WILLIAM DE MORGAN
AUTHOR OF "JOSEPH VANCE" AND "ALICE-FOR-SHORT"
[Publisher's Device: Ou polla, alla polu]
NEW YORK HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY 1908
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
Published February, 1908
CHAPTER I. PAGE A RETURNED TRAVELLER. NEMESIS IN LIVERMORE'S RENTS, 1808. EXTRAVAGANCE, AND NO CASH. A PAWNED WATCH, AND A RESIDUUM OF FOURPENCE 1
A JOURNEY IN THE TWOPENNY TUBE. A VERY NICE GIRL, AND A NEGOTIATION. AN EXPOSED WIRE, AND AN ELECTROCUTION 10
KRAKATOA VILLA, AND HOW THE ELECTROCUTED TRAVELLER WENT THERE IN A CAB. A CURIOUS WELCOME TO A PERFECT STRANGER. THE STRANGER'S LABEL. A CANCELLED MEMORY. BACK LIKE A BAD SHILLING 16
HOW THE STRANGER STOPPED ON AT KRAKATOA VILLA. OF THE FREAKS OF AN EXTINGUISHED MEMORY. OF HOW THE STRANGER GOT A GOOD APPOINTMENT, BUT NONE COULD SAY WHO HE WAS, NOR WHENCE 35
THE CHRISTMAS AFTER. OF THE CHURCH OF ST. SATISFAX, AND A YOUNG IDIOT WHO CAME THERE 44
OF BOXING DAY MORNING AT KRAKATOA VILLA, AND WHAT OBSERVANT CREATURES FOSSILS ARE 53
CONCERNING PEOPLE'S PASTS, AND THE SEPARATION OF THE SHEEP FROM THE GOATS. OF YET ANOTHER MAJOR, AND HOW HE GOSSIPPED AT HURKARU CLUB. SOME TRUSTWORTHY INFORMATION ABOUT AN ALLEGED DIVORCE 60
THE ANTECEDENTS OF ROSALIND NIGHTINGALE, SALLY'S MOTHER. HOW BOTH CAME FROM INDIA TO ENGLAND, AND TOOK A VILLA ON A REPAIRING LEASE. SOMEWHAT OF SALLY'S UPBRINGING. SOME MORE ROPER GOSSIP, AND A CAT LET OUT OF A BAG. A PIECE OF PRESENCE OF MIND 68
HOW THOSE GIRLS DO CHATTER OVER THEIR MUSIC! MRS. NIGHTINGALE'S RESOLUTION. BUT, THE RISK! A HARD PART TO PLAY. THERE WAS ONLY MAMMA FOR THE GIRL! THE GARDEN OF LONG AGO 82
THE DANGERS OF AN UNKNOWN PAST. NETTLE-GRASPING, AND A RECURRENCE. WHO AMONG US COURTS CATECHISM ABOUT HIMSELF? A UNIVERSALLY PROVIDED YOUNG MAN. HOW ABOUT THE POOR OLD FURNITURE? 95
MORE GIRLS' CHATTER. SWEEPS AND DUSTMEN. HOW SALLY DISILLUSIONED MR. BRADSHAW. OUT OF THE FRYING-PAN 105
WHAT FENWICK AND SALLY'S MOTHER HAD BEEN SAYING IN THE BACK DRAWING-ROOM. OP. 999. BACK IN THAT OLD GARDEN AGAIN, AND HOW GERRY COULD NOT SWIM. THE OLD TARTINI SONATA 113
OF A SLEEPLESS NIGHT MRS. NIGHTINGALE HAD, AND HOW SALLY WOKE UP AND TALKED 131
HOW MILLAIS' "HUGUENOT" CAME OF A WALK IN THE BACK GARDEN. AND HOW FENWICK VERY NEARLY KISSED SALLY 139
CONCERNING DR. VEREKER AND HIS MAMMA, WHO HAD KNOWN IT ALL ALONG. HOW SALLY LUNCHED WITH THE SALES WILSONS, AND GOT SPECULATING ABOUT HER FATHER. HOW TISHY LET OUT ABOUT MAJOR ROPER. HOW THERE WAS A WEDDING 150
OF A WEDDING-PARTY AND AN OLD MAN'S RETROSPECT. A HOPE OF RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE HEREAFTER. CHARLEY'S AUNT, AND PYRAMUS AND THISBE. HOW SALLY TRIED TO PUMP THE COLONEL AND GOT HALF A BUCKETFUL 166
SALLY'S LARK, AND HOW SHE TOOK HER MEDICAL ADVISER INTO HER CONFIDENCE AFTER DIVINE SERVICE 178
OF A SWIMMING-BATH, "ET PRAETEREA EXIGUUM" 186
HOW FENWICK KNEW ALL ABOUT THE MASS. AND HOW BARON KREUTZKAMMER RECOGNISED MR. HARRISSON. LONDON AGAIN! 191
MERE DAILY LIFE AT KRAKATOA. BUT SALLY IS QUITE FENWICK'S DAUGHTER BY NOW. OF HER VIEWS ABOUT DR. VEREKER, AND OF TISHY'S AUNT FRANCES 203
OF JULIUS BRADSHAW'S INNER SOUL. AND OF THE HABERDASHER BATTLE AT LADBROKE GROVE ROAD. ON CARPET-STRETCHING, AND VACCINATION FROM THE CALF. AN AFTER-DINNER INTERVIEW, AND GOOD RESOLUTIONS. EVASIVE TRAPPISTS 217
IT WAS THAT MRS. NIGHTINGALE'S FAULT. A SATISFACTORY CHAP, GERRY! A TELEGRAM AND A CLOUD. BRONCHITIS AND ASTHMA AND FOG. SALLY GOES TO MAYFAIR. THE OLD SOLDIER HAS NOTICE TO QUIT 236
OF A FOG THAT WAS UP-TO-DATE, AND HOW A FIRE-ENGINE RELIEVED SALLY FROM A BOY. HOW SALLY GOT IN AT A GENTLEMEN'S CLUB, AND HOW VETERANS COULD RECOLLECT HER FATHER. BUT THEY KNOW WHAT SHE CAN BE TOLD, AND WHAT SHE CAN'T. HOW MAJOR ROPER WOULD GO OUT IN THE FOG 245
HOW MAJOR ROPER MET THAT BOY, AND GOT UPSTAIRS AT BALL STREET. AN INTERVIEW BETWEEN ASTHMA AND BRONCHITIS. HOW SALLY PINIONED THE PURPLE VETERAN, AND THERE WAS NO BOY. HOW THE GOVERNOR DONE HOARCKIN', AND GOT QUALIFIED FOR A SUBJECT OF PSYCHICAL RESEARCH 260
ABOUT SIX MONTHS, AND HOW A CABMAN SAW A GHOST. OF SALLY'S AND THE DOCTOR'S "MODUS VIVENDI," AND THE SHOOSMITH FAMILY. HOW SALLY MADE TEA FOR BUDDHA, AND HOW BUDDHA FORESAW A STEPDAUGHTER. DELIRIUM TREMENS 283
MORNING AT LADBROKE GROVE ROAD, AND FAMILY DISSENSION. FACCIOLATI, AND A LEGACY. THE LAST CONCERT THIS SEASON. THE GOODY WILL COME TO IGGULDEN'S. BUT FANCY PROSY IN LOVE! 300
ST. SENNANS-ON-SEA. MISS GWENDOLEN ARKWRIGHT. WOULD ANY OTHER CHILD HAVE BEEN SALLY? HOW MRS. IGGULDEN'S COUSIN SOLOMON SURRENDERED HIS COUCH 310
HOW SALLY PUT THE FINISHING TOUCH ON THE DOCTOR, WHO COULDN'T SLEEP. OF THE GRAND DUKE OF HESSE-JUNKERSTADT. AND OF AN INTERVIEW OVERHEARD 323
OF A MARRIAGE BY SPECIAL LICENCE. ROSALIND'S COMPARISONS. OF THE THREE BRIDESMAIDS, AND HOW THE BRIDE WAS A GOOD SAILOR 331
HOW A FORTNIGHT PASSED, AND THE HONEYMOONERS RETURNED. OF A CHAT ON THE BEACH, AND MISS ARKWRIGHT'S SCIENTIFIC EXPERIENCE. ALMOST THE LAST, LAST, LAST—MAN'S HEAD! 337
HOW SALLY DIDN'T CONFESS ABOUT THE DOCTOR, AND JEREMIAH CAME TO ST. SENNANS ONCE MORE 349
HOW SALLY DIVED OFF THE BOAT, AND SHOCKED THE BEACH. OF THE SENSITIVE DELICACY OF THE OCTOPUS. AND OF DR. EVERETT GAYLER'S OPINIONS 357
OF AN INTERMITTENT CURRENT AT THE PIER-END, AND OF DOLLY'S FORTITUDE. HOW FENWICK PUT HIS HEAD IN THE JAWS OF THE FUTURE UNAWARES, AND PROSY DIDN'T COME. HOW SALLY AND HER STEP SAW PUNCH, AND OF A THIN END OF A FATAL WEDGE. BUT ROSALIND SAW NO COMING CLOUD 366
OF THE REV. SAMUEL HERRICK AND A SUNSET. THE WEDGE'S PROGRESS. THE BARON AGAIN, AND THE FLY-WHEEL. HOW FENWICK KNEW HIS NAME RIGHT, AND ROSALIND DIDN'T. HOW SALLY AND HER MEDICAL ADVISER WERE NOT QUITE WET THROUGH. HOW HE HAD MADE HER THE CONFIDANTE OF A LOVE-AFFAIR. OF A GOOD OPENING IN SPECIALISM. MORE PROGRESS OF THE WEDGE. HOW GERRY NEARLY MADE DINNER LATE 377
HOW A STONE THROWN DROVE THE WEDGE FURTHER YET. OF A TERRIBLE NIGHT IN A BIG GALE, AND A DOOR THAT SLAMMED. THE WEDGE WELL IN 392
HOW FENWICK AND VEREKER WENT FOR A WALK, AND MORE MEMORIES CAME BACK. HOW FENWICK WAS A MILLIONAIRE, OR THEREABOUTS. OF A CLUE THAT KILLED ITSELF. HARRISSON'S AFFAIR NOW! BOTHER THE MILLIONS! IS NOT LOVE BETTER THAN MONEY? ONLY FENWICK'S NAME WASN'T HARRISSON NEITHER 399
OF THE DOCTOR'S CAUTIOUS RESERVE, AND MRS. FENWICK'S STRONG COMMON-SENSE. AND OF A LADY AT BUDA-PESTH. HOW HARRISSON WAS ONLY PAST FORGOTTEN NEWSPAPERS TO DR. VEREKER. OF THE OCTOPUS'S PULSE. HOW THE HABERDASHER'S BRIDE WOULD TRY ON AT TWO GUAS. A WEEK, AND OF A PLEASANT WALK BACK FROM THE RAILWAY STATION 416
OF AN EXPEDITION AGAINST A GOODY, AND THE WALK BACK TO LOBJOIT'S. AND THE WALK BACK AGAIN TO IGGULDEN'S. HOW FENWICK TOOK VEREKER'S CONFIDENCE BY STORM. OF A COLLIER THAT PUT TO SEA. SUCCESSFUL AMBUSCADE OF THE OCTOPUS. PROVISIONAL EQUILIBRIUM OF FENWICK'S MIND. WHY BOTHER ABOUT HORACE? WHY NOT ABOUT PICKWICK JUST AS MUCH? THE KITTEN WASN'T THERE—CERTAINLY NOT! 431
HOW MEMORY CREPT BACK AND BACK, AND FENWICK KEPT HIS OWN COUNSEL. ROSALIND NEED NEVER KNOW IT. OF A JOLLY BIG BLOB OF MELTED CANDLE, AND SALLY'S HALF-BROTHER. OF FENWICK'S IMPROVED GOOD SPIRITS 448
BATHING WEATHER AGAIN, AND A LETTER FROM TISHY BRADSHAW. THE TRIUMPH OF ORPHEUS. BUT WAS IT EURYDICE OR THE LITTLE BATTERY? THE REV. MR. HERRICK. OF A REVERIE UNDER A BATHING-MACHINE, AND OF GWENDOLEN'S MAMMA'S CONNECTING-LINK. OF DR. CONRAD'S MAMMA'S DONKEY-CHAIR, AND HIS GREAT-AUNT ELIZA. HOW SALLY AND HE STARTED FOR THEIR LAST WALK AT ST. SENNANS 457
OF LOVE, CONSIDERED AS A THUNDERSTORM, AND OF AGUR, THE SON OF JAKEH (PROV. XXX.). OF A COUNTRY WALK AND A JUDICIOUSLY RESTORED CHURCH. OF TWO CLASPED HANDS, AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES. NOTHING SO VERY REMARKABLE AFTER ALL! 471
OF A RECURRENCE FROM "AS YOU LIKE IT," AND HOW FENWICK DIDN'T. WHY A SAILOR WOULD NOT LEARN TO SWIM. THE BARON AGAIN. OF A CUTTLE-FISH AND HIS SQUIRT. OF THE POWER OF A PRIORI REASONING. OF SALLY'S CONFESSION, AND HOW FENWICK WENT TO A FIRST-CLASS HOTEL 489
OF AN OBSERVANT AND THOUGHTFUL, BUT SNIFFY, WAITER; AND HOW HE OPENED A NEW BOTTLE OF COGNAC. HOW THE BARON SAW FENWICK HOME, WITHOUT HIS HAT. AN OLD MEMORY FROM ROSALIND'S PAST AND HIS. AND THEN FACE TO FACE WITH THE WHOLE. SLEEP UPON IT! BUT WHAT BECAME OF HIS HORRIBLE BABY? 498
OF A CONTRACT JOB FOR REPAIRS. HOW FENWICK HAD ANOTHER SLEEPLESS NIGHT AFTER ALL. WHICH IS WHICH, NOW OR TWENTY ODD YEARS AGO? HOW SALLY FOLLOWED JEREMIAH OUT. WHAT A LOT OF TALK ABOUT A LIFE-BELT! 513
OF CONRAD VEREKER'S REVISION OF PARADISE, AND OF FENWICK'S HIGH FEVER. OF AN ENGLISH OFFICER WHO WAVERED AT BOMBAY, AND OF FENWICK'S SURPRISE-BATH IN THE BRITISH CHANNEL. WHY HE DID NOT SINK. THE "ELLEN JANE" OF ST. SENNANS. ONLY SALLY IS IN THE WATER STILL. MORE BOATS. FOUND! 524
AN ERRAND IN VAIN, AND HOW DR. CONRAD CAME TO KNOW. CONCERNING LLOYD'S COFFEE-HOUSE, AND THE BATTLE OF CAMPERDOWN. MARSHALL HALL'S SYSTEM AND SILVESTER'S. SOCIAL DISADVANTAGES. A CHAT WITH A CENTENARIAN, AND HOW ROSALIND CAME TO KNOW. THOMAS LOCOCK OF ROCHESTER. ONE O'CLOCK! 531
WAS IT THE LITTLE GALVANIC BATTERY? THE LAST CHAPTER RETOLD BY THE PRESS. A PROPER RAILING. BUT THEY WEREN'T DROWNED. WHAT'S THE FUSS? MASTER CHANCELLORSHIP APPEARS AND VANISHES. ELECTUARY OF ST. SENNA. AT GEORGIANA TERRACE. A LETTER FROM SALLY. ANOTHER FROM CONRAD. EVERYTHING VANISHES! 554
A RETURNED TRAVELLER. NEMESIS IN LIVERMORE'S RENTS, 1808. EXTRAVAGANCE, AND NO CASH. A PAWNED WATCH, AND A RESIDUUM OF FOURPENCE
An exceptionally well-built man in a blue serge suit walked into a bank in the City, and, handing his card across the counter, asked if credit had been wired for him from New York. The clerk to whom he spoke would inquire.
As he leaned on the counter, waiting for the reply, his appearance was that of a man just off a sea voyage, wearing a suit of clothes well knocked about in a short time, but quite untainted by London dirt. His get-up conveyed no information about his social position or means. His garments had been made for him; that was all that could be said. That is something to know. But it leaves the question open whether their wearer is really only a person in decent circumstances—one decent circumstance, at any rate—or a Duke.
The trustworthy young gentleman in spectacles who came back from an authority in the bush to tell him that no credit had been wired so far, did not seem to find any difficulty in affecting confidence that the ultimate advent of this wire was an intrinsic certainty, like the post. Scarcely, perhaps, the respectable confidence he would have shown to a real silk hat—for the applicant's was mere soft felt, though it looked new, for that matter—and a real clean shirt, one inclusive of its own collar and cuffs. Our friend's answered this description; but then, it was blue. However, the confidence would have wavered under an independent collar and wristbands. Cohesiveness in such a garment means that its wearer may be an original genius: compositeness may mean that he has to economize, like us.
"Did you expect it so early as this?" says the trustworthy young gentleman, smiling sweetly through his spectacles. "It isn't ten o'clock yet." But he only says this to show his confidence, don't you see? Because his remark is in its nature meaningless, as there is no time of day telegrams have a penchant for. No doubt there is a time—perhaps even times and half-a-time—when you cannot send them. But there is no time when they may not arrive. Except the smallest hours of the morning, which are too small to count.
"I don't think I did," replies the applicant. "I don't think I thought about it. I wired them yesterday from Liverpool, when I left the boat, say four o'clock."
"Ah, then of course it's a little too early. It may not come till late in the afternoon. It depends on the load on the wires. Could you call in again—well, a little before our closing time?"
"All right." The speaker took out a little purse or pocket-book, and looked in it. "I thought so," said he; "that was my last card." But the clerk had left it in the inner sanctum. He would get it, and disappeared to do so. When he came back with it, however, he found its owner had gone, saying never mind, it didn't matter.
"Chap seems in a great hurry!" said he to his neighbour clerk. "What's he got that great big ring on his thumb for?" And the other replying: "Don't you know 'em—rheumatic rings?" he added: "Doesn't look a rheumatic customer, anyhow!" And then both of them pinned up cheques, and made double entries.
The chap didn't seem in a great hurry as he sauntered away along Cornhill, looking in at the shop-windows. He gave the idea of a chap with a fine June day before him in London, with a plethora of choices of what to do and where to go. Also of being keenly interested in everything, like a chap that had not been in London for a long time. After watching the action of a noiseless new petroleum engine longer than its monotonous idea of life seemed to warrant, he told a hansom to take him to the Tower, for which service he paid a careless two shillings. The driver showed discipline, and concealed his emotions. He wasn't going to let out that it was a double fare, and impair a fountain of wealth for other charioteers to come. Not he!
The fare enjoyed himself evidently at the Tower. He saw everything he could be admitted to—the Beauchamp Tower for sixpence, and the Jewel-house for sixpence. And he gave uncalled-for gratuities. When he had thoroughly enjoyed all the dungeons and all the torture-relics, and all the memories of Harrison Ainsworth's romance, read in youth and never forgotten, he told another hansom to drive him across the Tower Bridge, and not go too fast.
As he crossed the Bridge he looked at his watch. It was half-past twelve. He would have time to get back before half-past one to a restaurant he had made a mental note of near the Bank, and still to allow the cabby to drive on a bit through the transpontine and interesting regions of Rotherhithe and Cherry Garden Pier. It was so unlike anything he had been seeing lately. None the worse for the latter, in some respects. So, at least, thought the fare.
For he had the good, or ill, fortune to strike on a rich vein of so-called life in a London slum. Shrieks of fury, terror, pain were coming out of an archway that led, said an inscription, into Livermore's Rents, 1808. Public opinion, outside those Rents, ascribed them to the fact that Salter had been drinking. He was on to that pore wife of his again, like last week. Half killed her, he did, then! But he was a bad man to deal with, and public opinion wouldn't go down that court if I was you.
"But you're not, you see!" said the fare, who had sought this information. "You stop here, my lad, till I come back." This to the cabman, who sees him, not without misgivings about a source of income, plunge into the filthy and degraded throng that is filling the court, and elbow his way to the scene of excitement.
"He's all right!" said that cabby. "I'll put a tenner on him, any Sunday morning"—a figure of speech we cannot explain.
From his elevation above the crowd he can see a good deal of what goes on, and guess the rest. Of what he hears, no phrase could be written without blanks few readers could fill in, and for the meaning of which no equivalent can even be hinted. The actual substance of the occurrence, that filters through the cries of panic and of some woman or child, or both, in agony, the brutal bellowings and threats of a predominant drunken lout, presumably Mr. Salter, the incessant appeals to God and Christ by terrified women, and the rhetorical use of the names of both by the men, with the frequent suggestion that some one else should go for the police—this actual substance may be drily stated thus: Mr. Salter, a plumber by trade, but at present out of work, had given way to ennui, and to relieve it had for two days past been beating and otherwise maltreating his daughter, aged fourteen, and had threatened the life of her mother for endeavouring to protect her. At the moment when he comes into this story (as a mere passing event we shall soon forget without regret) he is engaged in the fulfilment of a previous promise to his unhappy wife—a promise we cannot transcribe literally, because of the free employment of a popular adjective (supposed to be a corruption of "by Our Lady") before or after any part of speech whatever, as an expletive to drive home meaning to reluctant minds. It is an expression unwelcome on the drawing-room table. But, briefly, what Mr. Salter had so sworn to do was to twist his wife's nose off with his finger and thumb. And he did not seem unlikely to carry out his threat, as Livermore's tenantry lacked spirit or will to interpose, and did nothing but shriek in panic when feminine, and show discretion when masculine; mostly affecting indifference, and saying they warn't any good, them Salters. The result seemed likely to turn on whether the victim's back hair would endure the tension as a fulcrum, or would come rippin' out like so much grarse.
"Let go of her!" half bellows, half shrieks her legal possessor, in answer to a peremptory summons. "Not for a swiney, soap-eatin' Apoarstle—not for a rotten parson's egg, like you. Not for a...."
But the defiance is cut short by a blow like the kick of a horse, that lands fairly on the eye-socket with a cracking concussion that can be heard above the tumult, and is followed by a roar of delight from the male vermin, who see all the joys before them of battle unshared and dangerless—the joys bystanders feel in foemen worthy of each other's steel, and open to be made the subject of wagers.
The fare rejects all offers to hold his coat, but throws his felt hat to a boy to hold. Self-elected seconds make a kind of show of getting a clear space. No idea of assisting in the suppression of a dangerous drunken savage seems to suggest itself—nothing but what is called "seeing fair." This is, to wit, letting him loose on even terms on the only man who has had the courage to intervene between him and his victim. Let us charitably suppose that this is done in the hope that it means prompt and tremendous punishment before the arrival of the police. The cabman sees enough from his raised perch to justify his anticipating this with confidence. He can just distinguish in the crowd Mr. Salter's first rush for revenge and its consequences. "He's got it!" is his comment.
Then he hears the voice of his fare ring out clear in a lull—such a one as often comes in the tense excitement of a fight. "Give him a minute.... Now stick him up again!" and then is aware that Mr. Salter has been replaced on his legs, and is trying to get at his antagonist, and cannot. "He's playin' with him!" is his comment this time. But he does not play with him long, for a swift finale comes to the performance, perhaps consequent on a cry that heralds a policeman. It causes a splendid excitement in that cabman, who gets as high as he can, to miss none of it. "That's your sort!" he shouts, quite wild with delight. "That's the style! Foller on! Foller on!" And then, subsiding into his seat with intense satisfaction, "Done his job, anyhow! Hope he'll be out of bed in a week!"—the last with an insincere affectation of sympathy for the defeated combatant.
The fare comes quickly along the court and out at the entry, whose occupants the cabman flicks aside with his whip suggestively. "Let the gentleman come, can't you!" he shouts at them. They let him come. "Be off sharp!" he says to the cabby, who replies, "Right you are, governor!" and is off, sharp. Only just in time to avoid three policemen, who dive into Livermore's Rents, and possibly convey Mr. Salter to the nearest hospital. Of all that this story knows no more; Mr. Salter goes out of it.
The fare, who seems very little discomposed, speaks through the little trap to his Jehu. "I never got my new hat again," he says. "You must drive back; there won't be any decent hatter here."
"Ask your pardon, sir—the Bridge is histed. Vessel coming through—string of vessels with a tug-boat."
"Oh, well, get back to the Bank—anywhere—the nearest way you can." And after a mysterious short cut through narrow ways that recall old London, some still paved with cobbles, past lofty wharves or warehouses daring men lean from the floors of at dizzy heights, and capture bales for, that seem afloat in the atmosphere till one detects the thread that holds them to their crane above—under unexplained rialtos and over inexplicable iron incidents in paving that ring suddenly and waggle underfoot—the cab finds its way across London Bridge, and back to a region where you can buy anything, from penny puzzles to shares in the power of Niagara, if you can pay for them.
Our cab-fare, when he called out, "Hold hard here!" opposite to a promising hat-shop, seemed to be in doubt of being able to pay for something very much cheaper than Niagara. He took out his purse, still sitting in the cab, and found in it only a sovereign, apparently. He felt in his pockets. Nothing there beyond five shillings and some coppers. He could manage well enough—so his face and a slight nod seemed to say—till he went back to the Bank after lunch. And so, no doubt, he would have done had he been content with a common human billycock or bowler, like the former one, at four-and-six. But man is born to give way to temptation in shops. No doubt you have noticed the curious fact that when you go into a shop you always spend more—more than you mean to, more than you want to, more than you've got—one or other of them—but always more.
Inside the shop, billycocks in tissue-paper came out of band-boxes, and then out of tissue-paper. But, short of eight shillings, they betrayed a plebeian nature, and lacked charm. Now, those beautiful white real panamas, at twenty-two shillings, were exactly the thing for this hot weather, especially the one the fare tried on. His rich brown hair, that wanted cutting, told well against the warm straw-white. He looked handsome in it, with those strong cheek-bones and bronzed throat Mr. Salter would have been so glad to get at. He paid for it, saying never mind the receipt, and then went out to pay the cabby, who respectfully hoped he didn't see him any the worse for that little affair over the water.
"None the worse, thank you! Shan't be sorry for lunch, though." Then, as he stands with three shillings in his hand, waiting for a recipient hand to come down from above, he adds: "A very one-sided affair! Did you hear what he said about his daughter? That was why I finished him so thoroughly."
"No, sir, I did not hear it. But he was good for the gruel he's got, Lord bless you! without that ... I ask your pardon, sir—no! Not from a gentleman like you! Couldn't think of it! Couldn't think of it!" And with a sudden whip-lash, and a curt hint to his horse, that cabman drove off unpaid. The other took out a pencil, and wrote the number of the cab on his blue wristband, close to a little red spot—Mr. Salter's blood probably. When he had done this he turned towards the restaurant he had taken note of. But he seemed embarrassed about finances—at least, about the three shillings the cabby had refused; for he kept them in his hand as if he didn't know what to do with them. He walked on until he came to a hidden haven of silence some plane-trees and a Church were enjoying unmolested, and noticing there a box with a slot, and the word "Contributions" on it, dropped the three shillings in without more ado, and passed on. But he had no intention of lunching on the small sum he had left.
An inquiry of a City policeman guided him to a pawnbroker's shop. What would the pawnbroker lend him on that—his watch? Fifteen shillings would do quite well. That was his reply to an offer to advance that sum, if he was going to leave the chain as well. It was worth more, but it would be all safe till he came for it, at any rate. "You'll find it here, any time up to twelve months," said the pawnbroker, who also nodded after him knowingly as he left the shop. "Coming back for it in a week, of course! All of 'em are. Name of Smith, as usual! Most of 'em are." Yet this man's honouring Mr. Smith with a comment looked as if he thought him unlike "most of 'em." He never indulged in reflections on the ruck—be sure of that!
Mr. Smith, if that was his name, didn't seem uneasy. He found his way to his restaurant and ordered a very good lunch and a bottle of Perrier-Jouet—not a half-bottle; he certainly was extravagant. He took his time over both, also a nap; then, waking, felt for his watch and remembered he had pawned it; looked at the clock and stretched himself, and called for his bill and paid it. Most likely the wire had come to the Bank by now; anyhow, there was no harm in walking round to see. If it wasn't there he would go back to the hotel at Kensington where he had left his luggage, and come back to-morrow. It was a bore. Perhaps they would let him have a cheque-book, and save his having to come again. Much of this is surmise, but a good deal was the substance of remarks made in fragments of soliloquy. Their maker gave the waiter sixpence and left the restaurant with three shillings in his pocket, lighting a cigar as he walked out into the street.
He kept to the narrow ways and little courts, wondering at the odd corners Time seems to have forgotten about, and Change to have deserted as unworthy of her notice; every door of every house an extract from a commercial directory, mixed and made unalphabetical by the extractor; every square foot of flooring wanted for Negotiation to stand upon, and Transactions to be carried out over. No room here for anything else, thought the smoker, as, after a quarter of an hour's saunter, he threw away the end of his cigar. But his conclusion was premature. For lo and behold!—there, in a strange little wedge-shaped corner, of all things in the world, a barber's shop; maybe a relic of the days of Ben Jonson or earlier—how could a mere loafer tell? Anyhow, his hair wanted cutting sufficiently to give him an excuse to see the old place inside. He went in and had his hair cut—but under special reservation; not too much! The hairdresser was compliant; but, said he, regretfully: "You do your 'ed, sir, less than justice." Its owner took his residuum of change from his pocket, and carelessly spent all but a few coppers on professional remuneration and a large bottle of eau-de-Cologne. Perhaps the reflection that he could cab all the way back to the hotel had something to do with this easy-going way of courting an empty pocket.
When he got to the Bank another young gentleman, with no spectacles this time, said he didn't know if any credit was wired. He was very preoccupied, pinning up cheques and initialling some important customer's paying-in book. But he would inquire in a moment, if you would wait. And did so, with no result; merely expression of abstract certainty that it was sure to come. There was still an hour—over an hour—before closing time, said he to a bag with five pounds of silver in it, unsympathetically. If you could make it convenient to look in in an hour, probably we should have received it. The person addressed but not looked at might do so—wouldn't commit himself—and went away.
The question seemed to be how to while away that hour. Well!—there was the Twopenny Tube. At that time it was new, and an excitement. Our friend had exactly fourpence in his pocket. That would take him to anywhere and back before the Bank closed. And also he could put some of that eau-de-Cologne on his face and hands. He had on him still a sense of the foulness of Livermore's Rents and wanted something to counteract it. Eau-de-Cologne is a great sweetener.
A JOURNEY IN THE TWOPENNY TUBE. A VERY NICE GIRL, AND A NEGOTIATION. AN EXPOSED WIRE, AND AN ELECTROCUTION
He took his fare in the Twopenny Tube. It was the last twopence but one that he had in his pocket. Something fascinated him in the idea of commanding, in exchange for that twopence, the power of alighting at any point between Cheapside and Shepherd's Bush. Which should it be?
If he could only make up his mind to not alighting at Chancery Lane, he would have two whole minutes for consideration. If British Museum he would have four. If Tottenham Court Road, six—and so on. For the time being he was a sort of monarch, in a small way, over Time and Space. He would go on to the Museum, at any rate.
What little things life hangs on, sometimes! If he had foolishly got out at either Chancery Lane or British Museum, there either would have been no reason for writing this story; or, if written, it would have been quite different. For at the Museum Station a girl got into the carriage; and, passing him on her way to a central haven of rest, trod on his foot, with severity. It hurt, so palpably, that the girl begged his pardon. She was a nice girl, and sorry.
He forgave her because she was a nice girl, with beautiful rows of teeth and merry eyebrows. He might have forgiven her if she had been a dowdy. But he liked forgiving those teeth, and those eyebrows.
So when she sat down in the haven, close to his left shoulder, he wasn't sorry that his remark that he ought to beg her pardon, because it was all his fault for sticking out, overlapped her coming to an anchor. If it had been got through quicker, the incident would have been regarded as closed. As it was, the fag-end of it was unexhausted, and she didn't quite catch the whole. It was in no way unnatural that she should turn her head slightly, and say: "I beg your pardon." Absolute silence would have been almost discourteous, after plunging on to what might have been a bad corn.
"I only meant it was my fault for jamming up the whole gangway."
"Oh yes—but it was my fault all the same—for—for——"
"Yes—I beg your pardon? You were going to say—for——?"
"Well—I mean—for standing on it so long, then! If you had called out—but indeed I didn't think it was a foot. I thought it was something in the electricity."
Two things were evident. One was that it was perfectly impossible to be stiff and stodgy over it, and not laugh out. The other, the obvious absurdity of imputing any sort of motive to the serene frankness and absolute candour of the speaker. Any sort of motive—"of that sort"—said he to himself, without further analysis. He threw himself into the laugh, without attempting any. It disposed of the discussion of the subject, but left matters so that stolid silence would have been priggish. It seemed to him that not to say another word would almost have amounted to an insinuation against the eyebrows and the teeth. He would say one—a most impersonal one.
"Do they stop at Bond Street?"
"Do you want to stop at Bond Street?"
"Not at all. I don't care where I stop. I think I meant—is there a station at Bond Street?"
"The station wasn't opened at first. But it's open now."
What an irritating thing a conversation can be! Here was this one, just as one of its constituents was beginning to wish it to go on, must needs exhaust its subject and confess that artificial nourishment was needed to sustain it. And she—(for it was she, not he:—did you guess wrong?)—had begun to want to know, don't you see, why the man with the hair on the back of his browned hand and the big plain gold ring on his thumb did not care where he stopped. If he had had a holiday look about him she might have concluded that he was seeing London, and then what could be more natural than to break loose, as it were, in the Twopenny Tube? But in spite of his leisurely look, he had not in the least the seeming of a holiday-maker. His clothes were not right for the part. What he was could not be guessed without a clue, and the conversation had collapsed, clearly! It was irritating to be gravelled for lack of matter—and he was such a perfect stranger! The girl was a reader of Shakespeare, but she certainly didn't see her way to Rosalind's little expedient. "Even though my own name is Rosalind," said she to herself.
It was the readiness and completeness with which the man dropped the subject, and recoiled into himself, that gave the girl courage to make an attempt to satisfy her curiosity. When a man harks back, palpably, on some preoccupation, after exchanging a laugh and an impersonal word or two with a girl who does not know him, it is the best confirmation possible of his previous good faith in seeming more fatherlike than manlike. Rosalind could risk it, surely. "Very likely he has a daughter my age," said she to herself. Then she saw an opening—the thumb-ring.
"Do pray excuse me for asking, but do you find it does good? My mother was recommended to try one."
"This ring? It hasn't done me any good. But then, I have hardly anything the matter. I don't know about other people. I'm sorry I bought it, now. It cost four-and-sixpence, I think. I would sooner have the four-and-sixpence.... Yes, decidedly! I would sooner have the four-and-sixpence."
"Can't you sell it?"
"I don't believe I could get sixpence for it."
"Do please excuse me—I mean, excuse the liberty I take—but I should so much like to—to...."
"To buy it for sixpence? Certainly. Why not? Much better than paying four-and-six for a new one. Your mother may find it do her good. I don't care about it, and I really have nothing the matter."
He drew the ring off his thumb, and Rosalind took it from him. She slipped it on her finger, over her glove. Naturally it slipped off—a man's thumb-ring! She passed it up inside the glove-palm, through the little slot above the buttons. Then she got out her purse, and looked in to see what its resources were.
"I have only got half-a-crown," said she. The man flushed slightly. Rosalind fancied he was angry, and had supposed she was offering beyond her bargain, which might have implied liberality, or benevolence, or something equally offensive. But it wasn't that at all.
"I have no change," said he. "Never mind about the sixpence. Send me stamps. I'll give you my card." And then he recollected he had no card, and said so.
"It doesn't matter being very exact," said she.
"I have no money at all. Except twopence."
Rosalind hesitated. This man must be very hard up, only he certainly did not give that impression. Still, "no money at all, except twopence!" Would it be safe to try to get the half-crown into his pocket? That was what she wanted to do, but felt she might easily blunder over it. If she was to achieve it, she must be quick, for the public within hearing was already feeling in its pocket, in order to oblige with change for half-a-crown. She was quick.
"You send it me in stamps," she said, pressing the coin on him. "Take it, and I'll get my card for the address. It will be one-and-eleven exactly, because of the postage. It ought to be a penny for stationery, too.... Oh, well! never mind, then...."
She had got the card, and the man, demurring to the stationery suggestion, and, indeed, hesitating whether to take the coin at all, looked at the card with a little surprise on his face. He read it:
MRS. NIGHTINGALE. MISS ROSALIND NIGHTINGALE. KRAKATOA, GLENMOIRA ROAD, SHEPHERD'S BUSH, W.
"I'm not Mrs. Nightingale," said the girl. "That's my mother."
"Oh no!" said he. "It wasn't that. It was only that I knew the name once—years ago."
The link in the dialogue here was that she had thought the surprise was due to his crediting her with matrimony and a visiting-card daughter. She was just thinking could she legitimately inquire into the previous Nightingale, when he said some more of his own accord, and saved her the trouble.
"Rosalind Nightingale was the name," said he. "Do you know any relation——"
"Only my mother," answered the girl, surprised. "She's Rosalind, too, like me. I mean, I'm Rosalind. I am always called Sally, though."
The man was going to answer when, as luck would have it, the card slipped from his fingers and fluttered down. In pursuing it he missed the half-crown, which the young lady released, fancying he was about to take hold of it, and stooped to search for it where it had rolled under the seat.
"How idiotic of me!" said he.
"Next station Uxbridge Road," thus the guard proclaimed; and then, seeing the exploration that was going on after the half-crown, he added: "I should let it go at that, mister, if I was you."
The man asked why?
"There was a party tried that game last week. He's in the horspital now." This was portentous and enigmatical. The guard continued: "If a party gets electrocuted, it's no concern of the employees on the line. It lies between such parties and the Company. I shouldn't myself, if I was you! But it's between you and the Company. I wash my hands."
"If the wires are properly insulated"—this was from an important elderly gentleman, of a species invariable under the circumstances—"if the wires are properly insulated, there is not the slightest cause for apprehension of any sort or kind."
"Very good!" said the guard gloomily. "Then all I say is, insoolate 'em yourselves. Don't try to put it on me! Or else keep your hands well outside of the circuit." But the elderly gentleman was not ready to acquiesce in the conditions pointed at.
"I repeat," said he, "that the protection of the public is, or ought to be, amply secured by the terms of the Company's charter. If any loophole exists for the escape of the electric current, all I can say is, the circumstances call for public inquiry. The safety of the public is the concern of the authorities."
"Then," said the guard pointedly, "if I was the public, I should put my hands in my pocket, and not go fishing about for ambiguous property in corners. There!—what did I tell you? Now you'll say that was me, I suppose?"
The thing that hadn't been the guard was a sudden crackle that leaped out in a blue flame under the seat where the man's hand was exploring for the half-crown. It was either that, or another like it, at the man's heel. Or both together. A little boy was intensely delighted, and wanted more of the same sort. The elderly gentleman turned purple with indignation, and would at once complain to the authorities. They would take the matter up, he doubted not. It was a disgrace, etc., etc., etc.
Rosalind, or Sally, Nightingale showed no alarm. Her merry eyebrows were as merry as ever, and her smile was as unconscious a frame to her pearly teeth as ever, when she turned to the mother of the delighted little boy and spoke.
"There now! It's exactly like that when I comb my hair in very dry weather." And the good woman was able to confirm this from her own experience, narrating (with needless details) the strange phenomena attendant on the head of a young person in quite a good situation at Woollamses, and really almost a lady, stating several times what she had said to the young person, Miss Ada Taylor, and what answer she had received. She treated the matter entirely with reference to the bearings of the electric current on questions of social status.
But the man did not move, remaining always with his arm under the seat. Rosalind, or Sally, thought he had run the half-crown home, but in some fixed corner from which detachment was for a moment difficult. Wondering why the moment should last so long, she spoke.
"Have you got it?" said she.
But the man spoke never a word, and remained quite still.
KRAKATOA VILLA, AND HOW THE ELECTROCUTED TRAVELLER WENT THERE IN A CAB. A CURIOUS WELCOME TO A PERFECT STRANGER. THE STRANGER'S LABEL. A CANCELLED MEMORY. BACK LIKE A BAD SHILLING
Krakatoa was a semi-detached villa, a few minutes' walk from Shepherd's Bush Station. It looked like a showily dressed wife of a shabby husband; for the semi-detached other villa next door had been standing to let for years, and its compo front was in a state of decomposition from past frosts, and its paint was parched and thin in the glare of the present June sun, and peeling and dripping spiritlessly from the closed shutters among the dead flies behind the cracked panes of glass that had quite forgotten the meaning of whitening and water, and that wouldn't hack out easy by reason of the putty having gone 'ard. One knew at a glance that if the turncock was to come, see, and overcome the reluctance of the allotted cock-to-be-turned, the water would burst out at every pore of the service-pipes in that house, except the taps; and would know also that the adept who came to soften their hearts and handles would have to go back for his tools, and would be a very long time away.
Krakatoa, on the other hand, was resplendent with stone-colour, and smelt strongly of it. And its door you could see through the glass of into the hall, when its shutters were not thumb-screwed up over the panes, was painted a green that staggered the reason, and smelt even more strongly than the stone-colour. And all the paint was so thick that the beadings on the door were dim memories, and all the execution on the sculptured goblets on pedestals flanking the steps in the front garden was as good as spoiled. And the paint simmered in the sun, and here and there it blistered and altogether suggested that Krakatoa, like St. Nicholas, might have halved its coats with the beggar next door—given him, suppose, one flat and one round coat. Also, that either the job had been 'urried, and not giv' proper time to dry, or that the summer had come too soon, and we should pay for it later on, you see if we didn't!
The coatless and woe-begone villa next door had almost lost its name, so faded was the lettering on the gate-post that was putting out its bell-handle to the passer-by, even as the patient puts out his tongue to the doctor. But experts in palimpsests, if they had penetrated the superscriptions in chalk and pencil of idle authorship, would have found that it was The Retreat. Probably this would have been revealed even if the texts had been merely Bowdlerised with Indian-rubber or a sponge, because there were a good many objectionable passages.
But The Retreat was a retreat, and smelt strong of the Hermits, who were cats. Krakatoa was not a volcano, except so far as eruptions on the paint went. But then it had become Krakatoa through a mistake; for the four coats of paint at the end of the first seven years, as per agreement, having completely hidden the first name, Saratoga, and the builders' retention of it having been feeble—possibly even affected by newspaper posters, for it was not long after the date of the great eruption—the new name had crept in in the absence of those who could have corrected it, but had gone to Brighton to get out of the smell of the paint.
When they returned, Mr. Prichard, the builder, though shocked and hurt at the discovery that the wrong name had been put up, was strongly opposed to any correction or alteration, especially as it would always show if altered back. You couldn't make a job of it; not to say a proper job. Besides, the names were morally the same, and it was absurd to allow a variation in the letters to impose on our imagination. The two names had been applied to very different turns-out abroad, certainly; but then they did all sorts of things abroad. If Saratoga, why not Krakatoa? Mr. Prichard was entrenched in a stronghold of total ignorance of literary matters, and his position, that mere differences of words ought not to tell upon a healthy mind, was difficult to shake, especially as he had the coign of vantage. He had only to remain inanimate, and what could a (presumably) widow lady with one small daughter do against him? So at the end of the first seven years, what had been Saratoga became Krakatoa, and remained so.
And it was in the back garden of the again newly painted villa, seven years later, that the lady of the house, who was watering the garden in the cool of the afternoon, asked her excited daughter, who had just come home in a cab, what on earth could have prompted her to do such a mad thing, such a perfectly insane thing! We shall see what it was immediately.
"Oh, Sally, Sally!" exclaimed that young person's still young and very handsome mother. "What will the child do next?"
"Oh, mamma, mamma!" answers Sally, just on the edge of a burst of tears; "what was I to do? What could I do? It was all my fault from the beginning. You know I couldn't leave him to be taken to the police-station, or the hospital, or——"
"Yes, of course you could! Why not?"
"And not know what became of him, or anything? Oh, mother!"
"You silly child! Why on earth couldn't you leave him to the railway people?"
"And run away and leave him alone? Oh, mother!"
"But you don't even know his name."
"Mamma, dear, how should I know his name? Don't you see, it was just like this." And then Miss Sally Nightingale repeats, briefly and rapidly, for the second time, the circumstances of her interview in the railway-carriage and its tragic ending. Also their sequel on the railway platform, with the partial recovery of the stunned or stupefied man, his inability to speak plainly, the unsuccessful search in his pockets for something to identify him, and the final decision to put him in a cab and take him to the workhouse infirmary, pending discovery of his identity. The end of her story has a note of relief in it:
"And it was then I saw Dr. Vereker on the platform."
"Oh, you saw Dr. Vereker?"
"Of course I did, and he came with me. He's always so kind, you know, and he knew the station people, so...."
"Where is he now?"
"Outside in the cab. He stopped to see after the man. We couldn't both come away, so I came to tell you."
"You stupid chit! why couldn't you tell me at first? There, don't cry and be a goose!"
But Sally disclaims all intention of crying. Her mother discards the watering-pot and an apron, and suppresses appearances of gardening; then goes quickly through the house, passes down the steps between the scarlet geraniums in the over-painted goblets, through the gate on which Saratoga ought to be, and Krakatoa is, written, and finds a four-wheeled cab awaiting developments. One of its occupants alights and meets her on the pavement. A rapid colloquy ensues in undertones, ending in the slightly raised voice of the young man, who is clearly Dr. Vereker.
"Of course, you're perfectly right—perfectly right. But you'll have to make my peace with Miss Sally for me."
"A chit of a girl like that! Fancy a responsible man like you letting himself be twisted round the finger of a young monkey. But you men are all alike."
"Well, you know, really, what Miss Sally said was quite true—that it was only a step out of the way to call here. And she had got this idea that it was all her fault."
"I can only go by what she says." The girl comes into the conversation through the gate. She may perhaps have stopped for a word or two with cook and a house-and-parlourmaid, who are deeply interested, in the rear.
"It was my fault," she said. "If it hadn't been for me, it would never have happened. Do see how he is now, Dr. Vereker."
It is open to surmise that the first strong impulse of generosity having died down under the corrective of a mother, our young lady is gradually seeing her way to interposing Dr. Vereker as a buffer between herself and the subject of the conversation, for she does not go to the cab-door to look in at him. The doctor does. The mother holds as aloof as possible, not to get entangled into any obligations.
"Get him away to the infirmary, or the station at once," she says. "That's the best thing to be done. They'll take care of him till his friends come to claim him. Of course, they'll come. They always do." The doctor seems to share this confidence, or affects to do so.
"Sure to. His friends or his servants," says he. "But he can't give any account of himself yet. Of course, I don't know what he'll be able to do to-morrow morning."
He resumes his place in the cab beside its occupant, who, except for an entire want of animation, looks much like what he did in the railway-carriage—the same strong-looking man with well-marked cheek-bones, very thick brown hair and bushy brows, a skin rather tanned, and a scar on the bridge of the nose; very strong hands with a tattoo-mark showing on the wrist and an abnormal crop of hair on the back, running on to the fingers, but flawed by a scar or two. Add to this the chief thing you would recollect him by, an Elizabethan beard, and you will have all the particulars about him that a navy-blue serge suit, with shirt to match, allows to be seen of him. But you will have an impression that could you see his skin beyond the sun-mark limit on his hands and neck, you would find it also tattooed. Yet you would not at once conclude he was a sailor; rather, your conclusion might go on other lines, but always assigning to him a rough adventurous outdoor life.
When the doctor got into the cab and shut the door himself, he took too much for granted. He assumed the driver, without whom, if your horse has no ambition at all beyond tranquillity and an empty nosebag, your condition is that of one camping out; or as one in a ship moored alongside in dock, the kerbstone playing the part of the quay. Boys will then accumulate, and undervalue your appearance and belongings. And impossible persons, with no previous or subsequent existence, will endeavour to see their way to the establishment of a claim on you. And you will be rather grateful than otherwise that a policeman without active interests should accrue, and communicate to them the virus of dispersal, however long its incubation may be. You will then probably do as Dr. Vereker did, and resent the driver's disappearance. The boys, mysteriously in his, each other's, and the policeman's confidence (all to your exclusion), will be able to quicken his movements, and he will come trooping from the horizon, on or beyond which is Somebody's Entire.
All this came to pass in due course, and the horse, deprived of his nosebag, returned to his professional obligations. But it was a shabby horse in a shabby cab, to which he imparted movement by falling forwards and saving himself just before he reached the ground. His reins were visibly made good with stout pack-thread, and he had a well-founded contempt for his whip, which seemed to come to an end too soon, and always to hit something wooden before it reached any sensitive part of his person. But he did get off at last, and showed that, as Force is a mode of motion, so Weakness is a mode of slowness, and one he took every advantage of.
The mother and daughter stood looking after the vanishing label, that stated that the complication of inefficiencies in front of it was one of twelve thousand and odd—pray Heaven, more competent ones!—in the Metropolis, and had nearly turned to go into the house, when the very much younger sister (that might have been) addressed the very much, but not impossibly, older one thus:
"Mamma, he said he knew somebody of our name!"
"Well, Miss Fiddlestick!"—with an implication of what of that? Were there not plenty of Nightingales in the world? Miss Sally is perceptive about this.
"Yes, but he said Rosalind."
"He didn't say where. That's all he said—Rosalind."
As the two stand together watching the retreating cab we are able to see that our first impression of them, derived perhaps from their relative ages only, was an entirely false one as far as size went. The daughter is nearly as tall as her mother, and may end by being as big a woman when she has completely graduated, taken her degree, in womanhood. But for all that we, who have looked at both faces, know that when they turn round we shall see on the shoulders of the one youth, inexperience, frankness, and expectation of things to come; on those of the other a head that keeps all the mere physical freshness of the twenties, if not quite the bloom of the teens, but—expressed Heaven knows how!—experience, reserve, and retrospect on things that have been once and are not, and that we have no right to assume to be any concern of ours. Equally true of all faces of forty, do we understand you to say? Well, we don't know about that. It was all very strong in this face.
We can look again, when they turn round. But they don't; for number twelve thousand and odd has come to a standstill, and its energumenon has come down off its box, and is "fiddlin' at something on the 'orse's 'ed." So cook says, evidently not impressed with that cab. The doctor looks out and confers; then gets out and comes back towards the house. The girl and her mother walk to meet him.
"Never saw such a four-wheeler in my life! The harness is tied up with string, and the rein's broken. The idiot says if he had a stout bit of whipcord, he could make it square." No sooner have the words passed the doctor's lips than Miss Sally is off on a whipcord quest.
"I wish the child wouldn't always be in such a hurry," says her mother. "Now she won't know where to get it."
She calls after her ineffectually. The doctor suggests that he shall follow with instructions. Yes, suppose he does? There is precisely the thing wanted in the left-hand drawer of the table in the hall—the drawer the handle comes off. This seems unpromising, but the doctor goes, and transmission of messages ensues, heard within the house.
Left alone, Mrs. Nightingale, the elder Rosalind, seems reflective. "A funny thing, too!" she says aloud to herself. She is thinking, clearly, of how this man in the cab, who can't give any account of himself, once knew a Rosalind Nightingale.
Probably the handle has come off the drawer, for they are a long time over that string. Curiosity has time to work, and has so much effect that the lady seems to determine that, after all, she would like to see the man. Now that the cab is so far from the door, even if she spoke to him, she would not stand committed to anything. It is all settled, arranged, ratified, that he shall go to the police-station, or the infirmary, "or somewhere."
When the string, and Dr. Vereker, and Sally the daughter come out of the house, both exclaim. And the surprise they express is that the mother of the latter should have walked all the way after the cab, and should be talking to the man in it! It is not consistent with her previous attitude.
"Now, isn't that like mamma?" says Sally. If so, why be so astonished at it?—is a question that suggests itself to her hearer. But self-confutation is not a disorder for his treatment. Besides, the doctor likes it, in this case. His own surprise at mamma's conduct is unqualified by any intimate acquaintance with her character. She may be inconsistency itself, for anything he knows.
"Is she going to turn the cab round and bring him to the house, after all?" It looks like it.
"I'm so glad," Sally replies to the doctor.
"I hope you won't repent it in sackcloth and ashes."
"I shan't. Why do you think I shall?"
"How do you know you won't?"
"You'll see!" Sally pinches her red lips tight over her two rows of pearls, and nods confirmation. Her dark eyes look merry under the merry eyebrows, and the lip-pinch makes a dimple on her chin—a dimple to remember her by. She is a taking young lady, there is no doubt of it. At least, the doctor has none.
"Yes, Sally, it's all quite right." Thus her mother, arriving a little ahead of the returning cab. "Now, don't dispute with me, child, but do just as I tell you. We'll have him in the breakfast-room; there's fewer steps." She seems to have made up her mind so completely that neither of the others interposes a word. But she replies, moved by a brain-wave, to a question that stirred in the doctor's mind.
"Oh yes; he has spoken. He spoke to me just now. I'll tell you presently. Now let's get him out. No, never mind calling cook. You take him on that side, doctor.... That's right!"
And then the man, whose name we still do not know, found himself half supported, half standing alone, on the pavement in front of a little white eligible residence smelling of new paint. He did not the least know what had happened. He had only a vague impression that if some one or something, he couldn't say what, would only give up hindering him, he would find something he was looking for. But how could he find it if he didn't know what it was? And that he was quite in the dark about. The half-crown and the pretty girl who had given it to him, the train-guard and his cowardice about responsibility, the public-spirited gentleman, the railway-carriage itself, to say nothing of all the exciting experiences of the morning—all, all had vanished, leaving behind only the trace of the impulse to search. Nothing else! He stood looking bewildered, then spoke thickly.
"I am giving trouble," said he. Then the two ladies and the gentleman, whom he saw dimly and did not know, looked at one another, each perhaps to see if one of the others would speak first. In the end the lady who was a woman nodded to the gentleman to speak, and then the lady who was a girl confirmed her by what was little more than an intention to nod, not quite unmixed with a mischievous enjoyment at the devolution of the duty of speech on the gentleman. It twinkled in her closed lips. But the gentleman didn't seem overwhelmed with embarrassment. He spoke as if he was used to things.
"You have had an accident, sir.... On the railway.... In the Twopenny Tube.... Yes, you'll remember all about it presently.... Yes, I'm a doctor.... Yes, we want you to come in and sit down and rest till you're better.... No, it won't be a long job. You'll soon come round.... What?... Oh no, no trouble at all! It's this lady's house, and she wants you to come in." The speaker seems to guess at the right meanings, as one guesses in the jaws of the telephone, perhaps with more confidence. But there was but little audible articulation on the other's part.
He seemed not to want much support—chiefly guidance. He was taken down the half-dozen steps that flanked a grass slope down to a stone paving, and through a door under the more numerous steps he had escaped climbing, and into a breakfast-room flush with the kitchen, opening on a small garden at the back. There was the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert over the chimney-piece, and a tortoiseshell cat with a collar on the oilskin cover of a square table, who rose as though half resenting strange visitors; then, after stretching, decided on some haven less liable to disturbance, and went through the window to it without effort, emotion, or sound. There was a clock under a glass cover on the chimney-piece whose works you could see through, with a fascinating ratchet movement of perfect grace and punctuality. Also a vertical orange-yellow glass vase, twisted to a spiral, and full of spills. Also the leaning tower of Pisa, done small in alabaster. He could see all these things quite plainly, and but that his tongue seemed to have struck work, could have described them. But he could not make himself out, nor how and why he came to be there at all. Where ought he to have been, he asked himself? And, to his horror, he could not make that out either. Never mind. Patience was the word, clearly. Let him shut his eyes as he sat there, in the little breakfast-room, with the flies continually droning in the ceiling, and an especially large bluebottle busy in the window, who might just as easily have gone out and enjoyed the last hour of a long evening in a glorious sunshine, but who mysteriously preferred to beat himself for ever against a closed pane of glass, a self-constituted prisoner between it and a gauze blind—let him shut his eyes, and try to think out what it all meant, what it was all about.
All that he was perfectly certain of, at that moment, was that he was awake, with a contused pain all over, and a very stiff left hand and foot. And that, knowing he had been insensible, he was striving hard to remember what something was that had happened just before he became insensible. He had nearly got it, once or twice. Yes, now he had got it, surely! No, he hadn't. It was gone again.
A mind that is struggling to remember some particular thing does not deal with other possibilities of oblivion. We all know the painful phenomenon of being perfectly aware what it is we are trying to remember, feeling constantly close to it, but always failing to grasp it. We know what it will sound like when we say it, what it will mean, where it was on the page we read it on. Oh dear yes!—quite plainly. The only thing we can't remember for the life of us is—what it was!
And while we are making stupendous efforts to recapture some such thing, does it ever occur to any of us to ask if we may not be mistaken in our tacit assumption that we are quite certain to remember everything else as soon as we try? That, in fact, it may be our memory-faculty itself that is in fault and that we are only failing to recall one thing because at the moment it is that one sole thing, and no other, that we are trying our brains against.
It was so in the pause of a few minutes in which this man we write of, left to himself and the ticking of the clock, and hearing, through the activity of the bluebottle and the monotony of the ceiling flies, the murmur of a distant conversation between his late companions, who for the moment had left him alone, tried in vain to recover his particular thread of memory, without any uneasiness about the innumerable skeins that made up the tissue of his record of a lifetime.
When the young doctor returned, he found him still seated where he had left him, one hand over his eyes, the other on his knee. As he sat—for the doctor watched him from the door for a moment—he moved and replaced either hand at intervals, with implied distress in the movements. They gave the impression of constant attempt constantly baffled. The doctor, a shrewd-seeming young man with an attentive pale eye, and very fair hair, seemed to understand.
"Let me recommend you to be quiet and rest. Be quite quiet. You will be all right when you have slept on it. Mrs. Nightingale—that's the lady you saw just now; this is her house—will see that you are properly taken care of."
Then the man tried to speak; it was with an effort.
"I wish to thank—I must thank——"
"Never mind thanks yet. All in good time. Now, what do you think you can take—to eat or drink?"
"Nothing—nothing to eat or drink."
"Well, you know best. However, there's tea coming; perhaps you'll go so far as a cup of tea? You would be the better for it."
* * * * *
Rosalind junior, or Sally, slept in the back bedroom on the first-floor—that is to say, if we ignore the basement floor and call the one flush with the street-door step the ground-floor. We believe we are right in doing so. Rosalind senior, the mother, slept in the front one. It wasn't too late for tea, they had decided, and thereupon they had gone upstairs to revise and correct.
After a certain amount of slopping and splashing in the back room, uncorroborated by any in the front, Sally called out to her mother, on the disjointed lines of talk in real life:
"I like this soap! Have you a safety-pin?" Whereto her mother replied, speaking rather drowsily and perfunctorily:
"Yes, but you must come and get it."
"It's so nice and oily. It's not from Cattley's?"
"Yes, it is."
"I thought it was. Where's the pin?" At this point she came into her mother's room, covering her slightly retrousse nose with her fresh-washed hands, to enjoy the aroma of Cattley's soap.
"In the little pink saucer. Only don't mess my things about."
"Headache, mammy dear?" For her mother was lying back on the bed, with her eyes closed. The speaker left her hands over her nostrils as she spoke, to do full justice to the soap, pausing an instant in her safety-pin raid for the answer:
"I've been feeling the heat. It's nothing. You go down, and I'll come."
"Have some eau-de-Cologne?" But, alas! there was no eau-de-Cologne.
"Never mind. You go down, and I'll follow. I shall be all right after a cup of tea." And Sally, after an intricate movement with a safety-pin, an openwork lace cuff that has lost a button, and a white wrist, goes down three accelerandos of stair-lengths, with landing pauses, and ends with a dining-room door staccato. But she isn't long gone, for in two minutes the door reopens, and she comes upstairs as fast, nearly, as she went down. In her hand she carries, visibly, Johann Maria Farina.
"Where on earth did you find that?" says her mother.
"The man had it. Wasn't it funny? He heard me say to Dr. Vereker that I was so sorry I'd not been able to eau-de-Cologne your forehead, and he began speaking and couldn't get his words. Then he got this out of his pocket. I remember one of the men at the station said something about his having a bottle, but I thought he meant a pocket-flask. He looks the sort of man that would have a pocket-flask and earrings."
Her mother doesn't seem to find this inexplicable, nor to need comment. Rather the contrary. Sally dabs her brow with eau-de-Cologne, beneficially, for she seems better, and says now go; she won't be above a couple of minutes. Nor is she, in the sense in which her statement has been accepted, for she comes downstairs within seven by the clock with the dutiful ratchet movement.
* * * * *
When she came within hearing of those in the room below, she heard a male voice that was not Dr. Vereker's. Yes, the man (whom we still cannot speak of by a name) was saying something—slowly, perhaps—but fairly articulately and intelligibly. She went very deliberately, and listened in the doorway. She looked very pale, and very interested—a face of fixed attention, of absorption in something she was irresolute about, rather than of doubt about what she heard; an expression rather out of proportion to the concurrent facts, as we know them.
"What is so strange"—this is what the man was saying, in his slow way—"is that I could find words to tell you, if I could remember what it is I have to tell. But when I try to bring it back, my head fails. Tell me again, mademoiselle, about the railway-carriage." Sally wondered why she was mademoiselle, but recognised a tone of deference in his use of the word. She did as he asked her, slightly interrupting her narrative to make sure of getting the tea made right as she did so.
"I trod on your foot, you know. (One, two, three spoonfuls.) Surely you must remember that? (Four, and a little one for the pot.)"
"I have completely forgotten it."
"Then I was sorry, and said I would have come off sooner if I had known it was a foot. You must remember that?" The man half smiled as he shook a slow-disclaiming head—one that would have remembered so gladly, if it could. "Then," continues Sally, "I saw your thumb-ring for rheumatism."
"My thumb-ring!" He presses his fingers over his closed eyes, as though to give Memory a better chance by shutting off the visible present, then withdraws them. "No, I remember no ring at all."
"I remember a violent concussion somewhere—I can't say where—and then finding myself in a cab, trying to speak to a lady whose face seemed familiar to me, but who she could be I had not the slightest idea. Then I tried to get out of the cab, and found I could not move—or hardly."
"Look at mamma again! Here she is, come." For Mrs. Nightingale has come into the room, looking white. "Yes, mother dear, I have. Quite full up to the brim. Only it isn't ready to pour yet." This last concerns the tea.
Mrs. Nightingale moves round behind the tea-maker, and comes full-face in front of her guest. One might have fancied that the hand that held the pocket-handkerchief that caused the smell of eau-de-Cologne that came in with her was tremulous. But then that very eau-de-Cologne was eloquent about the recent effect of the heat. Of course, she was a little upset. Nothing strikes either the doctor or Mademoiselle Sally as abnormal or extraordinary. The latter resumes:
"Surely, sir! Oh, you must, you must remember about the name Nightingale?"
"This young gentleman said it just now. Your name, madame?"
"Certainly, my name," says the lady addressed. But Sally distinguishes:
"Yes, but I didn't mean that. I meant when I took the ring from you, and was to pay for it. Sixpence. And you had no change for half-a-crown. And then I gave you my mother's card to send it to us here. One-and-elevenpence, because of the postage. Why, surely you can remember that!" She cannot bring herself to believe him. Dr. Vereker does, though, and tells him not to try recollecting; he will only put himself back. "Take the tea and wait a bit," is the doctor's advice. For Miss Sally is transmitting a cup of tea with studied equilibrium. He receives it absently, leaving it on the table.
"I do not know if you will know what I mean," he says, "but I have a sort of feeling of—of being frightened; for I have been trying to remember things, and I find I can remember almost nothing. Perhaps I should say I cannot remember at all—can't do any recollecting, if you understand." Every one can understand—at least, each says so. Sally goes on, half sotto voce: "You can recollect your own name, I suppose?" She speaks half-way between soliloquy and dialogue. The doctor throws in counsel, aside, for precaution.
"You'll only make matters worse, like that. Better leave him quite alone."
But the man's hearing doesn't seem to have suffered, for he catches the remark about his name.
"I can't tell," he says. "I am not so sure. Of course, I can't have forgotten my own name, because that's impossible. I will tell it you in a minute.... Oh dear!..."
The young doctor seemed to disapprove highly of these efforts, and to wish to change the conversation. "Let it alone now," said he. "Only for a little. Would you kindly allow me to see your arm again?"
"Let him drink his tea first." This is from Miss Sally, the tea-priestess. "Another cup?" But no; he won't take another cup, thanks.
"Now let's have the coat off, and get another look at the arm; never mind apologizing." But the patient had not contemplated apology. It was the stiffness made him slow. However, he got his coat off, and drew the blue shirt off his left arm. He had a fine hand and arm, but the hand hung inanimate, and the fingers looked scorched. Dr. Vereker began feeling the arm at intervals all the way up, and asking each time questions about the degree of sensibility.
"I couldn't say whether it's normal or not up there." So the patient testified. And Mrs. Nightingale, who was watching the examination intently, suggested trying the other arm in the same place for comparison.
"You didn't see the other arm at the station, doctor?" she said.
"I was asking."
"Well, no. Now I come to think of it, I don't think I did. We'll have a look now, anyhow."
"You're a nice doctor!" This is from Miss Sally; a little confidential fling at the profession. She is no respecter of persons. Her mother would, no doubt, check her—a pert little monkey!—only she is absorbed in the examination.
The doctor, as he ran back the right-arm sleeve, uttered an exclamation. "Why, my dear sir," cried he, "here we have it! What more can we want?"—and pointed at the arm. And Sally said, as though relieved: "He's got his name written on him plain enough, anyhow!" Her mother gave a sigh of relief, or something like it, and said, "Yes." The patient himself seemed quite as much perplexed as pleased at the discovery, saying only, in a subdued way: "It must be my name." But he did not seem to accept at all readily the name tattooed on his arm: "A. Fenwick, 1878."
"Whose name can it be if it is not yours?" said Mrs. Nightingale. She fixed her eyes on his face, as though to watch his effort of memory. "Try and think." But the doctor protested.
"Don't do anything of the sort," said he. "It's very bad for him, Mrs. Nightingale. He mustn't think. Just let him rest."
The patient, however, could not resign himself without a struggle to this state of anonymous ambiguity. His bewilderment was painful to witness. "If it were my name," he said, speaking slowly and not very clearly, "surely it would bring back the first name. I try to recall the word, and the effort is painful, and doesn't succeed." His hostess seemed much interested, even to the extent of ignoring the doctor's injunctions.
"Very curious! If you heard the name now, would you recollect it?"
"I wish you wouldn't try these experiments," says the doctor. "They won't do him any good. Rest's the thing."
"I think I would rather try," says Fenwick, as we may now call him. "I will be quiet if I can get this right."
Mrs. Nightingale begins repeating names that begin with A. "Alfred, Augustus, Arthur, Andrew, Algernon——"
Fenwick's face brightens. "That's it!" says he. "Algernon. I knew it quite well all the time, of course. But I couldn't—couldn't.... However, I don't feel that I shall make myself understood."
"I can't make out," said Sally, "how you came to remember the bottle of eau-de-Cologne."
"I did not remember it. I do not now. I mean, how it came to be in the pocket. I can remember nothing else that was there—would have been, that is. There is nothing else there now, except my cigar-case and a pocket-book with nothing much in it. I can tell nothing about my watch. A watch ought to be there."
"There, there!" says the doctor; "you will remember it all presently. Do take my advice and be quiet, and sit still and don't talk."
But half an hour or more after, although he had taken this advice, Fenwick remembered nothing, or professed to have remembered nothing. He seemed, however, much more collected, and except on the memory-point nearly normal.
When the doctor, looking at his watch, referred to his obligation to keep another engagement, Fenwick rose, saying that he was now perfectly well able to walk, and he would intrude no longer on his hostesses' hospitality. This would have been perfectly reasonable, but for one thing. It had come out that his pockets were empty, and he was evidently quite without any definite plan as to what he should do next, or where he should go. He was only anxious to relieve his new friends of an encumbrance. He was evidently the sort of person on whom the character sat ill; one who would always be most at ease when shifting for himself; such a one as would reply to any doubt thrown on his power of doing so, that he had been in many a worse plight than this before. Yet you would hardly have classed him on that account as an adventurer, because that term implies unscrupulousness in the way one shifts for oneself. His face was a perfectly honourable one. It was a face whose strength did not interfere with its refinement, and there was a pleasant candour in the smile that covered it as he finally made ready to depart with the doctor. He should never, he said, know how to be grateful enough to madame and her daughter for their kindness to him. But when pressed on the point of where he intended to go, and how they should hear what had become of him, he answered vaguely. He was undecided, but, of course, he would write and tell them as they so kindly wished to hear of him. Would mademoiselle give him the address written down?
They found themselves—at least, the doctor and Sally did—inferring, from his refreshed manner and his confidence about departing, that his memory was coming back, or would come back. It might have seemed needless inquisitiveness to press him with further questions. They left the point alone. After all, they had no more right to catechize him about himself than if he had been knocked down by a cart outside the door, and brought into the house unconscious—a thing which might quite well have happened.
Mrs. Nightingale seemed very anxious he should not go away quite unprovided with money. She asked Dr. Vereker to pass him on a loan from her before he parted with him. He could post it back when it was quite convenient, so the doctor was to tell him. The doctor asked, Wasn't a sovereign a large order? But she seemed to think not. "Besides," said she, "it makes it certain we shall not lose sight of him. I'm not sure we ought to let him go at all," added she. She seemed very uneasy about it—almost exaggeratedly so, the doctor thought. But he was reassuring and confident, and she allowed his judgment to overrule hers. But he must bring him back without scruple if he saw reason to do so. He promised, and the two departed together, the gait and manner of Fenwick giving rise to no immediate apprehension.
"How rum!" said Sally, when they had gone. "I never thought I should live to see a man electrocuted."
"A man what?"
"Well, half-electrocuted, then. I say, mother——"
"What, dear?" She is looking very tired, and speaks absently. Sally makes the heat responsible again in her mind, and continues:
"I don't believe his name's Algernon at all! It's Arthur, or Andrew, or something of that sort."
"You're very wise, poppet. Why?"
"Because you stopped such a long time after Algernon. It was like cheating at Spiritualism. You must say the alphabet quite steady—A—B—C—D——" Sally sketches out the proper attitude for the impartial inquirer. "Or else you're an accomplice."
"You're a puss! No, his name's Algernon, right enough.... I mean, I've no doubt it's Algernon. Why shouldn't it be?"
"No reason at all. Dr. Vereker's is Conrad, so, of course, there's no reason why his shouldn't be Algernon." Satisfactory and convincing! At least, the speaker thinks so, and is perfectly satisfied. Her mother doesn't quarrel with the decision.
"Kitten!" she says suddenly. And then in reply to her daughter's, "What's up, mammy dear?" she suggests that they shall walk out in front—it is a quiet, retired sort of cul-de-sac road, ending in a fence done over with tar, with nails along the top like the letter L upside down—in the cool. "It's quite delicious now the sun's gone down, and Martha can make supper another half-hour late." Agreed.
The mother pauses as they reach the gate. "Who's that talking?" she asks, and listens.
"Nobody. It's only the sparrows going to bed."
"No, no; not that! Shish! be quiet! I'm sure I heard Dr. Vereker's voice——"
"How could you? He's home by now."
"Do be quiet, child!" She continues listening.
"Why not look round the corner and see if it isn't him?"
"Well, I was going to; only you and the sparrows make such a chattering.... There, I knew it would be that! Why doesn't he bring him back here, at once?" For at the end of the short road are Dr. Vereker and Fenwick, the latter with his hand on the top of a post, as though resting. They must have been there some minutes.
"Fancy their having got no further than the fire-alarm!" says Sally, who takes account of her surroundings.
"Of course, I ought never to have let him go." Thus her mother, with decision in her voice. "Come on, child!"
She seems greatly relieved at the matter having settled itself—so Sally thinks, at least.
"We got as far as this," Dr. Vereker says—rather meaninglessly, if you come to think of it. It is so very obvious.
"And now," says Mrs. Nightingale, "how is he to be got back again? That's the question!" She seems not to have the smallest doubt about the question, but much about the answer. It is answered, however, with the assistance of the previous police-constable, who reappears like a ghost. And Mr. Fenwick is back again within the little white villa, much embarrassed at the trouble he is giving, but unable to indicate any other course. Clearly, it would never do to accept the only one he can suggest—that he should be left to himself, leaning on the fire-alarm, till the full use of his limbs should come back to him.
Mrs. Nightingale, who is the person principally involved, seems quite content with the arrangement. The doctor, in his own mind, is rather puzzled at her ready acquiescence; but, then, the only suggestion he could make would be that he should do precisely the same good office himself to this victim of an electric current of a good deal too many volts—too many for private consumption—or cab him off to the police-station or the workhouse. For Mr. Fenwick continues quite unable to give any account of his past or his belongings, and can only look forward to recollecting himself, as it were, to-morrow morning.
HOW THE STRANGER STOPPED ON AT KRAKATOA VILLA. OF THE FREAKS OF AN EXTINGUISHED MEMORY. OF HOW THE STRANGER GOT A GOOD APPOINTMENT, BUT NONE COULD SAY WHO HE WAS, NOR WHENCE
We must suppose that the personal impression produced by the man so strangely thrown on the hands of Mrs. Nightingale and her daughter was a pleasant one. For had the reverse been the case, the resources of civilisation for disposing of him elsewhere had not been exhausted when the decision was come to that he should remain where he was; till next morning, at any rate. The lady of the house—of course the principal factor in the solution of the problem—appeared, as we have seen, to have made up her mind on the subject. And probably her daughter had been enough influenced by the stranger's manner and appearance, even in the short period of the interview we have just described, to get rid of a feeling she had of self-reproach for her own rashness. We don't understand girls, but we ask this question of those who do: Is it possible that Miss Sally was impressed by the splendid arm with the name tattooed on it—an arm in which every muscle told as in a Greek statue, without infringing on its roundness—the arm of Theseus or Ilissus? Or was it the tone of his voice—a musical one enough? Or merely his generally handsome face and courteous manner?
He remained that night at the house, but next day still remembered nothing. He wished to go on his way—destination not known; but somewhere—and would have done so had it not been for Mrs. Nightingale, whose opposition to his going was, thought Dr. Vereker, almost more decisive than the case called for. So he remained on, that day and the next, slowly regaining the use of his right hand. But his memory continued a blank; and though he was not unable to converse about passing events, he could not fix his attention, or only with a great effort. What was very annoying to Sally was that he was absolutely unable to account for his remark about her name and her mother's in the railway-carriage. He could not even remember making this. He could recall no reason why he should have made it, from any of the few things that came back to his mind now—hazily, like ghosts. Was he speaking the truth? Why not? Mrs. Nightingale asked. Why not forget that as readily as anything else?
His distress at this inability to remember, to account for himself, to himself or any one else, was almost painful to witness. The only consolatory circumstance was that his use and knowledge of words remained intact; it was his memory of actual incidents and people in the past that was in fault. Definite effort to follow slight clues remaining in his mind ended in failure, or only served to show that their origin was traceable to literary fiction. But his language-faculty seemed perfectly in order. It came out that he spoke French fluently, and a little Spanish, but he was just as ready with German. It seemed as if he had been recently among French people, if one could judge from such things as his calling his hostess "Madame" when he recovered. These facts came to light in the course of next day, the second of his stay in the house. The favourable impression he had produced on Miss Sally did not diminish, and it seemed much easier and more natural to acquiesce in his remaining than to cast about for a new whereabouts to transfer him to. So his departure was deferred—for a day, at least, or perhaps until the room he occupied should be wanted for other purposes. The postponements on the days that followed were a natural sequence so long as there remained any doubt of his ability to shift for himself.
But in about a month's time the effects of the nervous shock had nearly disappeared, and he had almost recovered the use of his hand—could, in fact, write easily. Besides, as long as he remained, it would be impossible for an old friend of Mrs. Nightingale's, who frequently stayed the night, when he came on an evening visit, to follow a custom which was in the winter almost invariable. In the summer it was less important; and as soon as this friend, an old military gentleman spoken of as "the Major," could be got to understand exactly what had taken place, he readily gave up his quarters at Krakatoa Villa, and returned to his own, at the top of a house in Ball Street, Mayfair.
Nevertheless, the inevitable time came for looking Fenwick's future in the face. It was difficult, as he was unable to contribute a solution of the question, except by his readiness to go out and find work for himself, promising not to come back till he found it.
"You'll see I shall come back to dinner," said he. "I shan't make you late."
Sally asked him what sort of work he should look for.
"I have a sort of inner conviction," he replied, "that I could do almost anything I turned my hand to. Probably it is only a diseased confidence bred of what you might call my artificial inexperience. Every sharp young man's bona fide inexperience lands him in that delusion."
"But you must have some kind of preference for something, however much you forget."
"If I were to choose, I think I should like horse-training.... Oh no, of course I can't recall the training of any specific horse. But I know I know all about it, for all that. I can feel the knowledge of it itching in my finger-ends. Yes—I could train horses. Fruit-farming would require capital."
"Who said anything about fruit-farming?"
Fenwick laughed aloud. It was a great big laugh, that made Rosalind, who was giving directions in the kitchen, just across the passage, call out to know what they were laughing at.
"I'll be hanged if I know," said he, "why I said fruit-farming—I must have had something to do with it. It's all very odd."
"But the horses—the horses," said Sally, who did not want him to wander from the point. "How should you go about it? Should you walk into Tattersall's without a character, and ask for a place?"
"Not a bit of it! I should saunter into Tat's' like a swell, and ask them if they couldn't find me a raw colt to try my hand on for a wager. Say I had laid a hundred I would quiet down the most vicious quadruped they could find in an hour."
"But that would be fibs."
"Oh no! I could do it. But I don't know why I know...."
"I didn't mean that. I meant you wouldn't have laid the wager."
"Yes, I should. I lay it you now! Come, Miss Sally!—a hundred pounds to a brass farthing I knock all the vice out of the worst beast they can find in an hour. I shouldn't say the wager had been accepted, you know."
"Well, anyhow, I shan't accept it. You haven't got a hundred pounds to pay with. To be sure, I haven't got a brass farthing that I know of. It's as broad as it is long."
"Yes, it's that," he replied musingly—"as broad as it is long. I haven't got a hundred pounds, that I know of." He repeated this twice, becoming very absent and thoughtful.
Sally felt apologetic for reminding him of his position, and immediately said so. She was evidently a girl quite incapable of any reserves or concealments. But she had mistaken his meaning.
"No, no, dear Miss Sally," said he. "Not that—not that at all! I spoke like that because it all seemed so strange to me. Do you know?—of all the things I can't recollect, the one I can't recollect most—can you understand?—is ever being in want of money. I must have had plenty. I am sure of it."
"I dare say you had. You'll recollect it all presently, and what a lark that will be!" Sally's ingenious optimism made matters very pleasant. She did not like to press the conversation on these lines, lest Mr. Fenwick should refer to a loan she knew her mother had made him; indeed, had it not been for this the poor man would have been hard put to it for clothes and other necessaries. All such little matters, which hardly concern the story, had been landed on a comfortable footing at the date of this conversation.
But Mr. Fenwick did not lend himself to the agreeable anticipation of Sally's "lark." There was a pained distraction on his handsome face as he gave his head a great shake, tossing about the mass of brown hair, which was still something of a lion's mane, in spite of the recent ministrations of a hairdresser. He walked to the window-bay that looked out on the little garden, shaking and rubbing his head, and then came back to where he had been sitting—always as one wrestling with some painful half-memory he could not trace. Then he spoke again.
"Whether the sort of flash that comes in my mind of writing my name in a cheque-book is really a recollection of doing so, or merely the knowledge that I must have done so, I cannot tell. But it is disagreeable—thoroughly disagreeable—and strange to the last degree. I cannot tell you how—how torturing it is, always to be compelled to stop on the threshold of an uncompleted recollection."
"I have the idea, though, quite!" said Sally. "But of course one never remembers signing one's name, any particular time. One does it mechanically. So I don't wonder."
"Yes! But the nasty part of the flash is that I always know that it is not my name. Last time it came—just now this minute—it was a name like Harrington or Carrington. Oh dear!" He shook and rubbed his head again, with the old action.
"Perhaps your name isn't Fenwick, but Harrington or Carrington?"
"No! That cock won't fight. In a flash, I know it's not my own name as I write it."
"Oh, but I see!" Sally is triumphant. "You signed for a firm you belonged to, of course. People do sign for firms, don't they?" added she, with misgivings about her own business capacity. But Mr. Fenwick did not accept this solution, and continued silent and depressed.
The foregoing is one of many similar conversations between Fenwick and Sally, or her mother, or all three, during the term of his stay at Krakatoa Villa. They were less encouraged by the older lady, who counselled Fenwick to accept his oblivion passively, and await the natural return of his mental powers. They would all come in time, she said; and young Dr. Vereker, though his studious and responsible face grew still more studious and responsible as time went on, and the mind of this case continued a blank, still encouraged passivity, and spoke confidently—whatever he thought—of an early and complete recovery.
When, in Fenwick's absence, Sally reported to Dr. Vereker and her mother the scheme for applying to "Tat's" for a wild horse to break in, the latter opposed and denounced it so strongly, on the ground of the danger of the experiment, that both Sally and the doctor promised to support her if Fenwick should broach the idea again. But when he did so, it was so clear that the disfavour Mrs. Nightingale showed for such a risky business would be sufficient to deter him from trying it that neither thought it necessary to say a word in her support; and the conversation went off into a discussion of how it came about that Fenwick should remember Tattersall's. But, said he, he did not remember Tattersall's even now. And yet hearing the name, he had automatically called it "Tat's." Many other instances showed that his power of imagery, in relation to the past, was paralysed, while his language-faculty remained intact, just as many fluent speakers and writers spell badly. Only it was an extreme case.
A fortunate occurrence that happened at this time gave its quietus to the unpopular horse-breaking speculation. It happened that, as Mrs. Nightingale was shopping at a big "universal providing" stores not far away, one of the clerks had some difficulty in interpreting a French phrase in a letter just received from abroad. No one near him looked more likely to help than Mrs. Nightingale, but she could do nothing when applied to; although, she said, she had been taught French in her youth. But she felt certain Mr. Fenwick could be of use—at her house. French idiom was evidently unfamiliar in the neighbourhood, for the young gentleman from the office jumped at the opportunity. He went away with Mrs. Nightingale's card, inscribed with a message, and came back before she had done shopping (not that that means such a very short time), not only with an interpretation, but with an exhaustive draft of an answer in French, which she saw to be both skilful and scholarly. It was so much so that a fortnight later an inquiry came to know if Mr. Fenwick's services would be available for a firm in the City, which had applied to be universally provided with a man having exactly his attainments and no others. In less than a month he was installed in a responsible position as their foreign correspondent and in receipt of a very respectable salary. The rapidity of phrasing in this movement was abnormal—prestissimo, in fact, if we indulge our musical vocabulary. But the instrumentation would have seemed less surprising to Sally had she known the lengths her mother had gone in the proffer of a substantial guarantee for Fenwick's personal honesty. This seeming rashness did not transpire at the time; had it done so, it might have appeared unintelligible—to Sally, at any rate. She would not have been surprised at herself for backing the interests of a man nearly electrocuted over her half-crown, but why should her mother endorse her protege so enthusiastically?