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The Mark Of Cain
by Andrew Lang
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So good and unsuspecting, unluckily, was Mrs. St. John Deloraine, that she made bosom friends for life, and contracted vows of eternal sympathy, wherever she went. At Aix, or on the Spanish frontier, she has been seen enjoying herself with acquaintances a little dubious, like Greek texts which, if not absolutely corrupt, yet stand greatly in need of explanation. It is needless to say that gentlemen of fortune, in the old sense—that is, gentlemen in quest of a fortune—pursued hotly or artfully after Mrs. St. John Deloraine. But as she never for a moment suspected their wiles, so these devices were entirely wasted on her, and her least warrantable admirers found that she insisted on accepting them as endowed with all the Christian virtues. Just as some amateurs of music are incapable of conceiving that there breathes a man who has no joy in popular concerts (we shall have popular conic sections next), so Mrs. St John Deloraine persevered in crediting all she met with a passion for virtue. Their speech might bewray them as worldlings of the world, but she insisted on interpreting their talk as a kind of harmless levity, as a mere cynical mask assumed by a tender and pious nature. Thus, no one ever combined a delight in good works with a taste for good things so successfully as Mrs. St John Deloraine.

At this moment the lady's "favorite vanity," in the matter of good works, was The Bunhouse. This really serviceable, though quaint, institution was not, in idea, quite unlike Maitland's enterprise of the philanthropic public-house, the Hit or Miss. In a slum of Chelsea there might have been observed a modest place of entertainment, in the coffee and bun line, with a highly elaborate Chelsea Bun painted on the sign. This piece of art, which gave its name to the establishment, was the work of one of Mrs. St John Deloraine's friends, an artist of the highest promise, who fell an early victim to arrangements in haschisch and Irish whiskey. In spite of this ill-omened beginning, The Bunhouse did very useful work. It was a kind of unofficial club and home, not for Friendly Girls, nor the comparatively subdued and domesticated slavery of common life, but for the tameless tribes of young women of the metropolis. Those who disdain service, who turn up expressive features at sewing machines, and who decline to stand perpendicularly for fifteen hours a day in shops—all these young female outlaws, not professionally vicious, found in The Bunhouse a kind of charitable shelter and home.

They were amused, they were looked after, they were encouraged not to stand each other drinks, nor to rival the profanity of their brothers and fathers. "Places" were found for them, in the rare instances when they condescended to "places." Sometimes they breakfasted at The Bunhouse, sometimes went there to supper. Very often they came in a state of artificial cheerfulness, or ready for battle. Then there would arise such a disturbance as civilization seldom sees. Not otherwise than when boys, having tied two cats by the tails, hang them over the handle of a door—they then spit, and shriek, and swear, fur flies, and the clamor goes up to heaven: so did the street resound when the young patrons of The Bunhouse were in a warlike humor. Then the stern housekeeper would intervene, and check these motions of their minds, haec certamina tanta, turning the more persistent combatants into the street. Next day Mrs. St. John Deloraine would come in her carriage, and try to be very severe, and then would weep a little, and all the girls would shed tears, all would have a good cry together, and finally the Lady Mother (Mrs. St John Deloraine) would take a few of them for a drive in the Park. After that there would be peace for a while, and presently disturbances would come again.

For this establishment it was that Mrs. St. John Deloraine wanted a housekeeper and an assistant. The former housekeeper, as we have been told, had yielded to love, "which subdues the hearts of all female women, even of the prudent," according to Homer, and was going to share the home and bear the children of a plumber. With her usual invincible innocence, Mrs. St. John Deloraine had chosen to regard the Hon. Thomas Cranley as a kind good Christian in disguise, and to him she appealed in her need of a housekeeper and assistant.

No application could possibly have suited that gentleman better. He could give his own servant an excellent character; and if once she was left to herself, to her passions, and the society of Margaret, that young lady's earthly existence would shortly cease to embarrass Mr. Cranley. Probably there was not one other man among the motley herds of Mrs. St. John Deloraine's acquaintance who would have used her unsuspicious kindness as an instrument in a plot of any sort. But Mr. Cranley had (when there was no personal danger to be run) the courage of his character.

"Shall I go and lunch with her?" he asked himself, as he twisted her note, with its characteristic black border and device of brown, and gold. "I haven't shown anywhere I was likely to meet anyone I knew, not since—since I came back from Monte Carlo."

Even to himself he did not like to mention that affair of the Cockpit The man in the story who boasted that he had committed every crime in the calendar withdrew his large words when asked "if he had ever cheated at cards."

"Well," Mr. Cranley went on, "I don't know: I dare say it's safe enough. She does know some of those Cockpit fellows; confound her, she knows all sorts of fellows. But none of them are likely to be up so early in the day—not up to luncheon anyhow. She says"—and he looked again at the note—"that she'll be alone; but she won't. Everyone she sees before lunch she asks to luncheon: everyone she meets before dinner she asks to dinner. I wish I had her money: it would be simpler and safer by a very long way than this kind of business. There really seems no end to it when once you begin. However, here goes," said Mr. Cranley, sitting down to write a letter at the escritoire which had just served him as a bulwark and breastwork. "I'll write and accept Probably she'll have no one with her, but some girl from Chipping Carby, or some missionary from the Solomon Islands who never heard of a heathen like me."

As a consequence of these reflections, Mr. Cranley arrived, when the clock was pointing to half-past one, at Mrs. St. John Deloraine's house in Cheyne Walk. He had scarcely entered the drawing-room before that lady, in a costume which agreeably became her pleasant English style of beauty, rushed into the room, tumbling over a favorite Dandie Dinmont terrier, and holding out both her hands.

The terrier howled, and Mrs. St. John Deloraine had scarcely grasped the hand which Mr. Cranley extended with enthusiasm, when she knelt on the carpet and was consoling the Dandie.

"Love in which thy hound has part," quoted Mr. Cranley. And the lady, rising with her face becomingly flushed beneath her fuzzy brown hair, smiled, and did not remark the sneer.

"Thank you so much for coming, Mr. Cranley," she said; "and, as I have put off luncheon till two, do tell me that you know someone who will suit me for my dear Bun-house. I know how much you have always been interested in our little project."

Mr. Cranley assured her that, by a remarkable coincidence, he knew the very kind of people she wanted. Alice he briefly described as a respectable woman of great strength of character, "of body, too, I believe, which will not make her less fit for the position."

"No," said Mrs. St. John Deloraine, sadly; "the dear girls are sometimes a little tiresome. On Wednesday, Mrs. Carter, the housekeeper, you know, went to one of the exhibitions with her fiance, and the girls broke all the windows and almost all the tea-things."

"The woman whom I am happy to be able to recommend to you will not stand anything of that kind," answered Mr. Cranley. "She is quiet, but extremely firm, and has been accustomed to deal with a very desperate character. At one time, I mean, she was engaged as the attendant of a person of treacherous and ungovernable disposition."

This was true enough; and Mr. Cranley then began to give a more or less fanciful history of Margaret She had been left in his charge by her father, an early acquaintance, a man who had known better days, but had bequeathed her nothing, save an excellent schooling and the desire to earn her own livelihood.

So far, he knew he was safe enough; for Margaret was the last girl to tell the real tale of her life, and her desire to avoid Maitland was strong enough to keep her silent, even had she not been naturally proud and indisposed to make confidences.

"There is only one thing I must ask," said Mr. Cranley, when he had quite persuaded the lady that Margaret would set a splendid example to her young friends. "How soon does your housekeeper leave you, and when do you need the services of the new-comers?"

"Well, the plumber is rather in a hurry. He really is a good man, and I like him better for it, though it seems rather selfish of him to want to rob me of Joan. He is; determined to be married before next Bank Holiday—in a fortnight that is—and then they will go on their honeymoon of three days to Yarmouth."

Mr. Cranley blessed the luck that had not made the plumber a yet more impetuous wooer.

"No laggard in love," he said, smiling. "Well, in a fortnight the two women will be quite ready for their new place. But I must ask you to remember that the younger is somewhat delicate, and has by no means recovered from the shock of her father's sudden death—a very sad affair," added Mr. Cranley, in a sympathetic voice.

"Poor dear girl!" cried Mrs. St. John Deloraine, with the ready tears in her eyes; for this lady spontaneously acted on the injunction to weep with those who weep, and also laugh with those who laugh.

Mr. Cranley, who was beginning to feel hungry, led her thoughts off to the latest farce in which Mr. Toole had amused the town; and when Mrs. St. John Deloraine had giggled till she wept again over her memories of this entertainment, she suddenly looked at her watch.

"Why, he's very late," she said; "and yet it is not far to come from the Hit or Miss."

"From the Hit or Miss!" cried Mr. Cranley, much louder than he was aware.

"Yes; you may well wonder, if you don't know about it, that I should have asked a gentleman from a public-house to meet you. But you will be quite in love with him; he is such a very good young man. Not handsome, nor very amusing; but people think a great deal too much of amusingness now. He is very, very good, and spends almost all his time among the poor. He is a Fellow of his College at Oxford."

During this discourse Mr. Cranley was pretending to play with the terrier; but, stoop as he might, his face was livid, and he knew it.

"Did I tell you his name?" Mrs. St. John Deloraine ran on. "He is a—"

Here the door was opened, and the servant announced "Mr. Maitland."

When Mrs. St. John Deloraine had welcomed her new guest, she turned, and found that Mr. Cranley was looking out of the window.

His position was indeed agonizing, and, in the circumstances, a stronger heart might have blanched at the encounter.

When Cranley last met Maitland, he had been the guest of that philanthropist, and he had gone from his table to swindle his fellow-revellers. What other things he had done—things in which Maitland was concerned—the reader knows, or at least suspects. But it was not these deeds which troubled Mr. Cranley, for these he knew were undetected. It was that affair of the baccarat which unmanned him.

There was nothing for it but to face Maitland and the situation.

"Let me introduce you—" said Mrs. St. John Deloraine.

"There is no need," interrupted Maitland. "Mr. Cranley and I have known each other for some time. I don't think we have met," he added, looking at Cranley, "since you dined with me at the Olympic, and we are not likely to meet again, I'm afraid; for to-morrow, as I have come to tell Mrs. Si John Deloraine, I go to Paris on business of importance."

Mr. Cranley breathed again; it was obvious that Maitland, living out of the world as he did, and concerned (as Cranley well knew him to be) with private affairs of an urgent character, had never been told of the trouble at the Cockpit, or had, in his absent fashion, never attended to what he might have heard with the hearing of the ear. As to Paris, he had the best reason for guessing why Maitland was bound thither, as he was the secret source of the information on which Maitland proposed to act.

At luncheon—which, like the dinner described by the American guest, was "luscious and abundant"—Mr. Cranley was more sparkling than the champagne, and made even Maitland laugh. He recounted little philanthropic misadventures of his own—cases in which he had been humorously misled by the Captain Wraggs of this world, or beguiled by the authors of that polite correspondence—begging letters.

When luncheon was over, and when Maitland was obliged, reluctantly, to go (for he liked Mrs. St. John Deloraine's company very much), Cranley, who had determined to see him out, shook hands in a very cordial way with the Fellow of St. Gatien's.

"And when are we likely to meet again?" he asked.

"I really don't know," said Maitland. "I have business in Paris, and I cannot say how long I may be detained on the Continent."

"No more can I," said Mr. Cranley to himself; "but I hope you won't return in time to bother me with your blundering inquiries, if ever you have the luck to return at all."

But while he said this to himself, to Maitland he only wished a good voyage, and particularly recommended to him a comedy (and a comedienne) at the Palais Royal.



CHAPTER X.—Traps.

The day before the encounter with Mr. Cranley at the house of the lady of The Bunhouse, Barton, when he came home from a round of professional visits, had found Maitland waiting in his chill, unlighted lodgings. Of late, Maitland had got into the habit of loitering there, discussing and discussing all the mysteries which made him feel that he was indeed "moving about in worlds not realized." Keen as was the interest which Barton took in the labyrinth of his friend's affairs, he now and again wearied of Maitland, and of a conversation that ever revolved round the same fixed but otherwise uncertain points.

"Hullo, Maitland; glad to see you," he observed, with some shade of hypocrisy. "Anything new to-day?"

"Yes," said Maitland; "I really do think I have a clew at last."

"Well, wait a bit till they bring the candles," said Barton, groaning as the bell-rope came away in his hands. "Bring lights, please, and tea, and stir up the fire, Jemima, my friend," he remarked, when the blackened but alert face of the little slavey appeared at the door.

"Yes, Dr. Barton, in a minute, sir," answered Jemima, who greatly admired the Doctor, and in ten minutes the dismal lodgings looked almost comfortable.

"Now for your clew, old man," exclaimed Barton, as he handed Maitland a cup of his peculiar mixture, very weak, with plenty of milk and no sugar. "Oh, Ariadne, what a boon that clew of yours has been to the detective mind! To think that, without the Minotaur, the police would probably never have hit on that invaluable expression, 'the police have a clew.'"

Maitland thought this was trifling with the subject.

"This advertisement," he said, gravely, "appears to me undoubtedly to refer to the miscreant who carried off Margaret, poor girl."

"Does it, by Jove?" cried Barton, with some eagerness this time. "Let's have a look at it!"

This was what he read aloud:

"Bearskin Coat.—The gentleman travelling with a young lady, who, on Feb. 19th, left a bearskin coat at the Hotel Alsace and Lorraine, Avenue de l'Opera, Paris, is requested to remove it, or it will be sold to defray expenses.

"Dupin."

"This may mean business," he said, "or it may not. In the first place, is there such an hotel in Paris as the 'Alsace et Lorraine,' and is M. Dupin the proprietor?"

"That's all right," said Maitland. "I went at once to the Club, and looked up the Bottin, the Paris Directory, don't you know."

"So far, so good; and yet I don't quite see what you can make of it. It does not come to much, you know, even if the owner of the coat is the man you want And again, is he likely to have left such a very notable article of dress behind him in an hotel? Anyway, can't you send some detective fellow? Are you going over yourself in this awful weather?"

So Barton argued, but Maitland was not to be easily put off the hopeful scent.

"Why, don't you see," he exclaimed, "the people at the hotel will at least be able to give one a fuller description of the man than anything we have yet. And they may have some idea of where he has gone to; and, at least, they will have noticed how he was treating Margaret, and that, of course, is what I am most anxious to learn. Again, he may have left other things besides the coat, or there may be documents in the pockets. I have read of such things happening."

"Yes, in 'Le Crime de l'Opera;' and a very good story, too," answered the incredulous Barton; "but I don't fancy that the villain of real life is quite so innocent and careless as the monster of fiction."

"Everyone knows that murderers are generally detected through some incredible piece of carelessness," said Mait-land; "and why should this elaborate scoundrel be more fortunate than the rest? If he did leave the coat, he will scarcely care to go back for it; and I do not think the chance should be lost, even if it is a poor one. Besides, I'm doing no good here, and I can do no harm there."

This was undeniably true; and though Barton muttered something about "a false scent," he no longer attempted to turn Maitland from his purpose. He did, however, with some difficulty, prevent the Fellow of St. Gatien's from purchasing a blonde beard, one of those wigs which simulate baldness, and a pair of blue spectacles. In these disguises, Maitland argued, he would certainly avoid recognition, and so discomfit any mischief planned by the enemies of Margaret.

"Yes; but, on the other hand, you would look exactly like a German professor, and probably be taken for a spy of Bismarck's," said Barton.

And Maitland reluctantly gave up the idea of disguise. He retained, however, certain astute notions of his own about his plan of operations, and these, unfortunately, he did not communicate to his friend. The fact is, that the long dormant romance of Maitland's character was now thoroughly awake, and he began, unconsciously, to enjoy the adventure.

His enjoyment did not last very long. The usual troubles of a winter voyage, acting on a dilapidated digestive system, were not spared the guardian of Margaret But everything—-even a period of waiting at the Paris salle d'attente, and a struggle with the cochers at the station (who, for some reason, always decline to take a fare)—must come to an end at last. About dinner-time, Maitland was jolted through the glare of the Parisian streets, to the Avenue de l'Opera. At the Hotel Alsace et Lorraine he determined not to betray himself by too precipitate eagerness. In the first place, he wrote an assumed name in the hotel book, choosing, by an unlucky inspiration, the pseudonym of Buchanan. He then ordered dinner in the hotel, and, by way of propitiation, it was a much better dinner than usual that Maitland ordered. Bottles of the higher Bordeaux wines, reposing in beautiful baskets, were brought at his command; for he was determined favorably to impress the people of the house.

His conduct in this matter was partly determined by the fact that, for the moment, the English were not popular in Paris.

In fact, as the French newspapers declared, with more truth than they suspected, "Paris was not the place for English people, especially for English women."

In these international circumstances, then, Maitland believed he showed the wisdom of the serpent when he ordered dinner in the fearless old fashion attributed by tradition to the Milords of the past But he had reckoned without his appetite.

A consequence of sea-travel, neither uncommon nor alarming, is the putting away of all desire to eat and drink. As the waiter carried off the untouched hors d'oeuvres (whereof Maitland only nibbled the delicious bread and butter); as he bore away the huitres, undiminished in number; as the bisque proved too much for the guest of the evening; as he faltered over the soles, and failed to appreciate the cutlets; as he turned from the noblest crus (including the widow's crus, those of La Veuve Cliquot), and asked for siphon and fine champagne, the waiter's countenance assumed an air of owl-like sagacity. There was something wrong, the garcon felt sure, about a man who could order a dinner like Maitland's, and then decline to partake thereof. However, even in a republican country, you can hardly arrest a man merely because his intentions are better than his appetite. The waiter, therefore, contented himself with assuming an imposing attitude, and whispering something to the hall porter.

The Fellow of St. Gatien's, having dined with the Barmecide regardless of expense, went on (as he hoped) to ingratiate himself with the concierge. From that official he purchased two large cigars, which he did not dream of attempting to enjoy; and he then endeavored to enter into conversation, selecting for a topic the state of the contemporary drama. What would monsieur advise him to go to see? Where was Mile. Jane Hading playing?

Having in this conversation broken the ice (and almost every rule of French grammar), Maitland began to lead up craftily to the great matter—the affair of the bearskin coat. Did many English use the hotel? Had any of his countrymen been there lately? He remembered that when he left England a friend of his had asked him to inquire about an article of dress—a great-coat—which he had left somewhere, perhaps in a cab. Could monsieur the Porter tell him where he ought to apply for news about the garment, a coat in peau d'ours?

On the mention of this raiment a clerkly-looking man, who had been loitering in the office of the concierge, moved to the neighborhood of the door, where he occupied himself in study of a railway map hanging on the wall.

The porter now was all smiles. But, certainly! Monsieur had fallen well in coming to him. Monsieur wanted a lost coat in skin of the bear? It had been lost by a compatriot of monsieur's? Would monsieur give himself the trouble to follow the porter to the room where lost baggage was kept?

Maitland, full of excitement, and of belief that he now really was on the trail, followed the porter, and the clerkly man (rather a liberty, thought Maitland) followed him.

The porter led them to a door marked "private," and they all three entered.

The clerkly-looking person now courteously motioned Maitland to take a chair.

The Englishman sat down in some surprise.

"Where," he asked, "was the bearskin coat?"

"Would monsieur first deign to answer a few inquiries? Was the coat his own, or a friend's?"

"A friend's," said Maitland, and then, beginning to hesitate, admitted that the garment only belonged to "a man he knew something about."

"What is his name?" asked the clerkly man, who was taking notes.

His name, indeed! If Maitland only knew that! His French now began to grow worse and worse in proportion to his flurry.

Well, he explained, it was very unlucky, but he did not exactly remember the man's name. It was quite a common name. He had met him for the first time on board the steamer; but the man was going to Brussels, and, finding that Maitland was on his way to Paris, had asked him to make inquiries.

Here the clerkly person, laying down his notes, asked if English gentlemen usually spoke of persons whom they had just met for the first time on board the steamer as their friends?

Maitland, at this, lost his temper, and observed that, as they seemed disposed to give him more trouble than information, he would go and see the play.

Hereupon the clerkly person requested monsieur to remember, in his deportment, what was due to Justice; and when Maitland rose, in a stately way, to leave the room, he also rose and stood in front of the door.

However little of human nature an Englishman may possess, he is rarely unmoved by this kind of treatment. Maitland took the man by the collar, sans phrase, and spun him round, amid the horrified clamor of the porter. But the man, without any passion, merely produced and displayed a card, containing a voucher that he belonged to the Secret Police, and calmly asked Maitland for "his papers."

Maitland had no papers. He had understood that passports were no longer required.

The detective assured him that passports "spoil nothing." Had monsieur nothing stating his identity? Maitland, entirely forgetting that he had artfully entered his name as "Buchanan" on the hotel book, produced his card, on the lower corner of which was printed, St. Gatien's College. This address puzzled the detective a good deal, while the change of name did not allay his suspicions, and he ended by requesting Maitland to accompany him into the presence of Justice. As there was no choice, Maitland obtained leave to put some linen in his travelling-bag, and was carried off to what we should call the nearest police-station. Here he was received in a chill bleak room by a formal man, wearing a decoration, who (after some private talk with the detective) asked Maitland to explain his whole conduct in the matter of the coat. In the first place, the detective's notes on their conversation were read aloud, and it was shown that Maitland had given a false name; had originally spoken of the object of his quest as "the coat of a friend;" then as "the coat of a man whom he knew something about;" then as "the coat of a man whose name he did not know;" and that, finally, he had attempted to go away without offering any satisfactory account of himself.

All this the philanthropist was constrained to admit; but he was, not unnaturally, quite unable to submit any explanation of his proceedings. What chiefly discomfited him was the fact that his proceedings were a matter of interest and observation. Why, he kept wondering, was all this fuss made about a coat which had, or had not, been left by a traveller at the hotel? It was perfectly plain that the hotel was used as a souriciere, as the police say, as a trap in which all inquirers after the coat could be captured. Now, if he had been given time (and a French dictionary), Maitland might have set before the Commissaire of Police the whole story of his troubles. He might have begun with the discovery of Shields' body in the snow; he might have gone on to Margaret's disappearance (enlevement), and to a description of the costume (bearskin coat and all) of the villain who had carried her away. Then he might have described his relations with Margaret, the necessity of finding her, the clew offered by the advertisement in the Times, and his own too subtle and ingenious attempt to follow up that clew. But it is improbable that this narrative, had Maitland told it ever so movingly, would have entirely satisfied the suspicions of the Commissaire of Police. It might even have prejudiced that official against Maitland. Moreover, the Fellow of St. Gatien's had neither the presence of mind nor the linguistic resources necessary to relate the whole plot and substance of this narrative, at a moment's notice, in a cold police-office, to a sceptical alien. He therefore fell back on a demand to be allowed to communicate with the English Ambassador; and that night Maitland of Gatien's passed, for the first time during his blameless career, in a police-cell.

It were superfluous to set down in detail all the humiliations endured by Maitland. Do not the newspapers continually ring with the laments of the British citizen who has fallen into the hands of Continental Justice? Are not our countrymen the common butts of German, French, Spanish, and even Greek and Portuguese Jacks in office? When an Englishman appears, do not the foreign police usually arrest him at a venture, and inquire afterward?

Maitland had, with the best intentions, done a good deal more than most of these innocents to deserve incarceration. His conduct, as the Juge d'Instruction told him, without mincing matters, was undeniably louche.

In the first place, the suspicions of M. Dupin, of the Hotel Alsace et Lorraine, had been very naturally excited by seeing the advertisement about the great-coat in the Times, for he made a study of "the journal of the City."

Here was a notice purporting to be signed by himself, and referring to a bearskin coat, said (quite untruly) to have been left in his own hotel. A bearskin coat! The very words breathe of Nihilism, dynamite, stratagems, and spoils. Then the advertisement was in English, which is, at present and till further notice, the language spoken by the brave Irish. M. Dupin, as a Liberal, had every sympathy with the brave Irish in their noble struggle for whatever they are struggling for; but he did not wish his hostelry to become, so to speak, the mountain-cave of Freedom, and the great secret storehouse of nitro-glycerine. With a view to elucidating the mystery of the advertisement, he had introduced the police on his premises, and the police had hardly settled down in its affut, when, lo! a stranger had been captured, in most suspicious circumstances. M. Dupin felt very clever indeed, and his friends envied him the distinction and advertisement which were soon to be his.

When Maitland appeared, as he did in due course, before the Juge d'Instruction, he attempted to fall back on the obsolete Civis Romanus sum! He was an English citizen. He had written to the English ambassador, or rather to an old St. Gatien's man, an attache of the embassy, whom he luckily happened to know. But this great ally chanced to be out of town, and his name availed Maitland nothing in his interview with the Juge d'Instruction. That magistrate, sitting with his back to the light, gazed at Maitland with steady, small gray eyes, while the scribble of the pen of the greffier, as he took down the Englishman's deposition, sounded shrill in the bleak torture-chamber of the law.

"Your name?" asked the Juge d'Instruction.

"Maitland," replied the Fellow of St. Gatien's.

"You lie!" said the Juge d'Instruction. "You entered the name of Buchanan in the book of the hotel."

"My name is on my cards, and on that letter," said Maitland, keeping his temper wonderfully.

The documents in question lay on a table, as pieces justificatives.

"These cards, that letter, you have robbed them from some unfortunate person, and have draped (affluble) yourself in the trappings of your victim! Where is his body?"

This was the working hypothesis which the Juge d'Instruction had formed within himself to account for the general conduct and proceedings of the person under examination.

"Where is whose body?" asked Maitland, in unspeakable surprise.

"Buchanan," said the Juge d'Instruction. (And to hear the gallantry with which he attacked this difficult name, of itself insured respect.) "Buchanan, you are acting on a deplorable system. Justice is not deceived by your falsehoods, nor eluded by your subterfuges. She is calm, stern, but merciful. Unbosom yourself freely" (repandez franchement), "and you may learn that justice can be lenient It is your interest to be frank." (Il est de votre interet d'etre franc.)

"But what do you want me to say?" asked the prevenu, "What is all this pother about a great-coat?" (Tant de fracas pour un paletot?)

Maitland was rather proud of this sentence.

"It is the part of Justice to ask questions, not to answer them," said the Juge d'Instruction. "Levity will avail you nothing. Tell me, Buchanan, why did you ask for the coat at the Hotel Alsace et Lorraine?"

"In answer to that advertisement in the Times."

"That is false; you yourself inserted the advertisement. But, on your own system, bad as it is, what did you want with the coat?"

"It belonged to a man who had done me an ill-turn."

"His name?"

"I do not know his name; that is just what I wanted to find out I might have found his tailor's name on the coat, and then have discovered for whom the coat was made."

"You are aware that the proprietor of the hotel did not insert the forged advertisement?"

"So he says."

"You doubt his word? You insult France in one of her citizens!"

Maitland apologized.

"Then whom do you suspect of inserting the advertisement, as you deny having done it yourself, for some purpose which does not appear?"

"I believe the owner of the coat put in the advertisement."

"That is absurd. What had he to gain by it?"

"To remove me from London, where he is probably conspiring against me at this moment."

"Buchanan, you trifle with Justice!"

"I have told you that my name is not Buchanan."

"Then why did you forge that name in the hotel book?"

"I wrote it in the hurry and excitement of the moment; it was incorrect."

"Why did you lie?" (Pourquoi avez vous menti?)

Maitland made an irritable movement

"You threaten Justice. Your attitude is deplorable. You are consigned au secret, and will have an opportunity of revising your situation, and replying more fully to the inquiries of Justice."

So ended Maitland's first and, happily, sole interview with a Juge d'Instruction. Lord Walter Brixton, his old St Gatien's pupil, returned from the country on the very day of Maitland's examination. An interview (during which Lord Walter laughed unfeelingly) with his old coach was not refused to the attache, and, in a few hours, after some formalities had been complied with, Maitland was a free man. His pieces justificatives, his letters, cards, and return ticket to Charing Cross, were returned to him intact.

But Maitland determined to sacrifice the privileges of the last-named document.

"I am going straight to Constantinople and the Greek Islands," he wrote to Barton. "Do you know, I don't like Paris. My attempt at an investigation has not been a success. I have endured considerable discomfort, and I fear my case will get into the Figaro, and there will be dozens of 'social leaders' and 'descriptive headers' about me in all the penny papers."

Then Maitland gave his banker's address at Constantinople, relinquished the quest of Margaret, and for a while, as the Sagas say, "is out of the story."



CHAPTER XI.—The Night of Adventures.

A cold March wind whistled and yelled round the twisted chimneys of the Hit or Miss. The day had been a trial to every sense. First there would come a long-drawn distant moan, a sigh like that of a querulous woman; then the sigh grew nearer and became a shriek, as if the same woman were working herself up into a passion; and finally a gust of rainy hail, mixed with dust and small stones, was dashed, like a parting insult, on the windows of the Hit or Miss.

Then the shriek died away again into a wail and a moan, and so da capo.

"Well, Eliza, what do you do now that the pantomime season is over?" said Barton to Miss Gullick, who was busily dressing a doll, as she perched on the table in the parlor of the Hit or Miss.

Barton occasionally looked into the public-house, partly to see that Maitland's investment was properly managed, partly because the place was near the scene of his labors; not least, perhaps, because he had still an unacknowledged hope that light on the mystery of Margaret would come from the original centre of the troubles.

"I'm in no hurry to take an engagement," answered the resolute Eliza, holding up and examining her doll. It was a fashionable doll, in a close-fitting tweed ulster, which covered a perfect panoply of other female furniture, all in the latest mode. As the child worked, she looked now and then at the illustrations in a journal of the fashions. "There's two or three managers in treaty with me," said Eliza. "There's the Follies and Frivolities down Norwood way, and the Varieties in the 'Ammersmith Road. Thirty shillings a week and my dresses, that's what I ask for, and I'll get it too! Just now I'm taking a vacation, and making an honest penny with these things," and she nodded at a little basket full of the wardrobe of dolls.

"Do you sell the dresses to the toy-shops, Eliza?" asked Barton.

"Yes," said Eliza; "I am doing well with them. I'm not sure I shan't need to take on some extra hands, by the job, to finish my Easter orders."

"Pm glad you are successful," answered Barton. "I say, Eliza!"

"Yes, Doctor."

"Would you mind showing me the room up-stairs where poor old Shields was sitting the night before he was found in the snow?"

It had suddenly occurred to Barton—it might have occurred to him before—that this room might be worth examining.

"We ain't using it now! Ill show you it," said Eliza, leading the way up-stairs, and pointing to a door.

Barton took hold of the handle.

"Ladies first," he said, making way for Eliza, with a bow.

"No," came the child's voice, from half-way down the stairs; "I won't come in! They say he walks, I've heard noises there at night."

A cold stuffy smell came out of the darkness of the unused room. Barton struck a match, and, seeing a candle on the table, lit it The room had been left as it was when last it was tenanted. On the table were an empty bottle, two tumblers, and a little saucer stained with dry colors, blue and red, part of Shields' stock-in-trade. There were, besides, some very sharp needles of bone, of a savage make, which Barton recognized. They were the instruments used for tattooing in the islands of the Southern Seas.

Barton placed the lighted candle beside the saucer, and turned over the needles. Presently his eyes brightened: he chose one out, and examined it closely. It was astonishingly sharp, and was not of bone like the others, but of wood.

Barton made an incision in the hard brittle wood with his knife, and carefully felt the point, which was slightly crusted with a dry brown substance.

"I thought so," he said aloud, as he placed the needle in a pocket instrument-case: "the stem of the leaf of the coucourite palm!"

Then he went down-stairs with the candle.

"Did you see him?" asked Eliza, with wide-open eyes.

"Don't be childish, Eliza: there's no one to see. Why is the room left all untidy?"

"Mother dare not go in!" whispered the child. Then she asked in a low voice, "Did you never hear no more of that awful big Bird I saw the night old Shields died in the snow?"

"The Bird was a dream, Eliza. I am surprised such a clever girl as you should go on thinking about it," said Barton, rather sternly. "You were tired and ill, and you fancied it."

"No, I wasn't," said the child, solemnly. "I never say no more about it to mother, nor to nobody; but I did see it, ay, and heard it, too. I remember it at night in my bed, and I am afraid. Oh, what's that?"

She turned with a scream, in answer to a scream on the other side of the curtained door that separated the parlor from the bar of the Hit or Miss.

Someone seemed to fall against the door, which at the same moment flew open, as if the wind had burst it in. A girl, panting and holding her hand to her breast, her face deadly white and so contorted by terror as to be unrecognizable, flashed into the room. "Oh, come! oh, come!" she cried. "She's killing her!" Then the girl vanished as hurriedly as she had appeared. It was all over in a moment: the vivid impression of a face maddened by fear, and of a cry for help, that was all. In that moment Barton had seized his hat, and sped, as hard as he could run, after the girl. He found her breaking through a knot of loafers in the bar, who were besieging her with questions. She turned and saw Barton.

"Come, doctor, come!" she screamed again, and fled out into the night, crossing another girl who was apparently speeding on the same errand. Barton could just see the flying skirts of the first messenger, and hear her footfall ring on the pavement. Up a long street, down another, and then into a back slum she flew, and, lastly, under a swinging sign of the old-fashioned sort, and through a doorway. Barton, following, found himself for the first time within the portals of The Old English Bun-house.

The wide passage (the house was old) was crowded with girls, wildly excited, weeping, screaming, and some of them swearing. They were pressed so thick round a door at the end of the hall, that Barton could scarcely thrust his way through them, dragging one aside, shouldering another: it was a matter of life and death.

"Oh, she's been at the drink, and she's killed her! she's killed her! I heard her fall!" one of the frightened girls was exclaiming with hysterical iteration.

"Let me pass!" shouted Barton; and reaching the door at last, he turned the handle and pushed. The door was locked.

"Give me room," he cried, and the patrons of The Bun-house yielding place a little, Barton took a little short run, and drove with all the weight of his shoulders against the door. It opened reluctantly with a crash, and he was hurled into the room by his own impetus, and by the stress of the girls behind him.

What he beheld was more like some dreadful scene of ancient tragedy than the spectacle of an accident or a crime of modern life.

By the windy glare of a dozen gas-jets (red and shaken like the flame of blown torches by the rainy gusts that swept through a broken pane), Barton saw a girl stretched bleeding on the sanded floor.

One of her arms made a pillow for her head; her soft dark hair, unfastened, half hid her, like a veil; the other arm lay loose by her side; her lips were white, her face was bloodless; but there was blood on the deep-blue folds about the bosom, and on the floor. At the further side of this girl—who was dead, or seemingly dead—sat, on a low stool, a woman, in a crouching, cat-like attitude, quite silent and still. The knife with which she had done the deed was dripping in her hand; the noise of the broken door, and of the entering throng, had not disturbed her.

For a moment even Barton's rapidity of action and resolution were paralyzed by the terrible and strange vision that he beheld. He stared with all his eyes, in a mist of doubt and amazement, at a vision, dreadful even to one who saw death every day. Then the modern spirit awoke in him.

"Fetch a policeman," he whispered, to one of the crowding frightened troop of girls.

"There is a copper at the door, sir; here he comes," said Susan, the young woman who had called Barton from the Hit or Miss.

The helmet of the guardian of the peace appeared welcome above the throng.

And still the pale woman in white sat as motionless as the stricken girl at her feet—as if she had not been an actor, but a figure in a tableau.

"Policeman," said Barton, "I give that woman in charge for an attempt at murder. Take her to the station."

"I don't like the looks of her," whispered the policeman. "I'd better get her knife from her first, sir."

"Be quick, whatever you do, and have the house cleared. I can't look after the wounded girl in this crowd."

Thus addressed, the policeman stole round toward the seated woman, whose eyes had never deigned, all this time, to stray from the body of her victim. Barton stealthily drew near, outflanking her on the other side.

They were just within arm's reach of the murderess when she leaped with incredible suddenness to her feet, and stood for one moment erect and lovely as a statue, her fair locks lying about her shoulders. Then she raised her right hand; the knife flashed and dropped like lightning into her breast, and she, too, fell beside the body of the girl whom she had stricken.

"By George, she's gone!" cried the policeman. Barton pushed past him, and laid his hand on the woman's heart. She stirred once, was violently shaken with the agony of death, and so passed away, carrying into silence her secret and her story.

Mr. Cranley's hopes had been, at least partially, fulfilled.

"Drink, I suppose, as usual. A rummy start!" remarked the policeman, sententiously; and then, while Barton was sounding and stanching the wound of the housekeeper's victim, and applying such styptics as he had within reach, the guardian of social order succeeded in clearing The Bunhouse of its patrons, in closing the door, and in sending a message (by the direction of the girl who had summoned Barton, and who seemed not devoid of sense) to Mrs. St. John Deloraine. While that lady was being expected, the girl, who now took a kind of subordinate lead, was employed by Barton in helping to carry Margaret to her own room, and in generally restoring order.

When the messenger arrived at Mrs. St John Delo-raine's house with Barton's brief note, and with his own curt statement that "murder was being done at The Bun-house," he found the Lady Superior rehearsing for a play. Mrs. St. John Deloraine was going to give a drawing-room representation of "Nitouche," and the terrible news found her in one of the costumes of the heroine. With a very brief explanation (variously misunderstood by her guests and fellow-amateurs) Mrs. St. John Deloraine hurried off, "just as she was," and astonished Barton (who had never seen her before) by arriving at The Bunhouse as a rather conventional shepherdess, in pink and gray, rouged, and with a fluffy flaxen wig. The versatility with which Mrs. St. John Deloraine made the best of all worlds occasionally let her into inconsequences of this description.

But, if she was on pleasure bent, Mrs. St. John Deloraine had also, not only a kind heart, but a practical mind. In five minutes she had heard the tragic history, had dried her eyes, torn off her wig, and settled herself as nurse by the bedside of Margaret. The girl's wound, as Barton was happily able to assure her, was by no means really dangerous; for the point of the weapon had been turned, and had touched no vital part. But the prodigious force with which the blow had followed on a scene of violent reproaches and insane threats (described by one of the young women) had affected most perilously a constitution already weakened by sickness and trouble. Mrs. St. John Deloraine, assisted by the most responsible of The Bun-house girls, announced her intention to, sit up all night with the patient. Barton—who was moved, perhaps, as much by the beauty of the girl, and by the excitement of the events, as by professional duty—remained in attendance till nearly dawn, when the Lady Superior insisted that he should go home and take some rest. As the danger for the patient was not immediate, but lay in the chances of fever, Barton allowed himself to be persuaded, and, at about five in the morning, he let himself out of The Bunhouse, and made sleepily for his lodgings. But sleep that night was to be a stranger to him, and his share of adventures—which, like sorrows, never "come as single spies, but in battalions"—was by no means exhausted.

The night, through which the first glimpse of dawn just peered, was extremely cold; and Barton, who had left his great-coat in the Hit or Miss, stamped his way homeward, his hands deep in his pockets, his hat tight on his head, and with his pipe for company.

"There's the gray beginning, Zooks," he muttered to himself, in half-conscious quotation. He was as drowsy as a man can be who still steps along and keeps an open eye. The streets were empty, a sandy wind was walking them alone, and hard by the sullen river flowed on, the lamplights dimly reflected in the growing blue of morning. Barton was just passing the locked doors of the Hit or Miss—for he preferred to go homeward by the riverside—when a singular sound, or mixture of sounds, from behind the battered old hoarding close by, attracted his attention. In a moment he was as alert as if he had not passed a nuit blanche. The sound at first seemed not very unlike that which a traction engine, or any other monster that murders sleep, may make before quite getting up steam. Then there was plainly discernible a great whirring and flapping, as if a windmill had become deranged in its economy, and was laboring "without a conscience or an aim." Whir, whir, flap, thump, came the sounds, and then, mixed with and dominating them, the choking scream of a human being in agony. But, strangely enough, the scream appeared to be half checked and suppressed, as if the sufferer, whoever he might be, and whatever his torment, were striving with all his might to endure in silence. Barton had heard such cries in the rooms of the hospital. To such sounds the Question Chambers of old prisons and palaces must often have echoed. Barton stopped, thrilling with a half-superstitious dread; so moving, in that urban waste, were the accents of pain.

Then whir, flap, came the noise again, and again the human note was heard, and was followed by a groan. The time seemed infinite, though it was only to be reckoned by moments, or pulse-beats—the time during which the torturing crank revolved, and was answered by the hard-wrung exclamation of agony. Barton looked at the palings of the hoarding: they were a couple of feet higher than his head. Then he sprung up, caught the top at a place where the rusty-pointed nails were few and broken, and next moment, with torn coat and a scratch on his arm, he was within the palisade.

Through the crepuscular light, bulks of things—big, black, formless—were dimly seen; but nearer the hoarding than the middle of the waste open ground was a spectacle that puzzled the looker-on. Great fans were winnowing the air, a wheel was running at prodigious speed, flaming vapors fled hissing forth, and the figure of a man, attached in some way to the revolving fans, was now lifted several feet from the ground, now dashed to earth again, now caught in and now torn from the teeth of the flying wheel.

Barton did not pause long in empty speculation; he shouted, "Hold on!" or some other such encouragement, and ran in the direction of the sufferer. But, as he stumbled over dust-heaps, piles of wood, old baskets, outworn hats, forsaken boots, and all the rubbish of the waste land, the movement of the flying fans began to slacken, the wheels ran slowly down, and, with a great throb and creak, the whole engine ceased moving, as a heart stops beating. Then, just when all was over, a voice came from the crumpled mass of humanity in the centre of the hideous mechanism:

"Don't come here; stop, on your peril! I am armed, and I will shoot!"

The last words were feeble, and scarcely audible.

Barton stood still. Even a brave man likes (the old Irish duelling days being over) at least to know why he is to be shot at.

"What's the matter with you?" he said. "What on earth are you doing? How can you talk about shooting? Have you a whole bone in your body?"

To this the only reply was another groan; then silence.

By this time there was a full measure of the light "which London takes the day to be," and Barton had a fair view of his partner in this dialogue.

He could see the crumpled form of a man, weak and distorted like a victim of the rack—scattered, so to speak—in a posture inconceivably out of drawing, among the fragments of the engine. The man's head was lowest, and rested on an old battered box; his middle was supported by a beam of the engine; one of his legs was elevated on one of the fans, the other hung disjointedly in the air. The man was strangely dressed in a close-fitting suit of cloth—something between the uniform of bicycle clubs and the tights affected by acrobats. Long, thin, gray locks fell back from a high yellow forehead: there was blood on his mouth and about his beard.

Barton drew near and touched him: the man only groaned.

"How am I to help you out of this?" said the surgeon, carefully examining his patient, as he might now be called. A little close observation showed that the man's arms were strapped by buckles into the fans, while one of his legs was caught up in some elastic coils of the mechanism.

With infinite tenderness, Barton disengaged the victim, whose stifled groans proved at once the extent of his sufferings and of his courage.

Finally, the man was free from the machine, and Barton discovered that, as far as a rapid investigation could show, there were no fatal injuries done, though a leg, an arm, and several ribs were fractured, and there were many contusions.

"Now I must leave you here for a few minutes, while I go round to the police-office and get men and a stretcher," said Barton.

The man held up one appealing hand; the other was paralyzed.

"First hide all this," he murmured, moving his head so as to indicate the fragments of his engine. They lay all confused, a heap of spars, cogs, wheels, fans, and what not, a puzzle to the science of mechanics. "Don't let them know a word about it," he said. "Say I had an accident—that I was sleep-walking, and fell from a window—say anything you like, but promise to keep my secret. In a week," he murmured dreamily, "it would have been complete. It is the second time I have just missed success and fame."

"I have not an idea what your secret may be," said Barton; "but here goes for the machine."

And, while the wounded man watched him, with piteous and wistful eyes, he rapidly hid different fragments of the mechanism beneath and among the heaps of rubbish, which were many, and, for purposes of concealment, meritorious.

"Are you sure you can find them all again?" asked the victim of misplaced ingenuity.

"Oh yes, all right," said Barton.

"Then you must get me to the street before you bring any help. If they find me here they will ask questions, and my secret will come out."

"But how on earth am I to get you to the street?" Barton inquired, very naturally. "Even if you could bear being carried, I could not lift you over the boarding."

"I can bear anything—I will bear anything," said the man. "Look in my breast, and you will find a key of a door in the palings."

Barton looked as directed, and, fastened round the neck of the sufferer by a leather shoe-tie, he discovered, sure enough, a kind of skeleton-key in strong wire.

"With that you can open the gate, and get me into the street," said the crushed man; "but be very careful not to open the door while anyone is passing."

He only got out these messages very slowly, and after intervals of silence broken by groans.

"Wait! one thing more," he said, as Barton stooped to take him in his arms. "I may faint from pain. My address is, Paterson's Kents, hard by; my name is Winter." Then, after a pause, "I can pay for a private room at the infirmary, and I must have one. Lift the third plank from the end in the left-hand corner by the window, and you will find enough. Now!"

Then Barton very carefully picked up the poor man, mere bag of bones (and broken bones) as he was.

The horrible pain that the man endured Barton could imagine, yet he dared not hurry, for the ground was strewn with every sort of pitfall. At last—it seemed hours to Barton, it must have been an eternity to the sufferer—the hoarding was reached, and, after listening earnestly, Barton opened the door, peered out, saw that the coast was clear, deposited his burden on the pavement, and flew to the not distant police-station.

He was not absent long, and returning with four men and a stretcher, he found, of course, quite a large crowd grouped round the place where he had left his charge. The milkman was there, several shabby women, one or two puzzled policemen, three cabmen (though no wizard could have called up a cab at that hour and place had he wanted to catch a train;) there were riverside loafers, workmen going to their labor, and a lucky penny-a-liner with his "tissue" and pencil.

Pushing his way through these gapers, Barton found, as he expected, that his patient had fainted. He aided the policemen to place him on the stretcher, accompanied him to the infirmary (how common a sight is that motionless body on a stretcher in the streets!), explained as much of the case as was fitting to the surgeon in attendance, and then, at last, returned to his rooms and a bath, puzzling over the mystery.

"By Jove!" he said, as he helped himself to a devilled wing of a chicken at breakfast, "I believe the poor beggar had been experimenting with a Flying-Machine!"



CHAPTER XII.—A Patient.

A doctor, especially a doctor actively practising among the poor and laborious, soon learns to take the incidents of his profession rather calmly. Barton had often been called in when a revel had ended in suicide or death; and if he had never before seen a man caught in a flying-machine, he had been used to heal wounds quite as dreadful caused by engines of a more familiar nature.

Though Barton, therefore, could go out to his round of visits on the day after his adventurous vigil without unusual emotion, it may be conceived that the distress and confusion at The Bunhouse were very great. The police and the gloomy attendants on Death were in the place; Mrs. St. John Deloraine had to see many official people, to answer many disagreeable questions, and suffered in every way extremely from the consequences of her beneficent enterprise. But she displayed a coolness and businesslike common sense worthy of a less versatile philanthropist, and found time, amid the temporary ruin of her work, to pay due attention to Margaret. She had scarcely noticed the girl before, taking her very much on trust, and being preoccupied with various schemes of social enjoyment. But now she was struck by her beauty and her educated manner, though that, to be sure, was amply accounted for by the explanations offered by Cranley before her engagement. Already Mrs. St. John Deloraine was conceiving a project of perpetual friendship, and had made up her mind to adopt Margaret as a daughter, or, let us say, niece and companion. The girl was too refined to cope with the rough-and-ready young patronesses of The Bunhouse.

If the lady's mind was even more preoccupied by the survivor in the hideous events of the evening than by the tragedy itself and the dead woman, Barton, too, found his thoughts straying to his new patient—not that he was a flirt or a sentimentalist. Even in the spring Barton's fancy did not lightly turn to thoughts of love. He was not one of those "amatorious" young men (as Milton says, perhaps at too great length) who cannot see a pretty girl without losing their hearts to her. Barton was not so prodigal of his affections; yet it were vain to deny that, as he went his rather drowsy round of professional visits, his ideas were more apt to stray to the girl who had been stabbed, than to the man who had been rescued from the machinery. The man was old, yellow, withered, and, in Barton's private opinion, more of a lunatic charlatan than a successful inventor. The girl was young, beautiful, and interesting enough, apart from her wound, to demand and secure a place in any fancy absolutely free.

It was no more than Barton's actual duty to call at The Old English Bunhouse in the afternoon. Here he was welcomed by Mrs. St John Deloraine, who was somewhat pale and shaken by the horrors of the night. She had turned all her young customers out, and had stuck up a paper bearing a legend to the effect that The Old English Bunhouse was closed for the present and till further notice. A wistful crowd was drawn up on the opposite side of the street, and was staring at The Bunhouse.

Mrs. St John Deloraine welcomed Barton, it might almost be said, with open arms. She had by this time, of course, laid aside the outward guise of Nitouche, and was dressed like other ladies, but better.

"My dear Mr. Barton," she exclaimed, "your patient is doing very well indeed. She will be crazy with delight when she hears that you have called."

Barton could not help being pleased at this intelligence, even when he had discounted it as freely as even a very brief acquaintance with Mrs. Si John Deloraine taught her friends to do.

"Do you think she is able to see me?" he asked.

"I'll run to her room and inquire," said Mrs. St John Deloraine, fleeting nimbly up the steep stairs, and leaving, like Astrsea, as described by Charles Lamb's friend, a kind of rosy track or glow behind her from the chastened splendor of her very becoming hose.

Barton waited rather impatiently till the lady of The Bunhouse returned with the message that he might accompany her into the presence of the invalid.

A very brief interview satisfied him that his patient was going on even better than he had hoped; also that she possessed very beautiful and melancholy eyes. She said little, but that little kindly, and asked whether Mr. Cranley had sent to inquire for her. Mrs. St. John Deloraine answered the question, which puzzled Barton, in the negative; and when they had left Margaret (Miss Burnside, as Mrs. St. John Deloraine called her), he ventured to ask who the Mr. Cranley might be about whom the girl had spoken.

"Well," replied Mrs. St. John Deloraine, "it was through Mr. Cranley that I engaged both Miss Burnside and that unhappy woman whom I can't think of without shuddering. The inquest is to be held to-morrow. It is too dreadful when these things, that have been only names, come home to one. Now, I really do not like to think hardly of anybody, but I must admit that Mr. Cranley has quite misled me about the housekeeper. He gave her an excellent character, especially for sobriety, and till yesterday I had no fault to find with her. Then, the girls say, she became quite wild and intoxicated, and it is hard to believe that this is the first time she yielded to that horrid temptation. Don't you think it was odd of Mr. Cranley? And I sent round a messenger with a note to his rooms, but it was returned, marked, 'Has left; address not Known.' I don't know what has become of him. Perhaps the housekeeper could have told us, but the unfortunate woman is beyond reach of questions."

"Do you mean the Mr. Cranley who is Rector of St. Medard's, in Chelsea?" asked Barton.

"No; I mean Mr. Thomas Cranley, the son of the Earl of Birkenhead. He was a great friend of mine."

"Mr. Thomas Cranley!" exclaimed Barton, with an expression of face which probably spoke at least three volumes, and these of a highly sensational character.

"Now, please," cried Mrs. St. John Deloraine, clasping her hands in a pretty attitude of entreaty, like a recording angel hesitating to enter the peccadillo of a favorite saint; "please don't say you know anything against Mr. Cranley. I am aware that he has many enemies."

Barton was silent for a minute. He had that good old school-boy feeling about not telling tales out of school, which is so English and so unknown in France; but, on the other side, he could scarcely think it right to leave a lady of invincible innocence at the mercy of a confirmed scoundrel.

"Upon my word, it is a very unpleasant thing to have to say; but really, if you ask me, I should remark that Mr. Cranley's enemies are of his own making. I would not go to him for a girl's character, I'm sure. But I thought he had disappeared from society."

"So he had. He told me that there was a conspiracy against him, and that I was one of the few people who, he felt sure, would never desert him. And I never would. I never turn my back on my friends."

"If there was a conspiracy," said Barton, "I am the ringleader in it; for, as you ask me, I must assure you, on my honor, that I detected Mr. Cranley in the act of trying to cheat some very young men at cards. I would not have mentioned it for the world," he added, almost alarmed at the expression of pain and terror in Mrs. St John Deloraine's face; "but you wished to be told. And I could not honestly leave you in the belief that he is a man to be trusted. What he did when I saw him was only what all who knew him well would have expected. And his treatment of you, in the matter of that woman's character, was," cried Barton, growing indignant as he thought of it, "one of the very basest things I ever heard of. I had seen that woman before; she was not fit to be entrusted with the care of girls. She was at one time very well known."

Mrs. St. John Deloraine's face had passed through every shade of expression—doubt, shame, and indignation; but now it assumed an air of hope.

"Margaret has always spoken so well of him," she said, half to herself. "He was always very kind to her, and yet she was only the poor daughter of a humble acquaintance."

"Perhaps he deviated into kindness for once," said Barton; "but as to his general character, it is certain that it was on a par with the trap he laid for you. I wish I knew where to find him. You must never let him get the poor girl back into his hands."

"Certainly not," said Mrs. Si John Deloraine, with conviction in her voice; "and now I must go back to her, and see whether she wants anything. Do you think I may soon move her to my own house, in Cheyne Walk? It is not far, and she will be so much more comfortable there."

"The best thing you can do," said Barton; "and be sure you send for me if you want me, or if you ever hear anything more of Mr. Cranley. I am quite ready to meet him anywhere."

"You will call to-morrow?"

"Certainly, about this time," said Barton; and he kept his promise assiduously, calling often.

A fortnight went by, and Margaret, almost restored to health, and in a black tea-gown, the property of Mrs. St. John Deloraine, was lying indolently on a sofa in the house in Cheyne Walk. She was watching the struggle between the waning daylight and the fire, when the door opened, and the servant announced "Dr. Barton."

Margaret held forth a rather languid hand.

"I'm so sorry Mrs. St. John Deloraine is out," she said. "She is at a soap-bubble party. I wish I could go. It is so long since I saw any children, or had any fun."

So Margaret spoke, and then she sighed, remembering the reason why she should not attend soap-bubble parties.

"I'm selfish enough to be glad you could not go," said Barton; "for then I should have missed you. But why do you sigh?"

"I have had a good many things to make me unhappy," said Margaret, "in addition to my—to my accident. You must not think I am always bewailing myself. But perhaps you know that I lost my father, just before I entered Mrs. St. John Deloraine's service, and then my whole course of life was altered."

"I am very sorry for you," said Barton, simply. He did not know what else to say; but he felt more than his conventional words indicated, and perhaps he looked as if he felt it and more.

Margaret was still too weak to bear an expression of sympathy, and tears came into her eyes, followed by a blush on her pale, thin cheeks. She was on the point of breaking down.

There is nothing in the world so trying to a young man as to see a girl crying. A wild impulse to kiss and comfort her passed through Barton's mind, before he said, awkwardly again:

"I can't tell you how sorry I am; I wish I could do anything for you. Can't I help you in any way? You must not give up so early in the troubles of life; and then, who knows but yours, having begun soon, are nearly over?"

Barton would perhaps have liked to ask her to let him see that they were over, as far as one mortal can do as much for another.

"They have been going on so long," said Margaret "I have had such a wandering life, and such changes."

Barton would have given much to be able to ask for more information; but more was not offered.

"Let us think of the future," he said. "Have you any idea about what you mean to do?"

"Mrs. St. John Deloraine is very kind. She wishes me to stay with her always. But I am puzzled about Mr. Cranley. I don't know what he would like me to do. He seems to have gone abroad."

Barton hated to hear her mention Cranley's name.

"Had you known him long?" he asked.

"No; for a very short time only. But he was an old friend of my father's, and had promised him to take care of me. He took me away from school, and he gave me a start in life."

"But surely he might have found something more worthy of you, of your education," said Barton.

"What can a girl do?" answered Margaret. "We know so little. I could hardly even have taught very little children. They thought me dreadfully backward at school—at least, Miss—— I mean, the teachers thought me backward."

"I'm sure you know as much as anyone should," said Barton, indignantly. "Were you at a nice school?" he added.

He had been puzzling himself for many days over Margaret's history. She seemed to have had at least the ordinary share of education and knowledge of the world; and yet he had found her occupying a menial position at a philanthropic bunhouse. Even now she was a mere dependent of Mrs. St. John Deloraine, though there was a stanchness in that lady's character which made her patronage not precarious.

"There were some nice girls at it," answered Margaret, without committing herself.

Rochefoucauld declares that there are excellent marriages, but no such thing as a delightful marriage. Perhaps school-girls may admit, as an abstract truth, that good schools exist; but few would allow that any place of education is "nice."

"It is really getting quite late," Barton observed, reluctantly. He liked to watch the girl, whose beauty, made wan by illness, received just a touch of becoming red from the glow of the fire. He liked to talk to her; in fact, this was his most interesting patient by far. It would be miserably black and dark in his lodgings, he was aware; and non-paying patients would be importunate in proportion to their poverty. The poor are often the most exacting of hypochondriacs. Margaret noticed his reluctance to go contending with a sense of what he owed to propriety.

"I am sure you must want tea; but I don't like to ring. It is so short a time since I wore an apron and a cap and the rest of it myself at The Bunhouse, that I am afraid to ask the servants to do anything for me. They must dislike me; it is very natural."

"It is not natural at all," said Barton, with conviction; "perfectly monstrous, on the other hand." This little compliment eclipsed the effect of fire-light on the girl's face. "Suppose I ring," he added, "and then you can say, when Mary says 'Did you ring, miss?' 'No, I didn't ring; but as you are here, Mary, would you mind bringing tea?'"

"I don't know if that would be quite honest," said Margaret, doubtfully.

"A pious fraud—a drawing-room comedy," said Barton; "have we rehearsed it enough?"

Then he touched the bell, and the little piece of private theatricals was played out, though one of the artists had some difficulty (as amateurs often have) in subduing an inclination to giggle.

"Now, this is quite perfect," said Barton, when he had been accommodated with a large piece of plum-cake. "This is the very kind of cake which we specially prohibit our patients to touch; and so near dinner-time, too! There should be a new proverb, 'Physician, diet thyself.' You see, we don't all live on a very thin slice of cold bacon and a piece of dry toast."

"Mrs. St John Deloraine has never taken up that kind of life," said Margaret. "She tries a good many new things," Barton remarked.

"Yes; but she is the best woman in the world!" answered the girl. "Oh, if you knew what a comfort it is to be with a lady again!" And she shuddered as she remembered her late chaperon.

"I wonder if some day—you won't think me very rude?" asked Barton—"you would mind telling me a little of your history?"

"Mr. Cranley ordered me to say nothing about it," answered Margaret; "and a great deal is very sad and hard to tell. You are all so kind, and everything is so quiet here, and safe and peaceful, that it frightens me to think of things that have happened, or may happen."

"They shall never happen, if you will trust me," cried Barton, when a carriage was heard to stop at the gateway of the garden outside.

"Here is Mrs. St. John Deloraine at last," cried Margaret, starting to run to the window; but she was so weak that she tripped, and would have fallen had Barton not caught her lightly.

"Oh, how stupid you must think me!" she said, blushing. And Barton thought he had never seen anything so pretty.

"Once for all, I don't think you stupid, or backward, or anything else that you call yourself."

But at that very moment the door opened, and Mrs. St John Deloraine entered, magnificently comfortable in furs, and bringing a fresh air of hospitality and content with existence into the room.

"Oh, you are here!" she cried, "and I have almost missed you. Now you must stay to dinner. You need not dress; we are all alone, Margaret and I."

So he did stop to dine, and pauper hypochondriacs, eager for his society (which was always cheering), knocked, and rang also, at his door in vain. It was an excellent dinner; and, on the wings of the music Mrs. St John Deloraine was playing in the front drawing-room, two happy hours passed lightly over Barton and Margaret, into the backward, where all hours—good and evil—abide, remembered or forgotten.



CHAPTER XIII.—Another Patient.

"Des ailes! des ailes! des ailes! Comme dans le chant de Ruckert." —Theophile Gautier.

"So you think a flying machine impossible, sir, and me, I presume, a fanatic? Well, well, you have Eusebius with you. 'Such an one,' he says—meaning me, and inventors like me—'is a little crazed with the humors of melancholy.'"

The speaker was the man whom Barton had rescued from the cogs and wheels and springs of an infuriated engine. Barton could not but be interested in the courage and perseverance of this sufferer, whom he was visiting in hospital. The young surgeon had gone to inspect the room in Paterson's Rants, and had found it, as he more or less expected, the conventional den of the needy inventor. Our large towns are full of such persons. They are the Treasure Hunters of cities and of civilization—the modern seekers for the Philosopher's Stone. At the end of a vista of dreams they behold the great Discovery made perfect, and themselves the winners of fame and of wealth incalculable.

For the present, most of these visionaries are occupied with electricity. They intend to make the lightning a domestic slave in every house, and to turn Ariel into a common carrier. But, from the aspect of Winter's den in Paterson's Rents, it was easy to read that his heart was set on a more ancient foible. The white deal book-shelves, home-made, which lined every wall, were packed with tattered books on mechanics, and especially on the art of flying. Here you saw the spoils of the fourpenny box of cheap bookvendors mixed with volumes in better condition, purchased at a larger cost. Here—among the litter of tattered pamphlets and well-thumbed "Proceedings" of the Linnean and the Aeronautic Society of Great Britain—here were Fredericus Hermannus' "De Arte Volandi," and Cayley's works, and Hatton Turner's "Astra Castra," and the "Voyage to the Moon" of Cyrano de Bergerac, and Bishop Wilkins's "Daedalus," and the same sanguine prelate's "Mercury, The Secret Messenger." Here were Cardan and Raymond Lully, and a shabby set of the classics, mostly in French translations, and a score of lucubrations by French and other inventors—Ponton d'Amocourt, Borelli, Chabrier, Girard, and Marey.

Even if his books had not shown the direction of the new patient's mind—(a man is known by his books at least as much as by his companions, and companions Winter had none)—even if the shelves had not spoken clearly, the models and odds-and-ends in the room would have proclaimed him an inventor. As the walls were hidden by his library, and as the floor, also, was littered with tomes and pamphlets and periodicals, a quantity of miscellaneous gear was hung by hooks from the ceiling.

Barton, who was more than commonly tall, found his head being buffeted by big preserved wings of birds and other flying things—from the sweeping pinions of the albatross to the leathery covering of the bat. From the ceiling, too, hung models, cleverly constructed in various materials; and here—a cork with quills stuck into it, and with a kind of drill-bow—was the little flying model of Sir George Cayley. The whole place, dusty and musty, with a faded smell of the oil in birds' feathers, was almost more noisome than curious. When Barton left it, his mind was made up as to the nature of Winter's secret, or delusion; and when he visited that queer patient in hospital, he was not surprised either by his smattered learning or by his golden dreams.

"Yes, sir; Eusebius is against me, no doubt," Winter went on with his eager talk. "An acute man—rather too acute, don't you think, for a Father of the Church? That habit he got into of smashing the arguments of the heathen, gave him a kind of flippancy in talking of high matters."

"Such as flying?" put in Barton.

"Yes; such as our great aim—the aim of all the ages, I may call it. What does Bishop Wilkins say, sir? Why, he says, (I doubt not but that flying in the air may be easily effected by a diligent and ingenious artificer.) 'Diligent,' I may say, I have been; as to 'ingenious,' I leave the verdict to others."

"Was that Peter Wilkins you were quoting?" asked Barton, to humor his man.

"Why, no sir; the Bishop was not Peter. Peter Wilkins is the hero of a mere romance, in which, it is true, we meet with women—Goories he calls them—endowed with the power of flight. But they were born so. We get no help from Peter Wilkins: a mere dreamer."

"It doesn't seem to be so easy as the Bishop fancies?" remarked Barton, leading him on.

"No, sir," cried Winter, all his aches and pains forgotten, and his pale face flushed with the delight of finding a listener who did not laugh at him. "No, sir; the Bishop, though ingenious, was not a practical man. But look at what he says about the weight of your flying machine! Can anything be more sensible? Borne out, too, by the most recent researches, and the authority of Professor Pettigrew Bell himself. You remember the iron fly made by Begimontanus of Nuremberg?"

"The iron fly!" murmured Barton. "I can't say I do."

"You will find a history of it in Bamus. This fly would leap from the hands of the great Begimontanus, flutter and buzz round the heads of his guests assembled at supper, and then, as if wearied, return and repose on the finger of its maker."

"You don't mean to say you believe that?" asked Barton.

"Why not, sir; why not? Did not Archytas of Tarenturn, one of Plato's acquaintances, construct a wooden dove, in no way less miraculous? And the same Regimontanus, at Nuremberg, fashioned an eagle which, by way of triumph, did fly out of the city to meet Charles V. But where was I? Oh, at Bishop Wilkins. Cardan doubted of the iron fly of Regimontanus, because the material was so heavy. But Bishop Wilkins argues, in accordance with the best modern authorities, that the weight is no hindrance whatever, if proportional to the motive power. A flying machine, says Professor Bell, in the Encyclopodia Britannica—(you will not question the authority of the Encyclopodia Britannica?)—a flying machine should be 'a compact, moderately heavy, and powerful structure.' There, you see, the Bishop was right."

"Yours was deuced powerful," remarked Barton. "I did not expect to see two limbs of you left together."

"It is powerful, or rather it was," answered Winter, with a heavy sigh; "but it's all to do over again—all to do over again! Yet it was a noble specimen. 'The passive surface was reduced to a minimum,' as the learned author in the Encyclopodia recommends."

"By Jove! the passive surface was jolly near reduced to a mummy. You were the passive surface, as far as I could see."

"Don't laugh at me, please sir, after you've been so kind. All the rest laugh at me. You can't think what a pleasure it has been to talk to a scholar," and there was a new flush on the poor fellow's cheek, and something watery in his eyes.

"I beg your pardon, my dear sir," cried Barton, greatly ashamed of himself. "Pray go on. The subject is entirely new to me. I had not been aware that there were any serious modern authorities in favor of the success of this kind of experiment."

"Thank you, sir," said Winter, much encouraged, and taking Barton's hand in his own battered claw; "thank you. But why should we run only to modern authorities? All great inventions, all great ideas, have been present to men's minds and hopes from the beginning of civilization. Did not Empedocles forestall Mr. Darwin, and hit out, at a stroke, the hypothesis of natural selection?"

"Well, he did make a shot at it," admitted Barton, who remembered as much as that from "the old coaching days," and college lectures at St. Gatien's.

"Well, what do we find? As soon as we get a whisper of civilization in Greece, we find Daedalus successful in flying. The pragmatic interpreters pretend that the fable does but point to the discovery of sails for ships; but I put it to you, is that probable?"

"Obvious bosh," said Barton.

"And the meteorological mycologists, sir, they maintain that Daedalus is only the lightning flying in the breast of the storm!"

"There's nothing those fellows won't say," replied Barton.

"I'm glad you are with me, sir. In Daedalus I see either a record of a successful attempt at artificial flight, or at the very least, the expression of an aspiration as old as culture. You wouldn't make Daedalus the evening clouds accompanying Minos, the sun, to his setting in Sicily, in the west?" added Winter anxiously.

"I never heard of such nonsense," said Barton.

"Sir Frederick Leighton, the President of the Royal Academy, is with me, sir, if I may judge by his picture of Daedalus."

"Every sensible man must be with you," answered Barton.

"Well, sir, I won't detain you with other famous flyers of antiquity, such as Abaris, mounted on an arrow, as described by Herodotus. Doubtless the arrow was a flying machine, a novelty to the ignorant Scythians."

"It must have been, indeed."

"Then there was the Greek who flew before Nero in the circus; but he, I admit, had a bad fall, as Seutonius recounts. That character of Lucian's, who employed an eagle's wing and a vulture's in his flight, I take to be a mere figment of the satirist's imagination. But what do you make of Simon Magus? He, I cannot doubt, had invented a machine in which, like myself, he made use of steam or naphtha. This may be gathered from Arnobius, our earliest authority. He mentions expressly currum Simonis Magi et quadrigas igneas, the chariot of Simon Magus and his vehicles of flame—clearly the naphtha is alluded to—which vanished into air at the word of the Apostle Peter. The latter circumstances being miraculous, I take leave to doubt; but certainly Simon Magus had overcome the difficulties of aerial navigation. But, though Petrus Crinitus rejects the tradition as fabulous, I am prepared to believe that Simon Magus actually flew from the Capitol to the Aventine!

"'The world knows nothing of its greatest men,'" quoted Barton.

"Simon Magus has been the victim, sir, of theological acrimony, his character blackened, his flying machine impugned, or ascribed, as by the credulous Arnobius, to diabolical arts. In the dark ages, naturally, the science of Artificial Flight was either neglected or practised in secret, through fear of persecution. Busbequius speaks of a Turk at Constantinople who attempted something in this way; but he (the Turk, I mean), was untrammelled by ecclesiastical prejudice. But why should we tarry in the past? Have we not Mr. Proctor with us, both in Knowledge and the Cornhill? Does not the preeminent authority, Professor Pettigrew Bell, himself declare, with the weight, too, of the Encyclopodia Britannica, that 'the number of successful flying models is considerable. It is not too much to expect,' he goes on, 'that the problem of artificial flight will be actually solved, or at least much simplified.' What less can we expect, as he observes, in the land of Watt and Stephenson, when the construction of flying machines has been 'taken up in earnest by practical men?'"

"We may indeed," said Barton, "hope for the best when persons of your learning and ingenuity devote their efforts to the cause."

"As to my learning, you flatter me," said Winter. "I am no scholar; but an enthusiast will study the history of his subject Did I remark that the great Dr. Johnson, in these matters so sceptical, admits (in a romance, it is true) the possibility of artificial flight? The artisan of the Happy Valley expected to solve the problem in one year's time. 'If all men were equally virtuous,' said this artist, 'I should with equal alacrity teach them all to fly.'"

"And you will keep your secret, like Dr. Johnson's artist?"

"To you I do not mind revealing this much. The vans or wings of my machine describe elliptic figures of eight."

"I've seen them do that, said Barton.

"Like the wings of birds; and have the same forward and downward stroke, by a direct piston action. The impetus is given, after a descent in air—which I effected by starting from a height of six feet only—by a combination of heated naphtha and of india rubber under torsion. By steam alone, in 1842, Philips made a model of a flying-machine soar across two fields. Penaud's machine, relying only on india rubber under torsion, flies for some fifty yards. What a model can do, as Bishop Wilkins well observes, a properly weighted and proportioned flying-machine, capable of carrying a man, can do also."

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