“Well, I have heard something about your friend,” Mendes said grimly, as he sat down.

Alistair’s heart sank at the Brazilian’s tone. He waited for him to speak.

Mendes went on deliberately.

“Perhaps I ought to say I have heard something about his father. I don’t suppose this young fellow is anything more than a tool.”

“What have you heard?”

“I have heard this: that the last time he got a quarter of a million out of a confiding Greek in order to make a descent on his kingdom, as he calls it, he spent the whole of the money on his own pleasures, without ever going within five hundred miles of the frontier.”

“I don’t think Don Juan would do that,” Alistair protested.

“He will not get the chance,” the other said brutally.[232] “We are going to lend no more money to these kings of the hooligans.”

“You think he has no chance of success?”

“I don’t think those who are behind him want him to succeed, if you are speaking of Don Juan.”

“But whom do you mean? Who are behind him?” asked the bewildered Stuart.

The South American gave him a doubtful glance.

“You’re a Catholic, aren’t you?”

“No,” said Alistair.

“Half a one, I suspect. All you people cling together, I notice. Decadents, Legitimists, or whatever you call yourselves, it comes to much the same thing. I haven’t watched you all this time for nothing.”

“I am not a Christian at all,” said Alistair.

“What has that got to do with it? That man Des Louvres is about as much of a Christian as this table, but he is a very good son of the Church—one of the best agents they have got, I fancy.”

“I can assure you that you are mistaken if you think I have any Catholic sympathies,” Alistair protested emphatically. “I am a Pagan, pure and simple.”

“So is the Roman Church, according to the Protestants,” sneered Mendes. “But I am quite ready to take your word for it. I don’t suppose Des Louvres has told you any more than he was obliged to.”

Alistair remained silent, too much offended to reply.

Mendes went on in a tone of quiet deliberation:

“The day of these Pretenders is over. A King[233] who has been driven from the throne by a rival or by a foreigner may have some chance of getting back again. But these Latin princelets were turned out because their own subjects were sick of their misgovernment, and no one wants to try them again. After all, people are not such fools as to prefer tyranny to freedom. The sort of abject superstition on which they rely is very strong, no doubt, till it is shaken, but after it has once been upset you can no more restore it than you can set up Humpty-Dumpty again. Legitimism, as you call it, is not a popular sentiment; it is only the fad of a clique of aristocrats who are played out themselves. Such men do not make revolutions.”

Stuart made no attempt to resist this reasoning.

“Then you consider that Don Juan would have no chance?”

“I never thought he had a chance of making himself King, if that is what you mean. The only question I have to consider is whether it would pay me to give him a run.” And seeing Stuart’s bewilderment, the financier added: “I haven’t been thinking of the mines and the railways. An attempt of this kind, if it looked at all serious, would send down the price of every investment in the country, and if I knew of it beforehand, I should be able to make enough out of my knowledge to repay whatever I gave your friend. I should never expect to get it back from him.”

“Then why won’t you give him the run?”

[234]“I will tell you why. Because those who are behind him, those from whom Des Louvres is pretty sure to have his instructions, are simply putting this poor young fellow forward to gain something for themselves, and they will push him on or call him back to suit their own purpose.”

“Whom do you mean?”

“I mean what Disraeli meant—and he was not altogether a fool—when he said there were only two powers at the bottom of everything that happened in Europe—the Church and the secret societies. In this case it is not the Freemasons.”

“Then what do you suggest the Church has to gain?”

“I don’t think it matters. Perhaps there is some quarrel on between the Pope and the reigning dynasty; perhaps there has been a movement to suppress the monasteries or to expel the Jesuits—I don’t know. I haven’t been following their recent history. But you may take it from me that the Vatican has some motive for putting pressure on somebody or some party in the country, and that Don Juan is to be used as the red light.”

Alistair could not resist the conviction that Mendes was probably right. He did not feel any personal interest in the matter one way or the other, except as it affected the chance of his being able to take part in an interesting adventure. He had, perhaps, a slight friendliness left for the Church of Rome; at all events, he would have felt no reluctance to fight[235] its battles as long as in so doing he was fighting against the social system for which Mendes stood.

“Even if you are right,” he urged as a last appeal, “I don’t see what difference it need make to you, as long as the expedition takes place.”

“I cannot be sure that it will take place.” The Brazilian paused a moment, and then added gravely: “You know that I am a Jew.”

Alistair looked at him inquiringly.

“I am not disposed to let myself be used as a puppet by the friends of Monsieur des Louvres. We have seen rather too much lately of the true feeling of the Roman Church towards our race. The Dreyfus case has been a revelation of more things than the innocence of Captain Dreyfus. We now know what treatment we have to expect from Rome if she ever does regain power, and no penny of my money shall ever be given to help her.”

“Rome is not so bad as Russia,” said Stuart.

“Russia’s turn is coming,” was the reply. “There is a curse on those who persecute our race.”

And Alistair shivered again.

Alistair went home feeling as though he had been in possession for a brief moment of the magic bell of northern folklore, which enables its wearer to descend into the bowels of the earth and see the gnomes at their work. He had a vision in which he seemed to have been walking below the surface of the great city among the foundations of palaces. On either hand the tremendous walls rose up, immovable,[236] forbidding, and dank with the underground slime. These were the mighty bases of the powers of wealth, against which he had set his feeble shoulder in the foolish expectation that he could make them rock. And the puny effort had left him beating out his life down there in the subterranean mire at the foot of those sunless piles among the forgotten pauper rubbish of the world.



On his arrival at the house, weighed down by this new and dreary sense of discomfiture, Alistair found Molly in a state of pleased excitement.

“There’s a letter for you from Easterthorpe. It’s from the Duke of Gloucester!” was her greeting.

Alistair flushed as he recognized Prince Herbert’s handwriting. He had not forgotten the bazaar, and he tore open the envelope with some fear of encountering a reproach.

The Duke addressed him as “Dear Alistair,” just as in their boyish days, and begged him to come down to Gloucester Lodge for the week-end.

“There will be no one here but my wife and children,” the royal note ended, “and we can talk about old times.”

Left to himself, Alistair would have declined the invitation, in spite of the courtly theory that invitations from such a quarter are in the nature of commands. He was too much disgusted with the way in which life had dealt with him, and he with life, to have any more heart in the struggle. It would be[238] simpler to go under, to efface himself, and cease to keep before the world.

But he found that Molly was determined that he should go. She had made up her mind that the Prince’s invitation was a repudiation of the Duke of Trent, and an intimation that Stuart’s irregular connection with herself had not lowered him in the royal estimation.

Alistair, of course, knew better. He saw perfectly well that Prince Herbert’s reference to his family was a delicate way of saying that the visit must be a private one. The Court Circular would not know of Lord Alistair’s presence at Gloucester Lodge.

For this reason his acceptance was a little stiffer than the Prince’s invitation. He began it “My dear Prince,” and signed himself “Yours ever.” The Prince had written “Yours affectionately.”

Nevertheless, Alistair was a good deal more touched by the overture than he was willing to betray.

He had not yet been adjudicated a bankrupt. But the Duke of Trent had suspended negotiations on his behalf, and he was to meet his creditors on the Monday to undergo the customary useless cross-examination as to how he had managed to get rid of the money.

At the very moment of departure he was confronted with the new difficulty of cash. Neither he nor Molly found themselves in possession of the price of a first-class ticket, and Alistair was too proud to[239] go on such a visit unless he could do so in the way befitting his rank.

He solved the problem by ordering a cab to drive him to the railway-station, and making it stop at a famous pawnbroker’s on the way. It was his first visit to such an establishment, but the prospect of the journey put him in good spirits, and he tendered his French watch to the shopman with a certain enjoyment of the situation.

“I am going down to stay with the Duke of Gloucester, and I haven’t got my railway-fare,” he said, with perfect self-possession.

The shopman grinned at what appeared to him a lively witticism, and after examining the piece, offered ten pounds.

“What name shall I put?” he inquired, as Alistair signified his consent, preparing to write “Jackson” or “Thompson,” at his customer’s pleasure.

“Stuart—Lord Alistair Stuart,” came in the same assured tone.

This time the pawnbroker laughed out.

“You will have your joke, sir. I’ll put ‘Mr. Stuart.’”

“But I have told you my name,” said Alistair. “You can see it on my coat if you like.”

He slipped off the light overcoat he was wearing, and gravely exhibited to the eyes of the wondering shopman the tailor’s parchment label, on which his name and rank were clearly legible.

“I beg your lordship’s pardon, I’m sure,” stammered[240] the man. “It’s so seldom that our clients give us their real names that I thought your lordship was pretending. The address, please?”

“Care of Miss Finucane, Elm Side, Chelsea.”

The shopman, scarcely able to believe his ears, wrote down the address with an amazement which he made no attempt to conceal. As he handed over the ticket he asked:

“Would your lordship like a cheap watch to wear while this is with us?”

“Thanks, no,” said Alistair, with easy indifference. “Time is of no consequence to me just now—I am a bankrupt.”

He strolled out of the shop, charmed with his victory over the hateful traditions of hypocrisy and self-shame embodied in the pawnbroker. In his exhilaration he could have challenged the whole middle class.

His spirits rose steadily as he came to the terminus, and he lavished half a crown on the porter who carried his light dressing-case to the railway-carriage.

He found himself intruding on the privacy of a stout, vulgar-looking man of sixty or thereabouts, whose name was too freely displayed over all his belongings, from a giant portmanteau down to a rug-strap, to leave the least observant fellow-passenger ignorant of his identity. It was the great Sir Gilbert Lawthorn, whose discovery that pickles could be sold three-halfpence a bottle cheaper than the prevailing[241] price, and still be made to yield a profit, had earned him seven hundred thousand pounds and a baronetcy.

This great personage scowled on the inspector who admitted Stuart into his compartment, and then, after a scornful glance at the modest dressing-case, he remarked rudely:

“I generally have a carriage reserved for me, but this time I thought no one would be in the train. Are you going far?”

“I am going to Easterthorpe,” said Alistair, lowering a window.

The pickle-seller gazed at him in displeasure.

“I live there,” he announced, with conscious superiority. “My place is close to the Prince’s. I don’t think I have seen you in the neighbourhood.”

“I am going down to stay with friends,” said Stuart carelessly, as he took up a paper.

“Do your friends know the Prince?” Sir Gilbert inquired, with patronage. “He called on me last week.”

Alistair lowered his paper and looked at the fat baronet over with unfeigned surprise.

“I have not the honour of your acquaintance, sir,” he said deliberately, beginning to read again.

“I am Sir Gilbert Lawthorn!” burst out the indignant magnate.

“Thank you. Your pickles are excellent,” replied Alistair. And this time he was allowed to read his paper in peace.

When the train stopped at Easterthorpe a groom[242] in neat black livery appeared at the door of the carriage, and touched his hat. Sir Gilbert, who evidently recognized him, took the salute to himself.

“His Royal Highness is not in here,” he proclaimed pompously. “Did you expect him by this train?”

The groom, without replying, took the case which Lord Alistair passed out to him.

“This way, my lord, if you please,” he said deferentially, as Alistair prepared to follow his luggage.

The baronet turned crimson.

“I—I beg your pardon,” he stammered awkwardly, half holding out his hand. “I had no idea that you were going to stay with the Prince.”

But Alistair was not in a merciful mood as far as the middle class was concerned.

“Who the devil do you suppose cares what you think, or who you are, or anything about you? I wish I had come third class.”

He followed the secretly delighted servant out to a smart dogcart, and Sir Gilbert Lawthorn’s fat coachman meekly drew a heavy barouche and two fat horses out of the way of the royal conveyance.

It was with a slight sense of embarrassment that Alistair entered the pleasant dwelling in which the Duke of Gloucester and his wife were able to enjoy some of the pleasures of English home life. But his uneasiness was quickly dispelled by the reception he found waiting for him. The Prince himself sprang up from a lounge chair in the bright little hall, and[243] grasped him cordially by the hand, exclaiming as he did so:

“Ada, my dear, here is my old chum, Alistair Stuart.”

A woman some years younger than her husband, with a face in which womanly grace and keen intelligence were harmoniously united, rose from the midst of a group of small children, and offered her hand with equal friendliness.

“I am so glad you have come. I have heard so much about you from Bertie that I hope you will let me treat you as an old friend. Do you like children?”

It was evident that children liked Alistair, for almost before he had sat down two youngsters of five or six, in white sailors’ suits, were romping round him, while a small girl of three, safely sheltered by her mother’s skirts, regarded him with grave but friendly curiosity.

“I know something about you,” the elder boy said presently, with an amusing note of condescension in his voice. “You used to go fishing with father when he was a boy.”

Alistair remembered the unfortunate letter he had sent to the Legitimist bazaar, and was ashamed.

The tactful Princess gave him no time to indulge in such thoughts. She poured him out a cup of tea, and bade her eldest son carry a plate of toast to the visitor—an order which he obeyed with an evident sense that he was conferring a considerable favour.

[244]Lord Alistair was not long in awakening in the mind of the Duchess of Gloucester the same feeling that he awakened in most good women—a regret that such a life should be running to waste, and a desire to save him. It happened that the Duchess had literary tastes, she had heard of Stuart’s poems, and she engaged him in conversation on that ground.

“Have you given up writing?” she asked. “I don’t think you have published anything for a long time.”

“Everyone has given up writing,” Alistair returned with a bitterness that surprised himself. It had grown up in his mind unconsciously; his literary disappointments had become part of his general feud with the successful order of mankind.

The look on the face of the Princess made him hasten to explain himself.

“The English public will not tolerate literature; that is the simple truth. The publishers will not publish it, the booksellers will not sell it, the public will not read it, and the police have orders to suppress it. My old publisher told me plainly the other day that it was a waste of time to print anything but four-and-sixpenny novels. He said the booksellers have got used to making up their accounts in items of four-and-sixpence, and they consider it a nuisance to handle anything else. And even the novels are falling more and more into a stereotyped pattern; they must be exactly the same length—a hundred thousand words, I think he said—and be written well down to the level of the vulgar provincial mind.”

[245]“Surely things are not quite so bad as that?”

“Very nearly. The worst of it is that the persecution of literature is purely for reasons of hypocrisy. The public likes what it calls immorality—will have it, in fact: no book that is really pure has much chance of success—but it insists on the writer pandering to the proprieties. Either he must slobber over his adulteress in the Nonconformist vein, or else he must tell the whole thing in an epigrammatic falsetto. It is a choice between ‘East Lynne’ and ‘The Innocence of Henrietta.’”

“But are there no writers before the public now whom you look upon as on a higher level?” And the Princess suggested one or two names.

Stuart shook his head.

“What is their position?” he said. “Granted that they have genius, the conditions of the age give them no chance. Unless they go on producing, and keeping themselves constantly before the public, they are cast on one side. The greatest genius, as a rule, can only give the world one or two masterpieces. Coleridge wrote three short poems, Poe a dozen short stories. Dante and Cervantes each wrote one book—their other work is of no account. Everyone of them would have starved to-day, just as they starved in their own day, while the vulgar novelists made fortunes round them. Writers such as you speak of have to go on writing worse and worse, conscious of their own degradation, and freely reminded of it by the[246] press, and by their publishers’ accounts. It is the torture of the damned.”

“It seems to me there ought to be some remedy,” the Princess said thoughtfully. “I know so many rich men who seem to me only anxious to find some way of doing good with their money.”

Alistair shrugged his shoulders.

“A man of genius does not like to accept charity. The rich men would expect too much gratitude. They prefer building cathedrals—each poem of Coleridge is worth a cathedral—but you could not expect a millionaire to see that.”

“There are pensions, and literary funds, are there not?”

“Pensions, yes, for the bad writers who have fallen below the level of even the British public. And there are literary funds, yes. I was once asked to act as a steward at one of their annual dinners. The secretary sent me the rules, by which I saw that no grant was ever made to writers whose lives or whose works were open to objection on religious or moral grounds. I wrote back to say that I did not see my way to support a literary fund from whose benefits Shakespeare and Shelley would have been excluded.”

The Princess saw that she was handling a sore. She sighed, and changed the conversation.

After dinner Prince Herbert played billiards with his guest, and their talk ran on the past. Alistair was softened by the boyish memories recalled by his old playfellow, and when he went to bed it was with[247] more peaceful and happier thoughts than had come to him for a long time.

He was sipping his cup of tea in bed the next morning when he heard light footsteps, followed by excited whispering, outside his door. The next moment the handle was turned cautiously, and then the door was thrust open with a bang, and two small boys invaded the room.

“May we come in?” demanded the elder. And satisfied with the expression on Lord Alistair’s face, he turned and beckoned through the doorway.

“It’s all right; don’t be afraid, Tissy.”

The apprehension felt by the unseen Tissy communicated itself to Alistair, who hastened to say:

“Hadn’t you better go away till I’ve dressed?”

“We want to stay and see you dress,” the leader responded.

“I’m not worth seeing, I assure you,” said Alistair. “I dress very badly.”

It seemed doubtful whether the excuse would be accepted, when fortunately a warning cry was heard from the doorway, and a voice as of one speaking with authority called out: “Come here directly!”

The head of the invading party cast a hasty glance round the room, and only remarking regretfully to his brother: “I can’t see his teeth,” withdrew in good order.

Stuart did not offer to accompany his hosts to their little country church. But the sight of the family party setting out across the park, and the far-off sound[248] of the bell, had a soothing effect upon his spirit. Contrast is the secret of all beauty, and perhaps the prodigal had never considered how much of their charm would depart from the rocks and valleys of Bohemia were there no Puritan plain without.

In the afternoon he found himself left alone with the Princess, after they had taken tea in the garden. The scent of the roses was all about them, and the bees drummed restlessly as they went by. It was a perfect piece of English landscape, and the perfect type of English womanhood fitted into it like a picture in its natural frame.

“Lord Alistair,” she said, with quiet seriousness, “I want to ask you if you will let the Prince help you. He has never forgotten your boyish friendship; he is attached to you still, and he only wants to see his way clear to do something for you.”

Alistair murmured an expression of gratitude.

“I hope you will look on me as a friend too,” the Duchess of Gloucester went on. “Will you let me speak to you frankly, and will you be frank with me in return?”

“Will you pardon me if I am?” asked Alistair. “It is easy for some men to be frank; but when I am frank I find I only shock good people.”

“But why should that be so? Are you sure that when you are shocking good people, as you put it, it is your true self that is speaking?”

“Madam, I do not know what is my true self; or if I have got one any longer. I used to have one[249] when I was a boy, but twenty years of enforced hypocrisy have pretty well knocked it out of me.”

The Princess sighed, and paused for a moment.

“Perhaps I can help you to find it. Do you really love the woman you are living with?”

“No.” The truth came up from the depth of his consciousness, exploded by surprise.

“Then why don’t you leave her?”

It was Alistair’s turn to pause.

“She has given up everything for me. Sometimes I think I ought to marry her.”

“What had she to give up?”

This question offered a new light to Alistair, and he took time to consider it. He might have answered superficially that Molly had, in fact, given up the offers of Mendes; and latterly she had given up a great many pleasures that almost ranked as necessities for her. But he saw the point of Princess Adelaide’s question. What Molly had done was to quit the life of a courtesan for that of a concubine, with some prospect of becoming a wife. Now, a swimmer who climbs on to a raft to save him from exhaustion can hardly be said to give up the sea.

“Do you consider that she has a greater claim on you than your mother?” the Princess unfortunately added.

This time Alistair answered deliberately.

“Yes. I do not consider that my mother has any claim on me whatever. In my opinion the obligations of a child towards its parents are trifling beside those[250] of the parent to the child. My mother has been the worst enemy I have had. She has been to me the ordinary type of the Christian persecutor, the race of the Inquisitors and Nonconformists and Churchmen of every church. I have forgiven her because she does not know how wicked she has been. Her crimes are the crimes of her creed. Her brain has been warped and maimed by the training she herself received, as much as the foot of a Chinese girl is warped and maimed by bandages to make it small. I forgive her, and I think I love her, but I should no more think of trying to shape my life according to her prejudices than if she were a cannibal and wanted me to eat human flesh.”

The Duchess of Gloucester felt that she had bound herself in honour not to show any disapproval of these outspoken utterances. But she began to see what Lord Alistair meant by saying that it is not equally easy for all men to be frank.

She returned to the subject of Molly Finucane.

“It seems to me that you must leave this woman sooner or later, and that you will never have a better opportunity than now. If you really feel that you owe her anything, I don’t think you would find it impossible to get your friends to make some provision for her, if she needs it.”

Alistair remembered Mendes and his empty house. He did not think Molly was likely to be in need if he left her.

“And what should I do?” he asked.

[251]The unexpected question baffled the Princess for a moment. She had not heard of Hero Vanbrugh.

“Return to your literary work,” she suggested. “You have not the excuse of being obliged to write something that will sell. Write to please yourself, and in time you will find your audience.”

“If I were to write to please myself, the world and my own family in particular would think worse of me than they do at present.” And seeing that the Princess was not disposed to interrupt him, he went on: “The supreme sin in English eyes is truthfulness. Truthful thinking, truthful speaking, and truthful living are all equally under the ban. And the worst of it is that those who clamour most for freedom of thought are most severe on freedom of life, and those who live most freely are the least tolerant of free speech. The Dissenter persecutes the sportsman, and the sportsman persecutes the sage. All the racing men I have ever met have been bigoted High Churchmen, who would have cheerfully burnt Darwin and the late Mr. Spurgeon. And if they had begun with Darwin, they would have had Spurgeon’s help.”

Princess Adelaide sat silent for some time. The task of rescuing Alistair Stuart seemed to be more difficult than she and her husband had foreseen.

“I wish we could help you,” she said gently, at last.

“I am afraid I am not to be helped,” Alistair confessed sadly. “When I look back over my life, it[252] seems to me that ever since I was twelve years old I have been surrounded by people knocking me over the head, and saying to me: ‘Don’t be Alistair Stuart.’ I have tried not to be Alistair Stuart, but I have failed. And the worst of it is that I am no longer ashamed of being Alistair Stuart. It seems to me that all these complaints ought to be addressed to my Creator. I did not make myself: God made me; let Him repent, not me.”



The Prince and Princess were obliged to confess to each other, when Lord Alistair was gone, that they had failed to find a way of unravelling the tangle of his life.

In reality they had done more than they knew. Their kindly treatment of him, coming just at the moment when he felt himself a social Ishmael, rejected by all classes in turn, had given him back no small portion of his self-respect. He could not help contrasting the delicate attentions of Prince Herbert, the representative of the greatest House in Europe, and an English gentleman to boot, with the pretentious compliments of the poor waif of royalty from the Mediterranean whose bogus honours he had stooped to accept a day or two before.

Nor could he resist the incense to his pride offered by the clumsy abasement of the pickle-selling baronet. It was something to feel that he still excited the envy of the Lawthorns and the Mendes. He might be a bankrupt, but he was still Lord Alistair Stuart, and heir to one of the greatest titles of Britain. The highest in the land still felt affection for him; the[254] noblest women thought him worthy of their concern.

These reflections accompanied him on the way up to town the next morning, and prepared him to face his public examination with a lighter heart. After all, bankruptcy was not fatal to a man in his position. He had nothing to lose. His creditors could not take the allowance made him by his brother. But for Molly, indeed, he need not be a bankrupt at all. But for her, and his quixotic refusal to abandon her, the proceedings against him would have been dropped already, and he himself would be enjoying the traditional honours of the returned prodigal.

Why had he refused to leave Molly? After all, was it not true that he had exaggerated Molly’s claim on him? She had preferred him to Mendes, doubtless, but her choice had not been taken from any exalted motive of self-sacrifice. If it had been inspired by the hope that he would marry her, it was a selfish choice enough. She knew pretty well that Mendes would never do that. Yes, his refusal to leave her had been quixotic—that was the right word. For her own sake, since it was evident that she shrank from facing poverty with him, for her own sake it would have been better to say good-bye.

The public examination did not turn out to be a very formidable ordeal. Lord Alistair, who was at his best when he was on his defence against the Philistines, came through it with flying colours. The advocate engaged by his creditors to bully him in the[255] approved professional style bullied in vain. The bankrupt’s answers were in the lightest vein of good-natured irresponsibility. He declared that he kept no accounts, had no idea what he spent, only bought the things his tradesmen teased him to buy, and felt confident of his ability to pay for everything if these unwise proceedings had not been sprung upon him. The creditors present began to fear they were unwise, it being evident that they could not hope to recover from Lord Alistair even enough to pay their demolished barrister. In the end they were glad to adjourn the examination in the hope that the Duke of Trent might yet be induced to make an offer on his brother’s behalf.

Before he went home Alistair had the gratification of seeing his name once more on the news-bills of the evening papers, but this time accompanied by editorial compliments, such as “Insolvent’s Witty Replies,” “Calls his Creditors Unwise,” and so on. It was a brilliant victory, and the middle class had never been made to look more ridiculous.

Alistair got back to Chelsea sooner than he expected, and found the house empty. After letting himself in with his latchkey, he rang the bell to ask if the mistress of the house had left any message for him, but no one answered the summons.

The household arrangements were so irregular that there was nothing very surprising in all the servants being out together. Nevertheless, one of those subtle sensations which we call presentiments warned[256] Alistair that the emptiness of the house was a sign of crisis.

He took the trouble to go down into the kitchens. There, as he had already foreboded, he found everything lying about in disorder. The dirty plates and dishes from lunch were heaped up in the sink, and the fire in the range had died out. He could find no shoes or umbrellas or other belongings of the servants, such as they would be likely to keep downstairs.

Already convinced that the servants had deserted the house, or been dismissed in a body, he mounted to the top floor, and had his judgment confirmed by the state of the attics. All the trunks were gone. The beds had been made, no doubt in the forenoon, before the crash, but everything else wore an untidy and dismantled air. The homely dressing-tables looked bare without the presence of brushes, and there was dirty water in one of the wash-stand basins. Several drawers stood half out of the various chests, showing bits of paper, broken buttons, and an odd glove.

It was the first time Lord Alistair had ever visited this part of the house, and the whole spectacle depressed him. He found himself pitying the departed servants who had had to occupy such mean and desolate quarters. Why should it be necessary for these fellow-creatures to pass their lives so shabbily? Why should one man be worse off than another? And that sensation of a spiritual kinship between himself[257] and all the underlings of the world, which had first come to him as he stood on Westminster Bridge, returned like a wave of melancholy over his heart.

Instead of going downstairs again, he went to the window of the attic in which he happened to find himself, and looked out. It was a glimpse of back-door London—that unknown London which hides behind the stately squares and fashionable terraces and busy rows of shops. At that hour a mist breathed on the roofs and gables of the houses, making them beautiful. Each particular chimney was invested with a romantic air, and had a character of its own. There were two, a tall one with a little one beside it, at the end of a long roof-comb, and the group suggested a stately lady leading her child by the hand. Behind them came a short squat chimney that might have been the maid carrying a bundle. Farther along a pair of slender, crooked chimney-pots bent towards each other, like two beaux of the eighteenth-century meeting and bowing on the Pantiles.

Looking lower down, another world revealed itself. Here were small yards in which a little grass grew of its own accord, and tall, gaunt clothes-props were the substitutes for trees. Strange barrels that could have nothing in them were stacked against a wall to rot away. The backs of the next row of houses were divided from these yards by a mysterious lane that led nowhere. To the right there was just visible a little branch street, with houses on only one side of it. Such small houses they were, with a door and[258] three windows to each, and yet in the ground-floor window of one of them there was actually a card, as if it had lodgings to let.

More interesting than the houses in the side-street were those just opposite, across the mysterious lane. By looking closely it was possible to see something of the life that went on in them. People came out of their back-doors into the little yards which opened into the lane. Watching these people was like watching the inhabitants of another planet; they might live there for years, and you live in your house for years, and you might watch each other every day all that time, and yet you would never become anything to them, nor they to you. They might be born, and grow up, and marry, and die, and you would never know so much as their names.

Compared with the commonplace sights of the front streets, this was like a peep into the wonder-world. The sky was turning from yellow to violet under the enchantment of sunset, and all the air seemed to be full of a deep sigh. Wicked faces began to peer from the bricks of the houses, and the chimneys, if they were looked at long enough, really moved and nodded to each other as if they were communicating secrets overhead. Even the clothes-props down below felt the influence, and came to life, and the clothes on the lines changed into ghostly people whispering to and nudging one another as the darkness gave them courage. It was impossible to believe that this was London, that the Underground[259] Railway ran beneath, and that the hospital stood not far off. It was easier to think that you had strayed into the heart of some haunted town, thousands of years ago, wherein dwelt a mystic folk, worshipping strange gods, and going about the streets of their doomed city, noiseless and hushed.

The sudden stopping of wheels outside, and the instant clamour of a bell, broke Alistair’s trance. With the dazed feeling of a man just recalled from sleep he stumbled down the stairs, and opened the front-door to Molly.

She marched in, dressed in her most extravagant clothes, with a hat, which Alistair could not remember seeing before, on her head, and a more than usually profuse display of jewels on her arms and hands. Her cheeks were bright with rouge and powder, and there was a hard, metallic glint in her eyes which warned him that she had been drinking.

“Well, old boy, how did you get on?” she burst out, in a voice tainted with huskiness. “I had a row with the servants while you were away, and sacked the whole lot of them, and a good thing too. Jump into my carriage, and we’ll go off and have a nice little dinner at the Savoy or wherever you like, and a box at the theatre after. Cheer up!”

While she was rattling on with an evident anxiety not to give him time to think, Alistair was glancing from her painted face to her jewelled fingers, and from the new hat to the coupé which had brought her to the house.

[260]“Come in here,” he said, in a quiet tone of authority, at the same time closing the front-door.

He led the way into the drawing-room, Molly following with reluctant steps, and a look of defiance.

“Well, what is it? What do you want to say now?” she demanded.

“Where have you come from?” asked Alistair.

“Where have I come from? What business is that of yours? I can go where I like, can’t I? I’ve been shopping, if you want to know.”

“Where did you get the money?”

“Never mind! What money? Can’t I have a little money of my own? I’ve been giving you money lately.”

“I know you have. And I’m very sorry I let you. But that was money you got on your jewels, and I gave you some of them myself. You have been getting some more since I went away, and I want to know where you got it.”

“Suppose I borrowed it; what’s that to you?”

“Who lent it to you?”

“I shan’t tell you. You’ve no right to ask.”

“No, I know I have no right over you. But I have the right to say I won’t eat a dinner without knowing who is paying for it.”

“I shall pay for it; isn’t that enough?”

“With whose money? You have just admitted that you had been borrowing.”

“I borrowed it from Carter’s—there!”

Stuart shrugged his shoulders disdainfully.

[261]“Where did you think I got it from, then?”

“From Mendes. I don’t know anyone else who would be likely to lend you money.”

For a moment Molly wavered between wrath and fear. Then something in Alistair’s face overcame her, and she broke down in a whimper.

“Don’t be angry with me, Alistair! Don’t look like that. I didn’t know what to do. The servants all left me, I had nowhere to go, and we’ve been so hard up lately. I thought you wanted money badly. It was for you more than for myself, really. I was afraid you would get tired of living with me if we were poor. You threatened to give up the house and everything only the other day; you know you did. I didn’t think you would mind my borrowing a little from him—he’s your friend as well as mine. I didn’t go to his house, only to his office in the City; and he was awfully good, and gave me a hundred pounds at once, and told me to come again when I wanted more.”

Alistair remembered his own reception in Mendes’ office.

“He wouldn’t have given the hundred pounds to me,” was all he said.

“No!—you’re not going!” Molly screamed, as she saw him turning from her. “Alistair! Alistair!”

She cast herself on the ground before him and caught him by the foot, in a paroxysm of sobs and wails.

“I’m very sorry for you, Molly. I’m not angry[262] with you at all; I’ve no right to be; but I can’t live with you any longer; you must see that. I fancied it would come to this sooner or later. I don’t blame you; I dare say I ought to blame myself. But I can’t live on money that another man gives you; you must know that well enough.”

“I’ll give it back to him. I haven’t spent half of it. I’ll take it all back to him to-morrow. I’ll sell something to make it up.”

She began desperately tearing off bracelets and rings and dropping them on the floor.

But Alistair’s mind was made up. He was surprised to find how perfectly easy it was for him to act now that the moment had come. He had not known that he should be so glad to be free.

“Nothing that you could do now would alter the fact that you have taken money from Mendes,” he said. “We may as well make up our minds to what has happened. It was bound to come sooner or later. It is better to part like this than to drag on till we should be both sick of each other. It’s good-bye.”

“I will never speak to Mendes again. I will never see him,” sobbed Molly.

Stuart took a step towards the door of the room. She sprang to her feet and got in front of him, clinging round him to prevent his going. The scene became dreadful and ugly. He had to struggle step by step out of the room and into the hall. It was a fight to get his hat off the stand and put it on. He felt that it was imperative that he should get[263] away there and then. Another hour spent with Molly would be irretrievable dishonour. At the front-door the miserable woman made a still more frantic struggle. He had to unclasp her fingers by main force, and to thrust her back with one hand while he turned the latch with the other. If he had not promptly slipped his foot in between door and doorpost she would have slammed the door to again before he could open it. And all the time she kept up an incessant wailing appeal to him for mercy. For the first time in his life Alistair felt that he was doing a cruel thing.

He was still shuddering from the sound of Molly’s last moan as he got into a cab at the street-corner and gave the direction:

“Colonsay House.”



Lord Alistair stood on the deck of a Channel steamer and watched the coast of England melt into the night.

His mood was burthened with that indignant melancholy which swelled the heart of Byron and of Whistler, and many another exile whom the builders of the Raj have rejected from their midst. In the Tate Gallery hangs a painting which he had often gazed upon, a symbolic masterpiece of Watts’. It represents hard-heartedness sitting crowned with gold and robed in scarlet on the throne of the world. The painter has called his figure “Mammon”; it came before Alistair just then as the image of England—the England that stones her prophets and worships her swindlers; the England that made Burns a gauger and one Perceval Prime Minister; that chained the dying Napoleon on an ocean rock, and rejected the last prayer of Nelson; England, with her shop-keeper’s conscience, where art is a sin and generosity a crime.

A sense of exultation and relief accompanied his thoughts. He was escaping from the Puritan prison against whose bars his spirit had so often bruised its[265] wings. In the obtuse self-satisfaction, in the unctuous mercy, of its keepers he had felt something more merciless than in all the recorded cruelties of furious saints and frantic Emperors. Not the snow-peaks of Switzerland, he told himself, not the Shakespearean cadences of Venice, nor Rome with her memories and marbles, afforded that zest to wandering which greets us like a scent on foreign soil. It was the sense of freedom from that chain of custom and convention which we forge upon ourselves. The Mediterranean filled her coasts with pleasure cities which were cities of refuge from the middle class. The Niagara of gold that poured from England was the price the English tradesman pays for his vindictive respectability. It was the tax on spite.

A moist wind thick with delicious sea-smells, that mounted in the brain like wine, lifted him out of his vexed meditation as the steamer drew clear of the tangled lights of Spithead and came out on the wide moonlit pavement of the sea. His mother joined him on the deck, and they sat and watched the broad moon sail aloft like a luminous balloon scattering glory.

“I should like it to be like this always,” Alistair sighed in ecstasy.

A sense of utter peace had fallen on his spirit, worn out with striving. The molten orb, lifting beyond the shadow of the earth, seemed to drag his soul upward as a spar is sucked in the wake of a great ship. He looked up and longed after that visible Elysium, that floating Island of the Blest on which the happy[266] dead voyaged in light for ever across a sea buoyed with stars. That ship of souls, on what far coasts did it touch? within what magic roadsteads anchor? What wondrous cities went forth to greet the mariners of that immortal Odyssey?

The yearnings of a thousand generations who have spelled in the heavens for some divine boding of the fates of men; the mystic soundings of devout astronomers in temple labyrinths beside old Nile; the vision conned upon the starlit terraces of Babylonian towers—all these forgotten intimations from his pre-natal life surged in upon him in waves of deep emotion, and floated his consciousness from its moorings among the things of every day.

Caroline sat beside her son and did not break the silence. She, too, was happy. Her prayers had been granted; the prodigal had found his way home. Within the compass of her simple mind there was room for only one ending to the story. Conversion would follow on repentance, and a happy marriage would insure a regular and fortunate career.

Her agitated joy over his return to Colonsay House had moved Alistair, if not to repentance, to a wish that he could change his nature in accordance with the life his mother wanted him to lead. In the first moments of united tenderness he even persuaded himself that this might be so. He was wearied and disheartened by his warfare with society, and he hoped that the truce might ripen into a peace.

The Duke of Trent’s reception of his brother had[267] been courteous, if not very cordial. He bade him welcome to the house, and on the following evening informed him in their mother’s presence that the family solicitor had taken charge of his affairs.

Alistair saw that he was expected to be grateful, and he succeeded in appearing so, though in his heart he was half sorry to accept his brother’s favours for the sake of his creditors.

“If it were not for you I would not let Trent give a penny to these people,” he told his mother when they were by themselves.

“It is not only us you have to think of,” the Duchess seized the opportunity to suggest. “We hope you may find a wife who will make your life happy, and you would not like to go to her with any mark against your name.”

The Home Secretary had never spoken of Sir Bernard Vanbrugh’s refusal. His repulse had mortified him deeply, but he took it sedately as he took most other things. He blamed himself for not having made sure of Hero in the first place, and with a certain obstinacy he still clung to the idea that she would sooner or later be his.

Sir Bernard had been equally silent on his side. He did not know which way his daughter’s inclination went, and wanted to avoid a disagreement.

The Duchess, whose diplomacy was of the simplest order, went on to say to Alistair:

“Don’t you think you would like to come abroad for a little time? The Vanbrughs have a house at[268] Dinard, and it would be very pleasant if you would take me over there.”

Alistair gazed at his mother in doubt. He could hardly misunderstand her drift, and the light in his eyes was a sufficient revelation to her of his own wishes. But the gossip which had reached him concerning his brother and Hero Vanbrugh held him back.

“What about Trent?” he said.

“He can’t leave town till Parliament rises, of course. He may join us afterwards, perhaps.”

Alistair was puzzled by his mother’s indifferent tone.

“Will he like me to be there in his absence?” he asked.

The Duchess was equally puzzled.

“Why, what difference does it make to him?” she returned.

“Isn’t there something? I thought—I heard that he and Miss Vanbrugh——”

The Duchess looked at him in surprise.

“Oh, no!” she declared with confidence. “There has never been any idea of that kind. He likes her very much as a friend, but he would not think of anything more. I know exactly what his views are; he has often told me. He means to marry a great fortune. Hero will have money, no doubt,” she was quick to add. “Her father is rich for a professional man, I believe. But, of course, he could not give her enough for Trent.”

[269]Alistair received the assurance with a throb of delight, as his mother’s project suddenly shone out to him in the bright light of hope. But a misgiving of another kind assailed him, and one which he found it more difficult to explain to her. He found himself ashamed to pass straight from the side of Molly Finucane to such a girl as Hero Vanbrugh. It would be almost an insult, he thought; it would be acting as though he sought Hero, not for her own sake, but as a sort of refuge, a substitute for the woman he had left.

The sense of shame which Hero alone had been able to rouse in him returned in its full force at the idea of presenting himself before her with all the stains of his past life still showing, with Molly’s kisses fresh upon his lips. He felt a desire to go away first and purge his life in other scenes, to renew himself in some atmosphere of sweet and strong endeavour from which he could hope to emerge fitter for Hero’s love.

Alistair wondered that his mother did not perceive the indelicacy of such a course as she had proposed, and Caroline on her part wondered at the strange embarrassment with which Alistair at last gave his consent to her plans. It was not easy for these two to understand each other.

During the few days that elapsed before their departure the Duchess did succeed in getting a glimpse at what was weighing on Alistair’s mind. She saw with secret concern that he really did doubt if he[270] were worthy of such a girl as Hero, and that this doubt might even prove an obstacle to the fulfilment of her desires. It was necessary to encourage him, and give him confidence in himself, and the conscientious mother was surprised to find herself in the strange part of an apologist, extenuating instead of aggravating her son’s misdoing. Her first faltering attempts in this direction brought about a beautiful change in the whole intercourse between the pair. Caroline was deeply touched to see how the prodigal son’s nature softened and expanded under this rare indulgence. They began to be happy together; the poor woman secretly feared that she must be doing wrong.

When Alistair rose on the first morning in their new home, and stepped out of his bedroom window on to the little balcony that overlooked the Emerald Coast, he repeated to himself the two lines of Keats in which the essence of all poetry is distilled:

“Magic casements opening on the foam
Of perilous seas in faery lands forlorn,”

The house, which had been Hero’s choice for them, stood on the far edge of a little headland dividing a sandy bay from the broad haven of the Rance. The surrounding sea was ringed with a crescent of rocks and islets in the midst of which green Cézembre glowed—

“The captain jewel in the carcanet.”

[271]Something, that seemed the mast of a wrecked ship, rose up in melancholy memorial from one seaweed-covered ledge on which the waves were now foaming softly, like a child that tries to kiss away the recollection of its passion. On his right hand, across the shallow glistening tides of the estuary, the tall spire of St. Malo lifted itself like a more stately mast above the white walls of the islet city of the corsairs. Far to the west the grey cape of Freher watched the Atlantic billows, like a grim warder of the Breton coast. And over all the summer haze lay like a spell of strong imagination, and conjured up a legendary world.

It was a leaf of poetry that lay outspread before him, and he read it with a poet’s eye. The faculty of toil, the long labour of the midnight lamp, the fortunate strategy of words, had been denied to Alistair Stuart, and therefore he was not a poet. Remained the gift of wonder and of worship, and by that talisman he still had power to people the sweeping landscape with mysterious life; the Tritons rose and called each other from the waves, old Proteus lifted a slumbering head and listened from his cave, and on the rocks the Sirens sang.

He had risen in that happy mood when every little thing becomes a spring of joy. The coffee foaming in its thick white cup, that woke him with its fragrance, and the shell-like bread, were delightful reminders that he had come to a lighter-hearted land. He dressed himself in pearl-grey flannels, and wandered[272] out into the garden with a wide-rimmed panama over his brows, and drank the scent of roses and carnations, intoxicated by all the beauty round him, like a man risen from a sick-bed. His thoughts went back to the life he had just left, and he wondered that he could have lived it for so long. All the dark speculations, the impulses that had moved him to go down into sheol, seemed to have suddenly become as unreal as the imaginary dangers of the night forest are to the traveller coming out on the broad highway at dawn.

When the Duchess joined him in the garden walk that overlooked the sea, she gazed on her boy with secret pride. As he stood there in the sunshine, the light breeze playing in his hair, and in his eyes the dawn of joy and hope, he seemed to her mother’s heart a Prince Charming who had only to stretch out his hand and pluck the fairest flower in the garden of love.

Alistair found himself too much excited to remain at home waiting for the advent of the Princess. With a lover’s superstition he believed that the way to hasten her coming was to go out himself. He kissed his mother, and went down a rock-hewn stairway at the foot of which a wooden gate let him out on the sands.

The little Plage, enclosed between the two headlands which Dinard thrusts out into the sea like a snail’s horns, was bustling like a fair. The French had made a miniature village of the beach, with[273] streets of little huts in which they read, and sewed, and called upon each other, and carried on their family life. Children were burrowing in the sand like rabbits, and bathers clad in the bright hues of butterflies fluttered on the sea’s edge.

“And I might live this life always!” Alistair murmured, with a sort of wonder at his own past blundering, as he stepped among this glad throng, as glad as they.

Hero came towards him, walking beside her father, dressed in white with one blue flower at her throat and a red flower in her heart.

“We were just coming to see you!” she cried gaily.

“I could not wait for you, you see!” cried Alistair.

And they two looked at each other through the magic casement of love.



During the next few days a thing happened that surprised everyone. Sir Bernard Vanbrugh and Lord Alistair became great friends.

Alistair had motives that were plain enough to three members of the little party for his goodwill towards Hero’s father. But it puzzled the two women to account for the pleasure which Sir Bernard evidently found in the society of the young man.

To the Duchess the development did not bring unmixed satisfaction. Her own acquaintance with the scientist had begun with some secret trepidation on her part. She knew that Vanbrugh held opinions which she had been accustomed to hear described in the venomous language of her creed as infidelity, and which she had been taught to attribute to moral perversity rather than to mental aberration. Such a man was not the father-in-law she would have chosen for her son, though she had resigned herself to the relationship as an inevitable evil, the flaw inseparable from all human arrangements. While it pleased her to see that he liked Alistair, she watched with secret uneasiness Alistair’s unaffected liking for him.

[275]To Vanbrugh the young man presented himself as an intelligent companion, a rare exception among the crowd of contemporary youths with minds ranging from bridge to polo, and from horses to ballet-girls. It could not have occurred to him in any case that the Duke of Trent’s brother was a probable aspirant to the prize which the Duke had failed to gain, and, in fact, his mind was so thoroughly armed against the possibility of Lord Alistair as a son-in-law that he never thought of him in any such connection.

He spoke of him freely to Hero, as he might have spoken of a character in some play which they had both seen.

“I like that scapegrace because he is so sincere,” he confided to her one evening after Stuart had left them. “He never seems to have acquired the habit of hypocrisy. I suppose it is because he has always had the world at his feet. If he had ever had to earn his living he would have had to pretend like the rest.”

Vanbrugh’s brow contracted as he added:

“The Queen said to me once: ‘I like you, Sir Bernard, because you always tell me the exact truth.’ I replied to her: ‘That is the reason, Madam, why it has taken me forty years to come into your presence.’”

The physician’s long and stern fight with society, as represented by his own profession, had qualified him to sympathize with another Ishmael, though one of a very different order. His indulgence for Lord[276] Alistair did not spring from any flexibility in his own standard of conduct; but for the shams of European morality, for the decorum which consists in keeping one’s wife in London, and one’s concubines in Paris, he had as strong a contempt as Alistair’s own. The proprieties of the cupboard-door were equally loathsome to both; the hackneyed dance of society, for ever whirling giddily round on the skirts of the Divorce Court maelstrom, was equally repellent.

The attitude of the scientist contained an enigma for Alistair, whose intellect, wavering and searching like a flame in the wind, contrasted with Vanbrugh’s as the strength of fire contrasts with the strength of steel. To him there appeared something stubborn and unreasonable in the scientist’s morality, which substituted collective Teutonic instinct for the voice of God. The Haeckelian vision of a world of Unitarian ministers and their wives leading uniform lives in a Prussian barrack struck cold on his imagination. In the new ethics he found the Puritan prison-house without the window.

There was one difference, however, for which he could only be grateful. His new friend appeared to reverse the common practice, and to be strict with himself only that he might be merciful with others. His programme did not include the conversion of the sinner, and for the first time in his life Alistair found himself associating with a righteous man who did not want to do him good.

This unique toleration would have refreshed him[277] under any other circumstances. But at such a moment, and in such a quarter, it disconcerted him. When, with some idea of softening the judgment of Hero’s father, Alistair attempted a plea that he had sown his wild oats, he was taken aback by the answer:

“The evil is sometimes not in sowing wild oats, but in sowing tame oats among them. Mixed oatmeal is good for neither horse nor man.”

“I am not sure that I understand you,” Stuart faltered.

“I mean that it is a dangerous idea that the really diseased can become good members of society. In my experience a man who tries to change his nature often changes it for the worse. The reformed drunkard is apt to become an insane teetotaller, and the reformed rake makes the worst possible father.”

Alistair dared not pursue the subject. He had some ground for hoping that Sir Bernard’s practice might be less inexorable than his principles.

Soon after their meeting, the Duchess, overcoming her dread of the scientist for Alistair’s sake, ventured to ask him what he thought of her boy. Vanbrugh, with his habitual bluntness, had terrified her by responding:

“I think he drinks too much. You ought to try to stop him.”

The poor mother had already noticed, and tried to shut her eyes to, this weakness of Alistair’s, new in her experience of him. It was due, she told herself, to the influence of Molly Finucane, and would[278] pass away now that he had escaped from that evil atmosphere.

Something of this she tried to plead to Sir Bernard.

“He never used to take too much,” she said. “But he is easily influenced by his companions. He needs someone to watch over and strengthen him.”

“Yes.” Even Vanbrugh shrank from speaking his whole mind about Lord Alistair to the trembling mother. “If you can persuade him to stay with you it may check him.”

The Duchess was afraid to carry her soundings further. For the first time it dawned upon her that Sir Bernard was capable of taking a critical view of such a son-in-law.

She had conveyed the physician’s judgment to Alistair, and Alistair had rejoiced her by a promise of amendment which had so far been kept. To help him, the Duchess had insisted on sacrificing her own glass of wine, and as both the Vanbrughs were water-drinkers, all intoxicants had silently disappeared from the tables of both households.

Alistair was touched by his mother’s self-denial on his behalf, and cheered by Hero’s delicate sympathy. In the first flush of his new resolution, amid the distractions of his changed life, and buoyed up by the inspiration of his love, the path of reformation was made smooth for him. The gloomy feelings that had haunted him in London returned into the remote recesses of consciousness. The bright constellation of Ormuzd rose beckoning before him, and the dark[279] Sign of the Suffering One sank below the horizon of life.

The only reminders he had of the past were the letters that reached him from Molly Finucane.

At first the letters had come every day, passionate, reproachful, entreating him to return to her. Molly protested that she had seen no more of Mendes; that she was selling everything in the house at Chelsea; that they would still have enough to go on with till Alistair’s allowance from his brother became due; that she would follow him and live with him where and how he would. When Alistair wrote back what he intended for a final farewell, and sent a banknote given him by his mother, Molly returned the note torn into a dozen pieces. Then the letters became fewer and more pleading and pitiful. At last there came one telling him that Molly had taken refuge with her brother, whose address she gave him, in some Lambeth slum. After that there were no more letters. The little woman had sunk in despair.

Alistair tried hard to forget Molly Finucane, and for a time it seemed to him that he had succeeded. His love, if the passion she had aroused in him deserved that name, had died out of itself, his compassion had been put to sleep by the influences brought to bear upon him. If these good women, if one so filled with the spirit of Christian charity as his mother, could see nothing blameworthy in his desertion of Molly—indeed, nothing that was not wholly praiseworthy—surely it was absurd for him, the prodigal[280] and the bankrupt, the unbeliever and the misanthrope, to let himself be tormented by misgivings. To ruin what was left of his own life for the sake of one whom no human sacrifice could redeem—surely this were madness rather than heroism.

In this mood he became a ready listener to the philosophy of Sir Bernard Vanbrugh; and Sir Bernard expounded his philosophy with some of that proselytizing zeal which marked the last generation of scientists, the Huxleys and the Tyndalls, before Science had laid down her arms at the feet of the great Sphynx, and confessed that she had found no better symbol to replace the old.

It would have surprised and alarmed the Duchess if she had been told that the topic most frequently discussed between Sir Bernard Vanbrugh and her son was religion. It would have more than surprised her, it would have found her utterly incredulous, if anyone had told her that Alistair had an intensely religious nature.

To her unnaturally stunted mind the word “religion” had only one meaning, and unbelief only one excuse. Alistair had heard the Gospel. In his boyhood he had shown signs of yielding to its influence; it followed, therefore, that his later rejection of it was a deliberate surrender to Satan. Everything in his troubled life that had resulted from his having been violently robbed of his own religion she attributed to his wilful and wicked refusal to embrace hers.

[281]In reality, ever since the evangelical tutors employed by the Duchess had succeeded in convincing Alistair that the Catholic creed was false, without convincing him that their own creed was true, he had been groping in a spiritual twilight. The religious instinct, though wounded and defaced, was not dead.

He still cherished a more kindly feeling for the Roman Church than for any other, as the one which he had found most indulgent to the sinner, or, at all events, most intelligent and tactful in dealing with himself. To his intellect the language of both creeds sounded incredible. But whereas the teachers of his mother’s confession seemed to share the darkness of their most ignorant disciples, he had found among the priests of Rome some whom he could listen to without impatience.

“Our Church,” they declared, “has never claimed that her formulas should be taken literally like mathematical propositions. The Catholic word for ‘creed’ is ‘symbol.’ We offer our dogma, not as the truth itself, but as a symbol of the truth—an allegory, if you will. It is the best statement of the relations between the Unseen and man that the human mind is capable of receiving, and we offer it as nothing more.”

This comfortable language would have gone far to satisfy Alistair if he had not observed on the part of his Catholic friends a certain reticence and subservience to authority which alarmed his liberty-loving instincts.

[282]The answer to his demand for freedom was the answer of all priesthoods.

“Only a few minds are strong enough to stand alone. Our Church does not forbid inquiry. She does not punish freethought. What she forbids and punishes is the attempt to disturb the ignorant, to rob them of the faith which is the best for them, without giving them anything in exchange. You may persuade the peasant-woman to give up her Christian Catechism, but you will not persuade her to replace it by the Synthetical Philosophy.”

Alistair felt that this was still the old situation. He was to be silenced lest others might be shocked. He was to be bound that they might be free—to suffer that they might be strong.

While he thus found himself cut off from the communion of the orthodox, the Christian religion continued to fascinate him. His spirit felt the presence of a living truth concealed in these formulas which his mind could not accommodate, like a beautiful face hidden beneath an ugly mask.

Sir Bernard Vanbrugh’s theology was of the new scientific kind which calls itself anthropology. The analysis of myths and the genesis of beliefs had formed his favourite study, outside the range of his profession, and he found a missionary’s satisfaction in imparting his lore to Alistair Stuart.

“Christianity,” Vanbrugh proclaimed, “is a synthesis of all the ancient beliefs of the Mediterranean, some of them comparatively enlightened, others purely[283] barbarous. We are now able to trace every one of its rites and dogmas to an origin in some older state of society. Its evolution has been as entirely natural as that of man himself.”

“Is not that rather in its favour than against it?” Alistair suggested. “Is it not possible to view the primitive beliefs as the gradual unfolding of a great truth?”

Vanbrugh frowned. This was not language that he liked to hear.

“That is what the orthodox would say, no doubt. But I am not concerned with apologetics. No serious thinker will ever again waste his time in controversy with that class of person.”

“I am afraid the orthodox would not think one view any better than the other,” replied Alistair, thinking of his mother. “Isn’t it the orthodox view that all the resemblances to Christianity found in other religions are blasphemous parodies contrived by the devil in order to discredit the true faith?”

Sir Bernard smiled, reassured of his pupil.

“Yes, I suppose that is the sound explanation. But there is a school of reconcilers abroad, men who want to retain positions in the Church without wholly forfeiting the respect of educated men, and their favourite cry just now is the evolution of religion.”

“But the religious instinct itself? How do you account for that?”

“In the beginning it was nothing but the savage’s[284] fear of Nature, as Lucretius observed. In our days it is an atavistic survival—practically a disease.”

Alistair trembled.

“Is it a disease that can be cured?”

“Every disease can be cured as soon as it is understood, or if not cured in the individual it can be eliminated in the race. Where religion is due to a mere obstruction in the brain, we shall in time be able to remove it by trepanning; but where it is a hysterical symptom, the only remedy will be to isolate the sufferers, as we now isolate the insane, and allow them to die out.”

A strange light broke on Alistair.

“Is not that what the Catholic Church does?” he said eagerly. “Her monks and nuns—are they not really hysterical patients who are voluntarily adopting the very course that science would prescribe for them?”

The scientist grudgingly conceded that this was so.

“Unfortunately the convents soon became mere refuges for the idle,” he observed. “And healthy girls were forced into them by selfish parents in order to save their dower. Still, no doubt the Protestants made a mistake in shutting up the monasteries altogether and condemning celibacy as a vice. There are plenty of cases in which it ought to be compulsory.”

“Why compulsory?” Alistair pleaded. “Surely it is far better that they should take a vow of their own accord, inspired by the thought that they are helping to save the race?”

[285]The scientist shrugged his shoulders.

“All that is sentiment,” he said—“one of the things for which the healthy have no use.”

Alistair sighed.

“How monotonous the world will be when everyone is perfect! You will have to preserve a few criminals as curiosities, like the lions and tigers in the Zoological Gardens.”

Sir Bernard smiled good-humouredly.

“That won’t be necessary. We shall preserve some of the savage tribes instead. They are documents of priceless value to the anthropologist.”

“When does a man cease to be a priceless document, and become a criminal?” Stuart asked, with secret bitterness.

The other reflected for a moment.

“I suppose the answer is given by Johnson’s definition of dirt: When he is in the wrong place.”

It was the answer which Alistair had given to himself that night on Westminster Bridge. He was in the wrong place. But was there any right place in the world for him?

He lifted his eyes and looked away. They were sitting on the verandah of Vanbrugh’s house in the Malounine, facing eastward. The sun was just leaving the sky, and the red glow of the western horizon, caught full on the white walls and windows of St. Malo, bathed the city in fire. Alistair’s heart beat painfully as he strained his eyes on the flaming town. There was his world, there the vision that called to[286] his soul. O, not in dingy lanes, not on the cold, grey pavements of reality, but amid those vermilion glories, his spirit should have dwelt and burned itself away.

He was an exile. Not from the Island of Oig, nor any other island of an earthly sea, but from that far-off sphere of which the sunset-smitten town reminded him. He was an exile from some world of which love, and not hate, was the keynote, banished for what fault he could not tell, condemned to mortal life as to a penance, but tormented and consoled by intimations from that happier state.

The soul has her imperial moments when she exercises a prerogative that reason cannot take away; when the toilsome knowledge gathered together by the senses falls into shards under her feet, and she enters into possession of herself, freed from the bonds and trammels cast about her by the material brain. In that moment Alistair did not think—he knew, knew well, more surely than if a voice from the beyond had spoken it in his ear, that he was an immortal spirit inhabiting eternity.

When his attention returned to the voice beside him, he found that the agnostic was expounding the folklore of the crucifixion.

“The whole subject has been illuminated by Dr. Frazer’s book ‘The Golden Bough,’” he was saying. “The sacrifice of a human victim in the spring, at the time of the seed-sowing, is one of the oldest rites in the world. The victim was originally conceived[287] of as the corn-god, and was put to death in order that his spirit might enter into the seed. His body was buried in the field, and he was supposed to rise again in the form of the harvest. In that way the dogma of Transubstantiation had once a reasonable meaning—the bread was the flesh of the slain god in his new avatar.”

Alistair listened like one awakening from sleep who has not yet caught the sense of what is going on around him.

“Christianity, in short, is the old Adonis worship, adapted according to Jewish ideas. The Old Testament is full of allusions to this cult—‘women weeping for Tammuz,’ and so on.”

“You were speaking of a human victim,” murmured Alistair.

“Yes; it was customary to select a man at Easter, usually in later times a condemned criminal, who was sacrificed as a scapegoat for the sins of the people. The Jewish mob appear to have claimed a victim in accordance with this custom. Two were released, in fact, one to be sacrificed, and the other to be honoured as the representative of spring.”

Alistair felt there was some confusion in this statement.

“For the sins of the people,” he repeated thoughtfully. “You say the victim was sacrificed for the sins of the people?”

“That was one form of the cult,” the scientist assented. “The idea of the sin-bearer is a very ancient[288] superstition. Even the details of the New Testament narrative follow the lines of what we know to have been the customary ceremonial in Babylon and elsewhere. The scourging and the crown of thorns were both familiar practices. They are alluded to in Isaiah—‘He was wounded for our transgressions.’”

“‘With his stripes we are healed.’” Alistair finished the sentence with a start of surprise. They were the words he had tried and failed to remember on the night of his disgrace.

“At an earlier stage in the history of the cult the king of the tribe had been sacrificed,” Vanbrugh went on, “So, when a criminal was substituted, he was still called the king for the occasion.”

“It was a fine end for the criminal,” was Alistair’s comment.

His mind presented him with two contrasted pictures—the felon of civilization, in his dreadful garb, numbered and branded like a chattel, drudging in the stone quarries under the warder’s eye; and that sufferer of the antique world, drawn out of some fetid Eastern gaol, clad in the royal robe and crown, and marched in solemn priest-led procession to the top of a Syrian hill to be put to death for the salvation of the people. The sin-bearer, the redeemer—surely every criminal was such! “Don’t you see,” he said suddenly to the astonished anthropologist, “that they were right? They were simply saying what modern science is saying, only they said it far more beautifully. The criminal is the sin-bearer; he is crucified[289] for the good of the people even to-day. He is imprisoned and hanged that our lives and purses may be safe. By his stripes we are healed.”

Sir Bernard Vanbrugh told his daughter that night that he was a little disappointed in Lord Alistair.

“He is brilliant enough in his own way,” was the scientist’s verdict, “but not practical. I am afraid he is a dreamer.”

It was the dreamer that Hero loved.



The assurance that Hero loved him was not conveyed to Alistair in words. It stole in upon him like faint scents rising from the earth after a shower, and thrilled him almost unawares.

The note of passion was overlaid by higher and more intricate harmonies. In Hero’s thoughts of Alistair there was a protecting tenderness, like a mother’s for a child that has suffered some hurt; and in Alistair’s thoughts of her there was a reverence and spiritual yearning that made it seem profane to offer her the common coin of love.

When he sat beside her on some lonely stretch of sand or grass-clad promontory, and saw the sea reflected in her eyes, like the star in the wine-cup of Hafiz, he shrank instinctively from the thoughts that other women had roused in him. For the first time he saw into the mind of the ascetic, and shared its rebellion against Nature—Nature that roots the flower of life in earth. A silence often fell on him in Hero’s presence. He dreaded certain stages on the way in front of them, and wished that they could have fallen asleep together, and waked up man and wife.

[291]The marriage of true minds, so rare and so desirable, made formal marriage vulgar. There was something impossible in that astounding ceremony by which society revealed its strain of primitive savagery. How could a man and woman, sensitive to beautiful things, their hearts vibrating with the awful music of creation, prank themselves out like negroes at a fair, and march into a public building to advertise mankind of what they were about to do? The marriage of true minds did not admit impediments like these.

The thorns of life pressed less roughly against his spirit as he talked with Hero. He opened his heart to her, and the bitterness within seemed to be changed and softened under the tender light of sympathy. A process of reconciliation went on without his understanding whither he was being led.

And Hero found in Alistair that which her life had lacked hitherto—a motive and an aim. For in the view of life in which she had been trained there was, as Alistair told himself, no window; and Hero had missed the window. She had sought it at St. Jermyn’s, and found only the pale altar-lights of a past age guttering in their sockets. For a brave, truthful heart like hers that was not enough. In Alistair’s discontent, in his revolt against the social order that had condemned him, she discerned his latent faith in a more beautiful order, of which this triumphant one was the enemy.

Her woman’s instinct told her that every man’s[292] life depends for one-half of its happiness or its misery on the women he meets with. The man who has met the right woman for him cannot be utterly cast down. And so, as Alistair’s mother had foreseen, Hero’s love was strengthened by the idea of devotion. She had the power to help this wounded soldier, perhaps to nurse him back to strength again, and such a mission was the best thing that life had yet offered her.

All this became part of their mutual consciousness as the days stretched into weeks of happy summer, and Alistair still lingered, in wayward mood, unwilling to exchange delicious expectation for dull security. For the poet waking life has nothing that can quite match the exquisite texture of his dream. And when at last he spoke he did so rather sorrowfully, like one who says farewell.

Without having made any compact with each other, the lovers kept their secret for a time.

Even Alistair’s mother, though she was watching and praying for the end, could not feel sure that it had been reached. But there is one eye keener than a mother’s, and that is a rival’s. The Home Secretary had read with angry jealousy the letters in which the Duchess described the growing intimacy between Alistair and Hero, and innocently indulged her hopeful anticipations. He sought and obtained the Prime Minister’s permission, and on the day that Parliament was prorogued he left England for France.

Alistair went across to St. Malo to meet the English[293] boat, and the moment he saw him the Duke guessed the truth. The brothers had not been really cordial for many years, though for their mother’s sake both tried to keep up a conventional friendliness. But on this occasion Alistair greeted his brother with an unaffected kindliness which sprang from the new happiness in his heart. He was at peace with the world; he wished to be at peace with Trent as well. He wanted to forget past grudges, and to view his brother’s character and conduct towards him in the most favourable light.

“I am so glad you have come, Trent,” he said heartily. “This place is fairyland itself, without the ogres.”

“What about Sir Bernard Vanbrugh?”

“He is quite well. Do you mean, is he an ogre?”

Trent nodded. He knew something about the scientist.

“I have not found him very formidable so far,” Alistair said cheerfully.

His brother’s hint had made an impression on him nevertheless. He had suspected for some time that it would not be all plain sailing with Sir Bernard Vanbrugh, and this confirmation of his fears from another quarter depressed him considerably.

Trent was satisfied. He saw that his brother had not yet spoken to Hero’s father, although he might have spoken to Hero.

The Duchess was waiting at the villa to welcome[294] her eldest son. Almost the first thing she said to him was:

“I have asked the Vanbrughs to dine here to-night. I thought you would like to see your old friend Hero.”

“Yes, I should like to see her,” the Home Secretary replied impassively.

The suspicious glance which Alistair darted at him was met and repelled by the Minister’s reserve.

“I shouldn’t wonder if you liked Sir Bernard too,” the Duchess added. “He is an extraordinary man. He seems to know almost all about everything.”

“I have met him,” Trent said, with the same cold indifference. “He impressed me as an extremely able man—a man of strong character.”

The Duchess waited till she and Trent were alone to broach the topic that was engrossing her thoughts.

“I think all is going well,” she said. “They seem quite wrapped up in each other. But I am still a little anxious about Alistair. The poor boy seems to be so much ashamed of his disgrace; he has told me that he does not think he is good enough for a girl like Hero Vanbrugh.”

“The question is what she thinks, isn’t it?”

“Yes; that is what I want you to tell him. You can put it better than I can. A little encouragement from you just now might turn the scale. We can save him—and you will help me, dear?”

“You haven’t said anything to her father, I suppose?”

[295]“No.” The Duchess looked a little troubled. “He is not a man I should find it easy to be confidential with. I think I am a little afraid of him.”

“I think you are right,” pronounced the rejected suitor.

All the old bitterness had welled up again as his mother spoke. He, the eldest son, the credit to the family, was welcomed by his mother simply as an ally in the salvation of the young prodigal who had brought disgrace upon their house. He was to encourage this ne’er-do-weel, who at last showed some slight sense of his own worthlessness—to pat him on the back, and bid him go forward and win the bride whom he, Trent, had been refused.

“I wish you would sound Sir Bernard,” said the innocent Duchess.

Trent started. The suggestion chimed in so exactly with certain dark suggestions of his own secret mind that he nearly betrayed his exultation.

“I will do so if you wish,” he said, measuring out his words carefully, so as to give his conscience no possible excuse thereafter for reproaching him with treachery to his brother.

The Vanbrughs had not been in the house five minutes that night before the Duke saw more than anyone else had seen. Every look that passed across the table between Alistair and Hero told him that they had nothing more to tell each other. He saw also that the physician had as little suspicion of what had[296] happened as if he had been a thousand miles off all the time.

After dinner was over the lovers wandered down the garden paths and the Duchess retired to her drawing-room. The Duke and Vanbrugh were left sitting on the verandah over the coffee and cigars, of which only Trent partook. The physician dealt as severely with himself as with his patients, and the abstemious habits so long enforced by poverty had not been departed from in prosperity.

The Home Secretary considered how he could make his attack most crushing. An ingenious idea suggested itself.

“Do you think you have treated me quite fairly, Sir Bernard?” he asked in an accent of mild reproach.

The physician turned and stared at him.

“In what way do you mean, Duke?”

“Am I not correct in saying that you declined me for a son-in-law principally on the ground that I had the misfortune to be the brother of Lord Alistair Stuart?”

“That was one of my strongest reasons, certainly—perhaps the strongest. Well?”


The Duke waved his hand in the direction in which the lovers had disappeared.

“I never said anything implying that I should object to make a friend of your brother,” protested Sir Bernard hastily, trying to ward off the unwelcome suggestion.

[297]The Minister treated this evasion with contempt.

“My brother has been wiser than I, it appears. He has made sure of Miss Vanbrugh’s consent before asking for yours.”

“I hope you are mistaken!” cried the father, now seriously alarmed. “I am sure you must be. I know every thought in my daughter’s mind.”

“Is it possible that you, a wise man, can believe that?”

“I am certain that she has never had a secret from me before.”

“Then it is serious indeed.”

The justice of the remark silenced Vanbrugh. He struggled in vain to resist the conviction that the Duke of Trent was right. A hundred trifling indications of the understanding between the lovers returned upon his mind, like water pouring in through a leak.

“Damn the young blackguard!” he growled. “He is just the sort that attracts good women. They think that they can ‘save’ him. I ought to have remembered that.”

Trent listened, anxious for some assurance that his warning would not be thrown away.

“If I have made a mistake in speaking to you——” He spoke slowly, to let the other interrupt him.

“You could not have done me a greater service, Duke. Even if you are mistaken in thinking there is anything in it, I shan’t be the less obliged to you for the warning.”

[298]“I should not like Miss Vanbrugh or my brother to know that I had interfered.”

“No one shall know. It is a matter entirely between ourselves.” The Home Secretary breathed easily again. “After all, it was a mere accident. You naturally thought I had seen as much as you.”

“I am afraid I spoke under the influence of jealousy,” Trent said, determined to do the handsome thing by his conscience, now that all was safe. “My mother had actually asked me to sound you as to the match.”

The word stung Sir Bernard.

“There will be no match,” he said decisively. “I will see to that.”

And Trent was satisfied.

When the Vanbrughs were leaving, an hour later, Sir Bernard declined, a little curtly, Lord Alistair’s offer to walk round with them. He watched the parting between Hero and Alistair, and made up his mind that he must interfere at once.

In order to give greater weight to his action he formally told his daughter before going to bed that he desired to speak to her before she went out the next morning. Hero’s start and blush at the request showed that she guessed its meaning.

The boast which the scientist had made, that he knew every thought in his daughter’s mind, might have been made with more truth by Hero about her father. She had never deluded herself about the view which he would take of such a suitor as Lord[299] Alistair Stuart. Now she spent a restless night revolving in her mind how best to defend the man she loved.

Sir Bernard passed a restless night also. The task of a father whose daughter is motherless is a responsible and delicate one; and though the physician had accustomed himself to speak more plainly to Hero than most fathers speak to their daughters, he would have given a great deal to have had a woman’s aid at this crisis.

Their conversation took place the next morning in the drawing-room of the villa. The scientist missed his study, but the French seaside house is built on the principle of parsimony in living-rooms and extravagance in bedrooms. The villa contained sleeping accommodation for upwards of twenty persons and a dining-room comfortably seating six.

“We have seen a great deal lately of Lord Alistair,” the father began gravely, “and I am afraid I have been to blame in not noticing how much you and he were together. I will not ask you whether you have seen his evident admiration for you, but I hope it is not too late to caution you against any serious inclination for him.”

“Who has been speaking to you about us?” demanded Hero, with a bright spot on her cheeks.

Sir Bernard had not allowed for womanly intuition when he promised to keep the Duke’s interference a secret.

He shook his head gravely as he answered:

[300]“I see no good in discussing that. It is for you to tell me how matters stand.”

“It was the Duke, of course,” Hero returned. “Paragons are always mean. There was a time when I might have accepted him if he had asked me to. But he is like the dog in the manger: he would not ask me himself, and yet he grudges me to his brother.”

The scientist was weak enough to accept the gambit offered by his adversary.

“You are doing the Duke an injustice,” he said. “As a matter of fact he called on me some time ago in London, and asked me for your hand.”

Hero opened her eyes. It was a shock, and it could not be a disagreeable one, to know that she had had such a suitor. In the light of this revelation the tale-bearer was less harshly judged.

“What did you say to him? Why didn’t you tell me?” she exclaimed.

“I declined his proposal on medical grounds,” her father answered. “The family stock is unsound.”

Hero began to see what she had to face, and her heart sank.

“I think you might have told me,” she said reproachfully.

“He came to ask my consent, not yours, and I told him I would not give it. There was no reason that I could see for telling you.”

Hero looked her father in the face.

[301]“Suppose he had come to me first, and I had accepted him?” she said.

The physician answered gravely:

“I should have had to ask you to choose between him and me.”

The clash of these two strong wills had come at last, and both were silent for a time.

Vanbrugh was the first to resume.

“Every objection I had against the Duke of Trent, of course, applies with ten-fold force to his brother. The Duke is physically sound; he has personally escaped the taint of his family stock, and it is possible that it may disappear in his descendants. But Lord Alistair has inherited his father’s vices. He is an idler, a profligate, and I might say a drunkard.”

“He has ceased to drink,” Hero protested. “I do not believe the life he has been leading is his natural one. I am sure that if he were to marry a woman who understood him he would become a changed man.”

“I do not believe in changed men,” her father answered. “But that is not the point. I am not condemning Lord Alistair for the life he has led up to the present. On the contrary, from my point of view of an enlightened sociology, the sooner such a man exhausts his vital energy the better.”

“You would have him commit suicide!” Hero exclaimed, with flashing eyes.

“I would have him commit suicide rather than marry, yes,” the scientist responded firmly.

[302]“I have promised to marry him.” Hero said the words with a calmness which alarmed her father.

“Even if such a man could reform his conduct, he could not reform his physical constitution,” the physician said, turning his eyes away from his daughter’s face. “His children would be doomed, before their birth, to disease and insanity. To bring such beings into the world is a crime worse than murder, and will be dealt with as such as soon as society has escaped from the thraldom of the priests.”

It was not the first time that Hero had heard her father express similar sentiments. It was the personal application that was new—and terrifying.

“If I do not marry Alistair I shall never marry anyone else,” she said, after a tragic pause.

Sir Bernard glanced at her face, and saw it pale with resolution. He became afraid.

“That would be a crime on your part. It is the duty of the sound to marry, as much as it is the duty of the unsound to refrain.”

“Duty to whom?” asked Hero.

The question opened Vanbrugh’s eyes to the gulf that had come into existence during the past few weeks between him and his daughter. Hitherto Hero had been his child, and had looked at the world through his eyes. Now she loved another better than him, and had learned to look at the world through the eyes of the man she loved.

His answer was given without confidence.

[303]“To society. To the order of Nature of which you are a part.”

“Society!” Hero’s tone breathed some of that scorn which she had caught from Alistair in their intimate communion with one another. “Society! that is the man in the street, isn’t it? Or is it the public?—the British public expects every man to do his duty!” Some of the bitter expressions that she had heard Alistair use came back to her with unexpected force, and half unconsciously she defended him in his own language. “The whole duty of man is to be one of a horde of drudges toiling to make a millionaire. That is civilization, isn’t it?—the social order to which we are all expected to conform. And the new religion is that we are to marry and have healthy children, that this great organized stupidity may go on for ever.”

Sir Bernard Vanbrugh recognized Lord Alistair’s voice, and bowed his head in despair. “My daughter is lost to me,” he told himself. “I have lost my daughter.”

Aloud he said:

“And your father? I have tried to be a good father to you, my dear.”

Hero was smitten to the heart. She went over to where her father sat, and put an arm round his neck.

“I love you just the same,” was all she found it in her heart to say. “I love you just the same.”



Sir Bernard Vanbrugh knew that he had failed to shake his daughter’s resolution.

He did not believe that Hero would marry Lord Alistair Stuart while he forbade her to. But what he feared was that she would refuse to give him up. He was getting on in years, he had not spared himself, and sooner or later Hero must be free. In the meanwhile he saw before him the prospect of her celibacy, a state abhorrent to his feelings whether as father or as physician.

In his own mind he had a husband chosen for Hero—an engineer; one of that class to whom the future seems to be assigned; sane, strong, and self-reliant; a water-drinker, like himself; a man of orderly life and wholesome instincts; an ideal father, for whom what science calls the mechanism of life was really mechanism, and nothing more; a man in whose eyes poetry-books and prayer-books were alike contemptible; one who found no weakness in himself, and tolerated none in others.

Vanbrugh compared the husband whom he had chosen for his daughter with the husband she had chosen for herself, and was bewildered and impatient.

[305]In those days a certain obscure writer of Jewish blood, who had tried, and failed, to write poems, plays, and novels, had taken vengeance on his more successful brethren by publishing a malignant libel in which he pried with some pruriency into their private lives, and proved for his own consolation that genius is a form of vice, if not a positive crime. Some scraps of scientific language picked out of the works of Professor Lombroso had served to disguise the critic’s rancour, and the mixture had proved more palatable to the public than the author’s literary efforts. The sentiment coarsely vented in this work was that which inspired Sir Bernard Vanbrugh when he thought of Lord Alistair as a husband for his only child.

From the envy and more or less feigned Pharisaism of the libeller Vanbrugh’s mind, of course, was free. He had liked Lord Alistair, and been interested by him. In the life that he had led hitherto he had been harmless in the scientist’s view, or, at all events, not harmful enough to call for harsh measures. But now everything was changed. If by the lifting of a finger Sir Bernard could have terminated the young man’s existence, and with it the spell which he had flung over Hero, he would have lifted the finger without an instant’s hesitation or an instant’s remorse.

And yet he judged better of Lord Alistair than of some of those splendid types of healthy manhood whom the modern world goes forth to worship, as[306] they practise foul play against each other for a few pounds upon the football field. For he decided to appeal from Hero to her betrothed. He was going to ask the young man to give up voluntarily the prize within his grasp; and somehow he did not think that he should ask in vain.

He left the house about the time Lord Alistair usually came round, and met him strolling up the road.

“My daughter is at home,” he said, in answer to Stuart’s inquiry. “But before you see her I should like to speak to you. Is there anywhere where we can go and have a quiet talk?”

The request was ominous enough in itself, and the physician’s manner made it more so. Alistair’s heart sank as he answered:

“I expect the club would be the best place. We should not find anyone in the card-room at this hour.”

He turned and walked silently side by side with the arbiter of his happiness, past the crowd that bustled in front of the Plage, and up the short street that conducted them to the club door.

As he went a great despondency settled on him. Without knowing what Sir Bernard meant to say to him, he felt that there was little that he could say for himself. What account of himself could he give that would be considered satisfactory by the father of an only daughter? It was only his mother who had encouraged him to lift his eyes to Hero. He ought[307] to have asked his mother to plead his cause with Hero’s father.

Even in his most buoyant moments during the past few weeks he had never felt quite sure of his happiness. A sense of unreality came upon him ever and anon; he had felt like a man dreaming a delicious dream, and dreading the awakening he knows must come.

Now the awakening had come, and could not be put off.

He found himself seated in the deserted card-room facing Hero’s father across a small green table, on which two packs of used cards and three or four scoring-blocks awaited the return of the bridge-players.

The sight of the soiled packs affected him painfully. He knew that this economy was due to the exorbitant French tax, but yet it struck upon him as a note of squalor. The cards themselves were small and badly made, like most things made by Governments. He drew one of the packs towards him, and began shuffling it nervously while he waited for Vanbrugh to speak.

Vanbrugh noted the action with a physician’s eye.

“I expect you have guessed what I want to speak to you about,” he said quietly.

Alistair lifted his eyes from the cards and stole a glance at his questioner, a glance not free from the cunning of his Pictish blood. But he said nothing.

[308]“My daughter tells me that you have asked her to become your wife.”

For a moment Alistair made no response. Keeping his head down he cut four cards in rapid succession—a club, a spade, a diamond, and then another diamond. He took it as a bad omen.

“Has she told you anything more?” he asked.

“Only that she had given you her consent.” Vanbrugh hesitated; he found it harder than he had expected to tell this young man the truth about himself.

“You will understand naturally,” he began again, “that Hero is my chief interest in life. Her happiness is dearer to me than anything else in the world.”

“And to me, too,” Alistair put in swiftly, raising his head and looking Sir Bernard in the face.

“That is what I hoped you would say,” Sir Bernard answered gravely. “I want to discuss the matter with you from that point of view.”

Alistair lowered his head again.

“I am not good enough for her—you need not tell me that. But if she loves me?” He spoke in low tones, which only just reached the father’s ears.

“You must let me speak plainly, Lord Alistair, as plainly as I spoke to your brother when he came to me with the same request.”

“Trent! Did he come to you on my behalf?” cried Alistair in astonishment.

“He came on his own. He has known Hero longer than you have.”

[309]It took Alistair a moment or two to grasp the situation.

“Did you refuse Trent?” he exclaimed.

“Yes.” In his own mind Vanbrugh was beginning to doubt the wisdom of that refusal. Had he not been over cautious? His objection to the Duke of Trent had been more or less hypothetical: the Duke himself was sound; it was possible that he might not transmit the family taint. He might have done well to consider the danger of leaving his daughter to follow her own fancy. When there were so few perfect husbands, and so many undesirables, it would have been wiser, perhaps, to close with one who had so much in his favour.

“Why, in the name of Heaven, did you object to him?”

“Partly because he was your brother. I told him I could not let my daughter marry a man of diseased stock.”

The words stunned Alistair. He had been prepared to have his own misdeeds brought up against him; to be told, perhaps, that it was too late for him to reform; or at least that he must give proofs that the reformation was thorough and lasting, before he could be trusted with Hero. But this was cutting away the very foundations.

“I never heard of such a thing!” he stammered, letting the cards fall from his fingers. “Do you condemn us for the sins of our ancestors?”

[310]“It is not I who condemn you. Nature does that, and I am only her student and interpreter.”

Alistair put his hand to his head.

“And is that the latest gospel of science?” he said bitterly. “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.”

“It is not a very recent gospel, and you are not quoting from a scientific work,” Sir Bernard reminded him. “All that science does is to add the corollary that those who have eaten sour grapes ought not to become fathers.”

Alistair made no answer for a time. He sat toying with the cards, cutting them at random and speculating vaguely as to who were the Argine and the Hogier after whom certain picture cards were named. It struck him that men were like cards; the gods must have created them of different values for their own amusement, and be playing some Olympian game among themselves, in the chances of which it was his, Alistair’s, destiny to fall a loser of the trick.

Sir Bernard watched him with a pity he did not try to quench. He liked this young man very much—so much that he could have wished for his sake that Nature was less inexorable.

“How merciless science is!” Alistair observed presently.

“Science is not so merciless as the old religion,” the scientist was not sorry to respond. “At least, it does not reproach you for what you cannot help. Its sentence is not pronounced vindictively, like a bad-tempered[311] judge denouncing crimes which he himself was never tempted to commit. And when it forbids you to pass on your evil inheritance to the unborn, it is acting, not without mercy for you, but with greater mercy for them.”

And then, while Alistair remained quiet, listening dully without the power of resistance, the other went on to draw the picture of tainted life passing from generation to generation, the terrible theme of the dramatists from Æschylus to Ibsen, figured by superstition as a curse from the gods, traced by science to the cruel thoughtlessness of men. He described the great army of the victims, as he himself had reviewed it in his medical practice. In addition to those whose misfortunes were the subject of public notice and public charity, there were the innumerable secret sufferers, the cause and meaning of whose sufferings was most often unknown to themselves. There were the drunkards, the gamblers, the adulterers, with whom the world dealt so much more harshly than with its cripples and consumptives. There were the neuropaths and hysterical subjects, little better than maniacs, yet struggling to keep their place among the sane, endowed with the gift of reason, held responsible as reasonable beings, and yet tortured with the consciousness that their infirmity betrayed them at every moment into conduct which only madness could excuse. He touched on the terrible case of those who go through life with the dark shadow of paralysis hanging over them, never knowing at what day or[312] hour it will strike them down. And all these evils, and the lesser ones, as they are called, though it may be doubted if they are really lesser, the infirmities of temper, of idleness, of defective memory—in short, every human frailty and affliction, except the insignificant damage of war and accident and pestilence—truly insignificant in comparison—he traced to the one cause. And in a world of healthy, rational men there would be no war and no pestilence, and very few accidents. So that true religion and true science, the religion of Humanity and the science of Nature, were at one in denouncing as the greatest of all crimes—indeed, the only real crime—the bringing of unhealthy children into the world.

When he had finished the listener gave him a questioning look.

“But if there are no children?”

Vanbrugh frowned for the first time, and his voice hardened.

“I have lived a hard and abstemious life,” he said; “I have been stricter with myself than with anyone else. My reward is to have a child in whom I have never detected a weak spot. I have a right that she shall make a happy marriage, and receive a woman’s crown of honour—a happy motherhood.”

Alistair bowed his head again, and scattered the cards from his hand.

“And what is to become of me?”

The mournful question deeply moved Sir Bernard. He was asking this young man to surrender the sweetest[313] form of earthly happiness; what could he offer him in exchange?

“Has science nothing else to say to me? You are a physician; if I am diseased, cannot you cure me?”

Vanbrugh was disconcerted.

“We are only groping our way as yet,” he answered mildly. “Remember that all knowledge was forbidden by the priesthood for a thousand years. We are only in the beginning of a better age.”

“The age in which there will be no men like me!” Alistair commented. “And in the meantime science has no gospel for me.”

“It is your father whom you have to blame,” Sir Bernard said reluctantly.

Alistair trembled.

“You mean that I ought not to have been born?”

The physician was silent.

“I am a waste product, for which science has no use. O, why not? You have found beautiful dyes in coal-tar; can you find nothing in me?”

Vanbrugh was a father fighting for his child, a zealot fighting for his faith. But he was touched by this appeal.

“I have not said that. I have only told you that you ought not to become a father. It is not your fault if you have received an evil inheritance, but it will be your fault if you pass it on.”

Alistair hid his face in his hands for a time.

“Be honest with me, Sir Bernard,” he said presently, in a husky voice, without lifting his head. “You[314] are the priest of science, and I am in the confessional. You think I ought to commit suicide?”

The scientist was profoundly moved. He held his breath for an instant, and his forehead grew damp. He found his resolution failing him.

“No,” he said, in faltering tones—“no, don’t think that. I have told you science is still groping her way. I believe it would be happier for some of the poor victims of heredity—the hopelessly insane, the deaf and dumb, and perhaps the criminal and paralytic—if a painless death were provided for them. But a man with your gifts should find something worth living for.”

Alistair looked at him earnestly.

“I want to live,” he said simply. “I don’t want to die. I can’t feel that I have any less right to live than you. Perhaps the criminals and paralytics can’t feel that either. I never feel unfit; I never knew that there was anything wrong about me till other people told me so. When I was a boy the world was a beautiful place to me; it would be so still if there were no good people in it. It is they who will not let me live. You are only saying to me in more honest language what they have been saying to me, what my own mother has been saying to me, ever since I can remember. I don’t know why I am condemned. Ever since I was a boy I have loved beautiful things as other men love gold; I have walked through life with my eyes fixed on the stars, and my feet tripped up by every ditch. My mother thinks that I am wicked,[315] and you say that I am diseased. And to me—yes, to me—you all seem blind people burrowing in the earth and refusing to be happy.”

Vanbrugh shook his head.

“I am not responsible for what others have said to you. In my eyes you are simply a victim of heredity. I do not want my daughter’s children to be victims in their turn; that is all. If you love her——”

“I do love her,” Alistair interrupted fiercely. “I thought you understood. I only want now to know what I can do for her sake. If I were a Catholic, I would go into a monastery, so as to leave her free. That is the last word of Christianity for a man like me. The last word of science is the lethal chamber.”

Sir Bernard had an inspiration.

“Why don’t you go back to Molly Finucane?”

Alistair fell back in his chair as if he had received a blow. He woke out of his dream. Sir Bernard was right, and his mother had been wrong. He had no business to unite his wrecked career with such a life as Hero Vanbrugh’s. Molly Finucane was the true match for him. She was a scapegoat like himself. The figure of the poor little painted creature had haunted his memory even during these last days of courtship, and he had never felt quite satisfied that he had acted honourably in leaving her.

He rose to his feet.

“Yes,” he said, “I can do that. That will set Hero free. Good-bye, Sir Bernard. I am going back to London to marry Molly Finucane.”



The September sun was shining on Beers Cooperage, shining as brightly on the dingy London yard as on the glittering emerald seas of France.

The inhabitants of the Cooperage were rejoicing in the light and warmth. The cripple had brought out a rocking-chair, with its cane seat patched up with string, and was swinging himself with half-shut eyes in front of the little row of flowers which assiduous watering had kept alive during the summer drouth. A new canary in the mended cage of its predecessor chirruped gaily from the open window of one of the tiny row of cottages; the window of another revealed a trophy of travel, a box bearing on its lid a photograph of Southend Pier, framed in polished mussel-shells, which its owner, with an altruism not often found in the denizens of lordlier neighbourhoods, had disposed so that its beauty could be enjoyed by the passer-by at the expense of the inmates of the house themselves.

Over the whole of the Cooperage there was an atmosphere of freshness and content. The little gates and palings on the window-sills were newly painted in artistic green and white. Many of them now revealed[317] their inner utility by guarding pots of musk or mignonette, with here and there a bright red geranium. The pavement of the yard was clean beyond its former wont, and the refuse heap that had once marked the abode of Mike Finigan had disappeared.

It was over Mike Finigan’s house that the greatest change of all had come. Not a single broken window was any longer to be seen in the front of the dwelling. The door had been painted green to match the five-barred gates, and decorated with a handsome old brass knocker that shone like an imitation sun. The window of the ground-floor was open, and through it could be seen a perfectly æsthetic kitchen—a kitchen after the heart of South Kensington, with a high-backed settle, a Cromwellian table and armchairs, all of the finest black oak, a dresser lined with willow-pattern plates of deepest blue, and a mantelshelf glorious with copper saucepans scoured to the grain.

The transformation had extended to, or rather it had begun with, the inhabitants of the regenerated hovel. The bewildered dwellers in the Cooperage dated their present era of peacefulness and brightness from the appearance of a remarkable announcement in the Times:

“On Monday, the 14th instant, at the registry office, Lambeth, Lord Alistair Fingal Stuart Campbell-Stuart, brother of the Duke of Trent and Colonsay, to Miss Molly Finucane, daughter of the late Jeremiah Finucane, of Beers Cooperage, Lambeth, S. W.”

Following on the step thus disclosed to the world Lord and Lady Alistair had taken up their residence[318] in what might have been described with truthfulness as the home of her ladyship’s family, vacated beforehand by her brother.

Stuart had not attempted to reform Mike Finigan. He had adopted the easier and simpler plan of reforming Mike Finigan’s surroundings by obtaining him a post as water-bailiff to a friend who rented some fishing in the heart of the Finigan country. Mike was now living his natural life among his own people, breaking their heads and getting his own broken to their mutual contentment, and earning the character of the best water-bailiff in green Connacht.

Alistair would have been glad to adjust his own life as successfully as he had adjusted his brother-in-law’s.

In the first flush of her joy at his return, and gratitude for the rank he had given her, he had found it easy to persuade Molly to try the experiment of life in Beers Cooperage. He allowed the little woman to consider the scheme as a sort of practical joke, one of those slaps in the face to the hated middle class which she had learned to relish as a proof of aristocratic feeling.

To their humble neighbours the invasion of such a spot as the Cooperage by such a figure as Lord Alistair—Mr. Stuart, he called himself to them—could only be understood in the light of those settlements and missions by which the well-disposed had recently striven to irradiate the gloom of darkest London. One of the great public schools had planted[319] a hall in adjacent Battersea, the Wesleyans had a settlement somewhere Walworth way, the Church of England was bestirring itself in Southwark. The Cooperites were convinced that the new resident had come amongst them on evangelizing thoughts intent. They accepted the green paint and the flowers as a preliminary sop, and awaited with stolid resignation the tracts and the lectures on wireless telegraphy and the Andaman Islands that would surely follow.

Alistair himself was surprised to find how little was changed in his life by the transmigration. The brief episode which lay behind him at Dinard took its place as a dream from which he had awakened. Respectable society, as represented by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, had dropped him once more, and his old friends had welcomed him back. The marriage announcement had been hailed in the circle of which he was the acknowledged chief as a masterpiece, reflecting more glory on him even than the bankruptcy which was now formally complete. If Alistair Stuart had gone under he had proved himself, like Samson, most formidable to the Philistines in his end.

He was able to estimate the greatness of his triumph when he found that his first visitor was the Chevalier Vane.

It was true that the Chevalier came as to the house of mourning, to condole and patronize rather than to congratulate, but Stuart knew him well enough to be sure that he would not have come at all unless[320] he considered that there was still some distinction to be drawn from the association.

Vane’s restless vanity had just stimulated him to make a bid for notoriety on his own account, on lines more congenial to his cautious temper. Inspired by the example of certain distinguished writers of the French decadent school who had exchanged the Bacchic ivy for the Christian palm with evident benefit to their reputations, he had conceived the felicitous idea of publicly entering the Church of Rome. He had already in the press a volume of hymns composed in honour of various medieval saints, collectively entitled “A Rosary of Twilight,” and he trusted that the contrast between its mystic piety and the erotic breathings of his unregenerate muse would at last stir the reviewers out of their apathy.

He had cherished the hope that a man of his importance would be deemed a proper subject for conversion by a Bishop. But the Roman authorities had taken, as usual, a severely practical view of the situation, and had intimated that the reception of a convert, however illustrious, was a matter to be regulated, like other ecclesiastical ceremonies, by the mundane consideration of fees. The cost of an episcopal welcome proved too severe a wrench for the mercenary instincts of the poet, but after a good deal of haggling he secured a monsignor, whose violet stockings made the function a moderate success in the dearth of by-elections and divorce suits.

Wickham Vane, after a severe internal struggle,[321] revolted on this occasion from his allegiance, and struck out a line of his own by embracing the tenets of the Theosophists. But the two brothers continued to live together in the same harmony as before, and it was remarkable that the priests who came from time to time to confirm the new Catholic in his faith found Wickham a much more interested listener, while the yogis and mahatmas who visited Wickham went away under the firm impression that it was his brother who was their disciple.

The author of “A Rosary of Twilight” brought with him a presentation copy as an inexpensive form of wedding-present. Molly received it with gratification as a homage offered to her in the serious character of a Christian matron. But the page containing the inscription to Lord and Lady Alistair was the one that she read with most pleasure; indeed, it was the only one that she could understand.

Her promotion had not wrought much change in Molly’s manners; there was no reason why it should, having regard to the tone of the most fashionable circles; but it had infused a distinct shade of condescension into her treatment of such of her acquaintance as were commoners. To the Chevalier Vane she accorded the courtesy due to his rank, but the untitled Wickham found himself almost snubbed.

Stuart showed the brothers over his new dwelling. The front-door opened directly into the art kitchen, behind which there was a tiny wash-house, where real cooking could be accomplished on a gas-stove.[322] Lady Alistair volunteered the information that they usually dined out, and that the household work was attended to by a plebeian neighbour. Overhead there were two small bedrooms, one of which Alistair had had fitted up as a dressing-room and study for himself.

The Vanes were charmed with the whole establishment, Egerton merely advising a cuckoo clock for the foot of the stairs as a finishing touch, and Wickham inclining to think old tapestry more suitable than wallpapers for the rooms upstairs. In his enthusiasm the Chevalier even expressed himself as seriously disposed to install himself in the house adjoining.

“We might set a fashion,” he declared, with that naïve vanity by which Alistair hardly knew whether he was more amused or annoyed. “In time we might draw other men of letters round us, and have the whole court occupied.”

“Then it would have to be called Poet’s Corner,” Alistair observed.

“That is just what I was going to say,” Vane snapped back, becoming almost rude in his greediness to appropriate the suggestion. “Such a settlement would be like a lighthouse of civilization.”

“I hope not,” Stuart retorted. “We have had too many attempts to civilize the slums. I have come here to barbarize them.”

This time the Chevalier was compelled to acknowledge the master’s superiority.

“You are right,” he heroically confessed. “But[323] I am certain my idea is a good one. It will make a sensation. We shall have pilgrims coming to visit us from all parts of Europe and America.”

And already in his egoistic fancy he pictured himself receiving a stream of reporters in his own cottage, seated in state in some exotic garb, and dictating interviews on the subject of the poetry of the Catholic renascence, which would be wired to the ends of the earth.

Stuart read his thoughts, and smiled rather sadly. Vane’s proposal had pleased him at first, corresponding as it did more or less with the project dimly shaping in his own mind. He had always had a soft corner in his heart for the two brothers. He knew his own need of intellectual fellowship, and both the Vanes, under their absurd affectations, possessed some real taste. Egerton could be a pleasant enough companion on those too rare occasions when he was not iterating the tedious personal note, and Wickham shone as a mildly agreeable moon. Stuart was not blind to their faults, but, then, no master has ever found faultless disciples. If the disciple were equal to the master there would be no masterhood.

As it is natural for a leader to crave for followers, so it is natural that he should bear much from those who seem disposed to follow him. Stuart, without analyzing his motives, had made many efforts to attach the Vanes to himself. He had tried to melt the adamantine selfishness of the elder by generous praise of all in him that was possible to praise. He had[324] tried to fan what little sparks of individuality he had detected in the younger. He had shut his eyes as much as he could to their humiliating vanity and meanness, vices which he hoped might exhale in the sunshine of a little success.

Now he was moved to despair of them. It was evident that the real attraction for Egerton in the project he had embraced so feverishly was not the companionship of congenial minds, but the notoriety conferred by reporters. His soul thirsted not after the praise of the judicious, but after the paragraphs of Fleet Street. Regretfully Alistair made up his mind to abandon the half-formed scheme, unless the two brothers could be persuaded to abandon him. The participation of such a man as Egerton Vane would degrade any movement in which he played a part to the level of his own vanity. It did not deserve even to be called vanity—it was vulgarity. Instead of the vanity of genius, it was the vulgarity of the charlatan.

Happily unconscious of the reflections passing through Lord Alistair’s mind, the Chevalier Vane was occupying his mind with the problem of his neglected volume, which Lady Alistair had laid aside. The poet of the Catholic renascence was anxious to read some of his work to the company, unworthy though they seemed to feel themselves of such a privilege, and he began forcibly turning the conversation towards the end in view.

“The new poetry will be distinguished from the[325] old by its form not less than its spirit,” he proclaimed magisterially. “I have come to the conclusion to discard the sonnet in favor of the acrostic.” (There was an acrostic in the “Rosary of Twilight.”) “Form is the essence of art, and the acrostic represents form in its severest limitations.”

“Form is art,” flashed Alistair, who saw through the visitor’s strategy, and felt maliciously disposed to balk him. It had always been an honourable understanding among the Decadents that they were to listen to each other’s poems and look at each other’s pictures, as some slight mutual compensation for the deafness and blindness of the middle class. But it seemed scarcely fair to extend the benefit of this arrangement to the poetry of the Catholic renascence.

Vane blinked, but recovered himself promptly.

“That is what I said. Form is art or its essence. For that reason it ought not to be concealed. In the acrostic form takes its right place as the governing condition of the whole.”

Wickham dutifully came to his brother’s reinforcement.

“That is why I find tapestry so far superior to painting,” he murmured. “The limitations of the needle are so much severer than those of the brush; their influence over the composition is so much more obvious. There is something vulgar in dexterity.”

“Is there not something vulgar in expression itself?” Stuart put in. “Surely the unexpressed is always higher than the expressed?”

[326]This was a wedge driven between the opposing forces. Wickham, whose claims to consideration rested entirely on the meditations in which he was believed to indulge, could not reject the principle which justified his existence. Egerton, fretting with impatience, began to fear that he should be reduced to the coarse manœuvre of openly seizing his book and reading unasked.

But even this was not to be permitted him.

“For my part,” Stuart said, “I consider that as the first word of literature was the riddle, so it must be the last. Poetry is falsehood, and we should never be allowed to tell the truth. Remember that when Shakespeare ventured to talk poetry to Ben Jonson in the Mermaid Tavern, he ‘had to be stopped.’ The poet will always be stopped by respectable people when he talks prose, and that is why he has to talk poetry, which they can’t understand. Take my advice, throw your acrostics overboard, and write riddles. Write them in Sanskrit if possible, and use a cipher. That will give you all the limitations you want. And the middle class will form a Vane Society, as they have formed a Shakespeare Society and a Browning Society, to interpret you; and when you are dead they will write biographies to prove that you were fairly orthodox and perfectly respectable.”

The author of the “Rosary of Twilight,” as he walked home in dudgeon, observed to the fraternal satellite:

[327]“I am afraid Stuart is deteriorating. He seems to be incapable of high seriousness.”

“He needs to surround himself with pale green tapestry,” was the melancholy response.

Others of Alistair’s old circle came round him in his new home, and rejoiced in this fresh defiance to the Victorian proprieties. But there was one notable absentee. The figure of the Brazilian banker was never seen in the little high-art kitchen. Since Molly Finucane had become Lady Alistair, Mendes had been struck off her visiting-list.



Sir Bernard Vanbrugh kept his own counsel about his conversation with Lord Alistair, as he had done about the Duke of Trent’s proposal.

In a brief letter from London Alistair told Hero the truth.

“If I am a scapegoat of others” (he wrote), “I cannot let you be my scapegoat. My life, I am told, must be a cul-de-sac, and you must not think of walking down it with me. I ought to have seen this all along; perhaps I did suspect it; but I was forlorn and you made me happy. Now I can only do my best not to make you miserable. Forgive my mother for her share in the mischief that has been done, and try to forgive and forget.

Alistair Stuart.”

This letter made no difference to Hero whatever. She guessed that her father had influenced Alistair to write it, but she forbore to speak to him on the subject. Her mind was made up, and so was his, and further discussion between them would only make them both unhappy.

[329]She carried the letter to Alistair’s mother, who had been left wondering and dismayed by his unexplained departure, and the two women who loved Alistair embraced and shed some tears over it.

“He will come back to you if you will wait for him,” the mother pleaded. The language of the letter was outside her comprehension, but she thought she knew what was in Alistair’s heart. “He has drawn back because he is afraid he cannot make you a good husband. But he has not really given you up.”

“I have not given him up, at all events,” Hero said quietly.

The Duchess felt greatly comforted. Only her old misgiving came back to her.

“Suppose he means to marry that woman?” she whispered.

“Then I shall look upon his wife as my sister. I shall try to make a friend of her for his sake, and I think I shall succeed. After all, perhaps I have no right to take her place.”

The mother was daunted by this answer. She could not bear to admit that Molly Finucane had any rights where Alistair was concerned. She would have liked to see Hero more jealous.

The news of the marriage reached them only through the newspaper. Alistair had thought it would be affectation to try to soften the blow.

It was a dreadful blow to the Duchess, though she had seen it coming. She sank under it, and aged visibly. Hero tried in vain to administer consolation.

[330]“I think Alistair has acted nobly,” she declared. “I am proud of him. And I should be proud of myself if I thought he had done it to please me.”

The poor Duchess began to fear that Hero, instead of an ally, was going to prove a traitor. She could see in her son’s action nothing but desperation. She had her own settled view as to what would constitute happiness for her boy, and she wanted to see him happy.

Hero wrote in the same courageous strain to Alistair himself. And she enclosed a short note to Molly, asking permission as a cordial friend of Lord Alistair’s to congratulate her on a step which she believed and hoped would be for the happiness of them both.

When Molly got the letter, she was puzzled and rather alarmed.

“Is Miss Vanbrugh the girl your mother wanted you to marry?” she asked her husband.

“Yes. But you see I married you instead,” was all Alistair said in reply.

And Molly did not dare to question him further. She answered Hero’s letter as ungraciously as she could, though her new sense of dignity kept her within the bounds of formal civility. She hoped that this would be the end of all intercourse in that quarter.

Neither Alistair nor his wife had any suspicion that their new residence was within the charitable rounds of the Duchess of Trent. The dwellers in Beers Cooperage were equally ignorant that their new neighbour was her Grace’s son. They had soon given up[331] the notion that he was among them as a social or religious missionary, and now cherished the exciting belief that he was in hiding from the police, who would presently appear on the scene, and drag him off with all dramatic circumstance.

Alistair had concealed his address from nobody; on the contrary, he had taken pains to transmit it to the editor of every directory in which his name was included. The ratification of his bankruptcy had left him with a pleasing sense of freedom, and the sale of Molly’s furniture had provided for present needs.

When the Duchess returned to Colonsay House, her first thought was for Beers Cooperage. She dreaded a meeting with her daughter-in-law so much that she was tempted to relinquish her visits to the little yard. But a sense that it would be cowardly to make her poor friends suffer on this account co-operated with some human curiosity to overcome her repugnance. She decided to go to the Cooperage as usual, and take her chance of meeting its new inmates.

Hero disappointed her friend by refusing to accompany her. She made it her excuse that she intended to call on Lady Alistair, and did not wish the compliment to be lessened by association with charitable visits.

She had another reason which she did not tell the Duchess. She feared that Alistair’s mother was incapable of dealing tactfully with such a woman as Molly Finucane. Indeed, she had shown herself little able to deal with her own son. Hero was determined[332] to be the friend of both, and in order to be so she saw that she must not let herself be identified with the Duchess.

Caroline delayed so long that it was Miss Vanbrugh who first made Lady Alistair’s acquaintance.

She drove to the Cooperage in her father’s carriage at the fashionable hour of the afternoon, walked up the yard without noticing its inmates, except by a nod in passing, and knocked at the bright green door.

It was opened by Alistair himself, who could not restrain an exclamation of pleasure.

“Is Lady Alistair at home?” Hero asked smilingly.

“You have come to call on her? That is good of you! She is upstairs; I will fetch her down.”

Hero detained him by a gesture, as she whispered swiftly:

“Don’t tell her that it is good of me. Don’t praise me to her at all. And leave us together.”

Alistair understood. He placed Hero in one of the Cromwellian armchairs, and went upstairs wearing a look of indifference.

He found Molly seated on her bed, looking very fierce and flushed. Her ladyship had inspected the visitor from overhead through the window, and immediately prepared for battle.

“Who is she?” she demanded.

Alistair shrugged his shoulders with well-assumed carelessness.

“It’s Miss Vanbrugh, the girl who wrote to you, you know.”

[333]“What has she come here for?”

“I suppose it’s a call. She asked if you were at home.”

“And what did you say?”

“I said yes. You hadn’t told me that you didn’t want to receive callers.”

Molly felt herself baffled. She bit her lip, and looked hard at Alistair.

“Our marriage was announced in the paper,” he said, pushing his advantage. “That entitles my friends to call on you, I suppose. In fact, it would be rather marked if they did not.”

“Your mother hasn’t called.”

“No. That is rather marked.”

Molly saw she was in a dilemma. She would have been glad to cut off all further acquaintance between her husband and this girl, of whom she had such good reason to be jealous. But Miss Vanbrugh’s visit offered an opening into society, that respectable society which had been the object of her ambition for so long. It was the first opening that had presented itself, and it might very easily be the last.

Lady Alistair decided to sacrifice jealousy to ambition, and, like other wives, to make her husband suffer for the sacrifice.

“You know that she has only come to see you,” she said.

“If you think so you can stay up here. I will go down and tell her that you have a headache.”

“Yes, you would like that, wouldn’t you? Me to[334] stay up here by myself, while you and her enjoy yourselves without me! I shall come down.”

“You may do as you please. But if you imagine that Miss Vanbrugh or any other lady would consent to stay and talk with the master of the house while the mistress keeps out of the room, you have a good deal to pick up.”

This speech produced an effect on Lady Alistair. She did not resent receiving lessons in social etiquette.

“You want me as a chaperon, I suppose,” she grumbled, hastily touching up her toilet and complexion.

“What nonsense! I doubt if I shall stay in the room. You must learn to entertain your own visitors.”

Incredulous, but silenced, Molly descended and faced the enemy with a warlike front.

At the first sight and speech of Hero she felt herself half disarmed. The perfect sincerity, the clear nobility of nature, that shone in Hero’s face, put every thought of vulgar jealousy instantly to shame. This woman might be a rival, and a formidable one, in the sense that a mother or a bachelor friend is the rival of a selfish wife, but she would never be a rival in any other sense.

“Dear Lady Alistair, I am afraid I have been rather slow in calling, but we have been abroad, and when we got back I found I had really nothing to wear. What do you do for your autumn hats?”

One glance at the overdressed and bejewelled little[335] woman had taught Hero the way to her friendship. Once lured on to the ground of millinery Molly became interested and animated before she knew it, and Stuart found himself provided with a good excuse for slipping out of the room.

The new Lady Alistair had expected to feel embarrassed in talking to the first lady she had ever met, and she had prepared to carry off her embarrassment by insolence. It was a surprise, and an agreeable one, to find herself chatting easily and pleasantly with the new-comer on topics that she thoroughly understood. Instead of being schooled and patronized, it was she whose superior knowledge of fashions and fashionable shops enabled her to impart information, and almost to condescend.

Hero was not contented with this opening success. She wanted to be Molly’s friend, and not merely to be friends with Molly.

“What a clever idea to take this little house!” she said, as soon as the opportunity served. “And what a charming nest you have made of it!”

“It is rather poky,” said Lady Alistair, not quite sure whether her visitor was speaking sincerely.

“Oh, but how cosy you must find it! Everybody loves cottages, but then so few of us can afford to live in them. My father, for instance—of course, as a working professional man he is obliged to consider the opinion of his patients.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” Molly assented. It made her[336] quite gracious to think that Miss Vanbrugh recognized her own social inferiority.

“I should not wonder if you set the fashion,” Hero pursued. “I am sure there must be lots of people who are tired of flats.”

Molly was surprised by her visitor’s discernment.

“The Chevalier Vane, a friend of ours, talks of taking the cottage next door,” she said, with satisfaction.

“That will be just the thing for you, won’t it? I know Lord Alistair well enough to be sure that he wants plenty of society. I expect you have hard work sometimes to find distractions for him.”

The hint sank into Molly’s mind. Frivolous and stupid as she was, she was able to see that this new friend was giving her sound advice, and she was not ungrateful for it. Alistair had married her, but whether he would continue to live with her would depend a good deal on how far she succeeded in making his home a pleasant one.

Poor Molly! She had caged her bird, but she had yet to see if she could make it sing.

Hero would not go away till she had coaxed Molly into making tea. She praised the furniture, the copper saucepans, the new cuckoo clock, the absence of servants—everything about the house, till its mistress began to think that she must be really a most enviable housewife. When Alistair rejoined them over the tea, he found Molly in a better humour than[337] he ever remembered. And he was careful to do nothing to break the charm.

As he escorted Hero down the yard to her carriage he thanked her earnestly.

“Your visit has been like an angel’s—only let me hope there will be no ‘far between.’”

“I will come as often as I think your wife wishes me to,” was the gentle answer. “Be sure you do nothing to make me unwelcome to her.”

The advice was not unnecessary. After Miss Vanbrugh had departed Molly began to doubt whether she had done well in being so friendly. She tried the experiment of disparaging the visitor to her husband, watching him keenly to see the effect of her remarks. But Alistair was on his guard, and only responded by shrugging his shoulders and saying:

“If you don’t like her you needn’t see any more of her. You have only not to return the call, and the Vanbrughs will leave us alone. If you do return it, I suppose they will ask us to dinner. Please yourself. As long as you don’t interfere with my friendships I won’t interfere with yours.”

The prospect of going to a real dinner-party—a dinner-party at which ladies would be present—was a strong temptation to Molly. She decided that the acquaintance must be kept up.

“Of course I shall return her call,” she said sharply. “What do you take me for? Do you think I’m jealous of an ordinary girl like that, who doesn’t even know where to get her gloves?”

[338]During the next few days there was a perceptible change in Molly’s behaviour towards her husband. She suggested his going to look up some of his friends, and asked him to choose at what place they should dine.

It was in the midst of this effort of the little creature’s to be a good wife to Alistair that Alistair’s mother came to see her.

Caroline had found her simple morality confused by the transformation of Molly Finucane into Lady Alistair Stuart. Ordinarily the marriage ceremony would have amounted in her view to a complete white-washing of the sinner. It was the atonement prescribed by all her social and religious canons. But this particular marriage concerned her as a mother. She could not but view with jealousy an atonement made at her son’s expense, and she found an excuse for condemnation in the fact that the marriage had taken place in a registry office. The Duchess was not so strong a Churchwoman as to deem it no marriage at all, but she could, and did, regard it as something short of that reconciliation with righteousness and respectability which a union blessed by the Church would have been.

She could not forgive her son’s wife, but she could not quite condemn her. In this frame of mind she made her way to Beers Cooperage one morning before lunch, determined to give her first visit a neutral character.

The appearance of the Duchess after an absence[339] of so many weeks caused a flutter of excitement in the little court, and all its inhabitants hastened out of doors to greet her.

As it happened, Lady Alistair was in her house alone, and hearing the sounds, she went to the window and looked out.

The spectacle of an elderly lady in old-fashioned black silk walking up the yard amid the throng of her dependents told Molly nothing. It was an entire surprise to see the visitor advance straight to her own door, and to hear her say to the people thronging round her: “I am going in here first. I will see you all again when I come out.”

In the absence of a servant, Molly was half inclined to let the visitor knock in vain. But, after all, a visit paid at such an hour could hardly be one of ceremony. Most likely the old thing wanted to ask her for a subscription: she would surely not presume to talk religion to her when she was informed of her rank.

Determined to put the intruder in her place at once, Molly went leisurely to the door and threw it open.

“Do you want to see me?” she asked roughly.

Caroline gazed at the pretty painted face that she had brought herself to believe had been her boy’s undoing, and there was not much relenting in the gaze.

“Are you my son’s wife?” she returned, with gravity.

[340]Molly was taken aback. The idea that this old person, evidently a familiar figure in the court, should be the mother of Lord Alistair quite confused her for an instant.

“Are you the Duchess of Trent?” she stammered, with a shamefaced recollection of certain correspondence that had once passed between them.

“I am Alistair’s mother,” was the response. “Is he here?”

“He has gone out,” said Molly. Then, realizing that she was standing in the doorway, and that the interview was being watched by a number of curious eyes, she drew aside hastily. “But won’t you come inside?”

“I will, thank you.”

The Duchess walked in with great deliberation, and seated herself, upright and stately, in Molly’s own chair, exactly as she was accustomed to do in one of her poor people’s cottages when about to admonish a drunken husband or a slatternly wife. The poor people, who knew that the lecture was really an excuse offered by the Duchess to her own conscience for the forgiveness and solid kindness that were to follow, always listened meekly enough. Unfortunately Molly did not know anything except that she was on her defence. These court martial airs roused her spirit, and she sailed across the room with a flushed face, and cast herself down with insolent negligence on the settle.

“I have been a district visitor in this neighbourhood[341] for some years. I don’t know whether you were aware of it when you took this house.”

“No,” said Molly, “I wasn’t. But I don’t think I should have had any objection.”

The Duchess frowned. She had come, not prepared to make peace, perhaps, but disposed to entertain a truce. Now the enemy seemed not to desire either peace or truce.

“I asked because I could not understand my son’s choice of such a residence. Does he really mean to stay here?”

“You must ask him that. I suppose he will leave it when I do—not before.”

The Duchess, routed from her own position, was obliged to accept Molly’s.

“Why have you brought him here? Do you wish him to forfeit his place in society altogether?”

“I don’t know what society you mean. Our friends are visiting us here as usual, and they think the place charming. If it keeps away frumps and bores, so much the better.”

Caroline was confounded. In her mind the common notions of her generation on the subjects of piety, morality, and social propriety were inextricably blended. Quite unconsciously to herself she had included in her scheme for Alistair’s salvation the possession of a big Cubitt-built house in Eaton Square, with menservants eating five substantial meals a day in the basement, and doing little else; a carriage and pair, conveying him and his wife to an endless round of serious[342] entertainments in other Cubitt-built houses, wherein similar menservants ate similar meals; the directorship of some respectable railway or insurance company to occupy his mind; a seat on a hospital committee by way of good works; and, above all, a stately pew furnished with red cushions and hassocks, in which he would be seen regularly every Sunday morning, carrying the glossiest of silk hats and wearing the straightest of frock-coats. No doubt she placed first of all that spiritual change which she deemed necessary to all men, but she believed that if Alistair were once converted all these other things would be added unto him, and perhaps she also believed, without being conscious of it, that if the other things were present the conversion would be added.

Molly’s own ideal was really very similar. The Cubitt-built life was the life for which she hankered with all a woman’s thirst for the envy of other women. If the Duchess had known it she might have found in Molly a much more trustworthy ally than in Hero Vanbrugh. But she was never likely to know it. For her Molly embodied every evil influence at work in Alistair’s life. The evil had triumphed, and the best that could now be hoped for was some poor salvage from the wreck.

“What sort of friends?” she said, in answer to Molly’s last remarks. “I am afraid my poor boy’s friendships have done him more harm than good.”

“His relations haven’t done much for him anyway.”

[343]The two women regarded each other with unconcealed hostility as they exchanged these retorts. It was a new experience for the Duchess to be defied in this open fashion.

“I am afraid you must take the responsibility for that,” she said severely. “His brother and I were both trying to save him, but you prevented us.”

“How did I?”

“How? By marrying him, of course.”

“And why should that prevent your doing anything for him? I know! If he had married your Miss Vanbrugh, as you wanted, the Duke would have paid off his debts fast enough. Because he preferred me you wash your hands of him in revenge.”

“He did not prefer you,” said the Duchess sternly. “He thought that after living with you as he had done he was unfit to be the husband of a good woman.”

It was a merciless stab, the stab of a mother fighting for her offspring. For an instant Molly felt sick. Then, to the dismay of her adversary, she burst into tears.

“You are a cruel, wicked woman to say a thing like that. You hate me because I love Alistair, and you know that he loves me. What do you want me to do?”

The Duchess’s conscience smote her. She sat there unable to make a reply. After all, now that this wretched marriage had taken place, what did she want Alistair’s wife to do?

[344]Molly, unconscious of the difficulty, removed it by putting her question in a different form.

“He came back to me of his own accord,” she sobbed. “I was living here—with my brother—and he came and asked me to marry him. What ought I to have done?”

“You knew that such a marriage would be his ruin. You ought to have saved him from it, if you really did love him.”

“And what about me?” moaned the dejected Molly.

The Duchess felt a momentary shame.

“There are Homes,” she said, with hesitation, “where women who desire to lead better lives are encouraged and trained to become useful members of society.”

Molly sat up, and dashed away the tears that were making havoc of her rouge and powder.

“And is that what you want to do to me? Put me into a reformatory, and cut my hair, and make me go about in a grey dress and an apron, saying ‘Ma’am’ to a lot of old maids who are too ugly themselves for any man to want them? and then get me a situation as a servant or something, where I should always be patronized and watched to see that I didn’t enjoy myself? No, thank you! I won’t go into your Home! I won’t—I won’t!”

The Duchess rose to her feet slowly.

“Some other time, when you are calmer——” she began.

[345]“I’m not going to be calm!” Molly cried fiercely. “And I’m not going to be good either—not in your way. Why should I? Why should I pretend to be ashamed of myself, and make long faces—repent, as you call it—to please you? I don’t want your good opinion. I never asked for it. All I want is for you to leave me alone. You think you are very good and gracious, I dare say, to talk to a girl like me. I don’t see it. If you really wanted to be kind, you would be kind to me now, as I am. It is easy enough to forgive people when they have left off doing what you don’t like; the thing is to forgive them while they are still doing it. If I joined the Salvation Army, and wore a poke-bonnet, you would have nothing to say against me. Bah! You’re like all the rest; I know you. Get us to go down at your feet and be miserable, and then you take credit for forgiving us. And that’s what you call Christianity!”

The Duchess had stumbled to the door and escaped before Molly lost her breath.

Alistair’s mother tottered down the yard, too much agitated to remember her pensioners, and Alistair’s wife lay on the high-art settle, with the copper pans gleaming down at her, and wept as if her heart would break.



Among those friends of Lord Alistair’s who did not neglect him in his fallen state was the moving spirit of the Legitimist Guild.

The Comte des Louvres visited the house in Beers Cooperage, and professed himself enchanted with everything about it, but most of all with its nearness to Chestnut-Tree Walk.

“We are neighbours now,” he declared, “and I shall expect you to look me up very often. Drop in whenever you have nothing better to do.”

The Frenchman threw a flattering deference into his manner towards Molly now that her position seemed to be established. He was keen enough to see the direction in which her ambitions pointed, and he threw out hints of his ability to help her.

By way of a beginning he invited her to his house to meet some of the ladies who had held stalls at the famous bazaar. Lady Alistair did not refuse the invitations. She appeared in the Count’s shabby drawing-room, flaunting in the extravagance of the past, and scored a feminine triumph over women whose whole yearly dress allowance would not have[347] paid for one of her frocks. But Molly was too shrewd to mistake these gatherings, at which tea was handed round by the two Vanes, and the conversation turned chiefly on the Legitimist cause and its prospects, for the kind of society she had aspired to. The women to whom Des Louvres introduced her were as much outside the pale as herself, though for different reasons, and in the end they tired her by their pretentious gentility, and she left off trying to mix with them.

It was borne in upon the poor little woman that her dream of respectability was never likely to be realized. The cruel frankness of the Duchess had broken her spirit. The dismal vision of the Home began to rise up before her as a final destiny. Very often she cried now when she was alone. It seemed to her that life could never be jolly again. Nothing had turned out as she had hoped. Marriage seemed to have made things worse instead of better. Alistair left her to herself as much as formerly, and when he was with her they had less and less to say to one another. And they became really poor. The Duke’s intentions as regards his brother’s allowance remained undeclared. In the meantime the South Kensington furniture, the copper saucepans, and the Cromwellian oak had been bought on the hire system, and there was trouble about the instalments. Once or twice already they had had to dine at home on slices of ham brought in from a shop in the Westminster Bridge Road, because they could not afford[348] a meal at a restaurant. And now the winter was upon them.

After all, Molly had not returned Miss Vanbrugh’s call. And this was not because she was jealous of her, but because when it came to the point she found she had not the courage. In Hero’s presence, in the light of her candid eyes, the pretence of being a lady could not be kept up. Perhaps Hero guessed how matters stood, for when she found that Lady Alistair did not come to her she made the experiment of coming again to Beers Cooperage. And Molly was very glad to see her. To her own surprise, she found her once dreaded rival was her only friend. They grew to call each other by their Christian names. And by degrees Molly opened her heart to Hero, and told her everything; told her one day, with tears and sobs, the story of her miserable life, and wound up with the despairing cry:

“I shall never be any better; I know I shan’t. I can’t be sorry. I can’t repent.”

Hero held out her arms. When she reached home that evening she found the bosom of her dress all streaked with rouge.

Alistair’s wife was not blinded by the respectful homage of the Comte des Louvres to his true character. Her instinct told her that the Count had no friendships which did not serve some purpose of his own, and she warned Alistair against him.

“Beware of that man,” she said one day after the Frenchman had been to see them. “He pretends to[349] be your friend, but he is scheming to get something out of you.”

“Most friends are,” was Alistair’s retort. “Of course, Des Louvres is a scoundrel, but he is an interesting one. Honest men are such bores.”

And in that remark Alistair expressed more of his character than he knew. Perhaps the strongest of all the motives that stirred him to quarrel with the social order in which he had been reared was that he found it dull. He judged of life like a novel—it is the villain who is the soul of the plot.

If he had been born fifty years before, Alistair Stuart might have been happily engaged among those who were struggling for the emancipation of Europe from the old Legitimist régime. Political liberty, the liberty that Shelley had hymned, and Mazzini plotted, and Garibaldi fought for, seemed a Dead Sea fruit to his taste, but yet at least the struggle for it had been worth waging. To-day nothing interesting, nothing heroic, was going on in the world. The glorious dawn of the nineteenth century had been succeeded by a commonplace day. The struggles of the hour were for markets and mines; the question that moved men’s souls was whether Mike Finigan should be compelled to hide his glass of beer from the respectable sight of Mr. Stiggins.

Liberalism was dead, and the social democracy marching over its corpse had discarded every noble watchword, every lofty ideal, and proclaimed the naked issue of more wages and less work. They and[350] the millionaires might fight it out between them as far as such as Alistair were concerned. Neither side seemed likely to add anything to the beauty of life.

In the house in Chestnut-Tree Walk he found himself brought into touch with an altogether different world. It was a strange underground world, a world of decayed races, and lost causes, and fallen dynasties, and overthrown gods. Sometimes it seemed to him a world of pure make-believe, in which everything was pasteboard and tinsel, and at other times it seemed to him that there was a meaning hidden beneath the make-believe, that there was a strength in all this decay capable of assailing and overcoming in time the strength of the world of triumphant causes and conquering races; that from this concealed and stagnant source a power of corruption might arise, like the pestilence that issues from the slums of Canton or the pilgrim-ships of Mecca and devastates Asia and Europe.

Alistair became a more and more frequent visitor to the house hidden behind the grimy chestnut-trees. Des Louvres was never a dull companion. He possessed a unique knowledge of contemporary European history, especially of that part of history which does not get into books, and which the underbred provincials who compile scholastic histories seem never to understand. His memory for royal genealogies was equal to that of a German Court Chamberlain. And he was not ignorant of British pedigrees either.

On one occasion he surprised Stuart by asking him:

[351]“You are related to the Earls of Mar, are you not?”

“My grandmother was an Erskine,” Alistair replied. “Why do you ask?”

“Your ancestor headed the first Jacobite rising on behalf of James III,” said Des Louvres, with a significant glance.

“It is sometimes called the Earl of Mar’s Rebellion,” responded Alistair. “But I don’t think my ancestor distinguished himself very much. He made his arrangements very badly, and quarrelled with the Pretender when he came over.”

The other did not pursue the subject. But his remark had taken effect on Stuart’s mind.

In addition to Des Louvres there were often other interesting figures to be met with at Chestnut-Tree House: Frenchmen fresh from the boulevards; Austrians and Spaniards with the latest gossip of their capitals; urbane Roman priests, affecting the diplomatist rather than the cleric, and anxious that the Duke of Trent’s brother should take an interest in the absorbing question of the Temporal Power.

“There never was a more interesting State than the Pope’s,” Stuart was told. “It was government by the refined and intellectual class, the aristocracy of mind and birth combined. There was no public opinion, which, as you know, always means vulgar middle-class opinion. There was no Puritan inquisition; Garibaldi and his brigands made it their chief complaint against us that we did not persecute the sinner. Every[352] man could do as he pleased, in short, provided that he did not openly assail the Church. Of course, no Sovereign can tolerate rebellion. For artists and poets, for all men of taste and originality, the Rome of the Popes was an almost perfect home.”

Alistair grew more and more inclined to believe it. More and more he came to feel that he had no quarrel with the Church of Rome. It had never persecuted him. On the contrary, it had treated him with consideration at a time when he had received no consideration from those who owed it to him most.

He would have been glad enough to believe that a restored Papal State would afford him the city of refuge for which he yearned, and if he raised objections the tempters easily swept them away.

“Was not the press muzzled?” he would ask. “Was there not a censorship of books?”

And the answer would be that the democratic press was equally muzzled, only it was muzzled by a golden muzzle. A paper could not be launched, except at a cost only within the means of the very rich. It could not be carried on at all without the revenue derived from the pill-makers and the soap-makers; and the pill-maker would permit nothing to appear in it that might by any possibility offend his bilious customers. The rich man would not tolerate any paper that did not pander to the passionate greed which was fast becoming more than a disease—a veritable possession.

And there was a censorship of books as well, a censorship[353] administered, not by educated men, but by policemen hounded to their work by rabid zealots in whom sexual perversion took the form of prudery. There were commercial censorships and voluntary ones. A tradesman, sitting in his office, held in his hands the fate of half the books brought out in England. The committees of the Free Libraries were more intolerant than any Roman congregation. Were not their shelves choked with the rubbish of evangelical serialists, and barred to the masterpieces of De Maupassant and D’Annunzio? The real censorships of books in every age had been exercised by human stupidity. The Index Expurgatorius of ignorance and spite was vaster than the British Museum Catalogue.

Stuart found himself more than half committed to the cause already. His effort on behalf of Don Juan, slight and unsuccessful as it had been, had brought him a letter of thanks from the Prince, and an invitation to call on him if Lord Alistair should ever find himself in Rome. Des Louvres continued to speak hopefully of the Pretender’s prospects. And in the meanwhile it became more and more clear to Alistair that Don Juan’s cause, and all these romantic causes and whispering conspiracies centred in the one supreme cause and the one secular conspiracy represented by that immemorial figure, crowned with the triple crown of Ra, grasping the keys of Sheol and Amenti, and pursuing in the name of the Crucified One the empire of the Conqueror.

In the same measure that Alistair Stuart was attracted[354] to the camp of these rebels against the established order he was repelled from that rival camp whose red flag was the symbol of an international Jacquerie.

Every poet is at heart an anarchist, but his vocation bids him be a transcendental one, perceiving that sympathy is stronger than violence, and the seed that bursts unseen and silently is a more formidable engine than the bomb. Alistair found in the proletarian propaganda, so far as it had come under his notice, a leaven of envy and hatred of the best. The spirit of Marat’s bloody apostolate lurked under words like brotherhood and humanity. It was not only against the rich and the tyrannical that the red flag waved; it menaced equally knowledge and genius. Archimedes would fare no better at such hands than he had fared at the hands of the soldier of Marcellus. The policy of these helot Tarquins was to strike down the tall flowers of the garden, roses and nettles together.

His three months’ sojourn in Beers Cooperage had taught Alistair that he could not really be the brother of his humble neighbours. He was not nearer to them in spirit than if he were dwelling in Colonsay House. He was too kind-hearted not to wish to befriend them, but he could only do so as he befriended children and animals—without feeling himself as one of them. His common sense, or, what is the same thing, his sense of humour, saved him from trying to elevate them by means of wireless telegraphy and the Andaman Islands. The simple truth was that he[355] no more wanted to change their natures than to change his own. He was that rare thing, an individualist who respected the individuality of others. He was the only person who had ever bestowed money in the Cooperage without asking whether it was to be spent on tea or on beer. In his mother’s opinion he was doing harm to the neighbourhood. Among the beneficiaries a suspicion had begun to germinate that he must have his eye on a seat in the County Council. His favourite manifestation of interest was to call in passing organ-grinders, who played in the Cooperage by the hour together, while the children danced.

Alistair could make his poor neighbours happy, but they could not make him happy.

The poet searching for his Eden places it ever in some environment which he has not yet tried. Whole generations of priest-ridden Italians had placed the home of freedom in Puritan-ridden England; it was natural that Alistair should place it in Papal Rome.

Des Louvres, the Catiline of this conspiracy, had just that touch of the bohemian in his own character which enabled him to understand Stuart. He did not hope to rouse in him any active enthusiasm for the small territorial ambitions of the Catholic Pretenders, clerical or lay. But he saw that what Stuart wanted was a stick with which to beat society, and the Legitimist stick was as good as any other. Little by little he drew his proselyte on to the view that all the elements that made the Victorian Order hateful[356] to him were personified in the reigning House itself. The Hanoverian dynasty was a Protestant dynasty—or, at least, it was required to pose as such in public. The Act of Settlement was the work of the Low Church party, supported by the Nonconformists; in other words, it was the Puritan settlement. All English history, all English literature, all English society, had rested hitherto on the basis that the Low Church party was in the right, and that its standards ought to govern Great Britain, and Ireland, and India, and ultimately the whole world.

Alistair himself had been brought up in an atmosphere where that assumption was not supposed to be even subject to discussion. The whole world, to his youthful mind, had been divided into two classes—those who were Low Churchmen, and those who ought to be, and knew it. He, Alistair, knew it, so did the others, from the General of the Jesuits to the stone-breaker suspected of being a Plymouth Brother, and from the condemned murderer to the author of the “Origin of Species.” The Sultan of Turkey knew it in his heart, and so did every follower of every other faith, except, possibly, the Grand Lama, protected by geographical barriers from the enterprise of the Low Church Missionary Society.

And now all these assumptions were breaking up and melting away so rapidly that the mere statement of them sounded more like satire than sober record. Histories of England were being written, and were being used in the schools, which failed to teach that[357] the Revolution of 1688 was the most glorious event in the annals of the human race. It was no longer universally deemed an act of oppression on the part of James I. to permit the peasantry to dance on Sunday. Even the Reformation had ceased to be the subject of unmitigated eulogy. The rising generation were being allowed to perceive that some bigotry goes to the making of a martyr, as well as of a heretic-hunter. The failings of the leading Reformers were no longer veiled, and the virtues of their opponents were lovingly conceded.

Every revelation passes through three stages: first, it is a heresy; next, a commonplace; and last, a superstition. The mind of man revolves like his planet, and truths rise and set like the stars.

Protestantism had survived into the third stage. The great Protestant Churches still flourished, but they no longer professed the Protestant religion. The Church of England was suing for recognition by the Church of Rome. The Dissenting Churches, founded by men who were more willing to endure poverty and prison than to wear a surplice, or to use a ring in the marriage ceremony, were adopting liturgies and vestments. The evangelical organizations, the Missionary Societies, the Bible Societies, the Tract Societies, were still in full activity, but they had ceased to evangelize. Like the Churches, they lived on their inheritance; they were kept going by the dead hand. Frock-coated committees were called together by well-salaried secretaries to dispose of funds too large for[358] the shrunken field of endeavour; but, wiser than the augurs of old Rome, the secretaries never smiled.

The machinery went on with well-oiled wheels, but the spirit was gone. The foundation stone of the building had been almost accidentally mined. The picks of excavators toiling at the dust-heaps beside the Tigris and Euphrates that once were Nineveh and Babylon, had turned up a handful of arrow-stamped bricks, and the Protestant Bible had become a mere human document. The whole of English society was engaged in a conspiracy to suppress the fact that the world was changing. The schools and universities went on teaching that it never changed; the pulpits proved that it could not; the newspapers were positive that it had not; yet underneath all this loud shouting of the cohorts of respectability could be heard a murmur like the whisper of Galileo before the Inquisition—But it does move.

It was the close of the Victorian Age. It was an age which had recorded its own praises on a myriad monuments, and chanted them in thunder on the days of jubilee. It was an age which had gazed round upon its mighty works, and boasted itself like Nebuchadnezzar. Nevertheless, in this age, so glorious in its own conceit, so fruitful in many respects, one rank weed had been suffered to grow up unchecked, till it poisoned the breathing-room of the human spirit.

The name of this weed was Cant.

The Victorian world had been satirized unconsciously by the Victorian poet. In his “Idylls of the[359] King” Tennyson had depicted a man without passions trying to impose his own cold virtues on men of warmer temperament, and producing first hypocrisy and deceit, and in the end a deeper corruption. The Victorian world had been like Arthur’s Court.

In this world Cant became a religion, and hypocrisy was enforced by law. It was a world whose literature and art were adjusted to the mental and moral level of the Sunday-school. It was a world in which a terrible disease, bred of moral corruption, scourged the race, and every effort to stay its ravages was fought against tooth and nail by the mænads of social purity. It was a world in which selfishness was inculcated in a million sermons, and slander and persecution were reckoned as good works. It was a world in which blackmailing became a recognized profession. It was a world in which men sent sailors to be drowned in rotten ships, and built chapels with the proceeds. It was a world which overthrew kings and set up millionaire monopolists; which suppressed slavery and invented sweating; which substituted the prostitute for the concubine; which imposed a curfew on beer at home and sold opium abroad at the point of the bayonet. A great pirate Empire ravaged the seas, with a crucifix at the masthead, and stole pagan continents.

One night when Alistair Stuart went round to the house in Chestnut-Tree Walk he found its master waiting for him in a state of excited expectation.

“Have you heard the news?” Des Louvres asked[360] in a whisper, as soon as Stuart had sat down. “They are trying to keep it out of the papers as long as possible, but it has reached me from a source that I can absolutely depend upon. Queen Victoria is dying.”



I have my information from a person in the confidence of one of the Royal Family. The Queen cannot last more than three days.”

Stuart had received the news with a slight shock. For him, as for all his generation, the venerable figure seated on the throne had almost a legendary character. It seemed impossible to think of the British Empire without Queen Victoria; the idea of a new head on the coins and postage-stamps was strange and incredible.

But, apart from these reflections the Frenchman’s announcement did not strike him as having any importance for himself, and he was unable to understand the excitement with which Des Louvres took him by the arm and drew him towards the door of the room.

“Most of the others are here,” Des Louvres said in a voice lowered to a whisper. “I telegraphed to them as soon as I heard. They are in there, waiting for you to take the chair.”

Then for the first time it struck Alistair that the approaching demise of the Crown was an event likely to prove a crisis, and that Des Louvres expected him[362] to play a part in keeping with his ancestral traditions and outlawed state.

Nothing loth, he passed into the room where the committee was assembled, the strongest feeling in his mind one of amusement at the thought of the terror likely to be excited in the bosom of the Chevalier Vane and his brother at the prospect of a serious collision with the authorities.

He found the Chevalier inside, looking pale and anxious, while Wickham’s face bore the calmer expression of one whose mind was made up. Mr. St. Maur was also present, looking little less comfortable than the Chevalier, and the party was reinforced by the Hon. Gerald St. John and Mr. Basil Dyke. The Decadents were complete, with the one exception of Mendes, whose complaisance had never extended to the length of enrolling himself among the comrades or followers of the Comte des Louvres.

Stuart had scarcely seated himself when Egerton Vane rose precipitately to his feet, to explain his position.

Des Louvres had cruelly refrained from assigning anything more definite than “important business” as the object of the meeting; and when on their arrival they learned the character of the crisis, the brothers felt themselves entrapped. This was the moment of all others when they would have wished the Guild to practise the modesty of self-effacement; and if the Guild was going, on the contrary, to do anything rash, it was the moment which they would have chosen[363] silently to sever their connection with the Guild. They knew better than the Frenchman the sentiment entertained by her subjects towards the dying Queen, and they had no desire to face the storm that would be provoked by any demonstration of disrespect.

“Our secretary has called us together rather hastily,” the Chevalier began in a plaintive tone. “No doubt the news he has received is very important, if it is reliable.”

“It is absolutely reliable,” interrupted the Count.

The Chevalier drew a laboured sigh, as he resumed: “In that case, whatever our political views may be, I am sure we shall all feel that at such a moment we must share to a certain extent in the national mourning for the loss of a venerated and respected—er—personage. I am not sure that our secretary has acted altogether discreetly—though of course he meant it for the best—in summoning a meeting of the Guild at such a moment; but as we are here, I suggest that it would be a graceful act on our part to pass a resolution recording our—er—respect and—er—sympathy with the family of the—er—the Queen!”

The speaker brought out the last word with a defiant jerk, and sat down hastily, hoping to evade a rebuke at the hands of Des Louvres. But he was agreeably surprised to see that astute schemer rise and second his proposition. The French Count had the sense to interpret the situation rightly, and to see that the fears of a man like Egerton Vane were[364] a useful index to the state of English opinion. Evidently it would be wise to propitiate the public sentiment by such a resolution as Vane had suggested.

The Chevalier had the gratification of seeing his proposition carried unanimously. But this concession made to policy, Des Louvres lost no time in coming to business.

“In three days from now the throne will be vacant, and the Guild will have to show whether it is capable of taking action in accordance with its principles. Since the successful rebellion of 1688 no usurping Sovereign has ever been allowed to ascend the throne without a protest being made on behalf of the legitimate heirs. On this occasion it is clearly our duty to make that protest, and the only question is how we should proceed.”

This bold challenge was received in chilling silence. Stuart glanced round the room with a disdain he hardly tried to conceal, and saw one after the other shrink back.

Without rising from his seat, St. John put a question to the secretary.

“Has the Princess been consulted?”

Des Louvres shook his head.

“Her Majesty’s position is a difficult one,” he explained. “As a German Princess she is exposed to pressure from Berlin. We cannot expect her to give us any open countenance. As long as she does not publicly repudiate us, that is as much as we have any right to ask.”

[365]After a silence full of eloquence, the waverers found a champion in Mr. Basil Dyke. The novelist was on the eve of completing his reconciliation with the bourgeoisie by marriage with a lady whose father’s liver pills enjoyed a celebrity such as literature cannot attain, although it was part of the understanding that in the future Mr. Dyke’s productions were to be recommended in the same organs of publicity as his father-in-law’s. The reformed Decadent looked forward to entering the House of Commons in the character of a supporter of Church and Throne; and with such a prospect in view it was evidently time for him to dissociate himself from the political profligacies of his youth.

“I cannot agree with the Comte des Louvres that we have any right to speak on behalf of the Princess, without her express authority,” he said. “Neither do I see what we have to gain by coming forward at this particular time. We have proclaimed our principles, the public is aware of them, and any assertion of them at this moment would be taken badly. It would be said that we were guilty of bad taste—that we were advertising ourselves on the occasion of a funeral.”

Alistair smiled. It seemed to him very English, this unctuous horror of advertisement on the part of a man who had won notoriety with a treacherous libel and was about to confirm it by an alliance with liver pills. Basil Dyke was clearly marked out for a[366] knighthood under the new reign. He was one of those whom England delights to honor.

There was no doubt that the novelist had on his side the majority of those present. The disappointed Count vainly tried to strike a responsive chord.

“What is the Guild for, if it is not to act at a crisis like this?” he demanded.

The Hon. Gerald St. John gave him his answer:

“Our mission is to educate, not to indulge in vulgar demonstrations, like Socialists and people of that kind. For my part I have never pretended to take any interest in Mary III. My quarrel is with respectability and I shall wait to see whether the new Court is respectable before I condemn it.”

Des Louvres bit his lip. “You English are always respectable,” he sneered.

“Not at all,” was the good-tempered answer. “Our middle class is always respectable, I grant you; but our aristocracy is generally wicked. And we have had lots of disreputable Kings. I have every hope that the Victorian Age will be succeeded by a Restoration.”

“Charles II. was a Stuart,” protested the Legitimist agent.

“Well, if it comes to that, I don’t know that your German Princess is any more of a Stuart than the people in possession. There seems to me very little to choose between Bavaria and Saxe-Coburg. George IV. was a man with many fine qualities.”

Des Louvres began to lose his temper.

[367]“Of course, if anybody is afraid of the consequences I don’t expect them to come forward,” he said sneeringly.

The insult that cannot be pardoned is the one that we feel to be deserved. Egerton Vane, St. Maur, and the bridegroom-elect rose to their feet together.

“After that I shall go home. Come, Wickham,” cried the Chevalier. Mr. St. Maur was understood to mutter that if anything did happen the Comte des Louvres would probably be the first out of the country. Dyke inquired whether a foreigner was qualified to dictate to Englishmen their line of conduct at a national crisis.

The hubbub was subdued by the chairman’s voice. Alistair had been bored by the debate, much as a boy fresh from his first term at school is bored by the forgotten interests of the nursery. He felt that he had outgrown all this kind of thing; it was wide of the mark; it led nowhere, and promised nothing. But he was in just that mood when action of any kind offered a temptation which it was impossible to resist, and he felt a keen pleasure in asserting himself for the last time among those who had been his followers for so long.

“Before Des Louvres talks about being afraid, suppose he tells us what he wants us to do?”

The mutterings of strife died down, and all eyes were turned on the Count. His response was ready instantly.

[368]“I consider the Guild ought to issue a formal Assertion of the right of Queen Mary III. to the throne.”

“Have you got the Assertion there?”

Des Louvres produced it, and read it aloud. It was received in dead silence.

“Well,” said Alistair, “what next? What do you want to do with that thing?”

“It ought to be posted up all over London, the moment the death of the Queen is announced.”

“Who is to post it up?”

This time Des Louvres had no answer ready. He glanced doubtfully round the uneasy faces of his colleagues, and drew his own conclusions. Dyke could not resist a sneer.

“Surely that is the secretary’s duty.”

The Frenchman was stung into accepting the challenge.

“I will post up one if everyone else will do the same,” he said.

The chairman looked slowly round him.

“I agree to put up one,” he said deliberately.

There was another silence, during which the two Vanes consulted each other’s countenances. The same thought had occurred to each. What was to prevent them from taking a copy of the treasonable document and discreetly disposing of it in private?

The Hon. Gerald St. John shrugged his shoulders. “If Stuart is going to post one up, I shall do the same, though I don’t agree with it.”

[369]The Chevalier Vane rose to his feet with considerable emotion.

“Give me a copy, and I will do my duty,” he said sublimely. “I answer for my brother as well.”

Mr. St. Maur had meanwhile been deciding on his private course of action. Convinced that the present proceedings must be taken seriously by the authorities, he had resolved to earn his own pardon by a whole-souled repentance. He lowered his eyes to the ground, as he said:

“For my part I am compelled to dissociate myself from this manifesto at such a time. I desire that my protest may be recorded in the minutes of the Guild.”

The Chevalier and his brother exchanged alarmed glances. The idea that their courageous undertaking might be recorded in writing had not occurred to them.

“Surely there will be no record taken of to-night’s meeting!” Egerton exclaimed. “These proceedings are confidential!”

Des Louvres hastened to reassure him. He had conceived a suspicion from St. Maur’s manner, and determined to balk him.

“I am in the hands of the committee,” he said. “But in my opinion it will be best to make no entry beyond the names of those present, and to state that the proceedings were of a private character.”

Basil Dyke sprang to his feet.

“In that case I shall withdraw at once!” he declared.[370] “I consider you had no right to bring us here without warning us of what you were going to propose. This is high treason. I shall resign my membership of the Guild.”

“I move that Mr. Dyke’s resignation be accepted,” said Alistair swiftly, going through the necessary formalities, as the irate novelist made his way to the door.

Wickham Vane cast a reproachful glance at his brother.

“If there is going to be any record of to-night’s meeting, I shall go as well,” he announced.

Des Louvres saw that he must give way.

“Have it as you please,” he remarked. “As I said, I am in your hands.” Then, with a warning glance in St. Maur’s direction, he added: “That concludes the business of the meeting. Those who have undertaken to post up copies of the Assertion had better remain behind to consult as to the most appropriate places.”

The informer was obliged to take the hint.

“Very well, gentlemen,” he said, as he rose to go. “Remember that if this lands you in trouble, I have done my best to save you.”

“That fellow means to betray us,” said Des Louvres, as the door closed behind the Irishman. “He will turn King’s evidence if the police get on our track.”

Egerton Vane turned white. But stealing a look[371] at his brother, he was reassured by the placid expression that stole over Wickham’s face.

In the discussion that followed it was settled that Stuart should put up the manifesto at the most important spot—the gallery of St. James’s Palace, from which the new Sovereign is wont to be proclaimed. The others selected other points about the Metropolis, and Des Louvres undertook to post copies to members of the Guild in the provinces, with instructions to affix them to the church doors. The secretary possessed a typing machine, and each of the volunteers was in possession of his copy as he came away.

Alistair strolled home slowly, to find his wife in a state of some excitement.

“Do you know what is happening?” she asked eagerly, as he came in. “The Queen is dying.”

Alistair stared at her.

“What, is it in the papers already?” he exclaimed.

It was Molly’s turn to stare.

“Then you knew it? Who told you? Oh, of course, that man Des Louvres.”

“Who told you?” demanded Alistair. He noticed that Molly was rouged to the eyebrows, and that she had been drinking.

“Mr. Mendes told me,” she said in a hard, defiant voice. “He called here just after you had gone. He wants us to go and dine with him.”

“You can go if you like,” Alistair said listlessly.

The dinner with Mendes took place three nights[372] afterwards. It was given in London’s most expensive restaurant, and Lord and Lady Alistair were the only guests. Mendes was as cool and composed as ever, chatting with his guests as if no interruption had ever occurred in their intercourse. Molly was voluble and restless, emptying her glass as often as the waiter filled it with champagne. Alistair ate and drank little, and hardly spoke except when his host addressed to him a direct question. He felt strangely out of place, as he sat there, looking abstractedly from one to the other of his companions, and wondering what he was doing there between them, and how it was all going to end.

Suddenly, just as the sweets were being brought round, there was a stir outside, and a man came in hurriedly with a sheaf of papers under his arm. He went through the long, brilliantly lit saloon, leaving a paper on each little table, and as he approached Mendes he said in his ear in a subdued voice:

“The Queen is dead, sir.”

Alistair slowly filled his own glass with wine, lifted it up, and emptied it.

“It is the end of an age,” he said, as he set it down again, and rose deliberately to his feet.

Mendes glanced at him curiously.

“Yes, it is the end of some things,” he answered composedly. “Are you off?”

“I have an engagement,” said Alistair dryly.

The two men shook hands quietly, but not without[373] cordiality. Each of them had found something in the other to respect.

Alistair was leaving without bestowing more than a nod on Molly, when she surprised him by getting up.

“You don’t want me?” she said, with the husky accent which came into her voice when she had been drinking a good deal.

“No,” said Alistair, puzzled.

“Then good-bye.”

She held out a beringed hand, and Alistair took it nervously, inly afraid of a scene. Then he went without looking back.

It was midnight before he let himself into the little art kitchen in Beers Cooperage, and saw by the light of the match which he had struck to show him the way upstairs a white envelope lying on the floor. The flap bore the printed name of the hotel in which he had dined that night, and he tore it open, with a sensation of knowing all about it, and having expected it all along.

Dear Alistair” (said the shaky, badly-formed writing within), “It is no good. You don’t want me, and it will never be any better. I have gone abroad with Mr. Mendes, and you can get a divorce as soon as you like.

Molly Finucane.

“P.S.—You are a fool if you don’t marry Hero Vanbrugh.”



The great Puritan Queen lay dead—dead, after sixty-three years of unexampled prosperity and glory. For her, and in her name, heroes had conquered and statesmen had annexed; laureates had hymned her in exquisite verse; discoverers had written her name on the map of new continents and carried it to the mysterious sources of old Nile. On her the farthest East had showered barbaric pearl and gold, and new realms had come forth out of the desert to hail her Queen.

The last Protestant Queen lay dead. And before the warmth of life had ebbed away two hands were lifted to rend the veil of the world’s reverence. One of these hands affixed a paper to her Palace walls, proclaiming that she had been a usurper; the other boasted in the public press that she had been interred with a Catholic emblem upon her breast.

Both hands were guided, consciously or unconsciously, by the same motive power. Both actions were symbolical. The mysterious process of the rise and fall of nations is worked out by and through the change of minds. The Victorian Age had passed[375] away before Victoria herself. And her end had been hastened and embittered by the opening revelations of the anti-Puritan war.

The last man in England who was likely to read aright the signs of the times, and perceive the true trend of contemporary history was the man who, naturally enough, found himself occupying the post of Home Secretary.

The Duke of Trent had been passing the last two days at Osborne, in obedience to the archaic custom which required him to witness the Sovereign’s demise. Not less archaic in essence seemed to his eye the seditious manifesto which was brought to him by an agent of Scotland Yard, torn down from St. James’s Palace within half an hour of its being put up. Viewing it, as his character and intellectual limitations compelled him to view it, as an offensive practical joke, nevertheless he hastened back to town in a state of uneasiness bordering on alarm. He did not, of course, apprehend anything in the nature of violence, but he thought it quite possible that the authors of the Assertion might be preparing to interrupt the formal proclamation of the new Sovereign; and he had ordered the ceremony to be deferred till the police had had time to act.

Privately he had another and still more serious cause of anxiety. He had not forgotten the Legitimist bazaar, and he feared that the investigations which had been immediately set on foot might show[376] the name of his brother as figuring among the authors of the disgraceful jest.

The task of the police did not prove a difficult one. Late in the afternoon of the day after the outrage the Chief Commissioner himself waited upon the Secretary of State at the Home Office to make his confidential report.

The Duke received him alone, with an air of embarrassment which the Commissioner found it easy to understand.

“I thought it best to come to your Grace myself, as the matter is one that seems to call for careful handling.”

“What have you found out?”

“The manifesto—they call it the Assertion—comes from the committee of a body styling itself the Legitimist Guild. The real instigator, I suspect, is a Frenchman, the Comte des Louvres, who is a sort of international agent. He is in the pay of the Duke of ——, the King of the ——, and even, I believe, of the Vatican.”

The Home Secretary frowned.

“What was his motive?”

“Simply to show that he was earning his money, I expect. There may be some idea that if they can give trouble to our Royal Family, the influence of the English Court will be exerted on behalf of the Royalist cause in France—or the Pope’s temporal power.”

“Well, what have you done?”

[377]“We had very little to do. As soon as the manifesto was found I guessed whom it came from, and sent a couple of detectives round to the Count’s house, where they seized the papers of the Guild. That seems to have frightened them, and within an hour or two more than half of the committee were round with us volunteering information, and anxious to be accepted as King’s evidence in case of a prosecution.”

The Duke raised his eyes to the Commissioner’s face.

“The King does not want a prosecution. He prefers that the whole thing should be hushed up. All we have to do is to give these fools a good fright, so that they will think twice before repeating their exploit. What are their names?”

“The first men who came to us were two brothers named Vane, who had undertaken to post up copies of the Assertion themselves, but thought better of it—they brought the copies with them to prove their innocence. Afterwards there was an Irishman who calls himself St. Maur, but whose real name is Maher, and Basil Dyke, the novelist. Dyke seems to have protested the whole thing from the first, and resigned from the Guild in consequence. I don’t think any of the four are likely to give any more trouble.”

“Who else is there?”

The Commissioner of Police discreetly turned his head.

“The only others are the Comte des Louvres, the Hon. Gerald St. John, and—Lord Alistair Stuart.”

[378]Lord Alistair’s brother clenched the hand that rested on the desk in front of him.

“Yes; that is what I expected.” He paused for a moment or two, frowning and fidgeting in his chair. “Who put up this wretched thing?”

“According to the Vanes, Lord Alistair must have posted the one on the Palace. The other two were each to put up one somewhere else, but I believe Mr. St. John was the only one who actually did.”

“In other words, my brother is the ringleader—is that so?”

“I think his lordship is the only one of the whole crew who has any pluck,” was the response. “He was in the chair when the thing was decided on.”

The Duke of Trent drew his lips together.

“Do you know where to find him?”

“I have men watching them all. Lord Alistair has stayed indoors all day.” The Chief Commissioner hesitated, and then went on. “Your Grace will excuse me if I refer to a private matter which perhaps you would wish to hear at once. Lady Alistair has deserted his lordship—eloped, in fact, with Mr. Mendes, the millionaire.”

The Duke looked up, startled.

“When did that happen?”

“Yesterday, I understand. She did not come home last night. His lordship has been alone all day.”

James Stuart fell into a brown study. The news he had just heard was both good and bad. It was a relief to know that he would not remain much longer[379] the brother-in-law of Molly Finucane; but on the other hand he saw his brother resuming the position of a rival for the hand of Hero Vanbrugh. With the cold obstinacy of his nature, James still clung persistently to the belief that sooner or later he would obtain the woman on whom he had set his heart—or what he deemed to be his heart. But now the obstacle that had stood between Hero and his brother had been removed, and unless he could replace it by another, even his dull mind could perceive how things were likely to go.

He fixed his eyes once more upon his official subordinate.

“What you have told me, Commissioner, alters my position. If my brother is the person principally guilty, I cannot honourably be responsible for advising His Majesty to let the affair be hushed up.”

The Commissioner bowed low, deeply impressed by the scrupulous delicacy of his superior.

“What are your Grace’s instructions?”

“The law must take its course—for the present, at all events. Of course, I shall communicate again with His Majesty, and with the Prime Minister.”

“In that case I shall have to arrest his lordship as well as the others.”

“It will be sufficient if you arrest Lord Alistair. You can give the others a chance to escape abroad.”

The Chief Commissioner stood for a moment, playing awkwardly with his hat.

“In cases of high treason,” he observed, in a low[380] voice, “it is customary for the warrant to be signed by the Home Secretary.”

The Home Secretary drew himself up.

“Have you a warrant with you?”

The necessary form was procured from the criminal branch of the Department, and James wrote his own name beneath that of his only brother, with a firm, unfaltering hand.

The next hour was taken up by the Commissioner of Police in personally effecting the arrest of his distinguished prisoner, and by the Secretary of State in communicating with the head of the Government. The Duke went through the form of tendering his resignation, which was courteously declined.

“I do not believe for a moment that His Majesty will reconsider his decision, nor should I advise it,” the old Prime Minister said sensibly. “You had better cancel the warrant at once. Give your brother a good fright and send him out of the country. Let us hope that this experience may sober him.”

When James got back to the Home Office he found a note on his desk from the Chief Commissioner.

“I have his lordship in the next room, but he is hardly in a fit condition to be questioned. Perhaps your Grace had better see him to-morrow.”

The Duke rang his bell, and ordered his brother to be brought before him alone.

Alistair came in, still wearing the evening dress in which he had dined with Mendes overnight, with his[381] hair unbrushed and his eyes from an unreposeful sleep.

His brother glanced at him with carefully concealed anxiety; for though he was scarcely aware of it himself, he was always a little afraid of Alistair. It was a relief to see that his brother was not apparently intoxicated: the reckless mood which James dreaded most had given place to one of depression. At such a moment Alistair might be spoken to seriously; he might even be reproved without the risk of unpleasant retorts.

The prisoner, without going through any form of greeting to his brother, dropped into one of the great spreading leather-covered chairs which stood round the wall and waited for Trent to speak.

“Is it any use asking you why you have done this?” Trent said, after regarding him in silence for some time.

Alistair turned on him a lack-lustre eye.

“If you are asking me as Secretary of State, perhaps not.”

The Home Secretary fidgeted with the papers on the writing-table in front of him. It was a favourite trick of his when he was embarrassed. Indeed, he generally kept a pile of papers in front of him on purpose. A little consideration told him that it was not worth while to try to bluff Alistair.

“Well, no, I’m not.”

“You have arrested me, haven’t you?” The prisoner[382] made his point quietly, as though moved by a quite impersonal curiosity.

“Yes.” The Duke hesitated again, and again decided that the bluffing policy would be too risky. “Since I signed the warrant, I’ve seen the Prime Minister. I tendered him my resignation, of course.”

Alistair began to look ever so little interested.

“I never thought you would do that,” he confessed.

“I don’t suppose you thought anything about it, one way or the other,” Trent retorted, with some bitterness. “You never do think of me—or your mother—do you?”

The prisoner straightened himself up for an instant.

“Oh, yes. It is difficult not to think of one’s enemies sometimes.”

Honest astonishment came into Trent’s look and mien.

“Enemies! Your mother and I! What do you mean? If I were to call you my enemy, I should have some reason. The worst enmity I have ever shown you has been to give you a thousand a year, and to offer to pay your debts.”

“Yes, on conditions,” Alistair reminded him. But he did not speak with any appearance of resentment. The elder brother’s warmth had failed to rouse any answering warmth in the younger.

“On conditions which, as you must now admit, were for your own good. At least, I suppose that you are not prepared to defend that wretched woman any longer.”

[383]“Silence!” Alistair had nearly sprung out of his chair. “Say whatever you like about me, I shan’t resent it; but leave Molly alone, please.”

Trent looked as bewildered as he felt.

“You know, don’t you?” he began.

Alistair cut him short.

“I know she has just done the greatest thing that any woman can do for a man. She loved me, she was married to me, she saw that I loved another woman, and she has deliberately set me free to marry her. By heavens! I should like to know how many of your Christian women would do as much as that!”

Trent was staggered. Like the Duchess, he had overlooked the fact that Molly Finucane was really an ally. Perhaps, if they had been wiser, Lady Alistair might have been made to take a different view of the situation in the past. But now it was too late.

He dared not risk a direct question about Hero.

“Well, you can’t marry anyone else yet,” he said, not very delicately. “The question is, what are you going to do?”

“Isn’t it what are you going to do? I am still under arrest, I believe.”

Trent fell back on his papers again.

“I told you I had seen the Prime Minister. He is willing to let the matter be hushed up, out of consideration for me.”

After all, he had ventured on a bluff; and, after all, it did not come off. Alistair merely smiled.

[384]“I am not a fool, Trent, you know. I have never seriously supposed that I ran any danger of being hanged, drawn and quartered. So the resignation has been withdrawn?”

“It was declined,” the Minister corrected. “But if the papers get hold of the business, I shall have to go—for a time, at all events.”

Alistair seemed genuinely concerned.

“Really? I should be sorry if it was so bad as that.”

Trent gazed at him sullenly.

“Can’t you see that everything you do is bad for me? Somehow or other you seem bent on wrecking my career as well as your own. First bankruptcy, then that marriage; now, I suppose, divorce—and this disgraceful outrage on the top of everything else.”

Alistair was surprisingly meek.

“Yes, I dare say you feel it is rather rough on you; but, after all, no one can blame you for my misdeeds.”

“But they do—they must. You don’t suppose I could remain Home Secretary with my own brother doing time in one of the prisons under my control. You just called me your enemy; I should like to know what you are to me.”

“I could tell you that, if I thought you would understand,” the other said in low tones.

“What have I done, what has our mother done, that you should make no effort to spare us all this disgrace?” Trent demanded warmly.

[385]“Ah! what have you done? Have you ever considered me?” returned Alistair.

“Considered you? We have done nothing else. We have always been trying to save you, but you have never let us.”

“Save me!—yes, I suppose that is how you would put it to yourself. You have been trying to save me from disgracing you, as you call it. Has it ever occurred to either of you that the whole of our joint lives has been one long persecution of me by you, Trent?”

“Persecution! What do you mean?”

“I am going to tell you what I mean. I dare say I shall never have another opportunity. We are not likely to see much more of one another. I am going abroad.”

The unexpected announcement on his brother’s part that he was preparing to take the very step that Trent almost despaired of making him take was so welcome that the Duke found himself listening patiently to what followed.

“Have you ever asked yourself why I am different from you—why I lead a different life from the one you lived? To begin with, you are the Duke of Trent and Colonsay; I am a younger son. Do you blame me for that? Do you blame me for not being a Duke, like you?”

“Of course not. It is nonsense to suggest it.”

“I do not think it is nonsense. On the contrary, I think a great many people in your position blame[386] people in mine. Not in so many words, perhaps, but in their whole attitude towards them. You blame a man for not being a gentleman when you call him a cad. But if he was born a cad, what fault is it of his? Every time we who are well born boast of our good blood, surely we are blaming the people who had the bad luck to be born without pedigrees. And yet we cannot all belong to the Royal Family.”

“I am not aware that I ever put on side on account of my family,” protested Trent.

“No. But you would be very much surprised and offended if a tradesman offered to shake hands with you over the counter. Let us pass on. You have nearly forty thousand a year; I am a pauper. You must admit that you have blamed me for that.”

“I? Never! I have blamed you for spending more than your allowance, that is all.”

Alistair shook his head.

“You don’t see it, of course. But the whole life of a man like you is a reproach to one like me. You blame me for buying things that you would not blame a rich man for buying. It is a crime on my part to drive a motor; it is no crime on yours. And you go much farther than that, because you tell me, in effect, that I ought to be rich. In England every rich man is telling that to every poor man all day long. It is the cry of the press and the pulpit, of the home and of the Sunday-school. Every millionaire is angry with the man who is not a millionaire. Why? They tell us that we could become millionaires like them if[387] we chose; and it is a lie. We cannot all be millionaires. There are not enough millions to go round. The millionaire himself has gained his money at someone else’s expense. You have gained your money at my expense. Instead of the inheritance being divided, you have it all. If I am not angry with you on that account, why should you be angry with me?”

“I am not angry,” Trent protested again. But he began to feel a little shaken.

“If we all became millionaires,” Alistair continued calmly, “you who are millionaires already would be the first to suffer. You would have no servants to wait on you, no labourers to toil for you, no clerks to make and keep your millions for you. Surely it is to your interest that a large part of mankind should remain poor. Then why be angry with them on account of their poverty? Why despise them for serving you? If you like robbing, why abuse those who let themselves be robbed?”

“Does this mean that you are going to turn Socialist?” asked the puzzled Duke.

Alistair smiled.

“Can’t you see that it means the very opposite? It is you who are the Socialist—yes, you—because it is you who will not tolerate the individual. You have never tolerated me. You have always been trying, as you put it, to reform me. And what do you mean by reforming me? You mean crushing me out of my natural shape and into your natural shape. You[388] believe that all men ought to resemble each other like buttons on a coat—and you are the pattern button.”

Trent made no answer. In his heart he felt that he was the pattern button, and that Alistair ought to try to resemble him. But he feared his brother’s sarcastic tongue too much to say so.

“Why?” Alistair continued. “I am sure it has never occurred to you that I ought to dye my hair the same shade as yours, though men stooped even to that depth in the days of Louis Quatorze. You have just admitted that I am not really to blame for having been born after you, or because you have my share of the property. Then why blame me because my tastes are different from yours—because I prefer poetry to politics, and Bohemia to Philistia?”

“It is not a matter of taste only. The common rules of morality are the same for all.”

“And why should they be the same? Who made the rules? You”—he pointed an accusing finger—“you, and men like you. When you say morality, you mean monogamy. Who set up monogamy as the idol that all the human race ought to fall down and worship? It was not religion—there is not a word in favour of monogamy in the Bible. It is an Anglo-Saxon fad.”

“Of course, if you repudiate the laws of morality, I cannot argue with you.”

“I am not arguing. I am trying to make you understand. I want to see if it isn’t possible to stop all this cruelty—this frantic Puritan craze for killing[389] everybody who isn’t a Wesleyan. I don’t want to kill you. I don’t mind your being respectable; why should you mind my being disreputable? What business is it of yours?”

“You forget that you are my brother, and that I suffer for your conduct.”

Alistair shook his head.

“That isn’t true, Trent, and you know it isn’t true. Here you are, Secretary of State, with the Garter in prospect, and a very fair chance of the Premiership, if no man with brains comes along. If I ever were to reform, as you are always urging me to do, and go into politics, you would find me a rather dangerous rival, you know.” Trent thought of Hero, and winced. There was something in what his brother was saying. Alistair, in the House of Commons, with his fascinating manner and sparkling wit, would be a rather dangerous rival. And he had never seen it, never realized that their mother’s anxiety to make Alistair enter the House might be another of those projects to save the younger son at the expense of the elder. While these reflections were passing through his slow mind, Alistair was still speaking.

“No, Trent, it is the other way about. I don’t suppose that you will ever see it, but I see it now. Instead of your suffering for me, it is I who suffer for you. You owe everything you are, and have, and may be, to me.”

“How on earth can you say that?”

“Because I am the younger son—the younger son[390] in more senses than one. The law gives you the dukedom and the estates, and gives me nothing, is a law which makes me suffer for your benefit. And it is the same with all the other laws under which we live. They are all laws made in your favour at my expense. The whole social system has been created to favour you and oppress me. The laws of morality, as you call them, they are all made by men like you, and against men like me. You have regulated the world to suit yourself, and the man whom your regulations do not suit is sacrificed to secure your happiness. Yes, it is just like the old days when they buried a victim under the foundation stone, to make the building safe. You and your world, society, civilization, the British Empire—call it what you like—you are the builders, and it is the building; and all we whom you hang and exile and imprison—Jacobites in one century and anarchists in another, Byron and Shelley above, and the pickpocket and drunkard below—all we are the foundation victims, whom you sacrifice in order to secure your State.”

Trent felt out of his depth. In his confusion of mind he said the most unwise thing he could have said.

“You speak as though there were no such thing as religion. What you are really attacking is Christianity. You are not a Christian.”

Then Alistair looked at him gravely and steadily, and the thought that had been growing and taking shape in his mind ever since the night he had stood[391] on Westminster Bridge came out firm and distinct at last.

“I am a christ!”

“Alistair!” Genuine consternation showed in the listener’s face and voice. He actually feared that his brother was out of his mind.

“I am your christ. Listen! It is not only the dukedom and the estates that have come to us from our ancestors. We have inherited other things—blood, instincts, passions, everything that makes the difference between one man and another. And that inheritance has been unfairly divided, too. Our forefathers were half Saxon and half Celtic. You have inherited the Saxon strain, and I the Celtic; and we live in a society in which it is well to be a Saxon, and ill to be a Celt. Our father was a drunkard and our mother a Puritan. You take after her and I after him, and we live in a world in which it is well with the Puritan and ill with the drunkard. Some of our forefathers were steady, plodding money-gatherers, others were wild, reckless adventurers. Again you have inherited the good strain, and I the bad. You have had everything, Trent. Everything which the world requires a man to be or to do, you are, or it is your nature to do. All that the world forbids a man to be and do, I am, or it is my nature to do. It is as though a breeder had deliberately bred you with all the good points and me with all the bad. You know what Sir Bernard Vanbrugh thinks about these things. What did he tell you?—that you had inherited[392] an evil strain? The man was blind. I have inherited the evil strain, and by so doing I have saved you from it; I have carried it off from you, like a drainpipe. That is how it is. I am your saviour. Vanbrugh doesn’t see it, but Darwinism and Christianity are saying the same thing. Evolution is the sacrifice of the unfit on behalf of the fit. The scapegoat bears away the sins of the righteous. They were quite right to put up a crucifix in the old Courts of Justice, but it ought to have been over the dock, and not over the Judge’s head, because the criminal is the christ; he is the redeemer in whom the old vices and savage instincts in the blood of mankind are drained off and got rid of, for the salvation of the world. You may substitute the lethal chamber for the cross, but you will be still doing what those old Jews were doing, putting one man to death for the good of the people. Surely that is how it stands between you and me, Jim. Surely I have borne your sicknesses, and carried your pains, whereas you did esteem me stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But I was pierced for your transgressions, I was bruised for your iniquities: the chastisement on behalf of your peace was upon me; and with my stripes you are healed.”



Isle de St. Pierre,      
“Lac De Bienne,    

My Dear One:

“I am writing to you from an island in the least known of the Swiss lakes, lying beneath the Jura. The island is the size of a small farm. It is crossed by a thickly-wooded ridge, and there are reed-grown marshes on one side, and on the other meadows and gardens and a homely inn. The inn has grown out of an older cottage or farmhouse, and certain rooms in the more ancient part of the building have become a place of local pilgrimage. On Sundays and holidays the workmen of the small neighbouring towns come here to drink and dance. But the foreign tourist is more rarely seen here, and the English tourist would most likely shun the spot if he had heard of it. For these rude quarters were the refuge, more than a hundred years ago, of a man who, more or less against his will, lit the great bonfire of the feudal system.

“It was during one of those breaks in his life when, like Jonah of old, he seemed to be trying to flee from his allotted task, that Rousseau came and hid himself[394] for this little isle. But the feudal society craved for destruction, and, like all societies in that condition, it first bred its destroyer and then steadily goaded him to the work. The young Marat, from his home a few miles away, must have looked on while the prophet of the Revolution was being hunted out of this retreat by the Prussian police, and, as it were, ordered to resume his terrible apostolate.

“If imagination were possible for public bodies, if gratitude were conceivable on the part of the Socialist democracy, this isle would not be turned into a restaurant for bank-holiday workmen. It would be made a fit memorial of Rousseau by being set apart for the benefit of his heirs. Every man of genius, driven like him into exile by poverty and love of freedom, would find here a retreat in which he could rest from the storms of the world. Or if stupidity were not the curse of gold, the millionaires themselves would raise a voluntary tax to build an alms-house for Rousseau and Marat, instead of flogging them on to the work of anarchy with the sharp goads of hunger and contempt.

“I find that my brother’s unexpected death has made no difference in my feelings towards England, although I find it has made a great difference in the feeling of England towards me. My godfather, the Archbishop, has written to me in the most cordial spirit about my Church patronage, thanking me in advance for my gracious patronage of Christianity. He hints that I may play an important part in bringing[395] the Roman and Anglican communions closer together as the sole means of preserving society. But I do not want to preserve society. The Prime Minister’s letter of condolence also contains a hint that in a year or two, if I behave, I may succeed to the Home Secretaryship—I think he means all the Cabinet offices to become hereditary in course of time. But I am not going to behave. England expects every man to be a humbug, but she will be disappointed as far as I am concerned.

“I recollect your father saying to me once that in many persons the infliction of pain on others—in extreme cases, even on themselves—gives rise to sensations of enjoyment which are actually akin to, and have their seat in the same region as, the sensations of physical lust. Thus the nuns who ill-use children in their orphanages, and the Puritans who gloat over the sufferings of profligate men and women, are really indulging in an unnatural form of profligacy. It is difficult to account on any other principle for what Anglo-Saxon races call their civilizing mission. It clearly has nothing to do with Christianity, because the only sins seriously denounced in the Gospel are love of money and hypocrisy, and those are the supreme Anglo-Saxon virtues. When we find a nation of swindlers bent on putting down polygamy in Utah, and a nation of pirates objecting to child-marriages in Hindustan, we are clearly face to face with some form of insanity. And it is becoming more difficult every day to escape out of the power of the maniacs.

[396]“Rousseau rendered greater services to the democracy of Europe and America than any one man who has ever lived. He is the author of the Declaration of Independence, and the author of universal suffrage. And yet if any follower of Rousseau attempted to set up a community to lead the life which Rousseau lived and advocated, anywhere within reach of that democracy, it would be put down by force. This isle is now the property of a hospital—of course, a hospital for the benefit of the democracy. I have written proposing to acquire the island and build on it a hospital for men of letters, and even that is more than democracy can tolerate; my letter has not been acknowledged. Switzerland is covered with sanatoriums for every kind of disease, but there is no sanatorium for genius. The Swiss are making millions a year out of Byron’s praises of their scenery; they grudge the smallest corner of their soil to be a home for other Byrons.

“As far as I can see, there are only three or four countries which have still been spared a measure of freedom, and they will not retain it very long. The Puritans have been howling for the blood of the Turks for generations, and I doubt if their mutual jealousy will hold them back much longer from civilizing the whole of Islam. China has been spared for the moment, but it cannot be saved except on condition that it follows the Japanese example and becomes as greedy and bloodthirsty as the Christian Powers.

[397]“However, I shall now visit the countries that have not been annexed up to the present, and try to find some spot where it may be possible to set up a city of refuge. I will found a spiritual order like the old Knights of the Temple. Who knows that we may not be able to preserve one spot of the planet alike from the millionaire and the Socialist, the slave-driver and the slave?

“In my monastery, dear Hero, there will be neither marrying nor giving in marriage, and none need declare himself man or woman unless he pleases. In all matters we shall strive to obtain freedom without disorder, and happiness without selfishness. We shall have many guests who will be refreshed and comforted, and sent upon their way, but only after long trial and approval will any be admitted to our Order. We shall have servants, whom we shall treat as brethren without calling them lay-brothers, and they will do their work, as we shall do ours.

“Such are the thoughts and plans I wished to lay before you, but I dare not wish that you should make them yours. Doubtless you will consider them with kindness and with wisdom, and will tell me your decision.

“I shall wait here another week for your answer before setting out for the East.”



$1.50 net

“In this book a man, who in the broader sense of both words is at once a scientist and a seer, has undertaken an inquiry into the sources of knowledge and the foundations of faith, a review of the jurisdiction of materialism and the credentials of the idealists, that has worked out into what he himself has admirably defined as a ‘circumnavigation of hope.’ Mr. Upward’s equipment as a navigator of these reef-strewn and mirage-haunted seas is unequalled in our day. A man of scientific training and legal aptitude, a philologist of amazing insight, a debater with a wide knowledge of men, a broad culture, and a trenchant mind, no English writer of the post-Darwinian period has approached him in the gift of putting into living folk-speech the tangled technicalities of the schoolmen; no controversial critic has had at his command so vitriolic a wit and used it so magnanimously; no ruthless iconoclast of intellectual idols has shown himself so conservative and yet so able an architect of intellectual optimism. Mr. Upward’s inquiry is developed as an interpretation of a cryptic phrase in the will of Alfred Nobel, ‘a work of an idealistic tendency.’ Its professed object is ‘to forge upon the anvil of sense a definition of hope that will ring true in the ear of the materialist as well as of the idealist.’ And its prosecution is Socratic in its argumentative shrewdness, its unity of purpose, its unswerving directness and its triumphant simplicity.”

Mr. J. B. Kerfoot in LIFE

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Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.