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The Amateur Gentleman
by Jeffery Farnol et al
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"Oh, Bev," said he, "forgive me, I—I'm mad I think. I want her so and I can't find her. And I had a spill last night—dark road you see, and only one hand,—and I'm not quite myself in consequence. I'll go—"

But, as he turned toward the door, Barnabas interposed.

"Dick, I can't let you go like this—what do you intend to do?"

"Will you tell me where she is?"

"No, but—"

"Then, sir, my further movements need not concern you."

"Dick, be reasonable,—listen—"

"Have the goodness to let me pass, sir."

"You are faint, worn out—stay here, Dick, and I—"

"Thanks, Beverley, but I accept favors from my friends only—pray stand aside."

"Dick, if you'll only wait, I'll go to her now—this moment—I'll beg her to see you—"

"Very kind, sir!" sneered the Viscount, "you are—privileged it seems. But, by God, I don't need you, or any one else, to act as go-between or plead my cause. And mark me, sir! I'll find her yet. I swear to you I'll never rest until I find her again. And now, sir, once and for all, I have the honor to wish you a very good day!" saying which the Viscount bowed, and, having re-settled his arm in its sling, walked away down the corridor, very upright as to back, yet a little uncertain in his stride nevertheless, and so was gone.

Then Barnabas, becoming aware of the polite letters, and cards, embossed, gilt-edged and otherwise, swept them incontinent to the floor and, sinking into a chair, set his elbows upon the table, and leaning his head upon his hands fell into a gloomy meditation. It was thus that the Gentleman-in-Powder presently found him, and, advancing into the room with insinuating legs, coughed gently to attract his attention, the which proving ineffectual, he spoke:

"Ex-cuse me, sir, but there is a—person downstairs, sir—at the door, sir!"

"What kind of person?" inquired Barnabas without looking up.

"A most ex-tremely low person, sir—very common indeed, sir. Won't give no name, sir, won't go away, sir. A very 'orrid person—in gaiters, sir."

"What does he want?" said Barnabas, with head still bent.

"Says as 'ow 'e 'as a letter for you, sir, but—"

Barnabas was on his feet so quickly that the Gentleman-in-Powder recoiled in alarm.

"Show him up—at once!"

"Oh!—cer-tainly, sir!" And though the bow of the Gentleman-in-Powder was all that it should be, his legs quivered disapprobation as they took him downstairs.

When next the door opened it was to admit the person in gaiters, a shortish, broad-shouldered, bullet-headed person he was, and his leggings were still rank of the stables; he was indeed a very horsey person who stared and chewed upon a straw. At sight of Barnabas he set a stubby finger to one eyebrow, and chewed faster than ever.

"You have a letter for me, I think?"

"Yessir!"

"Then give it to me."

The horsey person coughed, took out his straw, looked at it, shook his head at it, and put it back again.

"Name o' Beverley, sir?" he inquired, chewing feverishly.

"Yes."

Hereupon the horsey person drew a letter from his pocket, chewed over it a moment, nodded, and finally handed it to Barnabas, who, seeing the superscription, hurriedly broke the seal. Observing which, the horsey person sighed plaintively and shook his head, alternately chewing upon and looking at his straw the while Barnabas read the following:

Oh, Barnabas dear, when shall I see you again? I am very foolish to-day perhaps, but though the sun shines gloriously, I am cold, it is my heart that is cold, a deadly chill—as if an icy hand had touched it. And I seem to be waiting—waiting for something to happen, something dreadful that I cannot avert. I fear you will think me weak and fanciful, but, dear, I cannot help wondering what it all means. You ask me if I love you. Can you doubt? How often in my dreams have I seen you kneeling beside me with your neck all bare and the dripping kerchief in your hand. Oh, dear Wood of Annersley! it was there that I first felt your arms about me, Barnabas, and I dream of that too—sometimes. But last night I dreamed of that awful race,—I saw you gallop past the winning post again, your dear face all cut and bleeding, and as you passed me your eyes looked into mine—such an awful look, Barnabas. And then it seemed that you galloped into a great, black shadow that swallowed you up, and so you were lost to me, and I awoke trembling. Oh Barnabas, come to me! I want you here beside me, for although the sky here is blue and cloudless, away to the north where London lies, there is a great, black shadow like the shadow of my dream, and God keep all shadows from you, Barnabas. So come to me—meet me to-morrow—there is a new moon. Come to Oakshott's Barn at 7:30, and we will walk back to the house together.

I am longing to see you, and yet I am a little afraid also, because my love is not a quiet love or gentle, but such a love as frightens me sometimes, because it has grown so deep and strong.

This window, you may remember, faces north, and now as I lift my eyes I can see that the shadow is still dark over London, and very threatening. Come to me soon, and that God may keep all shadows from you is the prayer of

Your CLEONE.

Now when he had finished reading, Barnabas sighed, and glancing up, found the horsey person still busy with his straw, but now he took it from his mouth, shook his head at it more sternly than ever, dropped it upon the carpet and set his foot upon it; which done, he turned and looked at Barnabas with a pair of very round, bright eyes.

"Now," said he, "I should like to take the liberty o' axing you one or two questions, Mr. Barty, sir,—or as I should say, p'r'aps, Mr. Beverley."

"What," exclaimed Barnabas, starting up, "it's you again, Mr. Shrig?"

"That werry same i-dentical, sir. Disguises again, ye see. Yesterday, a journeyman peg-maker vith a fine lot o' pegs as I didn't vant to sell—to-day a groom looking for a job as I don't need. Been a-keeping my ogles on Number Vun and Number Two, and things is beginning to look werry rosy, sir, yes, things is werry promising indeed."

"How do you mean?"

"Vell, to begin vith," said Mr. Shrig, taking the chair Barnabas proffered, "you didn't 'appen to notice as that theer letter had been broke open and sealed up again, did ye?"

"No," said Barnabas, staring at what was left of the seal.

"No, o' course you didn't—you opened it too quick to notice anything—but I did."

"Oh, surely not—"

"That theer letter," said Mr. Shrig impressively, "vas wrote you by a certain lady, vasn't it?"

"Yes."

"And I brought you that theer letter, didn't I?"

"Yes, but—"

"And 'oo do ye suppose give me that theer letter, to bring to you,—the lady? Oh no! I'll tell you 'oo give it me,—it vas—shall ve say, Number Two, the Accessory afore the fact,—shall ve call 'im C.? Werry good! Now, 'ow did C. or Number Two, 'appen to give me that theer letter? I'll tell you. Ven Number Vun and Number Two, B. and C., vent down to Hawkhurst, I vent down to Hawkhurst. They put up at the 'Qveen's 'ead,' so I 'angs about the 'Qveen's 'ead,'—offers myself as groom—I'm 'andy vith an 'orse—got in the 'abit o' doing odd jobs for Number Vun and Number Two, and, last night, Number Two gives me that theer letter to deliver, and werry pertickler 'e vas as I should give it into your werry own daddle, 'e also gives me a guinea and tells as 'ow 'e don't vant me no more, and them's the circumstances, sir."

"But," said Barnabas in frowning perplexity, "I don't understand. How did he get hold of the letter?"

"Lord, sir, 'ow do I know that? But get it 'e did—'e likewise broke the seal."

"But—why?"

"Vell now, first, it's a love-letter, ain't it?"

"Why—I—"

"Werry good! Now, sir, might that theer letter be making a app'intment—come?"

"Yes, an appointment for to-morrow evening."

"Ah! In a nice, qviet, lonely place—say a vood?"

"Yes, at a very lonely place called Oakshott's Barn."

"Come, that's better and better!" nodded Mr. Shrig brightly, "that's werry pretty, that is—things is rosier than I 'oped, but then, as I said afore, things is allus blackest afore the dawn. Oakshott's Barn, eh? Ecod, now, but it sounds a nice, lonesome place—just the sort o' place for it, a—a—capital place as you might call it." And Mr. Shrig positively chuckled and rubbed his chubby hands together; but all at once, he shook his head gloomily, and glancing at Barnabas, sighed deeply. "But you—von't go, o' course, sir?"

"Go?"

"To Oakshott's Barn, to-morrow evening?"

"Yes, of course," answered Barnabas, "the appointment is for seven-thirty."

"Seven-thirty!" nodded Mr. Shrig, "and a werry nice time for it too! Sunset, it'll be about—a good light and not too long to vait till dark! Yes, seven-thirty's a werry good time for it!"

"For what?"

"V'y," said Mr. Shrig, lowering his voice suddenly, "let's say for 'it'!"

"'It,'" repeated Barnabas, staring.

"Might I jest take a peep at that theer letter, v'ere it says seven-thirty, sir?"

"Yes," said Barnabas, pointing to a certain line of Cleone's letter, "here it is!"

"Ah," exclaimed Mr. Shrig, nodding and rubbing his hands again, "your eyes is good 'uns, ain't they, sir?"

"Yes."

"Then jest take a good look at that theer seven-thirty, vill you, sir—come, vot do you see?"

"That the paper is roughened a little, and the ink has run."

"Yes, and vot else? Look at it a bit closer, sir."

"Why," said Barnabas staring hard at the spot, "it looks as though something had been scratched out!"

"And so it has, sir. If you go there at seven-thirty, it von't be a fair lady as'll be vaiting to meet you. The time's been altered o' course—jest as I 'oped and expected."

"Ah!" said Barnabas, slowly and very softly, and clenched his fist.

"So now, d'ye see, you can't go—can ye?" said Mr. Shrig in a hopeless tone.

"Yes!" said Barnabas.

"Eh? Vot—you vill?"

"Most assuredly!"

"But—but it'll be madness!" stammered Mr. Shrig, his round eyes rounder than ever, "it'll be fair asking to be made a unfort'nate wictim of, if ye go. O' course it 'ud be a good case for me, and good cases is few enough—but you mustn't go now, it 'ud be madness!"

"No," said Barnabas, frowning darkly, "because I shall go—before seven-thirty, you see."



CHAPTER LV

WHICH NARRATES SUNDRY HAPPENINGS AT OAKSHOTT'S BARN

Even on a summer's afternoon Oakshott's Barn is a desolate place, a place of shadows and solitude, whose slumberous silence is broken only by the rustle of leaves, the trill of a skylark high overhead, or the pipe of throstle and blackbird.

It is a place apart, shut out from the world of life and motion, a place suggestive of decay and degeneration, and therefore a depressing place at all times.

Yet, standing here, Barnabas smiled and uncovered his head, for here, once, SHE had stood, she who was for him the only woman in all the world. So having paused awhile to look about him, he presently went on into the gloom of the barn, a gloom damp and musty with years and decay.

Now glancing sharply this way and that, Barnabas espied a ladder or rather the mouldering remains of one, that led up from the darkest corner to a loft; up this ladder, with all due care, he mounted, and thus found himself in what had once served as a hay-loft, for in one corner there yet remained a rotting pile. It was much lighter up here, for in many places the thatch was quite gone, while at one end of the loft was a square opening or window. He was in the act of looking from this window when, all at once he started and crouched down, for, upon the stillness broke a sudden sound,—the rustling of leaves, and a voice speaking in loud, querulous tones. And in a while as he watched, screening himself from all chance of observation, Barnabas saw two figures emerge into the clearing and advance towards the barn.

"I tell you C-Chichester, it will be either him or m-me!"

"If he—condescends to fight you, my dear Ronald."

"C-condescend?" cried Barrymaine, and it needed but a glance at his flushed cheek and swaying figure to see that he had been drinking more heavily than usual. "C-condescend, damn his insolence! Condescend, will he? I'll give him no chance for his c-cursed condescension, I—I tell you, Chichester, I'll—"

"But you can't make a man fight, Ronald."

"Can't I? Why then if he won't fight I'll—"

"Hush! don't speak so loud!"

"Well, I will, Chichester,—s-so help me God, I will!"

"Will—what, Ronald?"

"W-wait and see!"

"You don't mean—murder, Ronald?"

"I didn't s-say so, d-did I?"

"Of course not, my dear Barrymaine, but—shall I take the pistols?" And Mr. Chichester stretched out his hand towards a flat, oblong box that Barrymaine carried clutched beneath his arm. "Better give them to me, Ronald."

"No,—w-why should I?"

"Well,—in your present mood—"

"I—I'm not—d-drunk,—damme, I'm not, I tell you! And I'll give the f-fellow every chance—honorable meeting."

"Then, if he refuses to fight you, as of course he will, you'll let him go to—ah—make love to Cleone?"

"No, by God!" cried Barrymaine in a sudden, wild fury, "I-I'll sh-shoot him first!"

"Kill him?"

"Yes, k-kill him!"

"Oh no you won't, Ronald, for two reasons. First of all, it would be murder—!"

"Murder!" Barrymaine repeated, "so it would—murder! Yes, by God!"

"And secondly, you haven't the nerve. Though he has clandestine meetings with your sister, though he crush you into the mud, trample you under his feet, throw you into a debtor's prison to rot out your days—though he ruin you body and soul, and compromise your sister's honor—still you'd never—murder him, Ronald, you couldn't, you haven't the heart, because it would be—murder!"

Mr. Chichester's voice was low, yet each incisive, quick-spoken word reached Barnabas, while upon Barrymaine their effect was demoniac. Dropping his pistol-case, he threw up wild arms and shook his clenched fists in the air.

"Damn him!" he cried, "damn him! B-bury me in a debtor's prison, will he? Foul my sister's honor w-will he? Never! never! I tell you I'll kill him first!"

"Murder him, Ronald?"

"Murder? I t-tell you it's no murder to kill his sort. G-give me the pistols."

"Hush! Come into the barn."

"No. W-what for?"

"Well, the time is getting on, Ronald,—nearly seven o'clock, and your ardent lovers are usually before their time. Come into the barn."

"N-no,—devilish dark hole!"

"But—he'll see you here!"

"What if he does, can't g-get away from me,—better f-for it out here—lighter."

"What do you mean? Better—for what?"

"The m-meeting."

"What—you mean to try and make him fight, do you?"

"Of course—try that way first. Give him a ch-chance, you know, —c-can't shoot him down on s-sight."

"Ah-h!" said Mr. Chichester, very slowly, "you can't shoot him on sight—of course you can't. I see."

"What? W-what d'ye see? Devilish dark hole in there!"

"All the better, Ronald,—think of his surprise when instead of finding an armful of warm loveliness waiting for him in the shadows, he finds the avenging brother! Come into the shadows, Ronald."

"All right,—yes, the shadow. Instead of the sister, the b-brother—yes, by God!"

Now the flooring of the loft where Barnabas lay was full of wide cracks and fissures, for the boards had warped by reason of many years of rain and sun; thus, lying at full length, Barnabas saw them below, Barrymaine leaning against the crumbling wall, while Mr. Chichester stooped above the open duelling-case.

"What—they're loaded are they?" said he.

"Of c-course!"

"They're handsome tools, Ronald, and with your monogram, I see!"

"Yes. Is your f-flask empty, Chichester?"

"No, I think not," answered Mr. Chichester, still stooping above the pistol in his hand.

"Then give it me, will you—m-my throat's on fire."

"Surely you 've had enough, Ronald? Did you know this flint was loose?"

"I'm n-not drunk, I t-tell you. I know when I've had enough, g-give me some brandy, Chit, I know there's p-precious little left."

"Why then, fix this flint first, Ronald, I see you have all the necessary tools here." So saying, Mr. Chichester rose and began feeling through his pockets, while Barrymaine, grumbling, stooped above the pistol-case. Then, even as he did so, Mr. Chichester drew out a silver flask, unscrewed it, and thereafter made a certain quick, stealthy gesture behind his companion's back, which done, he screwed up the flask again, shook it, and, as Barrymaine rose, held it out to him:

"Yes, I'm afraid there's very little left, Ronald," said he. With a murmur of thanks Barrymaine took the flask and, setting it to his lips, drained it at a gulp, and handed it back.

"Gad, Chichester!" he exclaimed, "it tastes damnably of the f-flask—faugh! What time is it?"

"A quarter to seven!"

"Th-three quarters of an hour to wait!"

"It will soon pass, Ronald, besides, he's sure to be early."

"Hope so! But I—I think I'll s-sit down."

"Well, the floor's dry, though dirty."

"D-dirty? So it is, but beggars can't be c-choosers and—dev'lish drowsy place, this!—I'm a b-beggar—you know t-that, and—pah! I think I'm l-losing my—taste for brandy—"

"Really, Ronald? I've thought you seemed over fond of it—especially lately."

"No—no!" answered Barrymaine, speaking in a thick, indistinct voice and rocking unsteadily upon his heels, "I'm not—n-not drunk, only—dev'lish sleepy!" and swaying to the wall he leaned there with head drooping.

"Then you'd better—lie down, Ronald."

"Yes, I'll—lie down, dev'lish—drowsy p-place—lie down," mumbled Barrymaine, suiting the action to the word; yet after lying down full length, he must needs struggle up to his elbow again to blink at Mr. Chichester, heavy eyed and with one hand to his wrinkling brow. "Wha-what w-was it we—came for? Oh y-yes—I know—Bev'ley, of course! You'll w-wake me—when he c-comes?"

"I'll wake you, Ronald."

"S-such a c-cursed—drowsy—" Barrymaine sank down upon his side, rolled over upon his back, threw wide his arms, and so lay, breathing stertorously.

Then Mr. Chichester smiled, and coming beside him, looked down upon his helpless form and flushed face and, smiling still, spoke in his soft, gentle voice:

"Are you asleep, Ronald?" he inquired, and stirred Barrymaine lightly with his foot, but, feeling him so helpless, the stirring foot grew slowly more vicious. "Oh Ronald," he murmured, "what a fool you are! what a drunken, sottish fool you are. So you'd give him a chance, would you? Ah, but you mustn't, Ronald, you shan't, for your sake and my sake. My hand is steadier than yours, so sleep, my dear Ronald, and wake to find that you have rid us of our good, young Samaritan—once and for all, and then—hey for Cleone, and no more dread of the Future. Sleep on, you swinish sot!"

Mr. Chichester's voice was as soft as ever, but, as he turned away, the sleeping youth started and groaned beneath the sudden movement of that vicious foot.

And now Mr. Chichester stooped, and taking the pistols, one by one, examined flint and priming with attentive eye, which done, he crossed to a darkened window and, bursting open the rotting shutter, knelt and levelled one of the weapons, steadying his wrist upon the sill; then, nodding as though satisfied, he laid the pistols upon the floor within easy reach, and drew out his watch.

Slowly the sun declined, and slowly the shadows lengthened about Oakshott's Barn, as they had done many and many a time before; a rabbit darted across the clearing, a blackbird called to his mate in the thicket, but save for this, nothing stirred; a great quiet was upon the place, a stillness so profound that Barnabas could distinctly hear the scutter of a rat in the shadows behind him, and the slow, heavy breathing of the sleeper down below. And ever that crouching figure knelt beside the broken shutter, very silent, very still, and very patient.

But all at once, as he watched, Barnabas saw the rigid figure grow suddenly alert, saw the right arm raised slowly, stealthily, saw the pistol gleam as it was levelled across the sill; for now, upon the quiet rose a sound faint and far, yet that grew and ever grew, the on-coming rustle of leaves.

Then, even as Barnabas stared down wide-eyed, the rigid figure started, the deadly pistol-hand wavered, was snatched back, and Mr. Chichester leapt to his feet. He stood a moment hesitating as one at a sudden loss, then crossing to the unconscious form of Barrymaine, he set the pistol under his lax hand, turned, and vanished into the shadow.

Thereafter, from the rear of the barn, came the sound of a blow and the creak of a rusty hinge, quickly followed by a rustle of leaves that grew fainter and fainter, and so was presently gone. Then Barnabas rose, and coming to the window, peered cautiously out, and there, standing before the barn surveying its dilapidation with round, approving eyes, his nobbly stick beneath his arm, his high-crowned, broad-brimmed hat upon his head, was Mr. Shrig.



CHAPTER LVI

OF THE GATHERING OF THE SHADOWS

Surprise and something very like disappointment were in Mr. Shrig's look as Barnabas stepped out from the yawning doorway of the barn.

"V'y, sir," said he, consulting a large-faced watch. "V'y, Mr. Beverley, it's eggs-actly tventy minutes arter the time for it!"

"Yes," said Barnabas.

"And you—ain't shot, then?"

"No, thank heaven."

"Nor even—vinged?"

"Nor even winged, Mr. Shrig."

"Fate," said Mr. Shrig, shaking a dejected head at him, "Fate is a werry wexed problem, sir! 'Ere's you now, Number Three, as I might say, the unfort'nate wictim as was to be—'ere you are a-valking up to Fate axing to be made a corp', and vot do you get? not so much as a scrat—not a westige of a scrat, v'ile another unfort'nate wictim vill run avay from Fate, run? ah! 'eaven's 'ard! and werry nat'ral too! and vot does 'e get? 'e gets made a corp' afore 'e knows it. No, sir, Fate's a werry wexed problem, sir, and I don't understand it, no, nor ever shall."

"But this was very simple," said Barnabas, slipping his hand in Mr. Shrig's arm, and leading him away from the barn, "very simple indeed, I got here before they came, and hid in the loft. Then, while they were waiting for me down below, you came and frightened them away."

"Ah! So they meant business, did they?"

"Yes," said Barnabas, nodding grimly, "they certainly meant business, —especially Mr. Chich—"

"Ssh!" said Mr. Shrig, glancing round, "call 'im Number Two. Sir, Number Two is a extra-special, super-fine, over-weight specimen, 'e is. I've knowed a many 'Capitals' in my time, but I never knowed such a Capital o' Capital Coves as 'im. Sir, Vistling Dick vas a innercent, smiling babe, and young B. is a snowy, pet lamb alongside o' Number Two. Capital Coves like 'im only 'appen, and they only 'appen every thousand year or so. Ecod! I 'm proud o' Number Two. And talking of 'im, I 'appened to call on Nick the Cobbler, last night."

"Oh?"

"Ah! and I found 'im vith 'is longest awl close 'andy—all on account o' Number Two."

"How on his account?" demanded Barnabas, frowning suddenly.

"Vell, last evening, Milo o' Crotona, a pal o' Nick's, and a werry promising bye 'e is too, 'appened to drop in sociable-like, and it seems as Number Two followed 'im. And werry much Number Two frightened that 'andsome gal, by all accounts. She wrote you a letter, vich she give me to deliver, and—'ere it is."

So Barnabas took the letter and broke the seal. It was a very short letter, but as he read Barnabas frowned blacker than ever.

"Mr. Shrig," said he very earnestly as he folded and pocketed the letter, "will you do something for me—will you take a note to my servant, John Peterby? You'll find him at the 'Oak and Ivy' in Hawkhurst village."

"Vich, seeing as you're a pal, sir, I vill. But, sir," continued Mr. Shrig, as Barnabas scribbled certain instructions for Peterby on a page of his memorandum, "vot about yourself—you ain't a-going back there, are ye?" and he jerked his thumb over his shoulder towards the barn, now some distance behind them.

"Of course," said Barnabas, "to keep my appointment."

"D'ye think it's safe—now?"

"Quite,—thanks to you," answered Barnabas. "Here is the note, and if you wish, John Peterby will drive you back to London with him."

"V'y, thank'ee sir,—'e shall that,—but you, now?" Mr. Shrig paused, and, somewhat diffidently drew from his side pocket a very business-like, brass-bound pistol, which he proffered to Barnabas, "jest in case they should 'appen to come back, sir," said he.

But Barnabas laughingly declined it, and shook his chubby hand instead.

"Vell," said Mr. Shrig, pocketing note and weapon, "you're true game, sir, yes, game's your breed, and I only 'ope as you don't give me a case—though good murder cases is few and far between, as I've told you afore. Good-by, sir, and good luck."

So saying, Mr. Shrig nodded, touched the broad rim of his castor, and strode away through the gathering shadows.

And when he was gone, and the sound of his going had died away in the distance, Barnabas turned and swiftly retraced his steps; but now he went with fists clenched, and head forward, as one very much on the alert.

Evening was falling and the shadows were deepening apace, and as he went, Barnabas kept ever in the shelter of the trees until he saw before him once more, the desolate and crumbling barn of Oakshott. For a moment he paused, eyeing its scarred and battered walls narrowly, then, stepping quickly forward, entered the gloomy doorway and, turning towards a certain spot, started back before the threatening figure that rose up from the shadows.

"Ah! So you 've c-come at last, sir!" said Barrymaine, steadying himself against the wall with one hand while he held the pistol levelled in the other, "ins-stead of the weak s-sister you find the avenging brother! Been waiting for you hours. C-cursed dreary hole this, and I fell asleep, but—"

"Because you were drugged!" said Barnabas.

"D-drugged, sir! W-what d' you mean?"

"Chichester drugged the brandy—"

"Chichester?"

"He meant to murder me while you slept and fix the crime on you—"

"Liar!" cried Barrymaine, "you came here to meet my s-sister, but instead of a defenceless girl you meet me and I'm g-going to settle with you—once and for all—t-told you I would, last time we met. There's another pistol in the c-case yonder—pick it up and t-take your ground."

"Listen to me," Barnabas began.

"N-not a word—you're going to fight me—"

"Never!"

"Pick up that pistol—or I'll sh-shoot you where you stand!"

"No!"

"I'll c-count three!" said Barrymaine, his pale face livid against the darkness behind, "One! Two!—"

But, on the instant, Barnabas sprang in and closed with him, and, grappled in a fierce embrace, they swayed a moment and staggered out through the gaping doorway.

Barrymaine fought desperately. Barnabas felt his coat rip and tear, but he maintained his grip upon his opponent's pistol hand, yet twice the muzzle of the weapon covered him, and twice he eluded it before Barrymaine could fire. Therefore, seeing Barrymaine's intention, reading his deadly purpose in vicious mouth and dilated nostril, Barnabas loosed one hand, drew back his arm, and smote—swift and hard. Barrymaine uttered a cry that seemed to Barnabas to find an echo far off, flung out his arms and, staggering, fell.

Then Barnabas picked up the pistol and, standing over Barrymaine, spoke.

"I—had to—do it!" he panted. "Did I—hurt you much?"

But Ronald Barrymaine lay very white and still, and, stooping, Barnabas saw that he had struck much harder than he had meant, and that Barrymaine's mouth was cut and bleeding.

Now at this moment, even as he sank on his knees, Barnabas again heard a cry, but nearer now and with the rustle of flying draperies, and, glancing up, saw Cleone running towards them.

"Cleone!" he cried, and sprang to his feet.

"You—struck him!" she panted.

"I—yes, I—had to! But indeed he isn't much hurt—" But Cleone was down upon her knees, had lifted Barrymaine's head to her bosom and was wiping the blood from his pale face with her handkerchief.

"Cleone," said Barnabas, humbly, "I—indeed I—couldn't help it. Oh, Cleone—look up!" Yet, while he spoke, there came a rustling of leaves near by and glancing thither, he saw Mr. Chichester surveying them, smiling and debonair, and, striding forward, Barnabas confronted him with scowling brow and fierce, menacing eyes.

"Rogue!" said he, his lips curling, "Rascal!"

"Ah!" nodded Mr. Chichester gently, "you have a pistol there, I see!"

"Your despicable villainy is known!" said Barnabas. "Ha!—smile if you will, but while you knelt, pistol in hand, in the barn there, had you troubled to look in the loft above your head you might have murdered me, and none the wiser. As it is, I am alive, to strip you of your heritage, and you still owe me twenty thousand guineas. Pah! keep them to help you from the country, for I swear you shall be hounded from every club in London; men shall know you for what you are. Now go, before you tempt me to strangle you for a nauseous beast. Go, I say!"

Smiling still, but with a devil looking from his narrowed eyes, Mr. Chichester slowly viewed Barnabas from head to foot, and, turning, strolled away, swinging his tasselled walking cane as he went, with Barnabas close behind him, pistol in hand, even as they had once walked months before.

Now at this moment it was that Cleone, yet kneeling beside Barrymaine, chanced to espy a crumpled piece of paper that lay within a yard of her, and thus, half unwitingly, she reached out and took it up, glanced at it with vague eyes, then started, and knitting her black brows, read these words:

My Dear Barnabas,—The beast has discovered me. I thought I only scorned him, but now I know I fear him, too. So, in my dread, I turn to you. Yes, I will go now— anywhere you wish. Fear has made me humble, and I accept your offer. Oh, take me away—hide me, anywhere, so shall I always be

Your grateful,

CLEMENCY.

Thus, in a while, when Barrymaine opened his eyes it was to see Cleone kneeling beside him with bent head, and with both hands clasped down upon her bosom, fierce hands that clenched a crumpled paper between them. At first he thought she was weeping, but, when she turned towards him, he saw that her eyes were tearless and very bright, and that on either cheek burned a vivid patch of color.

"Oh, Ronald!" she sighed, her lips quivering suddenly, "I—am glad you are better—but—oh, my dear, I wish I—were dead!"

"There, there, Clo!" he muttered, patting her stooping shoulder, "I f-frightened you, I suppose. But I'm all right now, dear. W-where's Chichester?"

"I—don't know, Ronald."

"But you, Cleone? You came here to m-meet this—this Beverley?"

"Yes, Ronald."

"D'you know w-what he is? D'you know he's a publican's son?—a vile, low fellow masquerading as a g-gentleman? Yes, he's a p-publican's son, I tell you!" he repeated, seeing how she shrank at this. "And you s-stoop to such as he—s-stoop to meet him in s-such a place as this! So I came to save you f-from yourself!"

"Did you, Ronald?"

"Yes—but oh, Cleone, you don't love the fellow, do you?"

"I think I—hate him, Ronald."

"Then you won't m-meet him again?"

"No, Ronald."

"And you'll try to be a little kinder—to C-Chichester?" Cleone shivered and rose to her feet.

"Come!" said she, her hands once more clasped upon her bosom, "it grows late, I must go."

"Yes. D-devilish depressing place this! G-give me your arm, Clo." But as they turned to go, the bushes parted, and Barnabas appeared.

"Cleone!" he exclaimed.

"I—I'm going home!" she said, not looking at him.

"Then I will come with you,—if I may?"

"I had rather go—alone—with my brother."

"So pray s-stand aside, sir!" said Barrymaine haughtily through his swollen lips, staggering a little despite Cleone's arm.

"Sir," said Barnabas pleadingly, "I struck you a while ago, but it was the only way to save you from—a greater evil, as you know—"

"He means I threatened to s-shoot him, Clo—so I did, but it was for your sake, to sh-shield you from—persecution as a brother should."

"Cleone," said Barnabas, ignoring Barrymaine altogether, "if there is any one in this world who should know me, and what manner of man I am, surely it is you—"

"Yes, she knows you—b-better than you think, she knows you for a publican's son, first of all—"

"May I come with you, Cleone?"

"No, sir, n-not while I'm here. Cleone, you go with him, or m-me, so—choose!"

"Oh, Ronald, take me home!" she breathed.

So Barrymaine drew her arm through his and, turning his back on Barnabas, led her away. But, when they had gone a little distance, he frowned suddenly and came striding after them.

"Cleone," said he, "why are you so strange to me,—what is it, —speak to me."

But Cleone was dumb, and walked on beside Ronald Barrymaine with head averted, and so with never a backward glance, was presently lost to sight among the leaves.

Long after they had gone, Barnabas stood there, his head bowed, while the shadows deepened about him, dark and darker. Then all at once he sighed again and, lifting his head, glanced about him; and because of the desolation of the place, he shivered; and because of the new, sharp pain that gripped him, he uttered a bitter curse, and so, becoming aware of the pistol he yet grasped, he flung it far from him and strode away through the deepening gloom.

On he went, heeding only the tumult of sorrow and anger that surged within him. And so, betimes, reached the "Oak and Ivy" inn, where, finding Peterby and the phaeton already gone, according to his instructions, he hired post-horses and galloped away for London.

Now, as he went, though the evening was fine, it seemed to him that high overhead was a shadow that followed and kept pace with him, growing dark and ever darker; and thus as he rode he kept his gaze upon this menacing shadow.

As for my lady, she, securely locked within the sanctuary of her chamber, took pen and paper and wrote these words:

"You have destroyed my faith, and with that all else. Farewell."

Which done, she stamped a small, yet vicious foot upon a certain crumpled letter, and thereafter, lying face down upon her bed, wept hot, slow, bitter tears, stifling her sobs with the tumbled glory of her hair, and in her heart was an agony greater than any she had ever known.



CHAPTER LVII

BEING A PARENTHETICAL CHAPTER ON DOUBT, WHICH, THOUGH UNINTERESTING, IS VERY SHORT

It will perhaps be expected that, owing to this unhappy state of affairs, Barnabas should have found sleep a stranger to his pillow; but, on the contrary, reaching London at daybreak, he went to bed, and there, wearied by his long ride, found a blessed oblivion from all his cares and sorrows. Nor did he wake till the day was far spent and evening at hand. But, with returning consciousness came Memory to harrow him afresh, came cold Pride and glowing Anger. And with these also was yet another emotion, and one that he had never known till now, whose name is Doubt; doubt of himself and of his future—that deadly foe to achievement and success—that ghoul-like incubus which, once it fastens on a man, seldom leaves him until courage, and hope, and confidence are dead, and nothing remains but a foreknowledge and expectation of failure.

With this grisly spectre at his elbow Barnabas rose and dressed, and went downstairs to make a pretence of breaking his fast.

"Sir," said Peterby, watching how he sat staring down moodily at the table, "sir, you eat nothing."

"No, John, I'm not hungry," he answered, pushing his plate aside. "By the way, did you find the cottage I mentioned in my note? Though, indeed, you've had very little time."

"Yes, sir, I found one just beyond Lewisham, small, though comfortable. Here is the key, sir."

"Thank you, John," said Barnabas, and thereafter sat staring gloomily at the key until Peterby spoke again:

"Sir, pray forgive me, but I fear you are in some trouble. Is it your misunderstanding with Viscount Devenham? I couldn't help but overhear, and—"

"Ah, yes—even the Viscount has quarrelled with me," sighed Barnabas, "next it will be the Marquis, I suppose, and after him—Gad, John Peterby—I shall have only you left!"

"Indeed, sir, you will always have me—always!"

"Yes, John, I think I shall."

"Sir, when you—gave a miserable wretch another chance to live and be a man, you were young and full of life."

"Yes, I was very, very young!" sighed Barnabas.

"But you were happy—your head was high and your eye bright with confident hope and purpose."

"Yes, I was very confident, John."

"And therefore—greatly successful, sir. Your desire was to cut a figure in the Fashionable World. Well, to-day you have your wish—to-day you are famous, and yet—"

"Well, John?"

"Sir, to-day I fear you are—not happy."

"No, I'm not happy," sighed Barnabas, "for oh! John Peterby, what shall it profit a man though he gain the whole world, and lose his soul!"

"Ah, sir—you mean—?"

"I mean—the Lady Cleone, John. Losing her, I lose all, and success is worse than failure."

"But, sir,—must you lose her?"

"I fear so. Who am I that she should stoop to me among so many? Who am I to expect so great happiness?"

"Sir," said Peterby, shaking his head, "I have never known you doubt yourself or fortune till now!"

"It never occurred to me, John."

"And because of this unshaken confidence in yourself you won the steeplechase, sir—unaided and alone you won for yourself a place in the most exclusive circles in the World of Fashion—without friends or influence you achieved the impossible, because you never doubted."

"Yes, I was very confident, John, but then, you see, I never thought anything impossible—till now."

"And therefore you succeeded, sir. But had you constantly doubted your powers and counted failure even as a possibility, you might still have dreamed of your success—but never achieved it."

"Why then," sighed Barnabas, rising, "it seems that Failure has marked me for her own at last, for never was man fuller of doubt than I."



CHAPTER LVIII

HOW VISCOUNT DEVENHAM FOUND HIM A VISCOUNTESS

Night was falling as, turning out of St. James's Square, Barnabas took his way along Charles Street and so, by way of the Strand, towards Blackfriars. He wore a long, befrogged surtout buttoned up to the chin, though the weather was warm, and his hat was drawn low over his brows; also in place of his tasselled walking-cane he carried a heavy stick.

For the first half mile or so he kept his eyes well about him, but, little by little, became plunged in frowning thought, and so walked on, lost in gloomy abstraction. Thus, as he crossed Blackfriars Bridge he was quite unaware of one who followed him step by step, though upon the other side of the way; a gliding, furtive figure, and one who also went with coat buttoned high and face hidden beneath shadowy hat-brim.

On strode Barnabas, all unconscious, with his mind ever busied with thoughts of Cleone and the sudden, unaccustomed doubt in himself and his future that had come upon him.

Presently he turned off to the right along a dirty street of squalid, tumble-down houses; a narrow, ill-lighted street which, though comparatively quiet by day, now hummed with a dense and seething life.

Yes, a dark street this, with here and there a flickering lamp, that served but to make the darkness visible, and here and there the lighted window of some gin-shop, or drinking-cellar, whence proceeded a mingled clamor of voices roaring the stave of some song, or raised in fierce disputation.

On he went, past shambling figures indistinct in the dusk; past figures that slunk furtively aside, or crouched to watch him from the gloom of some doorway; past ragged creatures that stared, haggard-eyed; past faces sad and faces evil that flitted by him in the dark, or turned to scowl over hunching shoulders. Therefore Barnabas gripped his stick the tighter as he strode along, suddenly conscious of the stir and unseen movement in the fetid air about him, of the murmur of voices, the desolate wailing of children, the noise of drunken altercation, and all the sordid sounds that were part and parcel of the place. Of all this Barnabas was heedful, but he was wholly unaware of the figure that dogged him from behind, following him step by step, patient and persistent. Thus, at last, Barnabas reached a certain narrow alley, beyond which was the River, dark, mysterious, and full of sighs and murmurs. And, being come to the door of Nick the Cobbler, he knocked upon it with his stick.

It was opened, almost immediately, by Clemency herself.

"I saw you coming," she said, giving him her hand, and so led him through the dark little shop, into the inner room.

"I came as soon as I could. Clemency."

"Yes, I knew you would come," she answered, with bowed head.

"I am here to take you away to a cottage I have found for you—a place in the country, where you will be safe until I can find and bring your father to you."

As he ended, she lifted her head and looked at him through gathering tears.

"How good—how kind of you!" she said, very softly, "and oh, I thank you, indeed I do—but—"

"But, Clemency?"

"I must stay—here."

"In this awful place! Why?"

Clemency flushed, and looking down at the table, began to pleat a fold in the cloth with nervous fingers.

"Poor little Nick hasn't been very well lately, and I—can't leave him alone—" she began.

"Then bring him with you."

"And," she continued slowly, "when I wrote you that letter I was—greatly afraid, but I'm—not afraid any longer. And oh, I couldn't leave London yet—I couldn't!"

Now while she spoke, Barnabas saw her clasp and wring her hands together, that eloquent gesture he remembered so well. Therefore he leaned across the table and touched those slender fingers very gently.

"Why not? Tell me your trouble, my sister."

Now Clemency bowed her dark head, and when she spoke her voice was low and troubled: "Because—he is ill—dangerously ill, Milo tells me, and I—I am nearer to him here in London. I can go, sometimes, and look at the house where he lies. So you see, I cannot leave him, yet."

"Then—you love him, Clemency?"

"Yes," she whispered, "yes, oh yes, always—always! That was why I ran away from him. Oh, I love him so much that I grew afraid of my love, and of myself, and of him. Because he is a great gentleman, and I am only—what I am."

"A very good and beautiful woman!" said Barnabas.

"Beauty!" she sighed, "oh, it is only for that he—wanted me, and dear heaven! I love him so much that—if he asked me—I fear—" and she hid her burning face in hands that trembled.

"Clemency!"

The word was hoarse and low, scarcely more than a whisper, but, even so, Clemency started and lifted her head to stare wide-eyed at the figure leaning in the doorway, with one hand outstretched to her appealingly; a tall figure, cloaked from head to foot, with hat drawn low over his brows, his right arm carried in a sling. And as she gazed, Clemency uttered a low, soft cry, and rose to her feet.

"My Lord!" she whispered, "oh, my Lord!"

"Dearest!"

The Viscount stepped into the room and, uncovering his head, sank upon his knees before her.

"Oh, Clemency," said he, "the door was open and I heard it all—every word. But, dearest, you need never fear me any more—never any more, because I love you. Clemency, and here, upon my knees, beg you to honor me by—marrying me, if you will stoop to such a pitiful thing as I am. Clemency dear, I have been ill, and it has taught me many things, and I know now that I—cannot live without you. So, Clemency, if you will take pity on me—oh! Clemency—!"

The Viscount stopped, still kneeling before her with bent head, nor did he look up or attempt to touch her as he waited her answer.

Then, slowly, she reached out and stroked that bowed and humble head, and, setting her hands upon his drooping shoulders, she sank to her knees before him, so that now he could look into the glowing beauty of her face and behold the deep, yearning tenderness of her eyes.

"Dear," said she very gently, "dear, if you—want me so much you have only to—take me!"

"For my Viscountess, Clemency!"

"For your—wife, dear!"

And now, beholding their great happiness, Barnabas stole from the room, closing the door softly behind him.

Then, being only human, he sighed deeply and pitied himself mightily by contrast.



CHAPTER LIX

WHICH RELATES, AMONG OTHER THINGS, HOW BARNABAS LOST HIS HAT

Now as Barnabas stood thus, he heard another sigh, and glancing up beheld Mr. Shrig seated at the little Cobbler's bench, with a guttering candle at his elbow and a hat upon his fist, which he appeared to be examining with lively interest.

"Sir," said he, as Barnabas approached, wondering, "I'm taking the liberty o' looking at your castor."

"Oh!" said Barnabas.

"Sir, it's a werry good 'at as 'ats go, but it's no kind of an 'at for you to-night."

"And why not, Mr. Shrig?"

"Because it ain't much pertection ag'in windictiveness—in the shape of a bludgeon, shall ve say, and as for a brick—v'y, Lord! And theer's an uncommon lot of windictiveness about to-night; it's a-vaiting for you—as you might say—round the corner."

"Really, Mr. Shrig, I'm afraid I don't understand you."

"Sir, d' ye mind a cove o' the name o' 'Vistling Dick,' as got 'isself kicked to death by an 'orse?"

"Yes."

"And d' ye mind another cove commonly known as 'Dancing Jimmy,' and another on 'em as is called 'Bunty Fagan'?"

"Yes, they tried to rob me once."

"Right, sir,—only I scared 'em off, you'll remember. Conseqvently, p'r'aps you ain't forgot certain other coves as you and me had a bit of a turn-up vith v'en I sez to you 'Run,' and you sez to me 'No,' and got a lump on your sconce like an 'ard-biled egg according?"

"Yes, I remember of course, but why—"

"Sir, they 're all on 'em out on the windictive lay again to-night, —only, this time, it's you they 're arter."

"Me—are you sure?"

"And sartin! Corporal Richard Roe, late Grenadiers, give me the office, and Corporal Richard's never wrong, sir. Corporal Dick's my pal as keeps the 'Gun' in Gray's Inn Lane, you may remember, and the 'Gun' 's a famous chaffing-crib for the flash, leary coves. So, v'en the Corp tipped me the vord, sir, I put my castor on my sconce, slipped a barker in my cly, took my stick in my fib—or as you might say 'daddle,' d' ye see, and toddled over to keep a ogle on you. And, sir, if it hadn't been for the young gent as shadowed ye all the way to Giles's Rents, it's my opinion as they'd ha' done you into a corp as you come along."

"But why should they want to do for me?"

"V'y, sir, they'd do for their own mothers, j'yful, if you paid 'em to!"

"But who would employ such a gang?"

"Vell, sir, naming no names, there's a party as I suspect from conclusions as I've drawed, a party as I'm a-going to try to ketch this here werry night, sir—as I mean to ketch in flay-grant de-lick-too, vich is a law term meaning—in the werry act, sir, if you'll help me?"

"Of course I will," said Barnabas, a little eagerly, "but how?"

"By doing eggs-actly as I tell you, sir. Is it a go?"

"It is," nodded Barnabas.

"V'y, then, to begin vith, that theer coat o' yours,—it's too long to run in—off vith it, sir!"

Barnabas smiled, but off came the long, befrogged surtout.

"Now—my castor, sir" and Mr. Shrig handed Barnabas his famous hat. "Put it on, sir, if you please. You'll find it a bit 'eavyish at first, maybe, but it's werry good ag'in windictiveness."

"Thank you," said Barnabas, smiling again, "but it's too small, you see."

"That's a pity!" sighed Mr. Shrig, "still, if it von't go on, it von't. Now, as to a vepping?"

"I have my stick," said Barnabas, holding it up. Mr. Shrig took it, balanced it in his grasp and passed it back with a nod of approval.

"V'y then, sir, I think ve may wenture," said he, and rising, put on his hat, examined the priming of the brass-bound pistol, and taking the nobbly stick under his arm, blew out the candle and crossed to the door; yet, being there, paused. "Sir," said he, a note of anxiety in his voice, "you promise to do eggs-actly vot I say?"

"I promise!"

"Ven I say 'run' you'll run?"

"Yes."

"Then come on, sir, and keep close behind me."

So saying, Mr. Shrig opened the door and stepped noisily out into the narrow court and waited while Barnabas fastened the latch; even then he paused to glance up at the sombre heaven and to point out a solitary star that twinkled through some rift in the blackness above.

"Going to be a fine night for a little walk," said he, "Oliver vill be in town later on."

"Oliver?" inquired Barnabas.

"Ah! that's flash for the moon, sir. Jest a nice light there'll be. This vay, sir." With the words Mr. Shrig turned sharp to his left along the alley towards the River.

"Why this way, Mr. Shrig?"

"First, sir, because they're a-vaiting for you at t'other end o' the alley, and second, because v'en they see us go this vay they'll think they've got us sure and sartin, and follow according, and third, because at a certain place along by the River I've left Corporal Dick and four o' my specials, d'ye see. S-sh! Qviet now! Oblige me with your castor—your 'at, sir."

Wonderingly, Barnabas handed him the article in question, whereupon Mr. Shrig, setting it upon the end of the nobbly stick, began to advance swiftly where the shadow lay blackest, and with an added caution, motioning to Barnabas to do the like.

They were close upon the River now, so close that Barnabas could hear it lapping against the piles, and catch the indefinable reek of it. But on they went, swift and silent, creeping ever in the gloom of the wall beside them, nearer and nearer until presently the River flowed before them, looming darker than the dark, and its sullen murmur was all about them; until Mr. Shrig, stopping all at once, raised the hat upon his stick and thrust it slowly, inch by inch, round the angle of the wall. And lo! even as Barnabas watched with bated breath, suddenly it was gone—struck away into space by an unseen weapon, and all in an instant it seemed, came a vicious oath, a snarl from Mr. Shrig, the thud of a blow, and a dim shape staggered sideways and sinking down at the base of the wall lay very silent and very still.

"Run!" cried Mr. Shrig, and away he went beside the River, holding a tortuous course among the piles of rotting lumber, dexterously avoiding dim-seen obstacles, yet running with a swiftness wonderful to behold. All at once he stopped and glanced about him.

"What now?" inquired Barnabas.

"S-sh! d'ye 'ear anything, sir?"

Sure enough, from the darkness behind, came a sound there was no mistaking, the rush and patter of pursuing feet, and the feet were many.

"Are we to fight here?" demanded Barnabas, buttoning his coat.

"No, not yet, sir. Ah! there's Oliver—told you it vould be a fine night. This vay, sir!" And turning to the left again, Mr. Shrig led the way down a narrow passage. Half-way along this dim alley he paused, and seating himself upon a dim step, fell to mopping his brow.

"A extra-special capital place, this, sir!" said he. "Bankside's good enough for a capital job, but this is better, ah, a sight better! Many a unfort'nate wictim has been made a corp' of, hereabouts, sir!"

"Yes," said Barnabas shivering, for the air struck chill and damp, "but what do we do now?"

"V'y, sir, I'll tell you. Ve sit here, nice and qviet and let 'em run on till they meet my four specials and Corporal Richard Roe, late Grenadiers. My specials has their staves and knows how to use 'em, and the Corp has 's 'ook,—and an 'ook ain't no-vise pleasant as a vepping. So, ven they come running back, d' ye see, theer's you vith your stick, an' me vith my barker, an' so ve 'ave 'em front and rear."

"But can we stop them—all?"

"Ah!" nodded Mr. Shrig, "all as the Corp 'as left of 'em. Ye see they know me, most on 'em, and likevise they knows as v'en I pull a barker from my cly that theer barker don't miss fire. Vot's more, they must come as far as this passage or else drownd theirselves in the River, vich vould save a lot o' trouble and expense, and—s-sh!"

He broke off abruptly and rose to his feet, and Barnahas saw that he held the brass-bound pistol in his hand. Then, as they stood listening, plain and more plain was the pad-pad of running feet that raced up to the mouth of the alley where they stood—past it, and so died down again. Hereupon Mr. Shrig took out his large-faced watch and, holding it close to his eyes, nodded.

"In about vun minute they'll run up ag'in the Corp," said he, "and a precious ugly customer they'll find him, not to mention my specials—ve'll give 'em another two minutes." Saying which, Mr. Shrig reseated himself upon the dim step, watch in hand. "Sir," he continued, "I'm sorry about your 'at—sich a werry good 'at, too! But it 'ad to be yours or mine, and sir,—axing your pardon, but there's a good many 'ats to be 'ad in London jest as good as yourn, for them as can afford 'em, but theer ain't another castor like mine—no, not in the U-nited Kingdom."

"Very true," nodded Barnabas, "and no hat ever could have had a more—useful end, than mine."

"V'y yes, sir—better your castor than your sconce any day," said Mr. Shrig, "and now I think it's about time for us to—wenture forth. But, sir," he added impressively, "if the conclusion as I've drawed is correct, theer's safe to be shooting if you're recognized, so keep in the shadder o' the wall, d' ye see. Now, are ye ready?—keep behind me—so. Here they come, I think."

Somewhere along the dark River hoarse cries arose, and the confused patter of running feet that drew rapidly louder and more distinct. Nearer they came until Barnahas could hear voices that panted out fierce curses; also he heard Mr. Shrig's pistol click as it was cocked.

So, another minute dragged by and then, settling his broad-brimmed hat more firmly, Mr. Shrig sprang nimbly from his lurking-place and fronted the on-comers with levelled weapon:

"Stand!" he cried, "stand—in the King's name!"

By the feeble light of the moon, Barnabas made out divers figures who, checking their career, stood huddled together some yards away, some scowling at the threatening posture of Mr. Shrig, others glancing back over their shoulders towards the dimness behind, whence came a shrill whistle and the noise of pursuit.

"Ah, you may look!" cried Mr. Shrig, "but I've got ye, my lambs—all on ye! You, Bunty Fagan, and Dancing Jimmy, I know you, and you know me, so stand—all on ye. The first man as moves I'll shoot—stone dead, and v'en I says a thing I—"

A sudden, blinding flash, a deafening report, and, dropping his pistol, Mr. Shrig groaned and staggered up against the wall. But Barnabas was ready and, as their assailants rushed, met them with whirling stick.

It was desperate work, but Barnabas was in the mood for it, answering blow with blow, and shout with shout.

"Oh, Jarsper!" roared a distant voice, "we're coming. Hold 'em, Jarsper!"

So Barnabas struck, and parried, and struck, now here, now there, advancing and retreating by turns, until the flailing stick splintered in his grasp, and he was hurled back to the wall and borne to his knees. Twice he struggled up, but was beaten down again, —down and down into a choking blackness that seemed full of griping hands and cruel, trampling feet.

Faint and sick, dazed with his hurts, Barnabas rose to his knees and so, getting upon unsteady feet, sought to close with one who threatened him with upraised bludgeon, grasped at an arm, missed, felt a stunning shock,—staggered back and back with the sounds of the struggle ever fainter to his failing senses, tripped, and falling heavily, rolled over upon his back, and so lay still.



CHAPTER LX

WHICH TELLS OF A RECONCILIATION

"Oh, Lord God of the weary and heavy-hearted, have mercy upon me! Oh, Father of the Sorrowful, suffer now that I find rest!"

Barnabas opened his eyes and stared up at a cloudless heaven where rode the moon, a silver sickle; and gazing thither, he remembered that some one had predicted a fine night later, and vaguely wondered who it might have been.

Not a sound reached him save the slumberous murmur that the River made lapping lazily against the piles, and Barnabas sighed and closed his eyes again.

But all at once, upon this quiet, came words spoken near by, in a voice low and broken, and the words were these:

"Oh, Lord of Pity, let now thy mercy lighten upon me, suffer that I come to Thee this hour, for in Thee is my trust. Take back my life, oh, Father, for, without hope, life is a weary burden, and Death, a boon. But if I needs must live on, give me some sign that I may know. Oh, Lord of Pity, hear me!"

The voice ceased and, once again, upon the hush stole the everlasting whisper of the River. Then, clear and sharp, there broke another sound, the oncoming tread of feet; soft, deliberate feet they were, which yet drew ever nearer and nearer while Barnabas, staring up dreamily at the moon, began to count their steps. Suddenly they stopped altogether, and Barnabas, lying there, waited for them to go on again; but in a while, as the silence remained unbroken, he sighed and turning his throbbing head saw a figure standing within a yard of him.

"Sir," said Mr. Chichester, coming nearer and smiling down at prostrate Barnabas, "this is most thoughtful—most kind of you. I have been hoping to meet you again, more especially since our last interview, and now, to find you awaiting me at such an hour, in such a place,—remote from all chances of disturbance, and—with the River so very convenient too! Indeed, you couldn't have chosen a fitter place, and I am duly grateful."

Saying which, Mr. Chichester seated himself upon the mouldering remains of an ancient wherry, and slipped one hand into the bosom of his coat.

"Sir," said he, leaning towards Barnabas, "you appear to be hurt, but you are not—dying, of course?"

"Dying!" repeated Barnabas, lifting a hand to his aching brow, "dying,—no."

"And yet, I fear you are," sighed Mr. Chichester, "yes, I think you will be most thoroughly dead before morning,—I do indeed." And he drew a pistol from his pocket, very much as though it were a snuff-box.

"But before we write 'Finis' to your very remarkable career," he went on, "I have a few,—a very few words to say. Sir, there have been many women in my life, yes, a great many, but only one I ever loved, and you, it seems must love her too. You have obtruded yourself wantonly in my concerns from the very first moment we met. I have always found you an obstacle, an obstruction. But latterly you have become a menace, threatening my very existence for, should you dispossess me of my heritage I starve, and, sir—I have no mind to starve. Thus, since it is to be your life or mine, I, very naturally, prefer that it shall be yours. Also you threatened to hound me from the clubs—well, sir, had I not had the good fortune to meet you tonight, I had planned to make you the scorn and laughing-stock of Town, and to drive you from London like the impostor you are. It was an excellent plan, and I am sorry to forego it, but necessity knows no law, and so to-night I mean to rid myself of the obstacle, and sweep it away altogether." As he ended, Mr. Chichester smiled, sighed, and cocked his pistol. But, even as it clicked, a figure rose up from behind the rotting wherry and, as Mr. Chichester leaned towards Barnabas, smiling still but with eyes of deadly menace, a hand, pale and claw-like in the half-light, fell and clenched itself upon his shoulder.

At the touch Mr. Chichester started and, uttering an exclamation, turned savagely; then Barnabas struggled to his knees, and pinning his wrist with one hand, twisted the pistol from his grasp with the other and, as Mr. Chichester sprang to his feet, faced him, still upon his knees, but with levelled weapon.

"Don't shoot!" cried a voice.

"Shoot?" repealed Barnabas, and got unsteadily upon his legs. "Shoot—no, my hands are best!" and, flinging the pistol far out into the River, he approached Mr. Chichester, staggering a little, but with fists clenched.

"Sir," cried the voice again, "oh, young sir, what would you do?"

"Kill him!" said Barnabas.

"No, no—leave him to God's justice, God will requite him—let him go."

"No!" said Barnabas, shaking his head. But, as he pressed forward intent on his purpose, restraining hands were upon his arm, and the voice pleaded in his ear:

"God is a just God, young sir—let the man go—leave him to the Almighty,"

And the hands upon his arm shook him with passionate entreaty. Therefore Barnabas paused and, bowing his head, clasped his throbbing temples between his palms and so, stood a while. When he looked up again, Mr. Chichester was gone, and the Apostle of Peace stood before him, his silver hair shining, his pale face uplifted towards heaven.

"I owe you—my life!" said Barnabas.

"You are alive, young sir, which is good, and your hands are not stained with a villain's blood, which is much better. But, as for me—God pity me!—I came here to-night, meaning to be a self-murderer—oh, God forgive me!"

"But you—asked for—a sign, I think," said Barnabas, "and you—live also. And to-night your pilgrimage ends, in Clemency's loving arms."

"Clemency? My daughter? Oh, sir,—young sir, how may that be? They tell me she is dead."

"Lies!" said Barnabas, "lies! I spoke with her tonight." The Apostle of Peace stood a while with bowed head; when at last he looked up, his cheeks were wet with tears.

"Then, sir," said he, "take me to her. Yet, stay! You are hurt, and, if in my dark hour I doubted God's mercy, I would not be selfish in my happiness—"

"Happiness!" said Barnabas, "yes—every one seems happy—but me."

"You are hurt, young sir. Stoop your head and let me see."

"No," sighed Barnabas, "I'm well enough. Come, let me take you to Clemency."

So, without more ado, they left that dreary place, and walked on together side by side and very silent, Barnabas with drooping head, and his companion with eyes uplifted and ever-moving lips.

Thus, in a while, they turned into the narrow court, and reaching the door of Nick the Cobbler, Barnabas knocked and, as they waited, he could see that his companion was trembling violently where he leaned beside him against the wall. Then the door was opened and Clemency appeared, her shapely figure outlined against the light behind her.

"Mr. Beverley," she exclaimed, "dear brother, is it you—"

"Yes, Clemency, and—and I have kept my promise, I have brought you—" But no need for words; Clemency had seen. "Father!" she cried, stretching out her arms, "oh, dear father!"

"Beatrix," said the preacher, his voice very broken, "oh, my child, —forgive me—!" But Clemency had caught him in her arms, had drawn him into the little shop, and, pillowing the silvery head upon her young bosom, folded it there, and so hung above him all sighs, and tears, and tender endearments.

Then Barnabas closed the door upon them and, sighing, went upon his way. He walked with lagging step and with gaze ever upon the ground, heedless alike of the wondering looks of those he passed, or of time, or of place, or of the voices that still wailed, and wrangled, and roared songs; conscious only of the pain in his head, the dull ache at his heart, and the ever-growing doubt and fear within him.



CHAPTER LXI

HOW BARNABAS WENT TO HIS TRIUMPH

The star of Barnabas Beverley, Esquire, was undoubtedly in the ascendant; no such radiant orb had brightened the Fashionable Firmament since that of a certain Mr. Brummell had risen to scintillate a while ere it paled and vanished before the royal frown.

Thus the Fashionable World turned polite eyes to mark the course of this new luminary and, if it vaguely wondered how long that course might be, it (like the perspicacious waiter at the "George") regarded Barnabas Beverley, Esquire, as one to be flattered, smiled upon, and as worthy of all consideration and respect.

For here was one, not only young, fabulously rich and a proved sportsman, but a dandy, besides, with a nice taste and originality in matters sartorial, more especially in waistcoats and cravats, which articles, as the Fashionable World well knows, are the final gauge of a man's depth and possibilities.

Thus, the waistcoats of Barnabas Beverley, Esquire, or their prototypes to a button, were to be met with any day sunning themselves in the Mall, and the styles of cravat affected by Barnabas Beverley, Esquire, were to be observed at the most brilliant functions, bowing in all directions.

Wherefore, all this considered, what more natural than that the Fashionable World should desire to make oblation to this, its newest (and consequently most admired) ornament, and how better than to feed him, since banquets are a holy rite sanctified by custom and tradition?

Hence, the Fashionable World appointed and set apart a day whereon, with all due pomp and solemnity, to eat and drink to the glory and honor of Barnabas Beverley, Esquire.

Nevertheless (perverse fate!) Barnabas Beverley was not happy, for, though his smile was as ready as his tongue, yet, even amid the glittering throng, yea, despite the soft beams of Beauty's eyes, his brow would at times grow dark and sombre, and his white, strong fingers clench themselves upon the dainty handkerchief of lace and cambric fashion required him to carry. Yet even this was accepted in all good faith, and consequently pale checks and a romantic gloom became the mode.

No, indeed, Barnabas was not happy, since needs must he think ever of Cleone. Two letters had he written her, the first a humble supplication, the second an angry demand couched in terms of bitter reproach. Yet Cleone gave no sign; and the days passed. Therefore, being himself young and proud, he wrote no more, and waited for some word of explanation, some sign from her; then, as the days lengthened into weeks, he set himself resolutely to forget her, if such a thing might be.

The better to achieve a thing so impossible, he turned to that most fickle of all goddesses whose name is Chance, and wooed her fiercely by day and by night. He became one of her most devoted slaves; in noble houses, in clubs and hells, he sought her. Calm-eyed, grim-lipped he wooed her, yet with dogged assiduity; he became a familiar figure at those very select gaming-tables where play was highest, and tales of his recklessness and wild prodigality began to circulate; tales of huge sums won and lost with the same calm indifference, that quiet gravity which marked him in all things.

Thus a fortnight has elapsed, and to-night the star of Barnabas Beverley, Esquire, has indeed attained its grand climacteric, for to-night he is to eat and drink with ROYALTY, and the Fashionable World is to do him honor.

And yet, as he stands before his mirror, undergoing the ordeal of dressing, he would appear almost careless of his approaching triumph; his brow is overcast, his cheek a little thinner and paler than of yore, and he regards his resplendent image in the mirror with lack-lustre eyes.

"Your cravat, sir," says Peterby, retreating a few paces and with his head to one side the better to observe its effect, "your cravat is, I fear, a trifle too redundant in its lower folds, and a little severe, perhaps—"

"It is excellent, John! And you say—there is still no letter from—from Hawkhurst?"

"No, sir, none," answered Peterby abstractedly, and leaning forward to administer a gentle pull to the flowered waistcoat. "This coat, sir, is very well, I think, and yet—y-e-es, perhaps it might be a shade higher in the collar, and a thought tighter at the waist. Still, it is very well on the whole, and these flattened revers are an innovation that will be quite the vogue before the week is out. You are satisfied with the coat, I hope, sir?"

"Perfectly, John, and—should a letter come while I am at the banquet you will send it on—at once, John."

"At once, sir!" nodded Peterby, crouching down to view his young master's shapely legs in profile. "Mr. Brummell was highly esteemed for his loop and button at the ankle, sir, but I think our ribbon is better, and less conspicuous, that alone should cause a sensation."

"Unless, John," sighed Barnabas, "unless I receive a word to-night I shall drive down to Hawkhurst as soon as I can get away, so have the curricle and grays ready, will you?"

"Yes, sir. Pardon me one moment, there is a wrinkle in your left stocking, silk stockings are very apt to—"

But here the legs of the Gentleman-in-Powder planted themselves quivering on the threshold to announce:—

"Viscount Devenham!"

He still carried his arm in a sling, but, excepting this, the Viscount was himself again, Bright-eyed, smiling and debonair. But now, as Peterby withdrew, and Barnabas turned to greet him, gravely polite—he hesitated, frowned, and seemed a little at a loss.

"Egad!" said he ruefully, "it seems a deuce of a time since we saw each other, Beverley."

"A fortnight!" said Barnabas.

"And it's been a busy fortnight for both of us, from what I hear."

"Yes, Viscount."

"Especially for—you."

"Yes, Viscount."

"Beverley," said he, staring very hard at the toe of his varnished shoe, "do you remember the white-haired man we met, who called himself an Apostle of Peace?"

"Yes, Viscount."

"Do you remember that he said it was meant we should be—friends?"

"Yes."

"Well I—think he was right,—I'm sure he was right. I—didn't know how few my friends were until I—fell out with you. And so—I'm here to—to ask your pardon, and I—don't know how to do it, only—oh, deuce take it! Will you give me your hand, Bev?"

But before the words had well left his lips, Barnabas had sprang forward, and so they stood, hand clasped in hand, looking into each other's eyes as only true friends may.

"I—we—owe you so much, Bev—Clemency has told me—"

"Indeed, Dick," said Barnabas, a little hastily, "you are a fortunate man to have won the love of so beautiful a woman, and one so noble."

"My dear fellow," said the Viscount, very solemn, "it is so wonderful that, sometimes, I—almost fear that it can't be true."

"The love of a woman is generally a very uncertain thing!" said Barnabas bitterly.

"But Clemency isn't like an ordinary woman," said the Viscount, smiling very tenderly, "in all the world there is only one Clemency and she is all truth, and honor, and purity. Sometimes, Bev, I feel so—so deuced unworthy, that I am almost afraid to touch her."

"Yes, I suppose there are a few such women in the world," said Barnabas, turning away. "But, speaking of the Apostle of Peace, have you met him again—lately?"

"No, not since that morning behind the 'Spotted Cow.' Why?"

"Well, you mentioned him."

"Why yes, but only because I couldn't think of any other way of—er—beginning. You were so devilish high and haughty, Bev."

"And what of Clemency?"

"She has promised to—to marry me, next month,—to marry me—me, Bev. Oh, my dear fellow, I'm the very happiest man alive, and, egad, that reminds me! I'm also the discredited and disinherited son of a flinty-hearted Roman."

"What Dick,—do you mean he has—cut you off?"

"As much as ever he could, my dear fellow, which reduces my income by a half. Deuced serious thing, y' know, Bev. Shall have to get rid of my stable, and the coach; 'Moonraker' must go, too, I'm afraid. Yes, Bev," sighed the Viscount, shaking his head at the reflection of his elegant person in the mirror, "you behold in me a beggar, and the cause—Clemency. But then, I know I am the very happiest beggar in all this wide world, and the cause—Clemency!"

"I feared your father would never favor such a match, Dick, but—"

"Favor it! Oh, bruise and blister me!—"

"Have you told Clemency?"

"Not yet—"

"Has he seen her?"

"No, that's the deuce of it, she's away with her father, y' know. Bit of a mystery about him, I fancy—she made me promise to be patient a while, and ask no questions."

"And where is she?"

"Haven't the least idea. However, I went down to beard my Roman, y' know, alone and single handed. Great mistake! Had Clemency been with me the flintiest of Roman P's would have relented, for who could resist—Clemency? As it was, I did my best, Bev—ran over her points—I mean—tried to describe her, y' know, but it was no go, Bev, no go—things couldn't have gone worse!"

"How?"

"'Sir,' says I—in an easy, off-hand tone, my dear fellow, and it was after dinner, you'll understand,—'Sir, I've decided to act upon your very excellent advice, and get married. I intend to settle down, at once!' 'Indeed, Horatio?' says he,—(Roman of eye, Bev) 'who is she, pray?' 'The most glorious woman in the world, sir!' says I. 'Of course,' says he, 'but—which?' This steadied me a little, Bev, so I took a fresh grip and began again: 'Sir,' says I, 'beauty in itself is a poor thing at best—' 'Therefore,' says my Roman (quick as a flash, my dear fellow) 'therefore it is just as well that beauty should not come—entirely empty-handed!' 'Sir,' says I—(calmly, you'll understand, Bev, but with just sufficient firmness to let him see that, after all, he was only a father) 'Sir,' says I, 'beauty is a transient thing at best, unless backed up by virtue, honor, wisdom, courage, truth, purity, nobility of soul—' 'Horatio,' says my father (pulling me up short, Bev) 'you do well to put these virtues first but, in the wife of the future Earl of Bamborough, I hearken for such common, though necessary attributes as birth, breeding, and position, neither of which you have yet mentioned, but I'm impatient, perhaps, and these come at the end of your list,—pray continue.' 'Sir,' says I, 'my future wife is above such petty considerations!' 'Ah!' says my Roman, 'I feared so! She is then, a—nobody, I presume?' 'Sir—most beautiful girl in all England,' says I. 'Ha!' says my Roman, nodding, 'then she is a nobody; that settles it.' 'She's all that is pure and good!' says I. 'And a nobody, beyond a doubt!' says he. 'She's everything sweet, noble and brave,' says I. 'But—a nobody!' says he again. Now I'll confess I grew a little heated at this, my dear fellow, though I kept my temper admirably—oh, I made every allowance for him, as a self-respecting son should, but, though filial, I maintained a front of adamant, Bev. But, deuce take it! he kept on at me with his confounded 'nobody' so long that I grew restive at last and jibbed. 'So you are determined to marry a nobody, are you, Horatio?' says he. 'No, my Lord,' says I, rising, (and with an air of crushing finality, Bev) 'I am about to be honored with the hand of one who, by stress of circumstances, was for some time waiting maid at the 'Spotted Cow' inn, at Frittenden.' Well, Bev—that did it, y' know! My Roman couldn't say a word, positively gaped at me and, while he gaped, I bowed, and walked out entirely master of the situation. Result— independence, happiness, and—beggary."

"But, Dick,—how shall you live?"

"Oh, I have an old place at Devenham, in the wilds of Kent,—we shall rusticate there."

"And you will give up Almack's, White's—all the glory of the Fashionable World?"

"Oh, man!" cried the Viscount, radiant of face, "how can all these possibly compare? I shall have Clemency!"

"But surely you will find it very quiet, after London and the clubs?"

"Yes, it will be very quiet at Devenham, Bev," said the Viscount, very gently, "and there are roses there, and she loves roses, I know! We shall be alone in the world together,—alone! Yes, it will be very quiet, Bev—thank heaven!"

"The loneliness will pall, after a time, Dick—say a month. And the roses will fade and wither—as all things must, it seems," said Barnabas bitterly, whereupon the Viscount turned and looked at him and laid a hand upon his shoulder.

"Why, Bev," said he, "my dear old Bev,—what is it? You're greatly changed, I think; it isn't like you to be a cynic. You are my friend, but if you were my bitterest enemy I should forgive you, full and freely, because of your behavior to Clemency. My dear fellow, are you in any trouble—any danger? I have been away only a week, yet I come back to find the town humming with stories of your desperate play. I hear that D'Argenson plucked you for close on a thousand the other day—"

"But I won fifteen hundred the same night, Dick."

"And lost all that, and more, to the Poodle later!"

"Why—one can't always win, Dick."

"Oh, Bev, my dear fellow, do you remember shaking your grave head at me because I once dropped five hundred in one of the hells?"

"I fear I must have been very—young then, Dick!"

"And to-day, Bev, to-day you are a notorious gambler, and you sneer at love! Gad! what a change is here! My dear fellow, what does it all mean?"

Barnabas hesitated, and this history might have been very different in the ending but, even as he met the Viscount's frank and anxious look, the door was flung wide and Tressider, the thinnish, youngish gentleman in sandy whiskers, rushed in, followed by the Marquis and three or four other fine gentlemen, and, beholding the Viscount, burst into a torrent of speech:

"Ha! Devenham! there you are,—back from the wilds, eh? Heard the latest? No, I'll be shot if you have—none of you have, and I'm bursting to tell it—positively exploding, damme if I'm not. It was last night, at Crockford's you'll understand, and every one was there—Skiffy, Apollo, the Poodle, Red Herrings, No-grow, the Galloping Countryman and your obedient humble. One o'clock was striking as the game broke up, and there's Beverley yawning and waiting for his hat, d' ye see, when in comes the Golden Ball. 'Ha, Beverley!' says he, 'you gamble, they tell me?' 'Oh, now and then,' says Beverley. 'Why then,' says Golden Ball, 'you may have heard that I do a little that way, myself?' Now you mention it, I believe I have,' says Beverley. 'Ha!' says Golden Ball, winking at the rest of us, 'suppose we have a match, you and I—call your game.' 'Sir,' says Beverley, yawning again, 'it is past one o'clock, and I make it a rule never to play after one o'clock except for rather high stakes,' (Rather high stakes says he! and to the Golden Ball,—oh curse me!) 'Do you, begad!' says Golden Ball, purple in the face—'ha! you may have heard that I occasionally venture a hundred or so myself—whatever the hour! Waiter—cards!' 'Sir,' says Beverley, I've been playing ever since three o'clock this afternoon and I'm weary of cards.' 'Oh, just as you wish,' says Golden Ball, 'at battledore and shuttlecock I'm your man, or rolling the bones, or—' 'Dice, by all means!' says Beverley, yawning again. 'At how much a throw?' says Golden Ball, sitting down and rattling the box. 'Well,' says Beverley, 'a thousand, I think, should do to begin with!' ('A thou-sand,' says he, damme if he didn't!) Oh Gad, but you should have seen the Golden Ball, what with surprise and his cravat, I thought he'd choke—shoot me if I didn't! 'Done!' says he at last (for we were all round the table thick as flies you'll understand) —and to it they went, and in less than a quarter of an hour, Beverley had bubbled him of close on seven thousand! Quickest thing I ever saw, oh, curse me!"

"Oh, Bev," sighed the Viscount, under cover of the ensuing talk and laughter, "what a perfectly reckless fellow you are!"

"Why, you see, Dick," Barnabas answered, as Peterby re-entered with his hat and cloak, "a man can't always lose!"

"Beverley," said the Marquis, proffering his arm, "I have my chariot below; I thought we might drive round to the club together, you and Devenham and I, if you are ready?"

"Thank you, Marquis, yes, I'm quite ready."

Thus, with a Marquis on his right, and a Viscount on his left, and divers noble gentlemen in his train, Barnabas went forth to his triumph.



CHAPTER LXII

WHICH TELLS HOW BARNABAS TRIUMPHED IN SPITE OF ALL

Never had White's, that historic club, gathered beneath its roof a more distinguished company; dukes, royal and otherwise, elbow each other on the stairs; earls and marquises sit cheek by jowl; viscounts and baronets exchange snuff-boxes in corners, but one and all take due and reverent heed of the flattened revers and the innovation of the riband.

Yes, White's is full to overflowing for, to-night, half the Fashionable World is here, that is to say, the masculine half; beaux and wits; bucks and Corinthians; dandies and macaronis; all are here and, each and every, with the fixed and unshakable purpose of eating and drinking to the glory and honor of Barnabas Beverley, Esquire. Here, also, is a certain "Mr. Norton," whom Barnabas immediately recognizes by reason of his waistcoat and his whiskers. And Mr. Norton is particularly affable and is graciously pleased to commend the aforesaid flattened revers and riband; indeed so taken with them is he, that he keeps their wearer beside him, and even condescends to lean upon his arm as far as the dining-room.

Forthwith the banquet begins and the air hums with talk and laughter punctuated by the popping of corks; waiters hurry to and fro, dishes come and dishes vanish, and ever the laughter grows, and the buzz of talk swells louder.

And Barnabas? Himself "the glass of fashion and the mould of form," in very truth "the observed of all observers," surely to-night he should be happy! For the soaring pinions of youth have borne him up and up at last, into the empyrean, far, far above the commonplace; the "Coursing Hound," with its faded sign and weatherbeaten gables, has been lost to view long and long ago (if it ever really existed), and to-night he stands above the clouds, his foot upon the topmost pinnacle; and surely man can attain no higher, for to-night he feasts with princes.

Thus Barnabas sits among the glare and glitter of it all, smiling at one, bowing to another, speaking with all by turns, and wondering in his heart—if there is yet any letter from Hawkhurst. And now the hurrying tread of waiters ceases, the ring and clatter of glass and silver is hushed, the hum of talk and laughter dies away, and a mottle-faced gentleman rises, and, clutching himself by the shirt-frill with one hand, and elevating a brimming glass in the other, clears his throat, and holds forth in this wise:

"Gentlemen, I'm an Englishman, therefore I'm blunt,—deuced blunt—damned blunt! Gentlemen, I desire to speak a word upon this happy and memorable occasion, and my word is this: Being an Englishman I very naturally admire pluck and daring—Mr. Beverley has pluck and daring—therefore I drink to him. Gentlemen, we need such true-blue Englishmen as Beverley to keep an eye on old Bony; it is such men as Beverley who make the damned foreigners shake in their accursed shoes. So long as we have such men as Beverley amongst us, England will scorn the foreign yoke and stand forth triumphant, first in peace, first in war. Gentlemen, I give you Mr. Beverley, as he is a true Sportsman I honor him, as he is an Englishman he is my friend. Mr. Beverley, gentlemen!"

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