HotFreeBooks.com
The Lord of the Sea
by M. P. Shiel
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Frankl, half inclined to tyrannize over misery, and half afraid, swept his hand down the beard.

"Letter?" said he: "from whom?"

"From a friend".

"Which friend?"

"A man named Hogarth".

O'Hara said it in an awful whisper, though not aware of any relation between Hogarth and Frankl.

Whereupon an agitation waved down Frankl's beard. The news that "a man named Hogarth" had written to his daughter would hardly have suggested Richard—safe elsewhere; but, one night at Yarmouth, he had seen Richard Hogarth inexplicably kiss his daughter's hand.

"Hogarth?" said he: "what Christian name?"

"Richard".

The agonized thought in Frankl's brain was this: "Well, what's the good of prisons, then?"—he, too earnest a financier to read newspaper gossip, having heard not a word of the three escapes from Colmoor.

He said: "Well, sir, generally speaking, I'm the last to encourage this sort of thing; but, as yours is a special case, I tell you plain out that, personally, I don't mean a bit of harm to you. Just step into a room here, and let us talk the matter quietly over".

He led O'Hara to his study; and there they two remained locked half an hour, conferring head to head.



XXVII

THE BAG OF LIGHT

Rebekah, having excused herself from three ladies, her guests, alone in her room opened her letter.

Glanced first at the "R. H.", and was not surprised. He had "escaped", had "come into great power": that seemed natural; but he "summoned" her to meet him, and she saw no connection between his "great power" and his right to summon her.

She held the paper to a fire, and, as it began to burn, in a panic of flurry extinguished the edge, and hustled it into her bosom; then perambulated; then fell to a chair-edge with staring gaze; then, rocking her head which she had dropped upon a little table, moaned: "He is mad...."

"My flames of fire! Rebekah! I am dying...."

He suffered; and a pussy's wail mewed from her; but with a gasp of anger which said "Ho!" she sprang straight, and went ranging, with a stamping gait, through the chamber, filling it with passion. "I won't go!" she went with fixed lips, as something within her whispered: "You must".

To escape herself, she went again to see what had happened with regard to the convict, whose face would carry to the grave the scars of her nails.

There were no signs of any disturbance; and she asked a footman: "Where is the man who was here?"

"With your father in the study".

That seemed a strange proceeding: she felt a touch of alarm for her father, and, passing again by the study, peeped; could see nothing for the key, but heard voices.

This messenger of Hogarth, she next thought, was a criminal: he might betray...so she stole into an adjacent room, to peep by a side door of the study, and though a key projecting toward her barred her vision, the talkers were near this point, and she could hear.

"The diamond block", O'Hara said, "is the same which he rolled across the bridge this morning; to that I'll swear".

"Then it must be the very same block he showed me", Frankl said in a whisper; "that thing was worth millions....!"

"Undoubtedly it was the same".

"Oh, but Lord", groaned the Jew in an anguish of self-deprecation, "where were my eyes? where were my wits? I must have been dreaming! No, that's hard!"

"Well—nil desperandum! Let us be acting, sir!"

"My own land—!"

"They are still safe enough: come—"

"He may have lost one or two—in his excitement. Thousands gone! He may have hidden some!"

"Tut, he has hidden none", said O'Hara; "we may have all. Let us make a move".

"But he is a strong man, this Hogarth. Why do you object to the assistance of the police?"

"What have the police to do with such a matter? Hogarth would simply bribe. And there are three of us—"

"Who is this Harris?"

"He is a Cockney—assassin".

Frankl took snuff, with busy pats at alternate nostrils.

"What will you tell him is in the bag?"

"Anything—rings—something prized by you for sentimental reasons. We offer him a thousand—two thousand pounds. And he will not fail. He strikes like lightning".

"And we share—how?"

"Come—let us not talk of that again, sir. What could be more generous than my offer? You divide the diamonds into two heaps, and I choose one; or I divide, you choose; and, before I leave you, you give me a declaration that it was by your contrivance that I escaped prison, and that the gems which I have, once yours, are duly made over to me".

"And you collar half!" gibed the Jew with an ogle of guile; "that's about as cool a stroke of business as I've come across. You don't take into account that the whole is mine, if the concern fell, as you confess, on my own land! And just ask yourself the question: what is to prevent me handing you over this minute to the police, and grabbing the lot? Only I'm not that sort of man—"

O'Hara drew a revolver.

"You talk to me as though I was a schoolboy, sir", said he sternly. "Be good enough to learn to respect me. I am not less a man of the world than you are, and quite competent to safeguard my own interests. Supposing I was weak enough to permit you to send for the police, the moment they had me I should tell of Hogarth in hiding; they would go for him, and he, after bribing, may be trusted to take wing with the stones, leaving you whistling. Or perhaps you would care to tackle him in person? He would wheel you by the beard round his arm like a Catherine-wheel, I do assure you. All this you see well, and pretend not to. Do let us be honest with each other!"

"Well, I don't want to be hard", said Frankl, looking sideward and downward, plotting behind an unwrinkled brow, intending to have every one of the diamonds; so did O'Hara, who already had his plot.

"No, don't be hard", said O'Hara: "I am not. I give you an incalculable fortune; I take the same. Live and let live! Why should two shrewd old fellows like you and me be like the dog which, wanting two bones, lost the one he had? Come, now—give me your hand on it".

"Well, I'm hanged if you are not right!" cried Frankl, looking up with discovery: "Share and share alike, and shame the devil! That's the kind of little man I am, frank, bluff, and stalwart—Ha! ha! Give me your hand on it, sir!"

"Ha! ha! you are very kind. That is the only way—absolute sincerity—" and they shook hands, hob-nobbing and fraternizing, with laughs and little nods, like cronies.

"Stop—I'll just ring for a drop of brandy—" said Frankl.

"No! no ringing!—thanks, thanks, no brandy—"

"Well, you are as cautious as they make them. Oh, perfectly right, you know—perfectly right"—he touched O'Hara's chest—"not a word to say against that. I am the same kind of man myself—"

"Come; are you for making a move?"

"Agreed. Where is my hat? I suppose a man may get his hat!—ha! ha!— I can't very well go in this cap—-"

"You use mine—with the greatest pleasure. I do not need—Ah? quite the fit, quite the fit".

"Why, so it is. Ha! ha! why, it's a curate's hat, and— I'm a Jew!"

"Excellent, excellent, ha! ha!"

So they made merry, and, with the bitter lip-corners of forced merriment, went out, while Rebekah, who had caught a great deal of that dialogue, crouched a long time there, agitated, uncertain what to do.

That her father should coolly look on at an assassination for a fortune was no revelation to her: she had long despised, yet, with an inconsistency due to the tenderness of Jewish family ties, still loved him; the notion of appealing to the police, therefore, who might ruin Hogarth, too, did not enter her head.

She ran and wrote: "Your life and bag of gems are at this moment in danger"; and sent it by a mounted messenger addressed to "The Guest at the Paper Shop".

But in twenty minutes the messenger returned to her with it, Hogarth having gone to the rendezvous at the elm—long before the appointed time.

When, accordingly, Frankl, O'Hara, and Harris arrived at the paper- shop back yard, and Harris had stolen up the back stairs, he presently, to the alarm and delight of the others, sent a whisper from the window: "No one 'ere as I can see!"

And the search for the diamonds was short: for Hogarth had actually left the bag containing them on the trunk, and Frankl and O'Hara returned with it to Westring, holding it out at arm's length, one with the right, one with the left hand, like standard-bearers.

Hogarth, meantime, was striding about the elm, and once fell to his knees, adoring a vision, and once, at a fancied step, his teeth- edges chattered.

Rebekah! He called, groaned, hissed that name, while his to-and-fro ranging quickened to a trot.

And now, fancying that he heard a call "Come !" he stood startled, struck into a twisting enquiry to the four winds; but could not locate the call, ran hither and thither, saw no one.

"Come to me, little sister", he wailed tenderly, while to swallow was a doubtful spasm for him, her name a mountain in his bosom.

When he was certain that it must be nearer ten than "nine", he set out in the sway of a turbulent impulse to spurt for the Hall: but as he reached the point of proximity between path and park, just there where her father had stood that morning he saw her patiently waiting—ever since that "Come!"

He flew, and was about to skip up the bank, when, with forbidding arm, she cried: "Don't you approach me!"—and he stood checked and abject, one foot planted on the bank, looking up, ready to dart for her in her Oriental dress, flimsy, baggy at the girdle, her arms bare, her fingers clasped before her, making convex the two tassels of the girdle, from her ears depending circles of gold large enough to hoop with, a saffron headdress, stuck backward, showing her hair in front, falling upon a shawl which sheltered her frank recumbent shoulders. She did not see Hogarth at all, but stood averted, implacable, unapproachable, looking across the park, while Hogarth occupied a long silence in gazing up to where, like a show, she stood, illumined by the moon.

At last he sent to her the whisper, "Did you call just now? Did you say 'Come'?"

"What is it you want with me, Hogarth? You have 'summoned' me: but be very quick".

"I told you: I am wealthier than all the princes—"

"Well, let me inform you that your life is in danger here; if you are a wise man, you will not fail to leave this neighbourhood this night".

"But no one knows—"

"It is known, Hogarth: your friends are false, and your enemies crafty. You will have to walk with your eyes open, my friend. What will you do with all the money?"

"I will buy the world, because you are in it".

Now she flashed upon him one glance, in which there was astonishment, and judgment.

"You said that so like my father! Hogarth among the dealers? I thought you would be more squeamish, and arduous, and complex".

"But if a man is famished, he is not complex, he runs to the baker's. You can have no conception how I perish! And I cannot be contradicted-I claim you-I have the right-I am the lord of this lower world—"

"But you do not see the effect of your words: you disappoint me Richard. How of what the poet sings:

...this is my favoured lot, My exaltation to afflictions high?

That is more in your line, you know, but you are dazzled, Hogarth- fie. To buy me! And how would you like me afterwards, having renounced my obligations? And how would I like you-I whose name is Rebekah, who will mate with none but a wrestler, a fellow of heroic muscle? I feel certain that you are dazzled. It is natural, I suppose—But are all the people in the world so happy, that you too, can find nothing to occupy you but the market-place, with its buying and selling? And to buy me? I am not for sale! How dare you, Hogarth?"

With this she walked off; but, having a creepy instinct in her back that he was on the point to follow, catch, and snatch her away, she span round again, crying: "Do not follow me! Mind you! If you like, be at the elm-tree again at half-past ten-and I will communicate with you. Goodbye—"

Now she did not once look back; and he had not heard that fainting "Good-bye", it had fainted so.

He found himself presently in his room at the paper-shop, and lay biting the bed-clothes, spasm after spasm traversing his body.

Then, turning on his back, he lay with his face now toward the trunk, and a little clock ticked ten more minutes before the fact stole into his consciousness that the bag was not on the trunk.

For some time the disappearance was too stupendous to find room in his brain. He got up and paced, stunned, just conscious of a feeling of unease.

Now he was searching the room mechanically. It was not there....

And again he paced, tapping his top teeth with a finger-nail; and now he called down the stair: "Have you seen, Mrs. Sturgess, the calico bag you gave me to-day?"

"Why, no".

"Has anyone been in my room?"

"Why, no, sir! Only myself".

Again he began to pace, and suddenly the grand reality stabbed his brain like a dagger: he was poor....

O'Hara! Where was he....?

His forehead dropped upon the mantel-board, and he leant staring downward there, a miserable man.

But suddenly the man said quietly aloud, raising himself: "All right: better so. O, I have not been myself—virtue has gone out of me—!"

Presently he noticed that it was near the hour of her unexpected rendezvous under the elm....

And nearly all the way he ran—wild to see her again—until he neared the tree, when, descrying a female form, he came stooping with humility, but soon saw that it was a girl, her head in a shawl, whom he did not know.

And she, coming to meet him, said: "What is your name, sir?"

"Why?"

"I am Miss Frankl's messenger".

"My name is Hogarth".

"Will you turn this way that I may see your eyes?...All right: Miss Frankl directs me to give you these".

The girl, who had been weighted down toward the left, handed him an envelope, and a steel box.

Never was he so bewildered! On the way home, he observed that the box had three knobs of gold, surrounded by rays, and, inlaid in the top, the letters "R. F."; when he tore open the envelope in his room he found in pencil on one half-sheet:

"Turn the 10 of the right knob to the ray 5; the 5 of the middle knob to the ray 0; the 15 of the left knob to the ray 10: and the box will open".

No more. When he had set wildly to work, and the lid turned back, his eyes beheld the calico bag.

Rebekah had, in fact, before setting out to the rendezvous at nine, seen her father and O'Hara return to the Hall, bearing the bag between them; and, she, crouching at the side door, as before, had heard them talk, arranging details. Her father had then said that before he could write any document, he must either ring or go search for paper: and suddenly she had heard an oath, a thud, a scuffle, had turned the key, softly entered, seen the men struggling against the other door, a revolver, held by the muzzle, in O'Hara's hand; and before she had been sighted by the two desperate men, had had the bag, lying near on an escritoire, and was gone. She had then sent some servants to the scene, and hurried to her chamber.

Later she had heard that O'Hara had escaped through a window, and that her father was raving below in a sort of fit: for Frankl supposed that O'Hara had the jewels, as O'Hara that Frankl had them; and after tending her father, she had dashed out to the rendezvous, the jewels then in her room.

As for Hogarth, he did not neglect her warning: and, having left a note for O'Hara, telling him where to find him, at Loveday's, took a late train southwards.

By what marvel Rebekah had become possessed of the jewels he did not even seek to fathom; but one of his uppermost feelings was shame for having suspected O'Hara of stealing them: and for years could never be got to believe in the bad faith of the prelate, his tutor.

Near midnight, on reaching the obscure townlet of Hadston, he there took a bed—not to sleep.

At the tiny inn-window he made periodic arrivals, looked out unseeing at a cart, a wall of flint and Flemish brick, and a moonlit country, then weighed anchor, and swerved away on another voyage; then arrived anew, looked out, saw nothing, and weighed.

He walked now in the dark of the valley of humiliation, with those words written in flame in his brain: "This is my favoured lot—my exaltation to afflictions high": he had allowed a woman to say them to him, and he went "I!"

He, the richest of men, was, therefore, that night poorer than any wretch, brought right down, naked, exposed to death, and he filled that chamber with his moans: "God have mercy upon me! a vulgar rich man...a dreadful contented clown...."

But toward morning he lay calmer, weeping like Peter, and at peace.

Being without money, he sent the next day a small stone to Loveday, asking him to sell it; also to meet old Tom Bates on the night appointed, and keep him till he, Hogarth, came to London.

Four days later he received the money in the name of "Mr. Beech", but the old Bates had not kept the rendezvous; and a month later a detective agency discovered that the fisher was dead.

At Hadston Hogarth remained two months, the most occupied man anywhere, yet passing for a lounger in the townlet.

Here and now he was descended deep into himself, aspiring to greatness, set on high designs; and, as the days passed, his thoughts more and more took form, though sometimes, with a sudden heart-pang, he would flinch and shrink, pierced by a consciousness of the unwieldy thing which he was at; and he would mutter: "I must be mad". Anon he would start and cower at a distinct sound of cannon in his ears.

Usually, during the day, he had with him an atlas, a pair of compasses.

One day he took train, to see the sea.

Another day, happening to look into the goat-hair trunk, he saw that account-book, containing the addresses of the signatories to his old "association", and was overjoyed. "Quite a little army", he tenderly said: "I won't forget them".

After two months he left Hadston for London, having in his head a new age hatched.



XXVIII

THE LETTER

It was night when Hogarth broke into the presence of Loveday at Cheyne Gardens with a glad face, crying: "Forgive me, my friend, for being a boor!"

"You are forgiven", Loveday answered with his smile, hastening to meet him: "the broken picture, you see, is in a better frame, and so are we. What could have made us invent a quarrel about—land, of all things!"

"Come, let us talk", said Hogarth: "not long—all about land, and sea, too. I suppose you have nothing to tell about my sister? Never mind—we shall find her. Come, sit and give me all your intelligence. You are not interested in land, then? You will be in ten minutes—it is interesting. Listen: all the land of the earth is mine, and all the sea especially—a good thing, for, for a hundred years Europe, especially England, has wanted a master: the anarchy of our modern life is too terrible! it cannot arrange itself; and now the hour has struck, though none has heard the bell".

"Hogarth! but you gabble like a mad god", cried Loveday. "I am all in the dark—"

"I will tell you".

And he spoke, first going into his discovery at Colmoor, frowning upon Loveday, ploughing the truth into his brow; proving how modern misery, in its complexity, had its cause in one simple old fault, sure as the fact that smoke ascends, or apples fall. And when he saw conviction beam in Loveday's face, he next told what had happened at the elm-tree, and what would happen-soon; whereat Loveday, like a frightened child, clung to his arm, and once gasped: "Oh no—my God!" and once felt a gory ghost raise horror in his hairs.

An hour afterwards they were bending over a sheet of paper, Hogarth in his shirt-sleeves, writing, Loveday overlooking, suggesting, when two men were announced, and in stepped O'Hara with bows and polished hesitations, followed by his shadow, Harris; and, "Ah, O'Hara..." cried Hogarth, still writing, "who is that with you?"

"A friend of mine", said Loveday, for O'Hara had introduced Harris to him, and he had adopted Harris as a human study, horrid, but amusing.

The moment O'Hara saw the face of Hogarth, he started, muttering: "He has the diamonds back! God! is he a magician?"

And Harris drawled nasally: "Of course, you wouldn't know me now, Mr. 76! Were there not ten cleansed, but where are the nine, it is".

Hogarth was silent—had not yet decided what to do with Harris.

"This is my tenth call here, Hogarth", said O'Hara, "in the hope of seeing you, and the streets, you know, are no small risk. You see how I am muffled up, and this gentleman, too. By the bye, I have selected a cargo of books for you—"

"No study for a month", said Hogarth, "but I shall want you all the same. Just come over here and watch me write this thing. You, Harris, sit right over there".

Harris cursed, but obeyed, while O'Hara came and bent under the golden glow of the silk shade a brow puckered with a care of puzzlement, as he read.

Then he fell into the work, and was soon the director of it— invaluable! knew everything! remembered forgotten points; explained technicalities; the proper person in each little State to whom the document must be directed, the style of addressing him. Of one sentence he said: "That will never do—lacks formality"; and of another: "Tut, they will laugh at that—it is provincial and insolent", distracted between the work and his brandy glass. At last, about eleven, the three brains had produced a letter.

Hogarth laid claim to the sea as his private property, and warned the nations.



XXIX

PRIORITY OF CLAIM

A gentleman—a Permanent Under-secretary—stood one noon, his back to a fireplace in a bright-carpeted room at the Foreign Office, letting his eyes move over some opened letters submitted to him, and presently came upon the following document, its crest a flag, containing in blue the letters "R. F.":

"17 LEADENHALL STR., E.G.

"To the Most Hon.,

"The Marquis of Hallam, K.G.,

"Foreign Office,

"Westminster, S.W.

"MY LORD MARQUIS:

"I have the honour hereby to make formal announcement to Your Lordship that I am on the point of setting up in the midst of the world a new Power, whose relations with the King's Government will, I trust, be relations of friendliness.

"It is my desire that Your Lordship forthwith convey to the King's Most Excellent Majesty the announcement which is the subject of this Memorandum.

"My purposes and policy in the establishment of the new Power will hereafter appear; and my properly accredited Ministers will, in due course, present themselves at the Chancelleries of the world.

"Hitherto a British subject, it is my will to acquire diplomatic recognition—as soon as such shall comport with the dignity of the Great Powers—as an Independent Sovereign, under the title of: 'Lord of the Sea'. (Address: 'Your Lordship's Majesty', or 'My Lord King'.)

"The domain of my Power will be the sea: and to the sea I hereby set up claim as far as such points of latitude as have been attained by Man, and over all degrees of longitude. Provided only: that nothing in this claim shall be held to infringe upon the prior claim of any nation to a 'three-mile limit' round its coasts, nor to any national fisheries whatsoever, nor to any claim of the Kingdom of Denmark with respect to the Sound.

"The validity of my title to the sea must be considered to rest on the same basis as the title of any private owner to any area of the earth's crust: namely, Priority of Claim. If one is valid, so, necessarily, is the other, this title to land, based on Priority of Claim, being admitted in the Law of all civilized Nations.

"This my claim will come into operation on this day three years hence.

"I have the honour to subscribe myself

"Your Lordship's

"Obdt. Servant,

"RICHARD HOGARTH ".

The Under-secretary, a pale, distinguished man, read this letter with a little lift of one eyebrow, then let it drop from him into a waste-paper basket.

At the German, the Turkish, capitals it met much the same reception. Nowhere did it reach the eye of a Departmental Head. It went to Siam, to the Prince of Monaco, to Ecuador, and was tossed to cumber a basket, or moulder on a file.

But Hogarth, who knew that it would be instantly forgotten, had written it so as to be able to say that he had written it.

At that time he was lodging in a top room in Bloomsbury, and had an underground den in Leadenhall Street, on its doors the words: "R. Beech & Co." Thither in a brougham he drove daily, lying very low, but holding in that den interviews with all sorts and conditions of men, and feeling his way toward operations of dimensions so immense, that their mere project had a modifying influence upon industry.



XXX

MR. BEECH

During six weeks Hogarth lived that life of daily passage between Keppel Street and his office, unknown to the general world, but spreading a noise of rumour through certain circles of the business world. All day in the den the gas-jets brawled upon him, he not for minutes casting a glance, if a clerk brought a caller's name. And here was no novice modesty in the tackling of affairs; as O'Hara, who would be there, said: "You must have been born in the City; you have the airs, the very tricks, of Threadneedle Street, you— Jew". In a day the prelate counted seven hundred and thirteen telegrams from the Terni Cannon foundry, many a diamond dealer, polisher, cutter, the Vulcan Shipyard of Stettin, the Clydebank, Cramp of Philadelphia, the Russian Finance Minister, San Francisco, Lloyd's, metal brokers, the Neva, and one night, the eve of a dash to Amsterdam, he, with O'Hara, Loveday, and five clerks, sat swotting till morning broke, sustained by gin and soda-water. The priest lived with wide eyes at the easy fleetness with which Hogarth rolled off him the greatest affairs: as when on the day after his return from Holland he stood, his thumbs in his waistcoat armholes, with quite the right air of serene City-king, his tallness possessing considerable natural courtliness, and the De Beers' Secretary sat before him, saying, "Well, Mr. Beech, I have spent the morning with your brokers, and have felt that I must see you personally before calling a meeting. This proposition is so tremendous—"

"I only wish I had some time", said Hogarth, "I would invite you to dine upon the matter; but it is really so simple—everything at bottom is merely twice two are four. And you are not obliged to turn over Kimberley to me: only, in that case, as I have said, I shall be compelled to flood the market with diamonds as cheap as cat's-eyes—"

When De Beers stared, Hogarth shrugged, saying: "I suppose I must convince you—" and, unlocking a safe, he took out an ecrin which contained three stones. De Beers appeared to see Titania peering in their fairy painting.

"Of stones of this water and carating", said Hogarth, "we have two hundred and eleven in the Bank of England, two hundred and thirty- eight in other English and Continental banks, and seventy-five in safe-deposit. The carating of these three is 111-1/2; and in the sixties, such as this one"—he took a stone from among coppers in his pocket—"we have three hundred odd on hand, all flawless, and an equal number cutting. When I point out, what you know, that our mine is as yet without the delicate plant of Kimberley, the stones being simply picked from the blue-earth by three inexpert friends of the firm on the spot, you will recognize that the wealth of a mine can no further go...."

He was rid of the visitor within six minutes, and within three weeks, by knack and organization, had gathered into his hands most of the reins necessary to the control of the world's trade in diamonds.

In an outer room sat O'Hara, writing, reading Theocritus, or a little book on mediaeval embroidery, forefinger on cheek; and anon, absolutely without motive, he would rise, creep, and peep through a keyhole at Hogarth, then on stalking, bowing tiptoe, grinning a rancid grimace of stealth, get back to his seat, and read—the tutor falling over head and ears in love with his pupil: one of those passions that end tragically.

One day, as he so sat, the bell pinged, the door opened, and O'Hara jumped to find himself face to face with—Frankl, who had come to see the new diamond king, in the firm belief that Mr. Beech was none other than O'Hara; and, "I thought as much!" said he.

"Sh-h-h", went O'Hara bitterly—"for God's sake! he is in there—!"

"Who is?"

"Hogarth!"

"Well, but—"

"Outside—in the passage—"

They stepped out; and Frankl, his eyelids red, said: "I have only this day crawled from bed with the blow you struck my temple, or I should have had you before this—"

"Sh-h-h. Your own fault, sir. You played false first—"

"Played false with my own diamonds? You hand me over this day one- half those stones, or I bring a civil action for the whole, hound you to beggary, and drag you back to your convict-cell where you come from".

"Don't lift your voice, I beg of you. Tut, you rave. You can't bring a civil action against a great millionaire who doesn't care to defend; and as for me, I do assure you, I haven't fifty pounds to- day. It is Hogarth who is Mr. Beech!"

"Who?"—Frankl obtruded a startled ear, frowning his eyes small.

"Hogarth. He has the diamonds back!"

"Which diamonds? How did he get 'em?"

"He is—inthere: better go and ask him! He got them by black art—by the aid of the legion of mediaeval witches which wait on him—God knows how he got them! You gave them to him! I gave them to him! but he's got them—in—there! Better go and ask him—don't be afraid—just for the roaring fun of it—"

"Hogarth?"

"Yes—Hogarth, Hogarth".

"Cheated the gallows? And out of prison? And rolling in my wealth, my riches, my diamonds? Oh, no!—is that fair? A dog? Is that how the world is run? God of Israel!"

"There is this to be said for him: that he deserves to be rich—"

"Who? So you are taking his part now?"

"Tut—!"

"There is no tut about it! You confess that you are nothing more than a penniless hanger-on: well, then, I have you! back to prison you go this hour—-!"

O'Hara's cheek trembled; but he said: "A sufficiently vain threat, sir: I am Hogarth's tutor: he won't let me be taken. Don't waste your time, you impotent Jew—"

"Tutor? That's good! What you teaching him?—murder? outrage? He ought to have a tutor, he! That's good! Tutor! Well, suppose I drop a line first post to your nice pupil to let him know that it was his tutor who stole his diamonds—"

At this threat O'Hara felt himself outflanked; and though his eyes surveyed the Jew unflinchingly during a silence, inwardly he had succumbed.

"A man in Hogarth's situation", he slowly said, "is always liable to attack. Why should two sharp old fellows like you and me, whose interests are identical, quarrel?"—and instantly Frankl took note of that surrender, that weak spot, and knew that the man was his.

"Well", said he, "so true—two old gaol-birds like you and me, eh? So true, so true. But what beats me—who runs Beech's? Hogarth is only a young farmer: he can't operate all the big things I hear about this Mr. Beech—"

"Tut, you do not conceive the man as he is at all", said O'Hara: "perhaps you cannot. High finance, the first day he looked into it, ceased to mystify him, for he goes always to the ground of things, touches bottom, where first principles lie, and first principles are simple as two and two. It was because he had discovered a first principle that he escaped from Colmoor. And he is as nimble as six twisting minnows: what you or I learned in a year he learns in an hour, and if he does not know the usual way, not an instant does he hesitate to invent a way. You know about Owthwaite's: how the recent shake-out of the market threatened their collapse, like so many others'. Owthwaite's, in fact, had already declared, when Hogarth decided to help them over. And how? Not Bills! He filled up a call- in of two millions and a half by the India Council, resettled loans and short-discount business, cheapened money, and in twelve hours his proteges were off the rocks. And now I hear—"

"But why not buy a chapel, and preach about him? I hate—"

"Stop! O Lord—he is calling—"

"Here's my card; I want to see you to-night at that address at eight".

And that night at Frankl's town-house in Hanover Square Jew and prelate conferred, O'Hara for some time resisting, but finally again taking sides against his saviour. He disclosed that Hogarth, beyond doubt, kept a few diamonds in a goat-hair trunk in his room—enough to make two ordinary fortunes, and also carried two or three, with some hundred-pound notes on his person; and this was made the basis of a scheme for bringing about the arrest of Hogarth, the first step being to get from Hogarth the sum he carried about him, leaving him in a situation where he would find himself powerless to bribe.

This Frankl undertook; and O'Hara promised to lend Harris, and some friends of Harris.

Now, during these weeks Hogarth was living in some fear, haunted by insecurity and a vision of Colmoor; and, remembering the theft at Thring, with a consciousness of Frankl somewhere in him, he went not only with diamonds on his person, but a revolver as well, and a punal of Toledo.

But three evenings after the conference in Hanover Square, he received this letter:

"Dearest Richard:

"It is long since we have met. This is to let you know that I have heard of your getting out, and your coming into great things, which has made my heart rejoice. I, alas, am just the other way about. I am staying for the next two days at Woodfield Cottage, Wylie Street, Finchley Road, N. I understand that you are lying low, so better not come to see me perhaps, but send me something.

"Your loving

"Margaret".

And at sight of these words such a whirlwind transacted itself in the brain of Hogarth, that he hardly awoke to sense till he found himself in a railway compartment, going northward. It was only then that, reading the letter again, he started.

The handwriting was hers! he was sure. But the words...?

"I, alas, am just the other way about"—"better not come to me perhaps, but send me something". There was a tone here not in character. But her handwriting! This was no forgery. If she had written from dictation that might explain it.

In this uncertainty he left the train, and took cab, scenting trouble ahead.

The difficulty was to find Wylie Street, which was a half-built street of five cottages in a new neighbourhood of brick, and when what was supposed to be Wylie Street was discovered, the cab had to stop, for across it lay bricks, hods and barrows in mud. So Hogarth alighted, and, peering, stumbled forward: no lamp; above, a labouring half-moon riding a sky of clouds, like a poor ship riding the bleak morning after a hurricane, her masts all gone by the board: and Hogarth could just see that three of the five cottages were roofless brick, the fourth unfinished, so the fifth, alone on the other side, must be—"Woodfield"

"Woodfield" was unlighted: and the moment he ascertained this, he felt himself the victim of a plot; but not all the whispers of prudence could hold him now from seeing the adventure through. Loudly he flung back the little gate, with rash precipitancy entered: and as he sprang up the three steps to ring, he was seized.

They were five, three being big fellows, two masked.

His main sensation was gladness that none, apparently, was a policeman; and he set hilariously to work with his knuckles. This, however, could not save, soon he was on his back, striking his head; but when he saw that the object was to rifle his pockets, letting be, he managed to steal out the punal from his breast, and presently with a sudden upheaving and scattering rage, was staggering to his legs. Before he could be stopped, he was making for the gate, but close upon him ran one of the five—a slim man, masked—who fired Hogarth's own pistol at his legs, but missed: whereupon, Hogarth, with a backward twist, struck at random with the dagger, which entered the man's breast. But at the same time a whistle shrilled, and from an opposite cottage rushed out at last what he dreaded—three policemen.

These had been placed there on the understanding that it was thither that Hogarth would go, the object of the plot being to rifle his pockets before he was officially taken; and it succeeded to the extent that his pockets were rifled: but he knocked down one officer, and dodged the other two, reaching his taxi; and, having previously arranged with the cabman, got off racing.

But the masked man whom he had struck down was Harris, who for weeks lay raving in fever—an ill-fated stroke, for Harris had a memory.

As for Hogarth, he rushed home to Keppel Street, hurried down the trunk, and was off to Cheyne Gardens.

"Well", he cried, breaking in upon Loveday, "this phase of our life is up! Look at my clothes: I have had a fight—Frankl, I suppose. I wanted to live a simple life for two years: but they won't let me, you see. Ha!—then the other thing. From this night we bury our identity under mountains of splendour. It is disgusting to me, this life, skulking, thinking to bribe honest men. Meantime, you must find me some room to hide in with the trunk—mustn't stay here to- night. And to-morrow you buy me a boat to take us off from some point of the coast—Come—"



XXXI

THE HAMMERS

Within six months Hogarth, as distinct from "Beech", had risen upon the consciousness of Europe, say like the morning sun: and the wearied worker, borne at evening through crowded undergrounds, might read his name with a listless incomprehension.

He impressed the popular fancy, especially in Paris, where he was best known, as erratic: as once when, by a stroke of financial sleight-of-hand, he got the young Government of Russia into a tight place, then refused them a loan, except on condition of the lease to him of the Kremlin: and for three months squalid old Moscow was the most cometary Court anywhere—acts savouring of a meteorite waywardness which impressed him, more than anything, upon the everyday world; and he won a tolerant wonder.

However, an outcry, led by the Intransigeant, denounced his acquisition of the site of royal St. Cloud for his Paris residence on the ground that he was a Jew, betrayed by his face—an accusation which caused the buying up of hundreds of thousands of his photographs—and on the ground that his design was to familiarize the people with the idea of his sovereignty, and by a coup to seize the Government; at which Paris was in a ferment, and a midnight mob traversed the Bois and demolished some of his mason- work. The next day, however, the Minister of the Interior announced from the Tribune that Hogarth was no Jew, but an Englishman pur sang; and, on the whole, Hogarth had his way: the noise died down; and where parterres and avenues had stood on the old palace site, there arose one of those enchanting fabrics, which, from the Bosphorus to London, bore the name of "The Beeches".

At this time he had dependent upon him a retinue, serving him in multifarious ways from electrical adviser to spy, and from chancellor to recruiter, numbering many hundreds. He knew five thousand faces by sight; in England had two armies—a small one collecting data as to acreages, tenures, trades, scales, wages, prices, crimes, mines, and a large one, numbering five thousand, doing gun-practice in Westring Vale: for, England being for sale, he had bought at thrice its market value that part of it called Westring; and on the sea also he kept a little army of a thousand, borne in old cruiser-hulks bought from the English Admiralty, hulks whose crews, in rotation, changed places with drafts from the Westring barracks.

Once he disappeared from Europe, and when he returned the President of the Republic of Ecuador, thenceforth one of his closest friends, was with him; whereupon, through newspapers in the pay of Beech's, the rumour commenced to appear that the Ecuador Government was giving orders for coast-defence on an unparalleled scale, in view of probable hostilities with Peru.

In the midst of which activities O'Hara said to him one morning: "You can now be called a mathematician".

"I have many admirers, and but one teacher, O'Hara", Hogarth answered: "teach me".

O'Hara cut a secret grimace.

After the failure of the Finchley Road plot he had had another repentance, and had set himself earnestly to the cultivation of Hogarth's mind; but the priest's spirit was not "erect"; he had "falls"; maintained a correspondence with the Jew, whose eye of malice never slept; and once at Cairo, twice in Paris, Hogarth had to use words like these: "I must tell you, O'Hara, that I have heard of your recent behaviour. Naturally, there are those that see for me, and I do not mean to be compromised by your low revels".

"Wretch that I am!" broke out O'Hara with smitten brow, and for half a day was on his knees in an affliction of self-reproach. Yet the same night he wrote a letter to Frankl containing the words: "You do not know, you cannot dream, the high and slippery road which H. has chosen for his feet: the future is big with events. Wait: his sublime path is not without pitfalls...."

Study with O'Hara was in the morning; at night, when possible, that other study of the working world: and often then Hogarth would withdraw from opera in the St. Cloud palace, or from some "crush", to give an hour to the river of statistics with which he was inundated.

Till these years he had never seen into the sea of things as it is: his life so isolated—had not even read newspapers.

Now he saw and knew. There below him blazed some masque of beauty and majesty, moving under a moonlight of blue-darting jets of electric light all among colossal columns of alabaster robed in vine and rose; or there below some Melba voice, all trembles and maze of wobbly trebles, warbling: and the thronged hall sat tranced; but before him—figures: parents killed their children for insurance- money—keeping children in cellars till their flesh grew green, keeping sore the stumps of children's legs; with some trades certain comic-sounding names had got to be associated, "potter's rot", "phossy jaw",—enormous horror; each day in England one million people had to seek pauper-relief, many perished; of aged persons 40 per cent were permanent paupers; children were paid 2-1/2d. for making 144 match-boxes; pretty girls (though pretty girls were detestably rare) were allowed to work, nay forced to—far harder than any ten savages ever dreamt of working; in Glasgow 41 of every 100 families lived in one room: fathers, for weeks, did not see their children, except asleep; girls took emetics to vomit up cotton-dust—enormous horror, comic-opera in Hell: and below in the "crush" the voice of the warbler, cooing, shook.

Sometimes he would mutter: "But that can't be true!" There, though, the figures lay; and presently he would take heart, and say: "Well, not for long now, God help me...."

Whether God helped him or not, certainly Man was helping him: ten thousand and ten thousand hammers—from Spezzia to Belfast—in model-office and mould-loft and rolling-mill—in foundry and yard and roaring forge—were ringing upon metal for him, their clamorous industry clattering over Europe and America carillons of his name.



XXXII

WONDER

Almost suddenly that noise of chiming hammers reached the general ear.

First in the German Admiralty was wonder when a spy, engaged as a workman at Birkenhead, sent to his Government information that the British Government was up to something: something of a novelty so extraordinary, that as yet he could form no conception as to its object. That it was intended for the sea one must suppose: yet it was evident that nothing of such odd draughtsmanship—of such mastodon proportions—had ever yet taken the water.

He had been clever: had penetrated even the model-office, peered at detailed draughtsman's-plans, developed from the original specifications, as well as at orders for Krupp plates, frames, etc.; had listened in the yard to the talk of four naval men acting as a Board of Inspection; was able to give details of the machining of enormous processed plates to sizes determined by templates, the length of pan-headed rivets, the specific gravity of an average cubic foot, the scarfing of edges, the accumulation of prepared material. The wooden half-model, he said, was a one-ninety-sixth, instead of the usual one-forty-eighth; yet, even so, it was 5 ft. 7- 1/2 ins. long, as much broad, and 1 ft. 3/4 in. high. This meant that the structure would measure 180 yards square—over one-tenth of a mile—with a depth of 34 yards. Already the far-reaching chaos of scaffolding had run up eight yards, with stringers and frames to a like level. There were no keel-blocks, for there was no keel—or rather, the keel was a circular plate a yard in diameter, resting on a single block, the shape of the structure to be a perfect square, along the sides of which four battleships might lie like toy-boats: the bottom, from circular keel to upward bend, having the same shape as a battleship's seen in midship section, only with four faces instead of two. From the knee-bend the sides ran up perpendicular; but at the level evidently intended to be the water-line they struck inward, so that the flat roof was smaller than the area below; the position of this water-line giving a definite clue to the intended displacement; and this again showing that the whole—roof, sides, bottom, and all—would be one wall of Simmons armour—steeling and backing—layer on layer—no less than 4ft. 9-1/4 ins. thick.

Yet this stupendous ark, or citadel—so simple was its plan—would be turned out in less time than a second-class cruiser; and its cost, apart from yard-modifications and groundways, small in proportion.

This, and much else, the spy reported: but the new fact was obvious as the sun; the British and French Intelligence Departments, too, were soon conning it; and a week later it was established that, not one, but at least eleven, such structures were a-building in the world.

There went the rumour: "It is the Government of Ecuador's order...."

This was at the end of April; Hogarth, obeying some instinct which continually drew him toward Asia, then loitering alone in Trebizond tea-gardens and bazaars, buying a braid-bag, mule-trapping, or silver sword of the Khurdish cavaliers; while Trinity House gave the alarm that if ever the steel monsters, whatever their object, were launched, "they would constitute, in the absence of proper precautions, a serious danger by night to the world's mercantile marine ", and while Lloyd's, the Maritime Exchanges, the Hydrographic Offices, lived in a species of amazement, and were already putting the steel islands into the gazetteers and manuals; the newspapers, too, inundated with the views of the public, took sides, maintaining, some of them, that it was the part of Governments to ascertain the objects of the new works, others that any tampering with their progress at this late stage might even mean revolution, so profound was their intimacy with industry. Hogarth, meanwhile, having come to El Khiff, the camp of the Bedouin pilgrims, there spent some days, and then, passing between Jerusalem and Jericho in a caravan of Moabite sheiks, went visiting the holy places of Israel, everywhere examining the country, especially its agriculture, with great minuteness. It was only on his return to Jerusalem that he heard of the agitation in Europe: and at once set off Westward from Joppa.

From his arrival at Paris toward the end of May the wildest legends, originated by him, began to be printed, the most persistent relating to the diamond and banking House of Beech, which, it was given out, had discovered diamonds within the crust of a Pacific rock-island: the new structures, ordered by them, being designed to blast the coast-wall with dynamite guns. Cavillers pointed out that diamonds never occur in nature in this fashion, and that, even so, it did not need a fort made of armour five feet thick to fire off dynamite guns; but so continuously was the thing repeated, explained, and puffed, that when the London manager of Beech partially admitted it, the most incredulous acquiesced; though at the very same period it was proclaimed that the President of the Ecuador Republic, Hogarth's friend, had admitted to the Great Powers that the forts were to his order (as, in fact, they nominally were); and anti-climax was reached when a naval expert, asked to do a hurried article for the Times, made some error in calculation, and came out with the statement that the fort-things would sink of their own weight. This article was headed "Beech's Folly"; and even when the error was detected, the roar of merriment retained its momentum and rolled: so that, to the hour of the first launch, the enterprise was commonly referred to as "Beech's Folly", and scarf-pins, ink-stands, etc., in the shape of the forts, were sold with that superscription: "Beech's Folly".

This, translated into French, became that horrible gallicism: la betise Biche.

Gradually, however, the Ecuador-Beech rage died down the hammers, heard for nine days through the turmoil of the world, were again drowned in it. The scarf-pins ceased to sell. The 'buses rolled, the Bank cashed notes, the long street roared—and all was as usual.

Only, in the valley of Westring there was drill and target-practice and barrack-life routine, the Westring-eccentricity being associated with the millionaire, Hogarth, the island-eccentricity with the House of Beech: and in the popular mind Beech and Hogarth were two notions. Islands were building in Italy, France, Germany, Russia; in England, Scotland, Ireland; at Maine, Baltimore, Newport News: but the Governments, lacking the machinery, and also the initiative, and judging to-morrow by yesterday, gave no sign from their Olympus.

In June, John Loveday being then at Westring, one morning O'Hara arrived, he, too, having left mediaeval chasubles to grind at war, and though he no longer taught Hogarth, a relation persisted between them; and always not far from O'Hara was to be found Harris, living now on the pinnacle of dandy bliss, twisting a dandy stick.

It was on the last night of this visit to Westring that O'Hara at a late hour went with stealth and hesitations along a corridor of the Hall, and finally tapped at Loveday's door, who, detesting the priest, and reading in bed, disgustedly dashed off his cigarette ash, as he called: "Come in".

And a long time they spoke of things other than the real object of O'Hara's visit, till O'Hara said: "But—may I ask you something?"

"Do".

"Well, now, you are a fellow more in the counsels of Hogarth than another. I want to ask you right out frankly—is it a fact that Hogarth is choosing Admirals for the islands?"

"I believe it is", answered Loveday with his long-bow smile of amusement: "I already know, for example, that Saltoun will admiral the Homer in the Indian Ocean, Vladimir the Ruskin in the Atlantic Crescent, and the young Marquis of Erroll the Justice in the Yellow Sea".

"Those all?"

"All I know of. I believe, however, that Hogarth is in the throes of decision as to the rest".

"I see".

There was a silence full of Loveday's smile.

"But", said O'Hara, "what I meant is this: you know what I have been to Hogarth; without me, what could the poor fellow have done, after all? I have taught him to think, to dance, and to dine. Now, then, I ask you right out frankly—am I, my son, in the list of Admirals?"

Loveday, flushing, started upright, and sank back. "No, I don't fancy that your name is among those entertained, O'Hara".

"We will see about that. Woe to Hogarth, and to his advisers, if he dare slight O'Hara, my son! What! after preparing myself with toilsome zeal for this post? and after two promises from Hogarth's own lips—?"

"I deny the promises on Hogarth's behalf".

"Oh, you! Hogarth looks upon you as a plaything. I do assure you, you are not taken seriously, Mr. Loveday. How should such as you know what Hogarth promises or designs? "—his cheeks trembling.

And, Loveday, smiling again, though pale: "Well, if we admit the promises...but—have you accurately acquainted Hogarth with your past, sir?"

"Most decidedly, sir!"

"If you have not, I think he should know it".

"Your threats do not affect me, sir! In three days I shall be in Petersburg with Hogarth, and shall take a pleasure in writing you the name of the island to which I am appointed".

"In three days I also—!" He stopped: but O'Hara understood.

Now the door rushed open, and in looked Harris in under-vest and drawers, beneath his arm a bundle of walkingsticks, which he had been caring and telling.

And "'Ere", he drawled, "when are you coming to 'ave that bit of cold mutton? It's past twelve o'clock as it is".

"I am coming, boy", said O'Hara, rising with brisk obedience.

"Then, come, why don't you! There were shepherds watching their pretty little flocks by night, but to leave a man watching the cold animal is a bit out. Come along!"—and O'Hara went.

He reached Petersburg twelve hours before Loveday, his reason for choosing that time being his knowledge that Frankl was in Petersburg, and with him Rebekah, Frankl being in a deal with the new-regime Minister of Finance.

For, as O'Hara had been asking himself the agonized question: "By what absolute finesse can I, just now, win Hogarth?" the mere presence of Rebekah in the same city with Hogarth drew him thither.

But the next day, when Loveday came, nothing had been done—no chance of tete-a-tete with Hogarth: and that day was O'Hara an anxious and tremulous man, living on the tip-toe and qui vive of lynx-eyed keenness.

The same night at a masque at the Palace of Peterhof Loveday got a chance of dialogue with Hogarth, they seated amid greenery and coloured gleams, Hogarth groomed to the glittering glass of his shoes, his legs stretched, arm akimbo; and presently Loveday led the talk to things of the sea. "What an extraordinary activity! The British Government launches the Peleus next Monday at Deptford— the first 28,000-ton war-boat; and seven cruisers on the slips. Then the French, Austro-German, Russian—"

"Ha!—I know. They won't build long".

"Still the confidence?"

"You can only ask, my dear boy, because you do not yet see what a thing the battleship really is—much more than half a sham. The march of invention is from the complex to the simple: for simplicity is strength; but to the moment when I began to construct, naval construction had not followed this law: for from the old smooth- bores, aimed with tackle and quoin, to the present regime of electric wires, you have had a continual advance in complexity— always within the same little arc of thought—till now the most complex of things is a battleship; and if you ask me which is the weaker, a battleship or a watch, I answer a battleship—weak meaning liability to the injuries which they were built to resist. In such a case as that of the Maine, sunk at Havana, one might fancy that the task of naval constructors is to turn out a thing to sink with a minimum of trouble; and you remember the Camperdown and Victoria, how, playing about together, one happened to touch the other, when down plunged that other. These ships are a compromise between three motifs—speed, resisting attack, and attacking: and the first is so antagonistic to the second, and also to the third, that the net result is almost a Nonentity, or No- Thing. Nothing, in fact, could be more queer, unfounded, than these ships; and the future will look back upon them with pity. Hence the simple islands, following the law: and don't think t hat their efficacy is a thing riskier than arithmetic itself"

"Good", went Loveday. "But, Richard—captain your islands with decent men".

"You have something on your mind: what is it?"

"It is—delicate. Have I your permission to speak?"

"Why, John, yes".

"Well then—is O'Hara to be an Admiral?"

"Old Pat? Hardly, I think. He may. But no—I don't think. Poor old talky-talky. He has worked hard for us, John: and his fund of experience, in one way and another, has been invaluable. Well, I don't know: I have had the idea, but I don't suppose that, in reality—Still, I am fond of him, John. Such a tongue, and such a versatile brain, is he! He was my comfort for many a sombre day in prison—"

Listening near with rancid grin behind some greenery, O'Hara kept nodding emphatic assents of satisfaction to Hogarth's praise.

"But, stop", said Loveday: "do you know why he was in prison?"

"He was innocent".

"Of what?"

"Of stealing some diamonds entrusted him by the Pope".

"Bah! he lies. His trial was a cause celebre, and hence the false name he gave me at first: the moment I heard you say 'O'Hara' I knew the man. He had committed an assault upon a lady in a train—"

"Beast that he is", went Hogarth, while O'Hara's eyes started from his head: "and liar, too, it seems. Ha!—he gave me the most circumstantial story. Why didn't you tell me this before?"

"It was delicate—"

"Beast that he is. Yet how complex is character! the man's tenderness for his Church is so charming—"

"Fiddlesticks! Look here, Richard, I am come all the way from Westring to tell you this thing. Don't you give vast powers to that man: it isn't decent; and I have a feeling that it will be a baleful piece of weakness. And don't get easy, and tolerant, and fat in the eyes, Hogarth. That is a very significant Bible-story—the implacable disaster sent upon old Eli for no greater crime than a bonhomme indolence. And in order to arouse your wrath against this O'Hara, I am going now, against my will, to tell you something: the name of that lady in that train".

"Someone whom I know?"

"Yes".

"Who?"

For a moment Loveday's answer hesitated: and in that moment, O'Hara, with lightning decision, had his mouth at Hogarth's ear: "Come with me quick—then fall down and worship me for a month! Someone is in the Malachite Hall!"

Like sudden death Hogarth's colour fled his face; in another instant he was a blind, oblivious wight...had known that she was in Petersburg; but not that she was at the masque.

In a moment shrubbery, lights, all life, rushed into transformation for him: and with an excitement of the eyes, the bloodshot left looking bloodier, he went after O'Hara, tossing back at Loveday that fatal saying: "To-morrow...."

A little previously O'Hara, having got from Frankl details of Rebekah's dress, had spotted her in primrose silk, black mask and domino, and soon with Hogarth refound her in the crush: whereas Hogarth went about prospecting over the crowd, with that excitement of his red-veined eyeballs, once even entered into talk with a group of four diplomatists, but all the time with eyeballs absent in hankering tracking, out prowling after one morbid form, as the stallion's prowls after his Sally.

After an hour she said in French over her shoulder: "Why follow me?"

And as he bowed compliance, she added: "Are you well?"

He said: "Yes", and bowed, and she nodded twice, smiling a little, as they parted.

He, on the wings of exaltation, made haste to salute the Throne and leave the palace, rushing toward solitude to brood upon that smile, those familiar nods, and the gentle "Are you well?"—in his landau with him O'Hara, who persecuted him even to his bedroom; and when, after an hour, the priest at last reappeared in a corridor, the night-lights there shone upon an exultant visage, like a climber's who, after long clamberings, at last stamps on the Matterhorn, and looks abroad.

When he entered his own room, he stood with a hung head, till, sharply looking up, he ejaculated with amazed, realization and opening arms: "Well, it's done!—I've got it!" Now he put forefinger to nose, and cut a beastly face at himself in the mirror-wall.

The next day Hogarth rather guiltily said to Loveday: "Well, I have promised old O'Hara the Mahomet for the Straits. Don't frown—I owe him something, and the clever beast got over me in crazy moment".

"Quite so", Loveday coldly said: and thenceforth, the thing being done, was mum as to the name of the lady connected with O'Hara's crime.

He returned immediately to England, having there many occupations, which multiplied as the islands everywhere neared completion, the first of the launches taking place at Spezzia on the 7th of February.

A fortnight before this event the Beech-fever had revived, the coming launch being no secret, and the doubt whether "Beech's Folly" might be no folly, and the question what, on the whole, Beech's Folly might really bode, filled once more the consciousness of the Western world. By the 1st of February a drop was recorded in many general securities, in "governments", rentes, and consols; in Berlin the bank-rate rose one per cent.; it was stated that specie was accumulating in European vaults; while up leapt futures-cotton in the Liverpool market. At last the First Lord of the Treasury, in a speech at Manchester, gave sign of the Government's consciousness of the new fact, saying that he could only repeat the answer given by the First Lord of the Admiralty to the recent Deputations of the Chamber of Shipping and of Merchant Shippers, that Britain and the other maritime nations would know how to protect the seas from any nuisance. He anticipated no nuisance. The structures popularly known as "Beech's Folly" (prolonged laughter) would be provided with lighthouses: and until they proved a nuisance on the ocean's fairways, the Governments must permit to private enterprise that free hand which was the characteristic of our age; moreover, a recognized Government had avowed its association with these structures.

Nevertheless, the fever heightened. The light-system of the Boodah, now included in the usual alphabetical lists of derelicts, was conned by thousands of mariners, while in the crowded captains', underwriters', and committee rooms at Lloyd's discussion buzzed and speechified in every tone of gravity. Suddenly in the F. G. and S. clause marine insurance underwent a profound modification; and it was then that the millionaire, Schroeder, at that time a German clerk in the City, managed to borrow five thousand pounds, and quickly cleared his pile by underwriting on larger F. C. and S. terms. And again raged the sale of the islands as penny salt- cellars, finger-basins, etc.; in broker's and sub-editor's office the tape-machine clicked the hourly progress of preparations at Spezzia; while every by-street was dreadful with that music-hall chorus:

"To Spezzia runs the Pullman train; The Follies soon their sense will teach; We've Beech, O dear, upon the brain, He brains upon the beach".

Meantime, the question of the drawing-room was "Are you going to Spezzia?" and by the 7th so great a pilgrimage of tourists—experts, idlers, cinematographers, special correspondents, ministers of state, Yankees, officers, social stars—had flocked to the scene, that accommodation failed in the town and surrounding hill-country, from Le Grazie on the west, to Lerici on the east of the Gulf.

The morning dawned bright—Italian sky, tranquil Italian sea—and by nine the harbour was alive with small-craft and Portovenere steamboats, all gala with flags; on the land side, too, over the hills, up the old road called Giro della Foce, and before the villages commanding the town, spread a cloud of witnesses; while the multitude in possession of permessos for the dock-region stretched across a hundred and sixty acres, perched on every coign, and murmuring like the sea.

And all in the air a fluttered consciousness of the to-come, the present nothing, an hour hence everything—like the suspense of nature before gales, and that greatness and novelty of marriage- mornings: for such a bride that day would rush to the brine as it had never embraced.

There lay the hulk, all nuptial in colours, her roof looking like a plaza of Lima or La Paz at Carnival, flags in mountain-ridges round her edges, flags in festoons, in slanting clothes-lines, in trophy-groups, on bandroled poles, bedecking her; some scaffolding still round her; and three running derricks, capable of wielding guns and boilers of 140 tons, craned their shears about her. A temporary stair under flags ran right up to a ledge above the waterline: from which ledge little steel steps led here and there to the roof; round the edge of roof and ledge running two balustrades, surrounding the hulk; and over that upper portion, four times repeated in white letters ten feet high, the name BOODAH boomed itself.

By eleven some seven hundred people stood and sat on the roof—the elite of Europe, invited to the luncheon after the launch, seeming to the tract of on-lookers quite dainty and visionary there, like objects mirrored in an eye. And they formed groups, of which some chatted, and were elegant, and some spoke the gravest words uttered for centuries.

"What, really, is the Boodah?" asked a Servian Minister of a French: "is she a whim, a threat, or a tool?"

"She is too heavy for a whim", answered the French, "too dear for a threat, and too fantastic for a tool. Time will show".

But this was no answer at all: something more to the point came from a multitudinous tumult of sledges below—the workmen "wedging-up".

At last, soon after noon, Hogarth, with a considerable following, was seen ascending the steps, on his arm the Queen of the Ceremony— a little Bavarian Graefin, famous for her face: he, princely now with that cosmopolitan polish picked up in Courts, bending above her with laughter, making her laugh also, as they paced up. And at once the invited, including the Board of Verification, entered the hull upon a tour of sight-seeing, conducted by a manager of the contractors.

Already the set-up wedges had raised the Boodah from her keel- block, and left her resting on the great braced ground-ways; and now down to the sea's brink the greasers were busy, prodigals in tallow, while, within, the seven hundred trooped from spectacle to spectacle, like a tourist group guided through the Louvre.

An hour, and they anew appeared on the roof, trooping toward that balustrade that faced the sea: upon which the throngs felt the impending of the event, and intently watched. But there seemed no hurry, Hogarth all gay chatter, anon lowering the lids a moment, as he looked over the water; till suddenly hundreds of glasses detected a champagne-bottle with ribbons in the christener's hand; and the consciousness of the moment come moved the hosts when Hogarth, even as he chatted, disengaged a flag, and let it fall: it was a signal; down it fluttered; and instantly, down there, bustle broke loose, as the call "Saw-off!" went forth, and the saws set flurriedly to fret through the timbers which bind groundways to slidingways.

"Now?" whispered Hogarth at the christener's ear: and, even as he spoke, the voice of a noising arose and droned from Spezzia, its hills, its villages, and its sea; the Boodah, only half-liberated, strained in travail; crashed from her bands; slipped down the greased gradient—plunged—and, gathering momentous way, went wading deep, deeper—like Behemoth run mad—amid a wrath of froths and a brawling of waters, into the sea.

There, deep-planted, she stretched: on the surface appeared a reef of steel; and the stirred-up water slapped vapidly upon those flanks, like waters upon the Norway wall.



XXXIII

REEFS OF STEEL

Nothing was ever so scrutinized as the movements of the Boodah during the next two months.

One morning three weeks after her launch three steamers took her in tow, with progress so slow, that at nightfall they were still visible from land; but the next morning had vanished.

Two days later they were met on the Genoa-Leghorn route, six steamers then towing the Boodah, their course S. by W.

Again and again it was met, that funeral of the sea: the prone, tearing steamers, the reluctant bulk. Sometimes a captain's glass might make out a few men lost on the roof like men on a raft, smoking, seated, leaning over a balustrade.

Southward and westward it swam. On the seventh day there arrived at Ajaccio from Marseilles twenty-five bluejackets; and these, in a hired speronare, put to sea, and joined the Boodah twenty miles from the coast.

Thenceforth, a smoke would be seen at a point of the roof, indicating that she, too, was steaming: for it was known that she had a screw and a rudder; and so closely was she observed, that her now added rate could be fixed—two to three knots a day.

She must therefore have some small engines about 4,000 H. P.: and since their motif could only be one thing, resistance to ocean currents, this meant that the Boodah was intended to rest always in one spot: a startling conclusion.

Occasionally a Surveying Service warship would peep above the horizon, watching her.

As she passed through the Straits, seventy-five English blue-jackets put out from Trafalgar, and joined her.

With such reports passed the weeks. Occasionally five or six coal- ships would be seen about the Boodah; her number of tug-ships might be as low as two; sometimes nine, ten.

At night she made a fine display, and homeward-bound boats from Cape Horn, from Pernambuco, Para, Madeira, spoke highly of her two revolving-drum lighthouses: for these, from opposite corners of the roof, at the rate of a revolution per minute, poured into space two shimmering comets, like Calais and the Eddystone—rapt spinning- dervishes of the sea that hold far converse with the dark, till morning. And between these two ran a festoon of electric lanterns, Japanese and Moorish, cut in ogives; and festoons of coloured moons drooped round the balustrades, so that the blaze and complexity of it presented to ships a spectacle of speckled mystery, fresh to the sea.

After five weeks a hundred and seventeen blue-jackets put out from Portsmouth in a chartered barque and joined her, she still in tow, making now about N. by W.

But by the time this news reached Europe the eyes of Europe were no longer given up to the Boodah: for another Boodah, called the Truth, was a-tow through the North Channel from Belfast; and she had not reached the Mull of Cantire, when a third was launched at San Francisco, so that the interest of the islands became complicated.

What would they do? What could they? Compared with this question, the riddle of the Sphinx was simple, the supposition that they were going to batter coast-walls in the S. Pacific being hardly now tenable. The Boodah finally came to rest some miles North of lat. 50 deg. and East of long. 20 deg.: and there—just on the northern rim of the Gulf Stream where it divides, part toward Ireland, and part toward Africa—she remained, precisely in the middle of the trade- route between Europe and Boston, New York, Halifax: a route covered for fifty miles—twenty-five north, twenty-five south—by her 19.5-inch guns.

It is impossible to describe with how wild a heart, or thrilling a boding, the world heard this thing: eight days later the International Conference of Maritime Nations met at The Hague.

But nothing happened—or the opposite of what was feared: for, as months passed, the Boodah, planted there in the ocean, rapidly became the recognized gathering-point of the fashion and gaiety of Europe, thither flocking the socially ambitious and the "arrived" together, and to have been invited to those revels of taste and elegance became a superiority. Gradually, as the names "Beech", "Ecuador", ceased to be associated with the islands, the name of Hogarth took their place; and Hogarth had engaged Wanda, sweetest of tenors, to a year's stay in the Boodah, whose orchestra was the most cultured anywhere; Roche, her chef, had two years previously been put into a laboratory to devote his soul to the enlargement of his art; and he and that tenor lived in suites of the Boodah such as most princes would consider Utopian.

Hardly anything in her interior suggested the ship: no hammocks for marines, rolling-racks, sick-bay, lockers, steam-tables, wash- rooms, she being just a palace planted in the Atlantic, her bottom going down to a layer of comparative calm, so that hardly ever, in a storm, when the ocean robed her sides in white, washed abroad her slippery plateau, and drenched with spray her lighthouse tops, did the ballroom below know shock or motion. Into her principal hall, far down, circular, one descended by a circle of steps of marble, round which stood a colonnade of Cuban cedar, supporting candelabra and silks; and from atrium-pools sunk in the floor twelve twining fountains brandished spiral sprays, the floor being of a glassy marble, polished with snakestone, suffused with blushes at the coloured silks and at a roof gross with rose and pomegranates, hanging chandeliers; round the raised centre of the floor stood two balustrades, three feet high, hung with silks, the inner circle thirty feet across, higher than the outer, forty-five across: a roseate room, strewn with cushions, colours, flushes; but that raised space was empty: reserved for—a throne.

The throne, still unfinished, had been three years making in India.

And during nine months the elite and joyous yachts arrived, not at the Boodah only, but at others of the twelve which, one by one, were launched and towed to position; and a round of events transacted themselves in the fortresses: Marie Antoinette balls, classic concerts, theatrical functions by troupe or amateur, costume-balls, children's-balls, banquets of the gods, grave receptions. By now there ran right across the Boodah's roof, in the form of a cross, two double colonnades of Doric pillars, at the four ends being Roman arches: and here, some summer afternoon, the passing ship would see a bazaar, all butterfly flutter, feminine hues like flower-beds, cubes of coloured ice, flags, and a buzz of gaiety, and strains of Tzigany music—rainbow-tints of Venice mixed with the levity of the Andrassy Ut of Pesth. Sometimes a fleet of craft would surround the islands. Besides, to each was attached a yacht, and a trawler which continually plied for it between island and land.

At this time Hogarth was deep in debt, and Beech's living upon credit.

So, gradually, a good deal of the awe which the structures had inspired passed off. On the whole, they seemed mere whimsical castles-of-pleasure. The trains of industrious ships grew habituated to their gaudy brightness by night, to their seething reefs, or placid mass, by day. On foggy days the mariner was aware of the islands wailing weird siren-sounds of warning. The islands waved common-code signals of greeting to the passer. Trinity House sent them the usual blanks and instruments for recording meteorological observations. Their positions were marked in British Admiralty Charts, in American Pilot Charts, in "Sailing Directions". The great greyhounds, racing to Sandy Hook, raved with jest past them. The islands began to seem a natural part of the sum of things. There they lay, stable, rooted, trite, familiar; and the question almost arose: "How came it that they were never there before?"—just that object, of that form and colour, seemed so old and natural in that particular spot. So the frogs hopped finally upon the log that God sent them for sovereign.

Meantime, the more thoughtful of men did not fail to observe, and never forgot, that no ship could possibly depart from, or arrive at Europe, without passing within range of some one of the islands' guns. A row of eight lay an irregular crescent (its convexity facing Europe) from just outside the Straits of Gibraltar, where O'Hara admiraled the Mahomet, to the 55th of latitude, where the Goethe lay on the Quebec-Glasgow route: these commanding the European trade with the States and with S. America, as well as with W. and S. Africa, and with Australia by Cape Horn; another in the narrows of the Gulf of Aden, commanding the world's traffic by Suez with the East and with S. Africa; another in the middle of the narrows of the Kattegat, commanding all Baltic trade; another, fifteen miles from San Francisco, and another a hundred and fifty miles from Nagasaki, on the edge of the Black Stream, commanding the Japanese-San Francisco, the Australian-San Francisco trades, and great part of the Japano-Russo-Chinese. These were the principal trades of the world.

Like the despair of Samson awaking manacled and shaven, an occasional shriek would go up from some lone thinker, who perceived that the kingdoms of the world had lapsed into a single hand; and in the privy cabinet the governors drank to the dregs the cup of trembling. But their speech was bold, the matter hung long, the peoples ignored and wrought: there was seed-time and harvest; the newsboy brawled; the long street roared. Far yonder in the darkness and distance of the deep the islands flashed and danced, and were fashionable.

Richard Hogarth held back his hand.



XXXIV

THE "KAISER"

It was the habit of Hogarth, when in the Boodah, to rise very early and ascend in flannels to one of the four doors opening upon the ledge—blocks five feet thick, moved by hydraulic motors—and sometimes Loveday would accompany these walks, they always seeing on the plane of the sea some sail, or by a spyglass the fading light- beam of the Goethe north, of the Solon south; or they watched how the Boodah's galaxy, too, waxed faint and garish as some drama of colour evolved in the East; saw gulls hover and swing, fins wander: and marking that simple ampleness of the plan of sea and arch of heaven, their hearts felt enlargement.

One morning, the 3rd October, Loveday was up even before Hogarth, having started awake from a gory nightmare, this altogether not being a day like others: and when the two friends met on the ledge, they walked a long time in silence.

Only after the dayspring began definitely to dabble in its chromatic chemistries Loveday at last remarked: "Did you ever think why I took such pains to get you to come down with me to Lord Woolacot's last autumn two years?"

"Yes", answered Hogarth: "you wanted me to see the model farms, and how the young ladies fed the poor, and how the tenants loved their lord, and everyone thought himself happy. Only, I didn't see what the pastimes of Lord Woolacot's daughters have to do with the process of the suns, and with the woe of Oldham. Ah, Lord, it is a job, I tell you, pulling this vile thing straight! Of course, the eagle doesn't blink: but I am only one man, and the world, and its stupid sins, are a tidy burden. Ha!—never mind. Look at that big Boodah of a sun how he blooms: isn't he launched and handled all right? Let us of this desert bend the knee to him like the old Sabaeans. There is hope"....

It was known that on that day, at half-past eleven A.M., the Kaiser Wilhelm der Groesste would pass on her second voyage within some miles of the Boodah, this ship being the greatest afloat, having a cargo-carrying deadweight of 45,000 tons, and travelling the waters like a railway-train at 37 miles (32 knots).

So toward noon Hogarth, in a peaked cap, jacket, and white boots, was again on the roof, a glass and book of Costonlights in his hand, while not far off a knot of five officers in frockcoats talked, and near one light-house, where a number of men stood, a flagstaff flew the ensign—blue letters "R. F." on a white ground, looking Russian; on the northern horizon two fox-tails of smoke; on the western three diminutive sails; between the two, quite real and big, a brig becalmed; and now the Kaiser Wilhelm: for that yonder could be only she, with so fervent a growth, from the first moment of her upward climb, did she approach. It was twenty minutes to noon, and she was somehow a little late, that punctual strong wrestler with space.

The officers on the Boodah spoke of her in low and stealthy voices; looked at her with queer and stealthy glances.

"'As a bird to the snare...'" muttered one.

"She comes all right, but will never go", said another.

"She will be always near us", said a third.

"Life is an earnest thing, after all", said a fourth: "there are wrongs, it seems, which only blood can wash out: it comes to that at last".

Now Loveday ran up, looking scared and busy, a quill behind his ear, Hogarth now having the glass at his face, while his eyes struggled with the reek from his cigar-end.

"Is that she?" Loveday asked him.

"Yes, poor boat".

She was nine miles away; in four minutes she was less than seven, and now distinct:—her three staysails; her four funnels; the stretched-out space between her raked masts; her host of cowls and boats; her high victorious hull, silently running.

And all along her lines were lines of faces thick as dahlia-rows in June—globe-trotters; captains of industry; children; the Wall Street operator who plotted a stroke in Black-Sea wool, and to him time was money—I guess; commercial travellers, all-modern, spinning, prone, to whom the sea was an insignificant and conquered thing; engineers; capped enthusiastic Germans, going forth to conquer; publishers, ladies, lords, all the nondescript prosperous: and all ran there blithe, sublime, and long drawn-out; and they toyed with oranges, nuts; and they looked abroad to see the Boodah—ship's-surgeons and officers with them—jesting, as they munched or sucked.

But the Captain who had often seen the Boodah, was log-writing in the chart-room...

As her ensign of greeting ran up her main, her clocks struck twelve, the full noon—like an omen—come; she not then three miles from the Boodah.

And simultaneously with the hoisting of that ensign, and the striking of those clocks, the old-worn wheels of Roman Civilization stopped dead.

The Boodah ran up the signal: "Stop!"

Those who understood rubbed their eyes: it was like a vision at high noon; they could not believe.

At that news the Captain, a handsome fair-bearded man, rushed like a madman from pilot-house to bridge, and the startled passengers saw his lighted eyes. He had some moments of indecision; then down he, too, rang that word: "Stop".

The engines left off; the Kaiser's speed, as from heart-failure, gave in, died away.

By this time all the passengers knew, in a state of tremor saw confused runnings to and fro, and face caught from face dismay; the voyage was spoiled, the record! What, then, had happened to the world? And now again the Boodah is signalling: "Let the Captain come".

The Captain's hands were shaking; he could not speak, could only gasp to the first-officer: "By God, no; O, by God, no". Then, as great quantities of black-grey reek, wheeling all convolved, were now enveloping the vessel, resting on the sea, reaching away in thinner fog even to the Boodah, and as, the day being calm, there was a difficulty in reading the flags, the Captain gasped: "Take the trumpet—ask them—But don't they pay for this...?"

So out brayed the trumpeted query, and back the inexorable trumpeted answer: "Let the Captain come".

So, then, the Kaiser would never reach Sandy Hook? To put out boats!—to parley!—while the earth span with quick-panting throbs, every second worth seven thousand pounds!

"But don't they pay for it...?" so, with a painful face of care, the Captain questioned space.

But he would be mild and patient as a lamb that day! His order went forth: the ship forged ahead; a longboat, hurriedly lowered to starboard, was manned for the first-officer to put off in her, while every heart of the passengers thumped, every face an ecstasy of emotions.

Then a wretched, long interval...

The ship's-officers were received on the Boodah in a deck-room containing a number of boats with castored keels, capable of being quickly launched down an incline, where Mr. F. Quilter-Beckett, the Admiral, with some lieutenants, awaited them at a bureau on which lay documents, while in the background stood Hogarth and Loveday, and, "Gentlemen, this is a most damned wild piece of madness!" broke out wrathfully the first-officer, as he dashed up wild-eyed to the level: "in consideration of the guns you have in this thing—"

"But your Captain?" asked Quilter-Beckett, a courtly man, with a dark-curling beard, a star on his breast.

"The Captain won't come!" whined the officer in perfect English: "I suppose you realize the terrible consequences of this stoppage, gentlemen?"

"But you are wasting time, sir. You represent your Captain?"

"Of course, I represent—!"

"Then just cast your eye over this"—that so slighted letter, sent years before by Hogarth to Foreign Offices, claiming the sea as his private manor.

The officer read it half through with flurried closeness; then, "Well, but what is all this?" he broke out: "is it a piece of comedy, or what, gentlemen?"

"It is serious; and the last clause comes into operation to-day: only such ships being held authorized to pass on the sea as pay to the first-reached sea-fort on any voyage a tax, or sea-rent, of 4s. per ton on their registered tonnage, with an additional stamp-tax of 33s. 4d. for receipt, and a stamp-tax of L1 16s. 8d. for clearance. You will see at a glance the clauses of the law, if you cast your eyes over this schedule—"

"Law!" the other broke in: "you talk of Law! But doesn't the sea, then, belong by right to all men—?"

"Not more than the land. Ask yourself: why should it? But I do hope you won't argue: your time must be so precious".

Out shrilled the Kaiser Wilhelm's whistle of recall.

"I must go!" said the officer with a worried hand-toss: "I must go. If you give me those documents, I will show them to the Captain—but he is not the sort of man—this is mere piracy, after all! But, good God, gentlemen, if you only dare touch that ship, I shouldn't put myself in your place this day week for all—"

He snatched the papers, dashed, and his men, in a passion of haste, lay to the oars, the Kaiser only four hundred yards from the Boodah; and the officer, shaking aloft the documents, pitched up the stair, the centre of five hundred pairs of scared eyes, while the captain bored his way to him.

Two minutes of intense low speech, crowded with gestures: and suddenly the Captain's face, till now haggard, reddened; out went his shaken fist; with eyes blazing like lunacy, up he flew to the bridge; and now he is bending down with howling throat: "Passengers to their berths!"

Simultaneously, above the engine-room stair a bell jangled; round swung the pointer to "Full Ahead"; and ere the decks were cleared of their bustle the Kaiser, like a back-kicking hen, scratched up under her poop a spreading pool of spume, which tossed spasmodic spray-showers and spoutings: and she stirred, stretched like a street, churned the sea, and, wheeling to reveal her receding stern, was away.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse