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

The Bill proposed the "purchase" of Britain from its "owners" by the British, the price fixed being 27 times the annual value, to be paid in settled annuities for entailed estates, and in consols for unentailed.

So, then, the Government would buy London alone for 1400 millions and Britain for 8000 millions—a bad lookout for England.

And the authors of the Bill chose a moment when Hogarth was living on bread and poisoned water in Market Street.

It rapidly passed to Committee, and then to the Lords.

But on that night a terrifying rumour for the first time pervaded England: that the Lord of the Sea, having come to London at the beginning of the month, was missing, and that his person had been claimed from our Government by the Sea under menaces.

In fact, when a week, two weeks, had passed, and not a whisper from Hogarth, apprehension had turned into certainty in the breasts of Quilter-Beckett, Loveday, and all: and at a hurried Council called in the Boodah on the 19th, when the date of Hogarth's landing at Southampton was determined, and his small train-in-waiting, his coachman, re-examined for the twentieth time, one certainty emerged: Frankl had had time to reach England before him; and the arrest of Frankl was demanded.

Now England in consternation almost forgot the Land Bill; Scotland Yard ransacked Market Street: not a trace of Hogarth; it dissected the country for Frankl: but Frankl was now in the Mahomet, safely conferring with O'Hara.

The popular tempest first directed itself against the League of Resistance: and at an attack upon its Offices in Victoria Street during the afternoon of the 21st Viscount Reid (the Secretary), and a girl, were killed by missiles; petitions signed by the nation raining meanwhile upon the Prince of Wales: for, apart from the wreck which threatened, Hogarth's popularity was at present considerable with the masses, whose instincts suspected those above them of knowing more of his disappearance than appeared.

On the night of the 22nd, when things had an air of revolution, fifty-three men met in a house in Adair Street, W. (This runs parallel to Market Street, the backs of the two house-rows facing.)

These were the warders of Hogarth: and the object of that night's meeting was to determine whether he should die, and when, and how; the Land Bill now awaiting the Royal Assent; and on the morrow British high-sea trade to be ruthlessly stopped, failing news of Hogarth.

The room was double, with an arch in the partition, through which ran a rough-board table surrounded with velvet arm-chairs; the floor richly carpeted, though paper peeled from the walls; down the table a procession of silver candlesticks and typewritten notice-papers and agenda; the windows boarded—a second floor; and in a room near, Hogarth, shackled hand and foot, he having been borne through a subterranean way, made for the purpose, from the cellar in Market Street to this Adair Street.

From eight o'clock men began to let themselves in at the two doors in both streets, and continued to arrive till nine, when a marquis at the table-head rose to speak, the others leaning back with downcast eyes, nearly all pale.

The point before them was plainly put by the speaker on the Question: viz., whether they had more to fear from the life, or from the death, of the Lord of the Sea.

"By a strange Providence", he said, "this man is in our hands: and we have the right to become his executioners. My Lords and Gentlemen, the awful decision rests with you to-night".

Then, one after another, they rose, they spoke: no two views identical; till at ten it was voted that the question be put, voting papers went round, and presently the ballot-result was announced amid a momentous stillness.

Twenty-eight had voted for the death, twenty-five against.

But in that minute a key was heard in the room door, and in rushed two flushed men: Frankl and O'Hara, just arrived in London from the sea; and Frankl burst into speech:

"I hope this is all right, my lords, my coming like this, and bringing into your very midst a gentleman who is not one of us. When I tell you that he is Admiral Donald of the Mahomet, turned away like a servant, how does that make your lordships feel? A house divided against itself can't stand; and this gentleman has a scheme in his pocket—he will read it to your lordships—which will crack up the Empire of the Sea like an egg-shell! So I do hope, my lords, that you have not decided anything hasty about putting away Richard Hogarth: for unless he is liberated this night, it means sure and certain stoppage of everything tomorrow: and that means my ruin, and many another's beside—"

Now the Master called him to order, and addressed himself to O'Hara, who, in admiral's uniform and stars, all stately bows, grave smiles, in ten minutes had given guarantees, was a member, and in thirty had read a memorandum of a scheme of betrayal which everyone saw to be feasible.

Then the vote of death was annulled; and when the meeting broke up Hogarth was being lifted with bandaged eyes through the subterranean way to Market Street, where four men deposited him near the house- door, undid his ropes, said to him "You are free", and there he remained twenty minutes without motion, deadly sick, then rose, and, on finding the door, went wildly with dragged feet, tottered into a cab, and leant brow on hand.

As he entered the porch of his Berkeley Square house, Loveday rushed out to his knees with adoring eyes, having hardly hoped to see again that face of Hogarth, while Hogarth patted the bowed head, saying: "Do get me a meal, and let me hear what has been going on....Oh, I am weary ".

And during the meal he heard all: of the Land Bill, the turmoil.

"Well, my God!" he exclaimed, "is there no drop of generous blood at all among those people? Never again do I trust them to make their own arrangements I When does this precious Bill have the Royal Assent?"

"To-morrow, it is supposed".

"Really!"—he started: "and whereabouts is the Prince of Wales?"

"At Windsor to-night".

"Order the motor quick. I'll go".

He was soon off, and Loveday, listening to the dark story of Margaret's appearing and singing, and vanishing, accompanied him under a frosty moon, snow lying on village-street and hedge; but, travelling hard, they arrived shortly after one upon a Prince who, a wakeful man that night, sat conferring with Private Secretary and Attorney-General, he having assented to the introduction of the Land Bill, then been alarmed by the storm, and now was confronted with the responsibility of either giving His Majesty's assent, and earning execration, or refusing it, and taking a step unheard-of since William III.

In that state of embarrassment he was, when the Lord of the Sea was announced, and "It is with heartiest pleasure that I offer to your Lordship's Majesty my congratulations on this re-appearance", he said, greatly and gladly surprised, without at all seeming so.

And the two conferred till three, when a secretary, at Hogarth's dictation, wrote a document and its duplicate: a contract between Prince and King, giving pledges on each side, private, yet most momentous; and each, having signed both copies, retained one.

The next evening the Clerk in the Lords uttered those unusual words: "Le Roy s'avisera," and the country was thrown into transport by the news of the Royal rejection of the Land Bill, processions singing the National Anthem, bells ringing: and for a month the mention of a Royal name in any assembly brought the people to their feet.

Ministers, of course, resigned; and, as the Liberals refused office, writs for a new House were made returnable for the end of January.



XLIV

THE REGENCY

During the next month England was in a general-election turmoil; at the same time a Land Bill in the French Chamber, and one in the Reichstag, was thrown out: whereupon a ukase from the Boodah announced the raising of sea-rent to 5s. on all ships over 2000 tons after the 1st February, the month of grace over, the "screw tightening".

Already distress in England was great, coal being at three-and- sixpence, bread at nine pence; a cry had arisen for the Union of Britain with the Sea; and on the 27th of January a plebiscite among the Trade Unions resulted in an affirmative vote of five millions out of an electorate of nine.

Now, at this time the bulletins respecting His Majesty were of a settled depression: he lived, but languished; and it was understood that the new Ministry's first act would be the appointment of a Regency.

Then appeared a rumour: alterations were going forward at Buckingham Palace on a scale of splendour new to Western mansions; the Prince of Wales had passed three days, from the 17th to the 19th, in the Boodah: and the saying went that, on the night of the rejection of the Land Bill, a compact had taken place between the Prince and the Sea for a three years' Regency of the latter.

Excitement ensued, the matter becoming an election test: and 180 Labour Members, with 70 Liberals were returned pledged to support a Regency of the Sea.

A definite coalition, meantime, had been announced between the Jews and the Conservatives.

Never was election so rolled in dust and noise, in the result the Jews having the casting vote: and if ever race was looked at askance, it was they now by the British.

The session having been opened by Commission, a resolution passed Lords and Commons that the Prince of Wales be empowered to exercise the Royal Authority; whereupon the Prince at the palace, having heard the Address, read a reply, sufficiently startling to the country, though well foreknown to those present: he laid stress upon the new conditions of the world—that phlegmatic eye, which had seen so much, lifting a moment in punctuation to dwell coldly upon his hearers, then coldly reading again; the difficulties, he said, which he was called upon to face on behalf of His Majesty were not lightly to be undertaken, and his fuller answer would be contained in a proposal which he would make in the Lords as a peer of the realm.

The next night in a crowded House he read a speech distinguished by extraordinary dignity and severity: "My lords", he said at one point, slapping the table, though those eyes remained royally null: "when will your lordships learn to recognize the facts of life?" and, having proposed His Lordship's Majesty, the Lord of the Sea, to be Regent during His Majesty's illness, such Regency not to exceed a period of three years, he recommended a plebiscite.

No plebiscite was taken: for within some days the sense of the constituencies was revealed, and the Leader in the Lords received stern hints from the Liberal Leader, which damped pride: so their lordships abstained from Westminster, their Resolution being passed by just a quorum.

The country wondered at the ease with which the whole went off—not knowing that those who might have led resistance had a thought, and a prospect, inspired by one Pat O'Hara, which comforted them.

And now a Deputation of Five took boat in the Prince George, to wait upon the Lord of the Sea in the Boodah Throne Room, where the Lord President read the information that they were a Committee appointed to attend His Lordship's Majesty with the Resolutions of the Houses.

"We are instructed", he read, "to express the hope which the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the Commons, entertain, that His Lordship's Majesty, from his regard to the interests of His Majesty the King, will be ready to undertake the weighty and important trust proposed to be invested in His Lordship's Majesty, as soon as an Act of Parliament shall have been passed for carrying the same into effect".

He then read, and delivered, the Resolutions.

Hogarth replied, reading: "My Lords and Gentlemen, I receive the communication which your two Houses have instructed you to make to me with those sentiments of regard which I ever entertain for your two Houses. Deeply impressed with the necessity of tranquillizing the public mind throughout the world, I do not hesitate to accept the office and situation proposed to me".

So the Deputation departs; five days later twelve British battleships surround the Boodah, come to accompany the Lord of the Sea to England; and at eleven on the morning of the 9th, his yacht, borne in on the strong thunders of a royal salute, drops anchor in Southampton Water.

He had set so gorgeous a standard of luxury to Europe, that no one dreamed of making his entry into London an ordinary fete; and, as the procession traversed the triumphal arches of Piccadilly, he, swept to the gods in the lap of gallant sublimities, plumes, sabres, showering hoofs, squad-troops, outriders, showed to the Prince beside him and to the Czarowitz before him a miniature of Rebecca Frankl.

Some streets cheered—not all much: but during the illuminated night all London seemed to abandon itself to revelry.

The next morning Hogarth went in state to the Chapel Royal for certificate of Communion, attended by heralds, Sergeants-at-mace, sword-of-state, the Duke of York; and after "the service" communicated under a canopy at the hand of the Bishop of London.

Then, on the 14th, Lords and Commons had a final conference over the Regency Bill, when the Assistant of the Parliaments uttered the worlds: "Le Roy le Veult"; and on the 15th, the swearing-in day, a party of grenadiers with colours and fifes marched into the palace grounds, continuously to play "God Save the King"; while yeomen and ushers, together with servants-in-state of the Lord of the Sea, lined the great hall and staircase, life-guardsmen lining a vista of state-apartments ending in a Blue-velvet Room, recently decorated; by 2.30 P.M. Privy Councillors commenced to arrive, till at 3.45 P.M. the Lord of the Sea sent Admiral Quilter-Beckett to the President of the Council, ordering his presence; and presently was himself seen coming up the vista, accompanied by his own household- officers, to the Blue-velvet Room where he sat at the table-head, the Royal personages on each hand, his own officers ranged on each side of the entrance-arch; and now one by one entered the full- dressed Councillors, with bows which he returned, taking seat according to precedence—Canterbury, then the Lord Chancellor, then York; and last came and sat a certain Mr. Forrest, Keeper of the Records.

Hogarth then rose and said:

"My Lords: I understand that by the Act passed by your Parliament appointing me Regent of this Empire, I am required to take certain oaths, as prescribed by the said Act: I am now ready to take these oaths ".

Whereupon rose the Lord Privy Seal, made a reverence, approached, and read, while Hogarth pronounced after him:

"I sincerely promise and swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty King George. So help me, God.

"I do solemnly promise and swear that I will truly and faithfully execute the Office of Regent of the King's Empire according to an Act of Parliament entitled 'an Act, etc.', and that I will, etc. So help me, God".

He then subscribed the two oaths, and after him the Privy Councillors, the Lord President first, as witnesses. It was then delivered to the Record Keeper, who deposited it in a box, while Hogarth presented his Lord's-Supper certificate: whereupon the Lord President bent the knee and kissed his hand, then the Royal personages, then the Archbishops, advancing in order on both sides.

It was a week of Hope, the turning over of a new leaf, so the spirit of festival reigned, and was deepened when the evening papers that day announced that a ukase of the Sea had reduced rent on British ships by 1s. 9d. per ton, and was heightened when during that and the following nights Hogarth dispensed three millions in feting England: his illuminations having no resemblance to those sickly twinklings, tremulous at their own cost, previously deemed good enough for the jubilee-days of an empire; the people were astonished: ample and planetary his mind, his hand right royal, and London, bursting into light, flashed tidings of our earth to Mars. It was incredible then that any had ever wept, or would weep again; the bitterest foes of the Regent caught the contagion of world-gala; Europe flocked to London; theatres were gratis; the illusion of the comet of the final night was complete, her lurid rays sprawling 2000 feet aloft in stiff portentousness, prophesying Change, the parks all transfigured into universes of moons, crescents, stars, jerbs, Roman-candles, pots de brin, girandoles of rockets, pagodas, marquees, each tree a net of fireflies, while from five hundred and thirty balloons, with silent burst, snowed diverse fires.

The new reign opened with promise.



XLV

ESTRELLA, THE PROPHETESS

For three weeks a Provisional Ministry carried on the Government, confining itself to Supply; till, on the 3rd March, the Lord Regent succeeded in forming a Cabinet; and at 9 on the evening of the 5th for the first time addressed himself to the country in the House of Lords.

That night the world seemed hushed to listen, the peridom of Britain packing the Gallery with rainbow, and the peerdom those benches and cross-benches, red as massacre and the Scarlet Woman, where thronged 580, while to Charing Cross spread the crowd without. He, from the Throne, addressed them, and they, startled by the revelation of a caste chaster far than Vere de Vere, and a pride far more serenely throned than Hohenzollern, acknowledged him high-born..."Your lordships will not fail to perceive my will to invigorate some of our ancient epithets: thus, the First Estate of the Realm shall, during the present Regency, be veritably 'First', and in no case last"; anon he blew his bugle: "Let us play the man!—easy to say, hard to do: yet it was first said by an Englishman when the doing, I think, was hard enough, his martyr's shroud already rapt aloft in flame: that was magnanimous, my lords, I declare! there was the British Lion"....

That same night a new Land Bill was introduced by Sir Robert Wortley, the Prime Minister—a bill drafted, criticized, and re- altered during two years by the legal experts of the Sea, proposing the "purchase" of Great Britain at a price of twice the annual value for inherited land, and seven times for land held by purchase: this to be paid in two and seven years respectively, without interest, lands yielding no revenue to become crown-lands from the date of the Bill, which was called: Land Department (Creation) Bill.

It passed first reading; but the question was: would the Jews vote for the second reading? Reluctant enough the Jewish members, but there were rumours that the Jewish electorate were instructing their representatives to repent and vote for.

And now spread far the League of Resistance, so did the Adair Street Society, its secret daughter, of which Admiral Donald (O'Hara) had now been elected Honorary Vice-Master, and whose Roll contained the names of an extraordinary number of Territorial officers.

The Society was busy: had building four yachts, all models of the Admiral's yacht attached to the Mahomet, which was called the Mahomet II; every dusk companies of 25 to 40 men drilled darkly in the back yard at Adair Street, some of them Territorial officers: in rotation they came, they drilled, over 1000; a top room piled with revolvers, swords, bowie-knives...

For the land-magnates laughed at the notion of submitting to the Bill: rather, said they, "rivers of blood". The mention by Hogarth of Ridley and Latimer they considered irrelevant; their fathers' heroic mood was a detail: not an entail.

In secret they met. Anarchists of the reddest hue.

One night when the Bill was approaching second-reading Frankl introduced Harris as a member; and wide-eyed stood Harris, though still cynical, with elegant walking-stick, hat cocked, and "I sye", he whispered, "are all these real, living lords?"

"Large as life", answered Frankl.

"Strike me dotty! The Lord said unto my lord, sit thou at my right hand"...the reason of this introduction of Harris being a relation which had arisen between the Army and the Lord Regent, who had been taking a startling interest in this branch of the services, had visited Aldershot, and held five reviews, flattering the soldier by private notice, shifting officers. By an Order in Council of the 3rd March, a reorganization was effected in the Army Board and Consultative Council, of the new men the Adjutant-General being General Sir Merrick Parr, uncle of Admiral Parr of the sea-fort Shakespeare, while the Commander-in-Chief and Inspector-General were the direct creations of the Regent, and the whole Headquarters Staff bound to follow him through thick and thin; and that "second reading" was near, which, if the Jews would vote against, well and good for Adair Street, but, if not, there remained either (1) the prompt execution of O'Hara's scheme without waiting for the four yachts, copies of the Mahomet II, which were slow in building; or (2) the knife of Harris.

But, as to (1), when three delegates from the Society had waited upon O'Hara in the Mahomet to urge immediate action, O'Hara had replied: "No, my lords, I cannot enter into this undertaking until preparations are complete, since the troops we send would never be allowed to land on the forts, if they arrived in ships not apparently our own. Your lordships cannot be more anxious than I to rid the earth of a devouring lion like Richard Hogarth, I do assure you; but, tut, is there nothing else meanwhile? Just let me introduce to your lordships a little young man whom I know"—he had summoned Harris.

But when the three delegates had gone, he had struck his brow, exclaiming: "Wretch that I am!—that great and good fellow, the fairest of the sons of men!...what a black depravity must be in this heart—" he had underlooked in the mirror, and cut a face; "but ah, Hogarth! this heart is in your net; and I loved the mother, too"....

He had sought the altar, and that night had written piteously to Hogarth, appealing for fresh friendship and reconsideration of his sentence of dismissal.

So, at any rate, was Harris introduced to Adair Street, became its chief minister, and ten days before the second-reading debate had won, by O'Hara's recommendation, an entree into the Palace as servant to a gentleman-usher-daily-waiter: and now he made bright the knife of the assassin, tending its edge as a gardener the tender sprout, the knife being his metier and forte, he despising the noisy, mediate, uncertain pistol, nor could use it, his instincts belonging to the Stone Age. But the days passed, and he could by no means get near to Hogarth.

One night he boldly penetrated to the royal antechamber with the knife under his waist-band, having passed the stairs-guard by a specious official envelope. As it was late, he thought it must be about the Regent's bedtime, having the vaguest ideas as to royal ways and bedtimes, Hogarth being then in a consultation with three of the Cabinet destined to last till morning. And Harris: "Can I see the Lord Regent?" with that lifted brow of perpetual surprise and alertness.

"You? Who are you?" asked a gentleman-in-waiting.

"That's neither 'ere nor there, if it comes to that. I'm Captain Macnaghten's man, then".

"But what is it you want?"

"He told me to give the Regent this 'ere"—showing the envelope.

"Weally! then, give it to me".

"He said I was to give it to the Regent's self".

"Then, go to blazes quickly, will you? and let Captain Macnaghten know fwom me that he has been dwinking".

Harris could not penetrate the ten-fold barrier; but he lay in wait; watched from some coign every Royal exit and entrance, careful that Hogarth never saw his face; and he cherished the knife-edge.

One night, four days before the debate, he stood by the Green Park railings, listless, smoking, when—he started: saw a hurried figure come out—face muffled—Hogarth!—alone.

Hogarth walked a little, entered a cab; Harris, in another, shadowed him.

Down Piccadilly, the Hammersmith Road, into the Addison: Hogarth alighted; Harris followed.

Now, at this time Hogarth had a spy, who presented him reports of the doings of Rebekah Frankl—a species of literature which the Regent found agreeable; and, as for two days Rebekah had, for some reason, been at a villa of Addison Road, this escapade of the Lord Regent was motived by his hope of catching there some glimpse of her, the house being small, he having seized his first chance of secret escape from state-affairs near midnight: and behind him, like the shadow of death, stole the assassin.

Hogarth, going soft up to the house, leaned aside from the frontage steps to peer; but Venetian blinds barred him from the least sight of the interior, though he could hear sounds, strange sounds, as of wailing; and, as the villa was in the midst of quite a spacious ground, well grown with trees and shrubberies, he stole round to the back, peered into an open door level with the garden, and within saw a doorway of twilight in the midst of darkness; had hoped to see a servant, who might talk gossip, or even contrive him sight of the Sacred Body; had ready bribe in hand: but nobody there. So, after some hesitation, he entered; and Harris, just then come to the house-corner on tiptoe, discerned him go in, ran on hot bricks to the door, and now distinctly saw Hogarth, who had passed through a kitchen, standing on three wooden steps before a doorway which framed a faint light in the room beyond.

On which a shivering of eagerness, quick as winking sheet-lightning, shook Harris' right knee.

Hogarth, meantime, having seen the chamber before him empty, in his headlong way had entered, and the guess now in Harris' mind was this: "It's a girl: a night out"....

He hesitated, Hogarth being once within the house and lost to him, but after some minutes dared to follow.

Hogarth, meantime, had seen that the light came from a death-taper, with which was a vessel of water for ceremonial purification, and a napkin, here being all the preparations for tahara (washing); and suddenly, in a near room, arose the clamorous dole of shivah (the seven mourning-days), Rachel weeping for her children, because they are not: a Jew was dead: "shema, Yisrael...": and this explained Rebekah's stay there, for the bereaved may not leave the house. A peer at the bed—a covered face—pierced him with a compunction like shame: here was kodesh, and he a desecrator with his earthy passion: so he turned to beat a retreat by the way he had come—when a faint sound that way, made by Harris; and, instead, he leapt lightly through a window five feet above the garden.

Some moments later Harris, entering on prowling all-fours, and seeing the bed-clothes hang immediately near, stole under; waited: no sound save the singsong lament; and "O Gawd", thought he, cynic even in his palest agitation, "there shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth"....But that Hogarth had not come to wail and gnash he felt convinced: if he heard no sound above him, that might be because of the sounds around; so he crawled barely out, and, kneeling, put up a most cautious groping hand, the bed being in the darkest part of the room; someone there: and swiftly as a dolphin twists to dart and snap, his knife was in a breast and instantly ready to strike its expected bedfellow.

But the breast was alone, the breast of Estrella, the Prophetess, four days dead.

Harris snatched off the face-cloth, peered upon a noble old visage, fixed now in trance, and said: "Well, I'm—"

Now he ran, but in the kitchen stopped wild-eyed. It I might be murder-he was not certain; at least it was out-rage, and he might be traced: there was the cabman who had brought him—his absence from the Palace—-"Bah! it can't be proved...." But still, if he were even arrested, and Hogarth got to hear of his presence about the Court—that would spoil all. He listened: all that part of the house a settled solitude, the servants themselves sitting shivah; and back he ran, seized upon the little old body, not now stiff, rigor mortis having passed, saw that the sheet was unstained, and snatched her away out to the bottom of the garden where shrubbery and holly-hedge formed a jungle.

Now he set to dig with hissing haste; and, even as he hissed and digged, he talked without pause, envenomed, heaping her sanctity with insult: "Old cat you...dust to dust and ashes to ashes, it is....What you want to do that for? under you go in the cold, cold sod....Who arst you to put your little finger in the pie? There's another one for you, fair in the gullet! Now take her up tenderly, lift her with care-and down she goes"....

Such were Estrella's kaddish and "House of Life"....As he had only the knife, and the work was slow, and in the midst of it an outcry from the house, the body missed, he stopped, listening, but without acute fear, knowing it improbable that they could dream of seeking in the grounds, and as a matter of fact their minds were a mere paralysis of holy wonder; so presently he had the little body in a two-foot grave, arranged surface and dead leaves to naturalness, leapt a wall, and got away.

Never did act of assassin have result so momentous: for though the predictions of Estrella had lately spread far among upper-class Jews, it was only on the day after her burial by Harris that her fame reached to each Jew under the sun.

It was given out that divine confirmation had been vouchsafed to her prophecies by the snatching of her body, like Enoch's, into Heaven, or by its burial, like Moses', by Jahvah: for when no explanation but one is extant, the brain fastens upon that, and embraces it.

And as Estrella, who, in life, had guarded her hard sayings for the few, had left papers revealing for her whole race what she had dreamed, like wildfire now ran her message among the Chosen.

Now Temple and Synagogue were crowded: rabbi and pawnbroker and maggid, clothes-man and takif, were infected; and there spread the cry (for the most part meaningless): "To Zion!"

It may be that the Jewish electorate were now too agitated with the near probability of Shiloh to interest themselves in any mundane question: at all events, it was during that rage that the Government-whips announced the certainty that the Jewish members would vote against the Land Bill.

Hogarth first heard it pretty late at night from the Prime Minister; and "Ha!-the Jews", he went: "so they have dared, these men? I never thought that they would! May God deliver me from His ill-chosen people—!"

"And ill-choosing, it seems, my Lord King".

"Quite so! But, Sir Robert Wortley, is it supportable this thing?"—a brand now on his brow—"an alien race in Britain opposing thus daringly not my will only, but the plain will of the people? And have I the air of one who will support it? Rather, I assure you, would I govern without a Parliament! But stop—perhaps I shall be found capable of dealing with these mischievous children of Israel. Give me a night: and to-morrow at noon come, and hear. Of course, this second-reading business must be postponed ".

And deep and wide, in lonely vigil, wrought the Regent's thought that night, till morning: of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of tendencies, histories, soils, ports, railways, possibilities, race- genius, analogies, destinies; of Rothschild and I Solomon; of Hirsch and Y'hudah Hanassi; of the Jewish Board of Guardians, Rab Asa, and the Targum on the Babylonish Talmud; of the Barbary Jews, the Samaritans, and Y'hudah Halevi; of the Colonial Bank, and the Karaite Jews....

When at dawn he threw himself dressed into bed, he had resolved upon a very great thing: their expulsion from England, Pole and Hungarian, Baron and coster, and the little child at the breast, ten millions.

His eyes had closed toward sleep when, with a start, he remembered a prophecy uttered one evening in the Boodah Throne-room, and these words: "Richard, deal gently with my people...."

Two nights later, with a retinue, he hurriedly left England-for Constantinople.



XLVI

THE ORDER IN COUNCIL

Three days before that setting-out, O'Hara's appeal for pardon had come under the Regent's notice: and as he had read, his eyes—once more—had softened, as he had thought: "It would be a great crime to forgive him the long list; but never mind—we will see"....

And he had meant to reply, but suddenly the Jews had swept O'Hara quite out of his mind.

He was away hardly two weeks: and when he returned, Palestine and western Armenia were his, all his acts of this period bearing resemblance in largeness and rage to the incredible forced-marches of Napoleon.

If one spreads apart the first two fingers, he sees exactly the country ordained by Hogarth for modern Israel: the first finger Palestine, looking upon the Mediterranean; between the fingers, the Syrian Desert; the second (longer) finger that Mesopotamia, "the cradle of our race" between the Euphrates and the Tigris, this opening upon the Persian Gulf, and the trade of the East.

The then population of this area was only 300,000 (Arabs, Turks, Jews, Greeks) in the Palestine finger, omitting Russian pilgrims to Jerusalem; while in the Mesopotamia finger—all that Hinterland of Palestine called "Turkish Armenia"—not 320,000 Armenians had been left by Khurdish rapine and Turkish atrocity: we may therefore say that the whole was an uninhabited land waiting for inhabitants.

The only things needed (according to modern notions) to make it immediately colonizable were roads and railways, and the Regent had not returned to Dover when both were making in Palestine, the Sultan, left thunderstruck with a chronic eye of scare by that visit, "lending his co-operation", consoled meanwhile by a Conversion Loan of thirteen millions out of Sea-revenue; to which add a grant-in-aid of fifteen millions to the emigrants, and the remark of Hogarth's Chancellor about this time becomes intelligible: "Your Lordship's Majesty's expenditure is exceeding revenue by 50 per cent"; so that Beech's was soon realizing considerably in bonds over Europe, and Hogarth temporarily poor—had stubbornly refused any Parliament-grant for the Regent's personal establishment.

And suddenly from the blue fell his bolt: at that same table of the Regent's oath-of-office assembled eighty-seven Jewish lords and gentlemen at noon of the 24th March, the first day of the month Nisan in the Jewish year 5699, ordered, each by himself, to the Royal presence; and the Regent, with the gravest eyes, both palms pressed on the table, in an embarrassment of compunction, rose and spoke with them—Rothschild and merchant-prince, Chief Rabbi, Manchester Chief Minister, Heads of the Alliance Israelite, Anglo- Jewish Association, Jewish Board, Jewish philanthropists, writers; and they could not believe themselves awake.

He began by speaking of himself, the fact of his power, with such graciousness, that all were affected, not by the power, but by the gentleness which wielded it: Providence had given him the disposal of the earth, and it was for him to do his poor best—a lonesome, sorrowful post; so that talking could never alter in anything the main point; but it could modify details: and he had called them to invoke their great administrative gift and expert counsel; he told of the exodus which he designed, the home which he had prepared them; recommended a Sanhedrim of Chief Jews to form the Provisional Government of the new State, with the Chief Rabbi as its head under the title of Shophet (Judge); would offer a contribution of L 15,000,000 from his Exchequer toward an emigration and colonizing fund, and doubtless emigration bureaus would be at once established at principal centres; he would also hand over a Deed of Gift of this larger Judaea as between the Sea and the Jewish people to the Central Authority as soon as established; also, duplicates of the text of the Treaty as between the Sea and the Ottoman Empire. What he gave he gave, he assured them, with a free heart, without condition; except, of course, one: that no inch of the new land should ever "belong" to any particular Jew: for he gave, as Nature gave the earth, not to a hundred, but to all, living and to be born, occupiers to pay rent, not to any adventurer calling himself landlord, but to the Central Authority, representing all. This done, he would invoke with confidence upon their able race the blessing of Almighty God.

In tones so mellow did he utter himself, that for many minutes stillness reigned, every face pale.

Until a baron stood up with ashen under-lip, to say that such a scheme, it seemed to him, must remain for ever abortive, unless enforced by Act of Parliament—

But Hogarth checked him quick.

"No, my lord, not by Act of Parliament: the how your lordship may leave to me. I dare say you will see it in this evening's papers".

It was by an Order in Council!

* * * * * * *

"DECLARATION of the Court of Great Britain respecting the Order in Council.

"At the Court at Buckingham Palace, the 24th day of March, his Lordship's Majesty, the Lord Regent, in Council.

"WHEREAS His Lordship's Majesty was pleased to declare in the name and on behalf of His Majesty the King on the 23rd day of March: THAT if at any time, after the expiration of the three months following, any of the hereinafter mentioned trades, occupations, pursuits, or acts, shall be carried on or done within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland by any person being a person coming within the sense of the term "Jew" as hereinafter defined, THEN and thereafter such person shall be liable to the pains and penalties hereinafter specified".

* * * * * * *

No Jew might own or work land, or teach in any Cheder or school, or be entered at any Public School or University, or sign any stamped document, or carry on certain trades, or vote, or officiate at any public service, and so on: parentage, not religion, constituting a "Jew". Through Britain this piece of Russian despotism sent a wave of quiet gladness, and an epidemic of jest broke out, in club, factory, "Lane", and drawing-room: "You hurry up—to Jericho!" became the workman's answer to a Jew; it was remarked that the chimney of train and steamship would furnish a new pillar of cloud by day, and pillar of fire by night, to go before the modern Exodus; they were little to be pitied, for even Heaven was their mortgagor in land, with promise to pay—the Promised Land; a syndicate would be formed to "pool" milk and honey, and either Sharon or Salem would become the new Get-O at any price; being a rather Peculiar People, they would call the new Temple "the 'Ouse" (of Prey-ers), and make contango-day coincide with Passover....But let him laugh that is of a merry heart: as for Israel, with weary breast and hunted stare he sandalled his foot for the final Exodus: yet not as them without hope. Already—some days before the Order in Council—the disappearance of Estrella's body, her daring prophecies, had led to the embarkation of 700 Jews for Palestine; and when the Regent's Edict gave startling confirmation of her prediction of "the Return", in many a million hearts thrilled the certainty: "the Day of the Lord is nigh!"

And with that their stoicism and organizing strength, they mutely turned to follow the finger of Destiny: their takifs (rich men), hard upon the unchosen, were, as usual, liberal to their own, the fund swelled, and a Committee left England for the accumulation of stores and implements; at the same time two Parliament Bills were passed in two sittings, empowering the purchase by Government of land "owned" by Jews on Land Bill terms, and quickening the machinery for the collection of debts due to Jews.

Whereupon, "You see", said the Chief Rabbi, "he drives us out: but he makes us aprons—if only of fig-leaves—to cover us. Let us bow to his rod, and thank him, and go: he is God's Minister".

So they went: the world's mercantile marine having been summoned, sea-ports were turned into caravansaries of gabardine and ear-lock: the Exodus began.

In the midst of which it came to the knowledge of the Regent that the house of Frankl was making ready for departure.

And now Hogarth rebelled against Heaven: self-forgetfully he did his best, and it returned and struck him dead: for what good, he thought, would his life do him, she always in Asia, he in Europe?

He wrote to her, a passionate hotch-potch of command and grovelling supplication: if she went, he would curse her; would go mad; would blaspheme God; would throw up everything; would die.

He had promised to go down to Oxford to receive a degree, and as up to the time of his departure she had not replied, he went half- unconscious of himself and those about him.

Now, upon Adair Street the Expulsion had brought despair, the second-reading now assured, the Jews' vote over, and new writs issued; the second-reading debate was actually in progress at that date of the Oxford visit; and though the four yachts, copies of the Mahomet II, were being rapidly put together, the Bill, if at all pressed, must get through before they could be ready; nor could the House of Lords long delay its passage.

There remained Harris, so far ineffectual, but not therefore hopeless: so he, spurred, went down to Oxford.

But what Harris could not do was to get near to Hogarth: his task was, as it were, to pluck Venus from the firmament; but he mused, he mused upon her, with musing astrologic eye, with grand patience, fascinated by her very splendours, not without hope. When at 8 P.M. a banquet was served to 250 guests in the Radcliffe Library, the upper gallery being open to a crawling public to see the lions feed, Harris, watching thence the unattainable under the blue of the canopy—blue always in honour of the Sea—thought within himself: "Ah, Mr. 76, you've got it all, ain't you?—for the time being. But 'ow'd you feel if I had a pistol now? Gawd! I can just see him nicely curl and kick. Worse luck, I can't shoot a bloomin' 'ouse".

But the opportunity was so exquisite, that he resolved to try—the exit reached, would run, get a pistol, and return; but at the door itself a hand touched his shoulder, and, with a twist of guilty scare, he saw—O'Hara.

"Good Gawd!" he whispered, "what you want to startle anybody like that for? Don't you know that the wicked flea pursueth every man, but the righteous shall escape his filthy snare?"

"What are you doing here, boy?" asked O'Hara.

"Thick-head! ain't I down 'ere after this precious Mr. 76?"—for Hogarth, if Monarch of the Sun, would have remained for Harris only a glorified 76, Colmoor being for him the reality of the universe, all else mirage, such stuff as dreams are made of.

"Well", said O'Hara, "come with me: want to talk to you"—he just come from the Mahomet through Spain and France, drawn to Hogarth as moths to a candle, his petition for pardon not yet answered; and he assumed that Hogarth's wrath still blazed, though, in fact, answer was only delayed by competition of greater interests, Hogarth having forgotten O'Hara; at any rate, O'Hara, with shrinking qualms, had come to Oxford, thinking: "I will try and get at him for one more talk—I am not afraid of your eyes, my son: tut! I've seen the great brow in a prison-cap. And the haughty beast still loves old Pat at bottom, I do declare. Be bold, be bold, but not too bold....Well, I will! And, if I perish, I perish, and he perishes, too, so help me, God"....

And to Harris, walking by the towing-path, he said: "No, boy, don't you. Not now. Tut!—those lords: they are only making you their tool. Don't you understand? Hogarth is robbing from them the land which they have robbed from the British people, and they naturally wish to murder him: but what have you, or I, to do with that? Let the thieves fight it out between them, while we enjoy ourselves, if we can. Weren't we happy in the Mahomet, boy—we two? Didn't you roll whole weeks drunk? That was better than Colmoor, eh, Alfie? And didn't I have my incense, my grapes, my little Circassian, and ten thousand pounds in yellow gold a year? Wasn't that all right? Well, we may have it again!—not in the Mahomet, perhaps, but somewhere. Do nothing—not yet: till I give the word. If you must kill, get a dog, or a horse, or an obscure old man, not the Regent of England—"

"Dirty old swine!" cried Harris, angry, "'aven't I forbid you again and again from making game of me? You're doing it now! You just try that on, and go up thou bald-head, it is!"

"But is this understood between us?"

"Old duffer! you are one thing to-day, and another thing to-morrow: there's no knowing how to tyke you. You're such a sinful old 'ypocrite, that you play-act before yourself, I do believe. What is it you do mean? You myke anyone sick of you; your incense and your burnt sacrifices are an offence unto me. This Mr. 76 once put a knife into me, and I mean to put another into him: 'ow's that?"

"Not now!"

"'Ow about your sweet friend, Frankl? I'm under contract with him, ain't I?"

"Better put the knife into Frankl".

"Into the pair of you, it strikes me!"

"Well, if you make the least attempt upon Hogarth now, you get not another shilling—".

"Bah! shut that—!"

But the threat won sullen consent; and when after the Banquet the Oxford guests had driven to see the illuminations, spoiled by boisterous Spring-winds, and when the Regent returned to his chambers, he caught sight of O'Hara amid the throng that lined the stair; upon which, after stepping up past, he stopped, twisted round, to say: "You, Admiral Donald?"

"If I might speak ten minutes with your Lordship's Majesty—"

"What about?"

Those bold eyes of O'Hara dropped.

"Well", said the Regent, "I will see. Come to-morrow—about five," and went on up.

The next morning the Degree was conferred in the theatre, Doctor of Common Law—"an appropriate one", the Master of Balliol remarked, "though 'Surgeon' would perhaps be the mot juste"; and thus at last Hogarth donned cap-and-tassel, though not Frankl's—a livery which drew from Harris the reflection: "Sweet beauty!—in his mortarboard". The nip upon the brow of the college-cap peak resembled the nip of the Scotch prison-cap, awaking memories: but the symbolism was different.

Meantime, the Regent's eye wandered, madness and folly in his heart, and fear, till at four a letter came, he having left Loveday at Buckingham Palace with instructions to open letters and send the One.

She had written:

"What you can expect of me I am unable to conceive. Have you not expelled me? Let us be worthy of our long friendship, and 'play the man'....'My exaltation to afflictions high'....With prayers for you, I say good-bye: and will remember.

"REBEKAH FRANKL".

Loveday had added: "She left London at noon for Southampton. Purchas followed to spy. Machray's other detective waits in Palace for instructions".

As to the dinner in Christ Church Hall, and the Ball, which were to end the program of this last day, at four-thirty the news spread that the Regent had been taken ill.

"Have you not expelled me?"...Was she angry? Did she not know that he meant well? Hogarth, breaking into a rage, leapt up, with, "I swear to God that not one step does she move out of this country—!" and rushed to a bell: a gentleman-usher came.

"What about going?"

"All will be ready in fifteen minutes, my Lord King".

"I feel bad: say ten minutes; tell the Lord Chamberlain".

"Yes. I might mention—did your Lordship's Majesty grant a ten minutes' audience to Admiral Donald for this hour?"

"Who? Yes, I think—Just kick him down the stairs! Or no—say I may see him some day".

This message, as the usher dashed through, was faithfully dropped at O'Hara's consciousness; and O'Hara said: "Hoity-toity...!"

Bent-backed he descended to the Quadrangle, with a sense of defeat, rebuff, contumely, rage, but quite sprightly said to Harris, waiting beyond the Gateway: "Well, boy, how can we make a night of it? I feel that way".

"Seen Mr. 76?"

"Tut, no. Sharpen up that knife for his throat, boy!"

And Harris exclaimed: "Another chynge! Strike me silly!—what did I sye? Give me a new 'eart, O Lawd, it is—you grey-haired old duffer. Chopping and chynging, always the syme—to your old wife Jyne. I'd be ashamed of myself in your plyce. But sharpen up the knife, it is".



XLVII

THE EMIGRANTS

Late the same night the Regent received at the Palace a telegram about Rebekah: She had travelled alone to Southampton, where a landau at the station had awaited her, in which she had driven to a country-house near the Itchen named "Silverfern", two miles from Bitterne Manor, in which lived an elderly gentleman, Mr. Abrahams, ark-opener and scroll-bearer in the Synagogue, with his wife and two sons. The passage of these, and of Rebekah, was booked by the Calabria, Jewish emigrant-ship, to sail in four days.

Hogarth no sooner heard these tidings than he tumbled into crime: resolved to kidnap Rebekah; to break his own law for his own behoof: one of the basest acts of a King.

He had four days: and by the end of the second four men lay in wait round "Silverfern", one a sea-fort sub-lieutenant, one a detective, and two others very rough customers: a cottage having been hired by them for the reception of Rebekah in a dell a mile higher up the Itchen.

But something infects the world; and gravity badgers the bullet's trajectory; and a magnetic "H" disturbs the needle; and "impossible" roots turn up in the equation; and the finger of God is in every pie.

Hence, though the four ravishers lay in wait, and actually effected a seizure, the Regent did not get his girl.

None of the four had ever seen her: but as there was no young lady except her at "Silverfern", that seemed of no importance, so she had been only described to them as dark and pretty.

But on the night after Rebekah's arrival, there came to "Silverfern" a new inmate: Margaret Hogarth.

Her passage, too, was booked to Palestine.

For Frankl had said: "In expelling the Jews, he shall expel his own sister. Oh, that's sweet, after all!"

At this time Frankl's interest in Land Bill and England was dead, two interests only remaining to him: so to realize his share in the Western world as to reach Jerusalem loaded with wealth; and also, not less intense, to hurt Hogarth, to outwit him, to cry quits at the last.

It was hard—Hogarth being set so high; but he invoked the help of the Holy One (blessed be He): and was not without resource.

Why had Hogarth never had him seized, racked? What restrained the Regent now? That was a question with Frankl. Hogarth might say, even to himself, that Frankl was vermin too small to be crushed, that he waited for his sister from God; but lately the real reason had grown upon Frankl: it was because Hogarth was afraid of him! afraid that Frankl, if persecuted beyond measure, might blurt out the Regent's convict past, and raise a sensation of horror through the world not pleasant to face. Harris, O'Hara, Rebekah and Frankl alone knew that past, and the motives for silence of the first three were obvious; nor had Frankl whispered that secret even to his own heart in his bed-chamber, conscious of his own guilt in the matter of the Arab Jew's death, fearing that, if the wit and power of Hogarth were given motive to move heaven and earth, the real facts might not be undiscoverable: then would Frankl be ground to fine powder by the grinders. But if he was going to Palestine, what mattered?

Also, there was Margaret: she should go out as a Jewess.

She arrived at "Silverfern" in the charge of a Jewish clerk, and the Abrahams received her as an afflicted orphan, committed to Frankl by her father; she, like Rebekah, to go under their care.

Well, the evening before the departure, Mr. and Mrs. Abrahams, their two sons, Rebekah and Margaret, all go for a stroll—about nine o'clock, that morning one of the four ravishers having been to the house on some pretence, seen Margaret with Mrs. Abrahams under the porch, and noted her well, her grey tailor-gown, her brooch, her singing; and now, as all walked out under the moon, they were watched, the watchers, surprised at the presence of two young ladies, concluding that the smaller—Rebekah—must have arrived later: so upon the large and shapely form of Margaret their gaze fastened, as the party passed near their hedge of concealment, Margaret then remarking: "My name is Rachel Oppenheimer—" and Mrs. Abrahams with gentle chiding answering her: "No, be good: your name is Ruth Levi".

For during two years at the Jewish Asylum at Wroxham they had tilled into her shrieking brain, "Now, be good: your name is Rachel Oppenheimer", and one day she had said: "My name is Rachel Oppenheimer", and had been saying it ever since.

In fact, there was a real Rachel Oppenheimer, a dependent of Frankl's, at Yarmouth, who was rather mad, and when it had been necessary that Margaret should be out of the way in order to secure Hogarth's conviction, two doctors had examined this Rachel Oppenheimer, and given the legal certificates by means of which Frankl had put away Margaret; and she during two years of sanity in an atmosphere of lunacy had screamed for pity, till one morning she had shewed the stare, the unworldly rapture, and had started to sing her old songs.

After which, Frankl, hearing of it, and touched by some awe, had got her out, and kept her in one retreat or another.

But in all her madness was mixed some memory of his devilish heart, and every fresh sight of him inspired her with panic, she in his presence hanging upon his eyes, instant to obey his slightest hint: hence her beckoning down to Hogarth from that window in Market Street.

Now, on this last night of England the Abrahams party strolled far, two days like Summer days having come, on hedge and tree now tripping the shoots of Spring, the moon-haunted night of a mild mood: so from "Silverfern" lawns they passed up a steep field northward, down a path between village-houses, and idled within a pine-wood by the river-side.

The moon's glow was like one luminous ghost: and buttercup, daisy, snowdrop, primrose gathered Margaret, vagrant, flighty, light to the winds that wafted her as fluff, and tossed them suddenly aloft, and back they came to be tangled in her bare hair; and now she was a tipsy bacchante, singing:

"Will you come to the wedding? Will you come? Bring you own bread and butter, And your own tea and sugar, And we'll all pay a penny for the Rum".

"Poor Ruth!"—from Rebekah, an arm about her waist.

"There is such a huge pool which is wheeling", said Margaret, gazing at it with surprise, "and it goes hollow in the middle: my goodness, it does wheel! and there is a little grey duck in it ranging round and round with it, and this little grey duck is singing like an angel".

"Do you know where we are going to?" asked Rebekah: "to the land of our fathers, Ruth, after all the exile in this ugly Western world; and it is he who sends us, the fierce-willed master of men".

"My name", said Margaret, "is Rachel Oppenheimer"; and immediately, wafted like a half-inflated balloon which leaps to descend a thousand feet away, she sang:

"Happy day! Happy day! When Jesus washed my sins away..."

Then, woe-begone, she shook her head, and let fall her abandoned hand; and Rebekah, speaking more to herself: "Did you never hear of Hogarth, the King, Ruth? or see him in some dream in shining white, with a face like the face in the bush which burned and was not consumed?"

But now Margaret laughed, crying out: "Oh, there's a man riding a shorthorn bull that has wings; white it is: and up they fly, the bull pawing and snorting, all among the stars. Oh, and now the man is falling!—my goodness—"

She stood still, gazing at that thing in heaven.

"Well, what has become of the man, dear?" asked Rebekah.

"I can't make out....But I should like to marry that man".

"Ah, if wishes were fathers, we should all have babies, Ruth, to say our kaddish".

"Oh, look—!" cried Margaret.

A rabbit had rushed across a path ahead, and she ran that way beyond a bend....When Rebekah followed she had disappeared.

On Rebekah's outcry all set to search wood, path, river—she was gone; but after five minutes a voice a long way off in the wood, singing:

"O what a pretty place, And what a graceful city...."

on which the two youths flew toward the sound, and presently the rest, following, heard a shout, a cry, then silence, till one of the young men came running back, his face washed in blood: he had seen some forms, and, as he had approached, been struck on the brow, his brother felled. When all came to where the brother lay insensible, no sign of Margaret; nor could villagers and police, searching through the night, find her.

She had gone without surprise with her four captors, who had carried her to a cottage of boarded-up windows: and the same hour Hogarth had the news.

The next morning the four received detailed instructions at the village poste restante: the lady-attendant at the cottage was to ask the prisoner if she would go to London, try to persuade her, and, if she consented, make her sign pledge of honour (enclosed) to go without any attempt at escape during three days.

The men were surprised: for that Margaret was deranged they had seen at once, and supposed that the Regent must know it: what, then, could her pledge do? Their business, however, was to obey: and when Margaret was asked: "Will you go quietly to the Palace in London with us?" she answered: "Yes!" and sang:

"Here we go to London-town: Tri-de-laddie! Tri-de-laddie! See the King with his golden crown, Tri-de-laddie, O!"

By noon the Abrahams and Rebekah were being tugged out of harbour, to the hand-wavings and god-speeds of seven emigrant-boats by the quay; but it was not till five that the Regent's emissaries could obtain a special train on the thronged lines; and not till after seven did they arrive with Margaret at the Palace-gates.

Now, that night the Lord Regent and the Prince of Wales were attending a banquet at the Guildhall, given in honour of sea-rent reduction on British ships, and at the moment when Margaret arrived Hogarth, already en route, thinking of Rebekah, muttered: "By now she is here!"

But since Frankl, on getting news of the disappearance of Margaret, had at once conjectured the hand of Hogarth, as Margaret was being handed from the cab at the Palace-gates, she saw two terrible eyes, and, snatching her hand free, flew screaming down the street—eyes of Frankl, who, conjecturing that hither she would be brought, had taken stand there half the afternoon, knowing precisely the effect upon her of the sight of his face; and said he: "You see, you haven't got her yet—though you shall have her to your heart's content...."

As she could only run southward or northward, he had posted two motor-cars, one containing a clerk to south, the other Harris, to north, so that, as she ran, one or other should catch her, hustle her in, and dash away.

In fact, she ran north, right into the arms of Harris, her surprised guardians still ten yards behind; and "Quick!" hissed Harris, "come with me, or 'e'll 'ave you!" and was off with her.

Upon which Frankl drove to the Market Street house, where he found Harris and Margaret; and again, with screams, she sought to fly, though her first terrors gave place to a quiet subservience after some minutes of his presence.

"Oh Lawd!" said Harris, "she started singing in the car, you know. Sing me songs of Araby, it is. Enough to give anybody the sicks".

"You see this gentleman here?" said Frankl to Margaret.

"Yes", she whispered: "oh my!"

"Well, it so happens that very likely you are going to live in the same house as him—a big Palace with all gold and silver, where the King with his crown lives, and all. So while you are there, I want you to be his friend as if it was myself, and do everything he tells you, same as myself, in fact. Do you see?"

"Yes", she whispered, her large form towering above Frankl's, yet awe of him widening her eyes.

"What's your name?" said he.

"My name is Rachel Oppenheimer", said she.

"All right: come up and dress".

She followed him up to a back room, where was a lamp, a glass, etc., and on an old settee evening-dress complete, shoes, roses, head- wrap.

"Now", said Frankl, leaving her, he, too, in evening-dress, "I give you ten minutes to rig yourself out in that lot: a second more, and you catch it".

And in fifteen minutes they two were in a cab, en route for the Guildhall, Frankl, who had invitations for himself and daughter, saying: "You understand? you keep your eye fixed upon me the whole time—never mind about eating—and when I hold up my finger so, you rise and give them a little song...."

It was a function intended to be memorable, the Lord Regent going in state, attended by 150 Yeomen, King-at-Arms, six heralds and all Heralds' College, to be met at Temple Bar by my Lord Mayor, that day made a baronet, with his Sheriffs and Aldermen on horseback; the Guildhall in blue velvet, the platform at the east end bearing rows of squat gold chairs, while a canopy of deep-blue velvet, lined with light-blue sarcenet, dropped ponderous draperies, tied back with gold ropes, over the floor; on the canopy-front being Sword and Sceptre, the Royal Crown of Britain, and the Diadem of the Sea; the canopy table and the other looking like a short and a long wine- banquet of the Magi in Ophir: present being members of the British Royal House, Ambassadors to Britain and the Sea, the two Archbishops, Ministers, the Speaker, Officers, Fort-Admirals, the Regent's Household, the chief Nobility, the City personages.

Farthest from the short royal table, near the foot of the long, where the dishes were kosher for a Jewish colony, sat Frankl, and opposite him Margaret; and that face of Frankl was pinched and worn.

He prayed continually: "May God be my Rock and my High Tower; may the Almighty be my Shield this night...." while in two minutes Margaret had begun to be a wonder to her neighbours—heaved sighs, threw herself, beat plate with knife, hummed a little, yet conscious of wrong-doing, her eyes fixed upon Frankl.

"Oh, my!" her sigh heaved mortally, head tumbling dead on shoulder.

"Are you—unwell?" asked a startled neighbour, all shirt-front, eye- glass and delicacy.

"I see a long table with gold plates", she whined pitifully, "on every plate an eyeball dying...."

Frankl controlled her with a glance of anger.

And in the second course after turtle, with a fainting prayer to Jehovah, the Jew clandestinely held up a forefinger; upon which she, after some hesitation, remembered the signal, and like a dart shot to her feet.

Now every eye fastened upon her, from Regent's and Prince's to the bottom, those near her, who knew her now, feeling a miserable heart- shrinking of shame.

With sideward head she stood some seconds, smiling; and she sighed: "My name is Rachel—"

But soon, her mood now rushing into sprightliness, she stamped, and with an active alacrity of eye, sang:

"Will you come to the wedding? Will you come? Bring your own bread-and-butter, And your own tea-and-sugar, And we'll all pay a penny for the Rum, Rum, Rum, We'll all pay a penny for the Rum".

The Regent had risen, while Frankl, calm now in reaction, gazed sweetly upon his face: the vengeance of a Jew—nor was he half done with vengeance. Certainly, Hogarth was pale: he had sought her long, and found her so. "Why it is my own heart", he thought, "and they have made her mad".

One moment a stab of shame pierced him at the reflection: "Here!" but in the next his heart yearned upon her, and he rose nimbly and naturally far beyond Lord Mayor and Prince, and the rut of the world. After a perfectly deliberate bow, he left his place, and walked down the length of the hall to her, amid the gaping gods, Loveday, too, and three others, when he was half-way, following.

He had her hand, touched her temple lightly, yet compellingly, healingly....

"Dear, don't you know me?—Richard?—Dick?"

No, but at sight of Loveday some kind of recognition seemed to light, and die, in her eyes.

"Will you come, dear, and sit up yonder with me?" Hogarth asked, his face a mask of emotion.

Wearily she shook her head; and "John", said Hogarth, "take her home"; whereupon Loveday led her out, the Regent returning to the canopy.

Half an hour later he found it a propos of something to say to the Prince: "That lady who sang is my sister, Your Royal Highness—seems to have been subjected to gross cruelties, and has gone crazy".

The next morning everyone knew that she was the Regent's sister; and a man said to a man: "There is madness in the family, then...."



XLVIII

THE SEA-FORTS

The second-reading of the Land Bill had passed by a 59 majority: and it would now have been easy work to hurry through its remaining stages in a couple of weeks; but the Regent had awaited the nation's verdict in the return of the 120 to fill the Jewish seats, sure of the result.

So the 23rd was a great night—the third-reading—the majority 115 at 8 P.M.; and the next day, which was marked by a very brilliant levee, the Bill was before the Lords.

This stage it might easily have reached four weeks before, but had been shelved for the election of the 120: and in those weeks the four copies of the Mahomet II. had been launched.

And suddenly—bad news from Palestine: news that there, too, after all the safeguards, the greed of a few was working to plant the old European wrong: for, the Sanhedrim being short of funds for a railway, a syndicate of five merchant-princes had offered to buy from it an estate between Jerusalem and the Jordan, and when the Chief Rabbi had pointed out that the offer was monstrous, in view of the terms of the Sea's Deed of Gift, a fierce discussion had ensued, a schism; and although the syndicate's offer had been rejected by 27, at the next session the defeated leader, like some warlike Maccabaeus, had surged with his faction and a hundred Arabs into the Mosque of Omar where the Sanhedrim met, to cast those who did not escape by flight into prison in the Pasha's Palace. In the hands of his clique the Government remained.

Such was the news....

It was followed in three days by a Representation to the Regent, signed by 90,000 Jews in Palestine, the fourth name being Rebekah Frankl's, they imploring him for their sinking ship just launched, calling him "Father".

For though the Jews had been content to see that Europe which they contemned parcelled out among a few, while the mass of men hovered countryless—from this had arisen their lucre—their mental quality was too rich in business shrewdness to tolerate in their own case any such Bedlam: yet they stood helpless before the disaster, and only in the Regent was hope.

On that night of the arrival of their Petition, the Prime Minister and the Commander-in-Chief dined in the Palace, placid men at the moment when soup began, the Regent's sky quite clear, for, though a rumour whispered that the Lords were designedly lengthening discussion of the Bill, this gave no one any concern.

During entremets, however, a scribbled card was passed into the hand of the Commander-in-Chief, and, as he read, his eyebrows lifted. Craving permission, he hurried out, had some talk with his Director of Military Intelligence, and returned pale.

Afterwards, as they three sat on a balcony overlooking the lake, with cigars, the Regent said: "I have thought, Sir Robert Wortley, of sending out at once two thousand Tommies under, say, General Sir John Clough, to the help of those poor Jews...."

Here the Commander-in-Chief cleared his throat, and in a strained voice interfered: "That is, my Lord King, if we ourselves have not need of every soldier of the line within the next week".

The Regent deposited his ash with peering eyes, puzzled.

"What does your Lordship mean?"

"Your Lordship's Majesty, I was summoned from dinner just now to talk with Major-General Sir Maurice Coppleston, who reports movements of armed men, just come to his knowledge, and now going forward on a considerable scale, all northward. He gathers that these can only consist of Territorials and Yeomanry Cavalry, of whom not less than twelve battalions of rifles and three batteries of artillery, officers and men, are now on the way to, or massed upon, York. How widely the movement may actually extend—God knows".

Silence now: Sir Robert Wortley suddenly whitening to the lips. Then Hogarth, in a very low voice, said: "They do not know me".

"If I may crave leave to retire at once—" from the Commander-in- Chief; and Hogarth gave consent.

Queer things, omens, doubtings, weird clouds, gathered about Hogarth that night. When at eleven he gave audience to Admiral Quilter- Beckett, arrived from the Boodah Quilter-Beckett said: "Strange the fine weather here: at sea it is quite rough, the Boodah well under foam, and that old Campania pitches so—"

"You have come, then, in the Campania?"—from Hogarth.

"Yes, my Lord King".

"And what about the yacht?"

"Oh, the yacht: in her I have sent the two hundred men to the Mahomet".

"Which two hundred men, Admiral?"

Quilter-Beckett stared.

"Your Lordship's Majesty has forgotten: I had instructions that you desired some interchanges among the garrisons, and had ordered the sending of two hundred of my men to the Mahomet, I to receive in return two hundred from her".

"And you have sent your two hundred?" "Yes, my Lord King".

"Have you received the two hundred from the Mahomet?"

"They had not arrived when I left the Boodah".

"So that you left only one hundred men in the Boodah, with instructions to receive two hundred others?"

"That is so, my Lord King".

There was silence.

"But suppose I tell you that I have given no such instructions: will your heart—leap?"

Hogarth clapped a sudden hand of horror upon Quilter-Beckett's shoulder.

"My God—!" Quilter-Beckett started like a gun's recoil.

"Be calm, Admiral: it may be only some mistake....From whence had you this order?"

"From—from the Mahomet, in the usual course—"

"Good night, Admiral; I would be alone".

At that very hour a world-tragedy was being enacted over the dark and turbulent ocean, and the immensest of Empires was sinking into the sea.

Darkly, quietly, with no mighty and multitudinous tumult of man.

That midnight the night-glass of many a mystified merchantman searched the murk for those coruscations with which the crescent of forts had constellated the Atlantic, the mariner's sea-rent waiting ready, with his ship's-papers, in his cash box: but no galaxy of lights glanced that night.

To some, before this, they had appeared, but, as the ship approached, had vanished, and it was as though the swarm of the Pleiades had been caught from the skies before their eyes. Long before dawn ships separated by three thousand miles had gained the assurance that this or that sea-fort no longer rode the familiar spot-had been rapt to the stars, had sunk, had somehow passed from being. Before this monstrous marvel the mariner stood dumb, and it was afterwards said that that wild night the terminals of heaven and earth were lost, that the storm-winds were haunted, in all the air lamentation, sobbings as for swallowed orbs, and the whisper: "It is finished".

Two days previously a telegram from Admiral O'Hara had gone to all the forts in European waters, commanding an interchange of 200 of their men with men of his own fort; and each officer in command, ignorant that the same instructions had gone to others, had complied: so that by the next morning, the 29th April, 1600 men from eight forts were converging in yachts upon the Mahomet. As the fort garrisons, originally numbering 500, had recently been reduced to 300, the others having been mostly drafted into the 2nd Division of the British Royal Marines, compliance with Admiral O'Hara's order left a garrison of 100 only at each of eight forts.

Toward five in the afternoon of that day, the 29th, 700 men, to the bewilderment of her officers, were in the Mahomet two of the fort-yachts having arrived upon a troubled First Lieutenant who was in command, all attempts to see the Admiral since the morning having failed.

But near seven the Admiral summoned the Treasurer to his bureau near the bottom, he being in dressing-gown and slippers, very slovenly, seeming either drunk or sick, his mouth gaping to his pantings, and anon his languishing eye shot dyingly to heaven.

"Well, you see how I am, Mr. Treasurer", he went, "seedy. Pain in this temple, trouble with the respiration, and a foul breath. Poor Admiral Donald, Mr. Treasurer, poor Admiral Donald. The fashion of this world passeth away, sir, and the Will of God be done! Sometimes, I pledge you my word, I almost wish that I was dead. There are things, sir, in this world—Ah, well, God help me; I feel very chippy. I wanted to ask you, sir, to let me see the books, and hand me over at once all unaudited and unsettled funds in your counting-house, though I'm not fit for affairs to-day, sir, God knows—"

"Sir!" cried the Treasurer, a hard-browed, bald-headed man with a fan-beard, savouring of banks and ledgers.

"Just pass them over, sir".

"Well, this is the most singular order I ever heard of!"

"Obey me promptly, sir, or, by God, I cashier you!" roared O'Hara, his raised lids laying nude the debauchery of those jaundiced juicy balls.

"Be it so, Admiral Donald"—the Treasurer bowed: "but on the understanding that I formally protest against the irregularity, and report it to the High Chancellor".

He retired, and in half an hour returned with two clerks who bore books, himself a carpet-bag containing in cash-boxes L 850,000, paper and gold, which he deposited on the Admiral's bureau, and, after again protesting before the clerks, went away.

Not far off by now were some of the other six fort-yachts, converging with their 200 upon the Mahomet, and as the Admiral had no intention of being put into irons as a lunatic in his own fort, at eight o'clock he stole from his apartments, dressed now, not in uniform, but in priest's robes and a voluminous cloak, bearing in one hand the bag, in the other a key.

Those lower depths of the Mahomet were an utter solitude, lit with rare rays; yet the Admiral journeyed through and up peering, skulking, pausing, hurrying, and, if by chance a light caught his face, it showed a horror of convulsive flesh, his body a mass of trembling, like jelly.

Now, the forts had been built to fight; and (since nothing is impossible), if they fought, they might fall into an enemy's hand: to obviate which, there was in a little room on the third floor a handle which opened by hydraulics a door in the fort's side on the fifth floor below, the existence of this room being unknown save to each Admiral and to four of his lieutenants, and its key kept in a spot known to these. This key O'Hara now had in hand; and as he pushed it into the lock, his jaw jabbered like a baboon's.

Night was now come; the sea rough; Spain lost to sight; the two emptied yachts on the way back to their forts; yonder the lights of the Mahomet II. lying-to; two officers in oilskins walking arm in arm, to and fro, on the roof; and said one: "Look at those waves there all of a sudden: they rather seem to be breaking on the wrong side of us".

Then they resumed their talk; and to and fro they walked, arm in arm.

Till now one with sudden hiss: "But-good Christ-just look-why, the roof's leaning—!"

At that moment an outcry and runners from below, shouts, a trumpet- call, were borne on the winds to them: for the Admiral had rushed up to the manned parts of the fort, all hell alight in his eyeballs, bawling out, "The boats! The Mahomet is sinking!"

In spite of which many perished, the survivors afterwards declaring that the tragedy mesmerized their nerves with a certain awe not to be compared with the terrors felt on sinking ships, the Mahomet affecting them like a being of life, like behemoth slowly dying, or some doomed moon. She gave them, indeed, plenty of time, though when the steel portals on two of her sides were opened, the sea washed up the steps, making the launching very delicate feats, and near the last the leaning was so marked, that there was difficulty in standing; and still in patient distress she waited while the waves like multitudinous wolves, trooped to prey upon her.

As the Admiral ran to the outer Collector's Office to embark, he was faced by the Treasurer, revolver in hand, and "Hand me over that bag, Admiral", he said pretty coolly, "or I blow out your brains".

O'Hara's mouth worked: he could not speak.

"Will you?" said the Treasurer: "no doubt you mean to hand it over to the proper authorities, but I prefer to do that myself. Be quick, you old dog!"

Whereat O'Hara, having no weapon, dropped the bag, and trotted wide- eyed forward to the thronged scene of the launchings.

There were more than enough boats, and though on the lowest side of the fort nothing could long be done, all had gone off, when the fort, having settled very low, looking for some time like a brawling cauldron and area of breaking waves coloured by her hundred lights, went down, and was not.

Whereupon the yacht, over a hundred yards away, was caught in the traction of her strong enthralment, and, like a planet, started into running round a region of sea which wheeled; while seven of the boats, rowing for life, were grasped, and dragged back, with a hundred and nine, into the deep.

"Toll for the brave...."

As to the other boats, they arrived at Tarifa the following evening, with 583; but the Admiral ordered the Mahomet II. to Cadiz, where soon after midnight he landed, and, by negotiation with a "Jefe", in an hour had a train for Madrid. As he was about to step in, the Treasurer touched his shoulder.

"What, Admiral, off by land?"

"Yes, sir, as you know", said O'Hara, "for you have been spying my movements for the last hour. How childish to imagine that I have anything to fear, or want to escape! Why, I am bound for England—my only object in the land journey being quickness. I even invite you to come with me"

"All right, Admiral, I will....If you be tempted to murder me en route, remember these"—a pair of pistols; and they set out at about the hour when the whole crescent of tragedies was over.

At six that evening a yacht, a copy of the Mahomet II., had come to the Cattegat sea-fort to land 200 men who wore the Empire's blue- jacket, the name "Mahomet" on their caps—nothing to show that they were not genuine Mahomet men, though some looked rather sea-sick; but in reality they were young lords, stock-brokers, Territorial Officers, men-about-town, park-keepers, undergraduates, secretly armed with knife and revolver, and knowing, too, where the armoury of the sea-fort lay.

Meantime, three other yachts, all named Mahomet II., were a-ply in the Atlantic, two containing 400 men each, one 600, each of the first two to land 200 at a fort at six, and her remaining 200 at the next fort by eight-thirty, serving four forts, the last to land 200 at each of three forts: so that by 10.30 P.M. each of eight forts, including the Cattegat, contained 200 enemies disguised as fort-men.

And punctually at eleven, in each, began perhaps the darkest massacre of history—no quarter given—and when the alarm went forth, whichever of the unarmed fort-men rushed to the dark armoury found the door fastened against him. Of two men in bed, talking together through an open door, one arose at the stroke of a clock and killed the other; some perished in sleep—all very quietly accomplished: a few shots, a few lost echoes in the vast castles, a few daubs of blood. And in no case did a single one, either massacred or assassin, escape alive: for, in every case, some one or other of the fort-officers—Admiral, Lieutenant, Commander—to prevent capture, opened the inlet to the flood in the very thick of the doom, went down with his muteness and his bubbling, and the sea, a secret in its bosom, rolled over the Sea.



XLIX

THE DEBACLE

All the next day, till near 9 P.M., not one syllable was definitely known of this tremendous fact by anyone in Britain: for though, early astir, the Regent telegraphed the Mahomet, all day he waited without reply.

At eleven the Prime Minister said to him: "Things, my Lord King, wear at this moment an aspect so threatening, that I see no escape from civil war, even if it be brief, except by the immediate forcing through of the Bill, and I stand ready—now—to propose you as new peers—"

"Wait", answered the Regent: "pass to-night the Bill should, but I think I shall effect that by myself going to the Lords, and listening a little to the talk".

A dark day, with an under-thought always, whatever the business, of one thing—the Sea....

About 5.30, as was his custom, he went up a stair to pass along two corridors to the little cream suite in which lived Margaret, for whom the doctors now promised sanity, her forehead daily seeming to drink-in peace from the contact of his palm, after which she would comb his hair, he lying on a sofa, or taking tea; and, "Well, dear", he said, this last day of all, as her ladies retired to an inner salon, "how is the head?"

"I have seen you before", she replied: "what is your name?"

"Dick Hogarth. Come to me, and let me lay my heavy head on you. The heart of your friend bodes to-day, bodes, bodes; but is not afraid: a tough heart, Madge. Do you like me to press my hand upon your head like that?"

Then, weary of his moaning heart that moaned that day like choruses of haunted winds through desolate halls, he fell to sleep even as he mumbled to her, she, seated near his sofa, playing with his hair, his arm around her, faint zephyrs from the window fanning his head, waving down the valenciennes.

But now she tossed the comb away, hummed, became restless, disengaged her shoulders, rose, strayed listlessly, with sighs, and on finding herself in the ante-chamber, opened the door, went out into a corridor, leant her back, eyeing the floor; and next with a great sigh set to gazing upward, droning two notes, one doh, one soh. All was silent. But now a sound of voices that drew her, she moving into another longer corridor, with balusters which overlooked a hall below, and yonder at the stair-foot were two men in altercation, one a guard, to whom the other was saying "But I tell you the lydy herself arst me to go to her; it's an appointment, just like any other appointment. Do let a fellow pass!" and with mouth at ear he added: "It's an affair of the 'eart! 'Ere's a sov—"

"Couldn't, my friend, couldn't", the guardsman said.

But now Harris: "Why, there she is 'erself, so 'elp-! come out to meet me, as the Lord liveth!"—ran then toward where she looked over to send up the hoarse whisper: "I sye—didn't you tell me yourself to come—?"

On which she nodded amiably, smiling, touching a rose in her bosom.

"There you are! What more do you want?" he said to the guard, who now gave him passage: and like a dart he darted, like a freed lark, or unleashed hound, fleet on the feet, with lifted brow.

"I sye!" he whispered her, all active, brisk as a cat, ecstatic— "where's 'e?"

"Who?"—she still at her rose, a memory straying in her that here was a friend, whom the Terrible One had bid her obey.

"Mr.—the Regent", he whispered.

"I don't know him. What is your name? My name is—"

"Oh, you muddle-headed cat! Don't you know the dark man with the black moles—quick!"

"Sh-h-h—he is sleeping".

"Gawd! is he though? Come, show me! I've got a old appointment—"

She led the way: the two corridors—the door—the room, he treading on air, brow up, eyes on fire, knife bright and ready; and eight feet from the couch she put out her forefinger, pointing, smiling, Hogarth's face toward them, his mouth pouting in sleep, bosom breathing, a breeze in his hair.

From the lips of Harris, in the faintest snake-hiss, proceeded, "Sleep, my little one-sleep, my pretty one—sleep—" and with a wrist as graceful as the spring of a tigress he had the knife buried in Hogarth's left breast.

Some instinct must have pierced Hogarth's sleep an instant before the actual blow, for while the knife was yet in him he had Harris's wrist; and the assassin fled writhing, so brisk a trick had cracked his elbow.

And blanched and short-breathed sprang Hogarth, but at once tottered, Margaret, open-mouthed, regarding him, till he suddenly cried out "Ladies!", and before they came had hurried out, drawing his coat over the place of blood.

In the second corridor he had to stop and lean, but then descended, striking all whom he passed with awe at his face, till he stumbled into his own drawing-room, and, as he fell, was caught by Sir Francis Yeames, the Private Secretary.

The wound had passed along the outer front surface of the second rib toward the scapula, injuring two of the branches of the axillary artery: so whispered the Resident Medical Attendant, while the council of doctors pronounced the condition "very grave", but not "dangerous"—a case for "judicious pressure"; and after a long swoon he opened his eyes; in the deeply-recessed series of windows, narrow and round-topped, now dying the twilight; the insignificant bed lost in a chamber of frescoes and vast darksome oils of battles and loves. And, suddenly starting, he asked: "What's the time?"

"Seven-thirty, my Lord King", answered Sir Martin Phipps.

"Ah, I remember: I was stabbed. Who did it?"

"It can only be assumed from the evidence of a guardsman that it was a servant in the Palace, called Harris".

"Aye, I think I saw his face. Does anyone know of the matter?"

"Very few persons so far....The police are after Harris".

Now the Regent started, understanding that the condemnation of Harris would mean a revelation of the Colmoor-horror secret; and he said after a minute, "John, is that you? Will you go and have the whole thing quashed?....And now, doctor, the wound".

"The wound is not what we call 'dangerous', my Lord King: ah, but believe me, it was a narrow shave".

"I dare say, Sir Martin: the outcomes of this particular world do arrive by narrow shaves; but they arrive, and life is an escape. At any rate, doctor, I shall be able to go, as arranged, to the Lords—"

The doctor smiled. "No, never that".

"I shall go".

And at once he leapt from bed, staggering headlong in the effort, to strike his head against a window corner, while all ran, crying out, to catch him, the doctor thinking: "Those whom the gods destroy they first drive mad".

So far not a whisper of the stab had reached even the Prime Minister or the Prince; but since the news of moving troops, and the reluctance of the Lords to pass the Bill, agitated all, London came out to watch his descent upon the Lords.

He went in precisely the spirit of a professor who steps to the chair, smiles, and takes the class; but as he drove down Whitehall, this thought pierced him with a keener point than the steel of Harris: "The Sea...!"

He did not know that at last a thousand transmitters, from Tarifa, from Frederikshavn, from many a ship, were thrilling the ether with messages as to the Sea.

Nor did he know that that day Frankl had whispered to some dozen people, with proofs and old newspapers, that convict past of the Regent.

And from his very first entering, when the Lord Chancellor rose, and the Regent made the bow, he was shocked by the scene of open insolence spread before him.

Everywhere the boldest eyes regarded him; he saw smiles of scorn, snarling visages, as, with reclining head and lowered lids, his eyes rested on the House: a hard gaze. Unfortunately, his pallor was perfectly obvious, and its significance, the stab being unknown, was misunderstood.

And up rose a young lord, who stammered unprofundities just below the region of lawn-sleeves to the right; and another with slow step, as if to music, came up the gangway, and spoke at the table; and another after him: and it needed sustained effort to understand what they said; the brain, as it were, would not close upon statement after statement so insignificant. But Hogarth would have endured till midnight, or longer, but for a growing doubt within him: "Am I bleeding? Shall I not certainly faint?"

And there was this other question: "To what greater daring of insolence will these impossible speeches rise?"

Suddenly, at five minutes to ten, in the very midst of a duke's speech, the Regent, with dizzy brain, was on his feet: there was a few moments' gasp and breathlessness; and then—all at once—it was as though a wind from hell swept through that House, whirling in its vehemence Regent, lords, Gallery, Black Rod, Clerk, Usher, and all; and every face was marble, and every eye a blaze.

The Regent cried: "Your lordships' eloquence—"

And as he said "eloquence", a voice that was a scream, a forward- straining form, a pointing finger: "Why, my lords, that man is only a common convict!—reprieved for murder—escaped from Colmoor. And all his forts are sunk!"

It happened that in the midst of this outcry, the Regent fell back afaint, the moles black, the face white.

Now, here seemed simple panic: and like a pack of dogs which rush to mangle a mongrel, they were at him pell-mell.

See now a shocking scrimmage, a rush and crush for precedence, surge upon surge of men jostling each other in a struggle to get near him, sticks reaching awkwardly over heads to inflict far forceless blows, and on his face the fists; a hundred roaring "Order!", fighting against the tide; three hundred shrieking, "Kill him!" "Have him done with!" "Dash out his brains!", and pressing to that job. Sergeant-at-Arms, meanwhile, Clerk-attending-the-Table, and the physician, had run to give the alarm; but it was by one of those miracles of wild minutes, when turbulent sprites appear to mix themselves in the business of men, worse—embroiling the embroiled, that through the throng in the street rushed the word that the Regent was being killed: and quick, before any fatal blow had been struck, the rabble were there in that chamber, having brushed away every barrier.

They imagined themselves come to save: in reality they came to kill—were, in fact, too many for the area of the room, so that men succumbed fast as by plague-stroke under trampling feet, and even after twenty minutes when sixty-seven lay mangled the scene of horror could not be said to be ended.

Early upon the irruption the physician, three policemen, a Reading Clerk, and the Bishop of Durham, had managed to extricate and drag the Regent out; and through the shouting of the outside crowd he was driven home unconscious.



L

THE DECISION

Somewhat before this hour Admiral O'Hara had arrived at Croydon, a lust, a morbid curiosity, now working in this man—having committed the ineffable sin, to enjoy its fruit by hearing what Richard Hogarth now said, in what precise way he groaned, or raved, smiled, or wept, or stormed; for he was cruelly in love with Hogarth.

All the way had come with him the Mahomet's treasurer, with his bag of wealth—and two pistols.

So at Dieppe O'Harra had wired to Harris:

"Meet me at Croydon to-night, the 9.45 from Newhaven, as you love life. Most important. Shall expect wire from you at the London and Paris Hotel, Newhaven, not later than six, saying yes".

But at Newhaven he had found no answer—Harris, in fact, not having received the telegram, having already inflicted his stab, and fled the Palace.

Whereupon O'Hara, in an agony of doubt, had telegraphed Frankl from Newhaven:

"For God's sake find Harris. Make him meet me at Croydon to-night in the 9.45 from Newhaven. Do not fail".

Now, Frankl knew exactly where Harris was—hiding in the Market Street house. And he said to himself: "All right: it's got something to do with money, and a lot of it, too, with all this 'God's sake'. Suppose we both go to Croydon?"

Hence Frankl missed the joy of seeing the Regent mobbed: for at 9.30 he was waiting with Harris on the Croydon up-platform.

And as the train stopped, they two hurried into the compartment where O'Hara sat alone.

"You, my friend?" said O'Hara to Frankl.

"Large as life", replied Frankl: "I and the boy have already made it up between us for a third each: you a third, I a third, Alfie a third: that's fair; I keep the police off the backs of the pair of you, and you pay me a third. What's the figure?"

In one moment of silence O'Hara plotted; then his tongue yielded to the temptation of the great words: "Eight-hundred-and-fifty thousand, sir".

So after three minutes' talk Harris got out, and, as the train started, sprang into a first-class compartment in which was one other occupant.

Now, it was natural that the treasurer, carrying such a sum, should scrutinize any stranger, but Harris disarmed suspicion: his right arm, twisted by Hogarth, was in a sling, and he threw himself aside, and seemed to sleep, between the peak of his cap and his muffler hardly an inch of interval: so the treasurer, too, worn with travel, settled into a half-drowse.

Harris, however, like many of his type, was perfectly ambidextrous, often using the left hand by preference; and as the train passed Bromley, he darted, plunged his knife, streaked with the Regent's blood, into the treasurer's heart, and huddled the body under the seat.

No stoppage till London Bridge, where, with the bag, Harris left the train, Frankl and O'Hara trotting after his burdened haste; and, after two changes of cabs, the three arrived at the Market Street house.

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