The Man Who Lost Himself
by H. De Vere Stacpoole
THE MAN WHO LOST HIMSELF
H. DE VERE STACPOOLE
Author of Sea Plunder, The Gold Trail, The Blue Lagoon, Etc.
New York: John Lane Company Toronto: S. B. Gundy :: MCMXVIII
Copyright, 1917-1918 by Street &Smith
Copyright, 1918 by John Lane Company
The Plimpton Press Norwood Mass U.S.A.
THE MAN WHO LOST HIMSELF
CHAPTER I. JONES
It was the first of June, and Victor Jones of Philadelphia was
seated in the lounge of the Savoy Hotel, London, defeated in his first
really great battle with the thing we call life.
Though of Philadelphia, Jones was not an American, nor had he
anything of the American accent. Australian born, he had started life
in a bank at Melbourne, gone to India for a trading house, started for
himself, failed, and become a rolling stone. Philadelphia was his last
With no financial foundation, Victor and a Philadelphia gentleman
had competed for a contract to supply the British Government with
Harveyised steel struts, bolts, and girders; he had come over to London
to press the business; he had interviewed men in brass hats, slow
moving men who had turned him over to slower moving men. The Stringer
Company, for so he dubbed himself and Aaron Stringer, who had financed
him for the journey, had wasted three weeks on the business, and this
morning their tender had been rejected. Hardmans', the Pittsburg
people, had got the order.
It was a nasty blow. If he and Stringer could have secured the
contract, they could have carried it through all right, Stringer would
have put the thing in the hands of Laurenson of Philadelphia, and their
commission would have been enormous, a stroke of the British
Government's pen would have filled their pockets; failing that they
were bankrupt. At least Jones was.
And justifiably you will say, considering that the whole business
was a gigantic piece of bluffwell, maybe, yet on behalf of this
bluffer I would put it forward that he had risked everything on one
deal, and that this was no little failure of his, but a disaster, naked
He had less than ten pounds in his pocket and he owed money at the
Savoy. You see he had reckoned on doing all his business in a week, and
if it failedan idea which he scarcely entertainedon getting back
third class to the States. He had not reckoned on the terrible expenses
of London, or the three weeks delay.
Yesterday he had sent a cable to Stringer for funds, and had got as
a reply: Am waiting news of contract.
Stringer was that sort of man.
He was thinking about Stringer now, as he sat watching the guests of
the Savoy, Americans and English, well to do people with no money
worries, so he fancied. He was thinking about Stringer and his own
position, with less than ten pounds in his pocket, an hotel bill
unreceipted, and three thousand miles of deep water between himself and
Jones was twenty-four years of age. He looked thirty. A serious
faced, cadaverous individual, whom, given three guesses you would have
judged to be a Scotch free kirk minister in mufti; an actor in the
melodramatic line; a food crank. These being the three most serious
occupations in the world.
In reality, he had started life, as before said, in a bank, educated
himself in mathematics and higher commercial methods, by
correspondence, and, aiming to be a millionaire, had left the bank and
struck out for himself in the great tumbling ocean of business.
He had glimpsed the truth. Seen the fact that the art of life is not
so much to work oneself as to make other people work for one, to
convert by one's own mental energy, the bodily energy of others into
products or actions. Had this Government contract come off, he would
have, and to his own profit, set a thousand hammers swinging, a dozen
steel mills rolling, twenty ships lading, hammers, mills and ships he
had never seen, never would see.
That is the magic of business, and when you behold roaring towns and
humming wharves, when you read of raging battles, you see and read of
the work of a comparatively small number of men, gentlemen who wear
frock coats, who have never handled a bale, or carried a gun, or
steered a ship with their own hands. Magicians!
He ordered a whisky and soda from a passing attendant, to help him
think some more about Stringer and his own awful position, and was
taking the glass from the salver when a very well dressed man of his
own age and build who had entered by the passage leading up from the
American bar drew his attention.
This man's face seemed quite familiar to him, so much so that he
started in his chair as though about to rise and greet him. The
stranger, also, seemed for a second under the same obsession, but only
for a second; he made a half pause and then passed on, becoming lost to
sight beyond the palm trees at the entrance. Jones leaned back in his
Now, where did I see that guy before? asked he of himself.
Where on earth have I met him? and he recognised mewhere in
thewhere in thewhere in the?
His memory vaguely and vainly searching for the name to go with that
face was at fault. He finished his whisky and soda and rose, and then
strolled off not heeding much in what direction, till he reached the
book and newspaper stand where he paused to inspect the wares, turning
over the pages of the latest best seller without imbibing a word of the
Then he found himself downstairs in the American bar, with a
champagne cocktail before him.
Jones was an abstemious man, as a rule, but he had a highly strung
nervous system and it had been worked up. The unaccustomed whiskey and
soda had taken him in its charge, comforting him and conducting his
steps, and now the bar keeper, a cheery person, combined with the
champagne cocktail, the cheeriest of drinks, so raised his spirits and
warmed his optimism, that, having finished his glass he pushed it
across the counter and said, Give me another.
At this moment a gentleman who had just entered the bar came up to
the counter, placed half a crown upon it and was served by the
assistant bar keeper with a glass of sherry.
Jones, turning, found himself face to face with the stranger whom he
had seen in the lounge, the stranger whose face he knew but whose name
he could not remember in the least.
Jones was a direct person, used to travel and the forming of chance
acquaintanceships. He did not hang back.
'Scuse me, said he. I saw you in the lounge and I'm sure I've met
you somewhere or another, but I can't place you.
CHAPTER II. THE STRANGER
The stranger, taking his change from the assistant bar tender,
Yes, said he, you have seen me before, often, I should think. Do
you mean to say you don't know where?
Nope, said Joneshe had acquired a few American idiomsI'm
clear out of my reckoningare you an American?
No, I'm English, replied the other. This is very curious, you
don't recognise me, wellwellwelllet's sit down and have a talk,
maybe recollection will come to yougive it timeit is easier to
think sitting down than standing up.
Now as Jones turned to take his seat at the table indicated by the
stranger, he noticed that the bar keeper and his assistant were looking
at him as though he had suddenly become an object of more than ordinary
The subtlety of human facial expression stands unchallenged, and the
faces of these persons conveyed the impression to Jones that the
interest he had suddenly evoked in their minds had in it a link with
When he looked again, however, having taken his seat, they were both
washing glasses with the solemnity of undertakers.
I thought those guys were laughing at me, said Jones, seems I was
wrong, and all the better for themwell, now, let's get to the bottom
of this tanglewho are you, anyway?
Just a friend, replied the other, I'll tell you my name
presently, only I want you to think it out for yourself. Talk about
yourself and then, maybe, you'll arrive at it. Who are you?
Me, cried Jones, I'm Victor Jones of Philadelphia. I'm the
partner of a skunk by name of Stringer. I'm the victim of a British
government that doesn't know the difference between tin plate and
Harveyised steel. I'm a man on the rocks.
The flood gates of his wrath were opened and everything came out,
including the fact of his own desperate position.
When he had finished the only remark of the stranger was:
Not on your life, cried Jones. I ought to be making tracks for
the consul or somewhere to get my passage back to the StateswellI
don't know. Nono more cocktails. I'll have a sherry, same as you.
The sherry having been despatched, the stranger rose, refusing a
return drink just at that moment.
Come into the lounge with me, said he, I want to tell you
something I can't tell you here.
They passed up the stairs, the stranger leading the way, Jones
following, slightly confused in his mind but full of warmth at his
heart, and with a buoyancy of spirit beyond experience. Stringer was
forgotten, the British Government was forgotten, contracts, hotel
bills, steerage journeys to the States, all these were forgotten. The
warmth, the sumptuous rooms, and the golden lamps of the Savoy were
sufficient for the moment, and as he sank into an easy chair and lit a
cigarette, even his interest in the stranger and what he had to say was
for a moment dimmed and diminished by the fumes that filled his brain,
and the ease that lapped his senses.
What I have to say is this, said the stranger, leaning forward in
his chair. When I saw you here some time ago, I recognised you at once
as a person I knew, but, as you put it, I could not place you. But when
I got into the main hall a mirror at once told me. You are, to put it
frankly, my twin image.
I beg your pardon, said Jones, the word image shattering his
complacency. Your twin which do you say?
Image, likeness, counterpartI mean no offenceturn round and
glance at that mirror behind you.
Jones did, and saw the stranger, and the stranger was himself. Both
men belonged to a fairly common type, but the likeness went far beyond
thatthey were identical. The same hair and colour of hair, the same
features, shape of head, ears and colour of eyes, the same serious
expression of countenance.
Absolute likeness between two human beings is almost as rare as
absolute likeness between two pebbles on a beach, yet it occurs, as in
the case of M. de Joinville and others well known and confirmed, and
when I say absolute likeness, I mean likeness so complete that a close
acquaintance cannot distinguish the difference between the duplicates.
When nature does a trick like this, she does it thoroughly, for it has
been noticedbut more especially in the case of twinsthe likeness
includes the voice, or at least its timbre, the thyroid cartilage and
vocal chords following the mysterious law that rules the duplication.
Jones' voice and the voice of the stranger might have been the same
as far as pitch and timbre were concerned, the only difference was in
the accent, and that was slight.
Well, I'm d-d-d, said Jones.
He turned to the other and then back to the mirror.
Extraordinary, isn't it? said the other. I don't know whether I
ought to apologise to you or you to me. My name is Rochester.
Jones turned from the mirror, the two champagne cocktails, the
whisky and the sherry were accommodating his unaccustomed brain to
support this most unaccustomed situation. The thing seemed to him
radiantly humorous, yet if he had known it there was very little humour
in the matter.
We must celebrate this, said Jones, calling an attendant and
giving him explicit orders as to the means.
CHAPTER III. DINNER AND AFTER
A small bottle of Böllinger was the means, and the celebration was
mostly done by Jones, for it came about that this stranger, Rochester,
whilst drinking little himself, managed by some method to keep up in
gaiety and in consequence of mind with the other, though every now and
then he would fall away from the point, as a ship without a steersman
falls away from the wind, and lapse for a moment into what an acute
observer might have deemed to be the fundamental dejection of his real
However, these lapses were only momentary, and did not interfere at
all with the gay spirits of his companion, who having found a friend in
the midst of the loneliness of London, and his twin image in the person
of that friend, was now pouring out his heart on every sort of subject,
always returning, and with the regularity of a pendulum to the fact of
the likeness, and the same question and statement.
What's this, your name? Rochester! well, 'pon my soul this beats
Presently, the Bollinger finished, Jones found himself outside the
Savoy with this new found friend, walking in the gas lit Strand, and
then, without any transition rememberable, he found himself seated at
dinner in a private room of a French restaurant in Soho.
Afterwards he could remember parts of that dinner quite distinctly.
He could remember the chicken and salad, and a rum omelette, at which
he had laughed because it was on fire. He could remember Rochester's
gaiety, and a practical joke of some sort played on the waiter by
Rochester and ending in smashed plateshe could remember remonstrating
with the latter over his wild conduct. These things he could remember
afterwards, and also a few othersa place like Heavenwhich was the
Leicester Lounge, and a place like the other place which was Leicester
A quarrel with a stranger, about what he could not tell, a taxi cab,
in which he was seated listening to Rochester's voice giving directions
to the driver, minute directions as to where he, Jones, was to be
A lamp lit hall, and stairs up which he was being led.
CHAPTER IV. CARLTON HOUSE TERRACE
He awoke from sleep in bed in the dark, with his mind clear as
crystal and hot shame clutching at his throat. Rochester was the first
recollection that came to him, and it was a recollection tinged with
evil. He felt like a man who had supped with the devil. Led by
Rochester he had made a fool of himself, he had made a brute of
himself, how would he face the hotel people? And what had he done with
the last of his money?
These thoughts held him motionless for a few terrific moments. Then
he clapped his hand to his unfortunate head, turned on his side, and
lay gazing into the darkness. It had all come back to him clearly.
Rochester's wild conduct, the dinner, the smashed plates, the quarrel.
He was afraid to get up and search in his pockets, he guessed their
condition. He occupied himself instead, trying to imagine what would
become of him without money and without friends in this wilderness of
London. With ten pounds he might have done something; without, what
could he do? Nothing, unless it were manual labour, and he did not know
where to look for that.
Then Rochester, never from his mind, came more fully before
himthat likeness, was it real, or only a delusion of alcohol? And
what else had Rochester done? He seemed mad enough to have done
anything, plum crazywould he, Jones, be held accountable for
Rochester's deeds? He was fighting with this question when a clock
began to strike in the darkness and close to the bed, nine delicate and
silvery strokes, that brought a sudden sweat upon the forehead of
He was not in his room at the Savoy. There was no clock in the Savoy
bed room, and no clock in any hotel ever spoke in tones like these. On
the sound, as if from a passage outside, he heard a voice:
Took all his money, and sent him home in another chap's clothes.
Then came the sound of a soft step crossing the carpet, the sound of
curtain rings movingthen a blind upshrivelled letting the light of
day upon a room never before seen by Jones, a Jacobean bed room,
severe, but exquisite in every detail.
The man who had pulled the blind string, and whose powerful profile
was silhouetted against the light, showed to the sun a face highly but
evenly coloured, as though by the gentle painting of old port wine,
through a long series of years and ancestors. The typical colour of the
old fashioned English Judge, Bishop, and Butler.
He was attired in a black morning coat, and his whole countenance,
make, build and appearance had something grave and archiepiscopal most
holding to the eye and imagination.
It terrified Jones, who, breathing now as though asleep, watched
through closed eyelids whilst the apparition, with pursed lips, dealt
with the blind of the other window.
This done, it passed to the door, conferred in muted tones with some
unseen person, and returned bearing in its hands a porcelain early
morning tea service.
Having placed this on the table by the bed, the apparition vanished,
closing the door.
Jones sat up and looked around him.
His clothes had disappeared. He always hung his trousers on the bed
post at the end of his bed and placed his other things on a chair, but
trousers or other things were nowhere visible, they had been spirited
away. It was at this moment that he noticed the gorgeous silk pyjamas
he had got on. He held out his arm and looked at the texture and
Then, in a flash came comfort and understanding. He was in
Rochester's house. Rochester must have sent him here last night. That
apparition was Rochester's man servant. The vision of Rochester turned
from an evil spirit to an angel, and filled with a warm sensation of
friendliness towards the said Rochester he was in the act of pouring
out a cup of tea, when the words he had heard spoken in the passage
outside came back to him.
Took all his money, and sent him home in another chap's clothes.
What did that mean?
He finished pouring out the tea and drank it; there was thin bread
and butter on a plate but he disregarded it. Whose money had been
taken, and who had been sent home in another chap's clothes?
Did those words apply to him or to Rochester? Had Rochester been
robbed? Might he, Jones, be held accountable?
A deep uneasiness and a passionate desire for his garments begotten
of these queries, brought him out of bed and on to the floor. He came
to the nearer window and looked out. The window gave upon the Green
Park, a cheerful view beneath the sky of a perfect summer's morning. He
turned from the window, and crossing the room opened the door through
which the apparition had vanished. A thickly carpeted corridor lay
outside, a corridor silent as the hypogeum of the Apis, secretive,
gorgeous, with tasseled silk curtains and hanging lamps. Jones judged
these lamps to be of silver and worth a thousand dollars apiece. He had
read the Arabian Nights when a boy, and like a waft now from the garden
of Aladdin came a vague something stirring his senses and disturbing
his practical nature. He wanted his clothes. This silent gorgeousness
had raised the desire for his garments to a passion. He wanted to get
into his boots and face the world and face the worst. Swinging lamps of
silver, soft carpets, silken curtains, only served to heighten his
sensitiveness as to his apparel and whole position.
He came back into the room. His anger was beginning to rise, the
nervous anger of a man who has made a fool of himself, upon whom a jest
is being played, and who finds himself in a false position.
Seeing an electric button by the fire place he went to it and
pressed it twice, hard, then he opened the second door of the room and
found a bath room.
A Pompeian bath room with tassellated floor, marble walls and marble
ceiling. The bath was sunk in the floor. Across hot water pipes, plated
with silver, hung towels of huck-a-back, white towels with cardinal red
fringes. Here too, most un-Pompeian stood a wonderful dressing table,
one solid slab of glass, with razors set out, manicure instruments,
brushes, powder pots, scent bottles.
Jones came into this place, walked round it like a cat in a strange
larder, gauged the depth of the bath, glanced at the things on the
table, and was in the act of picking up one of the manicure implements,
when a sound from the bed room drew his attention.
Someone was moving about there.
Someone who seemed altering the position of chairs and arranging
He judged it to be the servant who had answered the bell; he
considered that it was better to have the thing out now, and have done
with it. He wanted a full explanation, and bravely, but with the
feelings of a man who is entering a dental parlour, he came to the bath
A pale faced, agile-looking young man with glossy black hair, a
young man in a sleeved waistcoat, a young man carrying a shirt and set
of pink silk undergarments over his left arm, was in the act of placing
a pair of patent leather boots with kid tops upon the floor. A gorgeous
dressing gown lay upon the bed. It had evidently been placed there by
the agile one.
Jones had intended to ask explanations. That intention shrivelled,
somehow, in the act of speech. What he uttered was a very mildly framed
Ercan I have my clothes, please? said Jones.
Yes, my Lord, replied the other. I am placing them out.
The instantaneous anger raised by the patent fact that he was being
guyed by the second apparition was as instantly checked by the
recollection of Rochester. Here was another practical joke. This house
was evidently Rochester'sthe whole thing was plain. Well, he would
show that tricky spirit how he could take a joke and turn it on the
maker. Like Brer Rabbit he determined to lie low.
He withdrew into the bath room and sat down on the rush bottomed
chair by the table, his temper coiled, and ready to fly out like a
spring. He was seated like this, curling his toes and nursing his
resolve, when the Agile One, with an absolute gravity that disarmed all
anger, entered with the dressing gown. He stood holding it up, and
Jones, rising, put it on. Then the A. O. filled the bath, trying the
temperature with a thermometer, and so absorbed in his business that he
might have been alone.
The bath filled, he left the room, closing the door.
He had thrown some crystals into the water, scenting it with a
perfume fragrant and refreshing, the temperature was just right, and as
Jones plunged and wallowed and lay half floating, supporting himself by
the silver plated rails arranged for that purpose, the idea came to him
that if the practical joke were to continue as pleasantly as it had
begun, he, for one, would not grumble.
Soothed by the warmth his mind took a clearer view of things.
If this were a jest of Rochester's, as most certainly it was, where
lay the heart of it? Every joke has its core, and the core of this one
was most evidently the likeness between himself and Rochester.
If Rochester were a Lord and if this were his house, and if
Rochester had sent himJoneshome like a bundle of goods, then the
extraordinary likeness would perhaps deceive the servants and maybe
other people as well. That would be a good joke, promising all sorts of
funny developments. Only it was not a joke that any man of self respect
would play. But Rochester, from those vague recollections of his
antics, did not seem burdened with self respect. He seemed in his
latter developments crazy enough for anything.
If he had done this, then the servants were not in the business;
they would be under the delusion that he, Jones, was Rochester, doped
and robbed and dressed in another man's clothes and sent home.
Rochester, turning up later in the morning, would have a fine feast
of humour to sit down to.
This seemed plain. The born practical joker coming on his own twin
image could not resist making use of it. This explanation cleared the
situation, but it did not make it a comfortable one. If the servants
discovered the imposition before the arrival of Rochester things would
be unpleasant. He must act warily, get downstairs and escape from the
place as soon as possible. Later on he would settle with Rochester. The
servants, if they were not partners in the joke, had taken him on his
face value, his voice had evidently not betrayed him. He felt sure on
this point. He left the bath and, drying himself, donned the dressing
gown. Tooth paste and a tooth brush stood on a glass tray by a little
basin furnished with hot and cold water taps, and now, so strangely are
men constituted, the main facts of his position were dwarfed for a
second by the consideration that he had no tooth brush of his own.
Just that little thing brought his energies to a focus and his
He, opened the bed-room door. The glossy haired one was putting
links in the sleeves of a shirt.
Get me a tooth brusha new one, said Jones, brusquely, almost
brutally. Get it quick.
Yes, my Lord.
He dropped the shirt and left the room swiftly, but not hurriedly,
taking care to close the door softly behind him.
It was the first indication to Jones of a method so complete and a
mechanism so perfectly constituted, that jolts were all but eliminated.
I believe if I'd asked that guy for an elephant, he said to
himself, he'd have acted just the samedo they keep a drug store on
They evidently kept a store of tooth brushes, for in less than a
minute and a half Expedition had returned with the tooth brush on a
little lacquered tray.
Now, to a man accustomed to dress himself it comes as a shock to
have his underpants held out for him to get into as though he were a
This happened to Jonesand they were pink silk.
A pair of subfusc coloured trousers creased and looking absolutely
new were presented to him in the same manner. He was allowed to put on
his own socks, silk and never worn before, but he was not allowed to
put on his own boots. The perfect valet did that kneeling before him,
shoe horn and button hook in hand.
Having inducted him into a pink silk under vest and a soft pleated
shirt, with plain gold links in the sleeves, each button of the said
links having in its centre a small black pearl, a collar and a subfusc
coloured silk tie were added to him, also a black morning vest and a
black morning coat, with rather broad braid at the edges.
A handkerchief of pure white cambric with a tiny monogram also in
white was then shaken out and presented.
Then his valet, intent, silent, and seeming to move by clockwork,
passed to a table on which stood a small oak cabinet. Opening the
cabinet he took from it and placed on the table a watch and chain.
His duties were now finished, and, according to some prescribed
rule, he left the room carefully and softly, closing the door behind
Jones took up the watch and chain.
The watch was as thin as a five shilling piece, the chain was a mere
thread of gold. It was an evening affair, to be worn with dress
clothes, and this fact presented to the mind of Jones a confirmation of
the idea that, not only was he literally in Rochester's shoes, but that
Rochester's ordinary watch and chain had not returned.
He sat down for a moment to consider another point. His own old
Waterbury and rolled gold chain, and the few unimportant letters in his
pocketswhere were they?
He determined to clear this matter at once, and boldly rang the
The valet answered it.
When I came back last nighterwas there anything in my pockets?
No, my Lord. They had taken everything from the pockets.
No watch and chain?
No, my Lord.
Have you the clothes I came back in?
Yes, my Lord.
Go and fetch them.
The man disappeared and returned in a minute with a bundle of
clothes neatly folded on his arm.
Mr. Church told me to keep them careful, lest you'd want to put the
matter in the hands of the police, my Lord, shockin' old things they
Jones examined the clothes. They were his own. Everything he had
worn yesterday lay there, and the sight of them filled his mind with a
nostalgia and a desire for thema home sickness and a clothes
He was absolutely sure from the valet's manner that the servants
were not in the know. A wild impulse came on him to take the
exhibitor of these remnants of his past into his confidence. To say
right out: I'm Jones. Victor Jones of Philadelphia. I'm no Lord. Here,
gimme those clothes and let me out of thislet's call it quits.
The word police already dropped held him back. He was an impostor.
If he were to declare the facts before Rochester returned, what might
be the result? Whatever the result might be one thing was certain, it
would be unpleasant. Besides, he was no prisoner, once downstairs he
could leave the house.
So instead of saying: I'm Victor Jones of Philadelphia, he said:
Take them away, and finding himself alone once more he sat down to
Rochester must have gone through his pockets, not for loot, but for
the purpose of removing any article that might cast suspicion, or raise
the suspicion that he, Jones, was not Rochester. That seemed plain
enough, and there was an earnestness of purpose in the fact that was
There was no use in thinking, however. He would go downstairs and
make his escape. He was savagely hungry, but he reckoned the Savoy was
good enough for one more mealif he could get there.
Leaving the watch and chainunambitious to add a charge of larceny
to his other troubles, should Fate arrest him before the return of
Rochester, he came down the corridor to a landing giving upon a flight
of stairs, up which, save for the gradient, a coach and horses might
have been driven.
The place was a palace. Vast pictures by gloomy old artists,
pictures of men in armour, men in ruffs, women without armour or ruffs,
or even a rag of chiffon, pictures worth millions of dollars no doubt,
hung from the walls of the landing, and the wall flanking that
Jones looked over into the well of the hall, then he began to
descend the stairs.
He had intended, on finding a hat in the hall, to clap it on and
make a clean bolt for freedom and the light of heaven, get back to the
Savoy, dress himself in another suit, and once more himself, go for
Rochester, but this was no hall with a hat-rack and umbrella-stand.
Knights in armour were guarding it, and a flunkey, six feet high, in
red plush breeches, and with calves that would have made Victor Jones
scream with laughter under normal conditions.
The flunkey, seeing our friend, stepped to a door, opened it, and
held it open for him. Not to enter the room thus indicated would have
been possible enough, but the compelling influence of that vast flunkey
made it impossible to Jones.
His volition had fled, he was subdued to his surroundings, for the
He entered a breakfast room, light and pleasantly furnished, where
at a breakfast table and before a silver tea urn sat a lady of forty or
so, thin faced, high nosed, aristocratic and rather faded.
She was reading a letter, and when she saw the incomer she rose from
the table and gathered some other letters up. Then she, literally,
swept from the room. She looked at him as she passed, and it seemed to
Jones that he had never known before the full meaning of the word
For a wild second he thought that all had been discovered, that the
police were now sure to arrive. Then he knew at once. Nothing had been
discovered, the delusion held even for this woman, that glance was
meant for Rochester, not for him, and was caused by the affair of last
night, by other things, too, maybe, but that surely.
Uncomfortable, angry, nervous, wild to escape, and then yielding to
caution, he took his seat at the table where a place was
laidevidently for him.
The woman had left an envelope on the table, he glanced at it.
THE HONBLE: VENETIA BIRDBROOK,
10A Carlton House Terrace,
London, S. W.
Victor read the inscription written in a bold female hand.
It told him where he was, he was in the breakfast-room of 10A
Carlton House Terrace, but it told him nothing more.
Was the Honble: Venetia Birdbrook his wife, or at least the wife of
his twin image? This thought blinded him for a moment to the fact that
a flunkeythey seemed as numerous as flies in Maywas at his elbow
with a menu, whilst another flunkey, who seemed to have sprung
from the floor, was fiddling at the sideboard which contained cold
edibles, tongue, ham, chicken and so forth.
Scrambled eggs, said he, looking at the card.
Tea or coffee, my Lord?
He broke a breakfast roll and helped himself mechanically to some
butter, which was instantly presented to him by the sideboard fiddler,
and he had just taken a mechanical bite of buttered roll, when the door
opened and the Archiepiscopal gentleman who had pulled up his window
blind that morning entered. Mr. Church, for Jones had already gathered
that to be his name, carried a little yellow basket filled with letters
in his right hand, and in his left a great sheaf, The Times, Daily
Telegraph, Morning Post, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Chronicle, and
Daily News. These papers he placed on a side table evidently intended
for that purpose. The little letter basket he placed on the table at
Jones' left elbow.
Then he withdrew, but not without having spoken a couple of murmured
words of correction to the flunkey near the sideboard, who had omitted,
no doubt, some point in the mysterious ritual of which he was an
Jones glanced at the topmost letter.
THE EARL OF ROCHESTER,
10A, Carlton House Terrace,
London, S. W.
Ah! now he knew it. The true name of the juggler who had played him
this trick. It was plain, too, now, that Rochester had sent him here as
But the confirmation of his idea did not ease his mind. On the
contrary it filled him with a vague alarm. The feeling of being in a
trap came upon him now for the first time. The joke had lost any
semblance of colour, the thing was serious. Rochester ought to have
been back to put an end to the business before this. Had anything
happened to him? Had he got jailed?
He did not touch the letters. Without raising suspicion, acting as
naturally as possible the part of a peer of the realm, he must escape
as swiftly as possible from this nest of flunkeys, and with that object
in view he accepted the scrambled eggs now presented to him, and the
When they were finished, he rose from the table. Then he remembered
the letters. Here was another tiny tie. He could not leave them
unopened and untouched on the table without raising suspicion. He took
them from the basket, and with them in his hand left the room, the
fellow in waiting slipping before to open the door.
The hall was deserted for a wonder, deserted by all but the men in
armour. A room where he might leave the infernal letters, and find a
bell to fetch a servant to get him a hat was the prime necessity of the
He crossed to a door directly opposite, opened it, and found a room
half library, half study, a pleasant room used to tobacco, with a
rather well worn Turkey carpet on the floor, saddle bag easy chairs,
and a great escritoire in the window, open and showing pigeon holes
containing note paper, envelopes, telegraph forms, and a rack
containing the A. B. C. Railway Guide, Whitakers Almanac, Ruffs' Guide
to the Turf, Who's Who, and Kelly.
Pipes were on the mantel piece, a silver cigar box and cigarette box
on a little table by one of the easy chairs, matchesnothing was here
wanting, and everything was of the best.
He placed the letters on the table, opened the cigar box and took
from it a Ramon Alones. A blunt ended weapon for the destruction of
melancholy and unrest, six and a half inches long, and costing perhaps
half-a-crown. A real Havana cigar. Now in London there are only four
places where you can obtain a real and perfect Havana cigar. That is to
say four shops. And at those four shopsor shall we call them
emporiumsonly known and trusted customers can find the sun that shone
on the Vuelta Abajos in such and such a perfect year.
The Earl of Rochester's present representative was finding it now,
with little enough pleasure, however, as he paced the room preparatory
to ringing the bell. He was approaching the electric button for this
purpose, when the faint and far away murmuring of an automobile, as if
admitted by a suddenly opened hall door, checked his hand. Here was
Rochester at last. He waited listening.
He had not long to wait.
The door of the room suddenly opened, and the woman of the breakfast
table disclosed herself. She was dressed for going out, wearing a hat
that seemed a yard in diameter, and a feather boa, from which her
hen-like face and neck rose to the crowning triumph of the hat.
I am going to Mother, said she. I am not coming back.
Um-um, said Jones.
She paused. Then she came right in and closed the door behind her.
Standing with her back close to the door she spoke to Jones.
If you cannot see your own conduct as others see it, who can make
you? I am not referring to the disgrace of last night, though heaven
knows that was bad enough, I am talking of everything, of your
poor wife who loves you still, of the estate you have ruined by your
lunatic conduct, of the company you keep, of the insults you have
heaped on peopleand now you add drink to the rest. That's new. She
That's new. But I warn you, your brain won't stand that. You
know the taint in the family as well as I do, it has shewn itself in
your actions. Well, go on drinking and you will end in Bedlam instead
of the workhouse. They call you 'Mad Rochester'; you know that. She
choked. I have blushed to be known as your sisterI have tried to
keep my place here and save you. It's ended. She turned to the door.
Jones had been making up his mind. He would tell the whole affair.
This Rochester was a thoroughly bad lot evidently; well, he would turn
the tables on him now.
Look here, said he. I am not the man you think I am.
Tosh! cried the woman.
She opened the door, passed out, and shut it with a snap.
Well, I'm dd, said Jones, for the second time in connection
The clock on the mantelpiece pointed to a quarter to eleven; the
faint sound of the car had ceased. The lady of the feather boa had
evidently taken her departure, and the house had resumed its cloistral
He waited a moment to make sure, then he went into the hall where a
huge flunkeya new one, more curious than the others, was lounging
near the door.
My hat, said Jones.
The thing flew, and returned with a glossy silk hat, a tortoiseshell
handled cane, and a pair of new suede gloves of a delicate dove colour.
Then it opened the door, and Jones, clapping the hat on his head,
The hat fitted, by a mercy.
CHAPTER V. THE POINT OF THE JOKE
Out in the open air and sunshine he took a deep satisfying breath.
He felt as though he had escaped from a cage full of monkeys. Monkeys
in the form of men, creatures who would servilely obey him as
Rochester, but who, scenting the truth, would rend him in pieces.
Well, he was clear of them. Once back in the Savoy he would get into
his own things, and once in his own things he would strike. If he could
not get a lawyer to take his case up against Rochester, he would go to
the police. Yes, he would. Rochester had doped him, taken his letters,
taken his watch.
Jones was not the man to bring false charges. He knew that in taking
his belongings, this infernal jester had done so, not for plunder, but
for the purpose of making the servants believe that he, Rochester, had
been stripped of everything by sharks, and sent home in an old suit of
clothes; all the same he would charge Rochester with the taking of his
things, he would teach this practical joker how to behave.
To cool himself and collect his thoughts before going to the Savoy,
he took a walk in the Green Park.
That one word Tosh! uttered by the woman, in answer to what he had
said, told him more about Rochester than many statements. This man
wanted a cold bath, he wanted to be held under the tap till he cried
Walking, now with the stick under his right arm and his left hand in
his trousers pocket, he felt something in the pocket. It was a coin. He
took it out. It was a penny, undiscovered evidently, and unremoved by
It was also a reminder of his own poverty stricken condition. His
thoughts turned from Rochester and his jokes, to his own immediate and
tragic position. The whole thing was his own fault. It was quite easy
to say that Rochester had led him along and tempted him; he was a full
grown man and should have resisted temptation. He had let strong drink
get hold of him; well, he had paid by the loss of his money, to say
nothing of the way his self-respect had been bruised by this jester.
Near Buckingham Palace he turned back, walking by the way he had
come, and leaving the park at the new gate.
He crossed the plexus of ways where Northumberland Avenue debouches
on Trafalgar Square. It was near twelve o'clock, and the first evening
papers were out. A hawker with a bundle of papers under his arm and a
yellow poster in front of him like an apron, drew his attention; at
least the poster did.
Suicide of an American in London! were the words on the poster.
Jones, remembering his penny, produced it and bought a paper.
The American's suicide did not interest him, but he fancied vaguely
that something of Rochester's doings of the night before might have
been caught by the Press through the Police news. He thought it highly
probable that Rochester, continuing his mad course, had been gaoled.
He was rewarded. Right on the first page he saw his own name. He had
never seen it before in print, and the sight and the circumstances made
his tongue cluck back, as though checked by a string tied to its root.
This was the paragraph:
Last night, as the 11.35 Inner Circle train was entering the Temple
Station, a man was seen to jump from the platform on to the metals.
Before the station officials could interfere to save him, the
unfortunate man had thrown himself before the incoming engine. Death
From papers in possession of deceased, his identity has been
verified as that of Mr. V. A. Jones, an American gentleman of
Philadelphia, lately resident at the Savoy Hotel, Strand.
Jones stood with the paper in his hand, appalled. Rochester had
This was the Jestthe black core of it. All last evening, all
through that hilarity he had been plotting this. Plotting it perhaps
from the first moment of their meeting. Unable to resist the prompting
of the extraordinary likeness, this joker, this waster, done to the
world, had left life at the end of a last jamboree, and with a burst of
laughterleaving another man in his clothes, nay, almost one might say
in his body.
Jones saw the point of the thing at once.
CHAPTER VI. THE NET
He saw something else. He was automatically barred from the Savoy,
and barred from the American Consul. And on top of that something else.
He had committed a very grave mistake in accepting for a moment his
position. He should have spoken at once that morning, spoken to Mr.
Church, told his tale and made explanations, failing that he should
have made explanations before leaving the house. He had left in
Rochester's clothes, he had acted the part of Rochester.
He rolled the paper into a ball, tossed it into the gutter, and
entered Charing Cross to continue his soliloquy.
He had eaten Rochester's food, smoked one of his cigars, accepted
his cane and gloves. All that might have been explainable with
Rochester's aid, but Rochester was dead.
No one knew that Rochester was dead. To go back to the Savoy and
establish his own identity, he would have to establish the fact of
Rochester's death, tell the story of his own intoxication, and make
people believe that he was an innocent victim.
An innocent victim who had gone to another man's house and palpably
masqueraded for some hours as that other man, walking out of the house
in his clothes and carrying his stick, an innocent victim, who owed a
bill at the Savoy.
Why, every man, the family included you may be sure, would be
finding the innocent victim in Rochester.
What were Jones' letters doing on Rochester? That was a nice
question for a puzzle-headed jury to answer.
By what art did Jones, the needy American Adventurerthat was what
they would call himimpose himself upon Rochester, and induce
Rochester to order him to be taken to Carlton House Terrace?
Oh, there were a lot more questions to be asked at that phantom
court of Justice, where Jones beheld himself in the dock trying to
explain the inexplicable.
The likeness would not be any use for white-washing; it would only
deepen the mystery, make the affair more extravagant. Besides, the
likeness most likely by this time would be pretty well spoiled; by the
time of the Assizes it would be only verifiable by photographs.
Sitting on a seat in Charing Cross station, he cogitated thus,
chasing the most fantastic ideas, yet gripped all the time by the cold
The fact that the only door in London open to him was the door of
10A, Carlton House Terrace.
Unable to return to the Savoy, he possessed nothing in the world but
the clothes he stood up in and the walking stick he held in his hand.
Dressed like a lord, he was poorer than any tramp, for the simple
reason that his extravagantly fine clothes barred him from begging and
from the menial work that is the only recourse of the suddenly
Given time, and with his quick business capacity, he might have made
a fight to obtain a clerk-ship or some post in a storebut he had no
time. It was near the luncheon hour and he was hungry. That fact alone
was an indication of how he was placed as regards Time.
He was a logical man. He saw clearly that only two courses lay
before him. To go to the Savoy and tell his story and get food and
lodging in the Police Station, or to go to 10A, Carlton House Terrace
and get food and lodging as Rochester.
Both ideas were hateful, but he reckoned, and with reason, that if
he took the first course, arrest and ignominy, and probably
imprisonment would be certain, whereas if he took the second he might
be able to bluff the thing out till he could devise means of escape
from the net that surrounded him.
He determined on the second course. The servants, and even that
scarecrow woman in the feather boa had accepted him as good coin; there
was no reason why they should not go on accepting him for a while. For
the matter of that, there was no reason why they should not go on
accepting him forever.
Even in the midst of his disturbance of mind and general
tribulation, the humour of the latter idea almost made him smile. The
idea of living and dying as Lord Rochester, as a member of the English
Aristocracy, always being My Lorded, served by flunkeys with big
calves, and inducted every morning into his under pants by that guy in
the sleeved jacket!
This preposterous idea, more absurd than any dream, was yet based on
a substantive foundation. In fact he had that morning put it in
practice, and unless a miracle occurred he would have to continue
putting it in practice for some days to come.
However, Jones, fortunately or unfortunately for himself, was a man
of action and no dreamer. He dismissed the ideas and came to practical
If he had to hold on to the position, he would have to make more
sure of his ground.
He rose, found his way into Charing Cross Station Hotel, and
obtained a copy of Who's Who from the hotel clerk.
He turned the pages till he found the R's. Here was his man.
Rochester. 21st Earl of (cr. 1431) Arthur Coningsby Delamere. Baron
Coningsby of Wilton, ex Lieut. Rifle Brigade, m. Teresa, 2d daughter of
Sir Peter Mason Bart. 9 v. Educ. Heidelberg. Owns about 21,000 acres.
Address 10A, Carlton House Terrace. Rochester Court, Rochester. The
Hatch, Colney, Wilts. Clubs, Senior Conservative, National Sporting,
That was only a part of the sayings of Who's Who regarding
Rochester, Arthur Coningsby, Delamere. The last decadent descendant of
a family that had been famous in long past years for its power,
prodigality and prolificacy.
If Jones could have climbed up his own family tree he might have
found on some distaff branch the reason of his appalling likeness to
Rochester, Arthur Coningsby, Delamere, but this was a pure matter of
speculation, and it did not enter the mind of Jones.
He closed the book, returned it, and walked out.
Now that his resolve was made, his fighting spirit was roused. In
other words he felt the same recklessness that a man feels who is going
into battle, the regardlessness of consequence which marks your true
explorer. For Stanley on the frontier of Darkest Africa, Scott on the
ice rim of the Beardmore Glacier, had before them positions and
districts simple in comparison to those that now fronted Jones, who had
before him the Western and South Western London Districts, with all
they contained in the way of natives in top hats, natives painted and
powdered, tribes with tribal laws of which he knew little, tricks of
which he knew less, convenances, ju-pu's and fetishes. And he was
entering this dark and intricate and dangerous country, not as an
explorer carrying beads and bibles, but disguised as a top man, a
Burton's position when he journeyed to Mecca disguised as a
Mohammedan was easy compared to the position of Jones. Burton knew the
ritual. He made one mistake in it it is true, but then he was able to
kill the man who saw him make that mistake. Jones could not protect
himself in this way, even if the valet in the sleeved jacket were to
discover him in a position analogous to Burton's.
He was not thinking of any of these things at the present moment,
however; he was thinking of luncheon. If he were condemned to play the
part of a Lord for awhile, he was quite determined to take his salary
in the way of everything he wanted. Yet it seemed that to obtain
anything he wanted in his new and extraordinary position, he would have
to take something he did not want. He wanted luncheon but he did not
want to go back to Carlton House Terrace, at least not just now. Those
flunkeysthe very thought of them gave him indigestionmore than
that, he was afraid of them. A fear that was neither physical nor
moral, but more in the nature of the fear of women for mice, or the
supposed fear of the late Lord Roberts for cats.
The solemn Church, the mercurial valet, the men with calves,
belonged to a tribe that maybe had done Jones to death in some past
life: either bored him to death or bludgeoned him, it did not matter,
the antipathy was there, and it was powerful.
At the corner of Northumberland Avenue an idea came to him. This
Rochester belonged to several clubs, why not go and have luncheon at
one of them on credit? It would save him for the moment from returning
to the door towards which Fate was shepherding him, and he might be
able to pick up some extra wrinkles about himself and his position. The
idea was indicative of the daring of the man, though there was little
enough danger in it. He was sure of passing muster at a club, since he
had done so at home. He carried the names of two of Rochester's clubs
in his mind, the Pelican and the Senior Conservative. The latter seemed
the more stodgy, the least likely to offer surprises in the way of
shoulder clapping, irresponsible parties who might want to enter into
He chose it, asked a policeman for directions, and made for Pall
Here another policeman pointed out to him the building he was in
It stood on the opposite side of the way, a building of grey stone,
vast and serious of feature, yet opulent and hinting of the best in all
things relative to comfort.
It was historical. Disraeli had come down those steps, and the great
Lord Salisbury had gone up them. Men, to enter this place, had to be
born, not made, and even these selected ones had to put their names
down at birth, if they wished for any chance of lunching there before
they lost their teeth and hair.
It took twenty-one years for the elect to reach this place, and on
the way they were likely to be slain by black balls.
Victor Jones just crossed the road and went up the steps.
CHAPTER VII. LUNCHEON
He had lunched at the Constitutional with a chance acquaintance
picked up on his first week in London, so he knew something of the ways
of English clubs, yet the vast hall of this place daunted him for a
However, the club servants seeming to know him, and recognising that
indecision is the most fatal weakness of man, he crossed the hall, and
seeing some gentlemen going up the great staircase he followed to a
door in the first landing.
He saw through the glass swing doors that this was the great
luncheon room of the club, and having made this discovery he came
downstairs again where good fortune, in the form of a bald headed man
without hat or stick, coming through a passage way, indicated the cloak
room to him.
Here he washed his hands and brushed his hair, and looking at
himself in a glass judged his appearance to be conservative and all
right. He, a democrat of the Democrats in this hive of Aristocracy and
old crusted conservatism, might have felt qualms of political
conscience, but for the fact that earthly politics, social theories,
and social instincts were less to him now than to an inhabitant of the
dark body that tumbles and fumbles around Sirius. Less than the
difference between the minnow and the roach to the roach in the landing
Leaving the place he almost ran into the arms of a gentleman who was
entering, and who gave him a curt H'do.
He knew that man. He had seen his newspaper portrait in America as
well as England. It was the leader of His Majesty's Opposition, the
Queen bee of this hive where he was about to sit down to lunch. The
Queen bee did not seem very friendly, a fact that augured ill for the
attitude of the workers and the drones.
Arrived at the glass swing doors before mentioned, he looked in.
The place was crowded.
It looked to him as though for the space of a mile and a half or so,
lay tables, tables, tables, all occupied by twos and threes and fours
of men. Conservative looking men, and no doubt mostly Lords.
It was too late to withdraw without shattering his own self respect
and self confidence. The cold bath was before him, and there was no use
putting a toe in.
He opened the door and entered, walking between the tables and
looking the luncheon parties in the face.
The man seated has a tremendous advantage over the man standing in
this sort of game. One or two of the members met by the newcomer's
glance, bowed in the curious manner of the seated Briton, the eyes of
others fell away, others nodded frigidly, it seemed to Jones. Then,
like a pilot fish before a shark leading him to his food, a club waiter
developed and piloted him to a small unoccupied table, where he took a
seat and looked at a menu handed to him by the pilot.
He ordered fillet of sole, roast chicken, salad, and strawberry ice.
They were the easiest things to order. He would have ordered roast
elephant's trunk had it been easier and on the menu.
A man after the storming of Hell Gate, or just dismounted after the
Charge of the Light Brigade, would have possessed as little instinct
for menu hunting as Jones.
He had pierced the ranks of the British Aristocracy; that was
nothinghe was seated at their camp fire, sharing their food, and they
were all inimical towards him; that was everything.
He felt the draught. He felt that these men had a down on him; felt
it by all sorts of senses that seemed newly developed. Not a down on
him, Jones, but a down on him, Rochester, Arthur Coningsby Delamere,
21st Earl of.
And the extraordinary thing was that he felt it. What on earth did
it matter to him if these men looked coldly upon another man? It did.
It mattered quite a lot, more than perhaps it ever mattered to the
other man. Is the soul such a shallow and blind thing that it cannot
sort the true from the false, the material from the immaterial, cannot
see that an insult levelled at a likeness is not an insult levelled at
Surely not, and yet the soul of Victor Jones resented the coolness
of others towards the supposed body of Rochester, as though it were a
It was the first intimation to Jones that when the actor puts on his
part he puts on more than a cloak or trunk hose, that the personality
he had put on had nerves curiously associated with his own nerves, and
that, though he might say to himself a hundred times with respect to
the attitudes of other people, Pah! they don't mean me, that formula
was no charm against disdain.
The wine butler, a gentleman not unlike Mr. Church, was now at his
elbow, and he found himself contemplating the wine card of the Senior
Conservative, a serious document, if one may judge by the faces of the
men who peruse it.
It is in fact the Almanach de Gotha of wines. The old kings of wine
are here, the princess and all the aristocracy. Unlike the Almanach de
Gotha, however, the price of each is set down. Unlike the Almanach de
Gotha, the names of a few commoners are admitted.
Macon was here, and even Blackways' Cyder, the favourite tipple of
the old Duke of Taunton.
Jones ran his eye over the list without enthusiasm. He had taken a
dislike to alcohol even in its mildest guise.
Erwhat minerals have you got? asked he.
The man with the wine card was nonplussed. Jones saw his mistake.
Soda water, said he. Get me some soda water.
The fillet of sole with sauce Tartare was excellent. Nothing, not
even the minerals could dim that fact. As he ate he looked about him,
and with all the more ease, because he found now that nobody was
looking at him; his self consciousness died down, and he began
speculating on the men around, their probable rank, fortune, and
intellect. It seemed to Jones that the latter factor was easier of
determination than the other two.
What struck him more forcibly was a weird resemblance between them
all, a phantom thing, a link undiscoverable yet somehow there. This
tribal expression is one of the strangest phenomena eternally
comforting and battering our senses.
Just as men grow like their wives, so do they grow like their fellow
tradesmen, waiters like waiters, grooms like grooms, lawyers like
lawyers, politicians like politicians. More, it has been undeniably
proved that landowners grow like landowners, just as shepherds grow
like sheep, and aristocrats like aristocrats.
A common idea moulds faces to its shape, and a common want of ideas
allows external circumstances to do the moulding.
So, English Conservative Politicians of the higher order, being
worked upon by external circumstances of a similar nature, have perhaps
a certain similar expression. Radical Politicians on the other hand,
shape to a common ideaevilbut still an idea. Jones was not thinking
this, he was just recognising that all these men belonged to the same
class, and he felt in himself that, not only did he not belong to that
class, but that Rochester also, probably, had found himself in the same
That might have accounted for the wildness and eccentricity of
Rochester, as demonstrated in that mad carouse and hinted at by the
woman in the feather boa. The wildness of a monkey condemned to live
amongst goats, hanging on to their horns, and clutching at their scuts,
and playing all the tricks that contrariness might suggest to a
Something of this sort was passing through Jones' mind, and as he
attacked his strawberry ice, for the first time since reading that
momentous piece of news in the evening newspaper his mental powers
became focussed on the question that lay at the very heart of all this
business. It struck him now so very forcibly that he laid down his
spoon and stared before him, forgetful of the place where he was and
the people around him.
Why did that guy commit suicide?
That was the question.
He could find no answer to it.
A man does not as a rule commit suicide simply because he is
eccentric or because he has made a mess of his estates, or because
being a practical joker he suddenly finds his twin image to defraud.
Rochester had evidently done nothing to bar him from society. Though
perhaps coldly received by his club, he was still received by it. Had
he done something that society did not know of, something that might
suddenly obtrude itself?
Jones was brought back from his reverie with a snap. One of the
confounded waiters was making off with his half eaten ice.
Hi, cried he. What you doing? Bring that back.
His voice rang through the room, people turned to look. He mentally
cursed the ice and the creature who had snapped it from him, finished
it, devoured a wafer, and then, rising to his feet, left the room. It
was easier to leave than to come in, other men were leaving, and in the
general break up he felt less observed.
Downstairs he looked through glass doors into a room where men were
smoking, correct men in huge arm chairs, men with legs stretched out,
men smoking big cigars and talking politics no doubt. He wanted to
smoke, but he did not want to smoke in that place.
He went to the cloak room, fetched his hat and cane and gloves and
left the club.
Outside in Pall Mall he remembered that he had not told the waiter
to credit him with the luncheon, but a trifle like that did not bother
him now. They would be sure to put it down.
What did trouble him was the still unanswered question, Why did
that guy commit suicide?
Suppose Rochester had murdered some man and had committed suicide to
escape the consequences? This thought gave him a cold grue such as he
had never experienced before. For a moment he saw himself hauled before
a British Court of Justice; for a moment, and for the first time in his
life, he found himself wondering what a hangman might be like.
But Victor Jones, though a visionary sometimes in business, was at
base a business man. More used to his position now, and looking it
fairly in the face, he found that he had little to fear even if
Rochester had committed a murder. He could, if absolutely driven to it,
prove his identity. Driven to it, he could prove his life in
Philadelphia, bring witnesses and relate circumstances. His tale would
all hang together, simply because it was the truth. This inborn
assurance heartened him a lot, and, more cheerful now, he began to
recognise more of the truth. His position was very solid. Every one had
accepted him. Unless he came an awful bump over some crime committed by
the late defunct, he could go on forever as the Earl of Rochester. He
did not want to go on forever as the Earl of Rochester; he wanted to
get back to the States and just be himself, and he intended so to do
having scraped a little money together. But the idea tickled him just
as it had done in Charing Cross Station, and it had lost its monstrous
appearance and had become humorous, a highly dangerous appearance for a
dangerous idea to take.
Jones was a great walker, exercise always cleared his mind and
strengthened his judgment. He set off on a long walk now, passing the
National Gallery to Regent Circus, then up Regent Street and Oxford
Street, and along Oxford Street towards the West. He found himself in
High Street Kensington, in Hammersmith, and then in those dismal
regions where the country struggles with the town.
Oh, those suburbs of London! Within easy reach of the city! Those
battalions of brick houses, bits of corpses, of what once were fields;
those villas, laundries
The contrast between this place and Pall Mall came as a sudden
revelation to Jones, the contrast between the power, ease, affluence
and splendour of the surroundings of the Earl of Rochester, and the
surroundings of the bank clerks and small people who dwelt here.
The view point is everything. From here Carlton House Terrace seemed
Jones, like a good Democrat, had all his life professed a contempt
for rank. Titles had seemed as absurd to him as feathers in a monkey's
cap. It was here in ultra Hammersmith that he began to review this
question from a more British standpoint.
Tell it not in Gath, he was beginning to feel the vaguest
antipathetic stirring against little houses and ultra people.
He turned and began to retrace his steps. It was seven o'clock when
he reached the door of 10A, Carlton House Terrace.
CHAPTER VIII. MR. VOLES
The flunkey who admitted him, having taken his hat, stick and
gloves, presented him with a letter that had arrived by the midday
post, also with a piece of information.
Mr. Voles called to see you, my Lord, shortly after twelve. He
stated that he had an appointment with you. He is to call again at
quarter past seven.
Jones took the letter and went with it to the room where he had sat
that morning. Upon the table lay all the letters that he had not opened
that morning. He had forgotten these. Here was a mistake. If he wished
to hold to his position for even a few days, it would be necessary to
guard against mistakes like this.
He hurriedly opened them, merely glancing at the contents, which for
the most part were unintelligible to him.
There was a dinner invitation from Lady Snorrieswhoever she might
beand a letter beginning Dear old Boy from a female who signed
herself Julie, an appeal from a begging letter writer, and a letter
beginning Dear Rochester from a gentleman who signed himself simply
The last letter he opened was the one he had just received from the
It was written on poor paper, and it ran:
Stick to itif you can. You'll see why I couldn't. There's a
fiver under the papers of the top right hand drawer of bureau
Jones knew that this letter, though addressed to the Earl of
Rochester, was meant for him, and was written by Rochester, written
probably on some bar counter, and posted at the nearest pillar box just
before he had committed the act.
He went to the drawer in the bureau indicated, raised the papers in
it and found a five pound note.
Having glanced at it he closed the drawer, placed the note in his
waistcoat pocket and sat down again at the table.
Stick to itif you can. The words rang in his ears just as though
he had heard them spoken.
Those words, backed by the five pound note, wrought a great change
in the mind of Jones. He had Rochester's permission to act as he was
acting, and a little money to help him in his actions.
The fact of his penury had been like a wet blanket upon him all day.
He felt that power had come to him with permission. He could think
clearly now. He rose and paced the floor.
Stick to itif you can.
Why notwhy notwhy not? He found himself laughing out loud, a
great gush of energy had come to him. Jones was a man of that sort, a
new and great idea always came to him on the crest of a wave of energy;
the British Government Contract idea had come to him like that, and the
wave had carried him to England.
Why not be the Earl of Rochester, make good his position finally,
stand on the pinnacle where Fate had placed him, and carry this thing
through to its ultimate issue?
It would not be all jam. Rochester must have been very much pressed
by circumstances; that did not frighten Jones, to him the game was
everything, and the battle.
He would make good where Rochester had failed, meet the difficulties
that had destroyed the other, face them, overcome them.
His position was unassailable.
Coming over from New York he had read Nelson's shilling edition of
the Life of Sir Henry Hawkins. He had read with amazement the story of
British credulity expressed in the Tichborne Case. How Arthur Orton, a
butcher, scarcely able to write, had imposed himself on the Public as
Roger Tichborne, a young aristocrat of good education.
He contrasted his own position with Orton's.
He was absolutely unassailable.
He went to the cigar box, chose a cigar and lit it.
There was the question of hand writing! That suddenly occurred to
him, confronting his newly formed plans. He would have to sign cheques,
write letters. A typewriter could settle the latter question, and as
for the signature, he possessed a sample of Rochester's, and would have
to imitate it. At the worst he could pretend he had injured his
thumbthat excuse would last for some time. There's one big thing
about the whole business, said he to himself, and that is the chap's
eccentricity. Why, if I'm shoved too hard, I can pretend to have lost
my memory or my witsthere's not a blessed card I haven't either in my
hand or up my sleeve, and if worst comes to worst, I can always prove
my identity and tell my story. He was engaged with thoughts like these
when the door opened and the servant, bearing a card on a salver,
announced that Mr. Voles, the gentleman who had called earlier in the
day, had arrived.
Bring him in, said Victor. The servant retired and returned
immediately ushering in Voles, who entered carrying his hat before him.
The stranger was a man of fifty, a tubby man, dressed in a black frock
coat, covered, despite the summer weather, by a thin black overcoat
with silk facings. His face was evil, thick skinned, yellow, heavy
nosed, the hair of the animal was jet black, thin, and presented to the
eyes of the gazer a small Disraeli curl upon the forehead of the owner.
The card announced:
MR. A. S. VOLES
12B. Jermyn Street
Voles himself, and unknown to himself, announced a lot of other
Victor Jones had a sharp instinct for men, well whetted by
He nodded to the newcomer, curtly, and without rising from his
chair; the servant shut the door and the two men were alone.
Just as a dog's whole nature livens at the smell of a pole cat, so
did Jones' nature at the sight of Voles. He felt this man to be an
Voles came to the table and placed his hat upon it. Then he turned,
went to the door and opened it to see if the servant was listening.
He shut the door.
Well, said he, have you got the money for me?
Another man in Jones' position might have asked, and with reason.
Jones simply said No.
This simple answer had a wonderful effect. Voles, about to take a
seat, remained standing, clasping the back of the chair he had chosen.
Then he burst out.
You fooled me yesterday, and gave me an appointment for to-day. I
called, you were out.
Were you? You said the money would be here waiting for mewell,
here I am now, I've got a cab outside ready to take it.
And suppose I don't give it to you? asked Jones.
We won't suppose any nonsense like that! replied Voles taking his
seat, not so long as there are policemen to be called at a minute's
That's true, said the other, we don't want the police.
You don't, replied Voles. He was staring at Jones. The Earl of
Rochester's voice struck him as not quite the same as usual, more
spring in it and vitalityaltered in fact. But he suspected nothing of
the truth. Passed as good coin by Voles, Jones had nothing to fear from
any man or woman in London, for the eye of Voles was unerring, the ear
of Voles ditto, the mind of Voles balanced like a jeweller's scales.
True, said Jones. I don'twell, let's talk about this money.
Couldn't you take half to-night, and half in a week's time?
Not me, replied the other. I must have the two thousand to-night,
same as usual.
Jones had the whole case in his hands now, and he began preparing
the toast on which to put this most evident blackmailer when cooked.
His quick mind had settled everything. Here was the first obstacle
in his path, it would have to be destroyed, not surmounted. He
determined to destroy it. If the worst came to the worst, if whatever
crime Rochester had committed were to be pressed home on him by Voles,
he would declare everything, prove his identity by sending for
witnesses from the States, and show Rochester's letter. The
blackmailing would account for Rochester's suicide.
But Jones knew blackmailers, and he knew that Voles would never
prosecute. Rochester must indeed have been a weak fool not to have
grasped this nettle and torn it up by the roots. He forgot that
Rochester was probably guiltythat makes all the difference in the
You shall have the money, said he, but see here, let's make an
end of this. Now let's see. How much have you had already?
Only eight, said Voles. You know that well enough, why ask?
Eight thousand, murmured the other, you have had eight thousand
pounds out of me, and the two to-night will make ten. Seems a good
price for a few papers. He made the shot on spec. It was a bull's eye.
Oh, those papers are worth a good deal more than that, said Voles,
a good deal more than that.
So it was documents not actions that the blackmailer held in
suspense over the head of Rochester. It really did not matter a button
to Jones, he stood ready to face murder itself, armed as he was with
Rochester's letter in his pocket, and the surety of being able to
Well, said he, let's finish this business. Have you a cheque book
I have a cheque book right enoughwhat's your game now?
Just an idea of mine before I pay youbring out your cheque book,
you'll see what I mean in a minute.
Voles hesitated, then, with a laugh, he took the cheque book from
the breast pocket of his overcoat.
Now tear out a cheque.
Tear out a cheque, cried the other. What on earth are you getting
atone of my chequesthis is good.
Tear out a cheque, insisted the other, it will only cost you a
penny, and you will see my meaning in a moment.
The animal, before the insistent direction of the other, hesitated,
then with a laugh he tore out a cheque.
Now place it on the table.
Voles placed it on the table.
Jones going to the bureau fetched a pen and ink. He pushed a chair
to the table, and made the other sit down.
Now, said Jones, write me out a cheque for eight thousand
Voles threw the pen down with a laughit was his last in that room.
You won't? said Jones.
Oh, quit this fooling, replied the other. I've no time for such
stuffwhat are you doing now?
Ringing the bell, said Jones.
Voles, just about to pick up the cheque, paused. He seemed to find
himself at fault for a moment. The jungle beast, that hears the twig
crack beneath the foot of the man with the express rifle, pauses like
that over his bloody meal on the carcass of the decoy goat.
The door opened and a servant appeared, it was the miracle with
Send out at once, and bring in an officera policeman, said
Yes, my Lord.
The door shut.
Voles jumped up, and seized his hat. Jones walked to the door and
locked it, placing the key in his pocket.
I've got you, said he, and I'm going to squeeze you, and I'm
going to make you squeal.
You're going toyou're going toyou're going to said Voles. He
was the colour of old ivory.
I'm going to make you go through this
Here, dn this nonsensestop ityou fool, I'll smash you, said
Voles. Here, open that door and stop this business.
I told you I was going to make you squeal, said Jones, but that's
nothing to what's coming.
Voles came to the table and put down his hat. Then, facing Jones, he
rapped with the knuckles of his right hand on the table.
You've done it now, said he, you've laid yourself open to a nice
charge, false imprisonment, that's what you've done. A nice thing in
the papers to-morrow morning, and intimidation on top of that. Over and
above those there's the papers. I'll have no mercythose papers
go to Lord Plinlimon to-morrow morning, you'll be in the divorce court
this day month, and so will she. Reputation! she won't have a rag to
cover herself with.
Oh, won't she? said Jones. This is most interesting. He felt a
great uplift of the heart. So this blackmail business had to do with a
woman. The idea that Rochester was some horrible form of criminal had
weighed upon him. It had seemed to him that no man would pay such a
huge sum as eight thousand pounds in the way of blackmail unless his
crime were in proportion. Rochester had evidently paid it to shield not
only his own name, but the name of a woman.
Most interesting, said Voles. I'm glad you think so Then in a
burst, Come, open that door and stop this nonsensetake that key out
of your pocket and open the door. You always were a fool, but this is
beyond follythe pair of you are in the hollow of my hand, you know
itI can crush you like thatlike thatlike that!
He opened and shut his right hand. A cruel hand it was, hairy as to
the back, huge as to the thumb.
Jones looked at him.
You are wasting a lot of muscular energy, said he. My
determination is made, and it holds. You are going to prison, Mr.
Filthy Beast, Voles. I'm up against you, that's the plain truth. I'm
going to cut you open, and show your inside to the British Public.
They'll be so lost in admiration at the sight, they won't bother about
the woman or me. They'll call us public benefactors, I reckon. You know
men, and you know when a man is determined. Look at me, look at me in
the face, you sumph
A knock came to the door.
Jones took the key from his pocket and opened the door.
The constable is here, my Lord, said the servant.
Tell him to come in, said Jones.
Voles had taken up his hat again, and he stood now by the table, hat
in hand, looking exactly what he was, a criminal on his defence.
The constable was a fresh-looking and upstanding young man; he had
removed his helmet and was carrying it by the chin strap. He had no
bludgeon, no revolver, yet he impressed Jones almost as much as he
impressed the other.
Officer, said Jones. I have called you in for the purpose of
giving this man in charge for attempting
Stop, cried Voles.
Then something Oriental in his nature took charge of him. He rushed
forward with arms out, as though to embrace the policeman.
It is all a mistake, cried he, constable, one moment, go outside
one moment, leave me with his lordship. I will explain. There is
nothing wrong, it is all a big mistake.
The constable held him off, glancing for orders at Jones.
Jones felt no vindictiveness towards Voles now; disgust, such as he
might have felt towards a vulture or a cormorant, but no
He wanted that eight thousand pounds.
He had determined to make good in his new position, to fight the
world that Rochester had failed to fight, and overcome the difficulties
sure to be ahead of him. Voles was the first great difficulty, and lo,
it seemed, that he was about not only to destroy it, but turn it to a
profit. He did not want the eight thousand for himself, he wanted it
for the game; and the fascination of that great game he was only just
beginning to understand.
Go outside, officer, said he to the constable.
He shut the door. Sit down and write, said he. Voles said not a
He went to the table, sat down and picked up the pen. The cheque was
still lying there. He drew it towards him. Then he flung the pen down.
Then he picked it up, but he did not write. He waved it between finger
and thumb, as though he were beating time to a miniature orchestra
staged on the table before him. Then he began to write.
He was making out a cheque to the Earl of Rochester for the sum of
eight thousand pounds, no shillings, no pence.
He signed it A. S. Voles.
He was about to cross it, but Jones stopped him. Leave it open,
said he, and now one thing more, I must have those papers to-morrow
morning without fail. And to make certain of them you must do this.
He went to the bureau and took a sheet of note paper, which he laid
before the other.
Write, said he. I will dictate. Begin June 2nd.
Voles put the date.
'My Lord,' went on the dictator. 'This is to promise you that
to-morrow morning I will hand to the messenger you send to me
all the papers of yours in my possession. I confess to having
held those papers over you for the purpose of blackmail, and of
having obtained from you the sum of eight thousand pounds, and
promise to amend my ways, and to endeavour to lead an honest
Signed. A. S. VOLES.'
To The Earl of Rochester.
That was the letter.
Three times the rogue at the table refused to go on writing, and
three times his master went to the door, the rattle of the door handle
always inspiring the scribe to renewed energy.
When the thing was finished Jones read it over, blotted it, and put
it in his pocket with the cheque.
Now you can go, said he. I will send a man to-morrow morning at
eight o'clock to your home for the papers. I will not use this letter
against you, unless you give troubleWell, what do you want?
Brandy, gasped Voles. For God's sake some brandy.
CHAPTER IX. MORE INTRUDERS
The little glass that had held the fin champagne stood on the
table, the door was shut, Voles was gone, and the incident was ended.
Jones, for the first time in his life, felt the faintness that comes
after supreme exertion. He could never have imagined that a thing like
that would have so upset him. He was unconscious during the whole of
the business that he was putting out more energy than ordinary, he knew
it now as he contemplated the magnitude of his victory, sitting
exhausted in the big saddle-bag chair on the left of the fire place and
facing the door.
He had crushed the greatest rogue in London, taken from him eight
thousand pounds of ill gotten money, and freed himself of an incubus
that would have made his position untenable.
Rochester could have done just the same, had he possessed daring,
and energy, and courage enough. He hadn't, and there was an end of it.
At this moment a knock came to the door, and a flunkeya new
Dinner is served, my Lord.
Jones sat up in his chair.
Dinner, said he. I'm not ready for it yet. Fetch me a whisky and
sodalook here, tell Mr. Church I want to see him.
Yes, my Lord.
Jones, as stated before, possessed that very rare attitudean eye
for men. It was quite unknown to him; up to this he had been condemned
to take men as he found them; the pressure of circumstances alone had
made him a business partner with Aaron Stringer. He had never trusted
Stringer. Now, being in a position of command, he began to use this
precious gift, and he selected Church for a first officer. He wanted a
The whisky and soda arrived, and, almost immediately on it, Church.
Jones, placing the half empty glass on the table, nodded to him.
Come in, said he, and shut the door.
Church closed the door and stood at attention. This admirable man's
face was constructed not with a view to the easy interpretation of
emotions. I doubt if an earthquake in Carlton House Terrace and the
vicinity could have altered the expression of it.
He stood as if listening.
Jones began: I want you to go to-morrow at eight o'clock to No. 12B
Jermyn Street to get some documents for me. They will be handed to you
by A. S. Voles.
Yes, my Lord.
You will bring them back to me here.
Yes, my Lord.
I have just seen the gentleman, and I've just dealt with him. He is
a very great rogue and I had to call an officera constable in. I
Mr. Church opened his mouth as though he were going to speak. Then
he shut it again.
Go on, said Jones. What were you going to say?
Well, your Lordship, I was going to say that I am very glad to hear
that. When you told me four months ago, in confidence, what Voles was
having out of you, you will remember what advice I gave your Lordship.
'Don't be squeezed,' I said. 'Squeeze him.' Your Lordship's solicitor,
Mr. Mortimer Collins, I believe, told you the same.
I have taken your advice. I find it so good that I am going to ask
your advice often againDo you see any difference in me, Mr. Church?
Yes, my Lord, you have changed. If your Lordship will excuse me for
You have grown younger, my Lord, and more yourself, and you speak
differentsharper, so to say.
These words were Balm of Gilead to Jones. He had received no opinion
of himself from others till now; he had vaguely mistrusted his voice,
unable to estimate in how much it differed from Rochester's. The
perfectly frank declaration of Church put his mind at rest. He spoke
sharperthat was all.
Well, said he. Things are going to be different all round; better
He turned away towards the bureau, and Church opened the door.
You don't want me any longer, my Lord?
Not just now.
He opened Kelly's directory, and looked up the solicitors, till he
came to the name he wanted.
Mortimer Collins, 10, Sergeant's Inn, Fleet Street.
That's my man, said he to himself, and to-morrow I will see him.
He closed the book and left the room.
He did not know the position of the dining room, nor did he want to.
A servant seeing him, and taking it for granted that at this late hour
he did not want to dress, opened a door.
Next minute he was seated alone at a large table, stared at by
defunct Rochesters and their wives, and spreading his table napkin on
The dinner was excellent, though simple enough. English society has
drifted a long way from the days when Lord Palmerston sat himself down
to devour two helpings of turtle soup, the same of cod and oyster
sauce, a huge plateful of York ham, a cut from the joint, a liberal
supply of roast pheasant, to say nothing of kickshaws and sweets; the
days when the inside of a nobleman after dinner was a provision store
floating in sherry, hock, champagne, old port, and punch.
Nothing acts more quickly upon the nervous system than food; before
the roast chicken and salad were served, Jones found himself enjoying
his dinner, and, more than that, enjoying his position.
The awful position of the morning had lost its terrors, the fog that
had surrounded him was breaking. Wrecked on this strange, luxuriant,
yet hostile coast, he had met the natives, fed with them, fought them,
and measured their strength and cunning.
He was not afraid of them now. The members of the Senior
Conservative Club Camp had left him unimpressed, and the wild beast
Voles had bequeathed to him a lively contempt for the mental powers of
the man he had succeeded.
Rightly or wrongly, all Lords caught a tinge of the lurid light that
shewed up Rochester's want of vim and mental hitting power.
But he did not feel a contempt for Lords as such. He was longing to
appreciate the fact that to be a Lord was to be a very great thing.
Even a Lord who had let his estates run to ruinlike himself.
A single glass of iced champagnehe allowed himself only
oneestablished this conviction in his mind, also the recognition that
the flunkeys no longer oppressed him, they rather pleased him. They
knew their work and performed it perfectly, they hung on his every word
Yesterday, sitting where he was, he would have been feeling out of
place, and irritable and awkward. Even a few hours ago he would have
felt oppressed and wanting to escape somewhere by himself. What lent
him this new magic of assurance and sense of mastery of his position?
Undoubtedly it was his battle with Voles.
Coffee was served to him in the smoking room, and there, sitting
alone with a cigar, he began clearly and for the first time to envisage
his plans for the future.
He could drop everything and run. Book a passage for the United
States, enter New York as Lord Rochester, just as a diver enters the
sea, and emerge as Jones. He could keep the eight thousand pounds with
a clear conscienceor couldn't he?
This point seemed a bit obscure.
He did not worry about it much. The main question had not to do with
money. The main question was simply this, shall I be Victor Jones for
the future, or shall I be the Earl of Rochester? The twenty-first Earl
Shall I clear out, or stick to my guns? Remain boss of this show and
try and make something of the wreckage, or sneak off with nothing to
show for the most amazing experience man ever underwent?
Rochester had sneaked off. He was a quitter. Jones had once read a
story in the Popular Magazine, in which a Railway Manager had cast
scorn on a ne'er-do-well. God does surely hate a quitter, said the
These words always remained with him. They had crystallised his
sentiments in this respect: the quitter ranked in his mind almost with
All the same the temptation to quit was strong, even though the
temptation to stay was growing.
A loophole remained open to him. It was not necessary to decide at
once; he could throw down his cards at any moment and rise from the
table if the game was getting too much for him, or if he grew tired of
He saw difficult times ahead for him in the mess in which Rochester
had left his affairsthat was, perhaps, his strongest incentive to
He was roused from his reverie by voices in the hall. Loud cheery
A knock came to the door and a servant announced: Sir Hugh Spicer
and Captain Stark to see you, my Lord. Jones sat up in his chair.
Show them in, said he.
The servant went out and returned ushering in a short bibulous
looking young man in evening dress covered with a long fawn coloured
overcoat; this gentleman was followed by a half bald, evil looking man
of fifty or so, also in evening attire.
This latter wore a monocle in what Jones afterwards mentally called,
his twisted face.
Look at him! cried the young man, sitting in his blessed arm
chair and not dressed. Look at him!
He lurched slightly as he spoke, and brought up at the table where
he hit the inkstand with the cane he was carrying, sending inkpot and
pens flying. Jones looked at him.
This was Hughie. Pillar of the Criterion bar, President of the Rag
Tag Club, baronet and detrimentaland all at twenty three.
Leave it alone, Hughie, said Stark, going to the silver cigar box
and helping himself. Less of that blessed cane, Hughiewhy, Jollops,
what ails you?
He stared at Jones as he lit a cigar. Jones looked at him.
This was Spencer Stark, late Captain in His Majesty's Black Hussars,
gambler, penniless, always well dressed, and always well fedTerrible.
Just as beetles are beetles, whether dressed in tropical splendour or
the funereal black of the English type, so are detrimentals
detrimentals. Jones knew his men.
I beg your pardon, said he, did you mean that name for me?
He rose as he spoke, and crossing to the bell rang it. They thought
he was speaking in jest and ringing for drinks; they laughed, and
Hughie began to yell, yell, and slash the table with his cane in time
to what he was yelling.
This beast, who was never happy unless smashing glasses, making a
noise or tormenting his neighbours, who had never been really sober for
the space of some five years, who had destroyed a fine estate, and
broken his mother's heart, seemed now endeavouring to break his wanghee
cane on the table.
The noise was terrific.
The door opened and calves appeared.
Throw that ruffian out, said Jones.
Out with him, cried Hughie, throwing away his cane at this joke.
Come on, Stark, let's shove old Jollops out of doors.
He advanced to the merry attack, and Stark, livened up by the other,
closed in, receiving a blow on the midriff that seated him in the
The next moment Hughie found himself caught by a firm hand, that had
somehow managed to insert itself between the back of his collar and his
neck, gripping the collar.
Choking and crowing he was rushed out of the room and across the
hall to the front door, a running footman preceding him. The door was
opened and he was flung into the street.
The ejection of Stark was an easier matter. The hats and coats were
flung out and the door shut finally.
If either of those guys comes here again, said Jones to the
acolyte, call an officerI mean a constable.
Yes, my Lord.
I wonder how many more people I will have to fling out of this
house, said he to himself, as he returned to the smoking room. My
God, what a mess that chap Rochester must have made all round. Bar
bummers like those! Heu!
He ordered the ink to be cleared up, and then he sent for Mr.
Church. He was excited.
Church, said he. I've shot out two more of that carrion. You know
all the men I have been fool enough to know. If they come here again
tell the servants not to let them in.
But he had another object in sending for Church. Where's my cheque
book? he asked.
Church went to the bureau and opened a lower drawer.
I think you placed it here, my Lord. He produced it.
When he was gone Jones opened the book; it was one of Coutt's.
He knew his banker now as well as his solicitor. Then he sat down,
and taking Rochester's note from his pocket began to study the
handwriting and signature.
He made a hundred imitations of the signature, and found for the
first time in his life that he was not bad at that sort of work.
Then he burnt the sheets of paper he had been using, put the cheque
book away and looked at the clock; it pointed to eleven.
He switched out the lights and left the room, taking his way
He felt sure of being able to find the bed-room he had left that
morning, and coming along the softly lit corridor he had no difficulty
in locating it. He had half dreaded that the agile valet in the sleeved
jacket might be there waiting to tuck him up, but to his relief the
room was vacant.
He shut the door, and going to the nearest window pulled the blind
up for a moment.
The moon was rising over London, and casting her light upon the
Green Park. A huge summer moon. The sort of moon that conjures up ideas
about guitars and balconies.
Jones undressed, and putting on the silk pyjamas that were laid out
for him, got into bed, leaving only the light burning by the bedside.
He tried to recall the details of that wonderful day, failed
utterly, switched out the light, and went to sleep.
CHAPTER X. LADY PLINLIMON
The most curious thing in the whole of Jones' extraordinary
experiences was the way in which things affecting Rochester affected
him. The coldness of the club members was an instance in point. He knew
that their coldness had nothing to do with him, yet he resented it
practically just as much as though it had.
Then again, the case of Voles. What had made him fight Voles with
such vigour? It did not matter to him in the least whether Voles gave
Rochester away or not, yet he had fought Voles with all the feeling of
the man who is attacked, not of the man who is defending another man
The attitude of Spicer and the other scamp had roused his ire on
account of its want of respect for him, the supposed Earl of Rochester.
Rochester's folly had inspired that want of respect, why should he,
Jones, bother about it? He did. It hit him just as much as though it
were levelled against himself. He had found, as yet to a limited
degree, but still he had found that anything that would hurt Rochester
would hurt him, that his sensibility was just as acute under his new
guise, and, wonder of wonders, his dignity as a Lord just as sensitive
as his dignity as a man.
If you had told Jones in Philadelphia that a day would come when he
would be angry if a servant did not address him as my Lord, he would
have thought you mad. Yet that day had come, or was coming, and that
change in him was not in the least the result of snobbishness, it was
the result of the knowledge of what was due to Rochester, Arthur
Coningsby Delamere, 21st Earl of, from whom he could not disentangle
himself whilst acting his part.
He was awakened by Mr. Church pulling up his window blinds.
He had been dreaming of the boarding-house in Philadelphia where he
used to live, of Miss Wybrow, the proprietress, and the other guests,
Miss Sparrow, Mr. Moeseborn MosesMr. Hoffman, the part proprietor
of Sharpes' Drug Store, Mrs. Bertine, and the rest.
He watched whilst Mr. Church passed to the door, received the
morning tea tray from the servant outside, and, placing it by the bed,
withdrew. This was the only menial service which Mr. Church ever seemed
to perform, with the exception of the stately carrying in of papers and
letters at breakfast time.
Jones drank his tea. Then he got up, went to the window, looked out
at the sunlit Green Park, and then rang his bell. He was not depressed
nor nervous this morning. He felt extraordinarily fit. The powerful
good spirits natural to him, a heritage better than a fortune, were his
again. Life seemed wonderfully well worth living, and the game before
him the only game worth playing.
Then the Mechanism came into the room and began to act. James was
the name of this individual. Dumb and serious and active as an insect,
this man always filled Jones' mind with wonderment; he seemed less a
man than a machine. But at least he was a perfect machine.
Fully dressed now, he was preparing to go down when a knock came to
the door and Mr. Church came in with a big envelope on a salver.
This is what you requested me to fetch from Jermyn Street, my
Oh, you've been to Jermyn Street?
Yes, my Lord, directly I had served your tea at quarter to eight, I
took a taxi.
Good! said Jones.
He took the envelope, and, Church and the Mechanism having
withdrawn, he sat down by the window to have a look at the contents.
The envelope contained letters.
Letters from a man to a woman. Letters from the Earl of Rochester to
Sapphira Plinlimon. The most odiously and awfully stupid collection of
love letters ever written by a fool to be read by a wigged counsel in a
They covered three months, and had been written two years ago.
They were passionate, idealistic in parts, drivelling. He called her
his Ickle teeny weeny treasure. Baby languageJones almost blushed
as he read.
He sure was moulting, said he, as he dropped letter after letter
on the floor. And he paid eight thousand to hold these things
backwell, I don't know, maybe I'd have done the same myself. I can't
fancy seeing myself in the Philadelphia Ledger with this stuff
tacked on to the end of my name.
He collected the incriminating documents, placed them in the
envelope, and came downstairs with it in his hand.
Breakfast was an almost exact replica of the meal of yesterday; the
pile of letters brought in by Church was rather smaller, however.
These letters were a new difficulty, they would all have to be
answered, the ones of yesterday, and the ones of to-day.
He would have to secure the services of a typist and a typewriter:
that could be arranged later on. He placed them aside and opened a
newspaper. He was accustomed enough now to his situation to be able to
take an interest in the news of the day. At any moment his environment
might split to admit of a new Voles or Spicer, or perhaps some more
dangerous spectre engendered from the dubious past of Rochester; but he
scarcely thought of this, he had gone beyond fear, he was up to the
neck in the business.
He glanced at the news of the day, reading as he ate. Then he pushed
the paper aside. The thought had just occurred to him that Rochester
had paid that eight thousand not to shield a woman's name but to shield
his own. To prevent that gibberish being read out against him in court.
This thought dimmed what had seemed a brighter side of Rochester,
that obscure thing which Jones was condemned to unveil little by little
and bit by bit. He pushed his plate away, and at this moment Mr. Church
entered the breakfast room.
He came to the table and, speaking in half lowered voice said:
Lady Plinlimon to see you, your Lordship.
Yes, your Lordship. I have shown her into the smoking room.
Jones had finished breakfast. He rose from the table, gathered the
letters together, and with them in his hand followed Church from the
breakfast room to the smoking room. A big woman in a big hat was seated
in the arm chair facing the door.
She was forty if an hour. She had a large unpleasant face. A
dominating face, fat featured, selfish, and made up by art.
Oh, here you are, said she as he entered and closed the door. You
see I'm out early.
Jones nodded, went to the cigarette box, took a cigarette and lit
The woman got up and did likewise. She blew the cigarette smoke
through her nostrils, and Jones, as he watched, knew that he detested
her. Then she sat down again. She seemed nervous.
Is it true what I hear, that your sister has left you and gone to
live with your mother?
Yes, said Jones, remembering the bird woman of yesterday morning.
Well, you'll have some peace now, unless you let her backbut I
haven't come to talk of her. It's just this, I'm in a tight place.
A very tight place. I've got to have some moneyI've got to have
Yes. I ought to have had it yesterday, but a deal I had on fell
through. You've got to help me, Arthur.
How much do you want?
Fifteen hundred. I'll pay it back soon.
Fifteen hundred pounds?
Yes, of course.
A great white light, cold and clear as the dawn of Truth, began to
steal across the mind of Jones. Why had this woman come to him this
morning so quickly after the defeat of Voles who held her letters? How
had Voles obtained those letters? This question had occurred to him
before, and this question seemed to his practical mind pregnant now
What do you want the money for? asked he.
Good heavens, what a question, what does a woman want money for? I
want it, that's enoughWhat else will you ask?
What was the deal you expected money from yesterday?
A stock exchange business.
What sort of business?
She crimsoned with anger.
I haven't come to talk of that. I came as a friend to ask you for
help. If you refuse, well, there that ends it.
Oh, no, it doesn't, said he. I want to ask you a question.
Well, ask it.
It's just a simple question.
You expected to receive fifteen hundred pounds yesterday?
Did you expect to receive it from Mr. A. S. Voles?
He saw at once that she was guilty. She half rose from her chair,
then she sat down again.
What on earth do you mean? she cried.
You know quite well what I mean, replied he, you would have had
fifteen hundred of Voles' takings on those letters. You heard last
night I had refused to part. He was only your agent. There's no use in
denying it. He told me all.
Her face had turned terrible, white as death, with the rouge showing
on the white.
It is all untrue, she stuttered. It is all untrue. She rose
staggering. He did not want to pursue the painful business, the pursuit
of a woman was not in his line. He went to the door and opened it for
It is all untrue. I'll write to you about thisuntrue.
She uttered the words as she passed out. He reckoned she knew the
way to the hall door, and, shutting the door of the room, he turned to
the fire place.
He was not elated. He was shocked. It seemed to him that he had
never touched and handled wickedness before, and this was a woman in
the highest ranks of life!
She had trapped Rochester into making love to her, and used Voles to
extort eight thousand pounds from him on account of his letters.
She had hypnotized Rochester like a fowl. She was that sort. Held
the divorce court over him as a threatcould Humanity descend lower?
He went to Who's Who and turned up the P's till he found the man he
Plinlimon: 3rd Baron, created 1831, Albert James, b. March 10th
1862. O. S. of second Baron and Julia d. of J. H. Thompson, of Clifton,
m. Sapphira. d. of Marcus Mulhausen, educ. privately. Address The
Roost, Tite Street, Chelsea.
Thus spake, Who's Who.
I bet my bottom dollar that chap's been in it as well as she, said
Jones, referring to Plinlimon, Albert James. Then a flash of humour lit
the situation. Voles had returned eight thousand pounds; as an agent he
had received twenty five per cent., say, therefore, he stood to lose at
least six thousand. This pleased Jones more even than his victory. He
had a racial, radical, soul-rooted antipathy to Voles. Not an anger
against him, just an antipathy. Now, said he, as he placed Who's
Who back on the bureau, let's get off and see Mortimer Collins.
He left the house, and, calling a taxi cab, ordered the driver to
take him to Sergeant's Inn. He had no plan of campaign as regards
Collins. He simply wanted to explore and find out about himself.
Knowledge to him in his extraordinary position was armour, and he
wanted all the armour he could get, fighting, as he was, not only the
living present, but also another man's pastand another man's
character, or want of character.
CHAPTER XI. THE COAL MINE
Sergeant's Inn lies off Fleet Street, a quiet court surrounded with
houses given over to the law. The law has always lived there ever since
that time when, as Stow quaintly put it, There is in and about the
city a whole University as it were, of students, practicers, and
pleaders, and judges of the laws of this realm, not living of common
stipends, as in other universities it is for the most part done, but of
their own private maintenance, as being fed either by their places or
practices, or otherwise by their proper revenue, or exhibition of
parents or friendsof their houses, there be at this day fourteen in
all; whereof nine do stand within the liberties of this city, and five
in the suburbs thereof.
Sergeant's Inn stood within the liberties, and there to-day it still
stands, dusty, sedate, once the abode of judges and sergeants, now the
home of solicitors. On the right of entrance lay the offices of
Mortimer Collins, an elderly man, quiet, subfusc in hue, tall, sparsely
bearded, a collector of old prints in his spare hours, and one of the
most respected members of his profession.
His practice lay chiefly amongst the nobility and landed gentry, a
fact vaguely hinted at by the white or yellow lettering on the tin deed
boxes that lined the walls of his offices, setting forth such names and
statements as: The Cave Estate, Sir Jardine Jardine, The Blundell
Estate, and so forth and so on. He knew everyone, and everything about
everyone, and terrible things about some people, and he was to be met
with at the best houses. People liked him for himself, and he inspired
the trust that comes from liking.
It was to this gentleman that Jones was shown in, and it was by this
gentleman that he was received coldly, it is true, but politely.
Jones, with his usual directness, began the business.
I have come to have a serious talk with you, said he.
Indeed, said the lawyer, has anything new turned up?
No. I want to talk about my position generally. I see that I have
made a fool of myself.
The man of law raised his hands lightly with fingers spread, the
gesture was eloquent.
But, went on the other, I want to make good, I want to clear up
The lawyer sighed. Then he took a small piece of chamois leather
from his waistcoat pocket and began to polish his glasses.
You remember what I told you the day before yesterday, said he;
have you determined to take my advice? Then you had nothing to offer
me but some wild talk about suicide.
Collins made an impatient gesture.
Advicewhy to emigrate and try your luck in the Colonies.
H'm, h'm, said Jones. Yes, I remember, but since then I have been
thinking things out. I'm going to stay here and make good.
Again the lawyer made a gesture of impatience.
You know your financial position as well as I do, said he. How
are you to make good, as you express it, against that position? You
can't, you are hopelessly involved, held at every point. A month ago I
told you to reduce your establishment and let Carlton House Terrace;
you said you would and you didn't. That hurt me. I would much sooner
you had refused the suggestion. Well, the crash if it does not come
to-day will come to-morrow. You are overdrawn at Coutts', you can raise
money on nothing, your urgent debts to tradesmen and so forth amount,
as you told me the day before yesterday, to over two thousand five
hundred pounds. See for yourself how you stand.
I say again, said Jones, that I am going to make good. All these
affairs seem to have gone to pieces becauseI have been a fool.
I'm glad you recognise that.
But I'm a fool no longer. You know that business about Voles?
The man of affairs nodded.
Well, what do you think of that? He took Voles' cheque from his
pocket and laid it before the lawyer.
Why, what is this? said the other. Eight thousand pounds.
He called on me for more blackmail, replied Jones, and I squeezed
him, called in apoliceman, made him disgorge, and there's his cheque.
Do you, think he has money enough to meet it?
Oh, yes, he is very wealthy, but you told me distinctly he
had only got a thousand out of you.
Jones swore mentally. To take up the life and past of a rogue is
bad, to take up the life and past of a weak-kneed and shifty man is
I told you wrong, said he.
Collins suppressed a movement of irritation and disgust. He was used
to dealing with Humanity.
What can a doctor do for a patient who holds back essential facts?
asked he. Nothing. How can I believe what you say?
I don't know, replied the other. But I just ask you to. I ask you
to believe I'm changed. I've had a shock that has altered my whole
nature. I'm not the same man who talked to you the day before
Collins looked at him curiously.
You have altered, said he, your voice is different, somehow, too.
I am not going to ask you what has brought about this change in
your views. I only trust it may be soand permanent.
Bedrock, said Jones. I'm going to begin right now. I'm going to
let that caravan
The Carlton House place, your idea is good, will you help me
through with it? I don't know how to start letting places.
I will certainly assist you. In fact I believe I can get you a
tenant at once. The Bracebridges want just such a house, furnished. I
will get my clerk to write to themif you really mean it.
I mean it.
Well, that's something. I pressed the point about your really
meaning it, because you were so violently opposed to such a course when
I spoke of it before. In fact you were almost personal, as though I had
proposed something disgracefulthough it was true you came to agree
with me at last.
I guess the only disgrace is owing money and not being able to
pay, said the present Lord Rochester. I've come to see that now.
Thank God! said Collins.
I'll take rooms at a quiet hotel, went on the other, with this
eight thousand and the rent from that Gazabo, I ought to tide over the
I don't see why not, I don't really see why not, replied Collins
cheerfully, if you are steadfast in your purpose. Fortunately your
wife's property is untouched, and how about her?
Yes, said Jones, with a cold shiver.
The love of a good wife, went on the other, is a thing not to be
bought, and I may say I have very good reason to believe that, despite
all that has occurred, you still have your wife's affection. Leaving
everything else aside I think your greatest mistake was having your
sister to live with you. It does not do, and, considering Miss
Birdbrook's peculiar temper, it especially did not do in your case. Now
that things are different would you care to see your wife, and have a
quiet talk over matters?
No, said Jones, hurriedly. I don't want to see herat least, not
Well, please yourself, replied the other. Perhaps later on you
will come to see things differently.
The conversation then closed, the lawyer promising to let him know
should he secure an offer for the house.
Jones, so disturbed by this talk about his wife that he was
revolving in his mind plans to cut the whole business, said good-bye
and took his departure. But he was not destined to leave the building
He was descending the narrow old stairs when he saw some people
coming up, and drew back to let them pass.
A stout lady led the way and was followed by an elderly gentleman
and a younger lady in a large hat.
Why it is Arthur, cried the stout woman. How fortunate. Arthur,
we have come to see Mr. Collins, such a terrible thing has happened.
The unfortunate Jones now perceived that the lady with the huge hat
was the bird woman, the elderly gentleman he had never seen before, but
the elderly gentleman had evidently often seen him, was most probably a
near relative, to judge by the frigidity and insolence of his nod and
general demeanour. This old person had the Army stamp about him, and a
very decided chin with a cleft in it.
Better not talk out here, said he, come in, come in and see
Jones did not want in the least to go in and see Collins, but he was
burning to know what this dreadful thing was that had happened. He half
dreaded that it had to do with Rochester's suicide. He followed the
party, and next moment found himself again in Collins' room, where the
lawyer pointed out chairs to the ladies, closed the door, and came back
to his desk table where he seated himself.
Oh, Mr. Collins, said the elderly lady, such a dreadful thing has
happenedcoalthey have found coal. She collapsed.
The old gentleman with the cleft chin took up the matter.
This idiot, said he, indicating Jones, has sold a coal mine,
worth maybe a million, for five thousand. The Glanafwyn property has
turned up coal. I only heard of it last night, and by accident.
Struthers said to me straight out in the club, 'Do you know that bit of
land in Glamorgan, Rochester sold to Marcus Mulhausen?' Yes, I said.
'Well,' said he, 'it's not land, it's the top of the biggest coal mine
in Wales, steam coal, and Mulhausen is going to work it himself. He was
offered two hundred and fifty thousand for the land last week, they
have been boring there for the last half year,' that's what he told me,
and I verified it this morning. Of course Mulhausen spotted the land
for what it was worth, and laid his trap for this fool.
Jones restrained his emotions with an effort, not knowing in the
least his relationship to the violent one. Mr. Collins made it clear.
Your nephew has evidently fallen into a trap, your Grace, said he.
Then turning to Jones:
I warned you not to sell that landHeaven knows I knew little
enough of the district and less of its mineral worth; still, I was
adverse from parting with landalways amand especially to such a
sharp customer as Mulhausen. I told you to have an expert opinion. I
had not minerals in my mind. I thought, possibly, it might be some
railway extension in prospectand it was your last bit of property
without mortgage on it. Yes, I told you not to do it, and it's done.
Oh, Arthur, sighed the elderly woman. Your last bit of landand
to think it should go like that. I never dreamed I should have to say
those words to my son. Then stiffening and turning to Collins. But I
did not come to complain, I came to see if justice cannot be done. This
is robbery. That terrible man with the German name has robbed Arthur.
It is quite plain. What can be done?
Absolutely nothing, replied Collins.
Your ladyship must believe me when I say nothing can be done. What
ground can we have for moving? The sale was perfectly open and above
board. Mulhausen made no false statementI am right in saying that, am
I not? turning to Jones.
Jones had to nod.
And that being the case we are helpless.
But if it can be proved that he knew there was coal in the land,
and if he bought it concealing that knowledge, surely, surely the law
can make him give it back, said the simple old lady, who it would seem
stood in the place of Rochester's unfortunate mother.
Mr. Collins almost smiled.
Your ladyship, that would give no handle to the law. Now, for
instance, if I knew that the Canadian Pacific Railway, let us say, had
discovered large coal bearing lands, and if I used that private
knowledge to buy your Canadian Pacific stock at, say, one hundred, and
if that stock rose to three hundred, could you make me give you your
stock back? Certainly not. The gain would be a perfectly legitimate
product of my own sharpness.
Sharpness, said the bird woman, that's just it. If Arthur had had
even sense, to say nothing of sharpness, things would have been very
different all roundall round.
She protruded her head from her boa and retracted it. Jones,
furious, dumb, with his hands in his pockets and his back against the
window, said nothing.
He never could have imagined that a baiting like this, over a matter
with which he had nothing to do, could have made him feel such a fool,
and such an ass.
He saw at once how Rochester had been done, and he felt, against all
reason, the shame that Rochester might have feltbut probably
wouldn't. His uncle, the Duke of Melford, for that was the choleric
one's name, his mother, the dowager Countess of Rochester, and his
sister, the Hon. Venetia Birdbrook, now all rose up and got together in
a covey before making their exit, and leaving this bad business and the
fool who had brought it about.
You can fancy their feelings. A man in Rochester's position may be
anything, almost, as long as he is wealthy, but should he add the crime
of poverty to his other sins he is lost indeed. And Rochester had not
only flung his money away, he had flung a coal mine after it.
No wonder that his uncle did not even glance at him again as he left
the room, shepherding the two women before him.
It's unfortunate, said Collins, when they found themselves alone.
It was the mildest thing he could say, and he said it.
CHAPTER XII. THE GIRL IN THE VICTORIA
When Jones found himself outside the office at last, and in the
bustle of Fleet Street, he turned his steps west-wards.
He had almost forgotten the half formed determination to throw down
his cards and get up from this strange game, which he had formed when
Collins had asked him whether he would not have an interview with his
wife. This coal mine business pushed everything else aside for the
moment; the thought of that deal galvanized the whole business side of
his nature, so that, as he would have said himself, bristles stood on
it. A mine worth a million pounds, traded away for twenty five thousand
He was taking the thing to heart, as though he himself had been
tricked by Mulhausen, and now as he walked, a block in the traffic
brought him back from his thoughts, and suddenly, a most appalling
sensation came upon him. For a moment he had lost his identity. For a
moment he was neither Rochester nor Jones, but just a void between
these two. For a moment he could not tell which he was. For a moment he
was neither. That was the terrible part of the feeling. It was due to
over taxation of the brain in his extraordinary position, and to the
intensive manner in which he had been playing the part of Rochester. It
lasted perhaps, only a few seconds, for it is difficult to measure the
duration of mental processes, and it passed as rapidly as it had come.
Seeing a bar he entered it, and a small glass of brandy closed the
incident and made him forget it. He asked the way to Coutts' Bank,
which in 1692 was situated at the Three Crowns in the Strand, next
door to the Globe Tavern, and which still holds the same position in
the world of commerce, and nearly the same in the world of bricks and
He reached the door of the bank and was about to enter, when
something checked him. It was the thought that he would have to endorse
the cheque with Rochester's signature.
He had copied it so often that he felt competent to make a fair
imitation, but he had begun life in a bank and he knew the awful eye a
bank has for a customer's signature. His signatureat least
Rochester'smust be well known at Coutts'. It would never do to put
himself under the microscope like that, besides, and this thought only
came to him now, it might be just as well to have his money in some
place unknown to others. Collins and all that terrible family knew that
he was banking at Coutts', events might arise when it would be very
necessary too for him to be able to lay his hands on a secret store of
He had passed the National Provincial Bank in the Strand, the name
sounded safe and he determined to go there.
He reached the bank, sent his name into the manager, and was at once
admitted. The manager was a solid man, semi-bald, with side whiskers,
and an air of old English business respectability delightful in these
new and pushing days, he received the phantom of the Earl of Rochester
with the respect due to their mutual positions.
Jones, between Coutts' and the National Provincial, had done a lot
of thinking. He foresaw that even if he were to give in a passable
imitation of Rochester's signature, all cheques signed in future would
have to tally with that signature. Now a man's handwriting, though
varying, has a personality of its own, and he very much doubted as to
whether he would be able to keep up that personality under the
microscopic gaze of the bank people. He decided on a bold course. He
would retain his own handwriting. It was improbable that the National
Provincial had ever seen Rochester's autograph; even if they had, it
was not a criminal thing for a man to alter his style of writing. He
endorsed the cheque Rochester, gave a sample of his signature, gave
directions for a cheque book to be sent to him at Carlton House
Terrace, and took his departure.
He had changed Rochester's five pound note before going to Collins,
and he had the change in his pocket, four pounds sixteen and sixpence.
Five pounds, less the price of a cigar at the tobacconist's where he
had changed his note, the taxi to Sergeants' Inn, and the glass of
liqueur brandy. He remembered that he still owed for his luncheon
yesterday at the Senior Conservative, and he determined to go and pay
for it, and then lunch at some restaurant. Never again would he have
luncheon at that Conservative Caravanserai, so he told himself.
With this purpose in mind, he was standing waiting to cross the road
near Southampton Street, when a voice sounded in his ear and an arm
Hello, Rochy, said the voice.
Jones turned, and found himself arm in arm with a youth of
eighteenso he seemed, a gilded youth, if there ever was a gilded
youth, immaculately dressed, cheery, and with a frank face that was
Hello, said Jones.
What became of you that night? asked the cheery one, as they
crossed the road still arm in arm.
Which night? Why the night they shot us out of the Rag Tag Club.
Are you asleep, Rawjesteror what ails you?
Oh, I remember, said Jones.
They had unlinked now, and walking along together they passed up
Southampton Street and through Henrietta Street towards Leicester
Square. The unknown doing all the talking, a task for which he seemed
He talked of things, events, and people, absolutely unknown to his
listener, of horses, and men, and women. He talked Jones into Bond
Street, and Jones went shopping with him, assisting him in the choice
of two dozen coloured socks at Beale and Inmans. Outside the hosier's,
the unknown was proposing luncheon, when a carriage, an open Victoria,
going slowly on account of the traffic, drew Jones' attention.
It was a very smart turn out, one horsed, but having two liveried
servants on the box. A coachman, and a footman with powdered hair.
In the Victoria was seated one of the prettiest girls ever beheld by
Jones. A lovely creature, dark, with deep, dreamy, vague blue-grey
eyesand a face! Ah, what pen could describe that face, so mobile,
piquante, and filled with light and inexpressible charm.
She had caught Jones' eye, she was gazing at him curiously, half
mirthfully, half wrathfully, it seemed to him, and now to his amazement
she made a little movement of the head, as if to say, come here. At
the same moment she spoke to the coachman.
Portman, stop please.
Jones advanced, raising his hat.
I just want to tell you, said the Beauty, leaning a little
forward, that you are a silly old ass. Venetia has told me allIt's
nothing to me, but don't do itPortman, drive on.
Good Lord! said Jones, as the vehicle passed on its way, bearing
off its beautiful occupant, of whom nothing could now be seen but the
lace covered back of a parasol.
He rejoined the unknown.
Well, said the latter, what has your wife been saying to you?
My wife! said Jones.
Well, your late wife, though you ain't divorced yet, are you?
No, said Jones.
He uttered the word mechanically, scarcely knowing what he was
That lovely creature his wife! Rochester's wife!
Get in, said the unknown. He had called a taxi.
Jones got in.
Rochester's wife! The contrast between her and Lady Plinlimon
suddenly arose before him, together with the folly of Rochester seen
gigantically and in a new light.
The taxi drew up in a street off Piccadilly; they got out; the
unknown paid and led the way into a house, whose front door presented a
modest brass door plate inscribed with the words:
They passed along a passage, and then down stairs to a large room,
where small card tables were set out. An extraordinary room, for,
occupying nearly half of one side of it stood a kitchen range, over
which a cook was engaged broiling chops and kidneys, and all the other
elements of a mixed grill. Old fashioned pictures of sporting
celebrities hung on the walls, and opposite the range stood a dresser,
laden with priceless old fashioned crockery ware. Off this room lay the
dining room, and the whole place had an atmosphere of comfort and the
days gone by when days were less laborious than our days, and comfort
less allied to glitter and tinsel.
This was Carr's Club.
The unknown sat down before the visitor's book, and began to write
his own name and the name of his guest.
Jones, looking over his shoulder, saw that his name was Spence,
Patrick Spence. Sir Patrick Spence, for one of the attendants addressed
him as Sir Patrick. A mixed grill, some cheese and draught beer in
heavy pewter tankards, constituted the meal, during which the
loquacious Spence kept up the conversation.
I don't want to poke my nose into your affairs, said he, but I
can see there's something worrying you; you're not the same chap. Is it
about the wife?
No, said Jones, it's not that.
Well, I don't want to dig into your confidences, and I don't want
to give you advice. If I did, I'd say make it up with her. You know
very well, Rochy, you have led her the deuce of a dance. Your sister
got me on about it the other night at the Vernons'. We had a long talk
about you, Rochy, and we agreed you were the best of chaps, but too
much given to gaiety and promiscuous larks. You should have heard me
holding forth. But, joking apart, it's time you and I settled down, old
chap. You can't put old heads on young shoulders, but our shoulders
ain't so young as they used to be, Rochy. And I want to tell you this,
if you don't hitch up again in harness, the other party will do a bolt.
I'm dead serious. It's not the thing to say to another man, but you and
I haven't any secrets between us, and we've always been pretty plain
one to the otherwell, this is what I want to say, and just take it as
it's meant. Maniloff is after her. You know that chap, the attaché
at the Russian Embassy, chap like a billiard marker, always at the
other end of a cigaretteother name's Boris. Hasn't a penny to bless
himself with. I know he hasn't, for I've made kind enquiries about him
through Lewis, reason whyhe wanted to buy one of my racers for export
to Roosia. Seven hundred down and the balance in six months. Lewis
served up his past to me on a charger. The chap's rotten with debt,
divorced from his wife, and a punter at Monte Carlo. That's his real
profession, and card playing. He's a sleepy Slav, and if he was told
his house was on fire he'd say, nichévo, meaning it don't matter,
it's well insuredif he had a house to insure, which he hasn't. But
women like him, he's that sort. But Heaven help the woman that marries
him. He'd take her money and herself off to Monte, and when he'd broken
her heart and spoiled her life and spent her coin, he'd leave her, and
go off and be Russian attaché in Japan or somewhere. I know him.
Don't let her do it, Rochy.
But how am I to help it? asked the perplexed Jones, who saw the
meaning of the other. It did not matter in reality to him, whether a
woman whom he had only seen once were to bolt with a Russian and find
ruination at Monte Carlo, but this world is not entirely a world of
reality, and he felt a surprisingly strong resentment at the idea of
the girl in the Victoria bolting with a Russian.
It will be remembered that in Collins' office, the lawyer's talk
about his wife had almost decided him to throw down his cards and
quit. This shadowy wife, first mentioned by the bird woman, had, in
fact, been the one vaguely felt insuperable obstacle in the way of his
grand determination to make good where Rochester had failed, to fight
Rochester's battles, to be the Earl of Rochester permanently maybe, or,
failing that, to retire and vanish back to the States with honourable
The sight of the real thing had, however, altered the whole
position. Romance had suddenly touched Victor Jones; the gorgeous but
sordid veils through which he had been pushing had split to some mystic
wand, and had become the foliage of fairy land.
I want to tell youyou are an old ass.
Those words were surely enough to shatter any dream, to turn to
pathos any situation. In Jones' case they had acted as a most potent
spell. He could still hear the voice, wrathful, but with a tinge of
mirth in it, golden, individual, entrancing.
How are you to help it? said Spence. Why, go and make up with her
again, kick old Nichévo. Women like chaps that kick other chaps; they
pretend they don't, but they do. Either do that or take a gun and shoot
her, she'd be better shot than with that fellow.
He lit a cigarette and they passed into the card room, where Spence,
looking at his watch, declared that he must be off to keep an
appointment. They said good-bye in the street, and Jones returned to
Carlton House Terrace.
He had plenty to think about.
The pile of letters waiting to be answered on the table in the
smoking room reminded him that he had forgotten a most pressing
necessitya typist. He could sign letters all right, with a very good
imitation of Rochester's signature, but a holograph letter in the same
hand was beyond him. Then a bright idea came to him, why not answer
these letters with sixpenny telegrams, which he could hand in himself?
He found a sheaf of telegraph forms in the bureau, and sat down
before the letters, dealing with them one by one, and as relevantly as
he could. It was a rather interesting and amusing game, and when he had
finished he felt fairly satisfied. Awfully sorry can't come, was the
reply to the dinner invitations. The letter signed Childersley
worried him, till he looked up the name in Who's Who and found a Lord
answering to it at the same address as that on the note paper.
He had struck by accident on one of the alleviations of a major
misery of civilized life, replying to Letters, and he felt like
He left the house with the sheaf of telegrams, found the nearest
post officewhich is situated directly opposite to Charing Cross
Stationand returned. Then lighting a cigar, he took the friendly and
indefatigable Who's Who upon his knee, and began to turn the pages
indolently. It is a most interesting volume for an idle moment, full of
scattered romance, tales of struggle and adventure, compressed into a
few lines, peeps of history, and the epitaphs of still living men.
I want to tell youyou are an old ass.
The words still sounding in his ears made him turn again to the name
Plinlimon. The contrast between Lady Plinlimon and the girl, whose
vision dominated his mind, rose up again sharply at sight of the
Ass! That name did not apply to Rochester. To fit him with an
appropriate pseudonym would be impossible. Fool, idiot, sumphJones
tried them all on the image of the defunct, but they were too small.
Plinlimon: 3rd Baron, read Jones, created 1831, Albert James, b.
March 10th, 1862. O. S. of second Baron and Julia d. of J. H. Thompson
of Clifton, m. Sapphira, d. of Marcus Mulhausen, educ. privately.
Address The Roost, Tite Street, Chelsea.
Mulhausen! He almost dropped the book. Mulhausen! Collins, his
office, and that terrible family party all rose up before him. Here was
the scamp who had diddled Rochester out of the coal mine, the father of
the woman who had diddled him out of thousands. The paragraph in Who's
Who turned from printed matter to a nest of wriggling vipers. He threw
the book on the table, rose up, and began to pace the floor.
The girl-wife in the Victoria, his own positioneverything was
forgotten, before the monstrous fact half guessed, half seen.
Rochester had been plucked right and left by these harpies. He had
received five thousand pounds for land worth a million from the father,
he had paid eight thousand, or a good part of eight thousand to the
daughter. Fine business that!
I compared Jones, when he was fighting Voles, to a terrier. He had a
good deal of the terrier in his composition, the honesty, the rooting
out instinct, and the fury before vermin. Men run in animal groups, and
if you study animals you will be surprised by nothing so much as the
old race fury that breaks out in the most civilized animal before the
old race quarry or enemy.
For a few seconds, as he paced the floor, Jones was in the mental
condition of a dog in proximity to a hutched badger. Then he began to
think clearly. The obvious fact before him was that Voles, the
Plinlimons and Mulhausen were a gang; the presumptive fact was that the
money paid in blackmail had gone back to Mulhausen, or at least a great
part of it.
Was Mulhausen the spider of the web? Were all the rest his tools and
Jones had a good deal of instinctive knowledge of women. He did not
in his heart believe that a woman could be so utterly vile as to use
love letters directed to her for the purpose of extracting money from
the man who wrote them. Or rather that, whilst she might use them, it
was improbable that she would invent the method. The whole business had
the stamp of a mind masculine and utterly unscrupulous. Even at first
he had glimpsed this vaguely, when he considered it probable that Lord
Plinlimon had a hand in the affair.
Now, thought Jones, if I could bring this home to Mulhausen, I
could squeeze back that coal mine from him. I could sure.
He sat down and lit another cigar to assist him in dealing with this
It was very easy to say squeeze Mulhausen, it was a different
thing to do it. He came to this conclusion after a few minutes' earnest
concentration of mind on that problematical person. Hitherto he had
been dealing with small men and wasters. Voles was a plain scoundrel,
quite easily overthrown by direct methods. But Marcus Mulhausen he
guessed to be a big man. The first thing to be done was to verify this
supposition. He rang the bell and sent for Mr. Church.
Come in, said he, when the latter appeared, and shut the door. I
want to ask you something.
Yes, my Lord.
It's just this. I want you to tell me what you think of Lord
Plinlimon, and what you have heard said about him. I have my own
opinionsI want yours.
Well, my Lord, began Church. It's not for me to say anything
against his Lordship, but since you ask me I will say that it's
generally the opinion that his Lordship is a bitsoft.
Do you think he's straight?
Yes, my Lordthat is to say
Spit it out, said Jones.
Well, my Lord, he owes money, that's well known; and I've heard it
said a good deal of money has been lost at cards in his house, but not
through his fault. Indeed, you yourself said something to me to that
effect, my Lord.
Yes, so I didBut what I want to get at is this. Do you think he's
a man who would do a scoundrelly thingthat's plain?
Oh, no, my Lord, he's straight enough. It's the other party.
Meaning his wife?
No, my Lordher brother, Mr. Julian.
Church warmed a bit. He's always about there, lives with them
mostly. You see, my Lord, he has no what you may call status of his
own, but he manages to get known to people through her Ladyship.
Kind of sucker, said Jones.
Mr. Church assented. The expression was new to him, but it seemed to
Then Jones dismissed him.
The light was becoming clearer and clearer. Here was another member
of the gang, another instrument of Marcus Mulhausen.
To-morrow, said Jones to himself, I will go for these chaps.
Voles is the key to the lot of them, and I have Voles completely under
Then he put the matter from his mind for a while, and fell to
thinking of the girlhis wifeRochester's wife.
The strange thought came to him that she was a widow and did not
He dined out that night, going to a little restaurant in Soho, and
he returned to bed early, so as to be fresh for the business of the
He had looked himself up again in Who's Who, and found that his
wife's name was Teresa. Teresa. The name pleased him vaguely, and now
that he had captured it, it stuck like a burr in his mind. If he could
only make good over the Mulhausen proposition, re-capture that mine,
prove himselfwould she, if he told her allwould she?
He fell asleep murmuring the word Teresa.
CHAPTER XIII. TERESA
He woke up next morning, to find the vision of Teresa, Countess of
Rochesterso he called herstanding by his bedside.
Have you ever for a moment considered the influence of women? Go to
a public meeting composed entirely of men and see what a heavy affair
it can be, especially if you are a speaker; sprinkle a few women
through the audience, and behold the livening effect. At a party or a
public meeting in the Wheat Pit or the battlefield, women, or the
recollection of a woman, form or forms one of the greatest liveners to
conversation, speech, or action. Most men fight the battle of life for
a woman. Jones, as he sat up and drank his morning tea, gazing the
while at the vision of Teresa, Countess of Rochester, had found, almost
unknown to himself, a new incentive to action.
The position yesterday had begun to sag, very little would have made
him quit, take a hundred pounds from the eight thousand and a passage
by the next boat to the States; but that girl in the Victoria, those
eyes, that voice, those wordsthey had altered everything.
Was he in love? Perhaps not, but he was fascinated, held, dazzled.
More than that, the world seemed strangebrighter; he felt younger,
filled with an energy of a new brand. He whistled as he crossed the
floor to look out of the window, and as he tubbed he splashed the water
about like a boy.
It was easy to see that the unfortunate man had tumbled into a
position more fantastic and infinitely more dangerous than any position
he had hitherto occupied since setting foot in the house of Rochester.
That vanished and fantastic humourist would have found plenty to
feed his thoughts could he have returned.
The cheque book from the National Provincial Bank arrived by the
first post, and after breakfast he put it aside in a drawer of the
bureau in the smoking room. He glanced through the usual sheaf of
letters from unknown people, tradesmen, whose accounts were marked
account rendered and gentlemen who signed themselves with the names
of counties. One of the latter seemed indignant.
I take this dd bad of you, Rochester, said he. I've found
it out at last, you are the man responsible for that telegram.
lost three days and a night's sleep rushing up to Cumberland on
a wild goose chase, and I'm telling people all about it. Some
day you'll land yourself in a mess. Jokes that may be funny
amongst board school boys are out of place amongst men.
Jones determined to send Langwathby a telegram of apology when he
had time to look his name up in Who's Who; then he put the letters
aside, called for his hat and cane and left the house.
He was going to Voles first.
Voles was his big artillery. He guessed that the fight with Marcus
Mulhausen would be a battle to the death. He reckoned a lot on Voles.
In Trafalgar Square he called a taxi and told the driver to take him to
CHAPTER XIV. THE ATTACK
A. S. Voles, money lender and bill discounter, lived over his
business. That is to say his office was his dining room. He owned the
house in Jermyn Street. Jones, dismissing the taxi, rang the bell and
was admitted by a man servant, who, not sure whether Mr. Voles was in
or not, invited the visitor into a small room on the right of the
entrance hall and closed the door on him.
The room contained a desk table, three chairs, a big scale map of
London, a Phoenix Insurance Almanac, and a photogravure reproduction of
Mona Lisa. The floor was covered with linoleum, and the window gave
upon a blank wall.
This was the room where creditors and stray visitors had to wait.
Jones took a chair and looked about him.
Humanity may be divided into three classes: those who, having seen,
adore, those who tolerate, and those who detest Mona Lisa. Jones
detested her. That leery, sleery, slippery, poisonous face was hateful
to him as the mask of a serpent.
He was looking at the lady when the door opened and in came Voles.
Voles looked yellower and older this morning, but his face showed
nothing of resentment. The turning of the Earl of Rochester upon him
had been the one great surprise of his life. He had always fancied that
he knew character, and his fancy was not ill founded. His confidence in
himself had been shaken.
Good morning, said Jones. I have come to have a little talk with
Sit down, said Voles.
They seated themselves, Voles before the desk.
I haven't come to fight, said Jones, just to talk. You known that
Marcus Mulhausen has got that Welsh land from me for five thousand, and
that it is worth maybe a million now.
Well, Mulhausen has to give that property back.
You needn't laugh. You have seen my rough side. I'm holding the
smooth towards you nowbut there is no occasion to laugh. I'm going to
Well, said Voles. What have I to do with that?
You are the knife.
Yes, indeed. Let's talk. When you got that eight thousand from me,
you were only the agent of the Plinlimon woman, and she was only the
agent of Marcus. She got something, you got something, but Marcus got
the most. Julian got something too, but it was Marcus got the joints.
He gave you three the head, and the hoofs, and the innards, and the
tail. I've had it out with the Plinlimon woman and I know. You were a
Voles heaved up in his chair.
What more have you to say? asked he thickly.
A lot. There is nothing more difficult to get at than a gang,
because they cover each other's traces. I pay you a certain sum in
cash, you deduct your commission and hand the remainder over to the
Plinlimon woman, she pays her Pa, and gets a few hundred to pay her
milliner. Who's to prove anything? No cheques have passed.
Just so, said Voles.
I'm glad you see my point, replied Jones. Now if you can't untie
a knot, you can always cut it if you have a knifecan't you?
Voles shrugged his shoulders.
Well, I said you were a knife, didn't I, and I'm going to cut this
knot with you, see my point?
Not in the least.
I'm sorry, because that makes me speak plain, and that's
unpleasant. This is my meaning. I have to get that property back, or
else I will go to the police and rope in the whole gang. Tell the whole
story. I will accuse Marcus. Do you understand that? Marcus, and
Marcus' daughter, and Marcus' son, and you. And I won't do that
to-morrow, I'll do it to-day. To-night the whole caboodle of you will
be in jail.
You said you hadn't come to fight, cried Voles. What do you want?
Haven't you had enough from me? Yet you drive me like this. It's
I have not come to fight. At least not you. On the contrary, when I
get this property back, if it turns out worth a million, I'll maybe pay
you your losses. You've been paying the piper for Marcus, it seems to
I have, groaned Voles.
The two words proved to Jones that he was right all through.
Well, it's Marcus I'm up against, and you have to help me.
Then Voles began to speak. The something Oriental in his nature, the
something that had driven him rushing with outspread arms at the
constable that evening, began now to talk.
Help against Marcus! What could he do against Marcus? Why Marcus
Mulhausen held him in the hollow of his hand. Marcus held everyone: his
daughter, her husband, his own son Julian, to say nothing of A. S.
Voles and others.
Jones listened with patient attention to all this, and when the
other had finished and wiped the palms of his hands on his
But all the same, Marcus is held by the fact that he forms one of a
Voles made a movement with his hand.
Don't interrupt me. The head of a shark is the cleverest part of
it, but it has to suffer with the body when the whole shark is caught;
that's the fix Marcus is in. When I close on the lot of you, Marcus
will be the first to go into the jug. Now, see here, you have got to
take my orders; they won't be hard.
What are they?
You have got to write me a note, which I will take to Marcus,
telling him the game's up, the gang's burst, and to deliver.
Why dn it, what ails you? said Voles.
What ails me?
You aren't talking like yourselfyou have never been like yourself
since you've taken this line.
Jones felt himself changing colour. In his excitement he had let his
voice run away with him.
It doesn't matter a button whether I'm like myself or not, said
he, you've got to write that note, and do it now while I dictate.
Voles drummed on the desk with his fingers, then he took a sheet of
paper and an envelope from a drawer.
Well, said he, what is it to be?
Nothing alarming, said the other. Just three words. 'It's all
up'how do you address him?
Without reply Voles wrote.
It's all up.
That'll do, said Jones, now sign your name and address the
Voles did so.
Jones put the letter in his pocket.
Well, said he, that ends the business. I hope, with this, and
what I have to say to him, Marcus will part, and as I say, if things
turn out as I hope, maybe I'll right your lossesI have no quarrel
with youonly Marcus.
Suddenly Voles spoke.
For God's sake, said he, mind how you deal with that chap; he's
never been got the better of, curse him. Go cautiously.
You never fear, said Jones.
CHAPTER XV. THE ATTACK (Continued)
Jones had already obtained Marcus Mulhausen's address from the
Mulhausen was a financier. A financier is a man who makes money
without a trade or profession, and Mulhausen had made a great deal of
money, despite this limitation, during his twenty years of business
life, which had started humbly enough behind the counter of a
pawnbroker's in the Minories.
His offices were situated in Chancery Lane. They consisted of three
rooms: an outer waiting room, a room inhabited by three clerks, that is
to say a senior clerk, Mr. Aaronson, and two subordinates, and an inner
room where Mulhausen dwelt.
Jones, on giving his name, was shown at once into the inner room
where Mulhausen was seated at his desk.
Mulhausen was a man of sixty or so, small, fragile looking, with
grey side whiskers and drowsy heavy-lidded eyes.
He nodded to Jones and indicated a chair. Then he finished his work,
the reading of a letter, placed it under an agate paper weight, and
turned to the newcomer.
What can I do for you this morning? asked Mulhausen.
You can just read this letter, said Jones.
He handed over Voles' letter.
Mulhausen put on his glasses, opened the letter, and read it. Then
he placed the open letter on top of the one beneath the agate paper
weight, tore up the envelope, and threw the two fragments into the
waste paper basket behind him.
Anything more? asked he.
Yes, replied the other, a lot more. Let us begin at the
beginning. You have obtained from me a piece of real estate worth
anything up to a million pounds; you paid five thousand for it.
You have got to hand me that property back.
I beg your pardon, said Mulhausen. Do you refer to the Glanafwyn
I see. And I have to hand those back to youanything more?
No, that's all. I received your daughter's letters back from Voles
yesterdayLet's be plain with one another. Voles has confessed
everything. I have his confession under his own handwriting, you are
all in a net, the whole gang of youyou, your daughter, your son and
Voles. You plucked me like a turkey. You know the whole affair as well
as I do, and if I do not receive that property back before five o'clock
to-day, I shall go to the nearest police office and swear an
information against you.
I see, said Mulhausen, without turning a hair, you will put us
all in prison, will you not? That would be very unpleasant. Very
He rose, went to some tin boxes situated on a ledge behind him, took
out his keys and opened one.
Jones, fancying that he was going to produce the title deeds, felt a
little jump at his thyroid cartilage. This was victory without a
battle. But Mr. Marcus Mulhausen took no title deeds from the box. He
produced a letter case, came back with it to the table, and sat down.
Then holding the letter case before him he looked at Jones over his
You rogue, said Mulhausen.
That was the most terrific moment in Jones' life. Mulhausen from a
criminal had suddenly become a judge. He spoke with such absolute
conviction, ease, sense of power and scorn, that there could be no
manner of doubt he held the winning cards. He opened the letter case
and produced a paper.
Here is the bill of exchange for two hundred and fifty pounds, to
which you forged Sir Pleydell Tuffnell's name, said Marcus Mulhausen,
spreading the paper before him. That was two years ago. We all know
Sir Pleydell and his easy going ways. He is so careless you thought he
would never find out; so good, he would never prosecute. But it came
into my hands, it is my property, and I have no hesitation in dealing
with rogues. Now do you suppose for a moment that if I were moving
against you in any unlawful waywhich I denyI would have done so
without a protector? Could you find a better protection than this? The
punishment for forgery let me remind you, is five years penal servitude
at the least. He looked down at the document with a cold smile, and
then he glanced up again at his victim. Jones saw that he was done;
done not by Marcus Mulhausen, but by Rochester. He had tripped over a
kink in Rochester's character, just as a man trips over a kink in a
carpet. Then rage came to him. The sight of the horrible scoundrel with
whiskers, triumphant and gloating, roused the dog in his nature, and
all the craft that lay hidden in him.
He heaved a sigh, rose brokenly, and approached the desk, and the
creature behind it.
You are a cleverer man than I am, said he, shake hands and call
Next moment he had snatched the paper from the fingers that held it,
crumpled it, crammed it into his mouth. He rushed to the door and
locked it, whilst Mulhausen, screaming like a woman, reached him and
clutched him by the shoulders.
Then, swiftly turning, Jones gripped the financier by both arms and
held him so, chewing, chewing, chewing, mute and facing the shouting
They were hammering at the door outside. Mr. Aaronson and the
clerks, useless people for breaking-down-door purposes, were assisting
their employer with their voicesmainly, the whole block of offices
was raised, and boys and telephones were summoning the police.
Meanwhile, Jones was chewing, and the bill was slowly being
converted into what the physiologist terms a bolus. It took three
minutes before the bolus, properly salivated and raised by the tongue,
passed the anterior pillars of the fauces, then the epiglottis shut
down, and the bolus slipping over it and seized by the muscles of the
esophagus passed to its destined abode.
Jones had swallowed Rochester's past, or at least a most important
part of it. The act accomplished, he sat down as a boa constrictor
recoils itself, still gulping. Marcus Mulhausen rushed to the door and
opened it. A vast policeman stood before him, behind the policeman
crowded Mr. Aaronson and the clerks, and behind these a dozen or two of
the block dwellers, eager for gory sights at a distance.
Marcus looked round.
What's all this? said he. There is nothing wrong, just a little
dispute with a gentleman. It is all overMr. Aaronson, clear the
office. Constable, here is two shillings for your trouble. Good day.
He shut the door on the disappointed crowd and turned to Jones.
The battle was over.
CHAPTER XVI. A WILD SURPRISE
At five o'clock that day the transference of the property was made
out and signed by Marcus Mulhausen in Mortimer Collins' office, and the
Glanafwyn lands became again the property of the Earl of
Rochesterfor the sum of five thousand pounds received and herewith
acknowledged, said the document.
Needless to say no five thousand pounds passed hands. Collins,
mystified, asked no questions in the presence of Mulhausen. When the
latter had taken his departure, however, he turned to Jones.
Did you pay him five thousand? asked the lawyer.
Not a cent, replied the other.
Well, how have you worked the miracle, then?
You see how I had them coopered, finished he. Well, just as I was
going to grab the kitty he played the ace of spades, produced an old
document he held against me.
I pondered for a momentthen I came to a swift conclusiontook
the doc from him and ate it.
You ate the document?
Jones rubbed his stomach and laughed.
Well, well, said the solicitor with curious acquiescence and want
of astonishment after the first momentary start caused by this
surprising statement, we have the property back, that's the main
You remember, said Jones, I talked to you about letting that
Carlton House Terrace?
Yeswell, that's off. I've made good. Do you see?
Myes, replied Collins.
I'll have enough money now to pay off the mortgages and things.
Undoubtedly, said Collins, but, now, don't you think it would be
a good thing if you were to tie this property up, so that mischance
can't touch it. You have no children, it is true, but one never knows.
Honestly, I think you would be well advised if you were to take
Don't worry, said Jones brightly. I'll give the whole lot tomy
wifewhen I can come to terms with her.
That's good hearing, replied the other. Then Jones took his
departure, leaving the precious documents in the hands of the lawyer.
He was elated. He had proved the facts which he had only guessed by
instinct up to this, that a rogue is the weakest person in the world
before a plain dealer, if the plain dealer has a weapon in his hand.
The almost instantaneous collapse of Voles and Mulhausen was due to the
fact that they stood on rotten foundations. He told himself now as he
walked along homeward that he need not have eaten that document.
Mulhausen would never have used it. If he had just gone out and called
in a policeman, Mulhausen, seeing him in earnest, would have collapsed.
However the thing was eaten and done with and there was no use in
troubling any more on the matter. He had other things to think of. He
had made good. He had saved the Rochester name and estates, he had
recaptured one million, eight thousand pounds, reckoning that the coal
bearing lands were worth a million, and, more than that; he was a sane
man, able to look after what he had recaptured.
The Rochester family, if they knew, would have no cause to grumble
at the interloper and the substitution of new brains and push in the
place of decadence, craziness and sloth. The day when he had changed
places with Rochester was the best day that had ever dawned for them.
He was thinking this when all of a sudden that horrible, unreal
feeling he had suffered from once before, came upon him again. This
time it was not a question of losing his identity, it was a shuffle of
his own taxed brain between two identities.
RochesterJonesJonesRochester. It seemed to him for the space of a
couple of seconds that he could not tell which of those two individuals
he was, then the feeling passed and he resumed his way, reaching
Carlton House Terrace shortly after six.
He gave his hat and cane and gloves to the flunkey who opened the
door for himHe had obtained a latch-key from Church that morning but
forgot to use itand was crossing the hall when a strain of music
brought him to a halt. The tones of a piano came from a door on the
right. Someone was playing Chaminade's Valse Tendre and playing
it to perfection.
Jones turned to the man-servant.
Who is that? he asked.
It is her ladyship, my Lord, she arrived half an hour ago. Her
luggage has gone upstairs.
Jones thrown off his balance hesitated for a moment, what
ladyship could it be. Not, surely, that awful mother!
He crossed to the door, opened it, found a music-room, and there,
seated at a piano, the girl of the Victoria.
She was in out-door dress and had not removed her hat.
She looked over her shoulder at him as he came in, her face wore a
half smile, but she did not stop playing. Anything more fascinating,
more lovely, more distracting than that picture it would be hard to
As he crossed the room she suddenly ceased playing and twirled round
on the music-stool.
I've come back, said she. Ju-ju, I couldn't stand it. You are bad
but you are a lot, lot better than your motherand Venetia. I'm going
to try and put up with you a bit longerJu-Ju, what makes you
look so stiff and funny?
I don't know, said Jones, passing his hand across his forehead.
I've had a hard day. She looked at him curiously for a moment, then
pityingly, then kindly.
Then she jumped up, made him sit down on a big couch by the wall,
and took her seat beside him.
Then she took his hand.
Ju-Juwhy will you be such a fool?
I don't know, said Jones.
The caress of the little jewelled hand destroyed his mental powers.
He dared not look at her, just sat staring before him.
They told me all about the coal mine, she went on, at least
Venetia did, and how they all bully-ragged youVenetia was great on
that. Venetia waggled that awful gobbly-Jick head of hers while she was
telling methey're mad over the loss of that coal thingoh,
Ju-Ju, I'm so glad you lost it. It's wicked, I suppose, but I'm glad.
That's what made me come back, the way they went on about you. I
listened and listened and then I broke out. I said all I've wanted to
say for the last six months to Venetia. You know she told me how you
came home the other night. I said nothing then, just listened and
stored it up. Then, last night, when they all got together about the
coal mine I went on listening and storing it up. Blunders was there as
well as your mother and Venetia. Blunders said he had called you an ass
and that you were. Then I broke out. I said a whole lot of
thingswell, there it is. So I came backthere were other reasons as
well. I don't want to be alone. I want to be cared forI want to be
cared forwhen I saw you in Bond Street, yesterdayIIIJu-Ju, do
you care for me?
Yes, said Jones.
I want to confessI want to tell you something.
If you didn't care for meif I felt you didn't, I'd
Kick right over the traces. I would. I couldn't go on as I have
been going, lonely, like a lost dog.
She raised his fingers and rubbed them along her lips.
You will not be lonely, said the unfortunate man in a muted voice.
You need not be afraid of that. The utter inadequacy of the remark
came to him like one of those nightmare recognitions encountered as a
rule only in Dreamland. Yet she seemed to find it sufficient, her mind
perhaps being engaged elsewhere.
What would you have said if I had run away from you for good?
asked she. Would you have been sorry?
Are you glad I've come back?
Truthfully, really, honestly glad?
Well, so am I, said she. She released his hand.
Now go and play me something. I want something soothing after
Venetiaplay me Chopin's Spianatowe used to be fond of that.
Now the only thing that Jones had ever played in his life was the
Star Spangled Banner and that with one fingerChopin's Spianato!
No, he said. I'd rather talk.
Well, talk thenmercy! There's the first gong.
A faint and far away sound invaded the room, throbbed and ceased.
She rose, picked up her gloves, which she had cast on a chair, and then
peeped at herself in a mirror by the piano.
You have never kissed me, said she, speaking as it were half to
herself and half to him, seeming to be more engaged in a momentary
piercing criticism of the hat she was wearing than in thoughts of
kisses. He came towards her like a schoolboy, then, as she held up her
face he imprinted a chaste kiss upon her right cheek bone.
Then the most delightful thing that ever happened to mortal man
happened to him. Two warm palms suddenly took his face between them and
two moist lips met his own.
Then she was gone.
He took his seat on the music stool, dazed, dazzled, delighted,
shocked, frightened, triumphant.
The position was terrific.
Jones was no Lothario. He was a straight, plain, common-sensical man
with a high respect for women, and the position of leading character in
a bad French comedy was not for him. Jones would just as soon have
thought of kissing another man's wife as of standing on his head in the
middle of Broadway.
To personate another man and to kiss the other man's wife under that
disguise would have seemed to him the meanest act any two-legged
creature could perform.
And he had just done it. And the other man's wife hadheu! his face
She had done it because of his deception.
He found himself suddenly face to face with the barrier that Fate
had been cunningly constructing and had now placed straight before him.
There was no getting over it or under it, he would have to declare
his position at onceand what a position to declare!
She loved Rochester.
All at once that terrific fact appeared before him in its true
proportions and its true meaning.
She loved Rochester.
He had to tell her the truth. Yet to tell her the truth he would
have to tell her that the man she loved was dead.
Then she would want proofs.
He would have to bring up the Savoy Hotel people, fetch folk from
Americadisinter Rochester. Horror! He had never thought of that. What
had become of Rochester? Up to this he had never thought once of what
had become of the mortal remains of the defunct jester, nor had he
cared a buttonwhy should he?
But the woman who loved Rochester would care. And he, Jones, would
become in her eyes a ghoul, a monstrosity, a horror.
He felt a tinge of that feeling towards himself now. Up to this
Rochester had been for him a mechanical figure, an abstraction, but the
fact of this woman's love had suddenly converted the abstraction into a
He could not possibly tell her that he had left the remains of this
human being, this man she loved, in the hands of unknown strangers,
callously, as though it were the remains of an animal.
He could tell her nothing.
The game was up, he would have to quit. Either that, or to continue
the masquerade which was impossible; or to tell her all, which was
Yet to quit would be to hit her cruelly. She loved Rochester.
Rochester, despite all his wickedness, frivolity, shiftlessness and
general unworthinessor perhaps because of these thingshad been able
to make this woman love him, take his part against his family and
return to him.
To go away and leave her now would be the cruelest act. Cruel to her
and just as cruel to himself, fascinated and held by her as he was. Yet
there was no other course open to him. So he told himselfso he tried
to tell himself, knowing full well that the only course open to him as
a man of honour was a full confession of the facts of the case.
To sneak away would be the act of a coward; to impose himself on her
as Rochester, the act of a villain; to tell her the truth, the act of a
The result would be terrific, yet only by facing that result could
he come clear out of this business. For half an hour he sat, scarcely
moving. He was up against that most insuperable obstacle, his own
character. Had he been a crook, everything would have been easy; being
a fairly straight man, everything was impossible.
He had got to this bed-rock fact when the door opened and a servant
made his appearance.
Dinner is served, my Lord.
He rose up and came into the hall. Standing there for a moment,
undecided, he heard a laugh and looked up. She was standing in evening
dress looking over the balustrade of the first landing.
Why, you are not dressed! she said.
II forgot, he answered.
Something fell at his feet, it was a rose. She had cast it to him
and now she was coming down the stairway towards him, where he stood,
the rose in his hand and distraction at his heart.
It is perfectly disgraceful of you, said she, looking him up and
down and taking the rose from him, and there is no time to dress now;
you usen't to be as careless as that, she put the rose in his coat. I
suppose it's from living alone for a fortnight with Venetiawhat would
a month have done! She pressed the rose flat with her little palm.
Then she slipped her fingers through the crook of his elbow and led
him to the breakfast-room door.
She entered and he followed her.
The breakfast table had been reduced in size and they dined facing
one another across a bowl of blush roses.
That dinner was not a conversational success on the part of Jones, a
fact which she scarcely perceived, being in high spirits and full of
information she was eager to impart.
It did not seem to matter to her in the least whether the flunkeys
in waiting were listening or not, she talked of the family, of your
mater and Blunders and V and other people, touching, it seemed on
the most intimate matters and all with a lightness of tone and spirit
that would have been delightful, no doubt, had he known the discussed
ones more intimately, and had his mind been open to receive pleasurable
He would have to tell her directly after dinner the whole of his
terrible story. It was as though Fate were saying to him, You will
have to kill her directly after dinner.
All that light-hearted chatter and new found contentment, all that
brightness would die. Grief for the man she loved, hatred of the man
who had supplanted him, anguish, perplexity, terror, would take their
When the terrible meal was over, she ordered coffee to be served in
the music-room. He lingered behind for a moment, fiddling with a
cigarette. Then, when he came into the hall with the sweat standing in
beads upon his forehead, he heard the notes of the piano.
It was a Mazurka of Chopin's, played with gaiety and brilliancy, yet
no funeral march ever sounded more fatefully in the ears of mortal.
He could not do it. Thenhe turned the handle of the music-room
door and entered.
CHAPTER XVII. THE SECOND HONEYMOON
Only three of the electric lights were on in the music-room. In the
rosy light and half shadows the room looked larger than when seen in
daylight, and different.
She had wandered from the Mazurka into Paderewski's Mélodie Op. 8.
No. 3, a lonesome sort of tune it seemed to him, as he dropped into a
chair, crossed his legs and listened.
Then as he listened he began to think. Up to this his thoughts had
been in confusion, chasing one another or pursued by the monstrosity of
the situation. Now he was thinking clearly.
She was his, that girl sitting there at the piano with the light
upon her hair, the light upon her bare shoulders and the sheeny fabric
of her dress. He had only to stretch out his hand and take her.
Absolutely his, and he had only met her twice. She was the most
beautiful woman in London, she had a mind that would have made a plain
woman attractive, and a manner delightful, full of surprises and
contrarieties and tendernessesand she loved him.
The Arabian Nights contained nothing like this, nor had the brain
that conceived Tantalus risen to the heights achieved by accident and
She finished the piece, rose, turned over some sheets of music and
then came across the roomfloated across the room, and took her perch
on the arm of the great chair in which he was sitting. Then he felt her
fingers on his hair.
I want to feel your bumps to see if you have improvedJu-ju, your
head isn't so flat as it used to be on top. It seems a different shape
somehow, nicer. Blunders is as flat as a pancake on top of his head.
Flatness runs in families I suppose. Look at Venetia's feet! Ju-ju,
have you ever seen her in felt bath slippers?
I haveand a long yellow dressing gown, and her hair on her
shoulders all wet, in rat tails. I'm not a cat, but she makes me feel
like one and talk like one. I want to forget her. Do you remember our
She had taken his hand and was holding it.
We were happy then. Let's begin again and let this be our second
honeymoon, and we won't quarrel oncewill we?
No, we won't, said Jones.
She slipped down into the chair beside him, pulled his arm around
her and held up her lips.
Now you're kissing me really, she murmured; you seemed half
frightened beforeJu-ju, I want to make a confession.
Wellsomebody pretended to care for me very much a little while
Who was that?
Never mind. I went last night to a dance at the Crawleys' and he
Yesis that all you have to say? You don't seem to be very much
I am though.
I don't want you to be too much interested, and go making scenes
and all thatthough you couldn't for you don't know his name. Suffice
to tell youas the books sayhe is a very handsome man, much, much
handsomer than you, JuWell, listen to me. He asked me to run off with
Run off with him?
Yesto Spain. We were to go to Paris first and then to
SpainSpain, at this time of year!
What did you say?
I said: 'Please don't be stupid.' I'd been reading a novel where a
girl said that to a man who wanted to run off with hershe died at the
endbut that's what she said at firstFortunate I remembered it.
Becausebecausefor a moment I felt inclined to say 'yes.' I know
it was dreadful, but think of my position, you going on like that, and
me all alone with no one to care for meIt's like a crave for drink. I
must have someone to care for me and I thought you didn'tso I nearly
said 'yes.' Once I had said what I did I felt stronger.
What did he say?
He pleaded passionatelylike the man in the book, and talked of
roses and blue seashe's not EnglishI sat thinking of Venetia in her
felt bath room slippers and yellow wrapper. You know she reads St.
Thomas à Kempis and opens bazaars. She opened one the other day, and
came back with her nose quite red and in a horrid temperI wonder what
was inside that bazaar?Well, I knew if I did anything foolish Venetia
would exult, and that held me firm. She's not wicked. I believe she is
really good as far as she knows how, and that's the terrible thing
about her. She goes to church twice on Sunday, she takes puddings and
things to old women in the country, she opens bazaars and subscribes to
ragged schoolsyet with one word she sets everyone by the earsWell,
when I got home from the dance I began to think, and to-day, when they
were all out, I had my boxes packed and came right back here. I'd have
given anything to see their faces when they got home and found me
She sprang up suddenly. A knock had come to the door, it opened and
a servant announced Miss Birdbrook.
Venetia had not changed that evening, she was still in her big hat.
She ignored Jones, and, standing, spoke tersely to Teresa.
So you have left us?
Yes, replied the other. I have come back here, d'you mind?
I? said Venetia. It's not a question of my minding in the least,
only it was sudden, and as you left no word as to where you were going
we thought it best to make sure you were all right.
She took her seat uncomfortably on a chair and the Countess of
Rochester perched herself again by Jones.
Yes, I am all right, said she, with her hand resting on his
I am glad to know it, she said. We tried to make you
comfortableI cannot deny that mother feels slightly hurt at having no
word from you before leaving, and one must admit that it cannot but
seem strange to the servants your going like thatbut of course that
is entirely a question of taste.
You mean, said Teresa, that it was bad taste on my partwell, I
apologise. I am sorry, but the sudden craving to getback here was
more than I could resist. I would have written to-night.
Oh, it does not matter, said Venetia, the thing is done. Well, I
must be goingbut have you both thought over the future and all that
Have we, Ju-ju? asked the girl, caressingly stroking Jones' head.
Yes, said Jones.
I'm sure, went on Venetia with a sigh, I have always done my best
to keep things together. I failed. Was it my fault?
No, said Teresa, aching for her to be gone. I am sure it was
I am glad to hear you say that. I always tried to avoid interfering
in your life. I never didor only when ordinary prudence made me
speak, as for instance, in that baccarat business.
Don't rake up old things, said Teresa suddenly.
And the Williamson affair, got in Venetia. Oh, I am the very last
to rake up things, as you call it. I, for one, will say no more of
things that have happened, but I must speak of things that
What is affecting you?
Just this. You know quite well the financial position. You know
what the upkeep of this house means. You can't do it. You plainly can't
do it. Your income is not sufficient.
But how does that affect you?
When tradespeople talk it affects me; it affects us all. Why not
let this house and live quietly, somewhere in the country, 'til things
What do you mean by things blowing over? asked Teresa. One would
think that you were talking of some disgrace that had happened.
Venetia pulled up her long left hand glove and moved as though about
to depart. She said nothing but looked at her glove.
During the whole of this time she had neither looked at nor spoken
to Jones, nor included him by word in the conversation. Her influence
had been working upon him ever since she entered the room. He began now
more fully to understand the part she had played in the life of
Rochester. He felt that he wanted to talk to Venetia as Rochester had,
probably, never talked.
A man once said to me that the greatest mistake a fellow can make
is to have a sister to live with him after his marriage, said Jones.
Venetia pulled up her right hand glove.
A sister that has had to face mad intoxication and worse,
can endorse that opinion, said she.
What do you mean by worse? fired Teresa.
I mean exactly what I say, replied Venetia.
That is no answer. Do you mean that Arthur has been unfaithful to
I did not say that.
Well, what can be worse than intoxicationthat is the only thing
worse that I know ofunless murder. Do you mean that he has murdered
I will not let you drag me into a quarrel, said Venetia; you are
putting things into my mouth. I think mad extravagance is worse than
intoxication, inasmuch as it is committed by reasonable people
uninfluenced by drugs or alcohol. I think insults levelled at
inoffensive people are worse than the wildest deeds committed under the
influence of that demon alcohol.
Who are the inoffensive people who have been insulted?
Good graciouswell, of course you don't knowyou have not had to
Sir Pleydell Harcourt for instance, who had sixteen pianos sent to
him only last week, to say nothing of pantechnicon vans and half the
contents of Harrods' and Whiteleys', so that Arlington Street was
blocked, simply blocked, the whole of last Friday.
Did he say Arthur had sent them?
He had no direct proofbut he knew. There was no other man in
London would have done such a thing.
Did you send them, Ju-ju?
No, said Jones. I did not.
You admitted to me, yourself, that you did, said she.
I was only joking, he replied.
Teresa went to the bell and rang it.
Good night, said Venetia, after that I have nothing more to say.
Thank goodness, murmured Teresa when she was gone. She made me
shiver with her talk about extravagance. I've been horribly extravagant
the last weekwhen a woman is distracted she runs to clothes for
reliefanyhow I did. I've got three new evening frocks and I want to
show you them. I've never known your taste wrong.
Good, said Jones, I'd like to see them.
Guess what they cost?
Two hundred and fiftyand they are a bargain. You're not shocked,
Not a bit.
Well, come and look at themwhat's the time? Half past ten. She
led the way upstairs.
On the first landing she turned to the left, opened a door and
disclosed a bed-room where a maid was moving about arranging things and
A large cardboard box lay open on the floor, it was filled with snow
white lingerie. The instinct to bolt came upon Jones so strongly that
he might have obeyed it, only for the hand upon his arm pressing him
down into a chair.
Anne, said the Countess of Rochester, bring out my new evening
gowns, I want to show them.
Then she turned to the cardboard box. Here's some more of my
extravagance. I couldn't resist them, Venetia nearly had a fit when she
saw the billLook!
She exhibited frilled and snow white things, delicate and diaphanous
and fit to be worn by angels. Then the dresses arrived, and were laid
out on the bed and inspected. There was a black gown and a grey gown
and a confection in pale blue. If Jones had been asked to price them he
would have said a hundred dollars. Like most men he was absolutely
unconscious of the worth of a woman's dress. To a woman a Purdy and a
ten guinea Birmingham gun are just the same, and to a man, a ten guinea
Bayswater dress is little different, if worn by a pretty girl, from a
seventy guinea Bond Streetis it Bond Streetrig out. Unless he is a
Jones said beautiful, gave the palm to the blue, and watched them
carried off again by the maid.
He had left his cigarettes down stairs; there were some in a box on
a table, she made him take one and lit it for him, then she disappeared
into a room adjoining, returning in a few minutes dressed in a kimono
covered with golden swallows and followed by the maid. Then she took
her seat before a great mirror and the maid began to take down her hair
and brush it.
As the brushing went on she talked to the maid and to Jones upon all
sorts of subjects. To the maid about the condition of
herTeresa'shair, and a new fashion in hair dressing, to Jones about
the Opera, the stoutness of Caruso, and kindred matters.
The hair having been arranged in one great gorgeous plait, Jones
suddenly breaking free from a weird sort of hypnotism that had held him
since first entering the room, rose to his feet.
I'll be back in a minute, said he.
He crossed the room, reached the door, opened it and passed out
closing the door. In the corridor he stood for half a moment with his
hand to his head.
Then he came down the stairs, crossed the hall, seized a hat and
overcoat, put them on and opened the hall door.
All the way down the stairs and across the hall, he felt as though
he were being driven along by some viewless force, and now, standing at
the door, that same force pushed him out of the house and on to the
He closed the door, came down the steps, and turned to the right.
CHAPTER XVIII. THE MENTAL TRAP
It was a beautiful night, warm and starlit, the waning moon had just
begun to rise in the east and as he turned into the green Park a breath
of tepid wind, grass-scented and balmy blew in his face.
He walked in the direction of Buckingham Palace.
Where was he to go? He had no ideas, no plans.
He had failed in performing the Duty that Fate had arranged for him
to perform. He had failed, but not through cowardice, or at least not
through fear of consequences to himself.
The man who refuses to cut a lamb's throat, even though Duty calls
him to the act, has many things to be said for him.
His distracted mind was not dealing with this matter, however. What
held him entirely was the thought of her waiting for him and how she
would feel when she found he had deserted her. He had acted like a
brute and she would hate him accordingly. Not him, but Rochester.
It was the same thing. The old story. Hatred, obloquy, disdain
levelled against Rochester affected him as though it were levelled
against himself. He could not take refuge in his own personality. Even
on the first day of his new life he had found that out at the club.
Since then the struggle to maintain his position and the battles he had
fought had steadily weakened his mental position as Jones, strengthened
his position as Rochester.
The strange psychological fact was becoming plain, though not to
him, that the jealousy he ought to have felt on account of this woman's
love for Rochester was not there.
This woman had fascinated him, as women had perhaps never fascinated
a man before; she had kissed him, she loved him, and though his reason
told him quite plainly that he was Victor Jones and that she loved and
had kissed another man, his heart did not resent that fact.
Rochester was dead. It seemed to him that Rochester had never lived.
He left the Park and came along Knightsbridge still thinking of her
sitting there waiting for him, his mind straying from that to the kiss,
the dinner, the bowl of roses that stood between themher voice.
Then all at once these considerations vanished, all at once, and
like an extinguisher, fell on him that awful sensation of negation.
His mind pulled this way and that between contending forces, became
a blank written across with letters of fire forming the question:
Who am I?
The acutest physical suffering could not have been worse than that
torture of the over-taxed brain, that feeling that if he did not clutch
at himself he would become nothing.
He ran for a few yardsthen it passed and he found himself beneath
a lamp-post recovering and muttering his own name rapidly to himself
like a charm to exorcise evil.
He looked around.
There were not many people to be seen, but a man and woman a few
yards away were standing and looking at him. They had evidently stopped
and turned to see what he was about and they went on when they saw him
They must have thought him mad.
The hot shame of the idea was a better stimulant than brandy. He
walked on. He was no longer thinking of the woman he had just left. He
was thinking of himself.
He had been false to himself.
The greatest possession any man can have in the world is himself.
Some men let that priceless property depreciate, some improve it, it is
given to few men to tamper with it after the fashion of Jones.
He saw this now, and just as though a pit had opened before him he
drew back. He must stop this double life at once and become his own
self in reality; failing to do that he would meet madness. He
recognised this. No man's brain could stand what he had been going
through for long; had he been left to himself he might have adapted his
mind gradually to the perpetual shifting from Jones to Rochester and
vice versa. The woman had brought things to a crisis. The horror that
had now suddenly fallen on him, the horror of the return of that awful
feeling of negation, the horror of losing himself, cast all other
considerations from his mind.
He must stop this business at once.
He would go away, return straight to America.
That was easy to be donebut would that save him? Would that free
him from this horrible clinging personality that he had so lightly cast
Nothing is stranger than mind. From the depth of his mind came the
whisper, No. Intuition told him that were he to go to Timbuctoo,
Rochester would cling to him, that he would wake up from sleep fancying
himself Rochester and then that feeling would return. What he required
was the recognition by other people that he was himself, Jones, that
the whole of this business was a deception, a stage play in real life.
Their abuse, their threats would not matter. Their blows would be
welcome, so he thought. Anything that would hit him back firmly into
his real position in the scheme of things and save him from the dread
of some day losing himself.
After a while the exercise and night air calmed his mind. He had
come to the great decision. A decision immutable now, since it had to
do with the very core of his being. He would tell her everything.
To-morrow morning he would confess all. Her fascination upon him had
loosened its hold, the terror had done that. He no longer loved her.
Had he ever loved her? That was an open question, or in other words, a
question no man could answer. He only knew now that he did not crave
for her regard, only for her recognition of himself as Jones.
She was the door out of the mental trap into which his mind had
These considerations had carried him far into a region of mean
streets and suburban houses. It was long after twelve o'clock and he
fell to thinking what he should do with himself for the rest of the
night. It was impossible to walk about till morning and he determined
to return to Carlton House Terrace, let himself in with his latch key
and slip upstairs to his room. If by any chance she had not retired for
the night and he chanced to meet her on the stairs or in the hall then
the confession must be made forthwith.
It was after two o'clock when he reached the house. He opened the
door with his key and closing it softly, crossed the hall and went up
the stairs. One of the hall lamps had been left burning, evidently for
him: a lamp was burning also, in the corridor. He switched on the
electric light in his room and closed the door.
Then he heaved a sigh of relief, undressed and got into bed.
All across the hall, up the stairs, and along the corridor he had
been followed by the dread of meeting her and having to enter on that
terrible explanation right away.
The craving to tell her all had been supplanted for the moment by
the dread of the act.
In the morning it would be different. He would be rested and have
more command over himself, so he fancied.
CHAPTER XIX. ESCAPE CLOSED
He was awakened by Mr. Churchone has always to give him the
prefixpulling up the blinds. His first thought was of the task before
The mind does a lot of quiet business of its own when the blinds are
down and the body is asleep, and during the night, his mind, working in
darkness, had cleared up matters, countered and cut off all sorts of
fears and objections and drawn up a definite plan.
He would tell her everything that morning. If she would not take his
word for the facts, then he would have a meeting of the whole family.
He felt absolutely certain that explaining things bit by bit and detail
by detail he could convince them of the death of Rochester and his own
existence as Jones; absolutely certain that they would not push matters
to the point of publicity. He held a trump card in the property he had
recovered from Mulhausen, were he to be exposed publicly as an
impostor, all about the Plinlimon letters, Voles and Mulhausen would
come out. Mulhausen, that very astute practitioner, would not be long
in declaring that he had been forced to return the title deeds to
protect his daughter's name. Voles would swear anything, and their case
would stand good on the proved fact that he, Jones, was a swindler. No,
assuredly the family would not press the matter to publicity.
Having drunk his tea, he arose, bathed, and dressed with a calm
Then he came down stairs.
She was not in the breakfast-room, where only one place was laid,
and, concluding that she was breakfasting in her own room, he sat down
After the meal, and with another sheaf of the infernal early post
letters in his hand, he crossed to the smoking-room, where he closed
the door, put the letters on the table and lit a cigar. Then, having
smoked for a few minutes and collected his thoughts, he rang the bell
and sent for Mr. Church.
Church, said he when that functionary arrived, will you tellmy
wife I want to see her?
Her ladyship left last night, your Lordship, she left at ten
o'clock, or a little after.
Left! where did she go to?
She went to the South Kensington Hotel, your Lordship.
Good heavens! what made herwhy did she goah, was it because I
did not come back?
I think it was, your Lordship.
Mr. Church spoke gravely and the least bit stiffly. It could easily
be seen that as an old servant and faithful retainer he was on the
woman's side in the business.
I had to go out, said the other. I will explain it to her when I
see herIt was on a matter of importanceThanks, that will do,
Alone again he finished his cigar.
The awful fear of the night before, the fear of negation and the
loss of himself had vanished with a brain refreshed by sleep and before
What a brute he had been! She had come back forgiving him for who
knows what, she had taken his part against his traducers, kissed him.
She had fancied that all was right and that happiness had returnedand
he had coldly discarded her.
It would have been less cruel to have beaten her. She was a good
sweet woman. He knew that fact, now, both instinctively and by
knowledge. He had not known it fully till this minute.
Would it, after all, have been better to have deceived her and to
have played the part of Rochester? That question occurred to him for a
moment to be at once flung away. It was not so much personal antagonism
to such a course nor the dread of madness owing to his double life that
cast it out so violently, but the recognition of the goodness and
lovableness of the woman. Leaving everything else aside to carry on
such a deception with her, even to think of it, was impossible.
More than ever was he determined to clear this thing up and tell her
all, and, to his honour be it said, his main motive now was to do his
best by her.
He finished his cigar, and then going into the hall obtained his hat
and left the house.
He did not know where the South Kensington Hotel might be, but a
taxi solved that question and shortly before ten o'clock he reached his
Yes, Lady Rochester had arrived last night and was staying in the
hotel, and whilst the girl in the manager's office was sending up his
name and asking for an interview Jones took his seat in the lounge.
A long timenearly ten minuteselapsed, and then a boy brought him
her answer in the form of a letter.
He opened it.
Never again. This is good-bye.
That was the answer.
He sat with the sheet of paper in his hand, contemplating the shape
and make of an armchair of wicker-work opposite him.
What was he to do?
He had received just the answer he might have expected, neither more
nor less. It was impossible for him to force an interview with her. He
had overthrown Voles, climbed over Mulhausen, but the flight of stairs
dividing him now from the private suite of the Countess of Rochester
was an obstacle not to be overcome by courage or direct methods, and he
knew of no indirect method.
He folded up the paper and put it in his pocket. Then he left the
hotel and took his way back to Carlton House Terrace.
If she would not see him she could not refuse to read a letter. He
would write to her and explain all. He would write in detail giving the
whole business, circumstance by circumstance. It would take him a long
while; he guessed that, and ordinary note-paper would not do. He had
seen a stack of manuscript paper, however, in one of the drawers of the
bureau, and having shut the door and lit a cigarette he took some of
the sheets of long foolscap, ruled thirty four lines to the page, and
sat down to the business. This is what he said:
I want you to read what follows carefully and not to form any
opinion on the matter till all the details are before you. This
document is not a letter in the strict sense of the term, it's
in the nature of an invoice of the cargo of stupidity and bad
which I, the writer, Victor Jones of Philadelphia, have been
freighted with by an all-wise Providence for its own
Providence held him up for a moment. Was Providence neuter or
masculine?he risked it and left it neuter and continued.
When the servant announced luncheon he had covered twenty sheets of
paper and had only arrived at the American bar of the Savoy.
He went to luncheon, swallowed a whiting and half a cutlet, and
He sat down, read what he had written, and tore it across.
That would never do. It was like the vast prelude to a begging
letter. She would never read it through.
He started again, beginning this time in the American bar of the
Savoy, writing very carefully. He had reached, by tea-time, the reading
of Rochester's death in the paper.
Well satisfied with his progress he took afternoon tea, and then sat
down comfortably to read what he had written.
He was aghast with the result. The things that had happened to him
were believable because they had happened to him, but in cold writing
they had an air of falsity. She would never believe this yarn. He tore
the sheets across. Then he burned all he had written in the grate, took
his seat in the armchair and began to think of the devil.
Surely there was something diabolical in the whole of this business
and the manner in which everything and every circumstance headed him
off from escape. After dinner he was sitting down to attempt a literary
forlorn hope, when a sharp voice in the hall made him pause.
The door opened, and Venetia Birdbrook entered. She wore a new hat
that seemed bigger than the one he had last beheld and her manner was
She shut the door, walked to the table, placed her parasol on it and
began peeling off a glove.
She's gone, said Venetia.
Jones had risen to his feet.
Teresagone with Maniloff.
He sat down. Then she blazed out.
Are you going to do nothingare you going to sit there and let us
all be disgraced? She's goneshe's goingto Paris. It was through her
maid I learned it; she's gone from the hotel by thisgone with
Maniloffare you deaf or simply stupid? You must follow her.
Follow her now, follow her and get her back, there is just a
chance. They are going to the Bristol. The maid told everythingI will
go with you. There is a train at nine o'clock from Victoria, you have
only just time to catch it.
I have no money, said Jones, feeling in his pockets distractedly,
only about four pounds.
I have, replied she, and our car is at the doorare you afraid,
or is it that you don't mind?
Come on, said Jones.
He rushed into the hall, seized a hat and overcoat, and next minute
was buried in a stuffy limousine with Venetia's sharp elbow poking him
in the side.
He was furious.
There are people who seem born for the express purpose of setting
other people by the ears. Venetia was one of them. Despite Voles,
Mulhausen, debts and want of balance one might hazard the opinion that
it was Venetia who had driven the unfortunate Rochester to his mad act.
The prospect of a journey to Paris with this woman in pursuit of
another man's wife was bad enough, but it was not this prospect that
made Jones furious, though assisting. No doubt, it was Venetia herself.
She raised the devil in him, and on the journey to the station,
though she said not a word, she managed to raise his exasperation with
the world, herself, himself and his vile position to the limit just
below the last.The last was to come.
At the station they walked through the crowd to the booking-office
where Venetia bought the tickets. Reminiscences of being taken on
journeys as a small boy by his mother flitted across the mind of Jones
and did not improve his temper.
He looked at the clock. It wanted twenty minutes of the starting
time and he was in the act of evading a barrow of luggage when Venetia
arrived with the tickets.
It had come into the mind of Jones that not only was he travelling
to Paris with the Hon. Venetia Birdbrook, in pursuit of the wife of
another man, but that they were travelling without luggage. If, in
Philadelphia, he had dreamt of himself in such a position he would have
been disturbed as to the state of his health and the condition of his
liver, yet now, in reality, the thing did not seem preposterous, he was
concerned as to the fact about the want of luggage.
Look here, said he, what are we to doI haven't even a
night-suit of pyjamas. I haven't even a toothbrush. No hotel will take
We don't want an hotel, said Venetia, we'll come back straight if
we can save Teresa. If not, if she insists in pursuing her mad course,
you had better not come back at all. Come on and let us take our places
in the train.
They moved away and she continued.
For if she does you will never be able to hold up your head again,
everyone knows how you have behaved to her.
Oh, stop it, said he irritably. I have enough to think about.
You ought to.
Only just those three words, yet they set him off.
Ought I? Well, what of yourself? She told me last night things
About me. What things?
But I do, she stopped and he stopped.
I mind very much. What things did she tell you?
Nothing much, only that you worried the life out of her, and that
though I was bad you were worse.
Venetia sniffed. She was just turning to resume her way to the train
when she stopped dead like a pointer.
That's them, she said, in a hard, tense whisper.
A veiled lady accompanied by a bearded man, with a folded umbrella
under his arm and following a porter laden with wraps and small
luggage, were making their way through the crowd towards the train.
The veil did not hide her from him. He knew at once it was she.
It was then that Venetia's effect upon him acted as the contents of
the white-paper acts when emptied into the tumbler that holds the
blue-paper-half of the seidlitz powder.
Venetia saw his face.
Don't make a scene, she cried.
That was the stirring of the spoon.
He rushed up to the bearded man and caught him by the arm. The
bearded one turned sharply and pushed him away. He was a big man; he
looked a powerful man. Dressed up as a conquering hero he would have
played the part to perfection, the sort of man women adore for their
power and manliness. He had a cigarette between his thick, red,
Jones wasn't much to look at, but he had practised at odd times at
Joe Hennessy's, otherwise known as Ike Snidebaum, of Spring Garden
Street, Philadelphia, and he had the fighting pluck of a badger.
He struck out, missed, got a drum sounder in on the left ribs, right
under the uplifted umbrella arm and the raised umbrellaand
thenswift as light got in an upper cut on the whiskers under the left
side of the jaw.
The umbrella man sat down, as men sit when chairs are pulled from
under them, then, shouting for helpthat was the humorous and pitiable
part of itscrambled on to his feet instantly to be downed again.
Then he lay on his back with arms out, pretending to be mortally
The whole affair lasted only fifteen seconds.
You can fancy the scene.
Jones looked round. Venetia and the criminal, having seen the
displayand at the National Sporting Club you often pay five pounds to
see worsewere moving away together through the throng, the floored
one with arms still out, was murmuring: Brandeebrandee, into the
ear of a kneeling porter, and a station policeman was at Jones' side.
Jones took him apart a few steps.
I am the Earl of Rochester, said he, in a half whisper. That guy
has got what he wantednever mind what he was doingkick the beast
awake and ask him if he wants to prosecute.
The constable came and stood over the head end of the sufferer, who
was now leaning on one arm.
Do you want to prosecute this gentleman? asked the constable.
Nichévo, murmured the other. No. Brandee.
Thought so, said Jones. Then he walked away towards the entrance
with the constable.
My address is Carlton House Terrace, said he. When you get that
chap on his pins you can tell him to come there and I'll give him
another dose. Here's a sovereign for you.
Thanks, your Lordship, said the guardian of the Peace, you landed
him fine, I will say. I didn't see the beginning of the scrap, but I
saw the knock outyou won't have any more bother with him.
I don't think so, said Jones.
He was elated, jubilant, a weight seemed lifted from his mind, all
his evil humour had vanished. The feel of those whiskers and the
resisting jaw was still with him, he had got one good blow in at
circumstance and the world. He could have sung. He was coming out of
the station when someone ran up from behind.
It was Venetia. Venetia, delirious and jabbering.
Teresa is in the carYou have done it nowyou have done it now.
What made you do this awful thing? Are you mad? Here in the open
stationbefore everyoneyou have h-h-heaped this last disgrace on
Oh, shut up, said Jones.
He sighted the car, ran to it and opened the door. A whimpering
bundle in the corner stretched out hands as if to ward him off.
Oh! oh! oh! sighed and murmured the bundle.
Jones caught one of the hands, leaned in and kissed it. Then he
turned to Venetia who had followed him.
Get in, he said.
She got in. He got in after her and closed the door. Venetia put her
head out of the window:
Home, cried she to the chauffeur.
Jones said nothing till they had cleared the station precincts. Then
he began to talk in the darkness, addressing his remarks to both women
in a weird sort of monologue.
All this is nothing, said he, you must both forget it. When you
hear what I have to tell you to-morrow you won't bother to remember all
this. No one that counts saw that, they were all strangers and making
for the carsI gave the officer a sovereign. What I have to say is
thisI must have a meeting of the whole family to-morrow, to-morrow
morning. Not about this affair, about something else, something
entirely to do with me. I have been trying to explain all daytried to
write it out but couldn't. I have to tell you something that will
simply knock you all out of time.
Suddenly the sniffing bundle in the corner became articulate.
I didn't want to do it, I didn't want to do itI hate himoh,
Ju-Ju, if you had not treated me so last night, I would never have done
it, never, never, never.
I know, he replied, but it was not my fault leaving you like
that. I had to go. You will know everything to-morrowwhen you hear
all you will very likely never speak to me againthough I am innocent
enough, Lord knows.
Then came Venetia's voice:
This is newHeaven knows we have had disgrace enoughwhat
else is going to fall on us?Why put it off till to-morrowwhat new
thing have you done?
Before Jones could reply, the warm hearted bundle in the corner
ceased sniffing and turned on Venetia.
No matter what he has done, you are his sister and you have no
right to accuse him.
Accuse him! cried the outraged Venetia.
Yes, accuse him; you don't say it, but you feel it. I believe you'd
be glad in some wicked way if he had done anything really terrible.
Venetia made a noise like the sound emitted by a choking hen.
Teresa had put her finger on the spot.
Venetia was not a wicked woman, she was something nearly as bad, a
Righteous woman, one of the Ever-judges. The finding out of other
people's sins gave her pleasure.
Before she could reply articulately, Jones interposed; an idea had
suddenly entered his practical mind.
Good heavens, said he, what has become of your luggage?
I don't know and I don't care, replied the roused one, let it go
with the rest.
The car drew up.
You will stay with us to-night, I suppose, said Venetia coldly.
I suppose so, replied the other.
Jones got out.
I will call here to-morrow morning at nine o'clock, said he. I
want the whole family present.Then, to the unfortunate wife of the
defunct RochesterDon't worry about what took place this evening. It
was all my fault. You will think differently about me when you hear all
in the morning.
She sighed and passed up the steps following Venetia like a woman in
a dream. When the door closed on them he took the number of the house,
then at the street corner he looked at the name of the street. It was
Curzon street. Then he walked home.
Come what might he had done a good evening's work. More than ever
did he feel the charm of this woman, her loyalty, her power of honest
What a woman! and what a fate!
It was at this moment, whilst walking home to Carlton House Terrace,
that the true character of Rochester appeared before him in a new and
Up to this Rochester had appeared to him mad, tricky, irresponsible,
but up to this he had not clearly seen the villainy of Rochester. The
woman showed it. Rochester had picked up a stranger, because of the
mutual likeness, and sent him home to play his part, hoping, no doubt,
to have a ghastly hit at his family. What about his wife? He had either
never thought of her, or he had not cared.
And such a wife!
That fellow ought to be dug up andcremated, said Jones to
himself as he opened the door with his latch key. He ought, sure.
Well, I hope I'll cremate his reputation to-morrow.
Having smoked a cigar he went upstairs and to bed.
He had been trying to think of how he would open the business on the
morrow, of what he would say to start withthen he gave up the
attempt, determining to leave everything to the inspiration of the
CHAPTER XX. THE FAMILY COUNCIL
He arrived at Curzon Street at fifteen minutes after nine next
morning, and was shown up to the drawing-room by the butler. Here he
took his seat, and waited the coming of the Family, amusing himself as
best he could by looking round at the furniture and pictures, and
listening to the sounds of the house and the street outside.
He heard taxi horns, the faint rumble of wheels, voices.
Now he heard someone running up the stairs outside, a servant
probably, for the sound suddenly ceased and was followed by a laugh as
though two servants had met on the stairs and were exchanging words.
One could not imagine any of that terrible family running up the
stairs lightly or laughing. Then after another minute or two the door
opened and the Duke of Melford entered. He was in light tweeds with a
buff waistcoat, he held a morning paper under his arm and was polishing
his eye glasses.
He nodded at Jones.
Morning, said his grace, waddling to a chair and taking his seat.
The women will be up in a moment. He took his seat and spread open
the paper as if to glance at the news. Then looking up over his
spectacles, Glad to hear from Collins you've got that land back. I was
in there just after you left and he told me.
Yes, said Jones, I've got it back. He had no time to say more as
at that moment the door opened and the women appeared, led by the
Dowager Countess of Rochester.
Venetia shut the door and they took their seats about the room
whilst Jones, who had risen, reseated himself.
Then, with the deep breath of a man preparing for a dive, he began:
I have asked you all to come here this morningI asked you to meet
me this morning because I just want to tell you the truth. I am an
intruder into your family
An intruder, cried the mother of the defunct. Arthur, what are
One moment, he went on. I want to begin by explaining what I have
done for you all and then perhaps you will see that I am an honest man
even though I am in a false position. In the last few days I have got
back one million and eight thousand pounds, that is to say the coal
mine property and other money as well, one million and eight thousand
pounds that would have been a dead loss only for me.
You have acted like a man, said the Duke of Melford, go onwhat
do you mean about intrusion?
Let me tell the thing in my own way, said Jones irritably. The
late Lord Rochester got dreadfully involved owing to his own stupidity
with a womanI call him the late Lord Rochester because I have to
announce now the fact of his death.
The effect of this statement was surprising. The four listeners sat
like frozen corpses for a moment, then they moved, casting terrified
eyes at one another. It was the Duke of Melford who spoke.
We will leave your father's name alone, said he; yes, we know he
is deadwhat more have you to say?
I was not talking of my father, said Jones, beginning to get
bogged and slightly confused, also angry, he was not my father. If you
will only listen to me without interrupting I will make things plain. I
am talking of myselfor at least the man whom I am representing, the
Earl of Rochester. I say that I am not the Earl of Rochester, he is
dead He turned to Rochester's wife. I hate to have to tell
you this right out and in such a manner, but it has to be told. I am
not your husband. I am an American. My name is Victor Jones, and I come
The Dowager Countess of Rochester who had been leaning forward in
her chair, sank back, she had fainted.
Whilst Venetia and the Duke of Melford were bringing her to, the
wife of Rochester who had been staring at Jones in a terrified manner
ran from the room. She ran like a blind person with hands outspread.
Jones stood whilst the unfortunate lady was resuscitated. She
returned to consciousness sobbing and flipping her hands, and she was
led from the room by Venetia. Beyond the door Jones heard her voice
roused in lamentation:
My boymy poor boy.
Venetia had said nothing.
Jones had expected a scene, outcries, questions, but there was
something in all this that was quite beyond him. They had asked no
questions, seemed to take the whole thing for granted, Venetia
The Duke of Melford shut the door.
Your motherI mean Lady Rochester's heart is not strong, said he,
going to the bell and touching it. I must send for the doctor to see
Jones, more than ever astonished by the coolness of the other, sat
Look here, said he, I can't make you all outyou've called me no
namesyou haven't let me fully explain, the old lady is the only one
that seems to have taken the news in. Can't you understand what I have
Perfectly, said the old gentleman, and it's the most
extraordinary thing I have ever heardand the most interestingI want
to have a long talk about it.James, to the servant who had answered
the bell, telephone for Dr. Cavendish. Her ladyship has had another
Dr. Cavendish has just been telephoned for, your grace, and Dr.
That will do, said his grace.
Yes, 'pon my soul, it's quite extraordinary, he took a cigar case
from his pocket, proffered a cigar which Jones took, and then lit one
Look here, said Jones suddenly alarmed by a new idea, you aren't
guying me, are you?you haven't taken it into your heads that I've
Mad! cried the old gentleman with a start. Neversuch an idea
never entered my mind. Whywhy should it?
Only you take this thing so quietly.
Quietlywell, what would you have? My dear fellow, what is the
good of shoutingever? Not a bit. It's bad form. I take everything as
Well, then, listen whilst I tell you how all this happened. I came
over here some time ago to rope in a contract with the British
Government over some steel fixtures. I was partner with a man named
Aaron Stringer. Well, I failed on the contract and found myself broke
with less than ten pounds in my pocket. I was sitting in the Savoy
lounge when in came a man whom I knew at once by sight, but I couldn't
place his name on him. We had drinks together in the American bar, then
we went upstairs to the lounge. He would not tell me who he was. 'Look
in the looking-glass behind you,' said he, 'and you will see who I am.'
I looked and I saw him. I was his twin image. I must tell you first
that I had been having some champagne cocktails and a whisky and soda.
I'm not used to drink. We had a jamboree together and dinner at some
place, and then he sent me home as himselfI was blind.
When I woke up next morning I said nothing but lay low, thinking it
was all a joke. I ought to have spoken at once, but didn't, one makes
mistakes in life
We all do that, said the other; yesgo on.
And later that day I opened a newspaper and saw my name and that I
had committed suicide. It was Rochester, of course, that had committed
suicide; did it on the underground.Then I was in a nice fix. There I
was in Rochester's clothes, with not a penny in my pockets; couldn't go
to the hotel, couldn't go anywhereso I determined to be Rochester,
for a while, at least.
I found his affairs in an awful muddle. You know that business
about the coal mine. Well, I've managed to right his affairs. I wasn't
thinking of any profit to myself over the business, I just did it
because it was the right thing to do.
Now I want to be perfectly plain with you. I might have carried on
this game always and lived in Rochester's shoes only for two things,
one is his wife, the other is a feeling that has been coming on me that
if I carried on any longer I might go dotty. Times I've had attacks of
a feeling that I did not know who I was. It's leading this double life,
you know. Now I want to get right back and be myself and cut clear of
all this. You can't think what it has been, carrying on this double
life, hearing the servants calling me 'your lordship.' I couldn't have
imagined it would have acted on the brain so. I've been simply crazy to
hear someone calling me by my right namewell, that's the end of the
matter, I want to settle up and get back to the States
The door opened and a servant appeared.
Dr. Simms has arrived, your grace.
The Duke of Melford rose from his chair.
One moment, said he to Jones. He left the room closing the door.
Jones tipped the ash of his cigar into a jardinière near by.
He was astonished and a bit disturbed by the cool manner in which
his wonderful confession had been received. Can it be they are laying
low and sending for the police? thought he.
He was debating this question when the door opened and the Duke
walked in, followed by a bald, elderly, pleasant-looking man; after
this latter came a cadaverous gentleman, wearing glasses.
The bald man was Dr. Simms, the cadaverous, Dr. Cavendish.
Simms nodded at Jones as though he knew him.
I have asked these gentlemen as friends of the family to step in
and talk about this matter before seeing Lady Rochester, said the
Duke. She has been taken to her room, and is not yet prepared for
I shall be delighted to help in any way, said Simms; my services,
professional or private, are always at your disposal, your grace. He
sat down and turned to Jones. Now tell us all about it, said he.
Cavendish took another chair and the Duke remained standing.
Jones felt irritated, felt somewhat as a maestro would feel who,
having finished that musical obstacle race The Grand Polonnaise, finds
himself requested to play it again.
I've told the whole thing once, said he, I can't go over it
againthe Duke knows.
Suddenly Cavendish spoke:
I understand from what his grace said on the stairs, that there is
some trouble about identity?
Some trouble, said Jones; I reckon you are right in calling it
You are Mr. Jones, I think, said Simms.
Victor Jones was the name I was christened by, answered Jones.
Quite so, American?
Now, Mr. Jones, as a matter of formality, may I ask where you live
And in Philadelphia what might be your address?
Number one thousand, one hundred and one, Walnut Street, replied
Cavendish averted his head for a moment and the Duke shifted his
position on the hearthrug, leaving his elbow on the mantel and
caressing for a moment his chin.
Simms alone remained unmoved.
Just so, said Simms. Have you any family?
I beg your pardon.
I thought you said nopemy mistake.
Not a bit, I did say nopeit's short for no.
Short for noI see, just so.
Cavendish interposed with an air of interest.
How would you spell that word? asked he. Jones resented Cavendish
I don't know, said he, this isn't a spelling bee. N-o-p-e I
suspect. You gentlemen have undertaken to question me on behalf of the
family as to my identity, I think we had better stick to that point.
Just so, said Simms, precisely
Excuse me, said the Duke of Melford, I think if Mr. erJones
wishes to prove his identity as Mr. Jones he will admit that his
actions will help. Now Lord Rochester was a very, shall we say,
fastidious person, quiet in his actions.
Oh, was he, said Jones, that's news.
Quiet, that is to say, in his movementslet it stand at that. Now
my friend Collins said to me something about the eating of a
Jones bristled. Collins had no right to tell you that, said he, I
told him that privately. When did he tell you that?
When I called, just after his interview with youhe did not say it
in anyway offensively. In fact he seemed to admire you for yourenergy
and so forth.
Did you, in fact, eat a document? asked Simms, with an air of
I didand saved a very nasty situation, and a million of
What was the document? asked Cavendish.
A bill of exchange.
Now may I ask why you did that? queried Simms.
No, you mayn't, replied Jones, it's a private affair affecting
the honour of another person.
Quite so, said Simms, but just one more question. Did you hear a
voice telling you toereat this paper?
What sort of voice was it?
It was the sort of voice that belongs to common-sense.
Ha, ha, laughed Cavendish. Good, very good,but there is just
something I want to ask. How was it, Mr.erJones, that you turned
into your present form, exchanged your position as it were with the
Earl of Rochester?
O Lord, said Jones. Then to the Duke of Melford, Tell them.
Well, said the Duke. Mr. Jones was sitting in the lounge of an
hotel when a gentleman entered whom he knew but could not recognize.
Couldn't place his name, cut in Jones.
Precisely. The gentleman said 'turn round and look in that
You've left the drinks out, said Jones.
True. Mr. Jones and the gentleman had partaken of certain drinks.
What were the drinks? put in Simms.
Champagne cocktails, whisky and soda, then a bottle of
Bollingerafter, said Jones.
Mr. Jones looked into the mirror, continued the Duke, and saw
that he was the other gentleman, that is to say, Lord Rochester.
No, the twin image, put in Jones.
The twin imagewell, after that more liquor was consumed
The chap doped me with drink and sent me home as himself, cut in
Jones, and I woke up in a strange bed with a guy pulling up the window
A guy? put in Cavendish.
A chap. Church is his nameI thought I was being bamboozled, so I
determined to play the part of Lord Rochesteryou know the rest.
Turning to the Duke of Melford.
Well, said Cavendish, I don't think we need ask any more
questions of Mr. Jones; we are convinced, I believe, that Mr. Jones
anderthe Earl of Rochester are different.
Quite so, said Simms, we are sure of his bonafides and of
course it is for the family to decide how to meet this extraordinary
situation. I am sure they will sympathize with Mr. Jones and make no
trouble. It is quite evident he had no wrong intent.
Now you are talking, said Jones.
Quite soOne more question, does it seem to you I have not been
talking at all up to this?
Jones laughed. It seems to me you have uttered one word or
twoask a bee in a bottle, has it been buzzing.
The cadaverous Cavendish, who, from his outward appearance presented
no signs of a sense of humour, exploded at this hit, but Simms remained
Quite so, said he. Well, that's all that remains to be saidbut,
now as a professional man, has not all this tried you a good deal, Mr.
Jones?I should think it was enough to try any man's health.
Oh, my health is all right, said Jones. I can eat and all that,
but, times, I've felt as if I wasn't one person or the other, that's
one of my main reasons for quitting, leaving aside other things. You
see I had to carry on up to a certain point, and, if you'll excuse me
blowing my own horn, I think I've not done bad. I could have put my
claws on all that moneyIf I hadn't been a straight man, there's a lot
of things I could have done, 'pears to me. Well, now that everything is
settled, I think that ought to be taken into consideration. I don't ask
much, just a commission on the money salved.
Decidedly, said Simms. In my opinion you are quite right. But as
a professional man my concern just a moment ago was about your health.
Oh, the voyage back to the States will put that right.
Quite so, but you will excuse my professional instinctand I am
giving you my services for nothing, if you will let meI notice signs
of nerve exhaustionLet's look at your tongue.
Jones put out his tongue.
Not bad, said Simms. Now just cross your legs.
Jones crossed his legs, right over left, and Simms, standing before
him, gave him a little sharp tap just under the right knee cap. The leg
Exaggerated patella reflex, said Simms. Nerve fag, nothing more.
A pill or two is all you want. You don't notice any difficulty in
Not much, said Jones, laughing.
Say'Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.'
'Peter Peter piped a pick' began Jones, then he laughed.
You can't say it, said Simms, cocking a wise eyebrow.
You bet I can, said the patient. 'Peter Piper pucked a pick'
Nerve exhaustion, said Simms.
Say, Doc, cut in Jones, beginning to feel slight alarm. What are
you getting at, you're beginning to make me feel frightened, there's
not anything really wrong with me, is there?
Nothing but what can be righted by care, replied Simms.
Let me try Mr. Jones with a lingual test, said Cavendish. Say:
'She stood at the door of the fish-sauce shop in the Strand welcoming
She stood at the door of the fish shauce shop in the Strand
welcom-om ming im, said Jones.
H'm, h'm, said Cavendish.
That's crazy, said Jones, nobody could say thatOh, I'm all
rightI reckon a little liver pill will fix me up.
The two doctors withdrew to a window and said a few words together.
Then they both nodded to the Duke of Melford.
Well, said the Duke, that's settled and now, Mr. Jones, I hope
you will stay here for luncheon.
Jones had had enough of that house.
Thanks, said he, but I think I'll be getting back. I want a walk.
You'll find me at Carlton House Terrace where we can finish up this
business. It's a weight off my mind now everything is overwhew! I can
tell you I'm hungry for the States.
He rose and took his hat which he had placed on the floor, nodded to
the Duke of Melford and turned to the door.
Simms was standing in front of the door.
Excuse me, said Simms, but I would not advise you to go out in
your condition, much better stay here till your nerves have recovered.
Jones stared at him.
My nerves are all right, said he.
Don't, my dear fellow, said Cavendish.
Jones turned and looked at him, then turned again to the door.
Simms was barring the way still.
Don't talk nonsense, said Jones, think I was a baby. I tell you
I'm all rightwhat on earth do you meanupon my soul, you're like a
lot of children.
He tried to pass Simms.
You must not leave this room yet, said Simms. Pray quiet
You mean to say you'll stop me?
Then in a flash he knew. These men had not been sent for to attend
the Dowager Countess of Rochester, they were alienists, and they
considered him to be RochesterRochester gone mad.
Right from the first start of his confession he had been taken for a
mad man, that was why Venetia had said nothing, that was why the old
lady had fainted, that was why his wifeat least Rochester's wife, had
run from the room like a blind woman.
He stood appalled for a moment, before this self-evident fact. Then
Open that doorget away from that door.
Sit down and quiet yourself, said Simms, staring him full
in the eye, youwillnotleave-thishouse.
It was Simms who sat down, flung away by Jones.
Then Cavendish pinioned him from behind, the Duke of Melford shouted
directions, Simms scrambled to his feet, and Jones, having won free of
Cavendish, the rough and tumble began.
They fought all over the drawing-room, upsetting jardinières, little
tables, costly china.
Jones' foot went into a china cabinet carrying destruction amongst a
concert party of little Dresden figures; Simms' portly behind bumped
against a pedestal, bearing a portrait bust of the nineteenth Countess
of Rochester, upsetting pedestal and smashing bust, and the Duke of
Melford, fine old sportsman that he was, assisting in the business with
the activity of a boy of eighteen, received a kick in the shin that
recalled Eton across a long vista of years.
Then at last they had him down on a sofa, his hands tied behind his
back with the Duke's bandanna handkerchief.
Jones had uttered no cry, the others no sound, but the bumping and
banging and smashing had been heard all over the house. A tap came to
the door and a voice. The Duke rushed to the door and opened it.
Nothing, said he, nothing wrong. Off with you.
He shut the door and turned to the couch.
Jones caught a glimpse of himself in a big mirror, happily
un-smashed, caught a glimpse of himself all tumbled and towsled with
Simms beside him and Cavendish standing by, re-fixing his glasses.
He recognised a terrible fact; though he had smashed hundreds of
pounds' worth of property, though he had fought these men like a mad
bull, now that the fight was over, they showed not the least sign of
resentment. Simms was patting his shoulder.
He had become possessed of the mournful privilege of the insane, to
fight without raising ire in one's antagonists, to smash with
impunityto murder without being brought to justice.
Also he recognised that he had been a fool. He had acted like a
mad-manthat is to say, like a man furious with anger. Anger and
madness have awful similarities.
He moved slightly away from Simms.
I reckon I've been a fool, said he, three to one is not fair
play. Come, let my hands free, I won't fight any more.
Certainly, said Simms. But let me point out that we were not
fighting you in the least, only preventing you from taking a course
detrimental to your health. Cavendish, will you kindly untie that
Cavendish obeyed, and Jones, his hands freed, rubbed his wrists.
What are you going to do now? asked he.
Nothing, said Simms, you are perfectly free, but we don't want
you to go out till your health is perfectly restored. I know, you will
say that you feel all right. No matter, take a physician's advice and
just remain here quiet for a little while. Shall we go to the library
where you can amuse yourself with the newspaper or a book whilst I make
up a little prescription for you?
Look here, said Jones. Let's talk quietly for a momentyou think
Not in the least! said Simms. You are only suffering from a nerve
Well, if I'm not mad you have no right to keep me here.
This was cunning, but, unfortunately, cunning like anger, is an
attribute of madness as well as of sanity.
Now, said Simms, with an air of great frankness, do you think
that it is for our pleasure that we ask you to stay here for a while?
We are not keeping you, just asking you to stay. We will go down to the
library and I will just have a prescription made up. Then, when you
have considered matters a bit you can use your own discretion about
Jones recognized at once that there was no use in trying to fight
this man with any other weapon than subtlety. He was fairly trapped.
His tale was such that no man would believe it, and, persisting in that
tale, he would be held as a lunatic. On top of the tale was Rochester's
bad reputation for sanity. They called him mad Rochester.
Then as he rose up and followed to the library, a last inspiration
He stopped at the drawing-room door.
Look here, said he, one moment. I can prove what I say. You send
out a man to Philadelphia and make enquiries, fetch some of the people
over that knew me. You'll find I'mmyself and that I've told you no
We will do anything you like, said Simms, but first let us go
down to the library.
They went. It was a large, pleasant room lined with books.
Simms sat down at the writing-table, whilst the others took chairs.
He wrote a prescription, and the Duke, ringing the bell, ordered a
servant to take the prescription to the chemists.
Then during the twenty minutes before the servant returned they
talked. Jones, giving again his address, that fantastic address which
was yet real, and the names and descriptions of people he knew and who
would know him.
You see, gentlemen, said he, it's just this, I have only one
crave in life just now, to be myself again. Not exactly that, but to be
recognized as myself. You can't imagine what that feeling is. You
needn't tell me. I know exactly what you think, you think I'm Rochester
gone crazy. I know the yarn I've slung you sounds crazy, but it's the
truth. The fact is I've felt at times that if I didn't get someone to
recognize me as myself I'd go crazy. Just one person to believe
in me, that's all I want and then I'd feel free of this cursed
Rochester. Put yourself in my place. Imagine that you have lost touch
with everything you ever were, that you were playing another man's part
and that everyone in the world kept on insisting you were the other
guy. Think of that for a position. Why, gentlemen, you might open that
door wide. I wouldn't want to go out, not till I had convinced one of
you at all events that my story was true. I wouldn't want to go back to
the States, not till I had convinced you that I am who I am. It seems
foolish but it's a bed-rock fact. I have to make good on this position,
convince someone who knows the facts, and so get myself back. It
wouldn't be any use my going to Philadelphia. I'd say to people I know
there, 'I'm Jones.' They'd say, 'Of course you are,' and believe me.
But then, do you see, they wouldn't know of this adventure and their
belief in me wouldn't be a bit of good. Of course I know I'm
Jones, all the same I've been playing the part of Rochester so hard
that times I've almost believed I'm him, times I've lost myself, and I
have a feeling at the back of my mind that if I don't get someone to
believe me to be who I am, I may go dotty in earnest. It's a feeling
without reason, I know. It's more like having a grit in the eye than
anything else. I want to get rid of that grit, and I can't take it out
myself, someone else must do it. One person would be enough, just one
person to believe in what I say and I would be myself again. That's why
I want you to send to Philadelphia. The mind is a curious thing,
gentlemen, the freedom of the body is nothing if the mind is not free,
and my mind can never be free till another person who knows my whole
story believes in what I say. I could not have imagined anyone being
trapped like thisI've heard of an actor guy once playing a part so
often he went loony and fancied himself the character. I'm not like
that, I'm as sane as you, it's just this uneasy, uncomfortable
feelingthis want to get absolutely clean out of this business, that's
Never mind! said Simms cheerfully, we will get you out only you
must not worry yourself. I admit that your story is strange, but
we will send to Philadelphia and make all enquiriescome in.
The servant had knocked at the door. He entered with the medicine.
Simms sent him for a wine glass and when it arrived he poured out a
Now take a dose of your medicine like a man, said the kindly
physician, jocularly, and another in four hours' time, it will re-make
Jones tossed the stuff off impatiently.
Say, said he, there's another point I've forgot. You might go to
the Savoy and get the clerk there, he'd recognize me, the bar tender in
the American bar, he'd maybe be able to recognise me too, he saw us
togetherI say I feel a bit drowsy, you haven't doped me, have you?
Simms and Cavendish, leaving the house together five minutes later,
had a moment's conversation on the steps.
What do you think of him? said Simms.
Bad, said Cavendish. He reasons on his own case, that's always
bad, and did you notice how cleverly he worked that in about wanting
someone to believe in him.
They walked down the street together.
That smash has been coming for a long time, said Simmsit's an
heirloom. It's a good thing it has come, he was getting to be a
bye-wordI wonder what it is that introduces the humorous element into
insanity; that address, for instance, one thousand one hundred and
ninety one Walnut Street, could never have strayed into a sane person's
Nor a luncheon on bills of exchange, said Cavendish. Well, he
will be all right at Hoover's. What was the dose you gave him?
Heroin, mostly, replied the other. Well, so long.
CHAPTER XXI. HOOVER'S
Jones, after the magic draught administered by Simms, entered into a
blissful condition of twilight sleep, half sleep, half drowsiness,
absolute indifference. He walked with assistance to the hall door and
entered a motor car, it did not matter to him what he entered or where
he went, he did not want to be disturbed.
He roused himself during a long journey to take a drink of something
held to his lips by someone, and sank back, tucking sleep around him
like a warm blanket.
In all his life he had never had such a gorgeous sleep as that, his
weary and harassed brain revelled in moments of semi-consciousness, and
then sank back into the last abysms of oblivion.
He awoke a new man, physically and mentally, and with an absolutely
clear memory and understanding. He awoke in a bed-room, a cheerful
bed-room, lit by the morning sun, a bed-room with an open window
through which came the songs of birds and the whisper of foliage.
A young man dressed in a black morning coat was seated in an
armchair by the window, reading a book. He looked like a superior sort
Jones looked at this young man, who had not yet noticed the
awakening of the sleeper, and Jones, as he looked at him, put facts
Simms, Cavendish, the fact that he had been doped, the place where
he was, and the young man. He had been taken here in that conveyance,
whatever it was; they had thought him madthey had carted him off to a
mad-house, this was a mad-house, that guy in the chair was an
attendant. He recognized these probabilities very clearly, but he felt
no anger and little surprise. His mind, absolutely set up and almost
renewed by profound slumber, saw everything clearly and in a true
It was quite logical that, believing him mad, they had put him in a
mad-house, and he had no fear at all of the result simply because he
knew that he was sane. The situation was amusing, it was also one to
get free frombut there was plenty of time, and there was no room for
Curiously enough, now, the passionate or almost passionate desire to
recover his own personality had vanished, or at least, was no longer
active in his mind; his brain, renewed by that tremendous sleep, was no
longer tainted by that vague dread, no longer troubled by that curious
craving to have others believe in his story and to have others
recognize him as Jones.
No, it did not matter to him just now whether he recovered his
personality in the eyes of others; what did matter to him was the
recovery of his bodily freedom. Meanwhile, caution. Like Brer Rabbit,
he determined to lie low.
Say, said Jones.
The young man by the window started slightly, rose, and came to the
What o'clock? said the patient.
It has just gone half past eight, sir, replied the other. I hope
you have slept well.
Jones noticed that this person did not my Lord him.
Not a wink, said he, tossed and tumbled all nightoh, saywhat
do you think
The young man looked puzzled.
And would you like anything now, sir?
Yesmy pants. I want to get up.
Certainly, sir, your bath is quite ready, replied the other.
He went to the fire-place and touched an electric button, then he
bustled about the room getting Jones' garments together.
The bed-room had two doors, one leading to a sitting-room, one to a
bath-room; in a minute the bath-room door opened and a voice queried,
Hot or cold?
Hot, said Jones.
Hot, said the attendant.
Hot, said the unseen person in the bath-room, as if registering
the order in his mind. Then came the fizzling of water and in a couple
of minutes the voice:
Gentleman's bath ready.
Jones bathed, and though the door of the bath-room had been shut
upon him and there was no person present, he felt all the time that
someone was watching him. When he was fully dressed, the attendant
opened the other door, and ushered him into the sitting-room, where
breakfast was laid on a small table by the window. He had the choice
between eggs and bacon and sausages, he chose the former and whilst
waiting, attracted by the pleasant summery sound of croquet balls
knocking together, he looked out of the window.
Two gentlemen in white flannels were playing croquet; stout elderly
gentlemen they were. And on a garden seat a young man in flannel
trousers and a grey tweed coat was seated watching the game and smoking
He guessed these people to be fellow prisoners. They looked happy
enough, and having noticed this fact he sat down to breakfast.
He noted that the knife accompanying his fork was blunt and of very
poor qualityof the sort warranted not to cut throats, but he did not
heed much. He had other things to think of. The men in flannels had
given him a shock. Instinctively he knew them to be inmates. He had
never considered the question of lunatics and lunatic asylums before.
Vague recollections of Edgar Allan Poe and the works of Charles Reade
had surrounded the term lunatic asylum with an atmosphere of feather
beds and brutality; the word lunatic conjured up in his mind the idea
of a man obviously insane. The fact that this place was a house quite
ordinary and pleasant in appearance, and these sane looking gentlemen
lunatics, gave him a grue.
The fact that an apparently sane individual can be held as a
prisoner was beginning to steal upon him, that a man might be able to
play croquet and laugh and talk and take an intelligent interest in
life and yet, just because of some illusion, be held as a prisoner.
He did not fully realise this yet, but it was dawning upon him. But
he did fully realise that he had lost his liberty.
Before he had finished his eggs and bacon this recognition became
The fear of losing his own personality had vanished utterly; all
that haunting dread was gone. If he could escape now, so he told
himself, he would go right back to the States. He had eight thousand
pounds in the National Provincial Bank; no one knew that it was there.
He could seize it with a clear conscience and take it to Philadelphia.
The shadow of Rochesteroh, that was a thing gone forever, dissipated
by this actual fact of lost libertyso he told himself.
A servant brought up the Times and he opened it, and lit a
Then as he looked casually over the news and the doings of the day,
an extraordinary feeling came upon him; all this printed matter was
relative to the doings and ideas of free men, men who could walk down
the street, if the fancy pleased them. It was like looking at the world
through bars. He got up and paced the floor, the breakfast things had
been removed, and the attendant had left the room and was in the
Jones walked softly to the door through which the servant had
carried away the things, and opened it gently and without noise. A
corridor lay outside, and he was just entering it when a voice from
behind made him turn.
Do you require anything, sir?
It was the attendant.
Nothing, said Jones. I was just looking to see where this place
led to. He came back into the room.
He knew now that every movement of his was watched, and he accepted
the fact without comment. He sat down and took up the Times
whilst the attendant went back to the bed-room.
He had said to himself on awaking, that a sane man, held as insane,
could always win free just by his sanity. He was taking up the line of
reasoning now and casting about him for a method.
He was not long in finding one. The brilliancy of the idea that had
all at once struck him made him cast the paper from his knees to the
floor. Then, having smoked a cigarette and consolidated his plan, he
called the attendant.
I want to see the gentleman who runs this place.
Dr. Hoover, sir?
Certainly, sir, I will ring and have him sent for.
He rang the bell, a servant answered and went off with the message.
Jones took up the paper again and resumed his cigarette. Five
minutes passed and then the door opened and a gentleman entered.
A pleasant faced, clean-shaven man of fifty, dressed in blue serge
and with a rose in his button-hole, such was Doctor Hoover. But the eye
of the man held him apart from others; a blue grey eye, keen, sharp,
hard, for all the smile upon the pleasant face.
Jones rose up.
Dr. Hoover, I think, said he.
Good morning, said the other in a hearty voice. Fine day, isn't
it? Well, how are we this morning?
Oh, I'm all right, said Jones. I want to have a little talk with
you. He went to the bed-room door, which was slightly ajar, and closed
For your sake, said Jones, it's just as well we have no one
listening, the attendant is in thereyou are sure he cannot hear what
we say, even with the door shut?
Quite, said Hoover, with a benign smile.
He was used to things like this, profoundly confidential
communications concerning claims to crowns and principalities, or
grumbles about food.
He did not expect what followed.
I am not going to grumble at your having me here, said Jones;
it's my fault for playing practical jokes. I didn't think they'd go
the length of doping me and locking me up under the name I gave them.
And what name was that? asked Hoover kindly.
Oh, and now tell me, if you are not Mr. Jones, who are you?
Who am I? Well, I can excuse the question. I'm the Earl of
This was a nasty one for Hoover, but that gentleman's face shewed
Indeed, said he, then why did you call yourself Jones?
For a joke. I slung them a yarn and they took it in. Then they gave
me a draught to compose my nerves, they thought really that I was
dotty, and I drank ityou must have seen the condition I was in when I
Hum, hum, said Hoover. He was used to the extremely cunning ways
of gentlemen off their balance, and he had a profound belief in Simms
and Cavendish, whose names endorsed the certificate of lunacy he had
received with the newcomer. He was also a man just as cunning as Jones.
Well, he said, with an air of absolute frankness, this takes me
by surprise; a practical joke, but why did you play such a practical
I know, said Jones, it was stupid, just a piece of
tom-foolerybut you see how I am landed.
Dr. Hoover ignored this evasion whilst noting it.
Then he began to ask all sorts of little questions seemingly
irrelevant enough. Did Jones think that he was morally justified in
carrying out such a practical joke? Why did he not say at once it was a
practical joke after the affair had reached a certain point? Was his
memory as good as of old? Was he sure in his own mind that he was the
Earl of Rochester? Was he sure that as the Earl of Rochester he could
hold that title against a claim that he was not the Earl? Give details
and so forth?
Now suppose, said Dr. Hoover, I were to contest the title with
you and say 'you are Mr. Jones and I am the Earl of Rochester,' how
would you establish your claim. I am simply asking, to find out whether
what you consider to be a practical joke was in fact a slight lapse of
memory on your part, a slight mind disturbance such as is easily caused
by fatigue or even work, and which often leaves effects lasting some
weeks or months.
Now I must point out to you that, aspractical joke or notyou
came here calling yourself Mr. Jones, I would be justified in asking
you for proof that you are not Mr. Jones. See my point?
Well, then, prove your case, said the physician jovially.
How can I?
Well, if you are the Earl of Rochester, let me test your memory.
Who is your banker?
Hoover did not know who the Earl of Rochester's banker might be, but
the promptness of the reply satisfied him of its truth, the promptness
was also an index of sanity. He passed at a venture to a subject on
which he was acquainted.
And how many brothers and sisters have you?
That was fatal.
Jones' eye fell under the pressure of Hoover's.
There is no use in going on with these absurd questions, said he,
a thing everyone knows.
But I just want to prove to you, said Hoover, gently, that your
mind, which in a week from now, will have quite recovered, is still a
little bit shakynow how long is it since you succeeded to the title?
It's just a test memory question.
Jones did not know. He saw that he was lost. He had also gained an
appreciation of Hoover. Beside the fat Simms and the cadaverous
Cavendish, Hoover seemed a man of keen common sense.
Jones recognized that the new position into which he had strayed was
a blind alley. If he were detained until his memory could answer
questions of which his mind knew nothing, he would be detained forever.
He came to the grand determination to try back.
Look here, said he, let's be straight with one another. I can't
answer your questions. Now if you are a man of sense, as I take you to
be, and not a man like those others, who think everyone but themselves
is mad, you will recognize why I can't answer your questions.
I'm not Rochester. I thought I'd get out of here by pretending that I'd
played a practical joke on those guys; it was a false move, I
acknowledge it, but when I fixed on the idea, I didn't know the man I
had to deal with. If you will listen to my story, I will tell you in a
few words how all this business came about.
Go on, said Hoover.
Jones told, and Hoover listened and when the tale was over, at the
end of a quarter of an hour or so, Jones scarcely believed it himself.
It sounded crazy. Much more crazy than when he had told it to the Duke
of Melford and the reason of this difference was Hoover. There was
something in Hoover's eye, something in his make up and personality,
something veiled and critical, that destroyed confidence.
I have asked them to make enquiries, finished Jones, if they will
only do that everything will be cleared up.
And you may rest content we will, said Hoover.
Now for another thing, said Jones. Till I leave this place, which
will be soon, I hope, may I ask you to tell that confounded attendant
not to be always watching me. I don't know whether you think me mad or
sane, think me mad if you like, but take it from me, I'm not going to
do anything foolish, but if anything would drive me crazy, it would be
feeling that I am always watched like a child.
Hoover paused a moment. He had a large experience of mental cases.
Then he said:
You will be perfectly free here. You can come downstairs and do as
you like. We have some very nice men staying here and you are free to
amuse yourself. I'll just ask you this, not to go outside the grounds
till your health is perfectly established. This is not a prison, it's a
sanatorium. Colonel Hawker is here for gout and Major Barstowe for
neuritis, got it in India. You will like them. There are several others
who make up my householdyou can come on down with me noware you a
Yes, I can playbut, see here, before we go down, where is this
place?I don't even know what part of the country it's in.
Sandbourne-on-sea, replied Hoover, leading the way from the room.
Now in London on the night before, something had happened. Dr.
Simms, at a dinner-party, given by Doctor Took of Bethlem Hospital had,
relative to the imagination of lunatics, given an instance:
Only to-day, said Simms, I had a case in point. A man gave me as
his supposed address, one thousand one hundred and ninety one, Walnut
But there is a Walnut Street, Philadelphia, said Took, and it's
ten miles long, and the numbers run up well towards that.
Half an hour later, Simms got into his carriage.
Savoy Hotel, Strand, said he to the coachman.
CHAPTER XXII. AN INTERLUDE
Simms in his electric brougham passed through the gas-lit streets in
the direction of the Strand, glancing at the night pageant of London,
but seeing nothing.
I love to linger over Simms, but what pages of description could
adequately describe him; buxom, sedate, plump and soothing, with the
appearance of having been born and bred in a frock-coat, above all
things discreet; you can fancy him stepping out of his brougham,
passing into the hall of the hotel and presenting his card to the clerk
with a request for an interview with the manager. The manager being
away, his deputy supplied his place.
Yes, an American gentleman of the name of Jones had stayed in the
hotel and on the night of the first of June had met with 'an accident'
on the underground railway. The police had taken charge of the
business. What address had he given when booking his room? An address
in Philadelphia. Walnut Street, Philadelphia.
Thanks, said Simms, I came to enquire because a patient of mine
fancied, seeing the report, that it might be a relative. She must have
been mistaken, for her relative resides in the city of New York. Thank
youquite sogood evening.
In the hall Simms hesitated for a moment, then he asked a page boy
for the American bar, found it and ordered a glass of soda water.
There were only one or two men in the bar and as Simms paid for his
drink he had a word with the bar tender.
Did he remember some days ago seeing two gentlemen in the bar who
were very much alike?
The bar tender did, and as an indication how in huge hotels dramatic
happenings may pass unknown to the staff not immediately concerned, he
had never connected Jones with the American gentleman of whose unhappy
demise he had read in the papers.
He was quite free in his talk. The likeness had struck him forcibly,
never seen two gentlemen so like one another, dressed differently, but
still like. His assistant had seen them too.
Quite so, said Simms; they are friends of mine and I hoped to see
them again here this eveningperhaps they are waiting in the lounge.
He finished his soda water and walked off. He sought the telephone
office and rang up Curzon Street.
The Duke of Melford had dined at home but had gone out. He was at
the Buffs' Club in Piccadilly.
Simms drove to the Club.
The Duke was in the library.
His Grace had literary leanings. His History of the Siege of
Bundlecund, of which seven hundred copies of the first edition
remained unsold, had not deterred him from attempting the Siege of
Jutjutpore. He wrote a good deal in the library of the club, and
to-night he was in the act of taking down some notes on the character
of Fooze Ali, the leader of the besiegers, when Simms was announced.
The library was deserted by all save the historian, and getting
together into a cosy corner, the two men talked.
Your Grace, said Simms, we have made a mistake. Your nephew is
dead and that man we have placed with Dr. Hoover is what he announced
himself to be.
What! What! What! cried the Duke.
There can be no doubt at all, said Simms. I have made enquiries.
He gave details. The Duke listened, his narrow brain incensed at
this monstrous statement that had suddenly risen up to confront it.
I don't believe a word of it, said he, when the recital was over,
and what's more, I won't believe it. Do you mean to tell me I don't
know my own nephew?
It's not a question of that, said Simms. It's just a question of
the facts of the case. There is no doubt at all that a man exactly like
the lateyour nephew, in fact, stayed at this hotel, that he there met
theyour nephew. There is no doubt that this man gave the address to
the hotel people he gave to us, and there is no doubt in my mind that
he could make out a very good case if he were free. That there would be
a very great scandala world scandal. Even if he were not to prove his
case, the character ofyour nephewwould be held up for inspection.
Then again, he would have very powerful backers. Now you told me of
this man Mulhausen. How would that property stand were this man to
prove his claim and prove that Lord Rochester was dead when the
transfer of the property was made to him? I am not thinking of my
reputation, finished the ingenuous Simms, but of your interests, and
I tell you quite plainly, your Grace, that were this man to escape we
would all be in a very unpleasant predicament.
Well, he won't escape, said the Duke. I'll see to that.
Quite so, but there is another matter. The Commissioners in
Well, what about them?
It is the habit of the Commissioners to visit every establishment
registered under the act and unfortunately, they are menI mean of
course that, fortunately, they are men of the most absolute probity,
but given to over-riding, sometimes, the considered opinion of those in
close touch with the cases they are brought in contact with. They would
undoubtedly make strict enquiries into the truth of the story that Lord
Rochester has just put up, and the resultI can quite see itwould
drift us into one of those exposés, those painful and
interminable lawsuits, destructive alike to property, to dignity, and
that ease of mind inseparable from health and the enjoyment of those
positions to which my labours and your Grace's lineage entitle us.
Damn the Commissioners, suddenly broke out his Grace. Do you mean
to say they would doubt my word?
Unfortunately, it is not a question of that, said Simms. It is a
question of what they call the liberty of the subject.
Damn the liberty of the subjectliberty of the subject. When a
man's mad what right has he to libertyliberty to cut people's throats
maybe. Look at that fool Arthur, liberty! Look at the use he made of
his liberty when he had it. Look what he did to Langwathby: sent a
telegram leading him to believe that his wife had broken out againyou
know how she drinksand had been gaoled in Carlisle. And the thing was
so artfully constructed, it said almost nothing. You couldn't touch him
on it. Simply said, 'Go at once to police court Carlisle.' See the art
of it? Never mentioned the woman's name. There was no libel.
Langwathby, to prosecute, would have to explain all about his wife. He
went. What happened! You know his temper. He went to Langwathby Castle
before going to the police court, and the first person he saw was his
wife. Before all the servants. Before all the servants, mind you, he
said to her, 'So they have let you out of prison and now you'd better
get out of my house.' You know her temper. Before all the servants.
Before all the servants, mind you, she accused him of that disgraceful
affair in Pont Street when he was turned out in his pyjamasand they
half ripped off himby Lord Tango's brother. Tango never knew anything
of it. Never would, but he knows now, for Lucy Jerningham was at
Langwathby when the scene occurred and she's told him. The result is
poor Langwathby will find himself in the D. C. Liberty! What right has
a man like that to talk of liberty?
Quite so, said Simms, utterly despairing of pressing home the
truth of the horrible situation upon this brain in blinkers. Quite
so. But facts are facts and the fact remains that this manI
meanerLord Rochester, possesses on your own shewing great craft and
subtlety. And he will use that with the Commissioners in Lunacy when
When do they call?
Ah, that's just it. They visit asylums and registered houses at
their own will, and the element of surprise is one of their methods.
They may arrive at Hoover's any time. I say, literally, any time.
Sometimes they arrive at a house in the middle of the night; they may
leave an asylum unvisited for a month and then come twice in one week,
and they hold everyone concerned literally in the hollows of their
hands. If denied admittance they would not hesitate to break the doors
down. Their power is absolute.
But, good God, sir, cried the Duke, what you tell me is
monstrous. It's un-English. Break into a man's house, spy upon him in
the middle of the night! Why, such powers vested in a body of men make
for terrorisation. This must be seen to. I will speak about it in the
Quite so, but, meanwhile, there is the danger, and it must be
I'll take him away from Hoover's.
Ah, said Simms.
I'll put him somewhere where these fellows won't be able to
interfere. How about my place at Skibo?
Simms shook his head.
He is under a certificate, said he. The Commissioners call at
Hoover's, inspect the books, find that Lord Rochester has been there,
find him gone, find you have taken him away. They will simply call upon
you to produce him.
How about my yacht? asked the other.
A long sea voyage for his health?
Ah, said Simms, that's better, but voyages come to an end.
How about my villa at Naples? Properly looked after there he will
be safe enough.
Of course, said Simms, that will mean he will always have to be
Of course, always. D'you think now I have got him in safety I will
let him out?
Simms sighed. The business was drifting into very dangerous waters.
He knew for a matter of fact and also by intuition that Jones was Jones
and that Rochester was dead and his unfortunate position was like this:
1. If Jones escaped from Hoover's unsoothed and furious he might
find his way to the American Consul or, horror! to some
newspaper office. Then the band would begin to play.
2. If Jones were transferred on board the Duke's yacht and
sequestrated, the matter at once became criminal, and the
prospect of long years of mental distress and dread lest the agile
Jones should break free stood before him like a nightmare.
3. It was impossible to make the Duke believe that Jones was Jones
and that Rochester was dead.
The only thing to be done was to release Jones, soothe him, bribe
him and implore of him to get back to America as quick as possible.
This being clear before the mind of Simms, he at once proceeded to
It is not so much the question of your letting him out, he said,
as of his escaping. And now I must say this. My professional
reputation is at stake and I must ask you to come with me to Curzon
Street and put the whole matter before the family. I wish to have a
The Duke demurred for a moment. Then he agreed and the two men left
At Curzon Street they found the Dowager Countess and Venetia
Birdbrook about to retire for the night. Teresa, Countess of Rochester,
had already retired, and, though invited to the conference, refused to
leave her room.
Then, in the drawing-room with closed doors, Simms, relying on the
intelligence of the women as a support, began, for the second time, his
He convinced the women, and by one o'clock in the morning, still
standing by his guns after the fashion of the defenders of Bundlecund,
the Duke had to confess that he had no more ammunition. Surrendered in
But what is to be done? asked the distracted mother of the
defunct. What will this terrible man do if we release him?
Do, shouted the Duke. Dowhy the impostor may well ask what will
we do to him.
We can do nothing, said Venetia. How can we? How can we expose
all this before the servantsand the public? It is all entirely
Teresa's fault. If she had treated Arthur properly none of this would
ever have happened. She laughed and made light of his wickedness,
Quite so, said Simms, but, my dear lady, what we have to think of
now is the man, Jones. We must remember that whilst being an extremely
astute person, inasmuch as he recovered for you that large property
from the man Mulhausen, he seems honest. Indeed, yes, it is quite
evident that he is honest. I would suggest his release to-morrow and
the tendering to him of an adequate sum, say one thousand pounds, on
the condition that he retires to the States. Then, later, we can think
of some means to account for the demise of the late Earl of Rochester
or simply leave it that he has disappeared.
The rest of this weird conclave remains unreported, Simms, however,
carrying his point and departing next day, after having seen his
patients, for Sandbourne-on-Sea, where he arrived late in the
When the hired fly that carried him from Sandbourne Station arrived
at the Hoover establishment, it found the gate wide open, and at the
gate one of the attendants standing in an expectant attitude glancing
up and down the road as though he were looking for something, or
waiting for somebody.
CHAPTER XXIII. SMITHERS
Hoover, leading the way downstairs, shewed Jones the billiard-room
on the first floor, the dining-room, the smoke-room. All pleasant
places, with windows opening on the gardens. Then he introduced him to
some gentlemen. To Colonel Hawker, just come in from an after breakfast
game of croquet, to Major Barstowe, and to a young man with no chin to
speak of, named Smithers. There were several others, very quiet people,
the three mentioned are enough for consideration.
Colonel Hawker and Major Barstowe were having an argument in the
smoking-room when Hoover and Jones entered.
I did not say I did not believe you, said Barstowe, I said it was
Strange, cried the Colonel, what do you mean by strangeit's not
the word I object to, it's the tone you spoke in.
What's the dispute? asked Hoover.
Why, said Barstowe, the Colonel was telling me he had seen pigs
in Burmah sixteen feet long, and sunflowers twenty feet in diameter.
Oh, that story, said Hoover; yes, there's nothing strange in
I'll knock any man down that doubts my word, said the Colonel,
Hoover laughed, Jones shivered.
Then the disputants went out to play another game of croquet, and
Jones, picking up with Smithers, played a game of billiards, Hoover
going off and leaving them alone.
After playing for about five minutes, Smithers, who had maintained
an uncanny silence, broke off the game.
Let's play something better than this, said he. Did you know I
No, said Jones.
Well, I'm very richLook here, he took five sovereigns from his
pocket and shewed them with pride. I play pitch and toss with these,
said he. Hoover doesn't mind so long as I don't lose them. Pitch and
toss with sovereigns is fine fun, let's have a game?
They sat on the divan and played pitch and toss. At the end of ten
minutes, Jones had won twenty pounds.
I think I will stop now, said Smithers. Give me back that
sovereign I lent you to toss with.
But you owe me twenty pounds, said Jones.
I'll pay you that to-morrow, said Smithers; these sovereigns are
not to be spent, they are only for playing with.
Oh, that doesn't matter, said Jones, handing back the coin, and
recognising that, penniless as he was, here was a small fund to be
drawn upon by cunning, should he find a means of escape. I'm rich. I'm
worth ten millions.
Ten million sovereigns?
Golden ones, like these?
I say, said Smithers, could you lend me one or two?
But you mustn't tell Hoover.
Of course I won't.
When will you lend me them?
When I get my bag of sovereigns from London. They are coming down
I like you, said Smithers. We'll be great friends, won't we?
Rather, come out in the garden.
They went out.
The garden encircled the house, big wrought iron gates, locked, gave
upon the road.
The tennis and croquet lawns lay at the back of the house, brick
walls, covered in part with fruit trees, surrounded the whole place.
The wall on the left of the house struck Jones as being practicable,
and he noticed that none of the walls were spiked or glassed. Hoover's
patients were evidently not of the dangerous and agile type.
What's at the other side of this wall? asked Jones, as they passed
along by the left hand barrier. Smithers giggled.
Girls, said he.
Girls! what sort of girls?
Little ones with long hair and bigger ones; they learn their
lessons there, it's a school. The gardener left his ladder there one
day and I climbed up. There were a lot of girls there. I nodded to
them, and they all came to the wall. I made them all laugh. I asked
them to come over the wall and toss for sovereignsthen a lady came
and told me to go away. She didn't seem to like me.
Jones, all during luncheonthe meal was served in his own
apartmentsrevolved things in his mind, Smithers amongst others.
Smithers' mania for handling gold had evidently been satisfied by
giving him these few coins to play with. They were real ones, Jones had
satisfied himself of that. Smithers, despite his want of chin, was
evidently not a person to be put off with counterfeit coin. Jones had
come down from London dressed just as he had called at Curzon Street.
That is to say in a black morning coat and grey trousers. His tall hat
had evidently been forgotten by his deporters. After luncheon he asked
for a cap to wear in the garden, and was supplied with a grey tweed
shooting cap of Hoover's.
With this on his head he took his seat in an arbour, an arbour
which, he noticed, had its opening facing the house.
Here, smoking, he continued revolving his plans, and here afternoon
tea was served to him.
Ten minutes later the colonel and the major began another game of
croquet, and five minutes after that, came from the house Smithers,
with a butterfly net in his hand.
Jones left the arbour and joined Smithers.
The sovereigns have come, said Jones.
The bag of sovereigns?
Yes, with a big red seal from the bankers. I'm going to give you
Oh, Lord, said Smithers, but you haven't said anything to
Not a wordbut you must do something for me before I give you
I want you to go up to Colonel Hawker and take him aside.
And tell him that Major Barstowe says he's a liar.
That's easy enough, said Smithers.
I'll stand by the wall here, and if any of the girls look over, as
they probably will, for I'm going to whistle to them, I'll make them
come over and toss for sovereigns.
That would be a lark, said the unfortunate.
Bother, said Jones, I've forgot.
All my sovereigns are upstairs in the bagI knowlend me yours
whilst I'm waiting.
II never lend sovereigns, said Smithers.
Why, I'm going to give you fiftyand I only ask you to lend
me five for a moment in case those girls
Smithers put his hand in his pocket and produced the coins; they
were in a little chamois leather bag. Don't open the bag, said he,
just shake it and they'll know there are sovereigns in it by the
Right, said Jones. Now go and tell Colonel Hawker that Major
Barstowe says he's a liar.
Smithers went off, butterfly net in hand.
Jones was under no delusion. He reckoned that the garden was always
under surveillance, and that a man getting over a wall would have
little chance of reaching the street, unless he managed to distract the
attention of watchers. He thought it probable that his conversation
with Smithers had been watched, and possibly the handing over of some
There was a seat just here, close to the wall. He sat down on it,
pulled his cap over his eyes, and stretched out his legs. Then under
the peak of the cap, he watched Smithers approaching Colonel Hawker,
interrupt him just as he was on the point of making a stroke, and lead
The effect on the colonel's mind of the interruption to his stroke,
followed by the sudden information that his veracity had been
impeached, was miraculous and sudden as the slap on the side of the
face that sent the butterfly hunter flying. The attack on Barstowe, who
seemed to fight well, the cries, the shouts, the imprecations, the fact
that half a dozen people, inmates and attendants, joined in the
confusion as if by magic, all this was nothing to Jones, nor was the
subsidiary fact that one of the inmates, a quiet mannered clergyman,
with a taste for arson, had taken advantage of the confusion and was
patiently and sedulously at work, firing the thatch of the summer house
in six different places, with a long concealed box of matches.
Jones, on the stroke of the Colonel, had risen from the seat, and
with the aid of a wall-trained plum tree, had reached the top of the
wall and dropped on the other side into a bed of mignonette. It was a
hockey day at the school, and there were no girls in the garden. He ran
across it to the open front gate and reached the road, ran down the
road, which was deserted, and burning in the late afternoon sunshine,
reached a side road and slackened his pace. All the roads were of the
same pattern, broad, respectable, and lined with detached and
semi-detached houses set in gardens, and labelled according to the
owner's fancy. Old Anglo-Indian colonels and majors lived here, and one
knew their houses by such names as Lucknow, Cawnpore, etc., just as
one knows azaleas by their blossoms. Jones, like an animal making for
cover, pushed on till he reached a street of shops. A long, long
street, running north and south with the shop fronts on the eastern
side, sun-blinded and sunlit. A peep of blue and perfect sea shewed at
the end of the street, and on the sea the white sail of a boat.
Sandbourne-on-Sea is a pleasant place to stay at, but Jones did not
want to stay there.
His mind was working feverishly. There was sure to be a railway
station somewhere, and, as surely, the railway station would be the
first place they would hunt for him.
London was his objective. London and the National Provincial Bank,
but of the direction or the distance to be travelled, he knew no more
than the man in the moon.
CHAPTER XXIV. HE RUNS TO EARTH
As the fox seeks an earth, he was seeking for a hole to hide in.
Across the road a narrow house, set between a fishmonger's shop and a
sea-side library, displayed in one of its lower windows a card with the
word Apartments. Jones crossed the road to this house and knocked at
the hall door. He waited a minute and a half, ninety seconds, and every
second a framed vision of Hoover in pursuit, Hoover and his assistants
streaming like hounds on a hot scent. Then he found a decrepit bell and
Almost on the pull the door opened, disclosing a bustless,
sharp-eyed and cheerful-looking little woman of fifty or so, wearing a
cameo brooch and cornelian rings. She wore other things but you did not
Have you rooms to let? asked Jones.
Well, sir, I have the front parlour unoccupied, replied the
landlady, and two bed-rooms on the top floor. Are there any children?
No, said Jones. I came down here alone for a holiday. May I see
She took him to the top front bed-room first. It was clean and tidy,
just like herself, and gave a cheery view of the shop fronts on the
opposite side of the street.
Jones, looking out of the window, saw something that held him for a
moment fascinated and forgetful of his surroundings and his companion.
Hoover, no less, walking hurriedly and accompanied by a man who looked
like a gardener. They were passing towards the sea, looking about them
as they went. Hoover had the appearance of a person who has lost a
purse or some article of value, so Jones thought as he watched them
vanish. He turned to the landlady.
I like this room, said he, it is cheerful and quiet, just the
sort of place I want. Now let's see the parlour.
The parlour boasted of a horsehair sofa, chairs to match, pictures
to match, and a glass fronted bookcase containing volumes of the Sunday
Companion, Sword and Trowel, Home Influence, and Ouida's Moths in the
old, yellow-back, two shilling edition.
Very nice indeed, said Jones. What do you charge?
Well, sir, said the landladyher name was Henshawit's a pound
a week for the two rooms without board, two pounds with.
Any extras? asked the artful Jones.
Well, that will do me nicely. I came along here right from the
station, and my portmanteau hasn't arrived, though it was labelled for
here, and the porter told me he had put it on the train. I'll have to
go up to the station this evening again to see if it has arrived.
Meanwhile, seeing I haven't my luggage with me, I'll pay you in
She assured him that this was unnecessary, but he insisted.
When she had accepted the money she asked him what he would have for
supper, or would he prefer late dinner.
Supper, replied Jones, oh, anything. I'm not particular.
Then he found himself alone. He sat down on the horsehair sofa to
think. Would Hoover circularise his description and offer a reward? No,
that was highly improbable. Hoover's was a high class establishment, he
would avoid publicity as much as possible, but he would be pretty sure
to use the intelligence, such as it was, of the police, telling them to
act with caution.
Would he make inquiries at all the lodging-houses? That was a
doubtful point. Jones tried to fancy himself in Hoover's position and
One thing certainly Hoover would do. Have all the exits from
Sandbourne-on-Sea watched. That was the logical thing to do, and Hoover
was a logical man.
There was nothing to do but give the hunt time to cool off, and at
this thought the prospect of days of lurking in this room of right
angles and horsehair-covered furniture, rose up before him like a black
billow. Then came the almost comforting thought, he could not lurk
without creating suspicion on the part of Mrs. Henshaw. He would have
to get out, somehow. The weather was glorious, and the strip of seaweed
hanging by the mantelpiece dry as tinder. A sea-side visitor who sat
all day in his room in the face of such weather, would create a most
unhealthy interest in the mind of any sea-side landlady. No, whatever
else he might do he could not lurk.
The most terrible things in dramatic situations are the little
things that speak to one for once in their lives. The pattern of the
carpet that tells you that there is no doubt of the fact that your wife
has run away with all your money, and left you with seven children to
look after, the form of the chair that tells you that Justice with a
noose in her hand is waiting on the front door step. Jones, just now,
was under the obsession of the picture of the room, whose place
was above the mantelpiece.
It was an oleograph of a gentleman in uniform, probably the Prince
Consort, correct, sane, urbanea terrible comparison for a man in an
insane situation, for insanity is not confined to the brain of man or
its productionsthough heaven knows she has a fine field of movement
A thundering rat-tat-tat at the hall door brought Jones to his feet.
He heard the door answered, a voice outside saying N'k you and the
door shut. It was some parcel left in. Then he heard Mrs. Henshaw
descending the kitchen stairs and all was quiet. He turned to the
bookcase, opened it, inspected the contents, and chose Moths.
CHAPTER XXV. MOTHS
In ill-health or convalescence, or worry or tribulation, the
ordinary mind does not turn to Milton or Shakespeare, or even to the
sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. There are few classics that will
stand the test of a cold in the head, or a fit of depression, or a
worrying husband, or a minor tragedy. Here the writer of light
fiction stands firm.
Jones had never been a great reader, he had read a cheap novel or
two, but his browsings in the literary fields had been mainly confined
to the uplands where the grass is improving.
Colour, poetry, and construction in fiction were unknown to him, and
nowhe suddenly found himself on the beach at Trouville.
On the beach at Trouville with Lady Dolly skipping before him in the
He had reached the forced engagement of the beautiful heroine to the
wicked Russian Prince, when the door opened and the supper tray
entered, followed by Mrs. Henshaw. Left to honour and her own
initiative she had produced a huge lobster, followed by cheese, and
three little dull looking jam tarts on a willow pattern plate.
When Jones had ruined the lobster and devoured the tarts he went on
with the book. The lovely heroine had become for him Teresa, Countess
of Rochester, the Opera singer himself, and the Russian Prince
Then the deepening dusk tore him from the book. Work had to be done.
He rang the bell, told Mrs. Henshaw that he was going to the railway
station to see after his luggage, took his cap, and went out. Strangely
enough he did not feel nervous. The first flurry had passed, and he had
adapted himself to the situation, the deepening darkness gave him a
sense of security, and the lights of the shops cheered him somehow.
He turned to the left towards the sea.
Fifty yards down the street he came across a Gentlemen's Outfitters,
in whose windows coloured neckties screamed, and fancy shirts raised
their discordant voices with Gent's summer waistcoats and those panama
hats, adored in the year of this story by the river and sea-side youth.
Jones, under the hands of Rochester's valet, and forced by
circumstances to use Rochester's clothes, was one of the best dressed
men in London. Left to himself in this matter he was lost. He had no
idea of what to wear or what not to wear, no idea of the social
damnation that lies in tweed trousers not turned up at the bottom,
fancy waistcoats, made evening ties, a bowler worn with a black morning
coat, or dog-skin gloves. Heinenberg and Obermann of Philadelphia had
dressed him till Stultz unconsciously took the business over. He was
barely conscious of the incongruity of his present get-up topped by the
tweed shooting cap of Hoover's, but he was quite conscious of the fact
that some alteration in dress was imperative as a means towards escape
He entered the shop of Towler and Simpkinson, bought a six and
elevenpenny panama, put it on and had the tweed cap done up in a
parcel. Then a flannel coat attracted him, a grey flannel tennis coat
price fifteen shillings. It fitted him to a charm, save for the almost
negligible fact that the sleeves came down nearly to his knuckles. Then
he bought a night shirt for three and eleven, and had the whole lot
done up in one parcel.
At a chemist's next door he bought a tooth brush. In the mirror
across the counter he caught a glimpse of himself in the panama. It
seemed to him that not only had he never looked so well in any other
head gear, but that his appearance was completely altered.
Charmed and comforted he left the shop. Next door to the chemist's
and at the street corner was a public house.
Jones felt certain from his knowledge of Hoover that the very last
place to come across one of his assistants would be a public house. He
entered the public bar, took a seat by the counter and ordered a glass
of beer and a packet of cigarettes. The place was rank with the fumes
of cheap tobacco and cigarettes and the smell of beer. Hard gas light
shewed no adornment, nothing but pitch pine panelling, spittoons,
bottles on shelves and an almanac. The barmaid, a long-necked girl with
red hands, and cheap rings and a rose in her belt, detached herself
from earnest conversation with a youth in a bowler inhabiting the
saloon bar, pulled a handle, dumped a glass of beer before Jones and
gave him change without word or glance, returning to her conversation
with the bowlered youth. She evidently had no eyes at all for people in
the public bar. There are grades, even in the tavern.
Close to where Jones had taken his seat was standing a person in
broken shoes, an old straw hat, a coat, with parcels evidently in the
tail pockets, and trousers frayed at the heels. He had a red unshaven
face, and was reading the Evening Courier.
Suddenly he banged the paper with the tips of the fingers of his
right hand and cast it on the counter.
Govinment! Govinment! nice sort of govinment, payin' each other
four hundred a year for followin' Asquith and robbin' the landowners to
get the moneyGod lumme.
He paused to light a filthy clay pipe. He had his eyes on Jones, and
evidently considered him, for some occult reason, of the same way of
political thinking as himself, and he addressed him in that impersonal
way in which one addresses an audience.
They've downed and outed the House o' Lords, an' now they're
scraggin' the Welsh Church, after that they'll go for the Landed
Prepriotor and finish him. And who's to blame? the Radicalsno,
they ain't to blame, no more than rats for their instincts; we're to
blame, the Conservatives is to blame, we haven't got a fightin' man to
purtect us. The Radicals has got all the tallantyou look at the fight
Bonna Lor's been makin' this week. Fight! A blind Tom cat with his head
in an old t'marter tin would make a better fight than Bonna Lor's put
up. Look at Churchill, that chap was one of us once, he was born to
lead the clarses, an' now look at him leadin' the marses, up to his
neck in Radical dirt and pretendin' he likes it. He doesn't, but he's a
man with an eye in his head and he knows what we are, a boneless lot
without organisation. I say it myself, I said it only larst night in
this here bar, and I say it again, for two pins I'd chuck my party. I
would so. For two pins I'd chuck the country, and leave the whole lot
to stew in their own grease.
He addressed himself to his beer, and Jones, greatly marvelling, lit
Do you live here? asked he.
Sh'd think I did, replied the other. Born here and bred here, and
been watchin' the place going down for the last twenty years, turnin'
from a decent residential neighbourhood to a collection of schools and
lodgin' houses, losin' clarse every year. Why the biggest house here is
owned by a chap that sells patent food, there's two socialists on the
town council, and the Mayor last year was Hoover, a chap that owns a
lunatic 'sylum. One of his loonies got out last March and near did for
a child on the Southgate Road before he was collared; and yet they make
a Mayor of him.
Have another drink? said Jones.
I don't mind if I do.
Well, here's luck, said he, putting his nose into the new glass.
Luck! said Jones. Do Hoover's lunatics often escape?
Escapewhy I heard only an hour ago another of them was out. Gawd
help him if the town folk catch him at any of his tricks, and Gawd help
Hoover. A chap has no right comin' down and settin' up a business like
that in a place like this full of nursemaids and children. People bring
their innercent children down here to play on the sands, and any minit
that place may break loose like a bum-shell. That's not marked
down on the prospectices they publish with pictures done in blue and
yaller, and lies about the air and water, and the salubriarity of the
No, I suppose not, said Jones.
Well, I must be goin', said the other, emptying his glass and
wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. Good night to you.
The upholder of Church and State shuffled out, leaving Jones to his
thoughts. Wind of the business had got about the town, and even at that
moment no doubt people were carefully locking back doors and looking in
It was unfortunate that the last man to escape from the Hoover
establishment had been violently inclined, that was the one thing
needed to stimulate Rumour and make her spread.
Having sat for ten minutes longer and consumed another glass of
tepid beer, he took his departure.
Mrs. Henshaw let him in, and having informed her of his journey to
the station, the fruitlessness of his quest, and his opinion of the
railway company, its servants and its methods, he received his candle
and went to bed.
CHAPTER XXVI. A TRAMP, AND OTHER
He was awakened by a glorious morning, and, looking out of his
window, he saw the street astir in the sunshine, stout men in white
flannels with morning newspapers in their hands, children already on
their way to the beach with spades and buckets, all the morning life of
an English seacoast town in Summer.
Then he dressed. He had no razor, his beard was beginning to show,
and to go about unshaved was impossible to his nature. For a moment the
wild idea of letting his beard growthat oldest form of
disguiseoccurred to him, only to be dismissed immediately. A beard
takes a month to grow, he had neither the time nor the money to do it,
nor the inclination.
At breakfasttwo kippered herrings and marmaladehe held a council
of war with himself.
Nature has equipped every animal with means for offence and defence.
To man she has given daring, and that strange indifference in cool
blood to danger, when danger has become familiar, which seems the
attribute of man alone.
Jones determined to risk everything, go out, prospect, find some
likely road of escape, and make a bold dash. The eight thousand pounds
in the London Bank shone before him like a galaxy of eight stars; no
one knew of its existence. What he was to do when he had secured it was
a matter for future consideration. Probably he would return right away
to the States.
One great thing about all this Hoover business was the fact that it
had freed him from the haunting dread of those terrible sensations of
duality and negation. Fighting is the finest antidote to nerve troubles
and mental dreads, and he was fighting now for his liberty, for the
fact stood clearly before him, that, whether the Rochester family
believed him to be Rochester or believed him to be Jones, it was to
their interest to hold him as a lunatic in peaceful retirement.
Having breakfasted he lit a cigarette, asked Mrs. Henshaw for a
latch key so that he might not trouble her, put on his panama and went
out. There was a barber's shop across the way, he entered it, found a
vacant chair and was shaved. Then he bought a newspaper and strolled in
the direction of the beach. The idea had come to him that he might be
able to hire a sailing boat and reach London that way, a preposterous
and vague idea that still, however, led him till he reached the
esplanade, and stood with the sea wind blowing in his face.
The only sailing boats visible were excursion craft, guarded by
longshoremen, loading up with trippers, and showing placards to allure
The sands were swarming, and the bathing machines crawling towards
He came on to the beach and took his seat on the warm, white sands,
with freedom before him had he been a gull or a fish. To take one of
those cockleshell row boats and scull a few miles down the coast would
lead him where? Only along the coast, rock-strewn beyond the sands and
faced with cliffs. Of boat craft he had no knowledge, the sea was
choppy, and the sailing boats now out seemed going like race horses
No, he would wait till after luncheon, then in that somnolent hour
when all men's thoughts are a bit dulled, and vigilance least awake, he
would find some road, on good hard land, and make his dash.
He would try and get a bicycle map of this part of Wessex. He had
noticed a big stationers' and book-sellers' near the beach, and he
would call there on his way back.
Then he fell to reading his paper, smoking cigarettes, and watching
Watching, he was presently rewarded with the sight of the present
day disgrace of England. Out of a bathing tent, and into the full
sunlight, came a girl with nothing on, for skin tight blue stockinette
is nothing in the eyes of Modesty; every elevation, every depression,
every crease in her shameless anatomy exposed to a hundred pairs of
eyes, she walked calmly towards the water. A young man to match
followed. Then they wallowed in the sea.
Jones forgot Hoover. He recalled Lady Dolly in MothsLady Dolly,
who, on the beach of Sandbourne-on-Sea would have been the pink of
propriety, and the inhabitants of this beach were not wicked society
people, but respectable middle class folk.
That's pretty thick, said Jones to an old gentleman like a goat
sitting close to him, whose eyes were fixed in contemplation on the
That girl in blue. Don't any of them wear decent clothes?
The scraggy ones do, replied the other, speaking in a far away and
At about half past eleven Jones left the beach, tired of the glare
and the bathers, and the sand digging children. He called at the book
shop, and for a shilling obtained a bicycle map of the coast, and
sitting on a seat outside the shop scanned it.
There were three roads out of Sandbourne-on-Sea; the London road; a
road across the cliffs to the west; and a road across the cliffs to the
east. The easterly road led to Northbourne, a sea-side town some six or
seven miles away, the westerly road to Southbourne, some fifteen miles
off. London lay sixty miles to the north. The railway touched the
London road at Houghton Admiral, a station some nine miles up the line.
That was the position. Should he take the London road and board a
train at Houghton Admiral, or take the road to Northbourne and get a
train from there?
The three ways lay before him like the three Fates, and he
determined on the London road.
However, Man proposes and God disposes.
He folded up the map, put it in his pocket and started for homeor
at least Mrs. Henshaw's.
Just at the commencement of the street he paused before a
photographer's to inspect the pictures exposed for view. Groups, family
parties, children, and girls with undecided features. He turned from
the contemplation of these things and found himself face to face with
Hoover must have turned into the street from a bye way, for only
sixty seconds before the street had been Hooverless. He was dressed in
a Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers, and his calves showed huge.
Hello! said Jones.
The exclamation was ejected from him so to speak, by the mental
Hoover's hand shot out to grasp his prey. What happened then was
described by Mr. Shonts, the German draper across the way, to a friend.
The thin man hit Mr. Hoover in the stomack, who sat down, but
lifted himself at wance and pursued him.
Jones ran. After him followed a constable, sprung from nowhere,
boys, a dog that seemed running for exercise, and Hoover.
He reached the house of Mrs. Henshaw, pulled the latch key from his
pocket, plunged it in the lock, opened the door and shut it. So close
was the pursuit on him that the bang-bang of the knocker followed at
once on the bang of the door.
Then the bell went, peal after peal.
Jones made for the kitchen stairs and bolted down them, found a
passage leading to the back door, and, disregarding the bewildered Mrs.
Henshaw, who was coming out of the kitchen with her hands all over
flour, found the back yard.
A blank wall lay before him, another on the right, and another on
the left. The left and right walls divided the Henshaw back yard from
the yards of the houses on either side, the wall immediately before him
divided it from the back yard of a house in Minerva Terrace, which was
parallel to the High Street.
Jones chose this wall. A tenantless dog kennel standing before it
helped him, and next moment he was over, shaken up with a drop of
twelve feet and facing a clothes line full of linen. He dived under a
sheet and almost into the back of a broad woman hanging linen on a
second clothes line, found the back door of the house, which the broad
woman had left open, ran down a passage, up a kitchen stairs and into a
hall. An old gentleman in list slippers, coming out of a room on the
right, asked him what he wanted. Jones, recalling the affair later,
could hear the old gentleman's voice and words.
He did not pause to reply. He opened the hall door, and the next
moment he was in Minerva Terrace. It was fortunately deserted. He ran
to the left, found a bye way and a terrace of artisans' dwellings, new,
hideous, and composed of yellow brick. In front of the terrace lay
fields. A gate in the hedge invited him, he climbed over it, crossed a
field, found another gate which led him to another field, and found
himself surrounded by the silence of the country, a silence pierced and
thrilled by the songs of larks. Larks make the sea lands of the south
and east coasts insufferable. One lark in a suitable setting, and, for
a while, is delightful, but twenty larks in all grades of ascent and
descent, some near, some distant, make for melancholy.
Jones crouched in a hedge for a while to get back his breath. He was
lost. Road maps were not much use to him here. The larks insisted on
that, jubilantly or sorrowfully according to the stage of their flight.
Then something or someone immediately behind him on the other side
of the hedge breathed a huge sigh, as if lamenting over his fate. He
jumped up. It was a cow. He could see her through the brambles and
smell her too, sweet as a Devonshire dairy.
Then he sat down again to think and examine the map, which he had
fortunately placed in his pocket. The roads were there but how to reach
them was the problem, and the London road, to which he had pinned his
faith, was now impossible. It would be surely watched. He determined,
after a long consultation with himself, to make for Northbourne,
striking across the fields straight ahead, and picking up the cliff
road somewhere on its course.
He judged, and rightly enough, that Hoover would hunt for him, not
along the coast but inland. Northbourne was not the road to London,
even though a train might be caught from Northbourne. The whole
business was desperate, but this course seemed the least desperate way
out of it. And he need not hurry, speed would be of no avail in this
race against Fate.
He took the money from his pocket and counted it. Out of the nine
pounds he started with from Hoover's there remained only five pounds
eleven and ninepence.
He had spent as follows:
Mrs. Henshaw £2 0 0
Panama 6 11
Nightshirt 3 11
Coat 15 0
Public House 10
Shave and Newspaper 7
Road Map 1 0
£3 8 3
He went over these accounts and checked them in his head. Then he
put the money back in his pocket and started on his way across the
Despite all his worries this English country interested him, it also
annoyed him. Fields, the size of pocket handkerchiefs, divided one from
the other by monstrous hedges and deep ditches. To cross this country
in a straight line one would want to be a deer or a bounding kangaroo.
Gates, always at corners and always diagonal to his path, gave him
access from one field to the other. Trees there were none. The English
tree has an antipathy to the sea, and keeps away from it, but the hedge
has no sensitiveness of this sort. These hedges seemed to love the sea,
to judge by their size.
He was just in the act of clambering over one of the innumerable
gates when a voice hailed him. He looked back. A young man in leggings,
who had evidently been following him unperceived, raised a hand. Jones
finished his business with the gate, and then, with it between him and
the stranger, waited. He was well dressed in a rough way, evidently a
superior sort of farmer, and physically a person to be reckoned with.
He was also an exceedingly cantankerous looking individual.
Do you know that you are trespassing? asked he, when they were
within speaking distance.
No, said Jones.
Well, you are. I must ask you for your name and address, please.
What on earth forwhat harm am I doing your old fields? Jones had
forgotten his position, everything, before the outrage on common sense.
You are trespassing, that's all. I must ask you for your name and
Now to Jones came the recollection of something he had read
somewhere. A statement, that in England there was no law of trespass in
the country places, and that a person might go anywhere to pick
mushrooms or wild flowers, and no landlord could interfere so long as
no damage was done.
Don't you know the law? asked Jones. He recited the law
accordingly, to the Unknown.
The other listened politely.
I ask you for your name and address, said he. Our lawyers will
settle the other matter.
Then anger came to Jones.
I am the Earl of Rochester, said he, and my address is Carlton
House Terrace, London. I have no cards on me.
Then the queerest sensation came to Jones, for he saw that the other
had recognised him. Rochester was evidently as well known to the
ordinary Englishman, by picture and repute, as Lloyd George.
I beg your pardon, said the other, but the fact is that my land
is over-run with people from Sandbournesorry.
Oh, don't mention it, replied the Earl of Rochester. I sha'n't do
any damage. Good day. They parted and he pursued his way.
A mile farther on he came upon a person with broken boots, a beery
face, and clothes to match his boots. This person was seated in the
sunshine under a hedge, a bundle and a tin can beside him.
He hailed Jones as Guvernor and requested a match.
Jones supplied the match, and they fell into conversation.
Northbourne, said the tramp. I'm goin' that way meself. I'll shew
you the quickest way when I've had a suck at me pipe.
Jones rested for a moment by the hedge whilst the pipe was lit. The
trespass business was still hot in his mind. The cave-in of the
Landlord had not entirely removed the sense of outrage.
Aren't you afraid of being held up for trespass? asked he.
Trespass, replied the other, not me. I ain't afeared of no
Jones gave his experience.
Don't you be under no bloomin' error, said the tramp, when the
recital was finished. That chap was right enough. That chap couldn't
touch the likes of me, unless he lied and swore I'd broke fences, but
he could touch the likes of you. I know the Lor. I know it in and out.
Landlords don't know it as well as me. That chap knows the lor, else he
wouldn't a' been so keen on gettin' your name and where you lived.
But how could he have touched me if he cannot touch you?
The tramp chuckled.
I'll tell you, said he, and I'll tell you what he'll do now he's
got where you live. He'll go to the Co't o' Charncery and arsk for a
'junction against you to stop you goin' over his fields. You don't want
to go over his fields any more, that don't matter. He'll get his
'junction and you'll have to pay the bloomin' costsseethe bloomin'
costs, and what will that amahnt to? Gawd knows, maybe a hundred pound.
Lots of folks take it into their silly heads they can go where they
want. They carnt, not if the Landlord knows his Lor, not unless they're
hoofin' it like me. Lot o' use bringin' me up to the Co't o'
Do you mean to say that just for walking over a field a man can be
had up to the court of Chancery and fined a hundred pounds?
He ain't fined, it's took off him in costs.
You seem to know a lot about the law, said Jones, calling up the
man of the public house last night, and coming to the conclusion that
amongst the English lower orders there must be a vast fund of a
peculiar sort of intelligence.
Yes, said the tramp. I told you I did. Then interestedly, What
might your name be?
Jones repeated the magic formula to see the effect.
I am the Earl of Rochester.
Lord Rochester. Thought I knew your face. Lost half a quid over
your horse runnin' at Gatwood Park last Spring twel' months. 'White
Lady' came in second to 'The Nun,' half a quid. I'd made a bit on
'Champane Bottle' in the sellin' plate. Run me eye over the lists and
picked out 'White Lady.' Didn't know nothin' abaht her, said to a
fren', 'here's my fancy. Don't know nothin' abaht her, but she's one of
Lord Rawchester's, an' his horses run stright'That's what I
said'His horses run stright' and give me a stright run boss with a
wooden leg before any of your fliers with a dope in his belly or a
pullin' jockey on his back. But the grown' did her, she was beat on the
post by haff an 'eck, you'll remember. She'd a won be two lengths, on'y
for that bit o' soggy grown' be the post. That grown' want
over-haulin', haff a shower o' rain, and boss wants fins and flippers
instead o' hoofs.
Yes, said Jones, that's so.
A few barra' loads o' gravel would put it rite, continued the
other, it ain't fair on the hosses, and it ain't fair on the backers,
'arf a quid I dropped on that mucky bit o' grown'. Last Doncaster
meetin' I was sayin' the very same thing to Lor' Lonsdale over the
Doncaster Course. I met him, man to man like, outside the ring, and he
handed me out a cigar. We talked same as you and me might be talkin'
now, and I says to him: 'What we want's more money put into drains on
the courses. Look at them mucky farmers they way they drains their
land,' said I, 'and look at us runnin' hosses and layin' our bets and
let down, hosses and backers and all, for want of the courses bein'
looked after proper.'
He tapped the dottle out of his pipe, picked up the bundle, and rose
Then he led the way in the direction of Northbourne.
It was a little after three o'clock now, and the day was sultry.
Jones, despite his other troubles, was vastly interested in his
companion. The height of Rochester's position had never appeared truly
till shown him by the farmer and this tramp. They knew him. To them,
without any doubt, the philosophers and poets of the world were
unknown, but they knew the Earl of Rochester, and not unfavourably.
Millions upon millions of the English world were equally acquainted
with his lordship, he was most evidently a National figure. His
unconventionality, his larks, his lavishness, and his horse racing
propensities, however they might pain his family, would be meat to the
legions who loved a lord, who loved a bet, who loved a horse, and a
To be Rochester was not only to be a lord, it was more than that. It
was to be famous, a national character, whose picture was printed on
the retina of the million. Never had Jones felt more inclined to stick
to his position than now, with the hounds on his traces, a tramp for
his companion, and darkness ahead. He felt that if he could once get to
London, once lay his hands on that eight thousand pounds lying in the
National Provincial Bank, he could fight. Fight for freedom, get
lawyers to help him, and retain his phantom coronet.
He had ceased to fear madness; all that dread of losing himself had
vanished, at least for the moment. Hoover had cured him.
Meanwhile they talked as they went, the tramp laying down the law as
to rights over commons and waste lands, seeming absolutely to forget
that he was talking to, or supposed to be talking to, a landed
proprietor. At last they reached the white ribbon that runs over the
cliffs from Sandbourne to Northbourne and beyond.
Here's the road, said the tramp, and I'll be takin' leave of your
lor'ship. I'll take it easy for a bit amongst them bushes, there's no
call for me to hurry. I shawnt forget meetin' your lor'ship. Blimy if I
will. Me sittin' there under that hedge an' thinkin' of that half quid
I dropped over 'White Lady' and your lor'ship comin' alongIt gets
Up to this moment of parting he had not once Lordshipped Jones.
Jones, feeling in his pocket, produced the half sovereign, which,
with five pounds one and nine pence made up his worldly wealth at the
He handed it over, and the tramp spat on it for luck.
Then they parted, and the fugitive resumed his way with a lighter
pocket but a somewhat lighter heart.
There are people who increase and people who reduce one's energy, it
is sometimes enough to look at them without even talking to them. The
tramp belonged to the former class. He had cheered Jones. There was
nothing particularly cheery in his conversation, all the same the
effect had been produced.
Now, along the cliff road and coming from the direction of
Northbourne a black speck developed, resolving itself at last into the
form of an old man carrying a basket. The basket was filled with apples
and Banbury cakes. Jones bought eight Banbury cakes and two apples with
his one and nine pence, and then took his seat on the warm turf by the
way to devour them. He lay on his side as he ate and cursed Hoover.
To lie here for an hour on this idyllic day, to watch the white
gulls flying, to listen to the whisper of the sea far below, what could
be better than that? He determined if ever he should win freedom and
money to return here for a holiday.
He was thinking this, when, raised now on his elbow, he saw
something moving amongst the bushes and long grass of the waste lands
bordering the cliff road.
It was a man, a man on all fours, yet moving swiftly, a sight
natural enough in the deer-stalking Highlands, but uncanny on these
Jones leaving four Banbury cakes uneaten on the grass, sprang to his
feet, so did the crawling one.
Then the race began.
The pursuer was handicapped.
Any two sides of a triangle are longer than the third. A right line
towards Jones would save many yards, but the going would be bad on
account of the brambles and bushes, a straight line to the road would
lenghten the distance to be covered, but would give a much better
course when the road was reached. He chose the latter.
The result was, that when the race really started the pursuer was
nearly half a mile to the bad. But he had not recently consumed four
Banbury cakes and two apples. Super-Banbury cakes of the dear old days,
when margarine was ninepence a pound, flour unlimited, and currants
unsought after by the wealthy.
Jones had not run for years. And in this connection it is quite
surprising how Society pursues a man once he gets over the barrierand
especially when he has to run for his liberty.
The first mile was bad, then he got his second wind handed to him,
despite everything, by a fair constitution and a fairly respectable
life, but the pursuer was now only a quarter of a mile behind. Up to
this the course had been clear with no spectators, but now came along
from the direction of Northbourne an invalid on the arm of an
attendant, and behind them a boy on a bicycle. The bicycle was an
It was also yellow painted, and bore a carrier in front blazoned
with the name of a Northbourne Italian Warehouseman. It contained
parcels, evidently intended for one of the few bungalows that strewed
The boy fought to defend his master's property, briefly, but still
he fought, till a happy stroke in the wind laid him on the sun-warmed
turf. The screams of the invalidit was a femalesounded in the ears
of Jones like part of some fantastic dream, so seemed the bicycle. It
had no bell, the saddle wanted raising at least two inches, still it
went, and the wind was behind.
On the right was a sheer drop of two hundred feet, and the road here
skirted the cliff edge murderously close, for the simple reason that
cliff falls had eaten the bordering grass to within a few feet of the
road. This course on an unknown and questionable bicycle laden with
parcels of tea and sugar, was open to a good many objections; they did
not occur to Jones; he was making good speed, or thought he was till
the long declivity leading to Northbourne was reached. Here he began to
know what speed really was, for he found on pressing the lever that the
brake would not act. Fortunately it was a free wheel.
This declivity runs between detached villas and stone walls,
sheltering prim gardens, right on to the west end of the esplanade,
which is, in fact, a continuation of it. For the first few hundred
yards Jones thought that nothing could go quicker than the houses and
walls rushing past him, towards the end he was not thinking.
The esplanade opened out, a happy band of children with buckets and
wooden spades, returning home to tea, opened out, gave place to rushing
apartment houses with green balconies on the left, rushing sea scape
and bathing machines on the right. Then the speed slackened.
He got off shaking, and looked behind him. He had reached the east
end of the promenade. It lay, as it always lies towards five o'clock,
absolutely deserted by visitors. In the distance and just stepped out
of a newspaper kiosk a woman was standing, shading her eyes and looking
towards him. Two boatmen near her were looking in the same direction.
They did not seem excited, just mildly interested.
At that moment appeared on the long slope leading down to the
esplanade the figure of a man running. He looked like a policemana
Jones did not pause to verify. He propped the bicycle against the
rails of a verandahed house and ran.
The esplanade at this, the eastern end, ascends to the town by a
zig-zag road. As he took this ascent the mind of Jones, far from being
clouded or dulled, was acutely active. It saw that now the railway
station of Northbourne was out of count, flight by train was
impossible, for the station was the very first place that would be
watched. The coast line, to judge by present results, was impossible,
for it seemed that to keep to it he might go on for ever being chased
till he reached John o' Groats.
Northbourne is the twin image of Sandbourne-on-Sea, the same long
high street, the same shops with blinds selling the same wares, the
same trippers, children with spades, and invalids.
The two towns are rivals, each claiming the biggest brass band, the
longest esplanade, the fewer deaths from drowning, the best drains, the
most sunlight, and the swiftest trains from London. Needless to say
that one of them is not speaking the truth, a fact that does not seem
to disturb either of them in the least.
Jones, walking swiftly, passed a sea-side boot shop, a butcher's,
greengrocer's, and Italian warehousethe same, to judge by the name
over the doorthat had sent forth the messenger boy on the bicycle.
Then came a cinema palace, with huge pictures splashed across with
yellow bands announcing:
Then a milliner's, then a post office, and lastly a livery stable.
In front of the latter stood a char-a-banc nearly full. A blackboard
announced in white chalk: Two hours drive two shillings, and the
congregation in the char-a-banc had that stamp. Stout women, children,
a weedy man or two, and a honeymoon couple.
Jones, without the slightest hesitation, climbed into the
char-a-banc. It seemed sent by Heaven. It was a seat, it went
somewhere, and it was a hiding place. Seated amongst these people he
felt intuitively that a viewless barrier lay between him and his
pursuers, that it was the very last place a man in search of a runaway
would glance at.
He was right. Whilst the char-a-banc still lingered on the chance of
a last customer, the running policemanhe was walking now, appeared at
the sea end of the street. He was a young man with a face like an
apple, he wore a straw helmetNorthbourne serves out straw helmets for
its police and straw hats for its horses on the first of June each
yearand he seemed blown. He was looking about him from right to left,
but he never looked once at the char-a-banc and its contents. He went
on, and round the corner of the street he vanished, still looking about
A few moments later the vehicle started. The contents were cheerful
and communicative one with the other, conversing freely on all sorts of
matters, and Jones, listening despite himself, gathered all sorts of
information on subjects ranging from the pictures then exhibiting at
the cinema palace, to the price of butter.
He discovered that the contents consisted of three family
partiesexclusive of the honeymoon coupleand that the appearance of
universal fraternity was deceptive, that the parties were exclusive,
the conversation of each being confined to its own members.
So occupied was his mind by these facts that they were a mile and a
half away from Northbourne and in the depths of the country before a
great doubt seized him.
He called across the heads of the others to the driver asking where
they were going to.
Sandbourne-on-Sea, said the driver.
Now, though the Sandbournites hate the Northbournites as the Guelphs
the Ghibellines, though the two towns are at advertisemental war, the
favourite pleasure drive of the char-a-bancs of Sandbourne is to
Northbourne, and vice versa. It is chosen simply because the road is
the best thereabouts, and the gradients the easiest for the horses.
Sandbourne-on-Sea? cried Jones.
Yes, said the driver.
The vision of himself being carted back to Sandbourne-on-Sea with
that crowd and then back again to Northbourneif he were not
caughtappeared to Jones for the moment as the last possible grimace
of Fate. He struggled to get out, calling to the driver that he did not
want to go to Sandbourne. The vehicle stopped, and the driver demanded
the full faretwo shillings. Jones produced one of his sovereigns but
the man could not make change, neither could any of the passengers.
I'll call at the livery stables as I go back, said Jones, and pay
Where are you stayin' in the town? asked the driver.
Belinda Villa, said Jones.
It was the name of the villa against whose rails he had left the
bicycle. The idiocy of the title had struck him vaguely at the moment
and the impression had remained.
Mrs. Cass's empty.
This unfortunate condition of Mrs. Cass did not floor Jones.
She was yesterday, said he, but I have taken the front parlour
and a bed-room this afternoon.
That's true, said a fat woman, I saw the gentleman go in with his
In any congregation of people you will always find a liar ready to
lie for fun, or the excitement of having a part in the business on
hand; failing that, a person equipped with an imagination that sees
what it pleases.
This amazing statement of the fat woman almost took Jones' breath
away. But there are other people in a crowd beside liars.
Why can't the gentleman leave the sovereign with the driver and get
the change in the morning? asked one of the weedy looking men. This
scarecrow had not said a word to anyone during the drive. He seemed
born of mischance to live for that supreme moment, diminish an honest
man's ways of escape, and wither.
Jones withered him:
You shut up, said he. It's no affair of yourscheek. Then to
the driver: You know my address, if you don't trust me you can come
back with me and get change.
Then he turned and walked off whilst the vehicle drove on.
He waited till a bend of the road hid it from view, and then he took
to the fields on the left.
He had still the remains of the packet of cigarettes he had bought
at Sandbourne, and, having crossed four or five gates, he took his seat
under a hedge and lit a cigarette.
He was hungry. He had done a lot of work on four Banbury cakes and
CHAPTER XXVII. THE ONLY MAN IN THE
WORLD WHO WOULD BELIEVE HIM
The tobacco took the edge from his desire for food, increased his
blood pressure, and gave rest to his mind.
He sat thinking. The story of Moths rose up before his mind and he
fell to wondering how it ended and what became of the beautiful heroine
with whom he had linked Teresa Countess of Rochester, of Zouroff with
whom he had linked Maniloff, of Corréze with whom he had linked
The colour of that story had tinctured all his sea-side experiences.
Then Mrs. Henshaw rose up before his mind. What was she thinking of the
lodger who had flashed through her life and vanished over the back
garden wall? And the interview between her and Hooverthat would have
been well worth seeing. Then the boy on the bicycle and the screaming
invalid rose before him, and that mad rush down the slope to the
esplanade; if those children with spades and buckets had not parted as
they did, if a dog had got in his way, if the slope had ended in a
curve! He amused himself with picturing these possibilities and their
results; and then all at once a drowsiness more delightful than any
dream closed on him and he fell asleep.
It was after dark when he awoke with the remnant of a moon lighting
the field before him. From far away and borne on the wind from the sea
came a faint sound as of a delirious donkey with brass lungs braying at
the moon. It was the sound of a band. The Northbourne brass band
playing in the Cliff Gardens above the moonlit sea. Jones felt to see
that his cigarettes and matches were safe in his pocket, then he
started, taking a line across country, trusting in Providence as a
Sometimes he paused and rested on a gate, listening to the faint and
indeterminate sounds of the night, through which came occasionally the
barking of a distant dog like the beating of a trip hammer.
It was a perfect summer's night, one of those rare nights that
England alone can produce; there were glow worms in the hedges and a
scent of new mown hay in the air. Though the music of the band had been
blotted out by distance, listening intently he caught the faintest
suspicion of a whisper, continuous, and evidently the sound of the sea.
An hour later, that is to say towards eleven o'clock, weary with
finding his way out of fields into fields, into grassy lanes and around
farm house buildings, desperate, and faint from hunger, Jones found a
road and by the road a bungalow with a light in one of the windows.
A dauntingly respectable-looking bungalow in the midst of a well
Jones opened the gate and came up the path. He was going to demand
food, offer to pay for it if necessary, and produce gold as an evidence
of good faith.
He came into the verandah, found the front door which was closed,
struck a match, found the bell, pulled and pulled it. There was no
response. He waited a little and then rang again, with a like result.
Then he came to the lighted window.
It was a French window, only half closed, and a half turned lamp
showed a comfortably furnished room and a table laid out for supper.
Two places were set. A cold fowl intact on a dish garnished with
parsley stood side by side with a York ham the worse for wear, a salad,
a roll of cowslip coloured butter, a loaf of home-made bread and a
cheese tucked around with a snow-white napkin made up the rest of the
eatables whilst a decanter of claret shone invitingly by the seat of
the carver. There was nothing wanting, or only the invitation.
The fowl supplied that.
Jones pushed the window open and entered. Half closing it again, he
took his seat at the table placing his hat on the floor beside him.
Taking a sovereign from his pocket, he placed it on the white cloth.
Then he fell to.
You can generally tell a man by his claret, and judging from this
claret the unknown who had supplied the feast must have been a most
A man of understanding and parts, a man not to be deluded by
specious wine lists, a generous warmhearted and full-blooded souland
here he was.
A step sounded on the verandah, the window was pushed open and a man
of forty years or so, well-dressed, tall, thin, dark and saturnine
stood before the feaster.
He showed no surprise. Removing his hat he bowed.
Jones half rose.
Hello, said he confusedly, with his mouth fullthen he subsided
into his chair.
I must apologise for being late, said the tall man, placing his
hat on a chair, rubbing his long hands together and moving to the
vacant seat. I was unavoidably detained. But I'm glad you did not wait
He took his seat, spread his napkin on his knees, and poured himself
out a glass of claret. His eyes were fixed on the sovereign lying upon
the cloth. He had noted it from the first. Jones picked it up and put
it in his pocket.
That's right, said the unknown. Then as if in reply to a question:
I will have a wing, please.
Jones cut a wing of the fowl, placed it in the extra plate which he
had placed on one side of the table and presented it. The other cut
himself some bread, helped himself to salad, salt and pepper and
started eating, absolutely as though nothing unusual had occurred or
For half a minute or so neither spoke. Then Jones said:
Look here, said he, I want to make some explanations.
Explanations, said the long man, what about?
That sovereign which I put on the table and which I have put back
in my pocket. I must apologise. Had I gone away before you returned
that would have been left behind to show that your room had been
entered neither by a hobo nor a burglar, nor by some cad who had
committed an impertinenceperhaps you will believe that.
The long man bowed.
But, went on Jones, by a man who was driven by circumstances to
seek hospitality without an invitation.
The other had suddenly remembered the ham and had risen and was
helping himself, his pince-nez which he wore on a ribbon and evidently
only for reading purposes, dangling against his waistcoat-buttons.
By circumstance, said he, that is interesting. Circumstance is
the master dramatistare you interested in the Drama?
Interested! said Jones. Why, I am a drama. I reckon I'm
the biggest drama ever written, and that's why I am here to-night.
Ah, said the other, this is becoming more interesting still or
promising to become, for I warn you, plainly, that what may appear of
intense interest to the individual is generally of little interest to
the general. Now a man may, let's say, commit some little act that the
thing we call Justice disapproves of, and eluding Justice finds himself
pressed by Circumstance into queer and dramatic positions, those
positions though of momentary and intense interest to the man in
question would be of the vaguest interest to the man in the stalls or
the girls eating buns in the gallery, unless they were connected by
that thread ofwhat shall we call itthat is the backbone of the
thing we call Story.
Oh, Justice isn't bothering after me, said JonesThen vague
recollections began to stir in his mind, that long glabrous face, the
set of that jaw, that forehead, that hair, brushed back.
Why, you're Mr. Kellerman, aren't you? said he.
The other bowed.
Good heavens, said Jones, I ought to have known you. I've seen
your picture often enough in the States, and your cinema playshaven't
read your books, for I'm not a reading manbut I've been fair crazy
over your cinema plays.
Help yourself to some cheese, said he, it's good. I get it from
Fortnum and Masons. When I stepped into this room and saw you here, for
the first moment I was going to kick you out, then I thought I'd have
some fun with you and freeze you out. So you're American? You are
welcome. But just tell me this. Why did you come in, and how?
I came in because I am being chased, said Jones. It's not the
law, I reckon I'm an honest citizenin purpose, anyhow, and as to how
I came in I wanted a crust of bread and rang at your hall door.
Servants don't sleep here, said Kellerman. Cook snores, bungalow
like a fiddle for conveying sounds, come here for sleep and rest. They
sleep at a cottage down the road.
So? said Jones. Well, getting no reply I looked in at the window,
saw the supper, and came in.
That's just the sort of thing that might occur in a photo play,
said Kellerman. When I saw you, as I stepped in, sitting quietly at
supper the situation struck me at once.
You call that a situation, said Jones. It's bald to some of the
situations I have been in for the last God knows how long.
You interest me, said Kellerman, helping himself to cheese. You
talk with such entire conviction of the value of your goods.
How do you mean the value of my goods?
Your situations, if you like the term better. Don't you know that
good situations are rarer than diamonds and more valuable? Have you
ever read Pickwick?
Then you can guess what I mean. Situations don't occur in real
life, they have to be dug for in the diamond fields of the mind and
Situations don't occur in real life! said Jones. Don't theynow,
see here, I've had supper with you and in return for your hospitality
I'll tell you every thing that's happened to me if you'll hear it. I
guess I'll shatter your illusions. I'll give you a sample: I belong to
the London Senior Conservative Club and yet I don't. I have the
swellest house in London yet it doesn't belong to me. I'm worth one
million and eight thousand pounds, yet the other day I had to steal a
few sovereigns, but the law could not touch me for stealing them. I
have an uncle who is a duke yet I am no relation to him. Sounds crazy,
doesn't it, all the same it's fact. I don't mind telling you the whole
thing if you care to hear it. I won't give you the right names because
there's a woman in the case, but I bet I'll lift your hair.
Kellerman did not seem elated.
I don't mind listening to your story, said he, on one condition.
That you will not be offended if I switch you off if the thing
palls and hand you your hat, for I must tell you that though I came
down here to get sleep, I do most of my sleeping between two in the
morning and noon. I work at night and I had intended working to-night.
Oh, you can switch me off when you like, said Jones.
Supper being finished, Kellerman fastened the window, and, carrying
the lamp, led the way to a comfortably furnished study. Here he
produced cigars and put a little kettle on a spirit stove to make tea.
Then, sitting opposite to his host, in a comfortable armchair, Jones
began his story.
He had told his infernal story so often that one might have fancied
it a painful effort, even to begin. It was not. He had now an audience
in touch with him. He suppressed names, or rather altered them,
substituting Manchester for Rochester and Birdwood for Birdbrook. The
audience did not care, it recked nothing of titles, it wanted
Storyand it got it.
At about one o'clock the recital was interrupted whilst tea was
made, at two o'clock or a little after the tale finished.
Well? said Jones.
Kellerman was leaning back in his chair with eyes half closed, he
seemed calculating something in his head.
D' you believe me?
Kellerman opened his eyes.
Of course I believe you. If you had invented all that you would be
clever enough to know what your invention is worth and not hand it out
to a stranger. But I doubt whether anyone else will believe
youhowever, that is your affairyou have given me five reels of the
finest stuff, or at least the material for it, and if I ever care to
use it I will fix you up a contract giving you twenty-five per cent
royalties. But there's one thing you haven't given methe dénouement.
I'm more than interested in that. I'm not thinking of money, I'm a film
actor at heart and I want to help in the play. Say, may I help?
Come along with you to the end, give all the assistance in my
poweror even without that just watch the show. I want to see the last
act for I'm blessed if I can imagine it.
I'd rather not, said Jones. You might get to know the real names
of the people I'm dealing with, and as there is a woman in the business
I don't feel I ought to give her name away even to you. No. I reckon
I'll pull through alone, but if you'd give me a sofa to sleep on
to-night I'd be grateful. Then I can get away in the morning.
Kellerman did not press the point.
I'll give you better than a sofa, he said. There's a spare bed,
and you'd better not start in the morning; give them time to cool down.
Then towards evening you can make a dash. The servants here are all
right, they'll think you are a friend run down from town to see me.
I'll arrange all that.
CHAPTER XXVIII. PEBBLEMARSH
At five o'clock next day, Jones, re-dressed by Kellerman in a
morning coat rather the worse for weara coat that had been left
behind at the bungalow by one of Kellerman's friendsand a dark cloth
cap, took his departure from the bungalow. His appearance was frankly
abominable, but quite distinct from the appearance of a man dressed in
a grey flannel tennis coat and wearing a Panamaand that was the main
Kellerman had also worked up a history and personality for the newly
You are Mr. Isaacson, said he.
Here's the card of a Mr. Isaacson who called some time ago, put it
in your pocket. I will write you a couple of fake letters to back the
card, you are in the watch trade. Pebblemarsh is the nearest town, only
five miles down the road; there's a station there, but you'd better
avoid that. There's a garage. You could get a car to London. If they
nail you, scream like an excited Jew, produce your credentials, and if
the worst comes to the worst refer to me and come back here. I would
love that interview. Country policeman, lunatic asylum man, Mr.
Isaacson highly excited, and myself.
He sat down to write the fake letters addressed to Mr. Isaacson by
his uncle Julius Goldberg and his partner Marcus Cohen. As he wrote he
talked over his shoulder on the subject of disguises, alleging that the
only really impenetrable disguise was that of a nigger minstrel.
You see, all black faces are pretty much the same, said he. Their
predominant expression is black, but I haven't got the fixings nor the
coloured pants and things, to say nothing of a banjo, so I reckon
you'll just have to be Mr. Isaacson, and you may thank the God of the
Hebrews I haven't made you an old clothes manwatches are respectable.
Here are your letters, they are short but credible. Have you enough
Lots, said Jones, and I don't know in the least how to thank you
for what you have done. I'd have been had, sure, wearing that hat and
coatwell, maybe we'll meet again.
They parted at the gate, the hunted one taking the white, dusty road
in the direction of Pebblemarsh, Kellerman watching till a bend hid him
Kellerman had in some mysterious way added a touch of the footlights
to this business. This confounded Kellerman who thought in terms of
reels and situations, had managed to inspire Jones with the feeling
that he was moving on the screen, and that any moment the hedgerows
might give up an army of pursuers to the delight of a hidden audience.
However, the hedgerows of the Pebblemarsh road gave up nothing but
the odours of briar and woodbine, nothing pursued him but the twitter
of birds and the songs of larks above the summer-drowsy fields.
There is nothing much better to live in the memory than a real old
English country road on a perfect summer afternoon, no pleasanter
Pebblemarsh is a town of some four thousand souls. It possesses a
dye factory. It once possessed the only really good trout stream in
this part of the country, with the inevitable result, for in England
when a really good trout stream is discovered a dye factory is always
erected upon its banks. Pebblemarsh now only possesses a dye factory.
The main street runs north and south, and as Jones passed up it he
might have fancied himself in Sandbourne or Northbourne, so much alike
are these three towns.
Half way up and opposite the post office, an archway disclosed
itself with, above it, the magic word,
He entered the place. There were no signs of cars, nothing of a
movable description in that yard, with the exception of a stout man in
leggings and shirtsleeves, who, seeing the stranger, came forward to
Have you a car? asked Jones.
They're all out except a Ford, said the stout man. Did you want
to go for a drive?
No. I want to run up to London in a hurrywhat's the mileage from
We reckon it sixty three miles from here to Londonthat is to say
the Old Kent Road.
That's near enough, said Jones. What's the price?
A shilling a mile to take you, and a sixpence a mile for the car
What's the total?
The proprietor figured in his head for a moment. Four, fifteen and
six, said he.
I'll take the car, said Jones, and I'll pay you now. Can I have
it at once?
The proprietor went to a door and opened it. Jim, cried he, are
you there? Gentleman wants the Ford taken to London, get her out and
get yourself ready.
He turned to Jones.
She'll be ready inside ten minutes if that will do?
That'll do, said Jones, and here's the money. He produced the
chamois leather bag, paid the five sovereigns, and received five and
sixpence changeand also a receipt which he put in his pocket. Then
Jim appeared, an inconspicuous looking man, wriggling into a driving
coat that had seen better days, the Ford was taken from its den, the
tyres examined, and the petrol tank filled.
Haven't you an overcoat? asked the proprietor. It'll be chilly
No, said Jones. I came down without one, the weather was so
fineIt won't hurt.
Better have a coat, said the proprietor. I'll lend you one. Jim
will fetch it back. He went off, and returned with a heavy coat on his
That's good of you, said Jones. ThanksI'll put it on now to
save trouble. Then a bright idea struck him. What I'm afraid of most
is my eyes, the wind tries them. Have you any goggles?
I believe there's an old pair in the office, said the proprietor,
hold on a minute. He went off and returned with the goggles. Jones
thanked him, put them on, and got into the car.
Pleasant journey to you, said the proprietor.
Then they started.
They turned up the street and along the road by which Jones had
come. Then they struck into the road where the Lucknows and
Cawnpores hinted of old Indian Colonels.
They passed the gates of the Hoover establishment. It was open, and
an attendant was gazing up and down the street. He looked at the car
but he did not recognize the occupant, then several more residential
roads were left behind, a highly respectable cemetery, a tin chapel,
and the car, taking a hill as Fords know how, dropped Sandbourne-on-Sea
to invisibility and surrounded itself with vast stretches of green and
sun warmed country, June scented, and hazy with the warmth of summer.
They passed hop gardens and hamlets, broad meadows and grazing
cattle, bosky woods and park lands.
Jones, though he had taken the goggles off, saw little of the beauty
around him. He was recognising facts, and asking questions of himself.
If Hoover or the police were to call at the garage, what would
happen? Knowing the route of the car could they telegraph to towns on
the way and have him arrested? How did the English law stand as regards
escaped gentlemen with hallucinations? Could they be arrested like
criminals? Surely notand yet as regards the law, who could be sure of
anything? Jim, the speechless driver, could tell him nothing on these
Towards dusk they reached a fairly big town, and in the very centre
of the main street, Jim stopped the car to light the headlamps. A
policeman, passing on his beat, paused to inspect the operation and
then moved on, and the car resumed its way, driving into a world of
twilight and scented hedges, where the glowworms were lighting up, and
over which the sky was showing a silvery sprinkle of stars.
Two more towns they passed unhindered, and then came the fringe of
London, a maze of lights and ways and houses, tram lines, and then an
endless road, half road, half street, lines of shops, lines of old
houses and semi gardens.
Jim turned in his seat. This here's the Kent Road, said he. We're
about the middle of it, which part did you want?
This will do, said Jones, pull her up.
He got out, took the four and sixpence from his pocket, and gave Jim
two shillings for a tip.
Going all the way back to-night? asked he, as he wriggled out of
the coat, and handed it over with the goggles.
No, said Jim. I'll stop at the last pub we passed for the night.
There ain't no use over taxin' a car.
Well, good night to you, said Jones. He watched the car turning
and vanishing, then, with a feeling of freedom he had never before
experienced, he pushed on London-wards.
With only two and sixpence in his pocket, he would have to wander
about all night, or sit on the embankment. He had several times seen
the outcasts on the embankment seats at night, and pitied them; he did
not pity them now. They were free men and women.
The wind had died away and the night was sultry, much pleasanter out
of doors than in, a general term that did not apply to the Old Kent
The old road leading down to Kent was once, no doubt, a pleasant
enough place, but pleasure had long forsaken it, and cleanliness. It
was here that David Copperfield sold his jacket, and the old clothiers'
shops are so antiquated that any of them might have been the scene of
the purchase. To-night the old Kent Road was swarming, and the further
Jones advanced towards the river the thicker seemed the throng.
At a flaring public house, and for the price of a shilling, he
obtained enough food in the way of sausages and mashed potatoes, to
satisfy his hunger, a half pint tankard of beer completed the
satisfaction of his inner man, and having bought a couple of packets of
navy cut cigarettes and a box of matches, he left the place and pursued
his way towards the river.
He had exactly tenpence in his pocket, and he fell to thinking as he
walked, of the extraordinary monetary fluctuations he had experienced
in this city of London. At the Savoy that fatal day he had less than
ten pounds, next morning, though robed as a Lord, he had only a penny,
the penny had been reduced to a halfpenny by the purchase of a
newspaper, the halfpenny swelled to five pounds by Rochester's gift,
the five pounds sprang in five minutes to eight thousand, owing to
Voles, the eight thousand to a million eight thousand, owing to
Mulhausen, Simms and Cavendish had stripped him of his last cent, the
Smithers affair had given him five pounds, now he had only ten pence,
and to-morrow at nine o'clock he would have eight thousand.
It will be noted that he did not consider that eight thousand his,
till it was safe in his pocket in the form of noteshe had learned by
bitter experience to put his trust in nothing but the tangible. He
reached the river and the great bridge that spans it here, and on the
bridge he paused, leaning his elbow on the parapet, and looking down
The waning moon had risen, painting the water with silver; barge
lights and the lights of tugs and police boats shewed points of orange
and dribbles of ruffled gold, whilst away down stream to the right, the
airy fairy tracery of the Houses of Parliament fretted the sky.
It was a nocturne after the heart of Whistler, and Jones, as he
gazed at it, felt for the first time the magic of this wonderful half
revealed city with its million yellow eyes. He passed on, crossing to
the right bank, and found the Strand. Here in a bar, and for the price
of half a pint of beer, he sat for some twenty minutes watching the
customers and killing Time, then, with his worldly wealth reduced to
eightpence, he wandered off westward, passing the Savoy, and pausing
for a moment to peep down the great archway at the gaily lit hotel.
At midnight he had gravitated to the embankment, and found a seat
Here he fell in with a gentleman, derelict like himself, a free
spoken individual, whose conversation wiled away an hour.
CHAPTER XXIX. THE BLIGHTED CITY
Said the person after a request for a match: Warm night, but
there's a change in the weather coming on, or I'm greatly mistaken.
I've lost nearly everything in the chops and changes of life, but
there's one thing I haven't lostmy barometerthat's to say my
rheumatism. It tells me when rain is coming as sure as an aneroid.
London is pretty full for the time of year, don't you think?
Yes, said Jones, I reckon it is.
They talked, the gentleman with the barometer passing from the
weather to politics, from politics to high finance, from high finance
to himself. He had been a solicitor.
Disbarred, as you see, for nothing, but what a hundred men are
doing at the present moment. There's no justice in the world, except
maybe in the Law Courts. I'm not one of those who think the Law is an
ass, no, there's a great deal of common sense in the Law of England.
I'm not talking of the Incorporated Law Society that shut me out from a
living, for a slip any man might make. I'm talking of the old Laws of
England as administered by his Majesty's Judges; study them, and you
will be astonished at their straight common-sense and justice. I'm not
holding any brief for lawyersI'm frank, you seethe business of
lawyers is to wriggle round and circumvent the truth, to muddy
evidence, confuse witnesses and undo justice. I'm just talking of the
Do you know anything of the laws of lunacy? asked Jones.
I had a friend who was supposed to be suffering from mind trouble,
two doctors doped him and put him away in an asylumhe was quite
What do you mean by doped him? asked the other.
Gave him a drug to quiet him, and then took him off in an
Was there money involved?
You may say there was. He was worth a million.
Anyone to benefit by his being put away?
Well, I expect one might make out a case of that; the family would
have the handling of the million, wouldn't they?
It all dependsbut there's one thing certain, there'd be a
thundering law case for any clever solicitor to handle if the plaintiff
were not too far gone in his mind to plead. Anyhow, the drugging is out
of orderwhole thing sounds fishy.
Suppose he escaped, said Jones. Could they take him back by
That's a difficult question to answer. If he were cutting up shines
it would be easy, but if he were clever enough to pretend to be sane it
might be difficult. You see, he would have to be arrested, no man can
go up and seize another man in the street and say: You're mad, come
along with me, simply because, even if he holds a certificate of lunacy
against the other man the other man might say you've made a mistake,
I'm not the person you want. Then it would be a question of swearing
before a magistrate. The good old Laws of England are very strict about
the freedom of the body, and the rights of the individual man to be
heard in his own defence. If your lunatic were not too insane, and were
to take refuge in a friend's house, and the friend were to back him,
that would make things more difficult still.
If he were to take refuge in his own house?
Oh, that would make the thing still more difficult, very much more
so. If, of course, he were not conducting himself in a manner
detrimental to the public peace, firing guns out of windows and so
forth. The laws of England are very strict about entering a man's
house. Of course, were the pursuers to go before a magistrate and swear
that the pursued were a dangerous lunatic, then a right of search and
entry might be obtained, but on the pursuers would lie the onus of
proof. Now pauper lunatics are very easily dealt with: the Relieving
Officer, on the strength of a certificate of lunacy, can go to the poor
man's cottage or tenement, and take him away, for, you see, the man
possessing no property it is supposed that no man is interested in his
internment, but once introduce the property element and there is the
very devil to pay, especially in cases where the lunatic is only
eccentric and does not come into court with straws in his hair, so to
I get you, said Jones. He offered cigarettes, and presently the
communicative one departed, having borrowed fourpence on the strength
of his professional advice.
The rest of that night was a very good imitation of a nightmare.
Jones tried several different seats in succession, and managed to do a
good deal of walking. Dawn found him on London Bridge, watching the
birth of another perfect day, but without enthusiasm.
He was cheerful but tired. The thought that at nine o'clock or
thereabouts, he would be able to place his hands on eight thousand
pounds, gave him the material for his cheerfulness. He had often read
of the joy of open air life, and the freedom of the hobo; but open air
life in London, on looking back upon it, did not appeal to him. He had
been twice moved on by policemen, and his next door neighbours, after
the departure of the barometer man, were of a type that inspired
neither liking nor trust.
He heard Big Ben booming six o'clock. He had three hours still
before him, and he determined to take it out in walking. He would go
citywards, and then come back with an appetite for breakfast.
Having made this resolve, he started, passing through the deserted
streets till he reached the Bank, and then onwards till he reached the
Mile End Road.
As he walked he made plans. When he had drawn his money he would
breakfast at a restaurant, he fixed upon Romanos', eggs and bacon and
sausages, coffee and hot rolls would be the menu. Then he fell
to wondering whether Romanos' would be open for breakfast, or whether
it was of the type of restaurant that only serves luncheons and
dinners. If it were, then he could breakfast at the Charing Cross
These considerations led him a good distance on his way. Then the
Mile End Road beguiled him, lying straight and foreign looking, and
empty in the sunlight. The Barometer man's weather apparatus must have
been at fault, for in all the sky there was not a cloud, nor the
symptom of the coming of a cloud.
Away down near the docks, a clock over a public house pointed to
half past seven, and he judged it time to return.
He came back. The Mile End Road was still deserted, the city round
the bank was destitute of life, Fleet Street empty.
Pompeii lay not more utterly dead than this weird city of vast
business palaces, and the Strand shewed nothing of life or almost
nothing, every shop was shuttered though now it was close upon nine
Something had happened to London, some blight had fallen on the
inhabitants, death seemed everywhere, not seen but hinted at. Stray
recollections of weird stories by H. G. Wells passed through the mind
of Jones. He recalled the city of London when the Martians had done
with it, that city of death, and horror, and sunlight and silence.
Then of a sudden, as he neared the Law Courts, the appalling truth
suddenly suggested itself to him.
He walked up to a policeman on point of duty at a corner, a
policeman who seemed under the mesmerism of the general gloom and
blight, a policeman who might have been the blue concrete core of
Say, officer, said Jones, what day's to-day?
Sunday, said the policeman.
CHAPTER XXX. A JUST MAN ANGERED
When things are piled one on top of another beyond a certain height,
they generally come down with a crash.
That one word Sunday was the last straw for Jones, sweeping away
breakfast, bank and everything; coming on top of the events of the last
twenty-four hours, it brought his mental complacency to ruin, ruin from
which shot blazing jets of wrath.
Red rage filled him. He had been made game of, every man and
everything was against him. Well, he would bite. He would strike. He
would attack, careless of everything, heedless of everything.
A mesmerised looking taxi-cab, crawling along on the opposite side
of the way, fortunately caught his eye.
I'll make hay! cried Jones, as he rushed across the street. He
stopped the cab.
10A, Carlton House Terrace, he cried to the driver. He got in and
shut the door with a bang.
He got out at Carlton House Terrace, ran up the steps of 10A, and
rang the bell.
The door was opened by the man who had helped to eject Spicer. He
did not seem in the least surprised to see Jones.
Pay that taxi, said Jones.
Yes, my Lord, replied the flunkey.
Jones turned to the breakfast-room. The faint smell of coffee met
him at the door as he opened it. There were no servants in the room.
Only a woman quietly breakfasting with the Life of St. Thomas à Kempis
by her plate.
It was Venetia Birdbrook.
She half rose from her chair when she saw Jones. He shut the door.
The sight of Venetia acted upon him almost as badly as the word
Sunday had done.
What are you doing here? said he. I knowyou and that lot had me
tucked away in a lunatic asylum; now you have taken possession of the
Venetia was quite calm.
Since the house is not yours, said she, I fail to see how my
presence here affects you. We know the truth. Dr. Simms has arrived at
the conclusion that your confession was at least based on truth. That
you are what you proclaimed yourself to be, a man named Jones. We
thought you were mad, we see now that you are an impostor. Kindly leave
this house or I will call for a policeman.
Jones' mind lost all its fire. Hatred can cool as well as inflame
and he hated Venetia and all her belongings, including her dowager
mother and her uncle the duke, with a hatred well based on reason and
fact. All his fear of mind disturbance should he go on playing the part
of Rochester had vanished, the fires of tribulation had purged them
I don't know what you are talking about, said he. Do you mean
that joke I played on you all? I am the Earl of Rochester, this is my
house, and I request you to leave it. Don't speak. I know what you are
going to say. You and your family will do this and you will do that.
You will do nothing. Even if I were an impostor you would dare to do
nothing. Your family washing is far, far too much soiled to expose it
If I were an impostor, who can say I have not played an honourable
game? I have recovered valuable propertydid I touch it and take it
away? Did I expose to the public an affair that would have caused a
scandal? You will do nothing and you know it. You did not even dare to
tell the servants here what has happened, for the servant who let me in
was not a bit surprised. Now, if you have finished your breakfast, will
you kindly leave my house?
Venetia rose and took up her book.
Your house, said she.
Yes, my house. From this day forth, my house. But that is not all.
To-morrow I will get lawyers to work and I'll get apologies as big as
houses from the whole lot of youelse I'll prosecute. He was getting
angry, prosecute you for doping me. Recollections of the Barometer
man's advice came to him, doping me in order to lay your hands on that
million of money.
He went to the bell and rang it.
We want no scene before the servants, said Venetia hurriedly.
Then kindly go, said Jones, or you will have a perfect panorama
before the servants.
A servant entered.
Send Church here, said Jones. He was trembling like a furious dog.
He had got the whole situation in hand. He had told his tale and
acted like an honourable man, the fools had disbelieved him and doped
him. They had scented the truth but they dared do nothing. Mulhausen
and the recovered mine, the Plinlimon letters, Rochester's past, all
these were his bastions, to say nothing of Rochester's suicide.
The fear of publicity held them in a vice. Even were they to go to
America and prove that a man called Jones exactly like the Earl of
Rochester had lived in Philadelphia, go to the Savoy and prove that a
man exactly like the Earl of Rochester had lived there, produce the
clothes he had come home in that nightall of that would lead them,
whereto an action at law.
They could not arrest him as an impostor till they had proved him an
impostor. To prove that, they would have to turn the family history
inside out before a gaping public.
Mr. Church came in.
Church, said Jones, I played a practical joke onon my people. I
met a man called Jones at the Savoywell, we needn't go into details,
he was very like me, and I told my people for a joke that I was Jones.
The fools thought I was mad. They called in two doctors and drugged me
and hauled me off to a place. I got out, and here I am back. What do
you think of that?
Well, my Lord, said Church, if I may say it to you, those
practical jokes are dangerous things to playLord Langwathby
Was he here?
He came last night, my Lord, to have a personal explanation about a
telegram he said you sent him as a practical joke, some time ago,
taking him up to Cumberland.
I'll never play another, said Jones. Tell them to bring me some
breakfast, and look here, Church, I've told my sister to leave the
house at once. I want no more of her here. See that her luggage is
taken down at once.
Yes, my Lord.
And see here, Church, let no one in. Lord Langwathby, or anyone
else. I want a little peace. By the way, have a taxi sent for, and tell
me when my sister's luggage is down.
In the middle of breakfast, Church came in to say that Miss
Birdbrook was departing and Jones came into the hall to verify the
Venetia had brought a crocodile skin travelling bag and a trunk.
These were being conveyed to a taxi.
Not one word did she say to relieve her outraged feelings. The fear
of a scene before the servants kept her quiet.
CHAPTER XXXI. HE FINDS HIMSELF
That evening at nine o'clock, Jones sat in the smoking-room,
writing. He had trusted Church with an important mission on the upshot
of which his whole future depended.
If you will review his story, as he himself was reviewing it now,
you will see that, despite a strong will and a mind quick to act, the
freedom of his will had always been hampered by circumstance.
Circumstance from the first had determined that he should be a Lord.
I leave it to philosophers to determine what Circumstance is. I can
only say that from a fair knowledge of life, Circumstance seems to me
more than a fortuitous happening of things. Who does not know the man
of integrity and ability, the man destined for the Presidency or the
College chair, who remains in an office all his life? Luck is somehow
against him. Or the man who, starting in life with everything against
him, arrives, not by creeping, but by leaps and bounds.
I do not wish to cast a shade on individual effort; I only say this:
If you ever find Circumstance, whose other name is Fortune, feeling for
you in order to make you a lord, don't kick, for when Fortune takes an
interest in a man, she is cunning as a woman. She is a woman in fact.
At half past nine, a knock came to the door. It was opened by
Church, who ushered in Teresa, Countess of Rochester.
Jones rose from his chair, Church shut the door, and they found
themselves alone and face to face.
The girl did not sit down. She stood holding the back of a chair,
and looking at the man before her. She looked scared, dazed, like a
person suddenly awakened from sleep, in a strange place.
Jones knew at once.
You have guessed the truth, said he, that I am not your husband.
I knew it, she replied, when you told us in the drawing-roomThe
others thought you mad. I knew you were speaking the truth.
That was why you ran from the room.
Yes; what more have you to say?
I have a very great deal more to say; will you not sit down?
She sat down on the edge of a chair, folded her hands and continued
looking at him with that scared, hunted expression.
I want to say just this, said Jones. Right through this business
from the very start I have tried to play a straight game. I can guess
from your face that you fear me as if I were something horrible. I
don't blame you. I ask you to listen to me.
Your husband took advantage of two facts: the fact that I am his
twin image, as he called it, and the fact that I was temporarily
without money and stranded in London. I am not a drunkard, but that
night I came under the influence of strong drink. He took advantage of
that to send me home as himself. I am going to say a nasty thing; that
was not the action of a gentleman.
The girl winced.
Never, went on Jones, would I say things against a man who is
dead, yet I am forced to tell you the truth, so that you may see this
man as he waswait.
He went to the bureau and took out some papers. He handed her one.
She read the contents:
Stick to itif you can. You'll see why I couldn't.
That is your husband's handwriting?
Now think for a moment of his act as regards yourself. He sent me,
a stranger, home, never thinking a thought about you.
Her breath choked back.
As for me, went on Jones, from the very first moment I saw you, I
have thought of you and your welfare. I told my story for your sake, so
that things might be cleared up, and they put me in an asylum for my
pains. I escaped, I am here, and for your sake I am saying all this.
Does it give me pleasure to show you your husband's character? I would
sooner cut off my right hand, but that would not help you. You have got
to know, else I cannot possibly get out of this. Read these.
He handed her the Plinlimon letters.
She read them carefully. Whilst she was doing so, he sat down and
These were written two years ago, said she in a sad voice, as she
folded them together, a year after we were married.
It was the tone of her voice that did itas she handed the letters
back to him, she saw that his eyes were filled with tears.
He put them back in the bureau without a word. He felt that he had
struck the innocent again and most cruelly.
Then he came back to the chair on which he had been sitting and
stood holding its back.
You see how we are both placed, said he. To prove your husband's
death, all my business would have to be raked up. I don't mind, because
I have acted straight, but you would mind. The fact of his suicide, the
fact of his sending me homeeverything, that would hit you again and
again. Yet, look at your positionI do not know what we are to do. If
I go away and go back to the States, I leave you before the world as
the wife of a man still living who has deserted you, if I stay and go
on being the Earl of Rochester, you are tied to a phantom.
He paced the floor, head down, wrestling with an insoluble problem,
whilst she sat looking at him.
Which is the easiest for you to do? asked she.
Oh, me, said he; I'm not thinking of myselfback to the States,
of course, but that's out of the questionthere are lots of easy
things to do, but when my case comes in contact with yours, there's
nothing easy to do. Do you think it was easy for me to go off that
night and leave you waiting for me, feeling that you thought me a
skunk? No, that was not easy.
She had been sitting very calm and still up till now, then suddenly
she looked down. She burst into tears.
Oh, she cried, why were you not himif he had only been you. He
cared nothing for me, yet I loved himyouyou
I care for nothing at all but you, said he.
She shuddered all over and turned her head away.
That's the mischief of it as far as I am concerned, he went on. I
can't escape without injuring you and so myselfyet I don't wonder at
your hating me.
She turned her face to him, it was flushed and wet.
I do not hate you, said she; you are the only man I ever
No, he said, I'm selfish. It's just because I love you that I
think of you more than myself, and I love you because you are good and
sweet. I could not do you wrong just because of that. If you were
another woman, I would not bother about you. I'd be cruel enough, I
reckon, and go off and leave you tied up, and get back to the
Statesbut you are you, and that's my bother. I did not know till now
how I was tied to you; yesterday at that asylum place and all last
night I did not think of you. My one thought was to get away. I came
here to-day, driven by want of money. I was so angry with the whole
business, I determined to go on being Rochesterthen you came into my
mind and I sent Church to ask you to come and see memuch good it has
I don't know, she said.
He looked at her quickly. Her glance fell.
Next moment he was beside her, kneeling and holding her hand.
For a moment, they said not one word. Then he spoke as though
We can get marriedOh, I don't mind going on being the Earl of
Rochester. There were times when I thought I'd go crackedbut now you
know the truth, I reckon I can go on pretending. People can have the
marriage ceremony performed twiceof course, it would have to be
privateI can't think this is trueI don't believe you can ever care
for meI don't know, maybe you willdo you care for me for myself in
the leastI reckon I'm half mad, but saywhen did you begin to like
me for myselfwas it only just because you thought I was
If I like you at all, she said, with a little catch in her voice,
perhaps it was thatnight
The night you struck
The Russianbut you thought I was him then.
Perhaps, said she, dreamily, but, I thought it was unlike himdo
I don't know. I understand nothing but that I have got you to care
for always, to worship, to lay myself down for you to trample on.
* * * * *
Good-night, said she at last.
She was standing, preparing to go. The family know the truth, at
least they are sure of the truth, but, as you say, they can do nothing.
Imagine their feelings when I tell them what we have agreed on! With me
on your side they are absolutely helpless.
* * * * *
There is, fortunately enough, no law preventing two married people
being re-married, privately; the good old lawyers of England
considering, no doubt, that a man having gone through the ceremony once
would think it enough.
* * * * *
All this that I have been telling you happened some years ago, years
marked by some very practical and brilliant speeches in the House of
Lords and the death of the Hon. Venetia Birdbrook from liver complaint.
It is a queer story, but not queerer than the face of the Dowager
Countess of Rochester when she reads in private all the nice
complimentary things that the papers have to say about her son.