Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Beyond the City by Arthur Conan Doyle

Beyond the City
by Arthur Conan Doyle
"If you please, mum," said the voice of a domestic
from somewhere round the angle of the door, "number three
is moving in.
Two little old ladies, who were sitting at either
side of a table, sprang to their feet with ejaculations
of interest, and rushed to the window of the
"Take care, Monica dear," said one, shrouding herself
in the lace curtain; "don't let them see us.
"No, no, Bertha. We must not give them reason to say
that their neighbors are inquisitive. But I think that
we are safe if we stand like this."
The open window looked out upon a sloping lawn, well
trimmed and pleasant, with fuzzy rosebushes and a
star-shaped bed of sweet-william. It was bounded by
a low wooden fence, which screened it off from a broad,
modern, new metaled road. At the other side of this road
were three large detached deep-bodied villas with peaky
eaves and small wooden balconies, each standing in its
own little square of grass and of flowers. All three
were equally new, but numbers one and two were curtained
and sedate, with a human, sociable look to them; while
number three, with yawning door and unkempt garden, had
apparently only just received its furniture and made
itself ready for its occupants. A four-wheeler had
driven up to the gate, and it was at this that the old
ladies, peeping out bird-like from behind their curtains,
directed an eager and questioning gaze.
The cabman had descended, and the passengers within
were handing out the articles which they desired him to
carry up to the house. He stood red-faced and blinking,
with his crooked arms outstretched, while a male hand,
protruding from the window, kept piling up upon him a
series of articles the sight of which filled the curious
old ladies with bewilderment.
"My goodness me!" cried Monica, the smaller, the
drier, and the more wizened of the pair. "What do you
call that, Bertha? It looks to me like four batter
"Those are what young men box each other with,"
said Bertha, with a conscious air of superior worldly
"And those?"
Two great bottle-shaped pieces of yellow shining wood
had been heaped upon the cabman.
"Oh, I don't know what those are," confessed Bertha.
Indian clubs had never before obtruded themselves upon
her peaceful and very feminine existence.
These mysterious articles were followed, however, by
others which were more within their, range of
comprehension--by a pair of dumb-bells, a purple
cricket-bag, a set of golf clubs, and a tennis racket.
Finally, when the cabman, all top-heavy and bristling,
had staggered off up the garden path, there emerged in a
very leisurely way from the cab a big, powerfully built
young man, with a bull pup under one arm and a pink
sporting paper in his hand. The paper he crammed into
the pocket of his light yellow dust-coat, and extended
his hand as if to assist some one else from the vehicle.
To the surprise of the two old ladies, however, the only
thing which his open palm received was a violent slap,
and a tall lady bounded unassisted out of the cab. With
a regal wave she motioned the young man towards the door,
and then with one hand upon her hip she stood in a
careless, lounging attitude by the gate, kicking her
toe against the wall and listlessly awaiting the return
of the driver.
As she turned slowly round, and the sunshine struck
upon her face, the two watchers were amazed to see that
this very active and energetic lady was far from being in
her first youth, so far that she had certainly come of
age again since she first passed that landmark in life's
journey. Her finely chiseled, clean-cut face, with
something red Indian about the firm mouth and strongly
marked cheek bones, showed even at that distance traces
of the friction of the passing years. And yet she was
very handsome. Her features were as firm in repose as
those of a Greek bust, and her great dark eyes were
arched over by two brows so black, so thick, and so
delicately curved, that the eye turned away from the
harsher details of the face to marvel at their grace and
strength. Her figure, too, was straight as a dart, a
little portly, perhaps, but curving into magnificent
outlines, which were half accentuated by the strange
costume which she wore. Her hair, black but plentifully
shot with grey, was brushed plainly back from her high
forehead, and was gathered under a small round felt hat,
like that of a man, with one sprig of feather in the band
as a concession to her sex. A double-breasted jacket of
some dark frieze-like material fitted closely to her
figure, while her straight blue skirt, untrimmed and
ungathered, was cut so short that the lower curve of her
finely-turned legs was plainly visible beneath it,
terminating in a pair of broad, flat, low-heeled and
square-toed shoes. Such was the lady who lounged at the
gate of number three, under the curious eyes of her two
opposite neighbors.
But if her conduct and appearance had already
somewhat jarred upon their limited and precise sense of
the fitness of things, what were they to think of the
next little act in this tableau vivant? The cabman,
red and heavy-jowled, had come back from his labors, and
held out his hand for his fare. The lady passed him a
coin, there was a moment of mumbling and gesticulating,
and suddenly she had him with both hands by the red
cravat which girt his neck, and was shaking him as a
terrier would a rat. Right across the pavement she
thrust him, and, pushing him up against the wheel, she
banged his head three several times against the side of
his own vehicle.
"Can I be of any use to you, aunt?" asked the large
youth, framing himself in the open doorway.
"Not the slightest," panted the enraged lady.
"There, you low blackguard, that will teach you to be
impertinent to a lady."
The cabman looked helplessly about him with a
bewildered, questioning gaze, as one to whom alone of
all men this unheard-of and extraordinary thing had
happened. Then, rubbing his head, he mounted slowly on
to the box and drove away with an uptossed hand appealing
to the universe. The lady smoothed down her dress,
pushed back her hair under her little felt hat, and
strode in through the hall-door, which was closed behind
her. As with a whisk her short skirts vanished into the
darkness, the two spectators--Miss Bertha and Miss Monica
Williams--sat looking at each other in speechless
amazement. For fifty years they had peeped through that
little window and across that trim garden, but never yet
had such a sight as this come to confound them.
"I wish," said Monica at last, "that we had kept the
"I am sure I wish we had," answered her sister.
The cottage from the window of which the Misses
Williams had looked out stands, and has stood for many a
year, in that pleasant suburban district which lies
between Norwood, Anerley, and Forest Hill. Long
before there had been a thought of a township there, when
the Metropolis was still quite a distant thing, old Mr.
Williams had inhabited "The Brambles," as the little
house was called, and had owned all the fields about it.
Six or eight such cottages scattered over a rolling
country-side were all the houses to be found there in the
days when the century was young. From afar, when the
breeze came from the north, the dull, low roar of the
great city might be heard, like the breaking of the tide
of life, while along the horizon might be seen the dim
curtain of smoke, the grim spray which that tide threw
up. Gradually, however, as the years passed, the City
had thrown out a long brick-feeler here and there,
curving, extending, and coalescing, until at last the
little cottages had been gripped round by these red
tentacles, and had been absorbed to make room for the
modern villa. Field by field the estate of old Mr.
Williams had been sold to the speculative builder, and
had borne rich crops of snug suburban dwellings, arranged
in curving crescents and tree-lined avenues. The father
had passed away before his cottage was entirely bricked
round, but his two daughters, to whom the property had
descended, lived to see the last vestige of country taken
from them. For years they had clung to the one field
which faced their windows, and it was only after much
argument and many heartburnings, that they had at last
consented that it should share the fate of the others.
A broad road was driven through their quiet domain, the
quarter was re-named "The Wilderness," and three square,
staring, uncompromising villas began to sprout up on the
other side. With sore hearts, the two shy little old
maids watched their steady progress, and speculated as to
what fashion of neighbors chance would bring into the
little nook which had always been their own.
And at last they were all three finished. Wooden
balconies and overhanging eaves had been added to them,
so that, in the language of the advertisement, there were
vacant three eligible Swiss-built villas, with sixteen
rooms, no basement, electric bells, hot and cold water,
and every modern convenience, including a common tennis
lawn, to be let at L100 a year, or L1,500 purchase. So
tempting an offer did not long remain open. Within a few
weeks the card had vanished from number one, and it was
known that Admiral Hay Denver, V. C., C. B., with Mrs.
Hay Denver and their only son, were about to move into
it. The news brought peace to the hearts of the Williams
sisters. They had lived with a settled conviction that
some wild impossible colony, some shouting, singing
family of madcaps, would break in upon their peace.
This establishment at least was irreproachable. A
reference to "Men of the Time" showed them that Admiral
Hay Denver was a most distinguished officer, who had
begun his active career at Bomarsund, and had ended it at
Alexandria, having managed between these two episodes to
see as much service as any man of his years. From the
Taku Forts and the _Shannon_ brigade, to dhow-harrying
off Zanzibar, there was no variety of naval work which
did not appear in his record; while the Victoria Cross,
and the Albert Medal for saving life, vouched for it that
in peace as in war his courage was still of the same true
temper. Clearly a very eligible neighbor this, the more
so as they had been confidentially assured by the estate
agent that Mr. Harold Denver, the son, was a most quiet
young gentleman, and that he was busy from morning to
night on the Stock Exchange.
The Hay Denvers had hardly moved in before number two
also struck its placard, and again the ladies found that
they had no reason to be discontented with their
neighbors. Doctor Balthazar Walker was a very well-known
name in the medical world. Did not his qualifications,
his membership, and the record of his writings fill a
long half-column in the "Medical Directory," from his
first little paper on the "Gouty Diathesis" in 1859 to
his exhaustive treatise upon "Affections of the
Vaso-Motor System" in 1884? A successful medical career
which promised to end in a presidentship of a college and
a baronetcy, had been cut short by his sudden inheritance
of a considerable sum from a grateful patient, which had
rendered him independent for life, and had enabled him to
turn his attention to the more scientific part of his
profession, which had always had a greater charm for him
than its more practical and commercial aspect. To this
end he had given up his house in Weymouth Street, and had
taken this opportunity of moving himself, his scientific
instruments, and his two charming daughters (he had been
a widower for some years) into the more peaceful
atmosphere of Norwood.
There was thus but one villa unoccupied, and it was
no wonder that the two maiden ladies watched with a keen
interest, which deepened into a dire apprehension, the
curious incidents which heralded the coming of the new
tenants. They had already learned from the agent that
the family consisted of two only, Mrs. Westmacott, a
widow, and her nephew, Charles Westmacott. How simple
and how select it had sounded! Who could have foreseen
from it these fearful portents which seemed to threaten
violence and discord among the dwellers in The
Wilderness? Again the two old maids cried in
heartfelt chorus that they wished they had not sold their
"Well, at least, Monica," remarked Bertha, as they
sat over their teacups that afternoon, "however strange
these people may be, it is our duty to be as polite to
them as to the others."
"Most certainly," acquiesced her sister.
"Since we have called upon Mrs. Hay Denver and upon
the Misses Walker, we must call upon this Mrs. Westmacott
"Certainly, dear. As long as they are living upon
our land I feel as if they were in a sense our guests,
and that it is our duty to welcome them."
"Then we shall call to-morrow," said Bertha, with
"Yes, dear, we shall. But, oh, I wish it was over!"
At four o'clock on the next day, the two maiden
ladies set off upon their hospitable errand. In their
stiff, crackling dresses of black silk, with
jet-bespangled jackets, and little rows of cylindrical
grey curls drooping down on either side of their black
bonnets, they looked like two old fashion plates which
had wandered off into the wrong decade. Half curious and
half fearful, they knocked at the door of number three,
which was instantly opened by a red-headed page-boy.
Yes, Mrs. Westmacott was at home. He ushered them
into the front room, furnished as a drawing-room, where
in spite of the fine spring weather a large fire was
burning in the grate. The boy took their cards, and
then, as they sat down together upon a settee, he set
their nerves in a thrill by darting behind a curtain with
a shrill cry, and prodding at something with his foot.
The bull pup which they had seen upon the day before
bolted from its hiding-place, and scuttled snarling from
the room.
"It wants to get at Eliza," said the youth, in a
confidential whisper. "Master says she would give him
more'n he brought." He smiled affably at the two little
stiff black figures, and departed in search of his
"What--what did he say?" gasped Bertha.
"Something about a---- Oh, goodness gracious! Oh,
help, help, help, help, help!" The two sisters had
bounded on to the settee, and stood there with staring
eyes and skirts gathered in, while they filled the whole
house with their yells. Out of a high wicker-work basket
which stood by the fire there had risen a flat
diamond-shaped head with wicked green eyes which came
flickering upwards, waving gently from side to side,
until a foot or more of glossy scaly neck was visible.
Slowly the vicious head came floating up, while at every
oscillation a fresh burst of shrieks came from
the settee.
"What in the name of mischief!" cried a voice, and
there was the mistress of the house standing in the
doorway. Her gaze at first had merely taken in the fact
that two strangers were standing screaming upon her red
plush sofa. A glance at the fireplace, however, showed
her the cause of the terror, and she burst into a hearty
fit of laughter.
"Charley," she shouted, "here's Eliza misbehaving
"I'll settle her," answered a masculine voice, and
the young man dashed into the room. He had a brown
horse-cloth in his hand, which he threw over the basket,
making it fast with a piece of twine so as to effectually
imprison its inmate, while his aunt ran across to
reassure her visitors.
"It is only a rock snake, " she explained.
"Oh, Bertha!" "Oh, Monica!" gasped the poor
exhausted gentlewomen.
"She's hatching out some eggs. That is why we have
the fire. Eliza always does better when she is warm.
She is a sweet, gentle creature, but no doubt she thought
that you had designs upon her eggs. I suppose that you
did not touch any of them?"
"Oh, let us get away, Bertha!' cried Monica, with her
thin, black-gloved hands thrown forwards in abhorrence.
"Not away, but into the next room," said Mrs.
Westmacott, with the air of one whose word was law.
"This way, if you please! It is less warm here." She
led the way into a very handsomely appointed library,
with three great cases of books, and upon the fourth side
a long yellow table littered over with papers and
scientific instruments. "Sit here, and you, there," she
continued. "That is right. Now let me see, which of you
is Miss Williams, and which Miss Bertha Williams?"
"I am Miss Williams," said Monica, still palpitating,
and glancing furtively about in dread of some new horror.
"And you live, as I understand, over at the pretty
little cottage. It is very nice of you to call so early.
I don't suppose that we shall get on, but still the
intention is equally good." She crossed her legs and
leaned her back against the marble mantelpiece.
"We thought that perhaps we might be of some
assistance," said Bertha, timidly. "If there is anything
which we could do to make you feel more at home----"
"Oh, thank you, I am too old a traveler to feel
anything but at home wherever I go. I've just come back
from a few months in the Marquesas Islands, where I had
a very pleasant visit. That was where I got Eliza. In
many respects the Marquesas Islands now lead the world."
"Dear me!" ejaculated Miss Williams. "In what
"In the relation of the sexes. They have worked out
the great problem upon their own lines, and their
isolated geographical position has helped them to come to
a conclusion of their own. The woman there is, as she
should be, in every way the absolute equal of the male.
Come in, Charles, and sit down. Is Eliza all right?"
"All right, aunt."
"These are our neighbors, the Misses Williams.
Perhaps they will have some stout. You might bring in a
couple of bottles, Charles."
"No, no, thank you! None for us!" cried her two
visitors, earnestly.
"No? I am sorry that I have no tea to offer you. I
look upon the subserviency of woman as largely due to her
abandoning nutritious drinks and invigorating exercises
to the male. I do neither." She picked up a pair of
fifteen-pound dumb-bells from beside the fireplace and
swung them lightly about her head. "You see what may be
done on stout," said she.
"But don't you think," the elder Miss Williams
suggested timidly, "don't you think, Mrs. Westmascott,
that woman has a mission of her own?"
The lady of the house dropped her dumb-bells with a
crash upon the floor.
"The old cant!" she cried. "The old shibboleth!
What is this mission which is reserved for woman? All
that is humble, that is mean, that is soul-killing, that
is so contemptible and so ill-paid that none other will
touch it. All that is woman's mission. And who imposed
these limitations upon her? Who cooped her up within
this narrow sphere? Was it Providence? Was it nature?
No, it was the arch enemy. It was man."
"Oh, I say, auntie!" drawled her nephew.
"It was man, Charles. It was you and your fellows I
say that woman is a colossal monument to the selfishness
of man. What is all this boasted chivalry--these fine
words and vague phrases? Where is it when we wish to put
it to the test? Man in the abstract will do anything to
help a woman. Of course. How does it work when his
pocket is touched? Where is his chivalry then? Will the
doctors help her to qualify? will the lawyers help her to
be called to the bar? will the clergy tolerate her in the
Church? Oh, it is close your ranks then and refer poor
woman to her mission! Her mission! To be thankful for
coppers and not to interfere with the men while they
grabble for gold, like swine round a trough, that is
man's reading of the mission of women. You may sit there
and sneer, Charles, while you look upon your victim, but
you know that it is truth, every word of it.
Terrified as they were by this sudden torrent of
words, the two gentlewomen could not but smile at the
sight of the fiery, domineering victim and the big
apologetic representative of mankind who sat meekly
bearing all the sins of his sex. The lady struck a
match, whipped a cigarette from a case upon the
mantelpiece, and began to draw the smoke into her lungs.
"I find it very soothing when my nerves are at all
ruffled," she explained. "You don't smoke? Ah, you miss
one of the purest of pleasures--one of the few pleasures
which are without a reaction."
Miss Williams smoothed out her silken lap.
"It is a pleasure," she said, with some approach to
self-assertion, "which Bertha and I are rather too
old-fashioned to enjoy."
"No doubt, It would probably make you very ill if you
attempted it. By the way, I hope that you will come to
some of our Guild meetings. I shall see that tickets are
sent you."
"Your Guild?"
"It is not yet formed, but I shall lose no time in
forming a committee. It is my habit to establish a
branch of the Emancipation Guild wherever I go. There is
a Mrs. Sanderson in Anerley who is already one of the
emancipated, so that I have a nucleus. It is only by
organized resistance, Miss Williams, that we can hope to
hold our own against the selfish sex. Must you go,
"Yes, we have one or two other visits to pay," said
the elder sister. "You will, I am sure, excuse us. I
hope that you will find Norwood a pleasant residence."
"All places are to me simply a battle-field," she
answered, gripping first one and then the other with a
grip which crumpled up their little thin fingers. "The
days for work and healthful exercise, the evenings to
Browning and high discourse, eh, Charles? Good-bye!"
She came to the door with them, and as they glanced back
they saw her still standing there with the yellow bull
pup cuddled up under one forearm, and the thin blue reek
of her cigarette ascending from her lips.
"Oh, what a dreadful, dreadful woman!" whispered
sister Bertha, as they hurried down the street. "Thank
goodness that it is over."
"But she'll return the visit," answered the other.
"I think that we had better tell Mary that we are not at
How deeply are our destinies influenced by the most
trifling causes! Had the unknown builder who erected and
owned these new villas contented himself by simply
building each within its own grounds, it is probable that
these three small groups of people would have remained
hardly conscious of each other's existence, and that
there would have been no opportunity for that action and
reaction which is here set forth. But there was a common
link to bind them together. To single himself out from
all other Norwood builders the landlord had devised and
laid out a common lawn tennis ground, which stretched
behind the houses with taut-stretched net, green
close-cropped sward, and widespread whitewashed lines.
Hither in search of that hard exercise which is as
necessary as air or food to the English temperament, came
young Hay Denver when released from the toil of the City;
hither, too, came Dr. Walker and his two fair daughters,
Clara and Ida, and hither also, champions of the lawn,
came the short-skirted, muscular widow and her athletic
nephew. Ere the summer was gone they knew each other in
this quiet nook as they might not have done after years
of a stiffer and more formal acquaintance.
And especially to the Admiral and the Doctor were
this closer intimacy and companionship of value. Each
had a void in his life, as every man must have who with
unexhausted strength steps out of the great race, but
each by his society might help to fill up that of his
neighbor. It is true that they had not much in
common, but that is sometimes an aid rather than a bar to
friendship. Each had been an enthusiast in his
profession, and had retained all his interest in it. The
Doctor still read from cover to cover his Lancet and
his Medical Journal, attended all professional
gatherings, worked himself into an alternate state of
exaltation and depression over the results of the
election of officers, and reserved for himself a den of
his own, in which before rows of little round bottles
full of glycerine, Canadian balsam, and staining agents,
he still cut sections with a microtome, and peeped
through his long, brass, old-fashioned microscope at the
arcana of nature. With his typical face, clean shaven on
lip and chin, with a firm mouth, a strong jaw, a steady
eye, and two little white fluffs of whiskers, he could
never be taken for anything but what he was, a high-class
British medical consultant of the age of fifty, or
perhaps just a year or two older.
The Doctor, in his hey-day, had been cool over great
things, but now, in his retirement, he was fussy over
trifles. The man who had operated without the quiver of
a finger, when not only his patient's life but his own
reputation and future were at stake, was now shaken to
the soul by a mislaid book or a careless maid. He
remarked it himself, and knew the reason. "When Mary
was alive," he would say, "she stood between me and the
little troubles. I could brace myself for the big ones.
My girls are as good as girls can be, but who can know a
man as his wife knows him?" Then his memory would
conjure up a tuft of brown hair and a single white, thin
hand over a coverlet, and he would feel, as we have all
felt, that if we do not live and know each other after
death, then indeed we are tricked and betrayed by all the
highest hopes and subtlest intuitions of our nature.
The Doctor had his compensations to make up for his
loss. The great scales of Fate had been held on a level
for him; for where in all great London could one find two
sweeter girls, more loving, more intelligent, and more
sympathetic than Clara and Ida Walker? So bright were
they, so quick, so interested in all which interested
him, that if it were possible for a man to be compensated
for the loss of a good wife then Balthazar Walker might
claim to be so.
Clara was tall and thin and supple, with a graceful,
womanly figure. There was something stately and
distinguished in her carriage, "queenly" her friends
called her, while her critics described her as reserved
and distant.
Such as it was, however, it was part and parcel of
herself, for she was, and had always from her
childhood been, different from any one around her. There
was nothing gregarious in her nature. She thought with
her own mind, saw with her own eyes, acted from her own
impulse. Her face was pale, striking rather than pretty,
but with two great dark eyes, so earnestly questioning,
so quick in their transitions from joy to pathos, so
swift in their comment upon every word and deed around
her, that those eyes alone were to many more attractive
than all the beauty of her younger sister. Hers was a
strong, quiet soul, and it was her firm hand which had
taken over the duties of her mother, had ordered the
house, restrained the servants, comforted her father, and
upheld her weaker sister, from the day of that great
Ida Walker was a hand's breadth smaller than Clara,
but was a little fuller in the face and plumper in the
figure. She had light yellow hair, mischievous blue eyes
with the light of humor ever twinkling in their depths,
and a large, perfectly formed mouth, with that slight
upward curve of the corners which goes with a keen
appreciation of fun, suggesting even in repose that a
latent smile is ever lurking at the edges of the lips.
She was modern to the soles of her dainty little
high-heeled shoes, frankly fond of dress and of pleasure,
devoted to tennis and to comic opera, delighted with a
dance, which came her way only too seldom, longing
ever for some new excitement, and yet behind all this
lighter side of her character a thoroughly good,
healthy-minded English girl, the life and soul of the
house, and the idol of her sister and her father. Such
was the family at number two. A peep into the remaining
villa and our introductions are complete.
Admiral Hay Denver did not belong to the florid,
white-haired, hearty school of sea-dogs which is more
common in works of fiction than in the Navy List. On the
contrary, he was the representative of a much more common
type which is the antithesis of the conventional sailor.
He was a thin, hard-featured man, with an ascetic,
acquiline cast of face, grizzled and hollow-cheeked,
clean-shaven with the exception of the tiniest curved
promontory of ash-colored whisker. An observer,
accustomed to classify men, might have put him down as a
canon of the church with a taste for lay costume and a
country life, or as the master of a large public school,
who joined his scholars in their outdoor sports. His
lips were firm, his chin prominent, he had a hard, dry
eye, and his manner was precise and formal. Forty years
of stern discipline had made him reserved and silent.
Yet, when at his ease with an equal, he could readily
assume a less quarter-deck style, and he had a fund of
little, dry stories of the world and its ways which were
of interest from one who had seen so many phases of
life. Dry and spare, as lean as a jockey and as tough as
whipcord, he might be seen any day swinging his
silver-headed Malacca cane, and pacing along the suburban
roads with the same measured gait with which he had been
wont to tread the poop of his flagship. He wore a good
service stripe upon his cheek, for on one side it was
pitted and scarred where a spurt of gravel knocked up by
a round-shot had struck him thirty years before, when he
served in the Lancaster gun-battery. Yet he was hale and
sound, and though he was fifteen years senior to his
friend the Doctor, he might have passed as the younger
Mrs. Hay Denver's life had been a very broken one,
and her record upon land represented a greater amount of
endurance and self-sacrifice than his upon the sea. They
had been together for four months after their marriage,
and then had come a hiatus of four years, during which he
was flitting about between St. Helena and the Oil Rivers
in a gunboat. Then came a blessed year of peace and
domesticity, to be followed by nine years, with only a
three months' break, five upon the Pacific station, and
four on the East Indian. After that was a respite in the
shape of five years in the Channel squadron, with
periodical runs home, and then again he was off to the
Mediterranean for three years and to Halifax for
four. Now, at last, however, this old married couple,
who were still almost strangers to one another, had come
together in Norwood, where, if their short day had been
chequered and broken, the evening at least promised to be
sweet and mellow. In person Mrs. Hay Denver was tall and
stout, with a bright, round, ruddy-cheeked face still
pretty, with a gracious, matronly comeliness. Her whole
life was a round of devotion and of love, which was
divided between her husband and her only son, Harold.
This son it was who kept them in the neighborhood of
London, for the Admiral was as fond of ships and of salt
water as ever, and was as happy in the sheets of a
two-ton yacht as on the bridge of his sixteen-knot
monitor. Had he been untied, the Devonshire or Hampshire
coast would certainly have been his choice. There was
Harold, however, and Harold's interests were their chief
care. Harold was four-and-twenty now. Three years
before he had been taken in hand by an acquaintance of
his father's, the head of a considerable firm of
stock-brokers, and fairly launched upon 'Change. His
three hundred guinea entrance fee paid, his three
sureties of five hundred pounds each found, his name
approved by the Committee, and all other formalities
complied with, he found himself whirling round, an
insignificant unit, in the vortex of the money market
of the world. There, under the guidance of his father's
friend, he was instructed in the mysteries of bulling and
of bearing, in the strange usages of 'Change in the
intricacies of carrying over and of transferring. He
learned to know where to place his clients' money, which
of the jobbers would make a price in New Zealands, and
which would touch nothing but American rails, which might
be trusted and which shunned. All this, and much more,
he mastered, and to such purpose that he soon began to
prosper, to retain the clients who had been recommened to
him, and to attract fresh ones. But the work was never
congenial. He had inherited from his father his love of
the air of heaven, his affection for a manly and natural
existence. To act as middleman between the pursuer of
wealth, and the wealth which he pursued, or to stand as
a human barometer, registering the rise and fall of the
great mammon pressure in the markets, was not the work
for which Providence had placed those broad shoulders and
strong limbs upon his well knit frame. His dark open
face, too, with his straight Grecian nose, well opened
brown eyes, and round black-curled head, were all those
of a man who was fashioned for active physical work.
Meanwhile he was popular with his fellow brokers,
respected by his clients, and beloved at home, but his
spirit was restless within him and his mind chafed
unceasingly against his surroundings.
"Do you know, Willy," said Mrs. Hay Denver one
evening as she stood behind her husband's chair, with her
hand upon his shoulder, "I think sometimes that Harold is
not quite happy."
"He looks happy, the young rascal," answered the
Admiral, pointing with his cigar. It was after dinner,
and through the open French window of the dining-room a
clear view was to be had of the tennis court and the
players. A set had just been finished, and young Charles
Westmacott was hitting up the balls as high as he could
send them in the middle of the ground. Doctor Walker and
Mrs. Westmacott were pacing up and down the lawn, the
lady waving her racket as she emphasized her remarks, and
the Doctor listening with slanting head and little nods
of agreement. Against the rails at the near end Harold
was leaning in his flannels talking to the two sisters,
who stood listening to him with their long dark shadows
streaming down the lawn behind them. The girls were
dressed alike in dark skirts, with light pink tennis
blouses and pink bands on their straw hats, so that as
they stood with the soft red of the setting sun tinging
their faces, Clara, demure and quiet, Ida, mischievous
and daring, it was a group which might have pleased
the eye of a more exacting critic than the old sailor.
"Yes, he looks happy, mother," he repeated, with a
chuckle. "It is not so long ago since it was you and I
who were standing like that, and I don't remember that we
were very unhappy either. It was croquet in our time,
and the ladies had not reefed in their skirts quite so
taut. What year would it be? Just before the commission
of the Penelope."
Mrs. Hay Denver ran her fingers through his grizzled
hair. "It was when you came back in the Antelope, just
before you got your step."
"Ah, the old Antelope! What a clipper she was!
She could sail two points nearer the wind than anything
of her tonnage in the service. You remember her, mother.
You saw her come into Plymouth Bay. Wasn't she a
"She was indeed, dear. But when I say that I think
that Harold is not happy I mean in his daily life. Has
it never struck you how thoughtful, he is at times, and
how absent-minded?"
"In love perhaps, the young dog. He seems to have
found snug moorings now at any rate."
"I think that it is very likely that you are right,
Willy," answered the mother seriously. "But with which
of them?"
"I cannot tell."
"Well, they are very charming girls, both of
them. But as long as he hangs in the wind between
the two it cannot be serious. After all, the boy is
four-and-twenty, and he made five hundred pounds last
year. He is better able to marry than I was when I was
"I think that we can see which it is now," remarked
the observant mother. Charles Westmacott had ceased to
knock the tennis balls about, and was chatting with Clara
Walker, while Ida and Harold Denver were still talking by
the railing with little outbursts of laughter. Presently
a fresh set was formed, and Doctor Walker, the odd man
out, came through the wicket gate and strolled up the
garden walk.
"Good evening, Mrs. Hay Denver," said he, raising his
broad straw hat. "May I come in?"
"Good evening, Doctor! Pray do!"
"Try one of these," said the Admiral, holding out his
cigar-case. "They are not bad. I got them on the
Mosquito Coast. I was thinking of signaling to you, but
you seemed so very happy out there."
"Mrs. Westmacott is a very clever woman," said the
Doctor, lighting the cigar. "By the way, you spoke about
the Mosquito Coast just now. Did you see much of the
Hyla when you were out there?"
"No such name on the list," answered the seaman,
with decision. "There's the Hydra, a harbor defense
turret-ship, but she never leaves the home waters."
The Doctor laughed. "We live in two separate
worlds," said he. "The Hyla is the little green tree
frog, and Beale has founded some of his views on
protoplasm upon the appearancer, of its nerve cells. It
is a subject in which I take an interest."
"There were vermin of all sorts in the woods. When
I have been on river service I have heard it at night
like the engine-room when you are on the measured mile.
You can't sleep for the piping, and croaking, and
chirping. Great Scott! what a woman that is! She was
across the lawn in three jumps. She would have made a
captain of the foretop in the old days."
"She is a very remarkable woman.
"A very cranky one."
"A very sensible one in some things," remarked Mrs.
Hay Denver.
"Look at that now!" cried the Admiral, with a lunge
of his forefinger at the Doctor. "You mark my words,
Walker, if we don't look out that woman will raise a
mutiny with her preaching. Here's my wife disaffected
already, and your girls will be no better. We must
combine, man, or there's an end of all discipline."
"No doubt she is a little excessive in her views."
said the Doctor, "but in the main I think as she does."
"Bravo, Doctor!" cried the lady.
"What, turned traitor to your sex! We'll
court-martial you as a deserter."
"She is quite right. The professions are not
sufficiently open to women. They are still far too much
circumscribed in their employments. They are a feeble
folk, the women who have to work for their bread--poor,
unorganized, timid, taking as a favor what they might
demand as a right. That is why their case is not more
constantly before the public, for if their cry for
redress was as great as their grievance it would fill the
world to the exclusion of all others. It is all very
well for us to be courteous to the rich, the refined,
those to whom life is already made easy. It is a mere
form, a trick of manner. If we are truly courteous, we
shall stoop to lift up struggling womanhood when she
really needs our help--when it is life and death to her
whether she has it or not. And then to cant about it
being unwomanly to work in the higher professions. It is
womanly enough to starve, but unwomanly to use the brains
which God has given them. Is it not a monstrous
The Admiral chuckled. "You are like one of these
phonographs, Walker," said he; "you have had all this
talked into you, and now you are reeling it off again.
It's rank mutiny, every word of it, for man has his
duties and woman has hers, but they are as separate
as their natures are. I suppose that we shall have a
woman hoisting her pennant on the flagship presently, and
taking command of the Channel Squadron."
"Well, you have a woman on the throne taking command
of the whole nation," remarked his wife; "and everybody
is agreed that she does it better than any of the men."
The Admiral was somewhat staggered by this
home-thrust. "That's quite another thing," said he.
"You should come to their next meeting. I am to take
the chair. I have just promised Mrs. Westmacott that I
will do so. But it has turned chilly, and it is time
that the girls were indoors. Good night! I shall look
out for you after breakfast for our constitutional,
The old sailor looked after his friend with a twinkle
in his eyes.
"How old is he, mother?"
"About fifty, I think."
"And Mrs. Westmacott?"
"I heard that she was forty-three."
The Admiral rubbed his hands, and shook with
amusement. "We'll find one of these days that three and
two make one," said he. I'll bet you a new bonnet on it,
"Tell me, Miss Walker! You know how things should
be. What would you say was a good profession for a young
man of twenty-six who has had no education worth speaking
about, and who is not very quick by nature?" The speaker
was Charles Westmacott, and the time this same summer
evening in the tennis ground, though the shadows had
fallen now and the game been abandoned.
The girl glanced up at him, amused and surprised.
"Do you mean yourself?"
"But how could I tell?"
"I have no one to advise me. I believe that you
could do it better than any one. I feel confidence in
your opinion."
"It is very flattering." She glanced up again at his
earnest, questioning face, with its Saxon eyes and
drooping flaxen mustache, in some doubt as to whether he
might be joking. On the contrary, all his attention
seemed to be concentrated upon her answer.
"It depends so much upon what you can do, you
know. I do not know you sufficiently to be able to say
what natural gifts you have." They were walking slowly
across the lawn in the direction of the house.
"I have none. That is to say none worth mentioning.
I have no memory and I am very slow."
"But you are very strong."
"Oh, if that goes for anything. I can put up a
hundred-pound bar till further orders; but what sort of
a calling is that?"
Some little joke about being called to the bar
flickered up in Miss Walker's mind, but her companion was
in such obvious earnest that she stifled down her
inclination to laugh.
"I can do a mile on the cinder-track in 4:50 and
across-country in 5:20, but how is that to help me? I
might be a cricket professional, but it is not a very
dignified position. Not that I care a straw about
dignity, you know, but I should not like to hurt the old
lady's feelings.
"Your aunt's?"
"Yes, my aunt's. My parents were killed in the
Mutiny, you know, when I was a baby, and she has looked
after me ever since. She has been very good to me. I'm
sorry to leave her."
"But why should you leave her?" They had reached the
garden gate, and the girl leaned her racket upon the top
of it, looking up with grave interest at her big
white-flanneled companion.
"It's, Browning," said he.
"Don't tell my aunt that I said it"--he sank his
voice to a whisper--"I hate Browning."
Clara Walker rippled off into such a merry peal of
laughter that he forgot the evil things which he had
suffered from the poet, and burst out laughing too.
"I can't make him out," said he. "I try, but he is
one too many. No doubt it is very stupid of me; I don't
deny it. But as long as I cannot there is no use
pretending that I can. And then of course she feels
hurt, for she is very fond of him, and likes to read him
aloud in the evenings. She is reading a piece now `Pippa
Passes,' and I assure you, Miss Walker, that I don't even
know what the title means. You must think me a dreadful
"But surely he is not so incomprehensible as all
that?" she said, as an attempt at encouragement.
"He is very bad. There are some things, you know,
which are fine. That ride of the three Dutchmen, and
Herve Riel and others, they are all right. But there was
a piece we read last week. The first line stumped my
aunt, and it takes a good deal to do that, for she rides
very straight. `Setebos and Setebos and Setebos.' That
was the line."
"It sounds like a charm."
"No, it is a gentleman's name. Three gentlemen, I
thought, at first, but my aunt says one. Then he goes
on, `Thinketh he dwelleth in the light of the moon.' It
was a very trying piece."
Clara Walker laughed again.
"You must not think of leaving your aunt," she said.
"Think how lonely she would be without you."
"Well, yes, I have thought of that. But you must
remember that my aunt is to all intents hardly
middle-aged, and a very eligible person. I don't think
that her dislike to mankind extends to individuals. She
might form new ties, and then I should be a third wheel
in the coach. It was all very well as long as I was only
a boy, when her first husband was alive."
"But, good gracious, you don't mean that Mrs.
Westmacott is going to marry again?" gasped Clara.
The young man glanced down at her with a question in
his eyes "Oh, it is only a remote, possibility, you
know," said he. "Still, of course, it might happen, and
I should like to know what I ought to turn my hand to."
"I wish I could help you," said Clara. "But I really
know very little about such things. However, I could
talk to my father, who knows a very great deal of the
"I wish you would. I should be so glad if you
"Then I certainly will. And now I must say
good-night, Mr. Westmacott, for papa will be wondering
where I am."
"Good night, Miss Walker." He pulled off his flannel
cap, and stalked away through the gathering darkness.
Clara had imagined that they had been the last on the
lawn, but, looking back from the steps which led up to
the French windows, she saw two dark figures moving
across towards the house. As they came nearer she could
distinguish that they were Harold Denver and her sister
Ida. The murmur of their voices rose up to her ears, and
then the musical little child-like laugh which she knew
so well. "I am so delighted," she heard her sister say.
"So pleased and proud. I had no idea of it. Your words
were such a surprise and a joy to me. Oh, I am so glad."
"Is that you, Ida?"
"Oh, there is Clara. I must go in, Mr. Denver.
There were a few whispered words, a laugh from Ida,
and a "Good-night, Miss Walker," out of the darkness.
Clara took her sister's hand, and they passed together
through the long folding window. The Doctor had gone
into his study, and the dining-room was empty. A single
small red lamp upon the sideboard was reflected tenfold
by the plate about it and the mahogany beneath it,
though its single wick cast but a feeble light into the
large, dimly shadowed room. Ida danced off to the big
central lamp, but Clara put her hand upon her arm. "I
rather like this quiet light," said she. "Why should we
not have a chat?" She sat in the Doctor's large red
plush chair, and her sister cuddled down upon the
footstool at her feet, glancing up at her elder with a
smile upon her lips and a mischievous gleam in her eyes.
There was a shade of anxiety in Clara's face, which
cleared away as she gazed into her sister's frank blue
"Have you anything to tell me, dear?" she asked.
Ida gave a little pout and shrug to her shoulder.
"The Solicitor-General then opened the case for the
prosecution," said she. "You are going to cross-examine
me, Clara, so don't deny it. I do wish you would have
that grey satin foulard of yours done up. With a little
trimming and a new white vest it would look as good as
new, and it is really very dowdy."
"You were quite late upon the lawn," said the
inexorable Clara.
"Yes, I was rather. So were you. Have you anything
to tell me?" She broke away into her merry musical
"I was chatting with Mr. Westmacott."
"And I was chatting with Mr. Denver. By the way,
Clara, now tell me truly, what do you think of Mr.
Denver? Do you like him? Honestly now!"
"I like him very much indeed. I think that he is one
of the most gentlemanly, modest, manly young men that I
have ever known. So now, dear, have you nothing to tell
me?" Clara smoothed down her sister's golden hair with
a motherly gesture, and stooped her face to catch the
expected confidence. She could wish nothing better than
that Ida should be the wife of Harold Denver, and from
the words which she had overheard as they left the lawn
that evening, she could not doubt that there was some
understanding between them.
But there came no confession from Ida. Only the same
mischievous smile and amused gleam in her deep blue eyes.
"That grey foulard dress----" she began.
"Oh, you little tease! Come now, I will ask you what
you have just asked me. Do you like Harold Denver?"
"Oh, he's a darling!"
"Well, you asked me. That's what I think of him.
And now, you dear old inquisitive, you will get nothing
more out of me; so you must wait and not be too curious.
I'm going off to see what papa is doing." She sprang to
her feet, threw her arms round her sister's neck,
gave her a final squeeze, and was gone. A chorus from
Olivette, sung in her clear contralto, grew fainter and
fainter until it ended in the slam of a distant door.
But Clara Walker still sat in the dim-lit room with
her chin upon her hands, and her dreamy eyes looking out
into the gathering gloom. It was the duty of her, a
maiden, to play the part of a mother--to guide another in
paths which her own steps had not yet trodden. Since her
mother died not a thought had been given to herself, all
was for her father and her sister. In her own eyes she
was herself very plain, and she knew that her manner was
often ungracious when she would most wish to be gracious.
She saw her face as the glass reflected it, but she did
not see the changing play of expression which gave it its
charm--the infinite pity, the sympathy, the sweet
womanliness which drew towards her all who were in doubt
and in trouble, even as poor slow-moving Charles
Westmacott had been drawn to her that night. She was
herself, she thought, outside the pale of love. But it
was very different with Ida, merry, little, quick-witted,
bright-faced Ida. She was born for love. It was her
inheritance. But she was young and innocent. She must
not be allowed to venture too far without help in those
dangerous waters. Some understanding there was between
her and Harold Denver. In her heart of hearts Clara,
like every good woman, was a match-maker, and already she
had chosen Denver of all men as the one to whom she could
most safely confide Ida. He had talked to her more than
once on the serious topics of life, on his aspirations,
on what a man could do to leave the world better for his
presence. She knew that he was a man of a noble nature,
high-minded and earnest. And yet she did not like this
secrecy, this disinclination upon the part of one so
frank and honest as Ida to tell her what was passing.
She would wait, and if she got the opportunity next day
she would lead Harold Denver himself on to this topic.
It was possible that she might learn from him what her
sister had refused to tell her.
It was the habit of the Doctor and the Admiral to
accompany each other upon a morning ramble between
breakfast and lunch. The dwellers in those quiet
tree-lined roads were accustomed to see the two figures,
the long, thin, austere seaman, and the short, bustling,
tweed-clad physician, pass and repass with such
regularity that a stopped clock has been reset by them.
The Admiral took two steps to his companion's three, but
the younger man was the quicker, and both were equal to
a good four and a half miles an hour.
It was a lovely summer day which followed the events
which have been described. The sky was of the deepest
blue, with a few white, fleecy clouds drifting lazily
across it, and the air was filled with the low drone of
insects or with a sudden sharper note as bee or bluefly
shot past with its quivering, long-drawn hum, like an
insect tuning-fork. As the friends topped each rise
which leads up to the Crystal Palace, they could see the
dun clouds of London stretching along the northern
sky-line, with spire or dome breaking through the
low-lying haze. The Admiral was in high spirits, for the
morning post had brought good news to his son.
"It is wonderful, Walker," he was saying, "positively
wonderful, the way that boy of mine has gone ahead during
the last three years. We heard from Pearson to-day.
Pearson is the senior partner, you know, and my boy the
junior--Pearson and Denver the firm. Cunning old dog is
Pearson, as cute and as greedy as a Rio shark. Yet he
goes off for a fortnight's leave, and puts my boy in full
charge, with all that immense business in his hands,
and a freehand to do what he likes with it. How's that
for confidence, and he only three years upon 'Change?"
"Any one would confide in him. His face is a
surety," said the Doctor.
"Go on, Walker!" The Admiral dug his elbow at him.
"You know my weak side. Still it's truth all the same.
I've been blessed with a good wife and a good son, and
maybe I relish them the more for having been cut off from
them so long. I have much to be thankful for!"
"And so have I. The best two girls that ever
stepped. There's Clara, who has learned up as much
medicine as would give her the L.S.A., simply in order
that she may sympathize with me in my work. But hullo,
what is this coming along?"
"All drawing and the wind astern!" cried the Admiral.
"Fourteen knots if it's one. Why, by George, it is that
A rolling cloud of yellow dust had streamed round the
curve of the road, and from the heart of it had emerged
a high tandem tricycle flying along at a breakneck pace.
In front sat Mrs. Westmacott clad in a heather tweed
pea-jacket, a skirt which just{?} passed her knees and a
pair of thick gaiters of the same material. She had a
great bundle of red papers under her arm, while
Charles, who sat behind her clad in Norfolk jacket and
knickerbockers, bore a similar roll protruding from
either pocket. Even as they watched, the pair eased up,
the lady sprang off, impaled one of her bills upon the
garden railing of an empty house, and then jumping on to
her seat again was about to hurry onwards when her nephew
drew her attention to the two gentlemen upon the
"Oh, now, really I didn't notice you," said she,
taking a few turns of the treadle and steering the
machine across to them. "Is it not a beautiful morning?"
"Lovely," answered the Doctor. "You seem to be very
"I am very busy." She pointed to the colored paper
which still fluttered from the railing. "We have been
pushing our propaganda, you see. Charles and I have been
at it since seven o'clock. It is about our meeting. I
wish it to be a great success. See!" She smoothed out
one of the bills, and the Doctor read his own name in
great black letters across the bottom.
"We don't forget our chairman, you see. Everybody is
coming. Those two dear little old maids opposite, the
Williamses, held out for some time; but I have their
promise now. Admiral, I am sure that you wish us well."
"Hum! I wish you no harm, ma'am."
"You will come on the platform?"
"I'll be---- No, I don't think I can do that."
"To our meeting, then?"
"No, ma'am; I don't go out after dinner."
"Oh yes, you will come. I will call in if I may, and
chat it over with you when you come home. We have not
breakfasted yet. Goodbye!" There was a whir of wheels,
and the yellow cloud rolled away down the road again. By
some legerdemain the Admiral found that he was clutching
in his right hand one of the obnoxious bills. He
crumpled it up, and threw it into the roadway.
"I'll be hanged if I go, Walker," said he, as be
resumed his walk. "I've never been hustled into doing a
thing yet, whether by woman or man."
"I am not a betting man," answered the Doctor, "but
I rather think that the odds are in favor of your going."
The Admiral had hardly got home, and had just seated
himself in his dining-room, when the attack upon him was
renewed. He was slowly and lovingly unfolding the
Times preparatory to the long read which led up to
luncheon, and had even got so far as to fasten his golden
pince-nez on to his thin, high-bridged nose, when he
heard a crunching of gravel, and, looking over the top of
his paper, saw Mrs. Westmacott coming up the garden walk.
She was still dressed in the singular costume which
offended the sailor's old-fashioned notions of propriety,
but he could not deny, as he looked at her, that she was
a very fine woman. In many climes he had looked upon
women of all shades and ages, but never upon a more
clearcut, handsome face, nor a more erect, supple, and
womanly figure. He ceased to glower as he gazed upon
her, and the frown smoothed away from his rugged brow.
"May I come in?" said she, framing herself in the
open window, with a background of green sward and blue
sky. "I feel like an invader deep in an enemy's
"It is a very welcome invasion, ma'am," said he,
clearing his throat and pulling at his high collar. "Try
this garden chair. What is there that I can do for you?
Shall I ring and let Mrs. Denver know that you are here?"
"Pray do not trouble, Admiral. I only looked in with
reference to our little chat this morning. I wish that
you would give us your powerful support at our coming
meeting for the improvement of the condition of woman."
"No, ma'am, I can't do that." He pursed up his lips
and shook his grizzled head.
"And why not?"
"Against my principles, ma'am."
"But why?"
"Because woman has her duties and man has his.
I may be old-fashioned, but that is my view. Why, what
is the world coming to? I was saying to Dr. Walker only
last night that we shall have a woman wanting to command
the Channel Fleet next."
"That is one of the few professions which cannot be
improved," said Mrs. Westmacott, with her sweetest smile.
"Poor woman must still look to man for protection."
"I don't like these new-fangled ideas, ma'am. I tell
you honestly that I don't. I like discipline, and I
think every one is the better for it. Women have got a
great deal which they had not in the days of our fathers.
They have universities all for themselves, I am told, and
there are women doctors, I hear. Surely they should rest
contented. What more can they want?"
"You are a sailor, and sailors are always chivalrous.
If you could see how things really are, you would change
your opinion. What are the poor things to do? There
are so many of them and so few things to which they can
turn their hands. Governesses? But there are hardly any
situations. Music and drawing? There is not one in
fifty who has any special talent in that direction.
Medicine? It is still surrounded with difficulties for
women, and it takes many years and a small fortune to
qualify. Nursing? It is hard work ill paid, and none
but the strongest can stand it. What would you have
them do then, Admiral? Sit down and starve?"
"Tut, tut! It is not so bad as that."
"The pressure is terrible. Advertise for a lady
companion at ten shillings a week, which is less than a
cook's wage, and see how many answers you get. There is
no hope, no outlook, for these struggling thousands.
Life is a dull, sordid struggle, leading down to a
cheerless old age. Yet when we try to bring some little
ray of hope, some chance, however distant, of something
better, we are told by chivalrous gentlemen that it is
against their principles to help."
The Admiral winced, but shook his head in dissent.
"There is banking, the law, veterinary surgery,
government offices, the civil service, all these at least
should be thrown freely open to women, if they have
brains enough to compete successfully for them. Then if
woman were unsuccessful it would be her own fault, and
the majority of the population of this country could no
longer complain that they live under a different law to
the minority, and that they are held down in poverty and
serfdom, with every road to independence sealed to them."
"What would you propose to do, ma'am?"
"To set the more obvious injustices right, and so
to pave the way for a reform. Now look at that man
digging in the field. I know him. He can neither read
nor write, he is steeped in whisky, and he has as much
intelligence as the potatoes that he is digging. Yet the
man has a vote, can possibly turn the scale of an
election, and may help to decide the policy of this
empire. Now, to take the nearest example, here am I, a
woman who have had some education, who have traveled, and
who have seen and studied the institutions of many
countries. I hold considerable property, and I pay more
in imperial taxes than that man spends in whisky, which
is saying a great deal, and yet I have no more direct
influence upon the disposal of the money which I pay than
that fly which creeps along the wall. Is that right? Is
it fair?"
The Admiral moved uneasily in his chair. "Yours is
an exceptional case," said he.
"But no woman has a voice. Consider that the women
are a majority in the nation. Yet if there was a
question of legislation upon which all women were agreed
upon one side and all the men upon the other, it would
appear that the matter was settled unanimously when more
than half the population were opposed to it. Is that
Again the Admiral wriggled. It was very awkward for
the gallant seaman to have a handsome woman opposite
to him, bombarding him with questions to none of which he
could find an answer. "Couldn't even get the tompions
out of his guns," as he explained the matter to the
Doctor that evening.
"Now those are really the points that we shall lay
stress upon at the meeting. The free and complete
opening of the professions, the final abolition of the
zenana I call it, and the franchise to all women who pay
Queen's taxes above a certain sum. Surely there is
nothing unreasonable in that. Nothing which could offend
your principles. We shall have medicine, law, and the
church all rallying that night for the protection of
woman. Is the navy to be the one profession absent?"
The Admiral jumped out of his chair with an evil word
in his throat. "There, there, ma'am," he cried. "Drop
it for a time. I have heard enough. You've turned me a
point or two. I won't deny it. But let it stand at
that. I will think it over."
"Certainly, Admiral. We would not hurry you in your
decision. But we still hope to see you on our platform."
She rose and moved about in her lounging masculine
fashion from one picture to another, for the walls were
thickly covered with reminiscences of the Admiral's
"Hullo!" said she. "Surely this ship would have
furled all her lower canvas and reefed her topsails if
she found herself on a lee shore with the wind on her
"Of course she would. The artist was never past
Gravesend, I swear. It's the Penelope as she was on
the 14th of June, 1857, in the throat of the Straits of
Banca, with the Island of Banca on the starboard bow, and
Sumatra on the port. He painted it from description, but
of course, as you very sensibly say, all was snug below
and she carried storm sails and double-reefed topsails,
for it was blowing a cyclone from the sou'east. I
compliment you, ma'am, I do indeed! "
"Oh, I have done a little sailoring myself--as much
as a woman can aspire to, you know. This is the Bay of
Funchal. What a lovely frigate!"
"Lovely, you say! Ah, she was lovely! That is the
Andromeda. I was a mate aboard of her--sub-lieutenant
they call it now, though I like the old name best."
"What a lovely rake her masts have, and what a curve
to her bows! She must have been a clipper."
The old sailor rubbed his hands and his eyes
glistened. His old ships bordered close upon his wife
and his son in his affections.
"I know Funchal," said the lady carelessly. "A
couple of years ago I had a seven-ton cutter-rigged
yacht, the Banshee, and we ran over to Madeira from
"You ma'am, in a seven-tonner?"
"With a couple of Cornish lads for a crew. Oh, it
was glorious! A fortnight right out in the open, with no
worries, no letters, no callers, no petty thoughts,
nothing but the grand works of God, the tossing sea and
the great silent sky. They talk of riding, indeed, I am
fond of horses, too, but what is there to compare with
the swoop of a little craft as she pitches down the long
steep side of a wave, and then the quiver and spring as
she is tossed upwards again? Oh, if our souls could
transmigrate I'd be a seamew above all birds that fly!
But I keep you, Admiral. Adieu!"
The old sailor was too transported with sympathy to
say a word. He could only shake her broad muscular hand.
She was half-way down the garden path before she heard
him calling her, and saw his grizzled head and
weather-stained face looking out from behind the
"You may put me down for the platform," he cried, and
vanished abashed behind the I curtain of his Times,
where his wife found him at lunch time.
"I hear that you have had quite a long chat with Mrs.
Westmacott," said she.
"Yes, and I think that she is one of the most
sensible women that I ever knew.
"Except on the woman's rights question, of course."
"Oh, I don't know. She had a good deal to say for
herself on that also. In fact, mother, I have taken a
platfom ticket for her meeting."
But this was not to be the only eventful conversation
which Mrs. Westmacott held that day, nor was the Admiral
the only person in the Wilderness who was destined to
find his opinions considerably changed. Two neighboring
families, the Winslows from Anerley, and the
Cumberbatches from Gipsy Hill, had been invited to tennis
by Mrs. Westmacott, and the lawn was gay in the evening
with the blazers of the young men and the bright dresses
of the girls. To the older people, sitting round in
their wicker-work garden chairs, the darting, stooping,
springing white figures, the sweep of skirts, and twinkle
of canvas shoes, the click of the rackets and sharp whiz
of the balls, with the continual "fifteen love--fifteen
all!" of the marker, made up a merry and exhilarating
scene. To see their sons and daughters so flushed and
healthy and happy, gave them also a reflected glow,
and it was hard to say who had most pleasure from the
game, those who played or those who watched.
Mrs. Westmacott had just finished a set when she
caught a glimpse of Clara Walker sitting alone at the
farther end of the ground. She ran down the court,
cleared the net to the amazement of the visitors, and
seated herself beside her. Clara's reserved and refined
nature shrank somewhat from the boisterous frankness and
strange manners of the widow, and yet her feminine
instinct told her that beneath all her peculiarities
there lay much that was good and noble. She smiled up at
her, therefore, and nodded a greeting.
"Why aren't you playing, then? Don't, for goodness'
sake, begin to be languid and young ladyish! When you
give up active sports you give up youth."
"I have played a set, Mrs. Westmacott."
"That's right, my dear." She sat down beside her, and
tapped her upon the arm with her tennis racket. "I like
you, my dear, and I am going to call you Clara. You are
not as aggressive as I should wish, Clara, but still I
like you very much. Self-sacrifice is all very well, you
know, but we have had rather too much of it on our side,
and should like to see a little on the other. What do
you think of my nephew Charles?"
The question was so sudden and unexpected that Clara
gave quite a jump in her chair. "I--I--I hardly ever
have thought of your nephew Charles."
"No? Oh, you must think him well over, for I want to
speak to you about him."
"To me? But why?"
"It seemed to me most delicate. You see, Clara, the
matter stands in this way. It is quite possible that I
may soon find myself in a completely new sphere of life,
which will involve fresh duties and make it impossible
for me to keep up a household which Charles can share."
Clara stared. Did this mean that she was about to
marry again? What else could it point to?
"Therefore Charles must have a household of his own.
That is obvious. Now, I don't approve of bachelor
establishments. Do you?"
"Really, Mrs. Westmacott, I have never thought of the
"Oh, you little sly puss! Was there ever a girl who
never thought of the matter? I think that a young man of
six-and-twenty ought to be married."
Clara felt very uncomfortable. The awful thought had
come upon her that this ambassadress had come to her as
a proxy with a proposal of marriage. But how could that
be? She had not spoken more than three or four times
with her nephew, and knew nothing more of him than he had
told her on the evening before. It was impossible, then.
And yet what could his aunt mean by this discussion of
his private affairs?
"Do you not think yourself," she persisted, "that a
young man of six-and-twenty is better married?"
"I should think that he is old enough to decide for
"Yes, yes. He has done so. But Charles is just a
little shy, just a little slow in expressing himself. I
thought that I would pave the way for him. Two women can
arrange these things so much better. Men sometimes have
a difficulty in making themselves clear."
"I really hardly follow you, Mrs. Westmacott," cried
Clara in despair.
"He has no profession. But he has nice tastes. He
reads Browning every night. And he is most amazingly
strong. When he was younger we used to put on the gloves
together, but I cannot persuade him to now, for he says
he cannot play light enough. I should allow him five
hundred, which should be enough at first."
"My dear Mrs. Westmacott," cried Clara, "I assure you
that I have not the least idea what it is that you are
talking of."
"Do you think your sister Ida would have my nephew
Her sister Ida? Quite a little thrill of relief and
of pleasure ran through her at the thought. Ida and
Charles Westmacott. She had never thought of it. And
yet they had been a good deal together. They had played
tennis. They had shared the tandem tricycle. Again came
the thrill of joy, and close at its heels the cold
questionings of conscience. Why this joy? What was the
real source of it? Was it that deep down, somewhere
pushed back in the black recesses of the soul, there was
the thought lurking that if Charles prospered in his
wooing then Harold Denver would still be free? How mean,
how unmaidenly, how unsisterly the thought! She crushed
it down and thrust it aside, but still it would push up
its wicked little head. She crimsoned with shame at her
own baseness, as she turned once more to her companion.
"I really do not know," she said.
"She is not engaged?"
"Not that I know of."
"You speak hesitatingly."
"Because I am not sure. But he may ask. She cannot
but be flattered."
"Quite so. I tell him that it is the most practical
compliment which a man can pay to a woman. He is a
little shy, but when he sets himself to do it he will
do it. He is very much in love with her, I assure
you. These little lively people always do attract
the slow and heavy ones, which is nature's device for the
neutralizing of bores. But they are all going in. I
think if you will allow me that I will just take the
opportunity to tell him that, as far as you know, there
is no positive obstacle in the way."
"As far as I know, "Clara repeated, as the widow
moved away to where the players were grouped round the
net, or sauntering slowly towards the house. She rose to
follow her, but her head was in a whirl with new
thoughts, and she sat down again. Which would be best
for Ida, Harold or Charles? She thought it over with as
much solicitude as a mother who plans for her only child.
Harold had seemed to her to be in many ways the noblest
and the best young man whom she had known. If ever she
was to love a man it would be such a man as that. But
she must not think of herself. She had reason to believe
that both these men loved her sister. Which would be the
best for her? But perhaps the matter was already
decided. She could not forget the scrap of conversation
which she had heard the night before, nor the secret
which her sister had refused to confide to her. If Ida
would not tell her, there was but one person who could.
She raised her eyes and there was Harold Denver
standing before her.
"You were lost in your thoughts," said he, smiling.
"I hope that they were pleasant ones."
"Oh, I was planning," said she, rising. "It seems
rather a waste of time as a rule, for things have a way
of working themselves out just as you least expect."
"What were you planning, then?"
"The future."
"Oh, my own and Ida's."
"And was I included in your joint futures?
"I hope all our friends were included."
"Don't go in," said he, as she began to move slowly
towards the house. "I wanted to have a word. Let us
stroll up and down the lawn. Perhaps you are cold. If
you are, I could bring you out a shawl."
"Oh, no, I am not cold."
"I was speaking to your sister Ida last night." She
noticed that there was a slight quiver in his voice, and,
glancing up at his dark, clear-cut face, she saw that he
was very grave. She felt that it was settled, that he
had come to ask her for her sister's hand.
"She is a charming girl," said he, after a pause.
"Indeed she is," cried Clara warmly. "And no one who
has not lived with her and known her intimately can
tell how charming and good she is. She is like a sunbeam
in the house."
"No one who was not good could be so absolutely happy
as she seems to be. Heaven's last gift, I think, is a
mind so pure and a spirit so high that it is unable even
to see what is impure and evil in the world around us.
For as long as we can see it, how can we be truly happy?"
"She has a deeper side also. She does not turn it to
the world, and it is not natural that she should, for she
is very young. But she thinks, and has aspirations of
her own."
"You cannot admire her more than I do. Indeed, Miss
Walker, I only ask to be brought into nearer relationship
with her, and to feel that there is a permanent bond
between us."
It had come at last. For a moment her heart was
numbed within her, and then a flood of sisterly love
carried all before it. Down with that dark thought which
would still try to raise its unhallowed head! She turned
to Harold with sparkling eyes and words of pleasure upon
her lips.
"I should wish to be near and dear to both of you,"
said he, as he took her hand. "I should wish Ida to be
my sister, and you my wife."
She said nothing. She only stood looking at him with
parted lips and great, dark, questioning eyes. The
lawn had vanished away, the sloping gardens, the brick
villas, the darkening sky with half a pale moon beginning
to show over the chimney-tops. All was gone, and she was
only conscious of a dark, earnest, pleading face, and of
a voice, far away, disconnected from herself, the voice
of a man telling a woman how he loved her. He was
unhappy, said the voice, his life was a void; there was
but one thing that could save him; he had come to the
parting of the ways, here lay happiness and honor, and
all that was high and noble; there lay the soul-killing
round, the lonely life, the base pursuit of money, the
sordid, selfish aims. He needed but the hand of the
woman that he loved to lead him into the better path.
And how he loved her his life would show. He loved her
for her sweetness, for her womanliness, for her strength.
He had need of her. Would she not come to him? And then
of a sudden as she listened it came home to her that the
man was Harold Denver, and that she was the woman, and
that all God's work was very beautiful--the green sward
beneath her feet, the rustling leaves, the long orange
slashes in the western sky. She spoke; she scarce knew
what the broken words were, but she saw the light of joy
shine out on his face, and her hand was still in his as
they wandered amid the twilight. They said no more
now, but only wandered and felt each other's presence.
All was fresh around them, familiar and yet new, tinged
with the beauty of their new-found happiness.
"Did you not know it before?" he asked. "I did not
dare to think it."
"What a mask of ice I must wear! How could a man
feel as I have done without showing it? Your sister at
least knew."
"It was last night. She began to praise you, I said
what I felt, and then in an instant it was all out."
"But what could you--what could you see in me? Oh,
I do pray that you may not repent it!" The gentle heart
was ruffled amid its joy by the thought of its own
"Repent it! I feel that I am a saved man. You do
not know how degrading this city life is, how debasing,
and yet how absorbing. Money for ever clinks in your
ear. You can think of nothing else. From the bottom of
my heart I hate it, and yet how can I draw back without
bringing grief to my dear old father? There was but one
way in which I could defy the taint, and that was by
having a home influence so pure and so high that it may
brace me up against all that draws me down. I have felt
that influence already. I know that when I am talking to
you I am a better man. It is you who, must go with
me through life, or I must walk for ever alone."
"Oh, Harold, I am so happy!" Still they wandered
amid the darkening shadows, while one by one the stars
peeped out in the blue black sky above them. At last a
chill night wind blew up from the east, and brought them
back to the realities of life.
"You must go in. You will be cold."
"My father will wonder where I am. Shall I say
anything to him?"
"If you like, my darling. Or I will in the morning.
I must tell my mother to-night. I know how delighted she
will be."
"I do hope so."
"Let me take you up the garden path. It is so dark.
Your lamp is not lit yet. There is the window. Till
to-morrow, then, dearest."
"Till to-morrow, Harold."
"My own darling!" He stooped, and their lips met for
the first time. Then, as she pushed open the folding
windows she heard his quick, firm step as it passed down
the graveled path. A lamp was lit as she entered the
room, and there was Ida, dancing about like a mischievous
little fairy in front of her.
"And have you anything to tell me?" she asked, with
a solemn face. Then, suddenly throwing her arms round
her sister's neck, "Oh, you dear, dear old Clara! I am
so pleased. I am so pleased."
It was just three days after the Doctor and the
Admiral had congratulated each other upon the closer tie
which was to unite their two families, and to turn their
friendship into something even dearer and more intimate,
that Miss Ida Walker received a letter which caused her
some surprise and considerable amusement. It was dated
from next door, and was handed in by the red-headed page
after breakfast.
"Dear Miss Ida," began this curious document, and
then relapsed suddenly into the third person. "Mr.
Charles Westmacott hopes that he may have the extreme
pleasure of a ride with Miss Ida Walker upon his tandem
tricycle. Mr. Charles Westmacott will bring it round in
half an hour. You in front. Yours very truly, Charles
Westmacott." The whole was written in a large,
loose-jointed, and school-boyish hand, very thin on the
up strokes and thick on the down, as though care and
pains had gone to the fashioning of it.
Strange as was the form, the meaning was clear
enough; so Ida hastened to her room, and had hardly
slipped on her light grey cycling dress when she
saw the tandem with its large occupant at the door. He
handed her up to her saddle with a more solemn and
thoughtful face than was usual with him, and a few
moments later they were flying along the beautiful,
smooth suburban roads in the direction of Forest Hill.
The great limbs of the athlete made the heavy machine
spring and quiver with every stroke; while the mignon
grey figure with the laughing face, and the golden curls
blowing from under the little pink-banded straw hat,
simply held firmly to her perch, and let the treadles
whirl round beneath her feet. Mile after mile they flew,
the wind beating in her face, the trees dancing past in
two long ranks on either side, until they had passed
round Croydon and were approaching Norwood once more from
the further side.
"Aren't you tired?" she asked, glancing over her
shoulder and turning towards him a little pink ear, a
fluffy golden curl, and one blue eye twinkling from the
very corner of its lid.
"Not a bit. I am just getting my swing."
"Isn't it wonderful to be strong? You always remind
me of a steamengine."
"Why a steamengine?"
"Well, because it is so powerful, and reliable, and
unreasoning. Well, I didn't mean that last, you know,
but--but--you know what I mean. What is the matter with
"Because you have something on your mind. You have
not laughed once."
He broke into a gruesome laugh. "I am quite jolly,"
said he.
"Oh, no, you are not. And why did you write me such
a dreadfully stiff letter?"
"There now," he cried, "I was sure it was stiff. I
said it was absurdly stiff."
"Then why write it?"
"It wasn't my own composition."
"Whose then? Your aunt's?"
"Oh, no. It was a person of the name of Slattery."
"Goodness! Who is he?"
"I knew it would come out, I felt that it would.
You've heard of Slattery the author?"
"He is wonderful at expressing himself. He wrote a
book called `The Secret Solved; or, Letter-writing Made
Easy.' It gives you models of all sorts of letters."
Ida burst out laughing. "So you actually copied
"It was to invite a young lady to a picnic, but I set
to work and soon got it changed so that it would do very
well. Slattery seems never to have asked any one to ride
a tandem. But when I had written it, it seemed so
dreadfully stiff that I had to put a little beginning and
end of my own, which seemed to brighten it up a good
"I thought there was something funny about the
beginning and end."
"Did you? Fancy your noticing the difference in
style. How quick you are! I am very slow at things like
that. I ought to have been a woodman, or game-keeper, or
something. I was made on those lines. But I have found
something now."
"What is that, then?"
"Ranching. I have a chum in Texas, and he says it is
a rare life. I am to buy a share in his business. It is
all in the open air--shooting, and riding, and sport.
Would it--would it inconvenience you much, Ida, to come
out there with me?"
Ida nearly fell off her perch in her amazement. The
only words of which she could think were "My goodness
me!" so she said them.
"If it would not upset your plans, or change your
arrangements in any way." He had slowed down and let go
of the steering handle, so that the great machine crawled
aimlessly about from one side of the road to the other.
"I know very well that I am not clever or anything of
that sort, but still I would do all I can to make you
very happy. Don't you think that in time you might come
to like me a little bit?"
Ida gave a cry of fright. "I won't like you if you
run me against a brick wall," she said, as the machine
rasped up against the curb "Do attend to the steering."
"Yes, I will. But tell me, Ida, whether you will
come with me."
"Oh, I don't know. It's too absurd! How can we talk
about such things when I cannot see you? You speak to
the nape of my neck, and then I have to twist my head
round to answer."
"I know. That was why I put `You in front' upon my
letter. I thought that it would make it easier. But if
you would prefer it I will stop the machine, and then you
can sit round and talk about it."
"Good gracious!" cried Ida. "Fancy our sitting face
to face on a motionless tricycle in the middle of the
road, and all the people looking out of their windows at
"It would look rather funny, wouldn't it? Well,
then, suppose that we both get off and push the tandem
along in front of us?"
"Oh, no, this is better than that."
"Or I could carry the thing."
Ida burst out laughing. "That would be more absurd
"Then we will go quietly, and I will look out for the
steering. I won't talk about it at all if you would
rather not. But I really do love you very much, and you
would make me happy if you came to Texas with me, and I
think that perhaps after a time I could make you happy
"But your aunt?"
"Oh, she would like it very much. I can understand
that your father might not like to lose you. I'm sure I
wouldn't either, if I were he. But after all, America is
not very far off nowadays, and is not so very wild. We
would take a grand piano, and--and--a copy of Browning.
And Denver and his wife would come over to see us. We
should be quite a family party. It would be jolly."
Ida sat listening to the stumbling words and awkward
phrases which were whispered from the back of her, but
there was something in Charles Westmacott's clumsiness of
speech which was more moving than the words of the most
eloquent of pleaders. He paused, he stammered, he caught
his breath between the words, and he blurted out in
little blunt phrases all the hopes of his heart. If love
had not come to her yet, there was at least pity and
sympathy, which are nearly akin to it. Wonder there was
also that one so weak and frail as she should shake this
strong man so, should have the whole course of his life
waiting for her decision. Her left hand was on the
cushion at her side. He leaned forward and took it
gently in his own. She did not try to draw it back
from him.
"May I have it," said he, "for life?"
"Oh, do attend to your steering," said she, smiling
round at him; "and don't say any more about this to-day.
Please don't!"
"When shall I know, then?"
"Oh, to-night, to-morrow, I don't know. I must ask
Clara. Talk about something else."
And they did talk about something else; but her left
hand was still enclosed in his, and he knew, without
asking again, that all was well.
Mrs. Westmacott's great meeting for the
enfranchisement of woman had passed over, and it had been
a triumphant success. All the maids and matrons of the
southern suburbs had rallied at her summons, there was an
influential platform with Dr. Balthazar Walker in the
chair, and Admiral Hay Denver among his more prominent
supporters. One benighted male had come in from the
outside darkness and had jeered from the further end of
the hall, but he had been called to order by the chair,
petrified by indignant glances from the unenfranchised
around him, and finally escorted to the door by Charles
Westmacott. Fiery resolutions were passed, to be
forwarded to a large number of leading statesmen, and the
meeting broke up with the conviction that a shrewd
blow had been struck for the cause of woman.
But there was one woman at least to whom the meeting
and all that was connected with it had brought anything
but pleasure. Clara Walker watched with a heavy heart
the friendship and close intimacy which had sprung up
between her father and the widow. From week to week it
had increased until no day ever passed without their
being together. The coming meeting had been the excuse
for these continual interviews, but now the meeting was
over, and still the Doctor would refer every point which
rose to the judgment of his neighbor. He would talk,
too, to his two daughters of her strength of character,
her decisive mind, and of the necessity of their
cultivating her acquaintance and following her example,
until at last it had become his most common topic of
All this might have passed as merely the natural
pleasure which an elderly man might take in the society
of an intelligent and handsome woman, but there were
other points which seemed to Clara to give it a deeper
meaning. She could not forget that when Charles
Westmacott had spoken to her one night he had alluded to
the possibility of his aunt marrying again. He must have
known or noticed something before he would speak upon
such a subject. And then again Mrs. Westmacott had
herself said that she hoped to change her style of
living shortly and take over completely new duties. What
could that mean except that she expected to marry? And
whom? She seemed to see few friends outside their own
little circle. She must have alluded to her father. It
was a hateful thought, and yet it must be faced.
One evening the Doctor had been rather late at his
neighbor's. He used to go into the Admiral's after
dinner, but now he turned more frequently in the other
direction. When he returned Clara was sitting alone in
the drawing-room reading a magazine. She sprang up as he
entered, pushed forward his chair, and ran to fetch his
"You are looking a little pale, dear," he remarked.
"Oh, no, papa, I am very well."
"All well with Harold?"
"Yes. His partner, Mr. Pearson, is still away, and
he is doing all the work."
"Well done. He is sure to succeed. Where is Ida?"
"In her room, I think."
"She was with Charles Westmacott on the lawn not very
long ago. He seems very fond of her. He is not very
bright, but I think he will make her a good husband."
"I am sure of it, papa. He is very manly and
"Yes, I should think that he is not the sort of man
who goes wrong. There is nothing hidden about him. As
to his brightness, it really does not matter, for his
aunt, Mrs. Westmacott, is very rich, much richer than you
would think from her style of living, and she has made
him a handsome provision."
"I am glad of that."
"It is between ourselves. I am her trustee, and so
I know something of her arrangements. And when are you
going to marry, Clara?"
"Oh, papa, not for some time yet. We have not
thought of a date.
"Well, really, I don't know that there is any reason
for delay. He has a competence and it increases yearly.
As long as you are quite certain that your mind is made
"Oh, papa!"
"Well, then, I really do not know why there should be
any delay. And Ida, too, must be married within the next
few months. Now, what I want to know is what I am to do
when my two little companions run away from me." He
spoke lightly, but his eyes were grave as he looked
questioningly at his daughter.
"Dear papa, you shall not be alone. It will be years
before Harold and I think of marrying, and when we do you
must come and live with us."
"No, no, dear. I know that you mean what you
say, but I have seen something of the world, and I know
that such arrangements never answer. There cannot be two
masters in a house, and yet at my age my freedom is very
necessary to me."
"But you would be completely free."
"No, dear, you cannot be that if you are a guest in
another man's house. Can you suggest no other
"That we remain with you."
"No, no. That is out of the question. Mrs.
Westmacott herself says that a woman's first duty is to
marry. Marriage, however, should be an equal
partnership, as she points out. I should wish you both
to marry, but still I should like a suggestion from you,
Clara, as to what I should do."
"But there is no hurry, papa. Let us wait. I do not
intend to marry yet."
Doctor Walker looked disappointed. "Well, Clara, if
you can suggest nothing, I suppose that I must take the
initiative myself," said he.
"Then what do you propose, papa?" She braced herself
as one who sees the blow which is about to fall.
He looked at her and hesitated. "How like your poor
dear mother you are, Clara!" he cried. "As I looked at
you then it was as if she had come back from the grave."
He stooped towards her and kissed her. "There, run
away to your sister, my dear, and do not trouble yourself
about me. Nothing is settled yet, but you will find that
all will come right."
Clara went upstairs sad at heart, for she was sure
now that what she had feared was indeed about to come to
pass, and that her father was going to take Mrs.
Westmacott to be his wife. In her pure and earnest mind
her mother's memory was enshrined as that of a saint, and
the thought that any one should take her place seemed a
terrible desecration. Even worse, however, did this
marriage appear when looked at from the point of view of
her father's future. The widow might fascinate him by
her knowledge of the world, her dash, her strength, her
unconventionality--all these qualities Clara was willing
to allow her--but she was convinced that she would be
unendurable as a life companion. She had come to an age
when habits are not lightly to be changed, nor was she a
woman who was at all likely to attempt to change them.
How would a sensitive man like her father stand the
constant strain of such a wife, a woman who was all
decision, with no softness, and nothing soothing in her
nature? It passed as a mere eccentricity when they heard
of her stout drinking, her cigarette smoking, her
occasional whiffs at a long clay pipe, her horsewhipping
of a drunken servant, and her companionship with the
snake Eliza, whom she was in the habit of bearing about
in her pocket. All this would become unendurable to her
father when his first infatuation was past. For his own
sake, then, as well as for her mother's memory, this
match must be prevented. And yet how powerless she was
to prevent it! What could she do? Could Harold aid her?
Perhaps. Or Ida? At least she would tell her sister and
see what she could suggest.
Ida was in her boudoir, a tiny little tapestried
room, as neat and dainty as herself, with low walls hung
with Imari plaques and with pretty little Swiss brackets
bearing blue Kaga ware, or the pure white Coalport china.
In a low chair beneath a red shaded standing lamp sat
Ida, in a diaphanous evening dress of mousseline de
soie, the ruddy light tinging her sweet childlike face,
and glowing on her golden curls. She sprang up as her
sister entered, and threw her arms around her.
"Dear old Clara! Come and sit down here beside me.
I have not had a chat for days. But, oh, what a troubled
face! What is it then?" She put up her forefinger and
smoothed her sister's brow with it.
Clara pulled up a stool, and sitting down beside her
sister, passed her arm round her waist. "I am so sorry
to trouble you, dear Ida," she said. "But I do not know
what to do.
"There's nothing the matter with Harold?"
"Oh, no, Ida."
"Nor with my Charles?"
"No, no."
Ida gave a sigh of relief. "You quite frightened me,
dear," said she. "You can't think how solemn you look.
What is it, then?"
"I believe that papa intends to ask Mrs. Westmacott
to marry him."
Ida burst out laughing. "What can have put such a
notion into your head, Clara?"
"It is only too true, Ida. I suspected it before,
and he himself almost told me as much with his own lips
to-night. I don't think that it is a laughing matter."
"Really, I could not help it. If you had told me
that those two dear old ladies opposite, the Misses
Williams, were both engaged, you would not have surprised
me more. It is really too funny."
"Funny, Ida! Think of any one taking the place of
dear mother.
But her sister was of a more practical and less
sentimental nature. "I am sure," said she, "that dear
mother would like papa to do whatever would make him most
happy. We shall both be away, and why should papa not
please himself?"
"But think how unhappy he will be. You know how
quiet he is in his ways, and how even a little thing
will upset him. How could he live with a wife who would
make his whole life a series of surprises? Fancy what a
whirlwind she must be in a house. A man at his age
cannot change his ways. I am sure he would be
Ida's face grew graver, and she pondered over the
matter for a few minutes. "I really think that you are
right as usual," said she at last. "I admire Charlie's
aunt very much, you know, and I think that she is a very
useful and good person, but I don't think she would do as
a wife for poor quiet papa."
"But he will certainly ask her, and I really think
that she intends to accept him. Then it would be too
late to interfere. We have only a few days at the most.
And what can we do? How can we hope to make him change
his mind?"
Again Ida pondered. "He has never tried what it is
to live with a strong-minded woman," said she. "If we
could only get him to realize it in time. Oh, Clara, I
have it; I have it! Such a lovely plan!" She leaned
back in her chair and burst into a fit of laughter so
natural and so hearty that Clara had to forget her
troubles and to join in it.
"Oh, it is beautiful!" she gasped at last. "Poor
papa! What a time he will have! But it's all for his
own good, as he used to say when we had to be
punished when we were little. Oh, Clara, I do hope your
heart won't fail you.
"I would do anything to save him, dear."
"That's it. You must steel yourself by that
"But what is your plan?"
"Oh, I am so proud of it. We will tire him for ever
of the widow, and of all emancipated women. Let me see,
what are Mrs. Westmacott's main ideas? You have listened
to her more than I. Women should attend less to
household duties. That is one, is it not?"
"Yes, if they feel they have capabilities for higher
things. Then she thinks that every woman who has leisure
should take up the study of some branch of science, and
that, as far as possible, every woman should qualify
herself for some trade or profession, choosing for
preference those which have been hitherto monopolized by
men. To enter the others would only be to intensify the
present competition."
" Quite so. That is glorious!" Her blue eyes were
dancing with mischief, and she clapped her hands in her
delight. "What else? She thinks that whatever a man
can do a woman should be allowed to do also--does she
"She says so."
"And about dress? The short skirt, and the
divided skirt are what she believes in?"
"We must get in some cloth."
"We must make ourselves a dress each. A brand-new,
enfranchised, emancipated dress, dear. Don't you see my
plan? We shall act up to all Mrs. Westmacott's views in
every respect, and improve them when we can. Then papa
will know what it is to live with a woman who claims all
her rights. Oh, Clara, it will be splendid."
Her milder sister sat speechless before so daring a
scheme. "But it would be wrong, Ida!" she cried at last.
"Not a bit. It is to save him."
"I should not dare."
"Oh, yes, you would. Harold will help. Besides,
what other plan have you?"
"I have none."
"Then you must take mine."
"Yes. Perhaps you are right. Well, we do it for a
good motive.
"You will do it?"
"I do not see any other way."
"You dear good Clara! Now I will show you what you
are to do. We must not begin too suddenly. It might
excite suspicion."
"What would you do, then?"
"To-morrow we must go to Mrs. Westmacott, and sit
at her feet and learn all her views."
"What hypocrites we shall feel!"
"We shall be her newest and most enthusiastic
converts. Oh, it will be such fun, Clara! Then we shall
make our plans and send for what we want, and begin our
new life."
"I do hope that we shall not have to keep it up long.
It seems so cruel to dear papa.
"Cruel! To save him!"
"I wish I was sure that we were doing right. And yet
what else can we do? Well, then, Ida, the die is cast,
and we will call upon Mrs. Westmacott tomorrow.
Little did poor Doctor Walker imagine as he sat at
his breakfast-table next morning that the two sweet girls
who sat on either side of him were deep in a conspiracy,
and that he, munching innocently at his muffins, was the
victim against whom their wiles were planned. Patiently
they waited until at last their opening came.
"It is a beautiful day," he remarked. "It will do
for Mrs. Westmacott. She was thinking of having a spin
upon the tricycle."
"Then we must call early. We both intended to see
her after breakfast."
"Oh, indeed!" The Doctor looked pleased.
"You know, pa," said Ida, "it seems to us that we
really have a very great advantage in having Mrs.
Westmacott living so near."
"Why so, dear?"
"Well, because she is so advanced, you know. If we
only study her ways we may advance ourselves also."
"I think I have heard you say, papa," Clara remarked,
"that she is the type of the woman of the future."
"I am very pleased to hear you speak so sensibly, my
dears. I certainly think that she is a woman whom you
may very well take as your model. The more intimate you
are with her the better pleased I shall be."
"Then that is settled," said Clara demurely, and the
talk drifted to other matters.
All the morning the two girls sat extracting from
Mrs. Westmacott her most extreme view as to the duty of
the one sex and the tyranny of the other. Absolute
equality, even in details, was her ideal. Enough of the
parrot cry of unwomanly and unmaidenly. It had been
invented by man to scare woman away when she poached too
nearly upon his precious preserves. Every woman should
be independent. Every woman should learn a trade. It
was their duty to push in where they were least
welcome. Then they were martyrs to the cause, and
pioneers to their weaker sisters. Why should the
wash-tub, the needle, and the housekeeper's book be
eternally theirs? Might they not reach higher, to the
consulting-room, to the bench, and even to the pulpit?
Mrs. Westmacott sacrificed her tricycle ride in her
eagerness over her pet subject, and her two fair
disciples drank in every word, and noted every suggestion
for future use. That afternoon they went shopping in
London, and before evening strange packages began to be
handed in at the Doctor's door. The plot was ripe for
execution, and one of the conspirators was merry and
jubilant, while the other was very nervous and troubled.
When the Doctor came down to the dining-room next
morning, he was surprised to find that his daughters had
already been up some time. Ida was installed at one end
of the table with a spirit-lamp, a curved glass flask,
and several bottles in front of her. The contents of
the flask were boiling furiously, while a villainous
smell filled the room. Clara lounged in an arm-chair
with her feet upon a second one, a blue-covered book in
her hand, and a huge map of the British Islands spread
across her lap. "Hullo!" cried the Doctor, blinking and
sniffing, "where's the breakfast?"
"Oh, didn't you order it?" asked Ida.
"I! No; why should I?" He rang the bell. "Why have
you not laid the breakfast, Jane?"
"If you please, sir, Miss Ida was a workin' at the
"Oh, of course, Jane," said the young lady calmly.
"I am so sorry. I shall be ready to move in a few
"But what on earth are you doing, Ida?" asked the
Doctor. "The smell is most offensive. And, good
gracious, look at the mess which you have made upon the
cloth! Why, you have burned a hole right through."
"Oh, that is the acid," Ida answered contentedly.
"Mrs. Westmacott said that it would burn holes."
"You might have taken her word for it without
trying," said her father dryly.
"But look here, pa! See what the book says: `The
scientific mind takes nothing upon trust. Prove all
things!' I have proved that."
"You certainly have. Well, until breakfast is ready
I'll glance over the Times. Have you seen it?"
"The Times? Oh, dear me, this is it which I have
under my spirit-lamp. I am afraid there is some acid
upon that too, and it is rather damp and torn. Here it
The Doctor took the bedraggled paper with a rueful
face. "Everything seems to be wrong to-day," he
remarked. "What is this sudden enthusiasm about
chemistry, Ida?"
"Oh, I am trying to live up to Mrs. Westmacott's
"Quite right! quite right!" said he, though perhaps
with less heartiness than he had shown the day before.
"Ah, here is breakfast at last!"
But nothing was comfortable that morning. There were
eggs without egg-spoons, toast which was leathery from
being kept, dried-up rashers, and grounds in the coffee.
Above all, there was that dreadful smell which pervaded
everything and gave a horrible twang to every mouthful.
"I don't wish to put a damper upon your studies,
Ida," said the Doctor, as he pushed back his chair. "But
I do think it would be better if you did your chemical
experiments a little later in the day."
"But Mrs. Westmacott says that women should rise
early, and do their work before breakfast."
"Then they should choose some other room besides the
breakfast-room." The Doctor was becoming just a little
ruffled. A turn in the open air would soothe him, he
thought. "Where are my boots?" he asked.
But they were not in their accustomed corner by his
chair. Up and down he searched, while the three servants
took up the quest, stooping and peeping under
book-cases and drawers. Ida had returned to her studies,
and Clara to her blue-covered volume, sitting absorbed
and disinterested amid the bustle and the racket. At
last a general buzz of congratulation announced that the
cook had discovered the boots hung up among the hats in
the hall. The Doctor, very red and flustered, drew them
on, and stamped off to join the Admiral in his morning
As the door slammed Ida burst into a shout of
laughter. "You see, Clara," she cried, "the charm works
already. He has gone to number one instead of to number
three. Oh, we shall win a great victory. You've been
very good, dear; I could see that you were on thorns to
help him when he was looking for his boots."
"Poor papa! It is so cruel. And yet what are we to
"Oh, he will enjoy being comfortable all the more if
we give him a little discomfort now. What horrible
work this chemistry is! Look at my frock! It is ruined.
And this dreadful smell!" She threw open the window, and
thrust her little golden-curled head out of it. Charles
Westmacott was hoeing at the other side of the garden
"Good morning, sir," said Ida.
"Good morning!" The big man leaned upon his hoe and
looked up at her.
"Have you any cigarettes, Charles?"
"Yes, certainly."
"Throw me up two."
"Here is my case. Can you catch!"
A seal-skin case came with a soft thud on to the
floor. Ida opened it. It was full.
"What are these?" she asked.
"What are some other brands?"
"Oh, Richmond Gems, and Turkish, and Cambridge. But
"Never mind!" She nodded to him and closed the
window. "We must remember all those, Clara," said she.
"We must learn to talk about such things. Mrs.
Westmacott knows all about the brands of cigarettes. Has
your rum come?"
"Yes, dear. It is here."
"And I have my stout. Come along up to my room now.
This smell is too abominable. But we must be ready for
him when he comes back. If we sit at the window we shall
see him coming down the road."
The fresh morning air, and the genial company of the
Admiral had caused the Doctor to forget his troubles, and
he came back about midday in an excellent humor. As he
opened the hall door the vile smell of chemicals which
had spoilt his breakfast met him with a redoubled
virulence. He threw open the hall window, entered the
dining-room, and stood aghast at the sight which met his
Ida was still sitting among her bottles, with a lit
cigarette in her left hand and a glass of stout on the
table beside her. Clara, with another cigarette, was
lounging in the easy chair with several maps spread out
upon the floor around. Her feet were stuck up on the
coal scuttle, and she had a tumblerful of some
reddish-brown composition on the smoking table close at
her elbow. The Doctor gazed from one to the other of
them through the thin grey haze of smoke, but his eyes
rested finally in a settled stare of astonishment upon
his elder and more serious daughter.
"Clara!" he gasped, "I could not have believed it!"
"What is it, papa?"
"You are smoking!"
"Trying to, papa. I find it a little difficult, for
I have not been used to it."
"But why, in the name of goodness--"
"Mrs. Westmacott recommends it."
"Oh, a lady of mature years may do many things which
a young girl must avoid."
"Oh, no," cried Ida, "Mrs. Westmacott says that there
should be one law for all. Have a cigarette, pa?"
"No, thank you. I never smoke in the morning."
"No? Perhaps you don't care for the brand. What
are these, Clara?"
"Ah, we must have some Richmond Gems or Turkish. I
wish, pa, when you go into town, you would get me some
"I will do nothing of the kind. I do not at all
think that it is a fitting habit for young ladies. I do
not agree with Mrs. Westmacott upon the point."
"Really, pa! It was you who advised us to imitate
"But with discrimination. What is it that you are
drinking, Clara?"
"Rum, papa."
"Rum? In the morning?" He sat down and rubbed his
eyes as one who tries to shake off some evil dream. "Did
you say rum?"
"Yes, pa. They all drink it in the profession which
I am going to take up."
"Profession, Clara?"
"Mrs. Westmacott says that every woman should follow
a calling, and that we ought to choose those which women
have always avoided."
"Quite so."
"Well, I am going to act upon her advice. I am going
to be a pilot."
"My dear Clara! A pilot! This is too much."
"This is a beautiful book, papa. `The Lights,
Beacons, Buoys, Channels, and Landmarks of Great
Britain.' Here is another, `The Master Mariner's
Handbook.' You can't imagine how interesting it is."
"You are joking, Clara. You must be joking!"
"Not at all, pa. You can't think what a lot I have
learned already. I'm to carry a green light to starboard
and a red to port, with a white light at the mast-head,
and a flare-up every fifteen minutes."
"Oh, won't it look pretty at night!" cried her
"And I know the fog-signals. One blast means that a
ship steers to starboard, two to port, three astern, four
that it is unmanageable. But this man asks such dreadful
questions at the end of each chapter. Listen to this:
`You see a red light. The ship is on the port tack and
the wind at north; what course is that ship steering to
a point?'"
The Doctor rose with a gesture of despair. "I can't
imagine what has come over you both," said he.
"My dear papa, we are trying hard to live up to Mrs.
Westmacott's standard."
"Well, I must say that I do not admire the result.
Your chemistry, Ida, may perhaps do no harm; but your
scheme, Clara, is out of the question. How a girl of
your sense could ever entertain such a notion is more
than I can imagine. But I must absolutely forbid you to
go further with it."
"But, pa," asked Ida, with an air of innocent
inquiry in her big blue eyes, "what are we to do when
your commands and Mrs. Westmacott's advice are opposed?
You told us to obey her. She says that when women try to
throw off their shackles, their fathers, brothers and
husbands are the very first to try to rivet them on
again, and that in such a matter no man has any
"Does Mrs. Westmacott teach you that I am not the
head of my own house?" The Doctor flushed, and his
grizzled hair bristled in his anger.
"Certainly. She says that all heads of houses are
relics of the dark ages."
The Doctor muttered something and stamped his foot
upon the carpet. Then without a word he passed out into
the garden and his daughters could see him striding
furiously up and down, cutting off the heads of the
flowers with a switch.
"Oh, you darling! You played your part so
splendidly!" cried Ida.
"But how cruel it is! When I saw the sorrow and
surprise in his eyes I very nearly put my arms about him
and told him all. Don't you think we have done enough?"
"No, no, no. Not nearly enough. You must not turn
weak now, Clara. It is so funny that I should be leading
you. It is quite a new experience. But I know I am
right. If we go an as we are doing, we shall be able
to say all our lives that we have saved him. And if we
don't, oh, Clara, we should never forgive ourselves."
From that day the Doctor's peace was gone. Never was
a quiet and orderly household transformed so suddenly
into a bear garden, or a happy man turned into such a
completely miserable one. He had never realized before
how entirely his daughters had shielded him from all the
friction of life. Now that they had not only ceased to
protect him, but had themselves become a source of
trouble to him, he began to understand how great the
blessing was which he had enjoyed, and to sigh for the
happy days before his girls had come under the influence
of his neighbor.
"You don't look happy," Mrs. Westmacott had remarked
to him one morning. "You are pale and a little off
color. You should come with me for a ten mile spin upon
the tandem."
"I am troubled about my girls." They were walking up
and down in the garden. From time to time there sounded
from the house behind them the long, sad wail of a French
"That is Ida," said he. "She has taken to
practicing on that dreadful instrument in the
intervals of her chemistry. And Clara is quite as bad.
I declare it is getting quite unendurable."
"Ah, Doctor, Doctor!" she cried, shaking her
forefinger, with a gleam of her white teeth. "You must
live up to your principles--you must give your daughters
the same liberty as you advocate for other women."
"Liberty, madam, certainly! But this approaches to
"The same law for all, my friend." She tapped him
reprovingly on the arm with her sunshade. "When you were
twenty your father did not, I presume, object to your
learning chemistry or playing a musical instrument. You
would have thought it tyranny if he had."
"But there is such a sudden change in them both."
"Yes, I have noticed that they have been very
enthusiastic lately in the cause of liberty. Of all my
disciples I think that they promise to be the most
devoted and consistent, which is the more natural since
their father is one of our most trusted champions."
The Doctor gave a twitch of impatience. "I seem to
have lost all authority," he cried.
"No, no, my dear friend. They are a little exuberant
at having broken the trammels of custom. That is all."
"You cannot think what I have had to put up with,
madam. It has been a dreadful experience. Last night,
after I had extinguished the candle in my bedroom, I
placed my foot upon something smooth and hard, which
scuttled from under me. Imagine my horror! I lit the
gas, and came upon a well-grown tortoise which Clara has
thought fit to introduce into the house. I call it a
filthy custom to have such pets."
Mrs. Westmacott dropped him a little courtesy.
"Thank you, sir," said she. "That is a nice little side
hit at my poor Eliza."
"I give you my word that I had forgotten about her,"
cried the Doctor, flushing. "One such pet may no doubt
be endured, but two are more than I can bear. Ida has a
monkey which lives on the curtain rod. It is a most
dreadful creature. It will remain absolutely motionless
until it sees that you have forgotten its presence, and
then it will suddenly bound from picture to picture all
round the walls, and end by swinging down on the
bell-rope and jumping on to the top of your head. At
breakfast it stole a poached egg and daubed it all over
the door handle. Ida calls these outrages amusing
"Oh, all will come right," said the widow
"And Clara is as bad, Clara who used to be so
good and sweet, the very image of her poor mother. She
insists upon this preposterous scheme of being a pilot,
and will talk of nothing but revolving lights and hidden
rocks, and codes of signals, and nonsense of the kind."
"But why preposterous?" asked his companion. "What
nobler occupation can there be than that of stimulating
commerce, and aiding the mariner to steer safely into
port? I should think your daughter admirably adapted for
such duties."
"Then I must beg to differ from you, madam."
"Still, you are inconsistent."
"Excuse me, madam, I do not see the matter in the
same light. And I should be obliged to you if you would
use your influence with my daughter to dissuade her."
"You wish to make me inconsistent too."
"Then you refuse?"
"I am afraid that I cannot interfere."
The Doctor was very angry. "Very well, madam," said
he. "In that case I can only say that I have the honor
to wish you a very good morning." He raised his broad
straw hat and strode away up the gravel path, while the
widow looked after him with twinkling eyes. She was
surprised herself to find that she liked the Doctor
better the more masculine and aggressive he became. It
was unreasonable and against all principle, and yet so it
was and no argument could mend the matter.
Very hot and angry, the Doctor retired into his room
and sat down to read his paper. Ida had retired, and the
distant wails of the bugle showed that she was upstairs
in her boudoir. Clara sat opposite to him with her
exasperating charts and her blue book. The Doctor
glanced at her and his eyes remained fixed in
astonishment upon the front of her skirt.
"My dear Clara," he cried, "you have torn your
His daughter laughed and smoothed out her frock. To
his horror he saw the red plush of the chair where the
dress ought to have been. "It is all torn!" he
cried. "What have you done?"
"My dear papa!" said she, "what do you know about the
mysteries of ladies' dress? This is a divided skirt."
Then he saw that it was indeed so arranged, and that
his daughter was clad in a sort of loose, extremely long
"It will be so convenient for my sea-boots," she
Her father shook his head sadly. "Your dear mother
would not have liked it, Clara," said he.
For a moment the conspiracy was upon the point of
collapsing. There was something in the gentleness of his
rebuke, and in his appeal to her mother, which brought
the tears to her eyes, and in another instant she would
have been kneeling beside him with everything
confessed, when the door flew open and her sister Ida
came bounding into the room. She wore a short grey
skirt, like that of Mrs. Westmacott, and she held it up
in each hand and danced about among the furniture.
"I feel quite the Gaiety girl!" she cried. "How
delicious it must be to be upon the stage! You can't
think how nice this dress is, papa. One feels so free in
it. And isn't Clara charming?"
"Go to your room this instant and take it off!"
thundered the Doctor. "I call it highly improper, and no
daughter of mine shall wear it."
"Papa! Improper! Why, it is the exact model of Mrs.
"I say it is improper. And yours also, Clara! Your
conduct is really outrageous. You drive me out of the
house. I am going to my club in town. I have no comfort
or peace of mind in my own house. I will stand it no
longer. I may be late to-night--I shall go to the
British Medical meeting. But when I return I shall hope
to find that you have reconsidered your conduct, and that
you have shaken yourself clear of the pernicious
influences which have recently made such an alteration in
your conduct." He seized his hat, slammed the
dining-room door, and a few minutes later they heard the
crash of the big front gate.
"Victory, Clara, victory!" cried Ida, still
pirouetting around the furniture. "Did you hear what he
said? Pernicious influences! Don't you understand,
Clara? Why do you sit there so pale and glum? Why don't
you get up and dance?"
"Oh, I shall be so glad when it is over, Ida. I do
hate to give him pain. Surely he has learned now that it
is very unpleasant to spend one's life with reformers."
"He has almost learned it, Clara. Just one more
little lesson. We must not risk all at this last
"What would you do, Ida? Oh, don't do anything too
dreadful. I feel that we have gone too far already."
"Oh, we can do it very nicely. You see we are both
engaged and that makes it very easy. Harold will do what
you ask him, especially as you have told him the reason
why, and my Charles will do it without even wanting to
know the reason. Now you know what Mrs. Westmacott
thinks about the reserve of young ladies. Mere prudery,
affectation, and a relic of the dark ages of the Zenana.
Those were her words, were they not?"
"What then?"
"Well, now we must put it in practice. We are
reducing all her other views to practice, and we must not
shirk this one.
"But what would you do? Oh, don't look so wicked,
Ida! You look like some evil little fairy, with your
golden hair and dancing, mischievous eyes. I know that
you are going to propose something dreadful!"
"We must give a little supper to-night."
"We? A supper!"
"Why not? Young gentlemen give suppers. Why not
young ladies?"
"But whom shall we invite?"
"Why, Harold and Charles of course."
"And the Admiral and Mrs. Hay Denver?"
"Oh, no. That would be very old-fashioned. We must
keep up with the times, Clara."
"But what can we give them for supper?"
"Oh, something with a nice, fast, rollicking,
late-at-night-kind of flavor to it. Let me see!
Champagne, of course--and oysters. Oysters will do. In
the novels, all the naughty people take champagne and
oysters. Besides, they won't need any cooking. How is
your pocket-money, Clara?"
"I have three pounds."
"And I have one. Four pounds. I have no idea how
much champagne costs. Have you?"
"Not the slightest."
"How many oysters does a man eat?"
"I can't imagine."
"I'll write and ask Charles. No, I won't. I'll ask
Jane. Ring for her, Clara. She has been a cook, and is
sure to know.
Jane, on being cross-questioned, refused to commit
herself beyond the statement that it depended upon the
gentleman, and also upon the oysters. The united
experience of the kitchen, however, testified that three
dozen was a fair provision.
"Then we shall have eight dozen altogether, said Ida,
jotting down all her requirements upon a sheet of paper.
"And two pints of champagne. And some brown bread, and
vinegar, and pepper. That's all, I think. It is not so
very difficult to give a supper after all, is it, Clara?"
"I don't like it, Ida. It seems to me to be so very
"But it is needed to clinch the matter. No, no,
there is no drawing back now, Clara, or we shall ruin
everything. Papa is sure to come back by the 9:45. He
will reach the door at 10. We must have everything ready
for him. Now, just sit down at once, and ask Harold to
come at nine o'clock, and I shall do the same to
The two invitations were dispatched, received and
accepted. Harold was already a confidant, and he
understood that this was some further development of the
plot. As to Charles, he was so accustomed to feminine
eccentricity, in the person of his aunt, that the only
thing which could surprise him would be a rigid
observance of etiquette. At nine o'clock they
entered the dining-room of Number 2, to find the master
of the house absent, a red-shaded lamp, a snowy cloth, a
pleasant little feast, and the two whom they would have
chosen, as their companions. A merrier party never met,
and the house rang with their laughter and their chatter.
"It is three minutes to ten," cried Clara, suddenly,
glancing at the clock.
"Good gracious! So it is! Now for our little
tableau!" Ida pushed the champagne bottles obtrusively
forward, in the direction of the door, and scattered
oyster shells over the cloth.
"Have you your pipe, Charles?"
"My pipe! Yes."
"Then please smoke it. Now don't argue about it, but
do it, for you will ruin the effect otherwise."
The large man drew out a red case, and extracted a
great yellow meerschaum, out of which, a moment later, he
was puffing thick wreaths of smoke. Harold had lit a
cigar, and both the girls had cigarettes.
"That looks very nice and emancipated," said Ida,
glancing round. "Now I shall lie on this sofa. So!
Now, Charles, just sit here, and throw your arm
carelessly over the back of the sofa. No, don't stop
smoking. I like it. Clara, dear, put your feet upon the
coal-scuttle, and do try to look a little
dissipated. I wish we could crown ourselves with
flowers. There are some lettuces on the sideboard. Oh
dear, here he is! I hear his key." She began to sing in
her high, fresh voice a little snatch from a French song,
with a swinging tra la-la chorus.
The Doctor had walked home from the station in a
peaceable and relenting frame of mind, feeling that,
perhaps, he had said too much in the morning, that his
daughters had for years been models in every way, and
that, if there had been any change of late, it was, as
they said themselves, on account of their anxiety to
follow his advice and to imitate Mrs. Westmacott. He
could see clearly enough now that that advice was unwise,
and that a world peopled with Mrs. Westmacotts would not
be a happy or a soothing one. It was he who was,
himself, to blame, and he was grieved by the thought that
perhaps his hot words had troubled and saddened his two
This fear, however, was soon dissipated. As he
entered his hall he heard the voice of Ida uplifted in a
rollicking ditty, and a very strong smell of tobacco was
borne to his nostrils. He threw open the dining-room
door, and stood aghast at the scene which met his eyes.
The room was full of the blue wreaths of smoke, and
the lamp-light shone through the thin haze upon
gold-topped bottles, plates, napkins, and a litter
of oyster shells and cigarettes. Ida, flushed and
excited, was reclining upon the settee, a wine-glass at
her elbow, and a cigarette between her fingers, while
Charles Westmacott sat beside her, with his arm thrown
over the head of the sofa, with the suggestion of a
caress. On the other side of the room, Clara was
lounging in an arm-chair, with Harold beside her, both
smoking, and both with wine-glasses beside them. The
Doctor stood speechless in the doorway, staring at the
Bacchanalian scene.
"Come in, papa! Do!" cried Ida. "Won't you have a
glass of champagne?"
"Pray excuse me," said her father, coldly, "I feel
that I am intruding. I did not know that you were
entertaining. Perhaps you will kindly let me know
when you have finished. You will find me in my study."
He ignored the two young men completely, and, closing the
door, retired, deeply hurt and mortified, to his room.
A quarter of an hour afterwards he heard the door slam,
and his two daughters came to announce that the guests
were gone.
"Guests! Whose guests?" he cried angrily. "What is
the meaning of this exhibition?"
"We have been giving a little supper, papa. They
were our guests."
"Oh, indeed!" The Doctor laughed sarcastically.
"You think it right, then, to entertain young
bachelors late at night, to, smoke and drink with them,
to---- Oh, that I should ever have lived to blush for my
own daughters! I thank God that your dear mother never
saw the day."
"Dearest papa," cried Clara, throwing her arms about
him. "Do not be angry with us. If you understood all,
you would see that there is no harm in it."
"No harm, miss! Who is the best judge of that?"
"Mrs. Westmacott," suggested Ida, slyly.
The Doctor sprang from his chair. "Confound Mrs.
Westmacott!" he cried, striking frenziedly into the air
with his hands. "Am I to hear of nothing but this woman?
Is she to confront me at every turn? I will endure it no
"But it was your wish, papa."
"Then I will tell you now what my second and wiser
wish is, and we shall see if you will obey it as you have
the first."
"Of course we will, papa."
"Then my wish is, that you should forget these odious
notions which you have imbibed, that you should dress and
act as you used to do, before ever you saw this woman,
and that, in future, you confine your intercourse with
her to such civilities as are necessary between
"We are to give up Mrs. Westmacott?"
"Or give up me."
"Oh, dear dad, how can you say anything so cruel?"
cried Ida, burrowing her towsy golden hair into her
father's shirt front, while Clara pressed her cheek
against his whisker. "Of course we shall give her up, if
you prefer it."
"Of course we shall, papa."
The Doctor patted the two caressing heads. "These
are my own two girls again," he cried. "It has been my
fault as much as yours. I have been astray, and you have
followed me in my error. It was only by seeing your
mistake that I have become conscious of my own. Let us
set it aside, and neither say nor think anything more
about it."
So by the cleverness of two girls a dark cloud was
thinned away and turned into sunshine. Over one of them,
alas, another cloud was gathering, which could not be so
easily dispersed. Of these three households which fate
had thrown together, two had already been united by ties
of love. It was destined, however, that a bond of
another sort should connect the Westmacotts with the Hay
Between the Admiral and the widow a very cordial
feeling had existed since the day when the old seaman had
hauled down his flag and changed his opinions; granting
to the yachts-woman all that he had refused to the
reformer. His own frank and downright nature respected
the same qualities in his neighbor, and a friendship
sprang up between them which was more like that which
exists between two men, founded upon esteem and a
community of tastes.
"By the way, Admiral," said Mrs. Westmacott one
morning, as they walked together down to the station, "I
understand that this boy of yours in the intervals of
paying his devotions to Miss Walker is doing something
upon 'Change."
"Yes, ma'am, and there is no man of his age who is
doing so well. He's drawing ahead, I can tell you,
ma'am. Some of those that started with him are hull down
astarn now. He touched his five hundred last year, and
before he's thirty he'll be making the four figures."
"The reason I asked is that I have small investments
to make myself from time to time, and my present broker
is a rascal. I should be very glad to do it through your
"It is very kind of you, ma'am. His partner is away
on a holiday, and Harold would like to push on a bit and
show what he can do. You know the poop isn't big
enough to hold the lieutenant when the skipper's on
"I suppose he charges the usual half per cent?"
"Don't know, I'm sure, ma'am. I'll swear that he
does what is right and proper."
"That is what I usually pay--ten shillings in the
hundred pounds. If you see him before I do just ask him
to get me five thousand in New Zealands. It is at four
just now, and I fancy it may rise."
"Five thousand!" exclaimed the Admiral, reckoning it
in his own mind. "Lemme see! That's twenty-five pounds
commission. A nice day's work, upon my word. It is a
very handsome order, ma'am."
"Well, I must pay some one, and why not him?"
"I'll tell him, and I'm sure he'll lose no time."
"Oh, there is no great hurry. By the way, I
understand from what you said just now that he has a
"Yes, my boy is the junior partner. Pearson is the
senior. I was introduced to him years ago, and he
offered Harold the opening. Of course we had a pretty
stiff premium to pay."
Mrs. Westmacott had stopped, and was standing very
stiffly with her Red Indian face even grimmer than usual.
"Pearson?" said she. "Jeremiah Pearson?"
"The same."
"Then it's all off," she cried. "You need not carry
out that investment."
"Very well, ma'am."
They walked on together side by side, she brooding
over some thought of her own, and he a little crossed and
disappointed at her caprice and the lost commission for
"I tell you what, Admiral," she exclaimed suddenly,
"if I were you I should get your boy out of this
"But why, madam?"
"Because he is tied to one of the deepest, slyest
foxes in the whole city of London."
"Jeremiah Pearson, ma'am? What can you know of him?
He bears a good name."
"No one in this world knows Jeremiah Pearson as I
know him, Admiral. I warn you because I have a friendly
feeling both for you and for your son. The man is a
rogue and you had best avoid him."
"But these are only words, ma'am. Do you tell me
that you know him better than the brokers and jobbers in
the City?"
"Man," cried Mrs. Westmacott, "will you allow that I
know him when I tell you that my maiden name was Ada
Pearson, and that Jeremiah is my only brother?"
The Admiral whistled. "Whew! " cried he. "Now that
I think of it, there is a likeness."
"He is a man of iron, Admiral--a man without a
heart. I should shock you if I were to tell you what I
have endured from my brother. My father's wealth was
divided equally between us. His own share he ran through
in five years, and he has tried since then by every trick
of a cunning, low-minded man, by base cajolery, by legal
quibbles, by brutal intimidation, to juggle me out of my
share as well. There is no villainy of which the man is
not capable. Oh, I know my brother Jeremiah. I know him
and I am prepared for him."
"This is all new to me, ma'am. 'Pon my word, I
hardly know what to say to it. I thank you for having
spoken so plainly. From what you say, this is a poor
sort of consort for a man to sail with. Perhaps Harold
would do well to cut himself adrift."
"Without losing a day."
"Well, we shall talk it over. You may be sure of
that. But here we are at the station, so I will just see
you into your carriage and then home to see what my wife
says to the matter."
As he trudged homewards, thoughtful and perplexed, he
was surprised to hear a shout behind him, and to see
Harold running down the road after him.
"Why, dad," he cried, "I have just come from town,
and the first thing I saw was your back as you marched
away. But you are such a quick walker that I had to
run to catch you."
The Admiral's smile of pleasure had broken his stern
face into a thousand wrinkles. "You are early to-day,"
said he.
"Yes, I wanted to consult you."
"Nothing wrong?"
"Oh no, only an inconvenience."
"What is it, then?"
"How much have we in our private account?"
"Pretty fair. Some eight hundred, I think."
"Oh, half that will be ample. It was rather
thoughtless of Pearson."
"What then?"
"Well, you see, dad, when he went away upon this
little holiday to Havre he left me to pay accounts and so
on. He told me that there was enough at the bank for all
claims. I had occasion on Tuesday to pay away two
cheques, one for L80, and the other for L120, and here
they are returned with a bank notice that we have already
overdrawn to the extent of some hundreds."
The Admiral looked very grave. "What's the meaning
of that, then?" he asked.
"Oh, it can easily be set right. You see Pearson
invests all the spare capital and keeps as small a margin
as possible at the bank. Still it was too bad for him to
allow me even to run a risk of having a cheque returned.
I have written to him and demanded his authority to
sell out some stock, and I have written an explanation to
these people. In the meantime, however, I have had to
issue several cheques; so I had better transfer part of
our private account to meet them."
"Quite so, my boy. All that's mine is yours. But
who do you think this Pearson is? He is Mrs.
Westmacott's brother."
"Really. What a singular thing! Well, I can see a
likeness now that you mention it. They have both the
same hard type of face."
"She has been warning me against him--says he is the
rankest pirate in London. I hope that it is all right,
boy, and that we may not find ourselves in broken water."
Harold had turned a little pale as he heard Mrs.
Westmacott's opinion of his senior partner. It gave
shape and substance to certain vague fears and suspicions
of his own which had been pushed back as often as they
obtruded themselves as being too monstrous and fantastic
for belief.
"He is a well-known man in the City, dad," said he.
"Of course he is--of course he is. That is what I
told her. They would have found him out there if
anything had been amiss with him. Bless you, there's
nothing so bitter as a family quarrel. Still it is just
as well that you have written about this affair, for
we may as well have all fair and aboveboard."
But Harold's letter to his partner was crossed by a
letter from his partner to Harold. It lay awaiting him
upon the breakfast table next morning, and it sent the
heart into his mouth as he read it, and caused him to
spring up from his chair with a white face and staring
"My boy! My boy!"
"I am ruined, mother--ruined!" He stood gazing
wildly in front of him, while the sheet of paper
fluttered down on the carpet. Then he dropped back into
the chair, and sank his face into his hands. His mother
had her arms round him in an instant, while the Admiral,
with shaking fingers, picked up the letter from the floor
and adjusted his glasses to read it.
"My DEAR DENVER," it ran. "By the time that this
reaches you I shall be out of the reach of yourself or of
any one else who may desire an interview. You need not
search for me, for I assure you that this letter is
posted by a friend, and that you will have your trouble
in vain if you try to find me. I am sorry to leave you
in such a tight place, but one or other of us must be
squeezed, and on the whole I prefer that it should be
you. You'll find nothing in the bank, and about L13,000
unaccounted for. I'm not sure that the best thing you
can do is not to realize what you can, and imitate
your senior's example. If you act at once you may get
clean away. If not, it's not only that you must put up
your shutters, but I am afraid that this missing money
could hardly be included as an ordinary debt, and of
course you are legally responsible for it just as much as
I am. Take a friend's advice and get to America. A
young man with brains can always do something out there,
and you can live down this little mischance. It will be
a cheap lesson if it teaches you to take nothing upon
trust in business, and to insist upon knowing exactly
what your partner is doing, however senior he may be to
"Yours faithfully,
"Great Heavens!" groaned the Admiral, "he has
"And left me both a bankrupt and a thief."
"No, no, Harold," sobbed his mother. "All will be
right. What matter about money!"
"Money, mother! It is my honor."
"The boy is right. It is his honor, and my honor,
for his is mine. This is a sore trouble, mother, when we
thought our life's troubles were all behind us, but we
will bear it as we have borne others." He held out his
stringy hand, and the two old folk sat with bowed
grey heads, their fingers intertwined, strong in
each other's love and sympathy.
"We were too happy," she sighed.
"But it is God's will, mother."
"Yes, John, it is God's will."
"And yet it is bitter to bear. I could have lost
all, the house, money, rank--I could have borne it. But
at my age--my honor--the honor of an admiral of the
"No honor can be lost, John, where no dishonor has
been done. What have you done? What has Harold done?
There is no question of honor."
The old man shook his head, but Harold had already
called together his clear practical sense, which for an
instant in the presence of this frightful blow had
deserted him.
"The mater is right, dad," said he. "It is bad
enough, Heaven knows, but we must not take too dark a
view of it. After all, this insolent letter is in itself
evidence that I had nothing to do with the schemes of the
base villain who wrote it."
"They may think it prearranged."
"They could not. My whole life cries out against the
thought. They could not look me in the face and
entertain it."
"No, boy, not if they have eyes in their heads,"
cried the Admiral, plucking up courage at the sight of
the flashing eyes and brave, defiant face. "We have
the letter, and we have your character. We'll weather it
yet between them. It's my fault from the beginning for
choosing such a land-shark for your consort. God help
me, I thought I was finding such an opening for you."
"Dear dad! How could you possibly know? As he says
in his letter, it has given me a lesson. But he was so
much older and so much more experienced, that it was hard
for me to ask to examine his books. But we must waste no
time. I must go to the City."
"What will you do?"
"What an honest man should do. I will write to all
our clients and creditors, assemble them, lay the whole
matter before them, read them the letter and put myself
absolutely in their hands."
"That's it, boy--yard-arm to yard-arm, and have it
"I must go at once." He put on his top-coat and his
hat. "But I have ten minutes yet before I can catch a
train. There is one little thing which I must do before
I start."
He had caught sight through the long glass folding
door of the gleam of a white blouse and a straw hat in
the tennis ground. Clara used often to meet him there of
a morning to say a few words before he hurried away into
the City. He walked out now with the quick, firm
step of a man who has taken a momentous resolution, but
his face was haggard and his lips pale.
"Clara," said he, as she came towards him with words
of greeting, "I am sorry to bring ill news to you, but
things have gone wrong in the City, and--and I think that
I ought to release you from your engagement."
Clara stared at him with her great questioning dark
eyes, and her face became as pale as his.
"How can the City affect you and me, Harold?"
"It is dishonor. I cannot ask you to share it."
"Dishonor! The loss of some miserable gold and
silver coins!"
"Oh, Clara, if it were only that! We could be far
happier together in a little cottage in the country than
with all the riches of the City. Poverty could not cut
me to the heart, as I have been cut this morning. Why,
it is but twenty minutes since I had the letter, Clara,
and it seems to me to be some old, old thing which
happened far away in my past life, some horrid black
cloud which shut out all the freshness and the peace from
"But what is it, then? What do you fear worse than
"To have debts that I cannot meet. To be
hammered upon 'Change and declared a bankrupt. To
know that others have a just claim upon me and to feel
that I dare not meet their eyes. Is not that worse than
"Yes, Harold, a thousand fold worse! But all this
may be got over. Is there nothing more?"
"My partner has fled and left me responsible for
heavy debts, and in such a position that I may be
required by the law to produce some at least of this
missing money. It has been confided to him to invest,
and he has embezzled it. I, as his partner, am liable
for it. I have brought misery on all whom I love--my
father, my mother. But you at least shall not be under
the shadow. You are free, Clara. There is no tie
between us."
"It takes two to make such a tie, Harold," said she,
smiling and putting her hand inside his arm. "It takes
two to make it, dear, and also two to break it. Is that
the way they do business in the City, sir, that a man can
always at his own sweet will tear up his engagement?"
"You hold me to it, Clara?"
"No creditor so remorseless as I, Harold. Never,
never shall you get from that bond."
"But I am ruined. My whole life is blasted."
"And so you wish to ruin me, and blast my life also.
No indeed, sir, you shall not get away so lightly. But
seriously now, Harold, you would hurt me if it were
not so absurd. Do you think that a woman's love is like
this sunshade which I carry in my hand, a thing only
fitted for the sunshine, and of no use when the winds
blow and the clouds gather?"
"I would not drag you down, Clara."
"Should I not be dragged down indeed if I left your
side at such a time? It is only now that I can be of use
to you, help you, sustain you. You have always been so
strong, so above me. You are strong still, but then two
will be stronger. Besides, sir, you have no idea what a
woman of business I am. Papa says so, and he knows."
Harold tried to speak, but his heart was too full.
He could only press the white hand which curled round his
sleeve. She walked up and down by his side, prattling
merrily, and sending little gleams of cheeriness through
the gloom which girt him in. To listen to her he might
have thought that it was Ida, and not her staid and
demure sister, who was chatting to him.
"It will soon be cleared up," she said, "and then we
shall feel quite dull. Of course all business men have
these little ups and downs. Why, I suppose of all the
men you meet upon 'Change, there is not one who has not
some such story to tell. If everything was always
smooth, you know, then of course every one would
turn stockbroker, and you would have to hold your
meetings in Hyde Park. How much is it that you need?"
"More than I can ever get. Not less than thirteen
thousand pounds."
Clara's face fell as she heard the amount. "What do
you purpose doing?"
"I shall go to the City now, and I shall ask all our
creditors to meet me to-morrow. I shall read them
Pearson's letter, and put myself into their hands."
"And they, what will they do?"
"What can they do? They will serve writs for their
money, and the firm will be declared bankrupt."
"And the meeting will be to-morrow, you say. Will
you take my advice?"
"What is it, Clara?"
"To ask them for a few days of delay. Who knows what
new turn matters may take?"
"What turn can they take? I have no means of raising
the money."
"Let us have a few days."
"Oh, we should have that in the ordinary course of
business. The legal formalities would take them some
little time. But I must go, Clara, I must not seem to
shirk. My place now must be at my offices."
"Yes, dear, you are right. God bless you and guard
you! I shall be here in The Wilderness, but all day
I shall be by your office table at Throgmorton Street in
spirit, and if ever you should be sad you will hear my
little whisper in your ear, and know that there is one
client whom you will never be able to get rid of--never
as long as we both live, dear."
"Now, papa," said Clara that morning, wrinkling her
brows and putting her finger-tips together with the air
of an experienced person of business, "I want to have a
talk to you about money matters."
"Yes, my dear." He laid down his paper, and looked
a question.
"Kindly tell me again, papa, how much money I have in
my very own right. You have often told me before, but I
always forget figures."
"You have two hundred and fifty pounds a year of your
own, under your aunt's will.
"And Ida?"
"Ida has one hundred and fifty."
"Now, I think I can live very well on fifty pounds a
year, papa. I am not very extravagant, and I could
make my own dresses if I had a sewing-machine."
"Very likely, dear."
"In that case I have two hundred a year which I could
do without."
"If it were necessary."
"But it is necessary. Oh, do help me, like a good,
dear, kind papa, in this matter, for my whole heart is
set upon it. Harold is in sore need of money, and
through no fault of his own." With a woman's tact and
eloquence, she told the whole story. "Put yourself in my
place, papa. What is the money to me? I never think of
it from year's end to year's end. But now I know how
precious it is. I could not have thought that money
could be so valuable. See what I can do with it. It may
help to save him. I must have it by to-morrow. Oh, do,
do advise me as to what I should do, and how I should get
the money."
The Doctor smiled at her eagerness. "You are as
anxious to get rid of money as others are to gain it,"
said he. "In another case I might think it rash, but I
believe in your Harold, and I can see that he has had
villainous treatment. You will let me deal with the
"You, papa?"
"It can be done best between men. Your capital,
Clara, is some five thousand pounds, but it is out
on a mortgage, and you could not call it in."
"Oh, dear! oh, dear!"
"But we can still manage. I have as much at my bank.
I will advance it to the Denvers as coming from you, and
you can repay it to me, or the interest of it, when your
money becomes due."
"Oh, that is beautiful! How sweet and kind of you!"
"But there is one obstacle: I do not think that you
would ever induce Harold to take this money."
Clara's face fell. "Don't you think so, really?"
"I am sure that he would not."
"Then what are you to do? What horrid things money
matters are to arrange!"
"I shall see his father. We can manage it all
between us."
"Oh, do, do, papa! And you will do it soon?"
"There is no time like the present. I will go in at
once." He scribbled a cheque, put it in an envelope, put
on his broad straw hat, and strolled in through the
garden to pay his morning call.
It was a singular sight which met his eyes as he
entered the sitting-room of the Admiral. A great sea
chest stood open in the center, and allround upon
the carpet were little piles of jerseys, oil-skins,
books, sextant boxes, instruments, and sea-boots. The
old seaman sat gravely amidst this lumber, turning it
over, and examining it intently; while his wife, with the
tears running silently down her ruddy cheeks, sat upon
the sofa, her elbows upon her knees and her chin upon her
hands, rocking herself slowly backwards and forwards.
"Hullo, Doctor," said the Admiral, holding out his
hand, "there's foul weather set in upon us, as you may
have heard, but I have ridden out many a worse squall,
and, please God, we shall all three of us weather this
one also, though two of us are a little more cranky than
we were."
"My dear friends, I came in to tell you how deeply we
sympathize with you all. My girl has only just told me
about it."
"It has come so suddenly upon us, Doctor," sobbed
Mrs. Hay Denver. "I thought that I had John to myself
for the rest of our lives--Heaven knows that we have not
seen very much of each other--but now he talks of going
to sea again.
"Aye, aye, Walker, that's the only way out of it.
When I first heard of it I was thrown up in the wind with
all aback. I give you my word that I lost my bearings
more completely than ever since I strapped a middy's dirk
to my belt. You see, friend, I know something of
shipwreck or battle or whatever may come upon the waters,
but the shoals in the City of London on which my poor boy
has struck are clean beyond me. Pearson had been my
pilot there, and now I know him to be a rogue. But I've
taken my bearings now, and I see my course right before
"What then, Admiral?"
"Oh, I have one or two little plans. I'll have some
news for the boy. Why, hang it, Walker man, I may be a
bit stiff in the joints, but you'll be my witness that I
can do my twelve miles under the three hours. What then?
My eyes are as good as ever except just for the
newspaper. My head is clear. I'm three-and-sixty, but
I'm as good a man as ever I was--too good a man to lie up
for another ten years. I'd be the better for a smack of
the salt water again, and a whiff of the breeze. Tut,
mother, it's not a four years' cruise this time. I'll be
back every month or two. It's no more than if I went for
a visit in the country." He was talking boisterously,
and heaping his sea-boots and sextants back into his
"And you really think, my dear friend, of hoisting
your pennant again?"
"My pennant, Walker? No, no. Her Majesty, God bless
her, has too many young men to need an old hulk like me.
I should be plain Mr. Hay Denver, of the merchant
service. I daresay that I might find some owner who
would give me a chance as second or third officer. It
will be strange to me to feel the rails of the bridge
under my fingers once more."
"Tut! tut! this will never do, this will never do,
Admiral!" The Doctor sat down by Mrs. Hay Denver and
patted her hand in token of friendly sympathy. "We must
wait until your son has had it out with all these people,
and then we shall know what damage is done, and how best
to set it right. It will be time enough then to begin to
muster our resources to meet it."
"Our resources!" The Admiral laughed. "There's the
pension. I'm afraid, Walker, that our resources won't
need much mustering."
"Oh, come, there are some which you may not have
thought of. For example, Admiral, I had always intended
that my girl should have five thousand from me when she
married. Of course your boy's trouble is her trouble,
and the money cannot be spent better than in helping to
set it right. She has a little of her own which she
wished to contribute, but I thought it best to work it
this way. Will you take the cheque, Mrs. Denver, and I
think it would be best if you said nothing to Harold
about it, and just used it as the occasion served?"
"God bless you, Walker, you are a true friend. I
won't forget this, Walker. "The Admiral sat down on his
sea chest and mopped his brow with his red handkerchief.
"What is it to me whether you have it now or then?
It may be more useful now. There's only one stipulation.
If things should come to the worst, and if the business
should prove so bad that nothing can set it right, then
hold back this cheque, for there is no use in pouring
water into a broken basin, and if the lad should fall, he
will want something to pick himself up again with."
"He shall not fall, Walker, and you shall not have
occasion to be ashamed of the family into which your
daughter is about to marry. I have my own plan. But we
shall hold your money, my friend, and it will strengthen
us to feel that it is there."
"Well, that is all right," said Doctor Walker,
rising. "And if a little more should be needed, we must
not let him go wrong for the want of a thousand or two.
And now, Admiral, I'm off for my morning walk. Won't you
come too?"
"No, I am going into town."
"Well, good-bye. I hope to have better news, and
that all will come right. Good-bye, Mrs. Denver. I
feel as if the boy were my own, and I shall not be easy
until all is right with him."
When Doctor Walker had departed, the Admiral packed
all his possessions back into his sea chest with the
exception of one little brass-bound desk. This he
unlocked, and took from it a dozen or so blue sheets of
paper all mottled over with stamps and seals, with very
large V. R.'s printed upon the heads of them. He tied
these carefully into a small bundle, and placing them in
the inner pocket of his coat, he seized his stick and
"Oh, John, don't do this rash thing," cried Mrs.
Denver, laying her hands upon his sleeve. "I have seen
so little of you, John. Only three years since you left
the service. Don't leave me again. I know it is weak of
me, but I cannot bear it."
"There's my own brave lass," said he, smoothing down
the grey-shot hair. "We've lived in honor together,
mother, and please God in honor we'll die. No matter how
debts are made, they have got to be met, and what the boy
owes we owe. He has not the money, and how is he to find
it? He can't find it. What then? It becomes my
business, and there's only one way for it."
"But it may not be so very bad, John. Had we not
best wait until after he sees these people to-morrow?"
"They may give him little time, lass. But I'll have
a care that I don't go so far that I can't put back
again. Now, mother, there's no use holding me. It's got
to be done, and there's no sense in shirking it." He
detached her fingers from his sleeve, pushed her gently
back into an arm-chair, and hurried from the house.
In less than half an hour the Admiral was whirled
into Victoria Station and found himself amid a dense
bustling throng, who jostled and pushed in the crowded
terminus. His errand, which had seemed feasible enough
in his own room, began now to present difficulties in the
carrying out, and he puzzled over how he should take the
first steps. Amid the stream of business men, each
hurrying on his definite way, the old seaman in his grey
tweed suit and black soft hat strode slowly along, his
head sunk and his brow wrinkled in perplexity. Suddenly
an idea occurred to him. He walked back to the railway
stall and bought a daily paper. This he turned and
turned until a certain column met his eye, when he
smoothed it out, and carrying it over to a seat,
proceeded to read it at his leisure.
And, indeed, as a man read that column, it
seemed strange to him that there should still remain
any one in this world of ours who should be in straits
for want of money. Here were whole lines of gentlemen
who were burdened with a surplus in their incomes, and
who were loudly calling to the poor and needy to come and
take it off their hands. Here was the guileless person
who was not a professional moneylender, but who would be
glad to correspond, etc. Here too was the accommodating
individual who advanced sums from ten to ten thousand
pounds without expense, security, or delay. "The money
actually paid over within a few hours," ran this
fascinating advertisement, conjuring up a vision of swift
messengers rushing with bags of gold to the aid of the
poor struggler. A third gentleman did all business by
personal application, advanced money on anything or
nothing; the lightest and airiest promise was enough to
content him according to his circular, and finally he
never asked for more than five per cent. This struck the
Admiral as far the most promising, and his wrinkles
relaxed, and his frown softened away as he gazed at it.
He folded up the paper rose from the seat, and found
himself face to face with Charles Westmacott.
"Hullo, Admiral!"
"Hullo, Westmacott!" Charles had always been a
favorite of the seaman's. "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, I have been doing a little business for my aunt.
But I have never seen you in London before."
"I hate the place. It smothers me. There's not a
breath of clean air on this side of Greenwich. But maybe
you know your way about pretty well in the City?"
"Well, I know something about it. You see I've never
lived very far from it, and I do a good deal of my aunt's
"Maybe you know Bread Street?"
"It is out of Cheapside."
"Well then, how do you steer for it from here? You
make me out a course and I'll keep to it."
"Why, Admiral, I have nothing to do. I'll take you
there with pleasure."
"Will you, though? Well, I'd take it very kindly if
you would. I have business there. Smith and Hanbury,
financial agents, Bread Street."
The pair made their way to the river-side, and so
down the Thames to St. Paul's landing--a mode of travel
which was much more to the Admiral's taste than 'bus or
cab. On the way, he told his companion his mission and
the causes which had led to it. Charles Westmacott knew
little enough of City life and the ways of business, but
at least he had more experience in both than the Admiral,
and he made up his mind not to leave him until the
matter was settled.
"These are the people," said the Admiral, twisting
round his paper, and pointing to the advertisement which
had seemed to him the most promising. "It sounds honest
and above-board, does it not? The personal interview
looks as if there were no trickery, and then no one could
object to five per cent."
"No, it seems fair enough."
"It is not pleasant to have to go hat in hand
borrowing money, but there are times, as you may find
before you are my age, Westmacott, when a man must stow
away his pride. But here's their number, and their plate
is on the corner of the door."
A narrow entrance was flanked on either side by a row
of brasses, ranging upwards from the shipbrokers and the
solicitors who occupied the ground floors, through a long
succession of West Indian agents, architects, surveyors,
and brokers, to the firm of which they were in quest. A
winding stone stair, well carpeted and railed at first
but growing shabbier with every landing, brought them
past innumerable doors until, at last, just under the
ground-glass roofing, the names of Smith and Hanbury were
to be seen painted in large white letters across a panel,
with a laconic invitation to push beneath it. Following
out the suggestion, the Admiral and his companion
found themselves in a dingy apartment, ill lit from a
couple of glazed windows. An ink-stained table, littered
with pens, papers, and almanacs, an American cloth sofa,
three chairs of varying patterns, and a much-worn carpet,
constituted all the furniture, save only a very large and
obtrusive porcelain spittoon, and a gaudily framed and
very somber picture which hung above the fireplace.
Sitting in front of this picture, and staring gloomily at
it, as being the only thing which he could stare at, was
a small sallow-faced boy with a large head, who in the
intervals of his art studies munched sedately at an
"Is Mr. Smith or Mr. Hanbury in?" asked the Admiral.
"There ain't no such people," said the small boy.
"But you have the names on the door."
"Ah, that is the name of the firm, you see. It's
only a name. It's Mr. Reuben Metaxa that you wants."
"Well then, is he in?"
"No, he's not."
"When will he be back?"
"Can't tell, I'm sure. He's gone to lunch.
Sometimes he takes one hour, and sometimes two. It'll be
two to-day, I 'spect, for he said he was hungry afore he
"Then I suppose that we had better call again, " said
the Admiral.
"Not a bit," cried Charles. "I know how to manage
these little imps. See here, you young varmint, here's
a shilling for you. Run off and fetch your master. If
you don't bring him here in five minutes I'll clump you
on the side of the head when you get back. Shoo! Scat!"
He charged at the youth, who bolted from the room and
clattered madly down-stairs.
"He'll fetch him," said Charles. "Let us make
ourselves at home. This sofa does not feel over and
above safe. It was not meant for fifteen-stone men.
But this doesn't look quite the sort of place where one
would expect to pick up money."
"Just what I was thinking," said the Admiral, looking
ruefully about him.
"Ah, well! I have heard that the best furnished
offices generally belong to the poorest firms. Let us
hope it's the opposite here. They can't spend much on
the management anyhow. That pumpkin-headed boy was the
staff, I suppose. Ha, by Jove, that's his voice, and
he's got our man, I think!"
As he spoke the youth appeared in the doorway with a
small, brown, dried-up little chip of a man at his heels.
He was clean-shaven and blue-chinned, with bristling
black hair, and keen brown eyes which shone out very
brightly from between pouched under-lids and drooping
upper ones. He advanced, glancing keenly from one
to the other of his visitors, and slowly rubbing together
his thin, blue-veined hands. The small boy closed the
door behind him, and discreetly vanished.
"I am Mr. Reuben Metaxa," said the moneylender. "Was
it about an advance you wished to see me?"
"For you, I presume?" turning to Charles Westmacott.
"No, for this gentleman."
The moneylender looked surprised. "How much did you
"I thought of five thousand pounds," said the
"And on what security?"
"I am a retired admiral of the British navy. You
will find my name in the Navy List. There is my card.
I have here my pension papers. I get L850 a year. I
thought that perhaps if you were to hold these papers it
would be security enough that I should pay you. You
could draw my pension, and repay yourselves at the rate,
say, of L500 a year, taking your five per cent interest
as well."
"What interest?"
"Five per cent per annum.
Mr. Metaxa laughed. "Per annum!" he said. "Five per
cent a month."
"A month! That would be sixty per cent a year."
"But that is monstrous."
"I don't ask gentlemen to come to me. They come of
their own free will. Those are my terms, and they can
take it or leave it."
"Then I shall leave it." The Admiral rose angrily
from his chair.
"But one moment, sir. Just sit down and we shall
chat the matter over. Yours is a rather unusual case and
we may find some other way of doing what you wish. Of
course the security which you offer is no security at
all, and no sane man would advance five thousand pennies
on it."
"No security? Why not, sir?"
"You might die to-morrow. You are not a young man.
What age are you?"
Mr. Metaxa turned over a long column of figures.
"Here is an actuary's table," said he. "At your time of
life the average expectancy of life is only a few years
even in a well-preserved man."
"Do you mean to insinuate that I am not a
well-preserved man?"
"Well, Admiral, it is a trying life at sea. Sailors
in their younger days are gay dogs, and take it out of
themselves. Then when they grow older thy are still hard
at it, and have no chance of rest or peace. I do not
think a sailor's life a good one."
"I'll tell you what, sir," said the Admiral hotly.
"If you have two pairs of gloves I'll undertake to knock
you out under three rounds. Or I'll race you from here
to St. Paul's, and my friend here will see fair. I'll
let you see whether I am an old man or not."
"This is beside the question," said the moneylender
with a deprecatory shrug. "The point is that if you died
to-morrow where would be the security then?"
"I could insure my life, and make the policy over to
"Your premiums for such a sum, if any office would
have you, which I very much doubt, would come to close on
five hundred a year. That would hardly suit your book."
"Well, sir, what do you intend to propose?" asked the
"I might, to accommodate you, work it in another way.
I should send for a medical man, and have an opinion upon
your life. Then I might see what could be done."
"That is quite fair. I have no objection to that."
"There is a very clever doctor in the street here.
Proudie is his name. John, go and fetch Doctor Proudie."
The youth was dispatched upon his errand, while Mr.
Metaxa sat at his desk, trimming his nails, and shooting
out little comments upon the weather. Presently feet
were heard upon the stairs, the moneylender hurried
out, there was a sound of whispering, and he returned
with a large, fat, greasy-looking man, clad in a much
worn frock-coat, and a very dilapidated top hat.
"Doctor Proudie, gentlemen," said Mr. Metaxa.
The doctor bowed, smiled, whipped off his hat, and
produced his stethoscope from its interior with the air
of a conjurer upon the stage. "Which of these gentlemen
am I to examine?" he asked, blinking from one to the
other of them. "Ah, it is you! Only your waistcoat!
You need not undo your collar. Thank you! A full
breath! Thank you! Ninety-nine! Thank you! Now hold
your breath for a moment. Oh, dear, dear, what is this
I hear?"
"What is it then?" asked the Admiral coolly.
"Tut! tut! This is a great pity. Have you had
rheumatic fever?"
"You have had some serious illness?"
"Ah, you are an admiral. You have been abroad,
tropics, malaria, ague--I know."
"I have never had a day's illness."
"Not to your knowledge; but you have inhaled
unhealthy air, and it has left its effect. You have an
organic murmur--slight but distinct."
"Is it dangerous?"
"It might at anytime become so. You should not take
violent exercise."
"Oh, indeed. It would hurt me to run a half mile?"
"It would be very dangerous."
"And a mile?"
"Would be almost certainly fatal."
"Then there is nothing else the matter?"
"No. But if the heart is weak, then everything is
weak, and the life is not a sound one."
"You see, Admiral," remarked Mr. Metaxa, as the
doctor secreted his stethoscope once more in his hat, "my
remarks were not entirely uncalled for. I am sorry that
the doctor's opinion is not more favorable, but this is
a matter of business, and certain obvious precautions
must be taken."
"Of course. Then the matter is at an end."
"Well, we might even now do business. I am most
anxious to be of use to you. How long do you think,
doctor, that this gentleman will in all probability
"Well, well, it's rather a delicate question to
answer," said Dr. Proudie, with a show of embarrassment.
"Not a bit, sir. Out with it! I have faced death
too often to flinch from it now, though I saw it as near
me as you are."
"Well, well, we must go by averages of course. Shall
we say two years? I should think that you have a full
two years before you."
"In two years your pension would bring you in L1,600.
Now I will do my very best for you, Admiral! I will
advance you L2,000, and you can make over to me your
pension for your life. It is pure speculation on my
part. If you die to-morrow I lose my money. If the
doctor's prophecy is correct I shall still be out of
pocket. If you live a little longer, then I may see my
money again. It is the very best I can do for you."
"Then you wish to buy my pension?"
"Yes, for two thousand down."
"And if I live for twenty years?"
"Oh, in that case of course my speculation would be
more successful. But you have heard the doctor's
"Would you advance the money instantly?"
"You should have a thousand at once. The other
thousand I should expect you to take in furniture."
"In furniture?"
"Yes, Admiral. We shall do you a beautiful houseful
at that sum. It is the custom of my clients to take half
in furniture."
The Admiral sat in dire perplexity. He had come out
to get money, and to go back without any, to be powerless
to help when his boy needed every shilling to save him
from disaster, that would be very bitter to him. On the
other hand, it was so much that he surrendered, and
so little that he received. Little, and yet
something. Would it not be better than going back
empty-handed? He saw the yellow backed cheque-book upon
the table. The moneylender opened it and dipped his pen
into the ink.
"Shall I fill it up?" said he.
"I think, Admiral," remarked Westmacott, "that we had
better have a little walk and some luncheon before we
settle this matter."
"Oh, we may as well do it at once. It would be
absurd to postpone it now," Metaxa spoke with some heat,
and his eyes glinted angrily from between his narrow lids
at the imperturbable Charles. The Admiral was simple in
money matters, but he had seen much of men and had
learned to read them. He saw that venomous glance, and
saw too that intense eagerness was peeping out from
beneath the careless air which the agent had assumed.
"You're quite right, Westmacott," said he. "We'll
have a little walk before we settle it."
"But I may not be here this afternoon."
"Then we must choose another day."
"But why not settle it now?"
"Because I prefer not," said the Admiral shortly.
"Very well. But remember that my offer is only for
to-day. It is off unless you take it at once."
"Let it be off, then.
"There's my fee," cried the doctor.
"How much?"
"A guinea."
The Admiral threw a pound and a shilling upon the
table. "Come, Westmacott," said he, and they walked
together from the room.
"I don't like it," said Charles, when they found
themselves in the street once more; "I don't profess to
be a very sharp chap, but this is a trifle too thin.
What did he want to go out and speak to the doctor for?
And how very convenient this tale of a weak heart was!
I believe they are a couple of rogues, and in league with
each other."
"A shark and a pilot fish," said the Admiral.
"I'll tell you what I propose, sir. There's a lawyer
named McAdam who does my aunt's business. He is a very
honest fellow, and lives at the other side of Poultry.
We'll go over to him together and have his opinion about
the whole matter."
"How far is it to his place?"
"Oh, a mile at least. We can have a cab."
"A mile? Then we shall see if there is any truth in
what that swab of a doctor said. Come, my boy, and clap
on all sail, and see who can stay the longest."
Then the sober denizens of the heart of business
London saw a singular sight as they returned from their
luncheons. Down the roadway, dodging among cabs and
carts, ran a weather-stained elderly man, with wide
flapping black hat, and homely suit of tweeds. With
elbows braced back, hands clenched near his armpits, and
chest protruded, he scudded along, while close at his
heels lumbered a large-limbed, heavy, yellow mustached
young man, who seemed to feel the exercise a good deal
more than his senior. On they dashed, helter-skelter,
until they pulled up panting at the office where the
lawyer of the Westmacotts was to be found.
"There now!" cried the Admiral in triumph. "What
d'ye think of that? Nothing wrong in the engine-room,
"You seem fit enough, sir.
"Blessed if I believe the swab was a certificated
doctor at all. He was flying false colors, or I am
"They keep the directories and registers in this
eating-house," said Westmacott. "We'll go and look him
They did so, but the medical rolls contained no such
name as that of Dr. Proudie, of Bread Street.
"Pretty villainy this!" cried the Admiral, thumping
his chest. "A dummy doctor and a vamped up disease.
Well, we've tried the rogues, Westmacott! Let us see
what we can do with your honest man."
Mr. McAdam, of the firm of McAdam and Squire, was a
highly polished man who dwelt behind a highly polished
table in the neatest and snuggest of offices. He was
white-haired and amiable, with a deep-lined aquiline
face, was addicted to low bows, and indeed, always seemed
to carry himself at half-cock, as though just descending
into one, or just recovering himself. He wore a
high-buckled stock, took snuff, and adorned his
conversation with little scraps from the classics.
"My dear Sir," said he, when he had listened to their
story, "any friend of Mrs. Westmacott's is a friend of
mine. Try a pinch. I wonder that you should have gone
to this man Metaxa. His advertisement is enough to
condemn him. Habet foenum in cornu. They are all
"The doctor was a rogue too. I didn't like the look
of him at the time."
"Arcades ambo. But now we must see what we can do
for you. Of course what Metaxa said was perfectly right.
The pension is in itself no security at all, unless it
were accompanied by a life assurance which would be
an income in itself. It is no good whatever."
His clients' faces fell.
"But there is the second alternative. You might sell
the pension right out. Speculative investors
occasionally deal in such things. I have one client, a
sporting man, who would be very likely to take it up if
we could agree upon terms. Of course, I must follow
Metaxa's example by sending for a doctor."
For the second time was the Admiral punched and
tapped and listened to. This time, however, there could
be no question of the qualifications of the doctor, a
well-known Fellow of the College of Surgeons, and his
report was as favorable as the other's had been adverse.
"He has the heart and chest of a man of forty," said
he. "I can recommend his life as one of the best of his
age that I have ever examined."
"That's well," said Mr. McAdam, making a note of the
doctor's remarks, while the Admiral disbursed a second
guinea. "Your price, I understand, is five thousand
pounds. I can communicate with Mr. Elberry, my client,
and let you know whether he cares to touch the matter.
Meanwhile you can leave your pension papers here, and I
will give you a receipt for them."
"Very well. I should like the money soon."
"That is why I am retaining the papers. If I
can see Mr. Elberry to-day we may let you have a cheque
to-morrow. Try another pinch. No? Well, good-bye. I
am very happy to have been of service." Mr. McAdam bowed
them out, for he was a very busy man, and they found
themselves in the street once more with lighter hearts
than when they bad left it.
"Well, Westmacott, I am sure I am very much obliged
to you," said the Admiral. "You have stood by me when I
was the better for a little help, for I'm clean out of my
soundings among these city sharks. But I've something to
do now which is more in my own line, and I need not
trouble you any more."
"Oh, it is no trouble. I have nothing to do. I
never have anything to do. I don't suppose I could do it
if I had. I should be delighted to come with you, sir,
if I can be of any use."
"No, no, my lad. You go home again. It would be
kind of you, though, if you would look in at number one
when you get back and tell my wife that all's well with
me, and that I'll be back in an hour or so."
"All right, sir. I'll tell her." Westmacott raised
his hat and strode away to the westward, while the
Admiral, after a hurried lunch, bent his steps towards
the east.
It was a long walk, but the old seaman swung along at
a rousing pace, leaving street after street behind him.
The great business places dwindled down into
commonplace shops and dwellings, which decreased and
became more stunted, even as the folk who filled them
did, until he was deep in the evil places of the eastern
end. It was a land of huge, dark houses and of garish
gin-shops, a land, too, where life moves irregularly and
where adventures are to be gained--as the Admiral was to
learn to his cost.
He was hurrying down one of the long, narrow,
stone-flagged lanes between the double lines of
crouching, disheveled women and of dirty children who sat
on the hollowed steps of the houses, and basked in the
autumn sun. At one side was a barrowman with a load of
walnuts, and beside the barrow a bedraggled woman with a
black fringe and a chequered shawl thrown over her head.
She was cracking walnuts and picking them out of the
shells, throwing out a remark occasionally to a rough man
in a rabbit-skin cap, with straps under the knees of his
corduroy trousers, who stood puffing a black clay pipe
with his back against the wall. What the cause of the
quarrel was, or what sharp sarcasm from the woman's lips
pricked suddenly through that thick skin may never be
known, but suddenly the man took his pipe in his left
hand, leaned forward, and deliberately struck her across
the face with his right. It was a slap rather than a
blow, but the woman gave a sharp cry and cowered up
against the barrow with her hand to her cheek.
"You infernal villain!" cried the Admiral, raising
his stick. "You brute and blackguard!"
"Garn!" growled the rough, with the deep rasping
intonation of a savage. "Garn out o' this or I'll----"
He took a step forward with uplifted hand, but in an
instant down came cut number three upon his wrist, and
cut number five across his thigh, and cut number one
full in the center of his rabbit-skin cap. It was not a
heavy stick, but it was strong enough to leave a good red
weal wherever it fell. The rough yelled with pain, and
rushed in, hitting with both hands, and kicking with his
iron-shod boots, but the Admiral had still a quick foot
and a true eye, so that he bounded backwards and
sideways, still raining a shower, of blows upon his
savage antagonist. Suddenly, however, a pair of arms
closed round his neck, and glancing backwards he caught
a glimpse of the black coarse fringe of the woman whom he
had befriended, "I've got him!" she shrieked. "I'll 'old
'im. Now, Bill, knock the tripe out of him!" Her grip
was as strong as a man's, and her wrist pressed like an
iron bar upon the Admiral's throat. He made a
desperate effort to disengage himself, but the most that
he could do was to swing her round, so as to place her
between his adversary and himself. As it proved, it
was the very best thing that he could have done. The
rough, half-blinded and maddened by the blows which he
had received, struck out with all his ungainly strength,
just as his partner's head swung round in front of him.
There was a noise like that of a stone hitting a wall, a
deep groan, her grasp relaxed, and she dropped a dead
weight upon the pavement, while the Admiral sprang back
and raised his stick once more, ready either for attack
or defense. Neither were needed, however, for at that
moment there was a scattering of the crowd, and two
police constables, burly and helmeted, pushed their way
through the rabble. At the sight of them the rough took
to his heels, and was instantly screened from view by a
veil of his friends and neighbors.
"I have been assaulted," panted the Admiral. "This
woman was attacked and I had to defend her."
"This is Bermondsey Sal," said one police officer,
bending over the bedraggled heap of tattered shawl and
dirty skirt. "She's got it hot this time."
"He was a shortish man, thick, with a beard."
"Ah, that's Black Davie. He's been up four times for
beating her. He's about done the job now. If I were you
I would let that sort settle their own little affairs,
"Do you think that a man who holds the Queen's
commission will stand by and see a woman struck?" cried
the Admiral indignantly.
"Well, just as you like, sir. But you've lost your
watch, I see."
"My watch!" He clapped his hand to his waistcoat.
The chain was hanging down in front, and the watch gone.
He passed his hand over his forehead. "I would not
have lost that watch for anything," said he. "No money
could replace it. It was given me by the ship's company
after our African cruise. It has an inscription."
The policeman shrugged his shoulders. "It comes from
meddling," said he.
"What'll you give me if I tell yer where it is?" said
a sharp-faced boy among the crowd. "Will you gimme a
"Well, where's the quid?"
The Admiral took a sovereign from his pocket. "Here
it is."
"Then 'ere's the ticker!" The boy pointed to the
clenched hand of the senseless woman. A glimmer of gold
shone out from between the fingers, and on opening them
up, there was the Admiral's chronometer. This
interesting victim had throttled her protector with one
hand, while she had robbed him with the other.
The Admiral left his address with the policeman,
satisfied that the woman was only stunned, not dead,
and then set off upon his way once more, the poorer
perhaps in his faith in human nature, but in very good
spirits none the less. He walked with dilated nostrils
and clenched hands, all glowing and tingling with the
excitement of the combat, and warmed with the thought
that he could still, when there was need, take his own
part in a street brawl in spite of his three-score and
odd years.
His way now led towards the river-side regions, and
a cleansing whiff of tar was to be detected in the
stagnant autumn air. Men with the blue jersey and peaked
cap of the boatman, or the white ducks of the dockers,
began to replace the cardurys and fustian of the
laborers. Shops with nautical instruments in the
windows, rope and paint sellers, and slop shops with long
rows of oilskins dangling from hooks, all proclaimed the
neighborhood of the docks. The Admiral quickened his
pace and straightened his figure as his surroundings
became more nautical, until at last, peeping between two
high, dingy wharfs, he caught a glimpse of the
mud-colored waters of the Thames, and of the bristle of
masts and funnels which rose from its broad bosom. To
the right lay a quiet street, with many brass plates upon
either side, and wire blinds in all of the windows. The
Admiral walked slowly down it until "The Saint Lawrence
Shipping Company" caught his eye. He crossed the
road, pushed open the door, and found himself in a
low-ceilinged office, with a long counter at one end and
a great number of wooden sections of ships stuck upon
boards and plastered all over the walls.
"Is Mr. Henry in?" asked the Admiral.
"No, sir," answered an elderly man from a high seat
in the corner. "He has not come into town to-day. I can
manage any business you may wish seen to."
"You don't happen to have a first or second officer's
place vacant, do you?"
The manager looked with a dubious eye at his singular
"Do you hold certificates?" he asked.
"I hold every nautical certificate there is."
"Then you won't do for us."
"Why not?"
"Your age, sir.
"I give you my word that I can see as well as ever,
and am as good a man in every way."
"I don't doubt it."
"Why should my age be a bar, then?"
"Well, I must put it plainly. If a man of your age,
holding certificates, has not got past a second officer's
berth, there must be a black mark against him somewhere.
I don't know what it is, drink or temper, or want of
judgment, but something there must be."
"I assure you there is nothing, but I find myself
stranded, and so have to turn to the old business again."
"Oh, that's it," said the manager, with suspicion in
his eye. "How long were you in your last billet?"
"Fifty-one years."
"Yes, sir, one-and-fifty years."
"In the same employ?"
"Why, you must have begun as a child."
"I was twelve when I joined."
"It must be a strangely managed business," said the
manager, "which allows men to leave it who have served
for fifty years, and who are still as good as ever. Who
did you serve?"
"The Queen. Heaven bless her!"
"Oh, you were in the Royal Navy. What rating did you
"I am Admiral of the Fleet."
The manager started, and sprang down from his high
"My name is Admiral Hay Denver. There is my card.
And here are the records of my service. I don't, you
understand, want to push another man from his billet; but
if you should chance to have a berth open, I should be
very glad of it. I know the navigation from the Cod
Banks right up to Montreal a great deal better than I
know the streets of London."
The astonished manager glanced over the blue papers
which his visitor had handed him. "Won't you take a
chair, Admiral?" said he.
"Thank you! But I should be obliged if you would
drop my title now. I told you because you asked me, but
I've left the quarter-deck, and I am plain Mr. Hay Denver
"May I ask," said the manager, "are you the same
Denver who commanded at one time on the North American
"I did."
"Then it was you who got one of our boats, the
Comus, off the rocks in the Bay of Fundy? The
directors voted you three hundred guineas as salvage, and
you refused them."
"It was an offer which should not have been made,"
said the Admiral sternly.
"Well, it reflects credit upon you that you should
think so. If Mr. Henry were here I am sure that he would
arrange this matter for you at once. As it is, I shall
lay it before the directors to-day, and I am sure that
they will be proud to have you in our employment, and, I
hope, in some more suitable position than that which you
"I am very much obliged to you, sir," said the
Admiral, and started off again, well pleased, upon his
homeward journey.
Next day brought the Admiral a cheque for L5,000 from
Mr. McAdam, and a stamped agreement by which he made over
his pension papers to the speculative investor. It
was not until he had signed and sent it off that the full
significance of all that he had done broke upon him. He
had sacrificed everything. His pension was gone. He had
nothing save only what he could earn. But the stout old
heart never quailed. He waited eagerly for a letter from
the Saint Lawrence Shipping Company, and in the meanwhile
he gave his landlord a quarter's notice. Hundred pound
a year houses would in future be a luxury which he could
not aspire to. A small lodging in some inexpensive part
of London must be the substitute for his breezy Norwood
villa. So be it, then! Better that a thousand fold than
that his name should be associated with failure and
On that morning Harold Denver was to meet the
creditors of the firm, and to explain the situation to
them. It was a hateful task, a degrading task, but he
set himself to do it with quiet resolution. At home they
waited in intense anxiety to learn the result of the
meeting. It was late before he returned,
haggard pale, like a man who has done and suffered much.
"What's this board in front of the house? he asked.
"We are going to try a little change of scene," said
the Admiral. "This place is neither town nor
country. But never mind that, boy. Tell us what
happened in the City."
"God help me! My wretched business driving you out
of house and home!" cried Harold, broken down by this
fresh evidence of the effects of his misfortunes. "It is
easier for me to meet my creditors than to see you two
suffering so patiently for my sake."
"Tut, tut!" cried the Admiral. "There's no suffering
in the matter. Mother would rather be near the theaters.
That's at the bottom of it, isn't it, mother? You come
and sit down here between us and tell us all about it."
Harold sat down with a loving hand in each of his.
"It's not so bad as we thought," said he, "and yet it
is bad enough. I have about ten days to find the money,
but I don't know which way to turn for it. Pearson,
however, lied, as usual, when he spoke of L13,000. The
amount is not quite L7,000."
The Admiral claped his hands. "I knew we should
weather it after all! Hurrah my boy! Hip, hip, hip,
Harold gazed at him in surprise, while the old seaman
waved his arm above his head and bellowed out three
stentorian cheers. "Where am I to get seven thousand
pounds from, dad?" he asked.
"Never mind. You spin your yarn."
"Well, they were very good and very kind, but of
course they must have either their money or their money's
worth. They passed a vote of sympathy with me, and
agreed to wait ten days before they took any proceedings.
Three of them, whose claim came to L3,500, told me that
if I would give them my personal I.O.U., and pay interest
at the rate of five per cent, their amounts might stand
over as long as I wished. That would be a charge of L175
upon my income, but with economy I could meet it, and it
diminishes the debt by one-half."
Again the Admiral burst out cheering.
"There remains, therefore, about L3,200 which has to
be found within ten days. No man shall lose by me. I
gave them my word in the room that if I worked my soul
out of my body every one of them should be paid. I shall
not spend a penny upon myself until it is done. But some
of them can't wait. They are poor men themselves, and
must have their money. They have issued a warrant for
Pearson's arrest. But they think that he has got away
the States."
"These men shall have their money," said the
"Yes, my boy, you don't know the resources of the
family. One never does know until one tries. What have
you yourself now?"
"I have about a thousand pounds invested."
"All right. And I have about as much more. There's
a good start. Now, mother, it is your turn. What is
that little bit of paper of yours?"
Mrs. Denver unfolded it, and placed it upon Harold's
"Five thousand pounds!" he gasped.
"Ah, but mother is not the only rich one. Look at
this!" And the Admiral unfolded his cheque, and placed
it upon the other knee.
Harold gazed from one to the other in bewilderment.
"Ten thousand pounds!" he cried. "Good heavens! where
did these come from?"
"You will not worry any longer, dear," murmured his
mother, slipping her arm round him.
But his quick eye had caught the signature upon one
of the cheques. "Doctor Walker!" he cried, flushing.
"This is Clara's doing. Oh, dad, we cannot take this
money. It would not be right nor honorable."
"No, boy, I am glad you think so. It is something,
however, to have proved one's friend, for a real good
friend he is. It was he who brought it in, though
Clara sent him. But this other money will be enough to
cover everything, and it is all my own."
"Your own? Where did you get it, dad?"
"Tut, tut! See what it is to have a City man to deal
with. It is my own, and fairly earned, and that is
"Dear old dad!" Harold squeezed his gnarled hand.
"And you, mother! You have lifted the trouble from my
heart. I feel another man. You have saved my honor, my
good name, everything. I cannot owe you more, for I owe
you everything already."
So while the autumn sunset shone ruddily through the
broad window these three sat together hand in hand, with
hearts which were too full to speak. Suddenly the soft
thudding of tennis balls was heard, and Mrs. Westmacott
bounded into view upon the lawn with brandished racket
and short skirts fluttering in the breeze. The sight
came as a relief to their strained nerves, and they burst
all three into a hearty fit of laughter.
"She is playing with her nephew," said Harold at
last. "The Walkers have not come out yet. I think that
it would be well if you were to give me that cheque,
mother, and I were to return it in person."
"Certainly, Harold. I think it would be very nice.
He went in through the garden. Clara and the Doctor
were sitting together in the dining-room. She sprang to
her feet at the sight of him.
"Oh, Harold, I have been waiting for you so
impatiently," she cried; "I saw you pass the front
windows half an hour ago. I would have come in if I
dared. Do tell us what has happened."
"I have come in to thank you both. How can I repay
you for your kindness? Here is your cheque, Doctor. I
have not needed it. I find that I can lay my hands on
enough to pay my creditors."
"Thank God!" said Clara fervently.
"The sum is less than I thought, and our resources
considerably more. We have been able to do it with
"With ease!" The Doctor's brow clouded and his
manner grew cold. "I think, Harold, that you would do
better to take this money of mine, than to use that which
seems to you to be gained with ease."
"Thank you, sir. If I borrowed from any one it would
be from you. But my father has this very sum, five
thousand pounds, and, as I tell him, I owe him so much
that I have no compunction about owing him more."
"No compunction! Surely there are some sacrifices
which a son should not allow his parents to make."
"Sacrifices! What do you mean?"
"Is it possible that you do not know how this money
has been obtained?"
"I give you my word, Doctor Walker, that I have no
idea. I asked my father, but he refused to tell me."
"I thought not," said the Doctor, the gloom clearing
from his brow. "I was sure that you were not a man who,
to clear yourself from a little money difficulty, would
sacrifice the happiness of your mother and the health of
your father."
"Good gracious! what do you mean?"
"It is only right that you should know. That money
represents the commutation of your father's pension. He
has reduced himself to poverty, and intends to go to sea
again to earn a living."
"To sea again! Impossible!"
"It is the truth. Charles Westmacott has told Ida.
He was with him in the City when he took his poor pension
about from dealer to dealer trying to sell it. He
succeeded at last, and hence the money."
"He has sold his pension!" cried Harold, with his
hands to his face. "My dear old dad has sold his
pension!" He rushed from the room, and burst wildly into
the presence of his parents once more. "I cannot take
it, father," he cried. "Better bankruptcy than that.
Oh, if I had only known your plan! We must have
back the pension. Oh, mother, mother, how could you
think me capable of such selfishness? Give me the
cheque, dad, and I will see this man to-night, for I
would sooner die like a dog in the ditch than touch a
penny of this money."
Now all this time, while the tragi-comedy of life was
being played in these three suburban villas, while on a
commonplace stage love and humor and fears and lights and
shadows were so swiftly succeeding each other, and while
these three families, drifted together by fate, were
shaping each other's destinies and working out in their
own fashion the strange, intricate ends of human life,
there were human eyes which watched over every stage of
the performance, and which were keenly critical of every
actor on it. Across the road beyond the green palings
and the close-cropped lawn, behind the curtains of their
creeper-framed windows, sat the two old ladies, Miss
Bertha and Miss Monica Williams, looking out as from a
private box at all that was being enacted before
them. The growing friendship of the three families, the
engagement of Harold Denver with Clara Walker, the
engagement of Charles Westmacott with her sister, the
dangerous fascination which the widow exercised over the
Doctor, the preposterous behavior of the Walker girls and
the unhappiness which they had caused their father, not
one of these incidents escaped the notice of the two
maiden ladies. Bertha the younger had a smile or a sigh
for the lovers, Monica the elder a frown or a shrug for
the elders. Every night they talked over what they had
seen, and their own dull, uneventful life took a warmth
and a coloring from their neighbors as a blank wall
reflects a beacon fire.
And now it was destined that they should experience
the one keen sensation of their later years, the one
memorable incident from which all future incidents should
be dated.
It was on the very night which succeeded the events
which have just been narrated, when suddenly into Monica
William's head, as she tossed upon her sleepless bed,
there shot a thought which made her sit up with a thrill
and a gasp.
"Bertha," said she, plucking at the shoulder of her
sister, "I have left the front window open."
"No, Monica, surely not." Bertha sat up also, and
thrilled in sympathy.
"I am sure of it. You remember I had forgotten to
water the pots, and then I opened the window, and Jane
called me about the jam, and I have never been in the
room since."
"Good gracious, Monica, it is a mercy that we have
not been murdered in our beds. There was a house broken
into at Forest Hill last week. Shall we go down and shut
"I dare not go down alone, dear, but if you will come
with me. Put on your slippers and dressing-gown. We do
not need a candle. Now, Bertha, we will go down
Two little white patches moved vaguely through the
darkness, the stairs creaked, the door whined, and they
were at the front room window. Monica closed it gently
down, and fastened the snib.
"What a beautiful moon!" said she, looking out. "We
can see as clearly as if it were day. How peaceful and
quiet the three houses are over yonder! It seems quite
sad to see that `To Let' card upon number one. I wonder
how number two will like their going. For my part I
could better spare that dreadful woman at number three
with her short skirts and her snake. But, oh, Bertha,
look! look!! look!!!" Her voice had fallen suddenly to
a quivering whisper and she was pointing to the
Westmacotts' house. Her sister gave a gasp of horror,
and stood with a clutch at Monica's arm, staring in the
same direction.
There was a light in the front room, a slight,
wavering light such as would be given by a small candle
or taper. The blind was down, but the light shone dimly
through. Outside in the garden, with his figure outlined
against the luminous square, there stood a man, his back
to the road, his two hands upon the window ledge, and his
body rather bent as though he were trying to peep in past
the blind. So absolutely still and motionless was he
that in spite of the moon they might well have overlooked
him were it not for that tell-tale light behind.
"Good heaven!" gasped Bertha, "it is a burglar."
But her sister set her mouth grimly and shook her
head. "We shall see," she whispered. "It may be
something worse."
Swiftly and furtively the man stood suddenly erect,
and began to push the window slowly up. Then he put one
knee upon the sash, glanced round to see that all was
safe, and climbed over into the room. As he did so he
had to push the blind aside. Then the two spectators saw
where the light came from. Mrs. Westmacott was standing,
as rigid as a statue, in the center of the room, with a
lighted taper in her right hand. For an instant they
caught a glimpse of her stern face and her white collar.
Then the blind fell back into position, and the two
figures disappeared from their view.
"Oh, that dreadful woman!" cried Monica. "That
dreadful, dreadful woman! She was waiting for him. You
saw it with your own eyes, sister Bertha!"
"Hush, dear, hush and listen!" said her more
charitable companion. They pushed their own window up
once more, and watched from behind the curtains.
For a long time all was silent within the house. The
light still stood motionless as though Mrs. Westmacott
remained rigidly in the one position, while from time to
time a shadow passed in front of it to show that her
midnight visitor was pacing up and down in front of her.
Once they saw his outline clearly, with his hands
outstretched as if in appeal or entreaty. Then suddenly
there was a dull sound, a cry, the noise of a fall, the
taper was extinguished, and a dark figure fled in the
moonlight, rushed across the garden, and vanished amid
the shrubs at the farther side.
Then only did the two old ladies understand that they
had looked on whilst a tragedy had been enacted. "Help!"
they cried, and "Help!" in their high, thin voices,
timidly at first, but gathering volume as they went on,
until the Wilderness rang with their shrieks. Lights
shone in all the windows opposite, chains rattled,
bars were unshot, doors opened, and out rushed friends to
the rescue. Harold, with a stick; the Admiral, with his
sword, his grey head and bare feet protruding from either
end of a long brown ulster; finally, Doctor Walker, with
a poker, all ran to the help of the Westmacotts. Their
door had been already opened, and they crowded
tumultuously into the front room.
Charles Westmacott, white to his lips, was kneeling
an the floor, supporting his aunt's head upon his knee.
She lay outstretched, dressed in her ordinary clothes,
the extinguished taper still grasped in her hand, no mark
or wound upon her--pale, placid, and senseless.
"Thank God you are come, Doctor," said Charles,
looking up. "Do tell me how she is, and what I should
Doctor Walker kneeled beside her, and passed his left
hand over her head, while he grasped her pulse with the
"She has had a terrible blow," said he. "It must
have been with some blunt weapon. Here is the place
behind the ear. But she is a woman of extraordinary
physical powers. Her pulse is full and slow. There is
no stertor. It is my belief that she is merely stunned,
and that she is in no danger at all."
"Thank God for that!"
"We must get her to bed. We shall carry her
upstairs, and then I shall send my girls in to her. But
who has done this?"
"Some robber" said Charles. "You see that the window
is open. She must have heard him and come down, for she
was always perfectly fearless. I wish to goodness she
had called me.
"But she was dressed."
"Sometimes she sits up very late."
"I did sit up very late," said a voice. She had
opened her eyes, and was blinking at them in the
lamplight. "A villain came in through the window and
struck me with a life-preserver. You can tell the police
so when they come. Also that it was a little fat man.
Now, Charles, give me your arm and I shall go upstairs."
But her spirit was greater than her strength, for, as
she staggered to her feet, her head swam round, and she
would have fallen again had her nephew not thrown his
arms round her. They carried her upstairs among them and
laid her upon the bed, where the Doctor watched beside
her, while Charles went off to the police-station, and
the Denvers mounted guard over the frightened maids.
Day had broken before the several denizens of the
Wilderness had all returned to their homes, the police
finished their inquiries, and all come back to its normal
quiet. Mrs. Westmacott had been left sleeping peacefully
with a small chloral draught to steady her nerves and a
handkerchief soaked in arnica bound round her head. It
was with some surprise, therefore, that the Admiral
received a note from her about ten o'clock, asking him to
be good enough to step in to her. He hurried in, fearing
that she might have taken some turn for the worse, but he
was reassured to find her sitting up in her bed, with
Clara and Ida Walker in attendance upon her. She had
removed the handkerchief, and had put on a little cap
with pink ribbons, and a maroon dressing-jacket, daintily
fulled at the neck and sleeves.
"My dear friend," said she as he entered, "I wish to
make a last few remarks to you. No, no," she continued,
laughing, as she saw a look of dismay upon his face. "I
shall not dream of dying for at least another thirty
years. A woman should be ashamed to die before she is
seventy. I wish, Clara, that you would ask
your father to step up. And you, Ida, just pass me
my cigarettes, and open me a bottle of stout."
"Now then," she continued, as the doctor joined their
party. "I don't quite know what I ought to say to you,
Admiral. You want some very plain speaking to."
"'Pon my word, ma'am, I don't know what you are
talking about."
"The idea of you at your age talking of going to sea,
and leaving that dear, patient little wife of yours at
home, who has seen nothing of you all her life! It's all
very well for you. You have the life, and the change,
and the excitement, but you don't think of her eating her
heart out in a dreary London lodging. You men are all
the same."
"Well, ma'am, since you know so much, you probably
know also that I have sold my pension. How am I to live
if I do not turn my hand to work?"
Mrs. Westmacott produced a large registered envelope
from beneath the sheets and tossed it over to the old
"That excuse won't do. There are your pension
papers. Just see if they are right."
He broke the seal, and out tumbled the very papers
which he had made over to McAdam two days before.
"But what am I to do with these now?" he cried in
"You will put them in a safe place, or get a friend
to do so, and, if you do your duty, you will go to your
wife and beg her pardon for having even for an instant
thought of leaving her."
The Admiral passed his hand over his rugged forehead.
"This is very good of you, ma'am" said he, "very good and
kind, and I know that you are a staunch friend, but for
all that these papers mean money, and though we may have
been in broken water lately, we are not quite in such
straits as to have to signal to our friends. When we do,
ma'am, there's no one we would look to sooner than to
"Don't be ridiculous!" said the widow. "You know
nothing whatever about it, and yet you stand there laying
down the law. I'll have my way in the matter, and you
shall take the papers, for it is no favor that I am doing
you, but simply a restoration of stolen property."
"How that, ma'am?"
"I am just going to explain, though you might take a
lady's word for it without asking any questions. Now,
what I am going to say is just between you four, and must
go no farther. I have my own reasons for wishing to keep
it from the police. Who do you think it was who struck
me last night, Admiral?"
"Some villain, ma'am. I don't know his name."
"But I do. It was the same man who ruined or tried
to ruin your son. It was my only brother, Jeremiah."
"I will tell you about him--or a little about him,
for he has done much which I would not care to talk of,
nor you to listen to. He was always a villain,
smooth-spoken and plausible, but a dangerous, subtle
villain all the same. If I have some hard thoughts about
mankind I can trace them back to the childhood which I
spent with my brother. He is my only living relative,
for my other brother, Charles's father, was killed in the
Indian mutiny.
"Our father was rich, and when he died he made a good
provision both for Jeremiah and for me. He knew Jeremiah
and he mistrusted him, however; so instead of giving him
all that he meant him to have he handed me over a part of
it, telling me, with what was almost his dying breath, to
hold it in trust for my brother, and to use it in his
behalf when he should have squandered or lost all that he
had. This arrangement was meant to be a secret between
my father and myself, but unfortunately his words were
overheard by the nurse, and she repeated them afterwards
to my brother, so that he came to know that I held some
money in trust for him. I suppose tobacco will not harm
my head, Doctor? Thank you, then I shall trouble
you for the matches, Ida." She lit a cigarette, and
leaned back upon the pillow, with the blue wreaths
curling from her lips.
"I cannot tell you how often he has attempted to get
that money from me. He has bullied, cajoled, threatened,
coaxed, done all that a man could do. I still held it
with the presentiment that a need for it would come.
When I heard of this villainous business, his flight, and
his leaving his partner to face the storm, above all that
my old friend had been driven to surrender his income in
order to make up for my brother's defalcations, I felt
that now indeed I had a need for it. I sent in Charles
yesterday to Mr. McAdam, and his client, upon hearing the
facts of the case, very graciously consented to give back
the papers, and to take the money which he had advanced.
Not a word of thanks to me, Admiral. I tell you that it
was very cheap benevolence, for it was all done with his
own money, and how could I use it better?
"I thought that I should probably hear from him soon,
and I did. Last evening there was handed in a note of
the usual whining, cringing tone. He had come back from
abroad at the risk of his life and liberty, just in order
that he might say good-bye to the only sister he ever
had, and to entreat my forgiveness for any pain
which he had caused me. He would never trouble me again,
and he begged only that I would hand over to him the sum
which I held in trust for him. That, with what he had
already, would be enough to start him as an honest man in
the new world, when he would ever remember and pray for
the dear sister who had been his savior. That was the
style of the letter, and it ended by imploring me to
leave the window-latch open, and to be in the front room
at three in the morning, when he would come to receive my
last kiss and to bid me farewell.
"Bad as he was, I could not, when he trusted me,
betray him. I said nothing, but I was there at the hour.
He entered through the window, and implored me to give
him the money. He was terribly changed; gaunt, wolfish,
and spoke like a madman. I told him that I had spent the
money. He gnashed his teeth at me, and swore it was his
money. I told him that I had spent it on him. He asked
me how. I said in trying to make him an honest man, and
in repairing the results of his villainy. He shrieked
out a curse, and pulling something out of the breast of
his coat--a loaded stick, I think--he struck me with it,
and I remembered nothing more."
"The blackguard!" cried the Doctor, "but the police
must be hot upon his track."
"I fancy not," Mrs. Westmacott answered calmly. "As
my brother is a particularly tall, thin man, and as the
police are looking for a short, fat one, I do not think
that it is very probable that they will catch him. It is
best, I think, that these little family matters should be
adjusted in private."
"My dear ma'am," said the Admiral, "if it is indeed
this man's money that has bought back my pension, then I
can have no scruples about taking it. You have brought
sunshine upon us, ma'am, when the clouds were at their
darkest, for here is my boy who insists upon returning
the money which I got. He can keep it now to pay his
debts. For what you have done I can only ask God to
bless you, ma'am, and as to thanking you I can't even----"
"Then pray don't try," said the widow. "Now run
away, Admiral, and make your peace with Mrs. Denver. I
am sure if I were she it would be a long time before I
should forgive you. As for me, I am going to America
when Charles goes. You'll take me so far, won't you,
Ida? There is a college being built in Denver which is
to equip the woman of the future for the struggle of
life, and especially for her battle against man. Some
months ago the committee offered me a responsible
situation upon the staff, and I have decided now to
accept it, for Charles's marriage removes the last tie
which binds me to England. You will write to me
sometimes, my friends, and you will address your letters
to Professor Westmacott, Emancipation College, Denver.
From there I shall watch how the glorious struggle goes
in conservative old England, and if I am needed you will
find me here again fighting in the forefront of the fray.
Good-bye--but not you, girls; I have still a word I wish
to say to you.
"Give me your hand, Ida, and yours, Clara," said she
when they were alone. "Oh, you naughty little pusses,
aren't you ashamed to look me in the face? Did you
think--did you really think that I was so very blind, and
could not see your little plot? You did it very well, I
must say that, and really I think that I like you better
as you are. But you had all your pains for nothing, you
little conspirators, for I give you my word that I had
quite made up my mind not to have him."
And so within a few weeks our little ladies from
their observatory saw a mighty bustle in the Wilderness,
when two-horse carriages came, and coachmen with favors,
to bear away the twos who were destined to come back one.
And they themselves in their crackling silk dresses went
across, as invited, to the big double wedding breakfast
which was held in the house of Doctor Walker. Then there
was health-drinking, and laughter, and changing of
dresses, and rice-throwing when the carriages drove
up again, and two more couples started on that journey
which ends only with life itself.
Charles Westmacott is now a flourishing ranchman in
the western part of Texas, where he and his sweet little
wife are the two most popular persons in all that county.
Of their aunt they see little, but from time to time they
see notices in the papers that there is a focus of light
in Denver, where mighty thunderbolts are being forged
which will one day bring the dominant sex upon their
knees. The Admiral and his wife still live at number
one, while Harold and Clara have taken number two, where
Doctor Walker continues to reside. As to the business,
it had been reconstructed, and the energy and ability of
the junior partner had soon made up for all the ill that
had been done by his senior. Yet with his sweet and
refined home atmosphere he is able to realize his wish,
and to keep himself free from the sordid aims and base
ambitions which drag down the man whose business lies too
exclusively in the money market of the vast Babylon. As
he goes back every evening from the crowds of Throgmorton
Street to the tree-lined peaceful avenues of Norwood, so
he has found it possible in spirit also to do one's
duties amidst the babel of the City, and yet to live
beyond it.

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