Author of "Shandon Bells," "Yolande," "Strange Adventures of a Phaeton," "Madcap Violet" etc., etc.
NEW YORK: JOHN B. ALDEN, PUBLISHER, 1883.
I. A FIRST INTERVIEW. 1 II. PLEADINGS. 8 III. IN A HOUSE IN CURZON STREET. 14 IV. A STRANGER. 23 V. PIONEERS. 29 VI. BON VOYAGE! 37 VII. IN SOLITUDE. 44 VIII. A DISCOVERY. 51 IX. A NIGHT IN VENICE. 58 X. VACILLATION. 64 XI. A COMMISSION. 72 XII. JACTA EST ALEA. 79 XIII. SOUTHWARD. 86 XIV. A RUSSIAN EPISODE. 94 XV. NEW FRIENDS. 101 XVI. A LETTER. 108 XVII. CALABRESSA. 115 XVIII. HER ANSWER. 123 XIX. AT THE CULTURVEREIN. 129 XX. FIDELIO. 137 XXI. FATHER AND DAUGHTER. 144 XXII. EVASIONS. 151 XXIII. A TALISMAN. 158 XXIV. AN ALTERNATIVE. 165 XXV. A FRIEND'S ADVICE. 172 XXVI. A PROMISE. 179 XXVII. KIRSKI. 186 XXVIII. A CLIMAX. 193 XXIX. A GOOD-NIGHT MESSAGE. 201 XXX. SOME TREASURES. 208 XXXI. IN A GARDEN AT POSILIPO. 215 XXXII. FRIEND AND SWEETHEART. 223 XXXIII. INTERVENTION. 230 XXXIV. AN ENCOUNTER. 237 XXXV. THE MOTHER. 245 XXXVI. THE VELVET GLOVE. 252 XXXVII. SANTA CLAUS. 259 XXXVIII. A SUMMONS. 266 XXXIX. A NEW HOME. 274 XL. A CONCLAVE. 280 XLI. IN THE DEEPS. 288 XLII. A COMMUNICATION. 295 XLIII. A QUARREL. 302 XLIV. A TWICE-TOLD TALE. 308 XLV. SOUTHWARD. 316 XLVI. THE BEECHES. 321 XLVII. AT PORTICI. 329 XLVIII. AN APPEAL. 337 XLIX. AN EMISSARY. 345 L. A WEAK BROTHER. 352 LI. THE CONJURER. 359 LII. FIAT JUSTITIA. 366 LIII. THE TRIAL. 373 LIV. PUT TO THE PROOF. 380 LV. CONGRATULATIONS. 387 LVI. A COMMISSION. 394 LVII. FAREWELL! 401 LVIII. A SACRIFICE. 409 LIX. NATALIE SPEAKS. 416 LX. NEW SHORES. 424
A FIRST INTERVIEW.
One chilly afternoon in February, while as yet the London season had not quite begun, though the streets were busy enough, an open barouche was being rapidly driven along Piccadilly in the direction of Coventry Street; and its two occupants, despite the dull roar of vehicles around them, seemed to be engaged in eager conversation. One of these two was a tall, handsome, muscular-looking man of about thirty, with a sun-tanned face, piercing gray eyes, and a reddish-brown beard cropped in the foreign fashion; the other, half hidden among the voluminous furs of the carriage, was a pale, humpbacked lad, with a fine, expressive, intellectual face, and large, animated, almost woman-like eyes. The former was George Brand, of Brand Beeches, Bucks, a bachelor unattached, and a person of no particular occupation, except that he had tumbled about the world a good deal, surveying mankind with more or less of interest or indifference. His companion and friend, the bright-eyed, beautiful-faced, humpbacked lad, was Ernest Francis D'Agincourt, thirteenth Baron Evelyn.
The discussion was warm, though the elder of the two friends spoke deprecatingly, at times even scornfully.
"I know what is behind all that," he said. "They are making a dupe of you, Evelyn. A parcel of miserable Leicester Square conspirators, plundering the working-man of all countries of his small savings, and humbugging him with promises of twopenny-halfpenny revolutions! That is not the sort of thing for you to mix in. It is not English, all that dagger and dark-lantern business, even if it were real; but when it is only theatrical—when they are only stage daggers—when the wretched creatures who mouth about assassination and revolution are only swaggering for half-pence—bah! What part do you propose to play?"
"I tell you it has nothing to do with daggers and dark lanterns," said the other with even greater warmth. "Why will you run your head against a windmill? Why must you see farther into a mile-stone than anybody else? I wonder, with all your travelling, you have not got rid of some of that detestable English prejudice and suspicion. I tell you that when I am allowed, even as an outsider, to see something of this vast organization for the defence of the oppressed, for the protection of the weak, the vindication of the injured, in every country throughout the globe—when I see the splendid possibilities before it—when I find that even a useless fellow like myself may do some little thing to lessen the mighty mass of injustice and wrong in the world—well, I am not going to stop to see that every one of my associates is of pure English birth, with a brother-in-law on the Bench, and an uncle in the House of Lords. I am glad enough to have something to do that is worth doing; something to believe in; something to hope for. You—what do you believe in? What is there in heaven or earth that you believe in?"
"Suppose I say that I believe in you, Evelyn?" said his friend, quite good-naturedly; "and some day, when you can convince me that your newly discovered faith is all right, you may find me becoming your meek disciple, and even your apostle. But I shall want something more than Union speeches, you know."
By this time the carriage had passed along Coventry Street, turned into Prince's Street, and been pulled up opposite a commonplace-looking house in that distinctly dingy thoroughfare, Lisle Street, Soho.
"Not quite Leicester Square, but near enough to serve," said Brand, with a contemptuous laugh, as he got out of the barouche, and then, with the greatest of care and gentleness, assisted his companion to alight.
They crossed the pavement and rang a bell. Almost instantly the door was opened by a stout, yellow-haired, blear-eyed old man, who wore a huge overcoat adorned with masses of shabby fur, and who carried a small lamp in his hand, for the afternoon had grown to dusk. The two visitors were evidently expected. Having given the younger of them a deeply respectful greeting in German, the fur-coated old gentleman shut the door after them, and proceeded to show the way up a flight of narrow and not particularly clean wooden stairs.
"Conspiracy doesn't seem to pay," remarked George Brand, half to himself.
On the landing they were confronted by a number of doors, one of which the old German threw open. They entered a large, plainly furnished, well-lit room, looking pretty much like a merchant's office, though the walls were mostly hung with maps and plans of foreign cities. Brand looked round with a supercilious air. All his pleasant and friendly manner had gone. He was evidently determined to make himself as desperately disagreeable as an Englishman can make himself when introduced to a foreigner whom he suspects. But even he would have had to confess that there was no suggestion of trap-doors or sliding panels in this ordinary, business-like room; and not a trace of a dagger or a dark lantern anywhere.
Presently, from a door opposite, an elderly man of middle height and spare and sinewy frame walked briskly in, shook hands with Lord Evelyn, was introduced to the tall, red-bearded Englishman (who still stood, hat in hand, and with a portentous stiffness in his demeanor), begged his two guests to be seated, and himself sat down at an open bureau, which was plentifully littered with papers.
"I am pleased to meet you, Mr. Brand," he said, speaking carefully, and with a considerable foreign accent. "Lord Evelyn has several times promised me the honor of making your acquaintance."
Mr. Brand merely bowed: he was intent on making out what manner of man this suspected foreigner might be; and he was puzzled. At first sight Ferdinand Lind appeared to be about fifty or fifty-five years of age; his closely cropped hair was gray; and his face, in repose, somewhat care-worn. But then when he spoke there was an almost youthful vivacity in his look; his dark eyes were keen, quick, sympathetic; and there was even a certain careless ease about his dress—about the turned-down collar and French-looking neck-tie, for example—that had more of the air of the student than of the pedant about it. All this at the first glance. It was only afterward you came to perceive what was denoted by those heavy, seamed brows, the firm, strong mouth, and the square line of the jaw. These told you of the presence of an indomitable and inflexible will. Here was a man born to think, and control, and command.
"With that prospect before me," he continued, apparently taking no notice of the Englishman's close scrutiny, "I must ask you, Mr. Brand—well, you know, it is merely a matter of form—but I must ask you to be so very kind as to give me your word of honor that you will not disclose anything you may see or learn here. Have you any objection?"
Brand stared, then said, coldly,
"Oh dear, no. I will give you that pledge, if you wish it."
"It is so easy to deal with Englishmen," said Mr. Lind, politely. "A word, and it is done. But I suppose Lord Evelyn has told you that we have no very desperate secrets. Secrecy, you know, one must use sometimes; it is an inducement to many—most people are fond of a little mystery; and it is harmless."
Brand said nothing; Lord Evelyn thought he might have been at least civil. But when an Englishman is determined on being stiff, his stiffness is gigantic.
"If I were to show you some of the tricks of this very room," said this grizzled old foreigner with the boyish neck-tie, "you might call me a charlatan; but would that be fair? We have to make use of various means for what we consider a good end, a noble end; and there are many people who love mystery and secrecy. With you English it is different—you must have everything above-board."
The pale, fine face of the sensitive lad sitting there became clouded over with disappointment. He had brought this old friend of his with some vague hope that he might become a convert, or at least be sufficiently interested to make inquiries; but Brand sat silent, with a cold indifference that was only the outward sign of an inward suspicion.
"Sometimes, it is true," continued Mr. Lind, in nowise disconcerted, "we stumble on the secrets of others. Our association has innumerable feelers: and we make it our business to know what we can of everything that is going on. For example, I could tell you of an odd little incident that occurred last year in Constantinople. A party of four gentlemen were playing cards there in a private room."
Brand started. The man who was speaking took no notice.
"There were two Austrian officers, a Roumanian count, and an Englishman," he continued, in the most matter-of-fact way. "It was in a private room, as I said. The Englishman was, after a time, convinced that the Roumanian was cheating; he caught his wrist—showed the false cards; then he managed to ward off the blow of a dagger which the Roumanian aimed at him, and by main force carried him to the door and threw him down-stairs. It was cleverly done, but the Englishman was very big and strong. Afterward the two Austrian officers, who knew the Verdt family, begged the Englishman never to reveal what had occurred; and the three promised secrecy. Was not that so?"
The man looked up carelessly. The Englishman's apathy was no longer visible.
"Y-yes," he stammered.
"Would you like to know what became of Count Verdt?" he asked, with an air of indifference.
"Yes, certainly," said the other.
"Ah! Of course you know the Castel' del Ovo?"
"At Naples? Yes."
"You remember that out at the point, beside the way that leads from the shore to the fortress, there are many big rocks, and the waves roll about there. Three weeks after you caught Count Verdt cheating at cards, his dead body was found floating there."
"Gracious heavens!" Brand exclaimed, with his face grown pale. And then he added, breathlessly, "Suicide?"
Mr. Lind smiled.
"No. Reassure yourself. When they picked out the body from the water, they found the mouth gagged, and the hands tied behind the back."
Brand stared at this man.
"Then you—?" He dared not complete the question.
"I? Oh, I had nothing to do with it, any more than yourself. It was a Camorra affair."
He had been speaking quite indifferently; but now a singular change came over his manner.
"And if I had had something to do with it?" he said, vehemently; and the dark eyes were burning with a quick anger under the heavy brows. Then he spoke more slowly, but with a firm emphasis in his speech. "I will tell you a little story; it will not detain you, sir. Suppose that you have a prison so overstocked with political prisoners that you must keep sixty or seventy in the open yard adjoining the outer wall. You have little to fear; they are harmless, poor wretches; there are several old men—two women. Ah! but what are the poor devils to do in those long nights that are so dark and so cold? However they may huddle together, they freeze; if they keep not moving, they die; you find them dead in the morning. If you are a Czar you are glad of that, for your prisons are choked; it is very convenient. And, then suppose you have a clever fellow who finds out a narrow passage between the implement-house and the wall; and he says, 'There, you can work all night at digging a passage out; and who in the morning will suspect?' Is not that a fine discovery, when one must keep moving in the dark to prevent one's self stiffening into a corpse? Oh yes; then you find the poor devils, in their madness, begin to tear the ground up; what tools have they but their fingers, when the implement-house is locked? The poor devils!—old men, too, and women; and how they take their turn at the slow work, hour after hour, week after week, all through the long, still nights! Inch by inch it is; and the poor devils become like rabbits, burrowing for a hole to reach the outer air; and do you know that, after a time, the first wounds heal, and your fingers become like stumps of iron—"
He held out his two hands; the ends of the fingers were seamed and corrugated, as if they had been violently scalded. But he could not hold them steady—they were trembling with the suppressed passion that made his whole frame tremble.
"Relay after relay, night after night, week after week, month after month, until those poor devils of rabbits had actually burrowed a passage out into the freedom of God's world again. And some said the Czar himself had heard of it, and would not interfere, for the prisons were choked; and some said the wife of the governor was Polish, and had a kind heart; but what did it matter when the time was drawing near? And always this clever fellow—do you know, sir, his name was Verdt too?—encouraging, helping, goading these poor people on. Then the last night—how the miserable rabbits of creatures kept huddled together, shivering in the dark, till the hour arrived! and then the death-like stillness they found outside; and the wild wonder and fear of it; and the old men and the women crying like children to find themselves in the free air again. Marie Falevitch—that was my sister-in-law—she kissed me, and was laughing when she whispered, 'Eljen a haza!' I think she was a little off her head with the long, sleepless nights."
He stopped for a second; his throat seemed choked.
"Did I tell you they had all got out?—the poor devils all wondering there, and scarcely knowing where to go. And now suppose, sir—ah! you don't know anything about these things, you happy English people—suppose you found the black night around you all at once turned to a blaze of fire—red hell opened on all sides of you, and the bullets plowing your comrades down; the old men crying for mercy, the young ones falling only with a groan; the women—my God! Did you ever hear a woman shriek when she was struck through the heart with a bullet? Marie Falevitch fell at my feet, but I could not raise her—I was struck down too. It was a week after that I came to my senses. I was in the prison, but the prison was not quite so full. Czars and governors have a fine way of thinning prisons when they get too crowded."
These last words were spoken in a calm, contemptuous way; the man was evidently trying hard to control the fierce passion that these memories had stirred up. He had clinched one hand, and put it firmly on the desk before him, so that it should not tremble.
"Well, now, Mr. Brand," he continued, slowly, "let us suppose that when you come to yourself again, you hear the rumors that are about: you hear, for example, that Count Verdt—that exceedingly clever man—has been graciously pardoned by the Czar for revealing the villanous conspiracy of his fellow-prisoners; and that he has gone off to the South with a bag of money. Do you not think that you would remember the name of that clever person? Do you not think you would say to yourself, 'Well, it may not be to-day, or to-morrow, or the next day: but some day?'"
Again the dark eyes glowed; but he had a wonderful self-control.
"You would remember the name, would you not, if you had your sister-in-law, and your only brother, and six or seven of your old friends and comrades all shot on the one night?"
"This was the same Count Verdt?" Brand asked, eagerly.
"Yes," said the other, after a considerable pause. Then he added, with an involuntary sigh, "I had been following his movements for some time; but the Camorra stepped in. They are foolish people, those Camorristi—foolish and ignorant. They punish for very trifling offences, and they do not make sufficient warning of their punishments. Then they are quite imbecile in the way they attempt to regulate labor."
He was now talking in quite a matter-of-fact way. The clinched hand was relaxed.
"Besides," continued Ferdinand Lind, with the cool air of a critic, "their conduct is too scandalous. The outer world believes they are nothing but an association of thieves and cut-throats; that is because they do not discountenance vulgar and useless crime; because there is not enough authority, nor any proper selection of members. In the affairs of the world, one has sometimes to make use of queer agents—that is admitted; and you cannot have any large body of people without finding a few scoundrels among them. I suppose one might even say that about your very respectable Church of England. But you only bring a society into disrepute—you rob it of much usefulness—you put the law and society against it—when you make it the refuge of common murderers and thieves."
"I should hope so," remarked George Brand. If this suspected foreigner had resumed his ordinary manner, so had he; he was again the haughty, suspicious, almost supercilious Englishman.
Poor Lord Evelyn! The lad looked quite distressed. These two men were so obviously antipathetic that it seemed altogether hopeless to think of their ever coming together.
"Well," said Mr. Lind, in his ordinary polished and easy manner, "I must not seek to detain you; for it is a cold night to keep horses waiting. But, Mr. Brand, Lord Evelyn dines with us to-morrow evening; if you have nothing better to do, will you join our little party? My daughter, I am sure, will be most pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Do, Brand, there's a good fellow;" struck in his friend. "I haven't seen anything of you for such a long time."
"I shall be very happy indeed," said the tall Englishman, wondering whether he was likely to meet a goodly assemblage of sedition-mongers at this foreign persons table.
"We dine at a quarter to eight. The address is No. —— Curzon Street; but perhaps you had better take this card."
So they left, and were conducted down the staircase by the stout old German; and scrambled up into the furs of the barouche.
"So he has a daughter?" said Brand, as the two friends together drove down to Buckingham Street, where they were to dine at his rooms.
"Oh, yes; his daughter Natalie," said Lord Evelyn, eagerly. "I am so glad you will see him to-morrow night!"
"And they live on Curzon Street," said the other, reflectively. "H'm! Conspiracy does pay, then!"
"Brother Senior Warden, your place in the lodge?" said Mr. Brand, looking at the small dinner-table.
"You forget," his companion said. "I am only in the nursery as yet—an Illuminatus Minor, as it were. However, I don't think I can do better than sit where Waters has put me; I can have a glimpse of the lights on the river. But what an extraordinary place for you to come to for rooms!"
They had driven down through the glare of the great city to this silent and dark little thoroughfare, dismissed the carriage at the foot, climbed up an old-fashioned oak staircase, and found themselves at last received by an elderly person, who looked a good deal more like a bronzed old veteran than an ordinary English butler.
"Halloo, Waters!" said Lord Evelyn. "How are you? I don't think I have seen you since you threatened to murder the landlord at Cairo."
"No, my lord," said Mr. Waters, who seemed vastly pleased by this reminiscence, and who instantly disappeared to summon dinner for the two young men.
"Extraordinary?" said Brand, when they had got seated at table. "Oh no; my constant craving is for air, space, light and quiet. Here I have all these. Beneath are the Embankment gardens; beyond that, you see, the river—those lights are the steamers at anchor. As for quiet, the lower floors are occupied by a charitable society; so I fancied there would not be much traffic on the stairs."
The jibe passed unheeded; Lord Evelyn had long ago become familiar with his friend's way of speaking about men and things.
"And so, Evelyn, you have become a pupil of the revolutionaries," George Brand continued, when Waters had put some things before them and retired—"a student of the fine art of stabbing people unawares? What an astute fellow that Lind must be—I will swear it never occurred to one of the lot before—to get an English milord into their ranks! A stroke of genius! It could only have been projected by a great mind. And then look at the effect throughout Europe if an English milord were to be found with a parcel of Orsini bombs in his possession! every ragamuffin from Naples to St. Petersburg would rejoice; the army of cutthroats would march with a new swagger."
His companion said nothing; but there was a vexed and impatient look on his face.
"And our little daughter—is she pretty? Does she coax the young men to play with daggers?—the innocent little thing! And when you start with your dynamite to break open a jail, she blows you a kiss?—the charming little fairy! What is it she has embroidered on the ribbons round her neck?—'Mort aux rois?' 'Sic semper tyrannis?' No; I saw a much prettier one somewhere the other day: 'Ne si pasce di fresche ruggiade, ma di sangue di membra di re.' Isn't it charming? It sounds quite idyllic, even in English: 'Not for you the nourishment of freshening dews, but the blood of the limbs of kings!' The pretty little stabber—is she fierce?"
"Brand, you are too bad!" said the other, throwing down his knife and fork, and getting up from the table. "You believe in neither man, woman, God, nor devil!"
"Would you mind handing over that claret jug?"
"Why," he said, turning passionately toward him, "it is men like you, who have neither faith, nor hope, nor regret, who are wandering aimlessly in a nightmare of apathy and indolence and indifference, who ought to be the first to welcome the new light breaking in the sky. What is life worth to you? You have nothing to hope for—nothing to look forward to—nothing you can kill the aimless with. Why should you desire to-morrow? To-morrow will bring you nothing different from yesterday; you will do as you did yesterday and the day before yesterday. It is the life of a horse or an ox—not the life of a human being, with the sympathies and needs and aspirations of a man. What is the object of living at all?"
"I really don't know," said the other, simply.
But this pale hump-backed lad, with the fine nostrils, the sensitive mouth, the large forehead, and the beautiful eyes, was terribly in earnest. He forgot about his place at table. He kept walking up and down, occasionally addressing his friend directly, at other times glancing out at the dark river and the golden lines of the lamps. And he was an eloquent speaker, too. Debarred from most forms of physical exercise, he had been brought up in a world of ideas. When he went to Oxford, it was with some vague notion of subsequently entering the Church; but at Oxford he became speedily convinced that there was no Church left for him to enter. Then he fell back on aestheticism—worshipped Carpaccio, adored Chopin, and turned his rooms at Merton into a museum of old tapestry, Roman brass-work, and Venetian glass. Then he dabbled a little in Comtism; but very soon he threw aside that gigantic make-believe at believing. Nevertheless, whatever was his whim of the moment, it was for him no whim at all, but a burning reality. And in this enthusiasm of his there was no room left for shyness. In fact, these two companions had been accustomed to talk frankly; they had long ago abandoned that self-consciousness which ordinarily restricts the conversation of young Englishmen to monosyllables. Brand was a good listener and his friend an eager, impetuous, enthusiastic speaker. The one could even recite verses to the other: what greater proof of confidence?
And on this occasion all this prayer of his was earnest and pathetic enough. He begged this old chum of his to throw aside his insular prejudices and judge for himself. What object had he in living at all, if life were merely a routine of food and sleep? In this selfish isolation, his living was only a process of going to the grave—only that each day would become more tedious and burdensome as he grew older. Why should he not examine, and inquire, and believe—if that was possible? The world was perishing for want of a new faith: the new faith was here.
At this phrase George Brand quickly raised his head. He was accustomed to these enthusiasms of his friend; but he had not yet seen him in the character of on apostle.
"You know it as well as I, Brand; the last great wave of religion has spent itself; and I suppose Matthew Arnold would have us wait for the mysterious East, the mother of religions, to send us another. Do you remember 'Obermann?'—
"'In his cool hall, with haggard eyes, The Roman noble lay; He drove abroad, in furious guise, Along the Appian Way;
"'He made a feast, drank fierce and fast, And crowned his head with flowers— No easier nor no quicker passed The impracticable hours.
"'The brooding East with awe beheld Her impious younger world. The Roman tempest swelled and swelled, And on her head was hurled.
"'The East bowed low before the blast, In patience, deep disdain; She let the legions thunder past, And plunged in thought again.'"
The lad had a sympathetic voice; and there was a curious, pathetic thrill in the tones of it as he went on to describe the result of that awful musing—the new-born joy awakening in the East—the victorious West veiling her eagles and snapping her sword before this strange new worship of the Child—
"And centuries came, and ran their course, And, unspent all that time, Still, still went forth that Child's dear force, And still was at its prime."
But now—in these later days around us!—
"Now he is dead! Far hence He lies In the lorn Syrian town; And on his grave, with shining eyes, The Syrian stars look down."
The great divine wave had spent itself. But were we to sit supinely by—this was what he asked, though not precisely in these consecutive words, for sometimes he walked to and fro in his eagerness, and sometimes he ate a bit of bread, or sat down opposite his friend for the purpose of better confronting him—to wait for that distant and mysterious East to send us another revelation? Not so. Let the proud-spirited and courageous West, that had learned the teachings of Christianity but never yet applied them—let the powerful West establish a faith of her own: a faith in the future of humanity itself—a faith in future of recompense and atonement to the vast multitudes of mankind who had toiled so long and so grievously—a faith demanding instant action and endeavor and self-sacrifice from those who would be its first apostles.
"The complaining millions of men Darken in labor and pain."
And why should not this Christianity, that had so long been used to gild the thrones of kings and glorify the ceremonies of priests—that had so long been monopolized by the rich and the great and the strong, whom its Founder despised and denounced—why should it not at length come to the help of those myriads of the poor and the weak and the suffering whose cry for help had been for so many centuries disregarded? Here was work for the idle, hope for the hopeless, a faith for them who were perishing for want of a faith.
"You say all this is vague—a vision—a sentiment?" he said, talking in the same eager way. "Then that is my fault. I cannot explain it all to you in a few words. But do not run away with the notion that it is mere words—a St. Simonian dream of perfectibility, or anything like that. It is practical; it exists; it is within reach of you. It is a definite and immense organization; it may be young as yet, but it has courage and splendid aims; and now, with a great work before it, it is eager for aid. You yourself, when you see a child run over, or a woman starving of hunger, or a blind man wanting to cross a street, are you not ready with your help—the help of your hands or of your purse? Multiply these by millions, and think of the cry for help that comes from all parts of the world. If you but knew, you could not resist. I as yet know little—I only hear the echo of the cry; but my veins are burning; I shall have the gladness of answering 'Yes,' however little I can do. And after all, is not that something? For a man to live only for himself is death."
"But you know, Evelyn," said his friend, though he did not quite know what to answer to all this outburst, "you must be more cautious. Those benevolent schemes are very noble and very captivating; but sometimes they are in the hands of rather queer people. And besides, do you quite know the limits of this big society? I thought you said something about vindicating the oppressed. Does it include politics?"
"I do not question; I am content to obey," said Lord Evelyn.
"That is not English; unreasoning and blind obedience is mere folly."
"Perhaps so," said the other, somewhat absently; "but I suppose a man accepts whatever satisfies the craving of his own heart. And—and I should not like to go alone on this new thing, Brand. Will you not come some little way with me? If you think I am mistaken, you may turn back; as for me—well, if it were only a dream, I think I would rather go with the pilgrims on their hopeless quest than stay with the people who come out to wonder at them as they go by. You remember—
"'Who is your lady of love, oh ye that pass Singing? And is it for sorrow of that which was That ye sing sadly, or dream of what shall be? For gladly at once and sadly it seems ye sing. —Our lady of love by you is unbeholden; For hands she hath none, nor eyes, nor lips, nor golden Treasure of hair, nor face nor form; but we That love, we know her more fair than anything.'"
Yes; he had certainly a pathetic thrill in his voice; but now there was something else—something strange—in the slow and monotonous cadence that caught the acute ear of his friend. And again he went on, but absently, almost as if he were himself listening—
"—Is she a queen, having great gifts to give? —Yea, these; that whoso hath seen her shall not live Except he serve her sorrowing, with strange pain, Travail and bloodshedding and bitterest tears; And when she bids die he shall surely die. And he shall leave all things under the sky, And go forth naked under sun and rain, And work and wait and watch out all his years."
"Evelyn," said George Brand, suddenly, fixing his keen eyes on his friend's face, "where have you heard that? Who has taught you? You are not speaking with your own voice."
"With whose, then?" and a smile came over the pale, calm, beautiful face, as if he had awakened out of a dream.
"That," said Brand, still regarding him, "was the voice of Natalie Lind."
IN A HOUSE IN CURZON STREET.
Armed with a defiant scepticism, and yet conscious of an unusual interest and expectation, George Brand drove up to Curzon Street on the following evening. As he jumped out of his hansom, he inadvertently glanced at the house.
"Conspiracy has not quite built us a palace as yet," he said to himself.
The door was opened by a little German maid-servant, as neat and round and rosy as a Dresden china shepherdess, who conducted him up-stairs and announced him at the drawing-room. It was not a large room; but there was more of color and gilding in it than accords with the severity of modern English taste; and it was lit irregularly with a number of candles, each with a little green or rose-red shade. Mr. Lind met him at the door. As they shook hands, Brand caught a glimpse of another figure in the room—apparently that of a tall woman dressed all in cream-white, with a bunch of scarlet geraniums in her bosom, and another in her raven-black hair.
"Not the gay little adventuress, then?" was his instant and internal comment. "Better contrived still. The inspired prophetess. Obviously not the daughter of this man at all. Hired."
But when Natalie Lind came forward to receive him, he was more than surprised; he was almost abashed. During a second or two of wonder and involuntary admiration, he was startled out of his critical attitude altogether. For this tall and striking figure was in reality that of a young girl of eighteen or nineteen, who had the beautifully formed bust, the slender waist, and the noble carriage that even young Hungarian girls frequently have. Perhaps the face, with its intellectual forehead and the proud and firmly cut mouth, was a trifle too calm and self-reliant for a young girl: but all the softness of expression that was wanted, all the gentle and gracious timidity that we associate with maidenhood, lay in the large, and dark, and lustrous eyes. When, by accident, she turned aside, and he saw the outline of that clear, olive-complexioned face, only broken by the outward curve of the long black lashes, he had to confess to himself that, adventuress or no adventuress, prophetess or no prophetess, Natalie Lind was possessed of about the most beautiful profile he had ever beheld, while she had the air and the bearing of a queen.
Her father and he talked of the various trifling things of the moment; but what he was chiefly thinking of was the singular calm and self-possession of this young girl. When she spoke, her dark, soft eyes regarded him without fear. Her manner was simple and natural to the last degree; perhaps with the least touch added of maidenly reserve. He was forced even to admire the simplicity of her dress—cream or canary white it was, with a bit of white fur round the neck and round the tight wrists. The only strong color was that of the scarlet geraniums which she wore in her bosom, and in the splendid masses of her hair; and the vertical sharp line of scarlet of her closed fan.
Once only, during this interval of waiting, did he find that calm serenity of hers disturbed. He happened to observe the photograph of a very handsome woman near him on the table. She told him she had had a parcel of photographs of friends of hers just sent over from Vienna: some of them very pretty. She went to another table, and brought over a handful. He glanced at them only a second or two.
"I see they are mostly from Vienna: are they Austrian ladies?" he asked.
"They live in Austria, but they are not Austrians," she answered. And then she added, with a touch of scorn about the beautiful mouth, "Our friends and we don't belong to the women-floggers!"
"Natalie!" her father said; but he smiled all the same.
"I will tell you one of my earliest recollections," she said: "I remember it very well. Kossuth was carrying me round the room on his shoulder. I suppose I had been listening to the talk of the gentlemen; for I said to him, 'When they burned my papa in effigy at Pesth, why was I not allowed to go and see?' And he said—I remember the sound of his voice even now—'Little child, you were not born then. But if you had been able to go, do you know what they would have done to you? They would have flogged you. Do you not know that the Austrians flog women? When you grow up, little child, your papa will tell you the story of Madame von Maderspach.'" Then she added, "That is one of my valued recollections, that when I was a child I was carried on Kossuth's shoulders."
"You have no similar reminiscence of Gorgey, I suppose?" Brand said, with a smile.
He had spoken quite inadvertently, without the slightest thought in the world of wounding her feelings. But he was surprised and shocked by the extraordinary effect which this chance remark produced on the tall and beautiful girl standing there; for an instant she paused, as if not knowing what to say. Then she said proudly, and she turned away as she did so,
"Perhaps you are not aware that there are some names you should not mention in the presence of a Hungarian woman."
What was there in the tone of the voice that made him rapidly glance at her eyes, as she turned away, pretending to carry back the photographs? He was not deceived. Those large dark eyes were full of sudden, indignant tears; she had not turned quite quickly enough to conceal them.
Of course, he instantly and amply apologized for his ignorance and stupidity; but what he said to himself was, "That child is not acting. She may be Lind's daughter, after all. Poor thing! she is too beautiful, and generous, and noble to be made the decoy of a revolutionary adventurer."
At this moment Lord Evelyn arrived, throwing a quick glance of inquiry toward his friend, to see what impression, so far, had been produced. But the tall, red-bearded Englishman maintained, as the diplomatists say, an attitude of the strictest reserve. The keen gray eyes were respectful attentive, courteous—especially when they were turned to Miss Lind; beyond that, nothing.
Now they had not been seated at the dinner-table more than a few minutes before George Brand began to ask himself whether it was really Curzon Street he was dining in. The oddly furnished room was adorned with curiosities to which every capital in Europe would seem to have contributed. The servants, exclusively women, were foreign; the table glass and decorations were all foreign; the unostentatious little banquet was distinctly foreign. Why, the very bell that had summoned them down—what was there in the soft sound of it that had reminded him of something far away? It was a haunting sound, and he kept puzzling over the vague association it seemed to call up. At last he frankly mentioned the matter to Miss Lind, who seemed greatly pleased.
"Ah, did you like the sound?" she said, in that low and harmonious voice of hers. "The bell was an invention of my own; shall I show it to you?"
The Dresden shepherdess, by name Anneli, being despatched into the hall, presently returned with an object somewhat resembling in shape a Cheshire cheese, but round at the top, formed of roughly filed metal of a lustrous yellow-gray. Round the rude square handle surmounting it was carelessly twisted a bit of old orange silk; other decoration there was none.
"Do you see what it is now?" she said. "Only one of the great bells the people use for the cattle on the Campagna. Where did I get it? Oh, you know the Piazza Montenara, in Rome, of course? There is a place there where they sell such things to the country people. You could get one without difficulty, if you are not afraid of being laughed at as a mad Englishman. That bit of embroidered ribbon, though, I got in an old shop in Florence."
Indeed, what struck him further was, not only the foreign look of the little room and its belongings, but also the extraordinary familiarity with foreign cities shown by both Lind and his daughter. As the rambling conversation went on (the sonorous cattle-bell had been removed by the rosy-cheeked Anneli), they appeared to be just as much at home in Madrid, in Munich, in Turin, or Genoa as in London. And it was no vague and general tourist's knowledge that these two cosmopolitans showed; it was rather the knowledge of a resident—an intimate acquaintance with persons, streets, shops, and houses. George Brand was a bit of a globe-trotter himself, and was entirely interested in this talk about places and things that he knew. He got to be quite at home with those people, whose own home seemed to be Europe. Reminiscences, anecdotes flowed freely on; the dinner passed with unconscious rapidity. Lord Evelyn was delighted and pleased beyond measure to observe the more than courteous attention that his friend paid to Natalie Lind.
But all this while what mention was there of the great and wonderful organization—a mere far-off glimpse of which had so captured Lord Evelyn's fervent imagination? Not a word. The sceptic who had come among them could find nothing either to justify or allay his suspicions. But it might safely be said that, for the moment at least, his suspicions as regarded one of those two were dormant. It was difficult to associate trickery, and conspiracy, and cowardly stabbing, with this beautiful young Hungarian girl, whose calm, dark eyes were so fearless. It is true that she appeared very proud-spirited, and generous, and enthusiastic; and you could cause her cheek to pale whenever you spoke of injury done to the weak, or the suffering, or the poor. But that was different from the secret sharpening of poniards.
Once only was reference made to the various secret associations that are slowly but eagerly working under the apparent social and political surface of Europe. Some one mentioned the Nihilists. Thereupon Ferdinand Lind, in a quiet and matter-of-fact way, without appearing to know anything of the personnel of the society, and certainly without expressing any approval of its aims, took occasion to speak of the extraordinary devotion of those people.
"There has been nothing like it," said he, "in all the history of what men have done for a political cause. You may say they are fanatics, madmen, murderers; that they only provoke further tyranny and oppression; that their efforts are wholly and solely mischievous. It may be so; but I speak of the individual and what he is ready to do. The sacrifice of their own life is taken almost as a matter of course. Each man knows that for him the end will almost certainly be Siberia or a public execution; and he accepts it. You will find young men, well-born, well-educated, who go away from their friends and their native place, who go into a remote village, and offer to work at the commonest trade, at apprentices' wages. They settle there; they marry; they preach nothing but the value of honest work, and extreme sobriety, and respect for superiors. Then, after some years, when they are regarded as beyond all suspicion, they begin, cautiously and slowly, to spread abroad their propaganda—to teach respect rather for human liberty, for justice, for self-sacrifice, for those passions that prompt a nation to adventure everything for its freedom. Well, you know the end. The man may be found out—banished or executed; but the association remains. The Russians at this moment have no notion how wide-spread and powerful it is."
"The head-quarters, are they in Russia itself?" asked Brand, on the watch for any admission.
"Who knows?" said the other, absently. "Perhaps there are none."
"None? Surely there must be some power to say what is to be done, to enforce obedience?"
"What if each man finds that in himself?" said Lind, with something of the air of a dreamer coming over the firm and thoughtful and rugged face. "It may be a brotherhood. All associations do not need to be controlled by kings and priests and standing armies."
"And the end of all this devotion, you say is Siberia or death?"
"For the man, perhaps; for his work, not. It is not personal gain or personal safety that a man must have in view if he goes to do battle against the oppression that has crushed the world for centuries and centuries. Do you not remember the answer given to the Czar by Michael Bestoujif when he was condemned? It was only the saying of a peasant; but it is one of the noblest ever heard in the world. 'I have the power to pardon you,' said the Czar to him, 'and I would do so if I thought you would become a faithful subject.' What was the answer? 'Sire,' said Michael Bestoujif, 'that is our great misfortune, that the Emperor can do everything, and that there is no law.'"
"Ah, the brave man!" said Natalie Lind, quickly and passionately, with a flash of pride in her eyes. "The brave man! If I had a brother, I would ask him, 'When will you show the courage of Michael Bestoujif?'"
Lord Evelyn glanced at her with a strange, admiring, proud look. "If she had a brother!" What else, even with all his admiration and affection for her, could he hope to be?
Presently they wandered back into other and lighter subjects; and Brand, at least, did not notice how the time was flying. When Natalie Lind rose, and asked her father whether he would have coffee sent into the smoking-room, or have tea in the drawing-room, Brand was quite astonished and disappointed to find it so late. He proposed they should at once go up to the drawing-room; and this was done.
They had been speaking of musical instruments at dinner; and their host now brought them some venerable lutes to examine—curiosities only, for most of the metal strings were broken. Beautiful objects, however, they were, in inlaid ivory or tortoise-shell and ebony; made, as the various inscriptions revealed, at Bologna, or Padua, or Venice; and dating, some of them, as far back as 1474. But in the midst of all this, Brand espied another instrument on one of the small tables.
"Miss Lind," said he, with some surprise, "do you play the zither?"
"Oh yes, Natalie will play you something," her father said, carelessly; and forthwith the girl sat down to the small table.
George Brand retired into a corner of the room. He was passionately fond of zither music. He thought no more about that examination of the lutes.
"Do you know one who can play the zither well?" says the proverb. "If so, rejoice, for there are not two in the world." However that might be, Natalie Lind could play the zither, as one eager listener soon discovered. He, in that far corner, could only see the profile of the girl (just touched with a faint red from the shade of the nearest candle, as she leaned over the instrument), and the shapely wrists and fingers as they moved on the metallic strings. But was that what he really did see when the first low tremulous notes struck the prelude to one of the old pathetic Volkslieder that many a time he had heard in the morning, when the fresh wind blew in from the pines; that many a time he had heard in the evening, when the little blue-eyed Kathchen and her mother sung together as they sat and knitted on the bench in front of the inn? Suddenly the air changes. What is this louder tramp? Is it not the joyous chorus of the home-returning huntsmen; the lads with the slain roedeer slung round their necks; that stalwart Bavarian keeper hauling at his mighty black hound; old father Keinitz, with his three beagles and his ancient breech-loader, hurrying forward to get the first cool, vast, splendid bath of the clear, white wine? How the young fellows come swinging along through the dust, their faces ablaze against the sunset! Listen to the far, hoarse chorus!—
"Dann kehr ich von der Haide, Zur hauslich stillen Freude, Ein frommer Jagersmann! Ein frommer Jagersmann! Halli, hallo! halli, hallo! Ein frommer Jagersmann!"
White wine now, and likewise the richer red!—for there is a great hand-shaking because of the Mr. Englishman's good fortune in having shot three bucks: and the little Kathchen's eyes grow full, because they have brought home a gentle-faced hind, likewise cruelly slain. And Kathchen's mother has whisked inside, and here are the tall schoppen on the table; and speedily the long, low room is filled with the tobacco-smoke. What! another song, you thirsty old Keinitz, with the quavering voice? But there is a lusty chorus to that too; and a great clinking of glasses; and the Englishman laughs and does his part too, and he has called for six more schoppen of red.... But hush, now! Have we come out from the din and the smoke to the cool evening air? What is that one hears afar in the garden? Surely it is the little Kathchen and her mother singing together, in beautiful harmony, the old, familiar, tender Lorelei! The zither is a strange instrument—it speaks. And when Natalie Lind, coming to this air, sung in a low contralto voice an only half-suggested second, it seemed to those in the room that two women were singing—the one with a voice low and rich and penetrating, the other voice clear and sweet like the singing of a young girl. "Die Luft ist kuhl und es dunkelt, und ruhig fliesset der Rhein." Was it, indeed, Kathchen and her mother? Were they far away in the beautiful pine-land, with the quiet evening shining red over the green woods, and darkness coming over the pale streams in the hollows? When Natalie Lind ceased, the elder of the two guests murmured to himself, "Wonderful! wonderful!" The other did not speak at all.
She rested her hands for a moment on the table.
"Natalushka," said her father, "is that all?"
"I will not be called Natalushka, papa," said she; but again she bent her hands over the silver strings.
And these brighter and gayer airs now—surely they are from the laughing and light-hearted South? Have we not heard them under the cool shade of the olive-trees, with the hot sun blazing on the garden-paths of the Villa Reale; and the children playing; and the band busy with its dancing canzoni, the gay notes drowning the murmur and plash of the fountains near? Look now!—far beneath the gray shadow of the olive-trees—the deep blue band of the sea; and there the double-sailed barca, like a yellow butterfly hovering on the water; and there the large martingallo, bound for the cloud-like island on the horizon. Are they singing, then, as they speed over the glancing waves?... "O dolce Napoli! O suol beato!" ... for what can they sing at all, as they leave us, if they do not sing the pretty, tender, tinkling "Santa Lucia?"
"Venite all' agile Barchetta mia! Santa Lucia! Santa Lucia!"
... The notes grow fainter and fainter. Are the tall maidens of Capri already looking out for the swarthy sailors, that these turn no longer to the shores they are leaving?... "O dolce Napoli! O suol beato!" ... Fainter and fainter grow the notes on the trembling string, so that you can scarcely tell them from the cool plashing of the fountains ... "Santa Lucia!... Santa Lucia!"....
"Natalushka," said her father, laughing, "you must take us to Venice now."
The young Hungarian girl rose, and put the zither aside.
"It is an amusement for the children," she said.
She went to the piano, which was open, and took down a piece of music—it was Kucken's "Maid of Judah." Now, hitherto, George Brand had only heard her murmur a low, harmonious second to one or other of the airs she had been playing; and he was quite unprepared for the passion and fervor which her rich, deep, resonant, contralto voice threw into this wail of indignation and despair. This was the voice of a woman, not of a girl; and it was with the proud passion of a woman that she seemed to send this cry to Heaven for reparation, and justice, and revenge. And surely it was not only of the sorrows of the land of Judah she was thinking!—it was a wider cry—the cry of the oppressed, and the suffering, and the heart-broken in every clime—
"O blest native land! O fatherland mine! How long for thy refuge in vain shall I pine?"
He could have believed there were tears in her eyes just then; but there were none, he knew, when she came to the fierce piteous appeal that followed—
"Where, where are thy proud sons, so lordly in might? All mown down and fallen in blood-welling fight! Thy cities are ruin, thy valleys lie waste, Their summer enchantment the foe hath erased. O blest native land! how long shalt decline? When, when will the Lord cry, 'Revenge, it is Mine!'"
The zither speaks; but there is a speech beyond that of the zither. The penetrating vibration of this rich and pathetic voice was a thing not easily to be forgotten. When the two friends left the house, they found themselves in the chill darkness of an English night in February. Surely it must have seemed to them that they had been dwelling for a period in warmer climes, with gay colors, and warmth, and sweet sounds around them. They walked for some time in silence.
"Well," said Lord Evelyn, at last, "what do you think of them?"
"I don't know," said the other, after a pause. "I am puzzled. How did you come to know them?"
"I came to know Lind through a newspaper reporter called O'Halloran. I should like to introduce you to him too."
George Brand soon afterward parted from his friend, and walked away down to his silent rooms over the river. The streets were dark and deserted, and the air was still; yet there seemed somehow to be a tremulous, passionate, distant sound in the night. It was no tinkling "Santa Lucia" dying away over the blue seas in the south. It was no dull, sonorous bell, suggesting memories of the far Campagna. Was it not rather the quick, responsive echo that had involuntarily arisen in his own heart, when he heard Natalie Lind's thrilling voice pour forth that proud and indignant appeal,
"When, when will the Lord cry, 'Revenge, it is Mine!'"
Ferdinand Lind was in his study, busy with his morning letters. It was a nondescript little den, which he also used as library and smoking-room; its chief feature being a collection of portraits—a most heterogeneous assortment of engravings, photographs, woodcuts, and terra-cotta busts. Wherever the book-shelves ceased, these began; and as there were a great number of them, and as the room was small, Mr. Lind's friends or historical heroes sometimes came into odd juxtaposition. In any case, they formed a strange assemblage—Arndt and Korner; Stein; Silvio Pellico and Karl Sand cheek by jowl; Pestal, Comte, Cromwell, Garibaldi, Marx, Mazzini, Bem, Kossuth, Lassalle, and many another writer and fighter. A fine engraving of Napoleon as First Consul was hung over the mantel-piece, a pipe-rack intervening between it and a fac-simile of the warrant for the execution of Charles I.
Something in his correspondence had obviously annoyed the occupant of this little study. His brows were bent down, and he kept his foot nervously and impatiently tapping on the floor. When some one knocked, he said, "Come in!" almost angrily, though he must have known who was his visitor.
"Good-morning, papa!" said the tall Hungarian girl, coming into the room with a light step and a smile of welcome on her face.
"Good-morning, Natalie!" said he, without looking up. "I am busy this morning."
"Oh, but, papa," said she, going over, and stooping down and kissing him, "you must let me come and thank you for the flowers. They are more beautiful than ever this time."
"What flowers?" said he, impatiently.
"Why," she said, with a look of astonishment, "have you forgotten already? The flowers you always send for my birthday morning."
But instantly she changed her tone.
"Ah! I see. Good little children must not ask where the fairy gifts come from. There, I will not disturb you, papa."
She touched his shoulder caressingly as she passed.
"But thank you again, papa Santa Claus."
At breakfast, Ferdinand Lind seemed to have entirely recovered his good-humor.
"I had forgotten for the moment it was your birthday, Natalie," said he. "You are quite a grown woman now."
Nothing, however, was said about the flowers, though the beautiful basket stood on a side-table, filling the room with its perfume. After breakfast, Mr. Lind left for his office, his daughter setting about her domestic duties.
At twelve o'clock she was ready to go out for her accustomed morning walk. The pretty little Anneli, her companion on these excursions, was also ready; and together they set forth. They chatted frankly together in German—the ordinary relations between mistress and servant never having been properly established in this case. For one thing, they had been left to depend on each other's society during many a long evening in foreign towns, when Mr. Lind was away on his own business. For another, Natalie Lind had, somehow or other, and quite unaided, arrived at the daring conclusion that servants were human beings; and she had been taught to regard human beings as her brothers and sisters, some more fortunate than others, no doubt, but the least fortunate having the greatest claim on her.
"Fraulein," said the little Saxon maid, "it was I myself who took in the beautiful flowers that came for you this morning."
"Yes, indeed; and I thought it was very strange for a lady to be out so early in the morning."
"A lady!" said Natalie Lind, with a quick surprise. "Not dressed all in black?"
"Yes, indeed, she was dressed all in black."
The girl was silent for a second or two. Then she said, with a smile,
"It is not right for my father to send me a black messenger on my birthday—it is not a good omen. And it was the same last year when we were in Paris; the concierge told me. Birthday gifts should come with a white fairy, you know, Anneli—all silver and bells."
"Fraulein," said the little German girl, gravely, "I do not think the lady who came this morning would bring you any ill fortune, for she spoke with such gentleness when she asked about you."
"When she asked about me? What was she like, then, this black messenger?"
"How could I see, Fraulein?—her veil was so thick. But her hair was gray; I could see that. And she had a beautiful figure—not quite as tall as you, Fraulein; I watched her as she went away."
"I am not sure that it is safe, Anneli, to watch the people whom Santa Claus sends," the young mistress said, lightly. "However, you have not told me what the strange lady said to you."
"That will I now tell you, Fraulein," said the other, with an air of importance. "Well, when I heard the knock at the door, I went instantly; I thought it was strange to hear a knock so early, instead of the bell. Then there was the lady; and she did not ask who lived there, but she said, 'Miss Lind is not up yet? But then, Fraulein, you must understand, she did not speak like that, for it was in English, and she spoke very slowly, as if it was with difficulty. I would have said, 'Will the gnadige Frau be pleased to speak German?' but I was afraid it might be impertinent for a maid-servant to address a lady so. Besides, Fraulein, she might have been a French lady, and not able to understand our German."
"Quite so, Anneli. Well?"
"Then I told her I believed you were still in your room. Then she said, still speaking very slowly, as if it was all learned, 'Will you be so kind as to put those flowers just outside her room, so that she will get them when she comes out?' And I said I would do that. Then she said, 'I hope Miss Lind is very well;' and I said, 'Oh yes.' She stood for a moment just then, Fraulein, as if not knowing whether to go away or not; and then she asked again if you were quite well and strong and cheerful, and again I said, 'Oh yes;' and no sooner had I said that than she put something into my hand and went away. Would you believe it, Fraulein? it was a sovereign—an English golden sovereign. And so I ran after her and said, 'Lady, this is a mistake,' and I offered her the sovereign. That was right, was it not, Fraulein?"
"Well, she did not speak to me at all this time. I think the poor lady has less English even than I myself; but she closed my hand over the sovereign, and then patted me on the arm, and went away. It was then that I looked after her. I said to myself, 'Well, there is only one lady that I know who has a more beautiful figure than that—that is my mistress.' But she was not so tall as you, Fraulein."
Natalie Lind paid no attention to this adroit piece of flattery on the part of her little Saxon maid.
"It is very extraordinary, Anneli," she said, after awhile; then she added, "I hope the piece of gold you have will not turn to dust and ashes."
"Look at it, Fraulein," said Anneli, taking out her purse and producing a sound and solid English coin, about which there appeared to be no demonology or witchcraft whatsoever.
They had by this time got into Park Lane; and here the young mistress's speculations about the mysterious messenger of Santa Claus were suddenly cut short by something more immediate and more practical. There was a small boy of about ten engaged in pulling a wheelbarrow which was heavily laden with large baskets—probably containing washing; and he was toiling manfully with a somewhat hopeless task. How he had got so far it was impossible to say; but now that his strength was exhausted, he was trying all sorts of ineffectual dodges—even tilting up the barrow and endeavoring to haul it by the legs—to get the thing along.
"If I were a man," said Natalie Lind, "I would help that boy."
Then she stepped from the pavement.
"Little boy," she said, "where are you taking that barrow?"
The London gamin, always on the watch for sarcasm, stopped and stared at her. Then he took off his cap and wiped his forehead; it was warm work, though this was a chill February morning. Finally he said,
"Well, I'm agoin' to Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale. But if it's when I am likely to git there—bust me if I know."
She looked about. There was a good, sturdy specimen of the London loafer over at the park railings, with both hands up at his mouth, trying to light his pipe. She went across to him.
"I will give you half a crown if you will pull that barrow to Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale." There was no hesitation in her manner; she looked the loafer fair in the face.
He instantly took the pipe from his mouth, and made some slouching attempt at touching his cap.
"Thank ye, miss. Thank ye kindly"—and away the barrow went, with the small boy manfully pushing behind.
The tall, black-eyed Hungarian girl and her rosy-cheeked attendant now turned into the Park. There were a good many people riding by—fathers with their daughters, elderly gentlemen very correctly dressed, smart young men with a little tawny mustache, clear blue eyes, and square shoulders.
"Many of those Englishmen are very handsome," said the young mistress, by chance.
"Not like the Austrians, Fraulein," said Anneli.
"The Austrians? What do you know about the Austrians?" said the other, sharply.
"When my uncle was ill at Prague, Fraulein," the girl said, "my mother took me there to see him. We used to go out to the river, and go half-way over the tall bridge, and then down to the 'Sofien-Insel.' Ah, the beautiful place!—with the music, and the walks under the trees; and there we used to see the Austrian officers. These were handsome, with there beautiful uniforms, and waists like a girl; and the beautiful gloves they wore, too!—even when they were smoking cigarettes."
Natalie Lind was apparently thinking of other things. She neither rebuked nor approved Anneli's speech; though it was hard that the little Saxon maid should have preferred to the sturdy, white-haired, fair-skinned warriors of her native land the elegant young gentlemen of Francis Joseph's army.
"They are handsome, those Englishmen," Natalie Lind was saying, almost to herself, "and very rich and brave; but they have no sympathy. All their fighting for their liberty is over and gone; they cannot believe there is any oppression now anywhere; and they think that those who wish to help the sufferers of the world are only discontented and fanatic—a trouble—an annoyance. And they are hard with the poor people and the weak; they think it is wrong—that you have done wrong—if you are not well off and strong like themselves. I wonder if that was really an English lady who wrote the 'Cry of the Children.'"
"I beg your pardon, Fraulein."
"Nothing, Anneli. I was wondering why so rich a nation as the English should have so many poor people among them—and such miserable poor people; there is nothing like it in the world."
They were walking along the broad road leading to the Marble Arch, between the leafless trees. Suddenly the little Saxon girl exclaimed, in an excited whisper,
"What is it, Anneli?"
"The lady—the lady who came with the flowers—she is behind us. Yes; I am sure."
The girl's mistress glanced quickly round. Some distance behind them there was certainly a lady dressed altogether in black, who, the moment she perceived that these two were regarding her, turned aside, and pretended to pick up something from the grass.
"Fraulein, Fraulein," said Anneli, eagerly; "let us sit down on this seat. Do not look at her. She will pass."
The sudden presence of this stranger, about whom she had been thinking so much, had somewhat unnerved her; she obeyed this suggestion almost mechanically; and waited with her heart throbbing. For an instant or two it seemed as if that dark figure along by the trees were inclined to turn and leave; but presently Natalie Lind knew rather than saw that this slender and graceful woman with the black dress and the deep veil was approaching her. She came nearer; for a second she came closer; some little white thing was dropped into the girl's lap, and the stranger passed quickly on.
"Anneli, Anneli," the young mistress said, "the lady has dropped her locket! Run with it—quick!"
"No, Fraulein," said the other, quite as breathlessly, "she meant it for you. Oh, look, Fraulein!—look at the poor lady—she is crying."
The sharp eyes of the younger girl were right. Surely that slender figure was being shaken with sobs as it hurried away and was lost among the groups coming through the Marble Arch! Natalie Lind sat there as one stupefied—breathless, silent, trembling. She had not looked at the locket at all.
"Anneli," she said, in a low voice, "was that the same lady? Are you sure?"
"Certain, Fraulein," said her companion, eagerly.
"She must be very unhappy," said the girl. "I think, too, she was crying."
Then she looked at the trinket that the stranger had dropped into her lap. It was an old-fashioned silver locket formed in the shape of a heart, and ornamented with the most delicate filagree work; in the centre of it was the letter N in old German text. When Natalie Lind opened it, she found inside only a small piece of paper, on which was written, in foreign-looking characters, "From Natalie to Natalushka."
"Anneli, she knows my name!" the girl exclaimed.
"Would you not like to speak to the poor lady, Fraulein?" said the little German maid, who was very much excited, too. "And do you not think she is sure to come this way again—to morrow, next day, some other day? Perhaps she is ill or suffering, or she may have lost some one whom you resemble—how can one tell?"
Before sitting down to breakfast, on this dim and dreary morning in February, George Brand went to one of the windows of his sitting-room and looked abroad on the busy world without. Busy indeed it seemed to be—the steamers hurrying up and down the river, hansoms whirling along the Embankment, heavily laden omnibuses chasing each other across Waterloo Bridge, the underground railway from time to time rumbling beneath those wintry-looking gardens, and always and everywhere the ceaseless murmur of a great city. In the midst of all this eager activity, he was only a spectator. Busy enough the world around him seemed to be; he alone was idle.
Well, what had he to look forward to on this dull day, when once he had finished his breakfast and his newspapers? It had already begun to drizzle; there was to be no saunter up to the park. He would stroll along to his club, and say "Good morning" to one or two acquaintances. Perhaps he would glance at some more newspapers. Perhaps, tired of reading news that did not interest, and forming opinions never to be translated into action, he would take refuge in the library. Somehow, anyhow, he would desperately tide over the morning till lunch-time.
Luncheon would be a break; but after—? He had not been long enough in England to become familiar with the whist-set; similarly, he had been too long abroad to be proficient in English billiards, even if he had been willing to make either whist or pool the pursuit of his life. As for afternoon calls and tea-drinking, that may be an interesting occupation for young gentlemen in search of a wife, but it is too ghastly a business for one who has no such views. What then? More newspapers? More tedious lounging in the hushed library? Or how were the "impracticable hours" to be disposed of before came night and sleep?
George Brand did not stay to consider that, when a man in the prime of health and vigor, possessed of an ample fortune, unfettered by anybody's will but his own, and burdened by neither remorse nor regret, nevertheless begins to find life a thing too tedious to be borne, there must be a cause for it. On the contrary, instead of asking himself any questions, he set about getting through the daily programme with an Englishman's determination to be prepared for the worst. He walked up to his club, the Waldegrave, in Pall Mall. In the morning-room there were only two or three old gentlemen, seated in easy-chairs near the fire, and grumbling in a loud voice—for apparently one or two were rather deaf—about the weather. Brand glanced at a few more newspapers. Then a happy idea occurred to him; he would go up to the smoking-room and smoke a cigarette.
In this vast hall of a place there were only two persons—one standing with his back to the fire, the other lying back in an easy-chair. The one was a florid, elderly gentleman, who was first cousin to a junior Lord of the Treasury, and therefore claimed to be a profound authority on politics, home and foreign. He was a harmless poor devil enough, from whom a merciful Providence had concealed the fact that his brain-power was of the smallest. His companion, reclining in the easy-chair, was a youthful Fine Art Professor; a gelatinous creature, a bundle of languid affectations, with the added and fluttering self-consciousness of a school-miss. He was absently assenting to the propositions of the florid gentleman; but it is probable that his soul was elsewhere.
These propositions were to the effect that leading articles in a newspaper were a mere impertinence; that he himself never read such things; that the business of a newspaper was to supply news; and that an intelligent Englishman was better capable of forming a judgment on public affairs than the hacks of a newspaper-office. The intelligent Englishman then proceeded to deliver his own judgment on the question of the day, which turned out to be—to Mr. Brand's great surprise—nothing more nor less than a blundering and inaccurate resume of the opinions expressed in a leading article in that morning's Times. At length this one-sided conversation between a jackanapes and a jackass became too intolerable for Brand, who threw away his cigarette, and descended once more into the hall.
"A gentleman wishes to see you, sir," said a boy; and at the same moment he caught sight of Lord Evelyn.
"Thank God!" he exclaimed, hurrying forward to shake his friend by the hand. "Come, Evelyn, what are you up to? I can't stand England any longer; will you take a run with me?—Algiers, Egypt, anywhere you like. Let us drop down to Dover in the afternoon, and settle it there. Or what do you say to the Riviera? we should be sure to run against some people at one or other of the towns. Upon my life, if you had not turned up, I think I should have cut my throat before lunch-time."
"I have got something better for you to do than that," said the other; "I want you to see O'Halloran. Come along; I have a hansom here. We shall just catch him at Atkinson's, the book-shop, you know."
"Very well; all right," Brand said, briskly: this seemed to be rather a more cheerful business than cutting one's throat.
"He's at his telegraph-wire all night," Lord Evelyn said, in the hansom. "Then he lies down for a few hours' sleep on a sofa. Then he goes along to his rooms in Pimlico for breakfast; but at Atkinson's he generally stops for awhile on his way, to have his morning drink."
"Oh, is that the sort of person?"
"Don't make any mistake. O'Halloran may be eccentric in his ways of living, but he is one of the most remarkable men I have ever run against. His knowledge, his reading—politics, philosophy, everything, in short—the brilliancy of his talking when he gets excited, even the extraordinary variety of his personal acquaintance—why, there is nothing going on that he does not know about."
"But why has this Hibernian genius done nothing at all?"
"Why? You might as well try to kindle a fire with a flash of lightning. He has more political knowledge and more power of brilliant writing than half the editors in London put together; but he would ruin any paper in twenty-four hours. His first object would probably be to frighten his readers out of their wits by some monstrous paradox; his next to show them what fools they had been. I don't know how he has been kept on so long where he is, unless it be that he deals with news only. I believe he had to be withdrawn from the gallery of the House; he was very impatient over the prosy members and his remarks about them began to reach the Speaker's ear too frequently."
"I gather, then, that he is merely a clever, idle, Irish vagabond, who drinks."
"He does not drink. And as for his Irish name I suppose he must be Irish either by descent or birth; but he is continually abusing Ireland and the Irish. Probably, however, he would not let anybody else do so."
Mr. Atkinson's book-shop in the Strand was a somewhat dingy-looking place, filled with publications mostly of an exceedingly advanced character. Mr. Atkinson himself claimed to be a bit of a reformer; and had indeed brought himself, on one or two occasions, within reach of the law by issuing pamphlets of a somewhat too fearless aim. On this occasion he was not in the shop; so the two friends passed through, ascended a dark little stair, and entered a room which smelled strongly of tobacco-smoke.
The solitary occupant of this chamber, to whom Brand was immediately introduced, was a man of about fifty, carelessly if not even shabbily dressed, with large masses of unkempt hair, and eyes, dark gray, deep-set, that had very markedly the look of the eyes of a lion. The face was worn and pallid, but when lit up with excitement it was capable of much expression; and Mr. O'Halloran, when he did become excited, got very much excited indeed. He had laid aside his pipe, and was just finishing his gin and soda-water, taken from Mr. Atkinson's private store.
However, the lion so seldom roars when it is expected to roar. Instead of the extraordinary creature whom Lord Evelyn had been describing, Brand found merely an Irish newspaper-reporter, who was either tired, or indifferent, or sleepy. They talked about some current topic of the hour for a few minutes; and then Mr. O'Halloran, with a yawn, rose and said he must go home for breakfast.
"Stay a bit, O'Halloran," Lord Evelyn said, in despair; "I—I wanted—the fact is, Mr. Brand has been asking me about Ferdinand Lind—"
"Oh," said the bushy-headed man, with a quick glance of scrutiny at the tall Englishman. "No, no," he added, with a smile, addressing himself directly to Brand, "it is no use your touching anything of that kind. You would want to know too much. You would want to have the earth dug away from over the catacombs before you went below to follow a solitary guide with a bit of candle. You could never be brought to understand that the cardinal principle of all secret societies has been that obedience is an end and aim in itself, and faith the chiefest of all the virtues. You wouldn't take anything on trust; you have the pure English temperament."
Brand laughed, and said nothing. But O'Halloran sat down again, and began to talk in an idle, hap-hazard sort of fashion of the various secret societies, religious, social, political that had become known to the world; and of their aims, and their working, and how they had so often fallen away into the mere preservation of mummeries, or declared themselves only by the commission of useless deeds of revenge.
"Ah," said Brand, eagerly, "that is precisely what I have been urging on Lord Evelyn. How can you know, in joining such an association, that you are not becoming the accomplices of men who are merely planning assassination? And what good can come of that? How are you likely to gain anything by the dagger? The great social and political changes of the world come in tides; you can neither retard them nor help them by sticking pins in the sand."
"I am not so sure," said the other, doubtfully. "A little wholesome terrorism has sometimes played its part. The 1868 amnesty to the Poles in Siberia was not so long after—not more than a year after, I think—that little business of Berezowski. Faith, what a chance that man had!"
"Berezowski," said he, with an air of contemplation. "The two biggest scoundrels in the world in one carriage; and he had two shots at them. Well, well, Orsini succeeded better."
"Succeeded?" said George Brand. "Do you call that success? He had the reward that he richly merited, at all events."
"You do not think he was successful?" he said, calmly. "Then you do not know how the kingdom of Italy came by its liberty. Who do you think was the founder of that kingdom of Italy?—which God preserve till it become something better than a kingdom! Not Cavour, with all his wiliness; not your Galantuomo, the warrior who wrote up Aspromonte in the face of all the world as the synonyme for the gratitude of kings; not Garibaldi, who, in spite of Aspromonte, has become now merely the concierge to the House of Savoy. The founder of the kingdom of Italy was Felix Orsini—and whether heaven or hell contains him, I drink his health!"
He suited the action to the word. Brand looked on, not much impressed.
"That is all nonsense, O'Halloran!" Lord Evelyn said, bluntly.
"I tell you," O'Halloran said, with some vehemence, "that the 14th of January, 1858, kept Louis Napoleon in such a state of tremor, that he would have done a good deal more than lend his army to Sardinia to sweep the Austrians out rather than abandon himself to the fate that Cavour plainly and distinctly indicated. But for the threat of another dose of Orsini pills, do you think you would ever have heard of Magenta and Solferino?"
He seemed to rouse himself a bit now.
"No," he said, "I do not approve of assassination as a political weapon. It seldom answers. But it has always been the policy of absolute governments, and of their allies the priests and the police, to attribute any murders that might occur to the secret societies, and so to terrify stupid people. It is one of the commonest slanders in history. Why, everybody knows how Fouche humbugged the First Napoleon, and got up vague plots to prove that he, and he alone, knew what was going on. When Karl Sand killed Kotzebue—oh, of course, that was a fine excuse for the German kings and princes to have another raid against free speech, though Sand declared he had nothing in the world to do with either the Tugendbund or any such society. Who now believes that Young Italy killed Count Rossi? Rossi was murdered by the agents of the clericals; it was distinctly proved. But any stick is good enough to beat a dog with. No matter what the slander is, so long as you can get up a charge, either for the imprisoning of a dangerous enemy or for terrifying the public mind. You yourself, Mr. Brand—I can see that your only notion of the innumerable secret societies now in Europe is that they will probably assassinate people. That's what they said about the Carbonari too. The objects of the Carbonari were plain as plain could be; but no sooner had General Pepe kicked out Ferdinand and put in a constitutional monarch, than Austria must needs attribute every murder that was committed, to those detestable Carbonari, so that she should call upon Prussia and Russia to join her in strangling the infant liberties of Europe. You see, we can't get at those Royal slanderers. We can get at a man like Sir James Graham, when we force him to apologize in the House of Commons for having said that Mazzini instigated the assassination of the spies Emiliani and Lazzareschi."'
"But, good heavens!" exclaimed Brand, "does anybody doubt that that was a political double murder?"
O'Halloran shrugged his shoulders, and smiled.
"You may call it murder if you like; others might call it a fitting punishment. But all I was asking you to do was to remove from your mind that bugbear that the autocratic governments of Europe have created for their own uses. No secret society—if you except those Nihilists, who appear to have gone mad altogether—I say, no secret society of the present day recognizes political assassination as a normal or desirable weapon; though it may have to be resorted to in extreme cases. You, as an individual, might, in certain circumstances, lawfully kill a man; but that is neither the custom, nor the object, nor the chief thought of your life."
"And are there many of these societies?" Brand asked.
O'Halloran had carelessly lit himself another pipe.
"Europe is honey-combed with them. They are growing in secret as rapidly as some kindred societies are growing in the open. Look at the German socialists—in 1871 they polled only 120,000 votes; in 1874 they polled 340,000: I imagine that Herr Furst von Bismarck will find some difficulty in suppressing that Frankenstein monster he coquetted so long with. Then the Knights of Labor in America: you will hear something of them by-and-by, or I am mistaken. In secret and in the open alike there is a vast power growing and growing, increasing in volume and bulk from hour to hour, from year to year, God only knows in what fashion it will reveal itself. But you may depend on it that when the spark does spring out of the cloud—when the clearance of the atmosphere is due—people will look back on 1688, and 1798, and 1848 as mere playthings. The Great Revolution is still to come; it may be nearer than some imagine."
He had grown more earnest, both in his manner and his speech.
"Well," George Brand said, "timid people may reassure themselves. Where there are so many societiets, there will be as many different aims. Some, like the wilder German socialists, will want a general participation of property; others a demolition of the churches and crucifixion of the priests; others the establishment of a Universal Republic. There may be a great deal of powder stored up, but it will all go off in different directions, in little fireworks."
A quick light gleamed in those deep-set, lion-like eyes.
"Very well said!" was the scornful comment. "The Czar himself could not have expressed his belief, or at least his hope, more neatly. But let me tell you, sir, that the masses of mankind are not such hopeless idiots as are some of the feather-headed orators and writers who speak for them; and that you will appeal to them in vain if you do not appeal to their sense of justice, and their belief in right, and in the eternal laws of God. You may have a particular crowd go mad, or a particular city go mad; but the heart of the people beats true, and if you desire a great political change, you must appeal to their love of fair and honest dealing as between man and man. And even if the aims of these societies are diverse, what then? What would you think, now, if it were possible to construct a common platform, where certain aims at least could be accepted by all, and become bonds to unite those who are hoping for better things all over the earth? That did not occur to you as a possible thing, perhaps? You have only studied the ways of kings and governments—each one for itself. 'Come over my boundary, and I will cleave your head; or, rather, I will send my common people to do it, for a little blood-letting from time to time is good for that vile and ignorant body.' But the vile and ignorant body may begin to tire of that recurrent blood-letting, and might perhaps even say, 'Brother across the boundary, I have no quarrel with you. You are poor and ignorant like myself; the travail of the earth lies hard on you; I would rather give you my hand. If I have any quarrel, surely it is with the tyrants of the earth, who have kept both you and me enslaved; who have taken away our children from us; who have left us scarcely bread. How long, O Lord, how long? We are tired of the reign of Caesar; we are beaten down with it; who will help us now to establish the reign of Christ?"
He rose. Despite the unkempt hair, this man looked quite handsome now, while this serious look was in his face. Brand began to perceive whence his friend Evelyn had derived at least some of his inspiration.
"Meanwhile," O'Halloran said, with a light, scornful laugh, "Christianity has been of excellent service to Caesar; it has been the big policeman of Europe. Do you think these poor wretches would have been so patient if they had not believed there was some compensation reserved for them beyond the grave? They would have had Caesar by the throat by this time."
"Then that scheme of co-operation you mentioned," Brand said, somewhat hastily—for he saw that O'Halloran was about to leave—"that is what Ferdinand Lind is working at?"
The other started.
"I cannot give you any information on that point," said O'Halloran, gravely. "And I do not think you are likely to get much anywhere if you are only moved by curiosity, however sympathetic and well-wishing."
He took up his hat and stick.
"Good-bye, Mr. Brand," said he; and he looked at him with a kindly look. "As far as I can judge, you are now in the position of a man at a partly opened door, half afraid to enter, and too curious to draw back. Well, my advice to you is—Draw back. Or at least remember this: that before you enter that room you must be without doubt—and without fear."
Fear he had none. His life was not so valuable to him that he would have hesitated about throwing himself into any forlorn-hope, provided that he was satisfied of the justice of the cause. He had dabbled a little in philosophy, and not only believed that the ordinary altruistic instincts of mankind could be traced to a purely utilitarian origin, but also that, on the same theory, the highest form of personal gratification might be found in the severest form, of self-sacrifice. He did not pity a martyr; he envied him. But before the martyr's joy must come the martyr's faith. Without that enthusiastic belief in the necessity and nobleness and value of the sacrifice, what could there be but physical pain and the despair of a useless death?
But, if he had no fear, he had a superabundance of doubt. He had not all the pliable, receptive, imaginative nature of his friend, Lord Evelyn. He had more than the ordinary Englishman's distrust of secrecy. He was not to be won over by the visions of a St. Simon, the eloquence of a Fourier, the epigrams of a Proudhon: these were to him but intellectual playthings, of no practical value. It was, doubtless, a novelty for a young man brought up as Lord Evelyn had been to associate with a gin-drinking Irish reporter, and to regard him as the mysterious apostle of a new creed; Brand only saw in O'Halloran a light-headed, imaginative, talkative person, as safe to trust to for guidance as a will-o'-the-wisp. It is true that for the time being he had been thrilled by the passionate fervor of Natalie Lind's singing; and many a time since he could have fancied that he heard in the stillness of the night that pathetic and vibrating appeal—
"When, when will the Lord cry, 'Revenge, it is mine?'"
But he dissociated her from her father's schemes altogether. No doubt she was moved by the generous enthusiasm of a young girl. She had a warm, human, sympathetic heart; the cry of the poor and the suffering appealed to her; and she was confident in the success of projects of which she had been prudently kept ignorant. This was George Brand's reading. He would not have Natalie Lind associated with Leicester Square and a lot of garlic-eating revolutionaries.
"But who is this man Lind?" he asked, impatiently, of Lord Evelyn. He had driven up to his friend's house in Clarges Street, had had luncheon with him, and they were now smoking a cigarette in the library.
"You mean his nationality?" said his friend, laughing. "That has puzzled me, too. He seems, at all events, to have had his finger in a good many pies. He escaped into Turkey with Bem, I know: and he has been imprisoned in Russia; and once or twice I have heard him refer to the amnesty that was proclaimed when Louis Napoleon was presented with an heir. But whether he is Pole, or Jew, or Slav, there is no doubt about his daughter being a thorough Hungarian."