The new arabian nights by Robert Louis Stevenson - HTML preview
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great simplicity and solitude, and devoted much of his time evening, when he went as usual to inspect Madame to study. Mr. Scuddamore had made his acquaintance, and Zephyrine’s movements, he was astonished to find the ap-the pair would now and then dine together frugally in a erture obscured in an odd manner on the other side, and restaurant across the street.
still more abashed when the obstacle was suddenly with-Silas Q. Scuddamore had many little vices of the more drawn and a titter of laughter reached his ears. Some of respectable order, and was not restrained by delicacy from the plaster had evidently betrayed the secret of his spy-indulging them in many rather doubtful ways. Chief among hole, and his neighbour had been returning the compliment his foibles stood curiosity. He was a born gossip; and life, in kind. Mr. Scuddamore was moved to a very acute feel-and especially those parts of it in which he had no experi-ing of annoyance; he condemned Madame Zephyrine un-ence, interested him to the degree of passion. He was a mercifully; he even blamed himself; but when he found, pert, invincible questioner, pushing his inquiries with equal next day, that she had taken no means to baulk him of his pertinacity and indiscretion; he had been observed, when favourite pastime, he continued to profit by her careless-he took a letter to the post, to weigh it in his hand, to turn ness, and gratify his idle curiosity.
it over and over, and to study the address with care; and That next day Madame Zephyrine received a long visit when he found a flaw in the partition between his room from a tall, loosely-built man of fifty or upwards, whom and Madame Zephyrine’s, instead of filling it up, he en-Silas had not hitherto seen. His tweed suit and coloured larged and improved the opening, and made use of it as a shirt, no less than his shaggy side-whiskers, identified him spy-hole on his neighbour’s affairs.
as a Britisher, and his dull grey eye affected Silas with a One day, in the end of March, his curiosity growing as it sense of cold. He kept screwing his mouth from side to was indulged, he enlarged the hole a little further, so that side and round and round during the whole colloquy, which he might command another corner of the room. That was carried on in whispers. More than once it seemed to 33
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the young New Englander as if their gestures indicated his times he was all virtue, sometimes all fire and daring; and own apartment; but the only thing definite he could gather the result of it was that, long before ten, Mr. Silas Q.
by the most scrupulous attention was this remark made by Scuddamore presented himself in unimpeachable attire at the Englishman in a somewhat higher key, as if in answer the door of the Bullier Ball Rooms, and paid his entry to some reluctance or opposition.
money with a sense of reckless devilry that was not with-
“I have studied his taste to a nicety, and I tell you again out its charm.
and again you are the only woman of the sort that I can lay It was Carnival time, and the Ball was very full and noisy.
my hands on.”
The lights and the crowd at first rather abashed our young In answer to this, Madame Zephyrine sighed, and ap-adventurer, and then, mounting to his brain with a sort of peared by a gesture to resign herself, like one yielding to intoxication, put him in possession of more than his own unqualified authority.
share of manhood. He felt ready to face the devil, and strut-That afternoon the observatory was finally blinded, a ted in the ballroom with the swagger of a cavalier. While wardrobe having been drawn in front of it upon the other he was thus parading, he became aware of Madame side; and while Silas was still lamenting over this misfor-Zephyrine and her Britisher in conference behind a pillar.
tune, which he attributed to the Britisher’s malign sugges-The cat-like spirit of eaves-dropping overcame him at once.
tion, the concierge brought him up a letter in a female hand-He stole nearer and nearer on the couple from behind, un-writing. It was conceived in French of no very rigorous til he was within earshot.
orthography, bore no signature, and in the most encourag-
“That is the man,” the Britisher was saying; “there – with ing terms invited the young American to be present in a the long blond hair – speaking to a girl in green.” certain part of the Bullier Ball at eleven o’clock that night.
Silas identified a very handsome young fellow of small Curiosity and timidity fought a long battle in his heart; some-stature, who was plainly the object of this designation.
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“It is well,” said Madame Zephyrine. “I shall do my utmost.
tion is madness. Yourself (I am glad to remember it) chose But, remember, the best of us may fail in such a matter.” your brother for this perilous service, and you are bound in
“Tut!” returned her companion; “I answer for the result.
duty to have a guard upon his conduct. He has consented Have I not chosen you from thirty? Go; but be wary of the to delay so many days in Paris; that was already an impru-Prince. I cannot think what cursed accident has brought dence, considering the character of the man he has to deal him here to-night. As if there were not a dozen balls in with; but now, when he is within eight-and-forty hours of Paris better worth his notice than this riot of students and his departure, when he is within two or three days of the counter-jumpers! See him where he sits, more like a reign-decisive trial, I ask you, is this a place for him to spend his ing Emperor at home than a Prince upon his holidays!” time? He should be in a gallery at practice; he should be Silas was again lucky. He observed a person of rather a sleeping long hours and taking moderate exercise on foot; full build, strikingly handsome, and of a very stately and cour-he should be on a rigorous diet, without white wines or teous demeanour, seated at table with another handsome brandy. Does the dog imagine we are all playing comedy?
young man, several years his junior, who addressed him with The thing is deadly earnest, Geraldine.” conspicuous deference. The name of Prince struck grate-
“I know the lad too well to interfere,” replied Colonel fully on Silas’s Republican hearing, and the aspect of the Geraldine, “and well enough not to be alarmed. He is person to whom that name was applied exercised its usual more cautious than you fancy, and of an indomitable charm upon his mind. He left Madame Zephyrine and her spirit. If it had been a woman I should not say so much, Englishman to take care of each other, and threading his but I trust the President to him and the two valets with-way through the assembly, approached the table which the out an instant’s apprehension.”
Prince and his confidant had honoured with their choice.
“I am gratified to hear you say so,” replied the Prince;
“I tell you, Geraldine,” the former was saying, “the ac-
“but my mind is not at rest. These servants are well-trained 35
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spies, and already has not this miscreant succeeded three it to carry him away without resistance. The eddy stranded times in eluding their observation and spending several him in a corner under the gallery, where his ear was imme-hours on end in private, and most likely dangerous, af-diately struck with the voice of Madame Zephyrine. She fairs? An amateur might have lost him by accident, but if was speaking in French with the young man of the blond Rudolph and Jerome were thrown off the scent, it must locks who had been pointed out by the strange Britisher have been done on purpose, and by a man who had a co-not half-an-hour before.
gent reason and exceptional resources.”
“I have a character at stake,” she said, “or I would put
“I believe the question is now one between my brother no other condition than my heart recommends. But you and myself,” replied Geraldine, with a shade of offence in have only to say so much to the porter, and he will let you his tone.
go by without a word.”
“I permit it to be so, Colonel Geraldine,” returned Prince
“But why this talk of debt?” objected her companion.
Florizel. “Perhaps, for that very reason, you should be all
“Heavens!” said she, “do you think I do not understand the more ready to accept my counsels. But enough. That my own hotel?”
girl in yellow dances well.”
And she went by, clinging affectionately to her And the talk veered into the ordinary topics of a Paris companion’s arm.
ballroom in the Carnival.
This put Silas in mind of his billet.
Silas remembered where he was, and that the hour was
“Ten minutes hence,” thought he, “and I may be walking already near at hand when he ought to be upon the scene with as beautiful a woman as that, and even better dressed of his assignation. The more he reflected the less he liked
– perhaps a real lady, possibly a woman or title.” the prospect, and as at that moment an eddy in the crowd And then he remembered the spelling, and was a little began to draw him in the direction of the door, he suffered downcast.
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“But it may have been written by her maid,” he imag-powerful that it kept head against all other motives; and ined.
although it could not decide him to advance, prevented The clock was only a few minutes from the hour, and him from definitely running away. At last the clock indi-this immediate proximity set his heart beating at a curious cated ten minutes past the hour. Young Scuddamore’s spirit and rather disagreeable speed. He reflected with relief that began to rise; he peered round the corner and saw no one he was in no way bound to put in an appearance. Virtue at the place of meeting; doubtless his unknown correspon-and cowardice were together, and he made once more for dent had wearied and gone away. He became as bold as he the door, but this time of his own accord, and battling had formerly been timid. It seemed to him that if he came against the stream of people which was now moving in a at all to the appointment, however late, he was clear from contrary direction. Perhaps this prolonged resistance weathe charge of cowardice. Nay, now he began to suspect a ried him, or perhaps he was in that frame of mind when hoax, and actually complimented himself on his shrewd-merely to continue in the same determination for a certain ness in having suspected and outmanoeuvred his mystifiers.
number of minutes produces a reaction and a different pur-So very idle a thing is a boy’s mind!
pose. Certainly, at least, he wheeled about for a third time, Armed with these reflections, he advanced boldly from and did not stop until he had found a place of concealment his corner; but he had not taken above a couple of steps within a few yards of the appointed place.
before a hand was laid upon his arm. He turned and beheld Here he went through an agony of spirit, in which he a lady cast in a very large mould and with somewhat stately several times prayed to God for help, for Silas had been features, but bearing no mark of severity in her looks.
devoutly educated. He had now not the least inclination
“I see that you are a very self-confident lady-killer,” said for the meeting; nothing kept him from flight but a silly she; “for you make yourself expected. But I was deter-fear lest he should be thought unmanly; but this was so mined to meet you. When a woman has once so far forgot-37
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ten herself as to make the first advance, she has long ago the street and number.
left behind her all considerations of petty pride.” She seemed to reflect for some minutes, with an effort of Silas was overwhelmed by the size and attractions of his mind.
correspondent and the suddenness with which she had fallen
“I see,” she said at last. “You will be faithful and obedi-upon him. But she soon set him at his ease. She was very ent, will you not?”
towardly and lenient in her behaviour; she led him on to Silas assured her eagerly of his fidelity.
make pleasantries, and then applauded him to the echo;
“To-morrow night, then,” she continued, with an encour-and in a very short time, between blandishments and a lib-aging smile, “you must remain at home all the evening; and eral exhibition of warm brandy, she had not only induced if any friends should visit you, dismiss them at once on any him to fancy himself in love, but to declare his passion with pretext that most readily presents itself. Your door is prob-the greatest vehemence.
ably shut by ten?” she asked.
“Alas!” she said; “I do not know whether I ought not to
“By eleven,” answered Silas.
deplore this moment, great as is the pleasure you give me by
“At a quarter past eleven,” pursued the lady, “leave the your words. Hitherto I was alone to suffer; now, poor boy, house. Merely cry for the door to be opened, and be sure there will be two. I am not my own mistress. I dare not ask you fall into no talk with the porter, as that might ruin you to visit me at my own house, for I am watched by jeal-everything. Go straight to the corner where the Luxem-ous eyes. Let me see,” she added; “I am older than you, bourg Gardens join the Boulevard; there you will find me although so much weaker; and while I trust in your courage waiting you. I trust you to follow my advice from point to and determination, I must employ my own knowledge of point: and remember, if you fail me in only one particular, the world for our mutual benefit. Where do you live?” you will bring the sharpest trouble on a woman whose only He told her that he lodged in a furnished hotel, and named fault is to have seen and loved you.” 38
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“I cannot see the use of all these instructions,” said Silas.
“Above all,” she added, “do not speak to the porter as
“I believe you are already beginning to treat me as a mas-you come out.”
ter,” she cried, tapping him with her fan upon the arm.
“And why?” said he. “Of all your instructions, that seems
“Patience, patience! that should come in time. A woman to me the least important.”
loves to be obeyed at first, although afterwards she finds
“You at first doubted the wisdom of some of the others, her pleasure in obeying. Do as I ask you, for Heaven’s which you now see to be very necessary,” she replied. “Be-sake, or I will answer for nothing. Indeed, now I think of lieve me, this also has its uses; in time you will see them; it,” she added, with the manner of one who has just seen and what am I to think of your affection, if you refuse me further into a difficulty, “I find a better plan of keeping such trifles at our first interview?” importunate visitors away. Tell the porter to admit no one Silas confounded himself in explanations and apologies; for you, except a person who may come that night to claim in the middle of these she looked up at the clock and clapped a debt; and speak with some feeling, as though you feared her hands together with a suppressed scream.
the interview, so that he may take your words in earnest.”
“Heavens!” she cried, “is it so late? I have not an instant
“I think you may trust me to protect myself against in-to lose. Alas, we poor women, what slaves we are! What truders,” he said, not without a little pique.
have I not risked for you already?”
“That is how I should prefer the thing arranged,” she And after repeating her directions, which she artfully com-answered coldly. “I know you men; you think nothing of a bined with caresses and the most abandoned looks, she woman’s reputation.”
bade him farewell and disappeared among the crowd.
Silas blushed and somewhat hung his head; for the scheme The whole of the next day Silas was filled with a sense of he had in view had involved a little vain-glorying before great importance; he was now sure she was a countess; his acquaintances.
and when evening came he minutely obeyed her orders and 39
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was at the corner of the Luxembourg Gardens by the hour
“What the devil do you mean?” demanded Silas rudely.
appointed. No one was there. He waited nearly half-an-
“I cannot understand a word of this farrago.” hour, looking in the face of every one who passed or loi-
“The short blond young man who came for his debt,” tered near the spot; he even visited the neighbouring cor-returned the other. “Him it is I mean. Who else should it ners of the Boulevard and made a complete circuit of the be, when I had your orders to admit no one else?” garden railings; but there was no beautiful countess to throw
“Why, good God, of course he never came,” retorted herself into his arms. At last, and most reluctantly, he be-Silas.
gan to retrace his steps towards his hotel. On the way he
“I believe what I believe,” returned the porter, putting remembered the words he had heard pass between Ma-his tongue into his cheek with a most roguish air.
dame Zephyrine and the blond young man, and they gave
“You are an insolent scoundrel,” cried Silas, and, feeling him an indefinite uneasiness.
that he had made a ridiculous exhibition of asperity, and at
“It appears,” he reflected, “that every one has to tell lies the same time bewildered by a dozen alarms, he turned and to our porter.”
began to run upstairs.
He rang the bell, the door opened before him, and the
“Do you not want a light then?” cried the porter.
porter in his bed-clothes came to offer him a light.
But Silas only hurried the faster, and did not pause until
“Has he gone?” inquired the porter.
he had reached the seventh landing and stood in front of
“He? Whom do you mean?” asked Silas, somewhat his own door. There he waited a moment to recover his sharply, for he was irritated by his disappointment.
breath, assailed by the worst forebodings and almost dread-
“I did not notice him go out,” continued the porter, “but ing to enter the room.
I trust you paid him. We do not care, in this house, to have When at last he did so he was relieved to find it dark, and lodgers who cannot meet their liabilities.” to all appearance, untenanted. He drew a long breath. Here 40
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he was, home again in safety, and this should be his last It was some seconds before he could move. Then, guided folly as certainly as it had been his first. The matches stood by an instinct, he fell straight upon the matches, and keep-on a little table by the bed, and he began to grope his way ing his back towards the bed lighted a candle. As soon as in that direction. As he moved, his apprehensions grew the flame had kindled, he turned slowly round and looked upon him once more, and he was pleased, when his foot for what he feared to see. Sure enough, there was the worst encountered an obstacle, to find it nothing more alarming of his imaginations realised. The coverlid was drawn care-than a chair. At last he touched curtains. From the position fully up over the pillow, but it moulded the outline of a of the window, which was faintly visible, he knew he must human body lying motionless; and when he dashed for-be at the foot of the bed, and had only to feel his way along ward and flung aside the sheets, he beheld the blond young it in order to reach the table in question.
man whom he had seen in the Bullier Ball the night before, He lowered his hand, but what it touched was not simply his eyes open and without speculation, his face swollen a counterpane – it was a counterpane with something un-and blackened, and a thin stream of blood trickling from derneath it like the outline of a human leg. Silas withdrew his nostrils.
his arm and stood a moment petrified.
Silas uttered a long, tremulous wail, dropped the candle,
“What, what,” he thought, “can this betoken?” and fell on his knees beside the bed.
He listened intently, but there was no sound of breath-Silas was awakened from the stupor into which his tering. Once more, with a great effort, he reached out the end rible discovery had plunged him by a prolonged but dis-of his finger to the spot he had already touched; but this creet tapping at the door. It took him some seconds to time he leaped back half a yard, and stood shivering and remember his position; and when he hastened to prevent fixed with terror. There was something in his bed. What it anyone from entering it was already too late. Dr. Noel, in a was he knew not, but there was something there.
tall night-cap, carrying a lamp which lighted up his long 41
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white countenance, sidling in his gait, and peering and cockAs soon as Dr. Noel perceived the dead man in the bed ing his head like some sort of bird, pushed the door slowly his face darkened; and hurrying back to the door which he open, and advanced into the middle of the room.
had left ajar, he hastily closed and double-locked it.
“I thought I heard a cry,” began the Doctor, “and fear-
“Up!” he cried, addressing Silas in strident tones; “this is ing you might be unwell I did not hesitate to offer this no time for weeping. What have you done? How came this intrusion.”
body in your room? Speak freely to one who may be help-Silas, with a flushed face and a fearful beating heart, ful. Do you imagine I would ruin you? Do you think this kept between the Doctor and the bed; but he found no piece of dead flesh on your pillow can alter in any degree voice to answer.
the sympathy with which you have inspired me? Credulous
“You are in the dark,” pursued the Doctor; “and yet you youth, the horror with which blind and unjust law regards have not even begun to prepare for rest. You will not easan action never attaches to the doer in the eyes of those ily persuade me against my own eyesight; and your face who love him; and if I saw the friend of my heart return to declares most eloquently that you require either a friend or me out of seas of blood he would be in no way changed in a physician – which is it to be? Let me feel your pulse, for my affection. Raise yourself,” he said; “good and ill are a that is often a just reporter of the heart.” chimera; there is nought in life except destiny, and how-He advanced to Silas, who still retreated before him back-ever you may be circumstanced there is one at your side wards, and sought to take him by the wrist; but the strain who will help you to the last.”
on the young American’s nerves had become too great for Thus encouraged, Silas gathered himself together, and endurance. He avoided the Doctor with a febrile move-in a broken voice, and helped out by the Doctor’s interro-ment, and, throwing himself upon the floor, burst into a gations, contrived at last to put him in possession of the flood of weeping.
facts. But the conversation between the Prince and 42
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Geraldine he altogether omitted, as he had understood little for me except the gallows?”
of its purport, and had no idea that it was in any way re-
“Youth is but a cowardly season,” returned the Doctor; lated to his own misadventure.
“and a man’s own troubles look blacker than they are. I am
“Alas!” cried Dr. Noel, “I am much abused, or you have old, and yet I never despair.”
fallen innocently into the most dangerous hands in Europe.
“Can I tell such a story to the police?” demanded Silas.
Poor boy, what a pit has been dug for your simplicity! into
“Assuredly not,” replied the Doctor. “From what I see what a deadly peril have your unwary feet been conducted!
already of the machination in which you have been involved, This man,” he said, “this Englishman, whom you twice saw, your case is desperate upon that side; and for the narrow and whom I suspect to be the soul of the contrivance, can eye of the authorities you are infallibly the guilty person.
you describe him? Was he young or old? tall or short?” And remember that we only know a portion of the plot; But Silas, who, for all his curiosity, had not a seeing eye and the same infamous contrivers have doubtless arranged in his head, was able to supply nothing but meagre gener-many other circumstances which would be elicited by a alities, which it was impossible to recognise.
police inquiry, and help to fix the guilt more certainly upon
“I would have it a piece of education in all schools!” your innocence.”
cried the Doctor angrily. “Where is the use of eyesight and
“I am then lost, indeed!” cried Silas.
articulate speech if a man cannot observe and recollect the
“I have not said so,” answered Dr. Noel “for I am a cau-features of his enemy? I, who know all the gangs of Eutious man.”
rope, might have identified him, and gained new weapons
“But look at this!” objected Silas, pointing to the body.
for your defence. Cultivate this art in future, my poor boy;
“Here is this object in my bed; not to be explained, not to you may find it of momentous service.” be disposed of, not to be regarded without horror.”
“The future!” repeated Silas. “What future is there left
“Horror?” replied the Doctor. “No. When this sort of 43
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clock has run down, it is no more to me than an ingenious addressed the young American with a smile.
piece of mechanism, to be investigated with the bistoury.
“Since I came into your room,” said he, “although my When blood is once cold and stagnant, it is no longer hu-ears and my tongue have been so busy, I have not suffered man blood; when flesh is once dead, it is no longer that my eyes to remain idle. I noted a little while ago that you flesh which we desire in our lovers and respect in our have there, in the corner, one of those monstrous construc-friends. The grace, the attraction, the terror, have all gone tions which your fellow-countrymen carry with them into from it with the animating spirit. Accustom yourself to look all quarters of the globe – in a word, a Saratoga trunk.
upon it with composure; for if my scheme is practicable Until this moment I have never been able to conceive the you will have to live some days in constant proximity to utility of these erections; but then I began to have a glim-that which now so greatly horrifies you.” mer. Whether it was for convenience in the slave trade, or
“Your scheme?” cried Silas. “What is that? Tell me speed-to obviate the results of too ready an employment of the ily, Doctor; for I have scarcely courage enough to con-bowie-knife, I cannot bring myself to decide. But one thing tinue to exist.”
I see plainly – the object of such a box is to contain a hu-Without replying, Doctor Noel turned towards the bed, man body.
and proceeded to examine the corpse.
“Surely,” cried Silas, “surely this is not a time for jesting.”
“Quite dead,” he murmured. “Yes, as I had supposed,
“Although I may express myself with some degree of pleas-the pockets empty. Yes, and the name cut off the shirt.
antry,” replied the Doctor, “the purport of my words is en-Their work has been done thoroughly and well. Fortunately, tirely serious. And the first thing we have to do, my young he is of small stature.”
friend, is to empty your coffer of all that it contains.” Silas followed these words with an extreme anxiety. At Silas, obeying the authority of Doctor Noel, put himself last the Doctor, his autopsy completed, took a chair and at his disposition. The Saratoga trunk was soon gutted of 44
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its contents, which made a considerable litter on the floor; tions were now returned upon him in kind; for the obser-and then – Silas taking the heels and the Doctor support-vatory had been once more opened, and he was conscious ing the shoulders – the body of the murdered man was of an almost continual study from Madame Zephyrine’s carried from the bed, and, after some difficulty, doubled up apartment. So distressing did this become, that he was at and inserted whole into the empty box. With an effort on last obliged to block up the spy-hole from his own side; the part of both, the lid was forced down upon this unusual and when he was thus secured from observation he spent a baggage, and the trunk was locked and corded by the considerable portion of his time in contrite tears and prayer.
Doctor’s own hand, while Silas disposed of what had been Late in the evening Dr. Noel entered the room carrying taken out between the closet and a chest of drawers.
in his hand a pair of sealed envelopes without address,
“Now,” said the Doctor, “the first step has been taken one somewhat bulky, and the other so slim as to seem on the way to your deliverance. To-morrow, or rather to-without enclosure.
day, it must be your task to allay the suspicions of your
“Silas,” he said, seating himself at the table, “the time porter, paying him all that you owe; while you may trust has now come for me to explain my plan for your salva-me to make the arrangements necessary to a safe conclu-tion. To-morrow morning, at an early hour, Prince Florizel sion. Meantime, follow me to my room, where I shall of Bohemia returns to London, after having diverted him-give you a safe and powerful opiate; for, whatever you self for a few days with the Parisian Carnival. It was my do, you must have rest.”
fortune, a good while ago, to do Colonel Geraldine, his The next day was the longest in Silas’s memory; it seemed Master of the Horse, one of those services, so common in as if it would never be done. He denied himself to his friends, my profession, which are never forgotten upon either side.
and sat in a corner with his eyes fixed upon the Saratoga I have no need to explain to you the nature of the obliga-trunk in dismal contemplation. His own former indiscretion under which he was laid; suffice it to say that I knew 45
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him ready to serve me in any practicable manner. Now, it which will there be taken from you and not trouble you was necessary for you to gain London with your trunk un-any more.”
opened. To this the Custom House seemed to oppose a
“Alas!” said Silas, “I have every wish to believe you; but fatal difficulty; but I bethought me that the baggage of so how is it possible? You open up to me a bright prospect, considerable a person as the Prince, is, as a matter of cour-but, I ask you, is my mind capable of receiving so unlikely tesy, passed without examination by the officers of Cusa solution? Be more generous, and let me further under-tom. I applied to Colonel Geraldine, and succeeded in ob-stand your meaning.”
taining a favourable answer. To-morrow, if you go before The Doctor seemed painfully impressed.
six to the hotel where the Prince lodges, your baggage will
“Boy,” he answered, “you do not know how hard a thing be passed over as a part of his, and you yourself will make you ask of me. But be it so. I am now inured to humilia-the journey as a member of his suite.” tion; and it would be strange if I refused you this, after
“It seems to me, as you speak, that I have already seen having granted you so much. Know, then, that although I both the Prince and Colonel Geraldine; I even overheard now make so quiet an appearance -frugal, solitary, addicted some of their conversation the other evening at the Bullier to study – when I was younger, my name was once a rally-Ball.”
ing-cry among the most astute and dangerous spirits of
“It is probable enough; for the Prince loves to mix with London; and while I was outwardly an object for respect all societies,” replied the Doctor. “Once arrived in Lon-and consideration, my true power resided in the most se-don,” he pursued, “your task is nearly ended. In this more cret, terrible, and criminal relations. It is to one of the per-bulky envelope I have given you a letter which I dare not sons who then obeyed me that I now address myself to address; but in the other you will find the designation of deliver you from your burden. They were men of many the house to which you must carry it along with your box, different nations and dexterities, all bound together by a 46
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formidable oath, and working to the same purposes; the
“At the same time,” resumed the New-Englander, “as trade of the association was in murder; and I who speak to you confess yourself accustomed o this tragical business, you, innocent as I appear, was the chieftain of this redoubt-and the people to whom you recommend me are your own able crew.”
former associates and friends, could you not yourself un-
“What?” cried Silas. “A murderer? And one with whom dertake the transport of the box, and rid me at once of its murder was a trade? Can I take your hand? Ought I so much detested presence?”
as to accept your services? Dark and criminal old man, would
“Upon my word,” replied the Doctor, “I admire you cor-you make an accomplice of my youth and my distress?” dially. If you do not think I have already meddled sufficiently The Doctor bitterly laughed.
in your concerns, believe me, from my heart I think the con-
“You are difficult to please, Mr. Scuddamore,” said he; trary. Take or leave my services as I offer them; and trouble
“but I now offer you your choice of company between the me with no more words of gratitude, for I value your con-murdered man and the murderer. If your conscience is too sideration even more lightly than I do your intellect. A time nice to accept my aid, say so, and I will immediately leave will come, if you should be spared to see a number of years you. Thenceforward you can deal with your trunk and its in health of mind, when you will think differently of all this, belongings as best suits your upright conscience.” and blush for your to-night’s behaviour.”
“I own myself wrong,” replied Silas. “I should have re-So saying, the Doctor arose from his chair, repeated his membered how generously you offered to shield me, even directions briefly and clearly, and departed from the room before I had convinced you of my innocence, and I con-without permitting Silas any time to answer.
tinue to listen to your counsels with gratitude.” The next morning Silas presented himself at the hotel,
“That is well,” returned the Doctor; “and I perceive you where he was politely received by Colonel Geraldine, and are beginning to learn some of the lessons of experience.” relieved, from that moment, of all immediate alarm about 47
Robert Louis Stevenson
his trunk and its grisly contents. The journey passed over And he then put some questions as to the political condition without much incident, although the young man was hor-of America, which Silas answered with sense and propriety.
rified to overhear the sailors and railway porters complain-
“You are still a young man,” said the Prince; “but I ob-ing among themselves about the unusual weight of the serve you to be very serious for your years. Perhaps you Prince’s baggage. Silas travelled in a carriage with the va-allow your attention to be too much occupied with grave lets, for Prince Florizel chose to be alone with his Master studies. But, perhaps, on the other hand, I am myself indis-of the Horse. On board the steamer, however, Silas at-creet and touch upon a painful subject.” tracted his Highness’s attention by the melancholy of his
“I have certainly cause to be the most miserable of men,” air and attitude as he stood gazing at the pile of baggage; said Silas; “never has a more innocent person been more for he was still full of disquietude about the future.
“There is a young man,” observed the Prince, “who must
“I will not ask you for your confidence,” returned Prince have some cause for sorrow.”
Florizel. “But do not forget that Colonel Geraldine’s rec-
“That,” replied Geraldine, “is the American for whom I ommendation is an unfailing passport; and that I am not obtained permission to travel with your suite.” only willing, but possibly more able than many others, to
“You remind me that I have been remiss in courtesy,” do you a service.”
said Prince Florizel, and advancing to Silas, he addressed Silas was delighted with the amiability of this great per-him with the most exquisite condescension in these words:-
sonage; but his mind soon returned upon its gloomy pre-
“I was charmed, young sir, to be able to gratify the desire occupations; for not even the favour of a Prince to a Re-you made known to me through Colonel Geraldine. Republican can discharge a brooding spirit of its cares.
member, if you please, that I shall be glad at any future The train arrived at Charing Cross, where the officers of time to lay you under a more serious obligation.” the Revenue respected the baggage of Prince Florizel in 48
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the usual manner. The most elegant equipages were in Box Court was too narrow for the passage of a coach; it waiting; and Silas was driven, along with the rest, to the was a mere footway between railings, with a post at either Prince’s residence. There Colonel Geraldine sought him end. On one of these posts was seated a man, who at once out, and expressed himself pleased to have been of any jumped down and exchanged a friendly sign with the driver, service to a friend of the physician’s, for whom he pro-while the footman opened the door and inquired of Silas fessed a great consideration.
whether he should take down the Saratoga trunk, and to
“I hope,” he added, “that you will find none of your por-what number it should be carried.
celain injured. Special orders were given along the line to
“If you please,” said Silas. “To number three.” deal tenderly with the Prince’s effects.” The footman and the man who had been sitting on the And then, directing the servants to place one of the car-post, even with the aid of Silas himself, had hard work to riages at the young gentleman’s disposal, and at once to carry in the trunk; and before it was deposited at the door charge the Saratoga trunk upon the dickey, the Colonel of the house in question, the young American was horri-shook hands and excused himself on account of his occu-fied to find a score of loiterers looking on. But he knocked pations in the princely household.
with as good a countenance as he could muster up, and Silas now broke the seal of the envelope containing the presented the other envelope to him who opened.
address, and directed the stately footman to drive him to
“He is not at home,” said he, “but if you will leave your Box Court, opening off the Strand. It seemed as if the place letter and return to-morrow early, I shall be able to inform were not at all unknown to the man, for he looked startled you whether and when he can receive your visit. Would and begged a repetition of the order. It was with a heart you like to leave your box?” he added.
full of alarms, that Silas mounted into the luxurious ve-
“Dearly,” cried Silas; and the next moment he repented hicle, and was driven to his destination. The entrance to his precipitation, and declared, with equal emphasis, that 49
Robert Louis Stevenson
he would rather carry the box along with him to the hotel.
beside the trunk, and was proceeding officiously to undo The crowd jeered at his indecision and followed him to its elaborate fastenings.
the carriage with insulting remarks; and Silas, covered with
“Let it be!” cried Silas. “I shall want nothing from it while shame and terror, implored the servants to conduct him to I stay here.”
some quiet and comfortable house of entertainment in the
“You might have let it lie in the hall, then,” growled the immediate neighbourhood.
man; “a thing as big and heavy as a church. What you The Prince’s equipage deposited Silas at the Craven Hotel have inside I cannot fancy. If it is all money, you are a in Craven Street, and immediately drove away, leaving him richer man than me.”
alone with the servants of the inn. The only vacant room, it
“Money?” repeated Silas, in a sudden perturbation. “What appeared, was a little den up four pairs of stairs, and look-do you mean by money? I have no money, and you are ing towards the back. To this hermitage, with infinite trouble speaking like a fool.”
and complaint, a pair of stout porters carried the Saratoga
“All right, captain,” retorted the boots with a wink. “There’s trunk. It is needless to mention that Silas kept closely at nobody will touch your lordship’s money. I’m as safe as the their heels throughout the ascent, and had his heart in his bank,” he added; “but as the box is heavy, I shouldn’t mind mouth at every corner. A single false step, he reflected, drinking something to your lordship’s health.” and the box might go over the banisters and land its fatal Silas pressed two Napoleons upon his acceptance, contents, plainly discovered, on the pavement of the hall.
apologising, at the same time, for being obliged to trouble Arrived in the room, he sat down on the edge of his bed him with foreign money, and pleading his recent arrival for to recover from the agony that he had just endured; but he excuse. And the man, grumbling with even greater fervour, had hardly taken his position when he was recalled to a and looking contemptuously from the money in his hand sense of his peril by the action of the boots, who had knelt to the Saratoga trunk and back again from the one to the 50
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other, at last consented to withdraw.
must get rid of, or perish from the rolls of national glory!
For nearly two days the dead body had been packed into I should be afraid to chronicle the language employed by Silas’s box; and as soon as he was alone the unfortunate this young man to the Doctor, to the murdered man, to New-Englander nosed all the cracks and openings with the Madame Zephyrine, to the boots of the hotel, to the Prince’s most passionate attention. But the weather was cool, and servants, and, in a word, to all who had been ever so re-the trunk still managed to contain his shocking secret.
motely connected with his horrible misfortune.
He took a chair beside it, and buried his face in his hands, He slunk down to dinner about seven at night; but the and his mind in the most profound reflection. If he were yellow coffee-room appalled him, the eyes of the other din-not speedily relieved, no question but he must be speedily ers seemed to rest on his with suspicion, and his mind re-discovered. Alone in a strange city, without friends or ac-mained upstairs with the Saratoga trunk. When the waiter complices, if the Doctor’s introduction failed him, he was came to offer him cheese, his nerves were already so much indubitably a lost New-Englander. He reflected pathetically on edge that he leaped half-way out of his chair and upset over his ambitious designs for the future; he should not the remainder of a pint of ale upon the table-cloth.
now become the hero and spokesman of his native place of The fellow offered to show him to the smoking-room Bangor, Maine; he should not, as he had fondly anticipated, when he had done; and although he would have much pre-move on from office to office, from honour to honour; he ferred to return at once to his perilous treasure, he had not might as well divest himself at once of all hope of being the courage to refuse, and was shown downstairs to the acclaimed President of the United States, and leaving be-black, gas-lit cellar, which formed, and possibly still forms, hind him a statue, in the worst possible style of art, to adorn the divan of the Craven Hotel.
the Capitol at Washington. Here he was, chained to a dead Two very sad betting men were playing billiards, attended Englishman doubled up inside a Saratoga trunk; whom he by a moist, consumptive marker; and for the moment Silas 51
Robert Louis Stevenson
imagined that these were the only occupants of the apart-gas; and some distance off he perceived a man sleeping on ment. But at the next glance his eye fell upon a person the floor in the costume of an hotel under-servant. Silas smoking in the farthest corner, with lowered eyes and a drew near the man on tiptoe. He lay partly on his back, most respectable and modest aspect. He knew at once that partly on his side, and his right forearm concealed his face he had seen the face before; and, in spite of the entire change from recognition. Suddenly, while the American was still of clothes, recognised the man whom he had found seated bending over him, the sleeper removed his arm and opened on a post at the entrance to Box Court, and who had helped his eyes, and Silas found himself once more face to face him to carry the trunk to and from the carriage. The New-with the loiterer of Box Court.
Englander simply turned and ran, nor did he pause until he
“Good-night, sir,” said the man, pleasantly.
had locked and bolted himself into his bedroom.
But Silas was too profoundly moved to find an answer, There, all night long, a prey to the most terrible imagina-and regained his room in silence.
tions, he watched beside the fatal boxful of dead flesh. The Towards morning, worn out by apprehension, he fell suggestion of the boots that his trunk was full of gold in-asleep on his chair, with his head forward on the trunk. In spired him with all manner of new terrors, if he so much as spite of so constrained an attitude and such a grisly pillow, dared to close an eye; and the presence in the smoking-his slumber was sound and prolonged, and he was only room, and under an obvious disguise, of the loiterer from awakened at a late hour and by a sharp tapping at the door.
Box Court convinced him that he was once more the cen-He hurried to open, and found the boots without.
tre of obscure machinations.
“You are the gentleman who called yesterday at Box Midnight had sounded some time, when, impelled by un-Court?” he asked.
easy suspicions, Silas opened his bedroom door and peered Silas, with a quaver, admitted that he had done so.
into the passage. It was dimly illuminated by a single jet of
“Then this note is for you,” added the servant, proffering 52
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a sealed envelope.
“Indeed,” cried Silas, “I am innocent of everything ex-Silas tore it open, and found inside the words: “Twelve cept misfortune.”
And in a hurried voice, and with the greatest ingenu-He was punctual to the hour; the trunk was carried be-ousness, he recounted to the Prince the whole history of fore him by several stout servants; and he was himself his calamity.
ushered into a room, where a man sat warming himself
“I see I have been mistaken,” said his Highness, when he before the fire with his back towards the door. The sound had heard him to an end. “You are no other than a victim, of so many persons entering and leaving, and the scrap-and since I am not to punish you may be sure I shall do my ing of the trunk as it was deposited upon the bare boards, utmost to help. And now,” he continued, “to business. Open were alike unable to attract the notice of the occupant; your box at once, and let me see what it contains.” and Silas stood waiting, in an agony of fear, until he should Silas changed colour.
deign to recognise his presence.
“I almost fear to look upon it,” he exclaimed.
Perhaps five minutes had elapsed before the man turned
“Nay,” replied the Prince, “have you not looked at it leisurely about, and disclosed the features of Prince Florizel already? This is a form of sentimentality to be resisted.
The sight of a sick man, whom we can still help, should
“So, sir,” he said, with great severity, “this is the manner appeal more directly to the feelings than that of a dead in which you abuse my politeness. You join yourselves to man who is equally beyond help or harm, love or hatred.
persons of condition, I perceive, for no other purpose than Nerve yourself, Mr. Scuddamore,” and then, seeing that to escape the consequences of your crimes; and I can readily Silas still hesitated, “I do not desire to give another name understand your embarrassment when I addressed myself to my request,” he added.
to you yesterday.”
The young American awoke as if out of a dream, and 53
Robert Louis Stevenson
with a shiver of repugnance addressed himself to loose the I have sacrificed, Mr. Scuddamore, and feel how small a straps and open the lock of the Saratoga trunk. The Prince thing it is to be a Prince.”
stood by, watching with a composed countenance and his Silas was moved at the sight of his emotion. He tried to hands behind his back. The body was quite stiff, and it cost murmur some consolatory words, and burst into tears.
Silas a great effort, both moral and physical, to dislodge it The Prince, touched by his obvious intention, came up to from its position, and discover the face.
him and took him by the hand.
Prince Florizel started back with an exclamation of pain-
“Command yourself,” said he. “We have both much to learn, ful surprise.
and we shall both be better men for to-day’s meeting.”
“Alas!” he cried, “you little know, Mr. Scuddamore, what Silas thanked him in silence with an affectionate look.
a cruel gift you have brought me. This is a young man of
“Write me the address of Doctor Noel on this piece of my own suite, the brother of my trusted friend; and it was paper,” continued the Prince, leading him towards the table; upon matters of my own service that he has thus perished
“and let me recommend you, when you are again in Paris, at the hands of violent and treacherous men. Poor to avoid the society of that dangerous man. He has acted Geraldine,” he went on, as if to himself, “in what words in this matter on a generous inspiration; that I must be-am I to tell you of your brother’s fate? How can I excuse lieve; had he been privy to young Geraldine’s death he myself in your eyes, or in the eyes of God, for the pre-would never have despatched the body to the care of the sumptuous schemes that led him to this bloody and un-actual criminal.”
natural death? Ah, Florizel! Florizel! when will you learn
“The actual criminal!” repeated Silas in astonishment.
the discretion that suits mortal life, and be no longer dazzled
“Even so,” returned the Prince. “This letter, which the with the image of power at your disposal? Power!” he cried; disposition of Almighty Providence has so strangely deliv-
“who is more powerless? I look upon this young man whom ered into my hands, was addressed to no less a person than 54
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the criminal himself, the infamous President of the Suicide THE ADVENTURE OF THE HANSOM CABS
Club. Seek to pry no further in these perilous affairs, but content yourself with your own miraculous escape, and LIEUTENANT BRACKENBURY RICH had greatly distinguished leave this house at once. I have pressing affairs, and must himself in one of the lesser Indian hill wars. He it was who arrange at once about this poor clay, which was so lately a took the chieftain prisoner with his own hand; his gallantry gallant and handsome youth.”
was universally applauded; and when he came home, pros-Silas took a grateful and submissive leave of Prince trated by an ugly sabre cut and a protracted jungle fever, Florizel, but he lingered in Box Court until he saw him society was prepared to welcome the Lieutenant as a ce-depart in a splendid carriage on a visit to Colonel Henderson lebrity of minor lustre. But his was a character remarkable of the police. Republican as he was, the young American for unaffected modesty; adventure was dear to his heart, took off his hat with almost a sentiment of devotion to the but he cared little for adulation; and he waited at foreign retreating carriage. And the same night he started by rail watering-places and in Algiers until the fame of his ex-on his return to Paris.
ploits had run through its nine days’ vitality and begun to be forgotten. He arrived in London at last, in the early sea-Here (observes my Arabian author) is the end of The son, with as little observation as he could desire; and as he History of the Physician and the Saratoga Trunk. Omit-was an orphan and had none but distant relatives who lived ting some reflections on the power of Providence, highly in the provinces, it was almost as a foreigner that he in-pertinent in the original, but little suited to our occiddental stalled himself in the capital of the country for which he taste, I shall only add that Mr. Scuddamore has already had shed his blood.
begun to mount the ladder of political fame, and by last On the day following his arrival he dined alone at a mili-advices was the Sheriff of his native town.
tary club. He shook hands with a few old comrades, and 55
Robert Louis Stevenson
received their warm congratulations; but as one and all much as the shadow of an adventure for himself.
had some engagement for the evening, he found himself
“All in good time,” he reflected. “I am still a stranger, left entirely to his own resources. He was in dress, for he and perhaps wear a strange air. But I must be drawn into had entertained the notion of visiting a theatre. But the the eddy before long.”
great city was new to him; he had gone from a provincial The night was already well advanced when a plump of school to a military college, and thence direct to the East-cold rain fell suddenly out of the darkness. Brackenbury ern Empire; and he promised himself a variety of delights paused under some trees, and as he did so he caught sight in this world for exploration. Swinging his cane, he took of a hansom cabman making him a sign that he was disen-his way westward. It was a mild evening, already dark, and gaged. The circumstance fell in so happily to the occasion now and then threatening rain. The succession of faces in that he at once raised his cane in answer, and had soon the lamplight stirred the Lieutenant’s imagination; and it ensconced himself in the London gondola.
seemed to him as if he could walk for ever in that stimulat-
“Where to, sir?” asked the driver.
ing city atmosphere and surrounded by the mystery of four
“Where you please,” said Brackenbury.
million private lives. He glanced at the houses, and mar-And immediately, at a pace of surprising swiftness, the velled what was passing behind those warmly-lighted win-hansom drove off through the rain into a maze of villas.
dows; he looked into face after face, and saw them each One villa was so like another, each with its front garden, intent upon some unknown interest, criminal or kindly.
and there was so little to distinguish the deserted lamp-lit
“They talk of war,” he thought, “but this is the great battle-streets and crescents through which the flying hansom took field of mankind.”
its way, that Brackenbury soon lost all idea of direction.
And then he began to wonder that he should walk so He would have been tempted to believe that the cabman long in this complicated scene, and not chance upon so was amusing himself by driving him round and round and 56
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in and out about a small quarter, but there was something
“Here we are, sir,” said the driver.
business-like in the speed which convinced him of the con-
“Here!” repeated Brackenbury. “Where?” trary. The man had an object in view, he was hastening
“You told me to take you where I pleased, sir,” returned towards a definite end; and Brackenbury was at once asthe man with a chuckle, “and here we are.” tonished at the fellow’s skill in picking a way through such It struck Brackenbury that the voice was wonderfully a labyrinth, and a little concerned to imagine what was the smooth and courteous for a man in so inferior a position; he occasion of his hurry. He had heard tales of strangers fall-remembered the speed at which he had been driven; and ing ill in London. Did the driver belong to some bloody now it occurred to him that the hansom was more luxuri-and treacherous association? and was he himself being ously appointed than the common run of public conveyances.
whirled to a murderous death?
“I must ask you to explain,” said he. “Do you mean to The thought had scarcely presented itself, when the cab turn me out into the rain? My good man, I suspect the swung sharply round a corner and pulled up before the choice is mine.”
garden gate of a villa in a long and wide road. The house
“The choice is certainly yours,” replied the driver; “but was brilliantly lighted up. Another hansom had just driven when I tell you all, I believe I know how a gentleman of away, and Brackenbury could see a gentleman being ad-your figure will decide. There is a gentlemen’s party in this mitted at the front door and received by several liveried house. I do not know whether the master be a stranger to servants. He was surprised that the cabman should have London and without acquaintances of his own; or whether stopped so immediately in front of a house where a recep-he is a man of odd notions. But certainly I was hired to tion was being held; but he did not doubt it was the result kidnap single gentlemen in evening dress, as many as I of accident, and sat placidly smoking where he was, until pleased, but military officers by preference. You have sim-he heard the trap thrown open over his head.
ply to go in and say that Mr. Morris invited you.” 57
Robert Louis Stevenson
“Are you Mr. Morris?” inquired the Lieutenant.
thrown open, emitting a flood of light upon the garden,
“Oh, no,” replied the cabman. “Mr. Morris is the person and a servant ran down to meet him holding an umbrella.
of the house.”
“The cabman has been paid,” observed the servant in a
“It is not a common way of collecting guests,” said very civil tone; and he proceeded to escort Brackenbury Brackenbury: “but an eccentric man might very well in-along the path and up the steps. In the hall several other dulge the whim without any intention to offend. And sup-attendants relieved him of his hat, cane, and paletot, gave pose that I refuse Mr. Morris’s invitation,” he went on, him a ticket with a number in return, and politely hurried
him up a stair adorned with tropical flowers, to the door of
“My orders are to drive you back where I took you from,” an apartment on the first storey. Here a grave butler in-replied the man, “and set out to look for others up to mid-quired his name, and announcing “Lieutenant Brackenbury night. Those who have no fancy for such an adventure, Rich,” ushered him into the drawing-room of the house.
Mr. Morris said, were not the guests for him.” A young man, slender and singularly handsome, came These words decided the Lieutenant on the spot.
forward and greeted him with an air at once courtly and
“After all,” he reflected, as he descended from the han-affectionate. Hundreds of candles, of the finest wax, lit up som, “I have not had long to wait for my adventure.” a room that was perfumed, like the staircase, with a profu-He had hardly found footing on the side-walk, and was sion of rare and beautiful flowering shrubs. A side-table still feeling in his pocket for the fare, when the cab swung was loaded with tempting viands. Several servants went to about and drove off by the way it came at the former break-and fro with fruits and goblets of champagne. The com-neck velocity. Brackenbury shouted after the man, who pany was perhaps sixteen in number, all men, few beyond paid no heed, and continued to drive away; but the sound the prime of life, and with hardly an exception, of a dash-of his voice was overheard in the house, the door was again ing and capable exterior. They were divided into two 58
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groups, one about a roulette board, and the other surround-that has preceded you from India. And if you will forget ing a table at which one of their number held a bank of for a while the irregularity of your presentation in my house, baccarat.
I shall feel it not only an honour, but a genuine pleasure
“I see,” thought Brackenbury, “I am in a private gam-besides. A man who makes a mouthful of barbarian cava-bling saloon, and the cabman was a tout.” liers,” he added with a laugh, “should not be appalled by a His eye had embraced the details, and his mind formed breach of etiquette, however serious.” the conclusion, while his host was still holding him by the And he led him towards the sideboard and pressed him hand; and to him his looks returned from this rapid survey.
to partake of some refreshment.
At a second view Mr. Morris surprised him still more than
“Upon my word,” the Lieutenant reflected, “this is one on the first. The easy elegance of his manners, the distinc-of the pleasantest fellows and, I do not doubt, one of the tion, amiability, and courage that appeared upon his fea-most agreeable societies in London.” tures, fitted very ill with the Lieutenant’s preconceptions He partook of some champagne, which he found excel-on the subject of the proprietor of a hell; and the tone of lent; and observing that many of the company were already his conversation seemed to mark him out for a man of po-smoking, he lit one of his own Manillas, and strolled up to sition and merit. Brackenbury found he had an instinctive the roulette board, where he sometimes made a stake and liking for his entertainer; and though he chid himself for sometimes looked on smilingly on the fortune of others. It the weakness, he was unable to resist a sort of friendly was while he was thus idling that he became aware of a attraction for Mr. Morris’s person and character.
sharp scrutiny to which the whole of the guests were sub-
“I have heard of you, Lieutenant Rich,” said Mr. Morris, jected. Mr. Morris went here and there, ostensibly busied lowering his tone; “and believe me I am gratified to make on hospitable concerns; but he had ever a shrewd glance at your acquaintance. Your looks accord with the reputation disposal; not a man of the party escaped his sudden, search-59
Robert Louis Stevenson
ing looks; he took stock of the bearing of heavy losers, he dow recess concealed by curtains of the fashionable green.
valued the amount of the stakes, he paused behind couples Here he hurriedly ensconced himself; nor had he to wait who were deep in conversation; and, in a word, there was long before the sound of steps and voices drew near him hardly a characteristic of any one present but he seemed to from the principal apartment. Peering through the division, catch and make a note of it. Brackenbury began to wonder he saw Mr. Morris escorting a fat and ruddy personage, if this were indeed a gambling hell: it had so much the air with somewhat the look of a commercial traveller, whom of a private inquisition. He followed Mr. Morris in all his Brackenbury had already remarked for his coarse laugh movements; and although the man had a ready smile, he and under-bred behaviour at the table. The pair halted im-seemed to perceive, as it were under a mask, a haggard, mediately before the window, so that Brackenbury lost not careworn, and preoccupied spirit. The fellows around him a word of the following discourse:–
laughed and made their game; but Brackenbury had lost
“I beg you a thousand pardons!” began Mr. Morris, with interest in the guests.
the most conciliatory manner; “and, if I appear rude, I am
“This Morris,” thought he, “is no idler in the room. Some sure you will readily forgive me. In a place so great as deep purpose inspires him; let it be mine to fathom it.” London accidents must continually happen; and the best Now and then Mr. Morris would call one of his visitors that we can hope is to remedy them with as small delay as aside; and after a brief colloquy in an ante-room, he would possible. I will not deny that I fear you have made a mis-return alone, and the visitors in question reappeared no take and honoured my poor house by inadvertence; for, to more. After a certain number of repetitions, this perfor-speak openly, I cannot at all remember your appearance.
mance excited Brackenbury’s curiosity to a high degree.
Let me put the question without unnecessary circumlocu-He determined to be at the bottom of this minor mystery at tion -between gentlemen of honour a word will suffice –
once; and strolling into the ante-room, found a deep win-Under whose roof do you suppose yourself to be?” 60
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“That of Mr. Morris,” replied the other, with a prodi-utter a profound sigh, as though his mind was loaded with gious display of confusion, which had been visibly grow-a great anxiety, and his nerves already fatigued with the ing upon him throughout the last few words.
task on which he was engaged.
“Mr. John or Mr. James Morris?” inquired the host.
For perhaps an hour the hansoms kept arriving with such
“I really cannot tell you,” returned the unfortunate guest.
frequency, that Mr. Morris had to receive a new guest for
“I am not personally acquainted with the gentleman, any every old one that he sent away, and the company pre-more than I am with yourself.”
served its number undiminished. But towards the end of
“I see,” said Mr. Morris. “There is another person of the that time the arrivals grew few and far between, and at same name farther down the street; and I have no doubt length ceased entirely, while the process of elimination was the policeman will be able to supply you with his number.
continued with unimpaired activity. The drawing-room Believe me, I felicitate myself on the misunderstanding began to look empty: the baccarat was discontinued for which has procured me the pleasure of your company for lack of a banker; more than one person said good-night of so long; and let me express a hope that we may meet again his own accord, and was suffered to depart without expos-upon a more regular footing. Meantime, I would not for tulation; and in the meanwhile Mr. Morris redoubled in the world detain you longer from your friends. John,” he agreeable attentions to those who stayed behind. He went added, raising his voice, “will you see that this gentleman from group to group and from person to person with looks finds his great-coat?”
of the readiest sympathy and the most pertinent and pleas-And with the most agreeable air Mr. Morris escorted his ing talk; he was not so much like a host as like a hostess, visitor as far as the ante-room door, where he left him un-and there was a feminine coquetry and condescension in der conduct of the butler. As he passed the window, on his his manner which charmed the hearts of all.
return to the drawing-room, Brackenbury could hear him As the guests grew thinner, Lieutenant Rich strolled for 61
Robert Louis Stevenson
a moment out of the drawing-room into the hall in quest of the house had been painted and papered, it was not only fresher air. But he had no sooner passed the threshold of uninhabited at present, but plainly had never been inhabited the ante-chamber than he was brought to a dead halt by a at all. The young officer remembered with astonishment its discovery of the most surprising nature. The flowering specious, settled, and hospitable air on his arrival.
shrubs had disappeared from the staircase; three large fur-It was only at a prodigious cost that the imposture could niture waggons stood before the garden gate; the servants have been carried out upon so great a scale.
were busy dismantling the house upon all sides; and some Who, then, was Mr. Morris? What was his intention in of them had already donned their great-coats and were thus playing the householder for a single night in the re-preparing to depart. It was like the end of a country ball, mote west of London? And why did he collect his visitors where everything has been supplied by contract.
at hazard from the streets?
Brackenbury had indeed some matter for reflection. First, Brackenbury remembered that he had already delayed the guests, who were no real guests after all, had been too long, and hastened to join the company. Many had left dismissed; and now the servants, who could hardly be genu-during his absence; and counting the Lieutenant and his ine servants, were actively dispersing.
host, there were not more than five persons in the draw-
‘“Was the whole establishment a sham?” he asked himing-room – recently so thronged. Mr. Morris greeted him, self. “The mushroom of a single night which should disapas he re-entered the apartment, with a smile, and immedi-pear before morning?”
ately rose to his feet.
Watching a favourable opportunity, Brackenbury dashed
“It is now time, gentlemen,” said he, “to explain my pur-upstairs to the highest regions of the house. It was as he had pose in decoying you from your amusements. I trust you expected. He ran from room to room, and saw not a stick of did not find the evening hang very dully on your hands; but furniture nor so much as a picture on the walls. Although my object, I will confess it, was not to entertain your lei-62
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sure, but to help myself in an unfortunate necessity. You are
“On the contrary,” replied Mr. Morris, “I am obliged to all gentlemen,” he continued, “your appearance does you you for all you say. It would be impossible to exaggerate that much justice, and I ask for no better security. Hence, I the gravity of my proposal.”
speak it without concealment, I ask you to render me a dan-
“Well, gentlemen, what do you say?” said the tall man, gerous and delicate service; dangerous because you may run addressing the others. “We have had our evening’s frolic; the hazard of your lives, and delicate because I must ask an shall we all go homeward peaceably in a body? You will absolute discretion upon all that you shall see or hear. From think well of my suggestion in the morning, when you see an utter stranger the request is almost comically extrava-the sun again in innocence and safety.” gant; I am well aware of this; and I would add at once, if The speaker pronounced the last words with an intona-there be any one present who has heard enough, if there be tion which added to their force; and his face wore a singu-one among the party who recoils from a dangerous confi-lar expression, full of gravity and significance. Another of dence and a piece of Quixotic devotion to he knows not the company rose hastily, and, with some appearance of whom – here is my hand ready, and I shall wish him good-alarm, prepared to take his leave. There were only two night and God-speed with all the sincerity in the world.” who held their ground, Brackenbury and an old red-nosed A very tall, black man, with a heavy stoop, immediately cavalry Major; but these two preserved a nonchalant responded to this appeal.
demeanour, and, beyond a look of intelligence which they
“I commend your frankness, Sir,” said he; “and, for my rapidly exchanged, appeared entirely foreign to the discus-part, I go. I make no reflections; but I cannot deny that sion that had just been terminated.
you fill me with suspicious thoughts. I go myself, as I say; Mr. Morris conducted the deserters as far as the door, and perhaps you will think I have no right to add words to which he closed upon their heels; then he turned round, my example.”
disclosing a countenance of mingled relief and animation, 63
Robert Louis Stevenson
and addressed the two officers as follows.
me. I am Major O’Rooke.”
“I have chosen my men like Joshua in the Bible,” said And the veteran tendered his hand, which was red and Mr. Morris, “and I now believe I have the pick of London.
tremulous, to the young Lieutenant.
Your appearance pleased my hansom cabmen; then it de-
“Who has not?” answered Brackenbury.
lighted me; I have watched your behaviour in a strange
“When this little matter is settled,” said Mr. Morris, “you company, and under the most unusual circumstances: I have will think I have sufficiently rewarded you; for I could of-studied how you played and how you bore your losses; fer neither a more valuable service than to make him ac-lastly, I have put you to the test of a staggering announce-quainted with the other.”
ment, and you received it like an invitation to dinner. It is
“And now,” said Major O’Rooke, “is it a duel?” not for nothing,” he cried, “that I have been for years the
“A duel after a fashion,” replied Mr. Morris, “a duel with companion and the pupil of the bravest and wisest poten-unknown and dangerous enemies, and, as I gravely fear, a tate in Europe.”
duel to the death. I must ask you,” he continued, “to call
“At the affair of Bunderchang,” observed the Major, “I me Morris no longer; call me, if you please, Hammersmith; asked for twelve volunteers, and every trooper in the ranks my real name, as well as that of another person to whom I replied to my appeal. But a gaming party is not the same hope to present you before long, you will gratify me by not thing as a regiment under fire. You may be pleased, I sup-asking and not seeking to discover for yourselves. Three pose, to have found two, and two who will not fail you at days ago the person of whom I speak disappeared sud-a push. As for the pair who ran away, I count them among denly from home; and, until this morning, I received no the most pitiful hounds I ever met with. Lieutenant Rich,” hint of his situation. You will fancy my alarm when I tell he added, addressing Brackenbury, “I have heard much of you that he is engaged upon a work of private justice. Bound you of late; and I cannot doubt but you have also heard of by an unhappy oath, too lightly sworn, he finds it neces-64
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sary, without the help of law, to rid the earth of an insidi-curiosity, “my friend is a man whose directions should imous and bloody villain. Already two of our friends, and one plicitly be followed. I need not tell you, therefore, that I of them my own born brother, have perished in the enter-have not so much as visited the neighbourhood of Roches-prise. He himself, or I am much deceived, is taken in the ter House; and that I am still as wholly in the dark as either same fatal toils. But at least he still lives and still hopes, as of yourselves as to the nature of my friend’s dilemma. I this billet sufficiently proves.”
betook myself, as soon as I had received this order, to a And the speaker, no other than Colonel Geraldine, prof-furnishing contractor, and, in a few hours, the house in fered a letter, thus conceived:-
which we now are had assumed its late air of festival. My scheme was at least original; and I am far from regretting
“Major Hammersmith, – On Wednesday, at 3 A.M., you will an action which has procured me the services of Major be admitted by the small door to the gardens of Rochester O’Rooke and Lieutenant Brackenbury Rich. But the ser-House, Regent’s Park, by a man who is entirely in my inter-vants in the street will have a strange awakening. The house est. I must request you not to fail me by a second. Pray bring which this evening was full of lights and visitors they will my case of swords, and, if you can find them, one or two find uninhabited and for sale to-morrow morning. Thus gentlemen of conduct and discretion to whom my person is even the most serious concerns,” added the Colonel, “have unknown. My name must not be used in this affair.
a merry side.”
“And let us add a merry ending,” said Brackenbury.
The Colonel consulted his watch.
“It is now hard on two,” he said. “We have an hour be-
“From his wisdom alone, if he had no other title,” pursued fore us, and a swift cab is at the door. Tell me if I may Colonel Geraldine, when the others had each satisfied his count upon your help.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
“During a long life,” replied Major O’Rooke, “I never some pendant ivy, and spoke in low tones of the approach-took back my hand from anything, nor so much as hedged ing trial.
Suddenly Geraldine raised his finger to command silence, Brackenbury signified his readiness in the most becom-and all three bent their hearing to the utmost. Through the ing terms; and after they had drunk a glass or two of wine, continuous noise of the rain, the steps and voices of two the Colonel gave each of them a loaded revolver, and the men became audible from the other side of the wall; and, three mounted into the cab and drove off for the address as they drew nearer, Brackenbury, whose sense of hearing in question.
was remarkably acute, could even distinguish some frag-Rochester House was a magnificent residence on the ments of their talk.
banks of the canal. The large extent of the garden isolated
“Is the grave dug?” asked one.
it in an unusual degree from the annoyances of
“It is,” replied the other; “behind the laurel hedge. When neighbourhood. It seemed the parc aux cerfs of some great the job is done, we can cover it with a pile of stakes.” nobleman or millionaire. As far as could be seen from the The first speaker laughed, and the sound of his merri-street, there was not a glimmer of light in any of the nu-ment was shocking to the listeners on the other side.
merous windows of the mansion; and the place had a look
“In an hour from now,” he said.