[Frontispiece: "Here's my father, or the police!"]
THE ADMIRABLE TINKER
CHILD OF THE WORLD
BY EDGAR JEPSON
McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.
Copyright, 1904, by
McCLURE, PHILLIPS & CO.
Published, March, 1904
COPYRIGHT, 1903, BY THE CURTIS PUBLISHING CO.
I. SIR TANCRED'S QUEST II. THE FINDING OF TINKER III. TINKER ACCEPTS HIS NAME IV. THE TRAINING OF TINKER V. TINKER'S BIRTHDAY BLOODHOUND VI. THE RESCUE OF ELIZABETH KERNABY VII. THE STOLEN FLYING-MACHINE VIII. THE BARON AND THE MONEY-LENDER IX. TINKER INTERVENES X. TINKER'S FOUNDLING XI. TINKER FROM THE MACHINE XII. TINKER BORROWS A MOTOR-CAR XIII. TINKER MEETS HIS OLD NURSE XIV. TINKER TAKES SEPTIMUS RAINER IN HAND XV. TINKER ASSERTS THE RIGHTS OF THE EMPLOYER XVI. TINKER DISOWNS HIS GRANDMOTHER XVII. TINKER AND THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"Here's my father, or the police!" . . . Frontispiece
He surveyed himself with an excited curiosity.
"I can't hold him!"
He poured comforting assurances of safety into her ears.
"She was quite out of control for a good five minutes."
"To-night reflect on your misdeeds. To-morrow we will treat of your ransom."
The pursuit was lively, but short.
It was his first essay as coiffeur.
As a battering-ram against the first and second buttons of his waistcoat.
"Hold it back!" screamed Tinker.
Over these agreeable occupations they talked.
And she paused to let the splendour of the gift sink in.
It's time these lubbers walked the plank.
THE ADMIRABLE TINKER
SIR TANCRED'S QUEST
"It is," said Lord Crosland, "deucedly odd."
"What?" said Sir Tancred Beauleigh.
"That after seeing nothing of one another for nearly three years, we should arrive at this caravanserai from different stations at the same time, to find that our letters engaging this set of rooms came by the same post."
"It comes of having been born on the same day," said Sir Tancred. "Besides, I always told you that the only possible place to live in in town was the top left-hand corner of the Hotel Cecil, with this view up the river, and a nice open breezy space in front of you."
Lord Crosland, who was walking up and down the room as he talked, stopped to gaze out of the window at Westminster, and Sir Tancred lighted another cigarette.
"What I like about it is, it's retired—out of the world," said Lord Crosland.
"It was just that recommended it to me."
A waiter came in, and cleared away the breakfast. Lord Crosland admired the view; Sir Tancred lay back in his easy chair, gazing with vacant, sombre eyes into the clear blue vault of the summer sky.
"I can't see why we shouldn't share these rooms for the season," said Lord Crosland, when the waiter had gone with his tray. "We shall get on all right; we always did at Vane's."
"Well," said Sir Tancred slowly, "I have a child, a boy, somewhere—I don't know where. I've got to find him. I'm going to find him before I do anything else."
"The deuce you have! Well, I'll be shot! To think that you're married!"
"I was married when I said good-bye to you nearly three years ago," said Sir Tancred. "I was married to Pamela Vane."
"You were married to Miss Vane!" cried Lord Crosland. "But how—how on earth did you manage it? It was impossible!"
"I committed that legal misdemeanour known as false entry," said Sir Tancred coolly. "I added the necessary years to our ages."
"Oh, yes, that, of course," said Lord Crosland. "You wouldn't let an informality of that kind stand in your way. But Miss Vane? How did you persuade her? I should have thought it impossible—absolutely impossible."
"It ran as near impossibility as anything I can think of," said Sir Tancred slowly and half dreamily. "But when you are in love with one another, impossibilities fade—and I was masterful."
"You were that," said Lord Crosland with conviction.
"Poor Pamela! She was wretched at having to keep it from her father; and I was sorry enough. But it had to be done; when you are eighteen, and in love with one another, twenty-one seems ages away, don't you know?"
"And once done, I don't believe—honestly, I don't believe that she regretted it," said Sir Tancred; and his sombre eyes were shining. "Heavens, how happy we were!—for four months. But as you'll learn, if ever you have it, happiness is a deucedly expensive thing. I paid a price for it—I did pay a price." And he shivered. "At the end of four months it came out, and it was all up."
"Then that was why Vane gave up coaching, sold Stanley House, and went abroad," said Lord Crosland quickly. "We could none of us make it out."
"That was why. When it came out, my stepmother came on the scene. She's about as remarkable a creature as you'll chance on between now and the blue moon. She has one idea in her head, the glory of the Beauleighs. I believe she's as mad as a hatter about it. She was one of the Stryke & Wigrams, the bankers, a Miss Wigram; and I think, don't you know, that rising out of that wealthy and respectable firm, she felt bound to be the bluest-blooded possible. That's what I fancy. At any rate she's more of a Beauleigh than any Beauleigh since the flood."
"I know," said Lord Crosland, and he nodded gravely with the immeasurable sapience of a boy of twenty-one.
"I must say, too," Sir Tancred went on thoughtfully, "that she's been the most important Beauleigh for generations. She brought thirty thousand a year to the restoration of our dilapidated fortunes; and she did restore them. You know what a County is: well, little by little she got a grip on the County, and now she just runs it. I tell you, the County has taken to spending every bit of the year it can in town or abroad; when it gets within thirty miles of her, it daren't call its life its own."
"By Jove!" said Lord Crosland earnestly. "She must be a holy terror."
"They call it force of character when she's within thirty miles of them," said Sir Tancred drily; and then he went on with more emphasis: "But the banker streak comes out in her; she thinks too much of money. She doesn't understand that money's a thing you spend on things that amuse you; she's always making shows with it—dull shows. So it was part of her scheme for the glory of Beauleigh, that if billions couldn't be got, I was to marry millions. You can imagine her fury when she learned that I was married to Pamela."
"I can that," said Lord Crosland.
"She got me back to Beauleigh, on some rotten pretence of legal business about mortgages; and made a descent on Mr. Vane. You know that he was as decent a soul as ever lived, and as sensitive. I'm afraid that there was a lot of Stryke & Wigram in that interview—you know, talk about having entrapped me into marriage with his daughter—the last man in the world to dream of it. Fortunately, as I gathered from her talk later, she made him angry enough to turn her out of the house without seeing Pamela. She had to content herself with writing to her—it must have been a letter."
"Why on earth didn't you interfere? I wouldn't have stood it!" said Lord Crosland.
"I was at Beauleigh. I was pretty soon suspicious that our secret had been discovered. When three days passed without my getting a letter from Pamela, I was sure of it. And then Fortune played into my stepmother's hands: I had a bad fall with a young horse, and injured my spine. For two months it was touch and go whether I was a cripple for life; and I was another four months on my back."
"By Jove!" said Lord Crosland with profound sympathy.
"Ah, but it was when I began to mend that my troubles began. There were no letters for me—not a letter. Just think of it! I knew that Pamela must be wanting me; and there I lay a helpless log. I was sure that she had written; and, knowing my stepmother, I was sure that I should never see the letters. I sent for her, and asked for them. She coolly told me that she and her brother, my other guardian, Sir Everard Wigram, Bumpkin Wigram he's generally called, had decided that I was to be saved, if possible, from the results of my folly at any cost. They would have taken steps to have the marriage nullified, if it hadn't been for the risk of my being prosecuted for false entry. Then she talked of my ingratitude after all her efforts to raise the Beauleighs to their former glory. I couldn't stand any more that day; and the nurse came in and fetched her out. That interview didn't do me any good."
"It hardly sounds the thing for an injured spine," said Lord Crosland.
"A few days later we had another; and she had the cheek to tell me that one day I should be grateful to her for having saved me from the clutches of a designing girl—rank idiocy, you see, for she was only keeping us apart for the time being. But it set me talking about the firm of Stryke & Wigram; and for once I got her really angry. It did me good. Yet, you know, she really believed it; she believed that she was acting for the best."
"Of course," said Lord Crosland thoughtfully, "she didn't know Miss Vane, I mean Lady Beauleigh, your wife. It would have made all the difference."
"I've made that excuse for her often enough," said Sir Tancred. "But it doesn't carry very far. Just look at the cold-bloodedness of it: there was I, a helpless cripple, in a good deal of pain most of the time, mad for a word of my wife; and that damned woman kept back her letters. Talk about the cruelty of the Chinese—an ordinary woman can give them points, and do it cheerfully!"
"They are terrors," said Lord Crosland with conviction.
"Well, there I lay; and I had to grin and bear it. But, well, I don't want to talk about it. The only relief was that once a week my stepmother seemed to feel bound to come and tell me that it was all for my good; and I could talk to her about the manners and customs of the banking classes. Then, after five and a half months of it, when I was looking forward to getting free and to my wife, she came and told me that Pamela was dead. I refused to believe it; and she gave me a letter from Vane's solicitor informing her of the fact."
"Poor beggar!" said Lord Crosland.
Sir Tancred was silent; he was staring at nothing with sombre eyes.
Lord Crosland looked at him compassionately; presently he said, "It explains your face—the change in it. I was wondering at it. I couldn't understand it."
"What change? What's the matter with my face?" said Sir Tancred indifferently.
"Well, you used to be a cheerful-looking beggar, don't you know. Now you look like what do you call him—who fell from Heaven—Lucifer, son of the Morning. I read about him at Vane's, mugging up poetry for that exam."
"You'll hardly believe it," said Sir Tancred very seriously, "but I took to reading books myself at Beauleigh, when I got all right—reading books and mooning about. I had no energy. I went and saw Vane's solicitor of course; but he could tell me nothing, or wouldn't tell me. Said his client had called on him, and told him to inform my stepmother of Pamela's death, and had not told him where she died, or where he was now living. I fancied he was keeping something back; but I had no energy, and I didn't drag it out of him. I went to Stanley House; it was to be let. No one could tell me where the Vanes had gone. I stayed at Beauleigh—mooning about. I wouldn't go to Oxford; and I wouldn't travel. I mooned about. Six months ago I came across Vicary at a meet—you remember Vicary at Vane's?—he told me that Vane had died in Jersey. I went to Jersey, and found Vane's grave. Next to it was my wife's."
Again Sir Tancred fell silent in a gloomy musing.
"Well?" said Lord Crosland gently.
"The oddest thing happened. It doesn't sound exactly credible; and you won't understand it. I don't. But as I stood by the grave, I suddenly felt that there was something for me to do, something very important that had to be done. It was odd, very odd. I went back to my hotel quite harassed, puzzling and racking my brains. Then an idea struck me; and I had a hunt through the registers. I found that two days before she died a boy was born, Hildebrand Anne Beauleigh—the old Beauleigh names. She knew that I should like him to be called by them. From the registers I learnt where they had been living. I rushed off to the house, and found it empty and to let—always these shut-up houses. I made inquiries and inquiries, from the house agents and the tradespeople. I could learn nothing. They had lived very quietly. But there was a child; people had seen him wheeled about in a perambulator. He had disappeared. I suspected my stepmother at once; and I hurried back to Beauleigh. It had bucked me up, don't you know, to think that I had a child. I had it out with my stepmother; and what do you think she told me?"
"Can't guess; but I'm laying odds that it doesn't surprise me," said Lord Crosland.
"She said that the fact of my having a son and heir would stand in the way of my making the marriage she hoped. That the boy was in the hands of a respectable couple, where I need never hope to find him; that he would be brought up in the station of life suitable to his mother's having been the daughter of a Tutor. My word, I did talk about the firm of Stryke & Wigram!"
"I should think you must have," said Lord Crosland.
"I lost no time, but put the matter in the hands of a crack Private Inquiry Agency. When they learned what I was doing, I'm hanged if my stepmother and uncle Bumpkin didn't stop my allowance." He laughed ruefully. "However, I kept the inquiries going by selling my two horses, my jewellery, my guns, and my clothes. That's why I'm in these rags. But no good came of it; the private detective discovered nothing, and charged me nearly three hundred for discovering it. But the crowning point of my stepmother's madness came yesterday. We had the proper business interview on my coming of age; and she and uncle Bumpkin handed me over six hundred a year, and six thousand ready money. Then she made me an offer. She would give me ten thousand a year to enable me to keep up the glory of the Beauleighs, and marry the millions to increase it, if I would give up searching for the boy, and consent to his being brought up in his respectable position. I didn't talk about swindling him out of his rights; for I've come to the conclusion that it's no good talking of Justice to a woman. They don't understand what you're driving at—those of the banking classes anyhow. I told her she could stick to Beauleigh Court, since it would only be a white elephant to me with my six hundred a year, and go on ruling the County. But I was going to clear out, and I couldn't help saying that I hoped her path and mine would never cross again."
"It was deuced little to say," said Lord Crosland.
"Oh, what was the good? She couldn't have understood. She's mad, mad as a hatter about the glory of the Beauleighs. But it did one good thing; it made her cast me off for good and all. She'd toiled for the family: and this was her reward. I might go to the Workhouse my own way. Now you see, she won't interfere to stop my finding the boy. And I'm going to find him if I have to spend ten years on it, and every penny I have. And when I have found him, I'm going to look after him myself, and keep him with me. I don't suppose I shall find it much in my line. I'm not fond of children; and I'm not an affectionate person. That sort of thing is rather dried up in me. But it was little enough I could do for my wife while she was alive, and now I should like to do the only thing I can."
"I see," said Lord Crosland.
"Well, you can understand that, though I've agreed to share these rooms with you for the next few days, I can't make it a permanent arrangement. I may have to be off anywhere at a moment's notice. On the other hand, by offering a thumping big reward, as I can do at last, I shall probably find him at once; and you wouldn't care for rooms with a small child about."
"Oh, I don't know. I rather like kids," said Lord Crosland. "They're amusing little beggars often enough."
"Ah, but this one is so small; only two and a half," said Sir Tancred. "And now I'll write the advertisement."
THE FINDING OF TINKER
Sir Tancred went to the writing-table, sat down, and began to write. He wrote slowly, pausing to think, and made many erasures.
"I think the advertisement will make my stepmother squirm. It'll make the County talk," he said thoughtfully.
"It seems to me you can't help giving the show away," said Lord Crosland.
There came a knock at the door, and a waiter came in: "Please, Sir Tancred, there's a lady, leastways a person, wanting to see you."
"To see me?" said Sir Tancred with some surprise. "Who can it be? Show her up?"
He went on with his writing, and presently the waiter ushered in a tall, gaunt woman, with a rugged, hard-featured face, dressed in the rustiest black, and carrying a brown-paper parcel.
Sir Tancred turned round in his chair, and she said very nervously, "Good-morning, sir."
"Good-morning," said Sir Tancred; then he sprang up and cried, "Why—why—it's Selina Goodyear!"
"Yes, sir, it's me. I was afraid you wouldn't remember me after all this time. And—and—it's a liberty I'm taking, coming to see you like this," she went on with a voluble, nervous eagerness, twisting her hands. "But not getting any answer to my letters, I went down to Beauleigh Court yesterday on the chance of getting a word with you; for I knew you'd be bound to be there, seeing as it was your coming of age. But I didn't get a chance, and came back to London by the last train, not knowing as you was in it, till I came out of Victoria, and saw you getting into a cab and heard you tell the cabman to drive here. And I made up my mind to come and see you here, though I know it's a liberty I'm taking. But I can't help it,"—and her voice suddenly grew fierce,—"it's about the boy."
"The boy! My boy!" cried Sir Tancred.
"Yes, sir. You see I was his nurse from the first. Poor Miss Pamela—I mean Lady Beauleigh, sir—gave him to me to take care of before she died—leastways, she didn't give him to me, she was too weak, poor dear; but she told me to take care of him, as I wrote to you, sir."
"As you wrote? Yes; go on."
"And I did take care of him till Mr. Vane died. And oh, he was such a dear baby! Then, when the young lawyer came with Mrs. Bostock and told me as how you had arranged for her to have charge of him, and I had to give him over to her, it nearly broke my heart. But it isn't about myself I came to talk, but about him. I know it's troubling you, sir—and a gentleman has his pleasures, and they take up his time. But, after all, he's your own son, sir, and if you'd only come and see him for yourself, you wouldn't let him be treated like he is——"
"You know where he is!" Sir Tancred almost shouted.
"Why, of course, sir. I told you in my letters. He's living with them Bostocks, out Catford way."
"You must take me to him at once!" cried Sir Tancred; and he rushed into his bedroom, and came out with a hat and stick.
"Look here, old chap," said Lord Crosland. "I'm going to clear out for a few days. You'd like the kid to yourself at first. Then I'll come back and share the rooms if you like."
"Oh, no; it'll be all right," said Sir Tancred, and he hurried Selina from the room to the lift, from the lift to a cab.
They were no sooner settled in it, and the driver was getting quickly through the traffic under the stimulus of a promise of treble his fare, than Sir Tancred turned to Selina, and said quickly: "What do you mean by saying that I would not let the child be treated as he is? How's he treated?"
"I mean that he's starved and beaten, that's what I mean, sir," said Selina. "Just what I said in my letters."
"But I was told he was in the hands of respectable people."
"Respectable!" exclaimed Selina: "but I told you in my letters all about them, sir."
"When did you write to me?" said Sir Tancred.
"First when Miss Pamela died; and then when Mr. Vane died,"—Sir Tancred saw how his stepmother had obtained the information which enabled her to get possession of the child,—"and three times since October."
"Since October!" cried Sir Tancred; he had never dreamed that the suppression of his letters had continued after his recovery.
"I only found the boy in October," said Selina.
"Look here," said Sir Tancred, "you'd better tell me the whole story from the beginning. I didn't get your letters."
"You didn't get them?" said Selina, and her face cleared. "I thought you couldn't have, sir. I knew you wasn't the one to take no notice of them. Well, it was like this, sir. When Mrs. Bostock took the boy away, I began to worry and worry about him; I kind of pined for him. Then I thought if I could see him sometimes, I should feel better; and I never liked the looks of Mrs. Bostock. She looked like a drinker; though all the time she was in Jersey with the lawyer she kept sober enough. I had got another place in St. Hellers, but I couldn't stand worrying about him, and wondering if he was well treated. And I didn't like the way she wouldn't tell me where she lived. I had my savings, too; so I gave up my place, and came to London to look for her. I knew she lived in South London from something she let drop; and I took a room in Lambeth and looked for her in neighbourhoods which would be likely for her to live in. But it's a large place, sir, and I was months and months doing it, moving from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. I used to trapse and trapse about all day, and at night I used to go into Publics, the saloon bars as well as the common bars, for I didn't know which class she really belonged to. I went into hundreds of Publics, but I never set eyes on her. Then, last October, when I'd nearly come to the end of my savings, I saw her going into a Public at New Cross. I couldn't believe it; it seemed too good to be true. I thought I must have made a mistake; I daren't go in, for fear she should know me; and I thought she never would come out. When she did come out, and I saw it was really 'er, I nearly fainted right away; but I follered 'er, and she went from Public to Public with two shops in between, and it was nearly ten o'clock when she took the tram, and past eleven when she got to her cottage at Catford, for she stopped at two more Publics. But I walked about all night, for I wasn't going to take no chances; and next morning I found, sure enough, that the child was there. But he was that changed, and he didn't know me." Her harsh voice sank to the mournfullest tone; and she paused.
Sir Tancred said nothing, he could say nothing; he was amazed and profoundly touched by the persistence of this passionate, single-eyed devotion in this hard-featured, harsh-voiced, rugged creature.
"Well, sir," Selina went on, "I moved to Eltham, and took a room. I soon found out what sort the Bostocks were. Every Saturday they drew two pounds for the keep of the child; and they were hardly ever sober till Thursday. And they starved the child, sir; and sometimes they beat him. Now and then, when they were drunk, I've got food, good food to him. But not often, for he was their livelihood, and however drunk they was, they kept an eye on him; mostly he's locked up in a bedroom. I wrote to you, sir, three times, and waited and waited for answers till I was sick at heart; and things was getting worse and worse. I couldn't have stood it any longer; I was just going to steal him and carry him off somewhere where I could look after him without no one interfering. But I thought I'd see you, and tell you about it first. And now, sir, if you'd let me have charge of him"—her eyes fairly blazed with eagerness—"I'd look after him properly—I would, indeed. And I shouldn't want no two pounds a week—why, five shillings, five shillings would be ample, sir. I'm a capable woman, and I can get as much charring as ever I can do."
"Of course, you shall have charge of him," said Sir Tancred. "You seem to be the only person in the world who has any right to have charge of him."
"Oh, thank you, sir!" said Selina in a husky voice; and she dabbed at her eyes.
"It's not for you to thank me; it's for me to thank you," said Sir Tancred.
"Oh, no, sir!" said Selina quickly. "I know what gentlemen are. I've been in service in good houses. They have their sport and their pleasures; and they can't attend to things like this."
"I've been looking for him for six months—ever since I knew that I had a child," said Sir Tancred in a very bitter voice.
"Have you now, sir?" said Selina. "Ah, if I'd only known, and come to you!"
Her story had tided them over the greater part of their journey; and for the rest of it they were silent, Sir Tancred immersed in a bitter reverie, Selina sitting with a hand on each knee, bent forward, with shining eyes, breathing quickly.
Towards the end of their journey she had to direct the cabman; and past the last long row or little red-brick villas, in a waste from which the agriculturalist had retired in favour of the jerry-builder, they came to the goal, three dirty, tumble-down cottages. The cab stopped at the third cottage; Selina sat back in the seat and pulled down her veil, in case Mrs. Bostock should recognise her; Sir Tancred got down and knocked at the door. A long-drawn snore was the only answer. He hammered on the door with his cane till he heard the grating of a chair on a brick floor; the door opened, and a blowsy, red-faced woman peered at him with blinking eyes.
"You have a little boy here in your charge. I've come for him," said Sir Tancred.
The woman only blinked at him stupidly.
"I've come for the little boy," said Sir Tancred loudly.
A look of drunken cunning stole into the woman's muddled face. She said thickly, "There ain't no lil boy 'ere," and tried to shut the door.
Sir Tancred thrust it open with a vigour which sent her staggering into a chair, and stepped into the squalid, reeking room. Hunched up in a chair, opposite the woman, sat a snoring man.
"Come!" said Sir Tancred. "I want no nonsense! Where's the child?"
A dull, muddled rage gathered in the woman's eyes; she made an effort to rise on quite irresponsive legs. "Halbut!" she howled. "Halbut, wake up! Here's a thief an' a burglar trying to steal the brat!"
The man grunted, and jerked out of his sleep with the mystic word, "Washishish?"
"It'sh burglarsh, Halbut!" cried the woman, who seemed suddenly to see two or more Sir Tancreds. "They're shtealing bratsh! Bash 'em!"
Halbut jerked onto his feet, and stood lurching:
"Englishmansh oush ish ish cashle," he said, with a ferocity which petered out in an idiotic grin.
"Thash it! Bash 'em!" cried the woman.
Halbut advanced in a circular movement on Sir Tancred, with his fists up; "Englishmansh oush ish ish cashle," he said firmly.
Sir Tancred lunged smartly at his chest with his cane; and he tumbled down with his face to the wall.
"Englishmansh oush ish ish cashle," he said drowsily to the wainscot, and was still.
Sir Tancred took the woman gingerly by the shoulder, and gave her a shake. "Where's the child?" he said.
Apparently he had shaken the fumes up and the intelligence down, for her only answer was a burst of sibilant incoherence.
With an exclamation of impatient disgust he loosed her, and went into the back room. It was empty. He went up the rickety stairs, and, as he had expected, found the door of the bedroom locked. He kicked it open and went into the frowsy room. The child was not in it. He came downstairs and opened the back door. As he did so, he heard a scuttling rustle. The garden was empty, but the rustle he had heard set him exploring the dirty, rag-covered hedge with keen eyes. He saw nothing, and walked down the garden, stooping and peering into the bottom of the hedge. Half-way down it his eyes fell on two little black feet, just sticking out; and above them two frightened eyes stared through the twigs.
Sir Tancred put his hands in among them gently, and drew out a tiny child; his peaked little face was black, his thin little arms and legs were black, he was clothed in filthy rags; and his yellowish hair was a tangled mat. The child struggled like a very feeble little wild beast, clawing and scratching, but silent with a terrible silence which showed how he had learned to dread drawing attention to himself.
"Quiet! quiet! I'm not going to hurt you," said Sir Tancred in a gentle voice, a little husky with a piercing emotion which had invaded him; and something in its tones really did quiet the child, for he struggled no more, though his breath came in a quick, faint, terrified panting.
Sir Tancred took him through the house, and felt a quivering throb run through him at the sight of the brutes who had fallen back into their drunken slumbers. He brought him out to the cab, and said hoarsely to Selina, "Is this the child?"
"That's him, sir! That's him!" said Selina, holding out her hands for him; and the tears of joy trickled down her rugged cheeks.
Sir Tancred gave him to her, bade the cab-man drive to the Hotel Cecil, and got into the cab.
Selina had untied the brown-paper parcel, and was putting a little coat on the child. "I took the liberty of getting it to bring him away, in case you should let me have charge of him," she said.
The child still panted, but most of the terror had faded from his eyes; he had recognised his friend. Sir Tancred looked at him hungrily; his soul, so long starved, was feasting on the sight of that atom of humanity, so grimy, so shocking to the eye, but his own child.
"They call you Hildebrand Anne, do they?" he said with a broken, joyful laugh. "Tinker's the name for you!"
TINKER ACCEPTS HIS NAME
The child sat very still on Selina's lap, shrinking back as far as possible from Sir Tancred. Selina kept talking to him, and his father spoke to him several times, but he uttered never a sound. Once when Sir Tancred moved suddenly, he threw up his little thin arm to guard his face; and Sir Tancred swore.
They agreed that he would be happier if they took no notice of him for a while, and sat quiet. He seemed relieved, for he sank into an easier position on Selina's lap, and presently they saw him stroke his coat with a caressing gesture, as though its softness pleased him. After a long while, he sat up, looked at the horse, said in a quaint, thin whisper, "Gee-gee—mine like gee-gee"; and then looked swiftly round with frightened eyes, fearful lest he had drawn attention to his existence.
Suddenly he began to blink, then, lulled by the motion of the cab, he fell asleep. They sat quiet, and had reached a more civilised part of London, when Sir Tancred said, "Do you think I could hold him without waking him?"
Selina nodded, and lifted him into his arms, and so they came to the Hotel Cecil.
When the cab stopped, the child awoke frightened, and at once began to struggle. Sir Tancred handed him over to Selina, who soothed him, and carried him to the lift. As soon as they were in his rooms, Sir Tancred rang for a waiter, and when he came, bade him bring up bread and hot milk at once. The child heard the words and said plaintively, "Mine hungly! Mine hungly!"
"All right, my lamb," said Selina. "You shall have dinner very soon."
When the waiter brought the bread and milk, Selina prepared it, and sat down at the table with the child on her knee. In a flash his grimy little hands were in the basin, and he was thrusting the bread and milk into his mouth with both of them. Selina pushed the bowl out of his reach, and fed him with a spoon, very slowly, nor did she give him much. Sir Tancred watched his ravenous eating with a constricted heart. When she had given him as much as she thought good for him, Selina put the bowl out of sight. The look of supreme content on his little face was even more pathetic in its extravagance than his ravenous hunger. He curled himself up on Selina's lap, surveyed the room for a while with drowsy eyes, and fell asleep.
Sir Tancred opened the note from Lord Crosland, which he had left unheeded on the table; it ran:
"I have moved myself and my belongings to 411 and 412, till you have got things arranged. I'm off to Lord's for the day, but shall dine at the Cecil. Let us dine together.
Sir Tancred felt relieved, and grateful for Lord Crosland's thoughtfulness.
"We shall be able to have these rooms to ourselves," he said to Selina.
"Yes, sir," said Selina. "And he'll want some clothes. When he's had a little sleep, and I've given him a bath, I'd better go out and get some."
"No: I'll go now myself," said Sir Tancred. "Then, when he's had his bath, they'll be ready for him."
He hurried down into a cab, and drove to Swan & Edgar's. There he bought the finest little vests and petticoat and frocks and socks and coats they could find him. On his way back with his purchases he remembered shoes, stopped the cab at the boot-maker's, and bought a dozen pairs. When he came back to his rooms, followed by two waiters loaded with parcels, he heard a splashing in the bathroom, and when they had set down their loads and were gone, Selina came to him and said, "I should like you to come and look at him, sir."
She had been crying.
Sir Tancred went into the bathroom, and found Hildebrand Anne splashing in the bath: "Hallo, Tinker," he said cheerfully, and turned sick at the sight of the wales and bruises about the thin little body.
"Look at that, sir," said Selina fiercely; and she touched the worst of them.
The child winced at her touch, gentle as it was, and said in his quaint, thin voice, "Halbut did do that. Mine not like Halbut. No: mine not like Halbut." And he shook his little head vigorously.
Sir Tancred groaned, and wished with all his heart that he had taken advantage of his brief meeting with Halbut to give him a sound thrashing. Then he thought with a vindictive satisfaction how bitterly the brute would feel the loss of liquors consequent upon the loss of his income. He went out, rang for a waiter, and bade him send for a doctor.
When the doctor came he examined the bruises, and felt all the tiny bones carefully. He declared that none of them were broken and that, in spite of having been starved, the child was sound and healthy. The moment the doctor's grip on him loosed, Tinker wriggled off his knee and fled to Selina, who carried him away along with a selection from the parcels to dress him.
"A bad case," said the doctor. "But I've seen worse, much worse. I hope you'll put the matter into the hands of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and have the parents prosecuted—picked him up in the gutter I suppose."
"I haven't made up my mind about prosecuting them," said Sir Tancred.
"Oh, have them prosecuted! Have them prosecuted! It stops others," said the doctor. "And besides, they might get the cat: it's the only thing brutes of this kind understand." Then he added thoughtfully, "There's one uncommon thing about this child—quite uncommon."
"His vitality—he ought to be in bed, half-dying, with those bruises, and starved as he is. But you saw how he struggled to get away from me. Well, I'll write you a prescription for as strong a tonic as I dare give a child."
He wrote the prescription, promised to be round every morning, and took his fee. As he went away he said, "Someone ought to get six month's hard labour for maltreating him."
After a while Selina brought in Tinker, dressed in his new clothes, with his mat of hair cut close to his head. He was still grimy—many baths were yet needed before he would be clean; but Sir Tancred saw that, once clean, and his peaked face filled out a little, he would be a very pretty baby. His features were fine, his eyes of a deep blue, his head was small and well-shaped, and the close-cut hair clustered about it in little curls.
He clung to Selina's gown, and Sir Tancred bade her sit down, and see what he would do. It was a long time before he stirred from her side, and then only a little way, moving with a curious, stealthy gait, casting fearful glances at Sir Tancred. He was attracted by the bright stuffs which covered the furniture, and went from piece to piece, stroking it. Then he saw himself in the unnecessarily mirrored door of the sideboard, and surveyed his image with an almost excited curiosity, and, it almost seemed, approbation.
An idea struck Sir Tancred; he went out, took a cab, came back with an armful of toys, and set them in the middle of the room. The child stared and stared at them with great eyes. After a long while, in his stealthy, timid way, he made a few steps towards them, and scuttled back to Selina. He sallied out again, came nearer to them, and fled back. In the fourth attempt he carried off a little horse, and escaped with it behind the sofa. There he played with it, or rather sat hugging it, stroking it, or fingering it, in a dead silence. Sir Tancred watched his every movement, his every expression, missing nothing; his eyes could not have enough of him.
Twice again Selina fed him, and twice he was again ravenous. At half-past six she put him to bed.
Sir Tancred dressed for dinner, made arrangements for the feeding of Selina, and went into the smoking-room. There Lord Crosland found him, and they dined together. After dinner Lord Crosland pressed him to go to a theatre or a music-hall; but Sir Tancred would not: the discoveries of the day had left him no heart for amusement. He saw Lord Crosland set out in search of diversion; came back to his room, and sent Selina to her supper, while he watched over the child. He sat by the window, looking up the river, and smoking, in an unhappy reverie. Now and again he went and looked long at his sleeping boy.
When Selina came up from her supper he heard for the first time the story of his wife's death, and received her last message, which had been so long delivering. It was no little comfort to him in this revival of sorrow to hear that she had learned of the accident which prevented him from coming to her, and, sure of their ultimate meeting, had come to bear patiently their separation. And the knowledge that she must die without seeing him again had come to her in the merciful and indifferent weariness so often the forerunner of death.
When he had heard, and heard again, all that Selina could tell him, he gave her a cheque for five hundred pounds, putting aside her protestations that she had never looked for it, and would rather not have it, with the declaration that he had actually written out the advertisement offering that reward for information about his missing child, when she had brought it.
Long after she had gone to bed, he sat thinking over her story, immersed in unhappy memories and unavailing regrets, and his bitterness against his stepmother and uncle grew and grew in him at the ill treatment his child had endured through their interference and neglect, to a strength to which his own wrongs had never brought it.
The suppression and ignoring of Selina's last letters was inexplicable to him; he could only suppose that his stepmother had burnt them on reading only the signature; or had believed them to be the misrepresentations of a person trying to supplant Mrs. Bostock. He thought for a while of writing to his stepmother out of the fulness of his heart; and then he told himself that it was no use. At last he went heavily to bed. Three times in the night he awoke, and went and listened at the door of the boy's bedroom; there was no sound; he was sleeping peacefully.
After his morning bath Tinker looked a shade less grimy, and even the few meals he had enjoyed since his rescue had filled out his face a little. About eleven it was decided that a walk in the Embankment gardens would be good for him, and Selina carried him out. But it was very soon plain that it was anything but good for him. Every passer-by thrilled him with a fresh terror; in three minutes he clung to Selina panting and gasping with fright, his little fingers gripping her with a convulsive clutch, his eyes starting out of his head, but all in a terrible silence. It was appalling to see such an extremity of emotion not dare to find a vocal expression. Quickly they perceived that there was no reassuring or soothing him; Sir Tancred blindfolded him with his handkerchief, took him from Selina, and carried him quickly back to the hotel. He sat on Selina's lap, recovering very slowly, for nearly an hour. Then he got to his toys.
That afternoon Sir Tancred made a search, and discovered a staircase leading up to the roof. It was somewhat besprent with blacks; but there the child could take an airing, unterrified, in a solitude a trois, and in a very fresh air, when a south or west wind blew.
By the afternoon of the next day he had grown used to Sir Tancred, and, when he was tired of his silent play with his toys, would sit on his knee in perfect content. The skin of his face was almost white; now only his knees were really grimy.
On the evening of the fourth day, as he was having his supper, eating it with much less of the ravenous fervour of a wolf in winter-time, Sir Tancred distinctly saw him smile; it was very faint, but it was an undoubted smile.
Three mornings later Sir Tancred was lying awake, when his door was pushed wider open, and Tinker stole in:
"Hallo, Tinker! Come here! You'll catch cold! What are you looking for?" said Sir Tancred.
"Gee-gee," said Tinker.
"Come here, and get warm."
After a little thought Tinker accepted the invitation, and Sir Tancred lifted him into bed. He huddled up to Sir Tancred, and presently found that his unshaven chin was rough, and stroked it with some wonder.
"You are a funny little Tinker," said Sir Tancred fondly.
"Mine Tinker. Mine Tinker!" said the child with a faint crow.
THE TRAINING OF TINKER
Sir Tancred had a very sound theory that the air of London is as healthy an air as can be breathed in England; but for all that Tinker enjoyed the best quality of that air, on the roof of the Hotel Cecil, varied by the ozone of Brighton and the air of many parts of the country, it was many a long day before he showed a real tendency towards sturdiness, and outgrew the effects of his privations. He was long, too, outgrowing his terror of strangers.
Meanwhile Sir Tancred was trying to slake his intolerable thirst for distraction, distraction from his memories and regrets, in that section of London Society which, let us hope, cannot see itself for its own brilliancy, or hear itself for its own noise, that curious collection of Princes and millionaires, aristocrats and tradesmen, great ladies and upper Bohemians, about which the only fitting thing is its title, found for it by some inspired journalist, of the Smart Set. There, where life forever bubbles a cheap and exceedingly dry champagne of a very doubtful exhilaration, he did now and again find a poor respite from regret till time blunted the edge of his sorrows. And when his sorrow was no longer acute, he had formed a reckless and extravagant habit of life from which, even when the reason for it had passed, he never sought to free himself: indeed, it never occurred to him to try.
But he never let his effort to drown his sorrow in the whirlpool of this strenuous life of pleasure interfere with his care of his little son; in truth, Tinker's society was his chief relaxation from the laborious and exacting round. Wherever he might be, in London, Paris, Vienna, Monte Carlo, or a country-house, Tinker was at hand, in his hotel, or lodged in the neighbourhood under the care of the faithful Selina.
A singularly early riser for one who sojourns in the Polite, or, to be exact, the Impolite World,—even in London he breakfasted at ten,—Sir Tancred was able to devote two or three hours every morning to the child before the serious and exacting pleasures of the day, and, before three years had passed, he had grown a veritable connoisseur in wooden bricks, tin soldiers, and composite animals. However late he returned at night, he never failed to look at Tinker in his cot in the room adjoining his bedroom, to assure himself that he was warm enough, or, if need were, lift him more comfortably on to his pillow. He watched him in his childish complaints with more care than the careful nurses he paid to watch him, or even than the fond and faithful Selina. And yet he did not spoil him.
Till Tinker was six years old they were playmates. Then, little by little, Sir Tancred found himself drifting into the position of general instructor, and after a while began to give serious thought to the matter. It was not, perhaps, a sound education that he gave the child. The classical side of it and the commercial were alike neglected; the historical was forgotten. The spelling was weak, and the handwriting was very bad. But, riding, fencing, and boxing were very carefully cultivated, with the result that Tinker, though he lacked the lumps of muscle which disfigured that eminent ancient, might very well have vied in strength and agility with the child Hercules.
In the matter of languages, by dint of spending some of each year in the different European capitals, he learned to speak better French than he did English, for his father enjoyed far better society on the Continent than he did in London. In the same way, by sojourning in the land, he learned to make himself understood in German; and two months at Rome gave him a fair Italian. It must be admitted that he was as bad at spelling in all three of those languages as he was in his own. Again, his geography was hardly of the ornamental kind; he was entirely and happily ignorant of the whereabouts of Leeds and Crim Tartary; it is doubtful whether the Balearic Isles, which most boys of the Western World could point you out on a map, were even a name to him. But by the time he was ten he could so deal with continental or English Bradshaw that in five or six minutes he could tell you the quickest or the most comfortable way of reaching any town in which a self-respecting person would care to find himself, and his knowledge of steamer-routes and the Great American railways was no less sound.
Besides these accomplishments he was acquiring a wide knowledge of the world. By his eleventh birthday, though inexperienced in Lestrygons and Lotos-eaters, he had seen the cities of more men than that way-worn wanderer Ulysses at the end of his voyages, and he had no mean understanding of their disposition. Besides, as the years went on, Sir Tancred's debts increased. To live the really strenuous London life, you need a great deal of money; and though Fortune, so cruel to him in love, was kind at Bridge, her kindness was not continuous; and sometimes the ungracious importunities of his creditors drove him into retirement in the country. During these times of exile Tinker was, for the most part, his only companion, save for brief visits from Lord Crosland; and since Sir Tancred made a point of talking to him as his equal in age and experience, he gained from these times of close intimacy a yet wider knowledge of the world. These retirements never lasted long, not long enough indeed for Tinker, who was always happy enough in the country. Sir Tancred after a while grew impatient for the distractions of which he had acquired so deep-rooted a habit. Moreover, in the country, out of a well-filled country house or shooting-box, he might at any time fall into the old, sorrowful brooding on his lost happiness.
The most uncommon part of Tinker's education was the careful cultivation of his faculty of observation. Sir Tancred himself had a natural gift of understanding his fellow-creatures, which, along with his finer brain, little by little placed him in the noble but unenviable position of being the first person to whom his friends flew to be extricated from their scrapes. He had found that his gift stood him in such good stead in his varying fortunes that he spared no pains to equip Tinker with the faculty even more finely developed.
In forming Tinker's manners he was at once aided and hindered by many women. The faithful Selina, with all the best-hearted intentions in the world of spoiling the child, was foiled, partly by Sir Tancred's watchfulness, and partly by the uncertainty of her own temper. She was liable to the sudden, gusty rages of her class; and one of these rages undid the harm of many days' indulgence. When, however, Tinker was nine, she resigned with many misgivings, tears, and upbraidings of conscience, her charge of him, to marry a middle-aged Parisian hairdresser of Scotch nationality and the name of Angus McNeill. Sir Tancred had far more trouble with the women who fell in love with him; and many women fell in love with him or thought themselves in love with him, for his handsome, melancholy face, his reputation for recklessness, and above all for his cold insensibility to their charm. In ten years of the strenuous, smart life, his name was never coupled with that of any woman. All and each of these made a pet of Tinker, since they found it the surest way to abate his father's coldness. On the other hand the great ladies of the Faubourg de St. Germain petted him because his seraph's face and delightful manners charmed them; while any nice woman petted him because she could not help it.
Fortunately Tinker did not like being petted; his sentiments, indeed, on the matter of being kissed by the effusive verged on the ungallant. He liked to be a nice woman's familiar friend; his attitude toward her could be almost avuncular; but if a woman would pet him, he endured it with the exquisite patience with which his father forever taught him to treat the sex. In weaker hands than those of his father, he would doubtless have become a precocious and irritating monkey, always and painfully in evidence. But Sir Tancred and his creditors saw to it that his life in the world was broken by spells of healthy, boyish life, and he remained modest enough and simple-hearted.
As to his nerves, though they were always high-strung, the effects of his cruel treatment as a baby wore little by little and slowly away, until there was left only a faint dread, or rather dislike, of being alone in the dark, and a tendency to awake once in a month or so, crying out from a bad dream.
TINKER'S BIRTHDAY BLOODHOUND
Hildebrand Anne came out of the long glass doors of the morning room of the Refuge, as Sir Tancred had happily named the cottage at Farndon-Pryze, which he had bought soon after Jeddah won the Derby at a hundred to one, and whither he retired when he was at loggerheads with Fortune, or Hildebrand Anne began to look fagged by London life. His father was reading a newspaper at the end of the lawn, and he walked across to him.
Sir Tancred looked up from his paper, and said with a sigh:
"I'm afraid there's no birthday present for you, Tinker."
"That's all right, sir," said Tinker cheerfully.
Father and son made an admirable pair, a pair of an extraordinary distinction. Reckless pride and sorrow had impressed on Sir Tancred's dark, sombre face much of the look of Lucifer, Son of the Morning; Tinker was very fair with close-cropped golden curls clustering round his small head, features as finely cut as those of his father, sunny blue eyes, lips curved like Cupid's bow, and the air of a seraph. The name had clung to him from its perfect inappropriateness. A tinker is but a gritty sight, and Hildebrand Anne had grown up, to the eye, an angel child, of a cleanliness uncanny in a small boy.
"Even if there were anything to buy in Farndon-Pryze, our fortunes are at a low ebb," said Sir Tancred with faint sorrow.
Tinker heaved a sympathetic sigh, and said again, "Oh, that's all right, sir."
"And the papers offer no suggestions for a new campaign," and Sir Tancred, looking with some contempt at the score of grey, pink, yellow, and green sheets which littered the grass around his long cane chair, fanned himself with his panama; for, though the month was May, the morning was hot.
"We shall have lots of money soon," said Tinker cheerily.
"Well, I hope so. It is no use my reading these wretched rags, unless they put me in the way of a coup."
"We always do," said Tinker with conviction; and he strolled away, pondering idly the question of riches.
From the end of the garden of the Refuge, Tinker scanned the country round with dissatisfied eyes. None of the low hills was hollowed by a pirates', or brigands', or even a smugglers' cave with its buried hoard, no ruin tottered above a secret treasure-chamber. For himself he did not mind; it was all one to him whether he hunted his prey in the Champs Elysees or the long, straggling street of Farndon-Pryze. There were men in both places; and, though the methods of enraging them were different, they grew crimson to much the same fieriness. He found, indeed, an angry Frenchman more entertaining than an angry Englishman, but he was no epicure in sensations: only, he liked them exciting. But he would fain have discovered treasure for the sake of his father who, as he well knew, did not find in Farndon-Pryze the entertainment which satisfied his simpler, boyish heart.
As he scanned the unsatisfactory landscape, he heard the sound of hoofs, and looking round, saw James Alloway, a young farmer of the neighbourhood, riding along the highway. His face brightened; the coast was clear; it was the very morning to play toreador. In a breath he was through the hedge, and on the way to the village. He approached it after the manner of a red Indian, only pausing to cut a switch from a hedge. He had a score to settle with Josiah Wilby, a boy whose talebearing had procured him his last, well-earned whacking. Fortune favoured him: he spied his prey playing in careless security with two other boys on the village green; crept between two cottages; and was out on him or ever he was aware of the coming of an avenger. At the sight of Tinker, Josiah bolted for home; but he had not gone twenty yards before the stinging switch was curling round him. He ran the harder, howling and roaring; and Tinker accompanied him to the door of his father's cottage. As the roaring Josiah rushed in, the infuriated Mrs. Wilby rushed out, and Tinker withdrew. From a convenient distance, he raised his hat, and protested his regret at having had to instruct her son in the first principles of honour. Mrs. Wilby took his politeness as an insult, and with a rustic disregard of his pretty manners called him a limb, and threatened him with merciless punishment on the return of her husband. Tinker shrugged his shoulders, spread out his hands, gestures he had acquired in France, and hurried off on his main errand.
He came swiftly to a small field in which there browsed a large and solitary ram, by name Billy, Tinker's playfellow in the game of bull-fighting. With a somewhat unfair casting of the star part, Tinker always played the matador, Billy played the bull.
Drawing a stout wooden sword, the handiwork of Sir Tancred, who never dreamed of the purpose it served, from its hiding-place in the hedge, Tinker slipped over the gate. Billy greeted his playfellow with an ill-conditioned grunt expressive of no joy at all. Tinker saluted, walked up to within ten yards, and waved his hat at him. Billy watched him with a wicked eye, affected to graze, and of a sudden charged with all his speed. Tinker sprang aside as the ram's head went down to butt, and as he hurtled past, prodded him with the sword behind the shoulder.
Billy pulled himself up as soon as he could check his momentum, and turned and stood blinking. Twice he rapped the ground hard with his forefoot. Tinker again drew to within ten yards of him; again Billy charged; and again he was prodded behind the shoulder. It was a beautiful game, and Tinker's lightness of foot, quickness of eye, and coolness of head did every credit to the education he had received from his father.
It was, indeed, a fine game, but as dangerous as it was fine; if Billy had once downed the boy, he would never have left him till he had ground the life out of him. This Tinker did not know, so that he did not draw all the excitement out of the game he would have done. It had grown more and more dangerous, also; for, by dint of playing it, Billy, who had started as a fat, clumsy, and sulky beast, had grown thin, nimble, and vicious. Alloway, indeed, often declared that he did not know what ailed the ram; his food never seemed to be doing him any good, and neither man, woman, nor child dare cross the field in which he browsed.
The game lasted some twenty minutes; and Tinker's skill, sureness, and lightness of movement was the prettiest sight. Sometimes, with a snorting bleat, Billy would turn sharply at the end of his charge, and charge again; then the concentration on the matter in hand, which his father had so carefully cultivated in Tinker, proved a most fortunate possession: he was never caught off his guard. But he was beginning to think that he had had enough of it, and Billy was sure that he had, when there came a roar from the road, and there sat Alloway on his horse. Or rather, he was no longer sitting on his horse, he was throwing himself off it.
Without one word of thanks to his playfellow for the pleasant game he had enjoyed with him, Tinker bolted for the further hedge, Billy after him, and Alloway after both. Tinker knew the ground, ran for a post and rails which filled a gap, and skipped over them a few yards ahead of his energetic playfellow, who stood gazing after him with a rueful vindictiveness. Alloway came rushing up, and took no heed of the disappointed ram, who butted his right leg against the rails with great promptitude and violence. Alloway emulated his violence not only in his language, but by cutting him as hard as he could with the whip he carried, and rushed on after Tinker. Tinker could run at an admirable pace for a boy of eleven, and he was used to keeping it up longer than the rustic wind would last. But Alloway was brisker than a farm hand, or a keeper, and at the end of a couple of fields he began to gain. Tinker was soon aware of the painful fact, and knew that retribution was on him. But, though he could not escape, he could postpone; and his quick mind leaped to the fact that the more done Alloway was, the less vigorously would he ply his whip; besides, there was a chance that he might suddenly collapse.
At the entrance to the village there was a bare fifty yards between them. As he came up to the smithy, Blazer, the blacksmith's dog, the terror of the village, began to bark; and Tinker's saving idea came to him. He ran into the yard, and walked quietly up to Blazer, who barked and strained at his chain with every advertisement of savage fury. Tinker knew a good deal about dogs; he came quietly up to him, and tried to pat his head. Blazer caught at the hand, and Tinker left it passive in his teeth. Blazer's teeth bruised the skin, but did not pierce: and suddenly he realised that he did not know what to do with it.
With a sheepish air he let it go, and resumed his barking. Tinker stepped right up to his kennel, and the barking Blazer danced about him in an agony of indecision. Alloway rushed into the yard, and crying, "I've got you, you young devil! Have I?" made for Tinker.
Blazer saw a happy way out of his awkward uncertainty, and bit Alloway's leg.
Alloway jumped back with a roar; and, lashing at Blazer, hopped about.
The blacksmith ran out of the smithy, and took in the situation at a glance.
"Take away your dog, Green! Take him away!" shouted Alloway. "I'm going to warm the young gentleman's jacket! He's been worriting my ram!"
Alloway was a good customer; but Tinker was a familiar friend, and the astute blacksmith scratched his head at great length before he said slowly, "If zo be as you've 'it Blaazer, you'll 'av ter tak 'im away yoursel'. I dussn't go near 'im; no, not wuz it ever so."
"I'm going to larrup the young limb!" cried Alloway obstinately.
"You'll 'ave to wait, then, till Blaazer gits quiet. I dussn't meddle with 'im; an' I'm shoeing Mr. 'Utton's graay maare." And with a natural, untrained diplomacy the blacksmith retired quickly into the smithy.
For a minute or two Alloway cursed and Blazer barked. Then Tinker sat quietly down on the threshold of the kennel, and fanned himself with his hat. The empurpled Alloway grew purpler at the sight of a coolness he did not share.
"You young rip!" he roared, dancing lightly in his exasperation, "I'll larrup you if I stay here till to-morrow morning!"
"If you're speaking to me, Mr. Alloway, you needn't speak so loud. I'm not deaf," said Tinker with gentle severity.
Mr. Alloway in his violent, rustic way, uttered a good many remarks quite unfit for boyish ears.
Tinker paid no heed to him, but chirrupped to Blazer, who came to him in a wondering sulkiness, and with many protesting growls suffered himself to be patted. Alloway put his hands in his pockets, and stood stolidly with his legs wide apart, a picture of florid manliness and grim, but whiskered determination. Some small boys, heavy with their midday meal, came to the gate of the yard, and in an idle repletion exhausted themselves in conjectures as to the true inwardness of Tinker's relation with Blazer, and Alloway's absorption in it. Twice the blacksmith came to the smithy door, and a large, slow grin spread painfully over his bovine face.
Tinker continued to pet Blazer till the surprised and mollified dog sat down between his feet, and put his head on his knee. Then Tinker began to apply that power of concentration in which he had been trained by his father to the discovery of a method of final escape. Presently Alloway went to the gate, and, climbing onto it, sat waiting for his triumph in a stubborn doggedness.
After a while Tinker said gently, "That's a good horse you ride, Mr. Alloway."
The farmer said nothing.
"He's young, isn't he?" said Tinker.
An acute and scornful expression of "You don't get round me!" filled all of the farmer's face that was not covered with whiskers.
"Did you think to tie him up before you ran after me?" said Tinker earnestly.
Alloway sprang from the gate as though a very sharp nail had of a sudden sprouted up immediately beneath him, slapped his thigh, and stood shaking his whip at Tinker with expressive, but starting eyes.
"I dare say he's out of the county by now," said Tinker thoughtfully.
"You young blackguard!" said Alloway, and stepped towards the kennel. Blazer shot out to the length of his chain; and Alloway, in his fury, cut him savagely with his whip. Blazer roared rather than barked; the noise stimulated Tinker's wits; and he saw his way.
Alloway recovered himself sufficiently to say with choking emphasis, "Horse, or no horse, you don't get me to leave here!" and went back to the gate.
Tinker let him climb on it, and then he said gently, "Have you ever played at being a runaway slave hunted by bloodhounds, Mr. Alloway?"
Alloway scowled at him most malignantly.
"I should think it would be quite an exciting game. It doesn't really matter that Blazer's only a bull terrier; we can call him a bloodhound, you know," Tinker went on, looking at the dog a little regretfully.
Alloway, coddling his fury, scarcely heard him.
"I'll be the slave-owner," said Tinker, fumbling with the chain.
It came out of the staple; and Alloway roared, "What are you doing, you young rascal?"
"Oh, it's all right," said Tinker. "Don't be frightened; I'll keep him on leash till you get a good lead."
Alloway jumped down from the gate, on the other side of it, his anger changed to uncertainty spiced with discomfort.
Blazer felt the chain loosen, and darted forward, jerking Tinker after him.
"I can't hold him!" yelled Tinker.
Alloway turned, dropped his whip, and bolted up through the village.
Blazer dashed at the gate, clawing it; Tinker got a better grip on the chain, opened the gate, snatched up the whip as Blazer jerked him through; and they set off down the road after Alloway. The farmer ran better than ever, faster than he had run after Tinker, faster, probably, than he had ever run before in his life.
Blazer, though Tinker dragged for all he was worth, made a very fair pace after him. But by the time they were a hundred yards beyond the village, the throttling drag began to tell; Blazer slowed down; and Alloway, still going hard, disappeared round the corner.
Blazer and Tinker fell into a walk, and then stopped.
Sir Tancred Beauleigh, on his quiet way to the village post-office, was surprised at being nearly knocked down by one of the most respectable young farmers of the neighbourhood, who was running with the speed and face of a man pursued by all the tigers of Bengal. A hundred yards further on he heard yells and screams, and shouts of laughter; and coming round a corner, he saw a small boy rolling in recurring paroxysms of joy on the grass by the roadside, watched by a puzzled bull-terrier. He had no difficulty in connecting them with the flying farmer.
He came up to the absorbed pair unnoticed, and standing over them, said quietly, "What's the joke, Tinker?"
Tinker sprang to his feet, and wiping away the joyful tears, said, "I have been playing at hunting runaway slaves."
"Ah, Alloway was the slave?" said Sir Tancred.
"Yes, sir," said Tinker.
Sir Tancred dropped the subject; he knew by experience that the truth might be painful hearing, and that he would probably hear it from Tinker's flying partner in the game quite soon enough.
"What are you doing with that dog?" he said.
"I borrowed him," said Tinker.
Sir Tancred looked Blazer carefully over. "He's a very good dog," he said. "How would you like him for a birthday present?"
Tinker's eyes shone as a long vista of scrapes, out of which Blazer's teeth might help him, opened before his mind.
"Ever so much!" he said quickly.
"Come on, then, we'll go and try to buy him." And they set out for the village.
Mr. Green stood in the door of the smithy, and grinned enormously at the sight of the returning Tinker. Sir Tancred said, "Good-morning, Green; do you care to sell this dog? I'll give you three pounds for him."
Mr. Green said, "Three pound," and stared helplessly at the cottages opposite, confused by the need to assimilate, on the spur of the moment, a new idea.
"Three pounds?" said Tinker quickly. "Why, he only cost fifteen shillings a year ago!"
"An orfer is an orfer!" said Mr. Green quickly, his wits spurred at the sudden prospect of a lowering of the price. "And I takes it."
As he led away Blazer, with a new proprietary pride Tinker said firmly to Sir Tancred, "I shall go on considering him a bloodhound, sir."
THE RESCUE OF ELIZABETH KERNABY
Sir Tancred paused now and again in his leisurely breakfast to scowl across the dining room at Mr. Biggleswade, who, with his sour-looking wife and woebegone little girl, was breakfasting at an opposite table. The Royal Victoria Hotel was second-rate. The cooking was poor, the wine was bad, and Solesgate itself was dull. But these misfortunes Sir Tancred would have endured cheerfully because the place suited Hildebrand Anne, who had but lately recovered from an attack of scarlet fever at Farndon-Pryze, but he could not endure Mr. Biggleswade. It was not so much that he had reckoned up Mr. Biggleswade as a large, fat, greasy rogue, nor was it that no snub once and for all stopped Mr. Biggleswade from thrusting himself upon him with a snobbish obsequiousness; it was Mr. Biggleswade's noisy and haphazard methods of disposing of his food, which left small portions of each course nestling in his straggling beard, and filled the air with the sound of the feeding of pigs.
This Sir Tancred found unendurable, and the more unendurable that Mr. Biggleswade had made up his mind that he enjoyed his meals more in the presence of a baronet, and always waited for his coming.
Sir Tancred was eating his breakfast mournfully, therefore, reflecting on the unkindness of Fortune, who had afflicted Tinker with his fever at so inconvenient a time. For he had not been able to raise the money to take him to make his convalescence at one of the more expensive watering places, whither resort millionaires and the smart, whose fondness for games of chance and skill would have kept him in careless luxury. He had been driven to bring him to Solesgate, a town of six bathing-machines; and there the rest of his ready money dwindled to a few shillings. A sudden cessation of the sound of the feeding of pigs caught him from his mournful reflections. He looked up quickly, to see Mr. Biggleswade staring at his newspaper with a most striking expression of triumphant greed.
On the instant Sir Tancred filled with the liveliest interest; emotion, especially curious emotion, in his fellow creatures always aroused his interest, and not infrequently brought him profit, and Mr. Biggleswade's emotion seemed to him curiously violent to be excited by the perusal of a newspaper. He made half a movement to show it to his wife, caught Sir Tancred's eye, and setting it down, went on hastily with his breakfast. He had not been so quick but that Sir Tancred had seen that the paper was The Daily Telegraph, and the exciting paragraph on the first page.
Sir Tancred brightened to the rest of his breakfast; he had little doubt that he was on the track of some roguery or other, and he promised himself a hunt through the paper till he found it. When the Biggleswades, having finished their breakfast, went down to the beach, he lighted a cigar, took his folding-chair and his pile of newspapers, and settled down sixty yards away from them. As he had expected, their first act was to discuss the newspaper with great animation, handing it backwards and forwards to one another. And he took The Daily Telegraph from his pile, and set about seeking the source of their excitement. He passed over the first advertisement in the agony column, the offer of a reward for the recovery of the stolen child of Kernaby, the Marmalade Millionaire, merely noting that it had been raised to 4000 pounds, and came to the conclusion that the second advertisement was genuine, while the third, which set forth at great length the woes of a young woman parted from a young man, seemed to him to read like thieves communicating. He had begun to eliminate the superfluous words, when Tinker, with Blazer, his bull-terrier, came suddenly up to him from behind, and bade him good-morning.
Tinker had breakfasted some three hours earlier, probably in the hotel kitchen, for, as was his invariable custom, he was on the best of terms with the servants; and for all that he had spent the intervening hours on the uncovered slimy rocks, was in his usual state of spotless cleanliness. He is the one living boy to whom dirt does not cling.
"How have you been amusing yourself?" said his father, his stern face lighting up with a delightful smile.
"I'm still teaching Blazer to be a bloodhound. He's slow—very slow."
Blazer cocked an apologetic ear and sniffed.
"It must be tiring work."
"Yes," said Tinker sadly, and his eyes wandered slowly along the shore.
Sir Tancred flipped the ash off his cigar.
"Those Biggleswades are beasts!" Tinker broke out suddenly when his eyes fell on them. "They treat that little girl of theirs shamefully! When I went to bed last night she was crying again. She always is. I don't believe she's their little girl at all. I believe they've stolen her."
"The deuce!" cried Sir Tancred, and catching up his Daily Telegraph, he read again the Marmalade Millionaire's advertisement. It ran:
4000 POUND REWARD. 4000 POUND REWARD. 4000 POUND REWARD.
The above sum will be paid to any person giving information leading to the recovery of Elizabeth E. Kernaby, aged seven years. She strayed or was stolen in Kensington Gardens between the hours of 10 and 11 a. m., on the 19th ultimo. She is fair with blue eyes, and long flaxen hair, speaks with a lisp, and answers to the name of Bessie. Any person bringing information to Messrs. Datchett & Hobb's, 127, Lincoln's Inn Fields, or to Mr. Joseph W. Kernaby, 11a, Cadogan Square, will receive:
4000 POUND REWARD. 4000 POUND REWARD. 4000 POUND REWARD.
He laid the paper on his knee, and began to consider the facts of the kidnapping, as he remembered them from the newspaper reports. Her nurse had taken her to Kensington Gardens, where she had foregathered with the little daughters of Sir William Uglow. The children's play had little by little drawn them away from their gossipping nurses, right out of their sight; and when their nurses went to look for them they found only the little Uglows; Elizabeth Kernaby had gone. The children said that a tall gentleman had come to them and, telling her that her mamma had sent him for her, had taken her away in a cab. The nurse had thought it strange, but suspected nothing wrong till she reached home and found that Elizabeth had not returned. She did not return; and since that day, in spite of all the efforts of Scotland Yard and the private-detective agencies, nothing had been seen or heard of her. The reward offered for her recovery had risen from 1000 pounds to 4000 pounds.
It had been a crime of a masterly simplicity, and Sir Tancred had been sure that the child would not be forthcoming till the reward satisfied the cupidity of the child-stealers. He had reason to believe that the present reward did satisfy the cupidity of the child-stealers; and after a thoughtful glance at the Biggleswades, he turned to Tinker. Tinker could be of help to him.
He turned to him and said:
"Do you remember my telling you of a little girl, Elizabeth Kernaby, who was stolen a week or two ago?"
"Elizabeth Kernaby, aged seven, blue eyes, long flaxen hair, speaks with a lisp, and answers to the name of Bessie," said Tinker glibly, in the manner of one reciting a lesson.
"Quite right," said Sir Tancred approvingly; "you'll be another Sherlock Holmes some day. Well, I have reason to believe that the little girl with the Biggleswades is Elizabeth Kernaby."
Tinker's face brightened. "Her eyes are blue, but her hair is black, and it's not very long."
"Hair can be dyed."
"Yes; and it doesn't match her face."
"It doesn't, doesn't it? Well, I want to know if she lisps, and if she answers to the name of Bessie. You will find out?"
"Yes, I'll find out. But Mrs. Biggleswade never lets her speak to anyone. I must think it out."
With that Tinker sat down; set his elbows on his knees, his chin on his hands; and plunged into deep thought. His father sat equally thoughtful; and their similar employment brought out extraordinarily their strong likeness, for all that Tinker was a fair, angel child, and his father's face as dark and proud and stern as Lucifer's.
For a long while neither said a word, nor moved. Sir Tancred was trying to see how to work the affair on seven shillings, and debating whether to call in the help of the police. Instinct assured him that he had no time to lose, no time to walk to Beachley and pawn his watch, that he must not lose sight of them, and in delicate matters he relied chiefly on instinct. Mr. Biggleswade would not have looked so triumphant, had not the 4000 pound reward satisfied him; it seemed likely that he would leave for town that very day. On the other hand, Sir Tancred was averse to going to the police; he knew what the provincial police were. What was excellent evidence to him would seem no evidence at all to them; and they would move too late, or, if they moved in time, would muddle the whole business, and let the Biggleswades know they were suspected. Besides, it hurt his self-love to seek aid from anyone. No, the proper game was to rob the robbers, and he had seven shillings to play it with.
Suddenly Tinker stirred. "I'm going to try now," he said.
Sir Tancred looked at the Biggleswades. Mr. Biggleswade lay sprawled on his back, a handkerchief spread over his face; and mellowed by the distance, the music of a long-drawn snore murmured over the sands. Mrs. Biggleswade was nodding over a book.
Tinker rose, bade Blazer stay where he was; and walked off towards the hotel. Sir Tancred twisted round his chair, tore a hole in his Daily Telegraph, and watched him. Tinker fetched a circuit to within a hundred yards of the backs of the Biggleswades, threw his straw hat on the sand, dropped on to his stomach, and began to squirm along towards them, taking advantage of every ridge and hollow. It was a long business, but at last he lay in a hollow thirty yards away. He raised his head cautiously, and in a low, clear voice said, "Bessie."
The little girl sprang to her feet, and stared about her wildly. Tinker dropped his head and lay still. Mrs. Biggleswade, roused from her napping, caught the child by the arm, and shaking her, said savagely, "Sit down, you little brat! Keep quiet!"
The child sank down, and began to cry.
Tinker lay still for a while, and then began, to squirm away. When he reached his hat, he rose to his feet, knocked the sand off his clothes, and walked slowly back to his father.
"She answers to the name of Bessie, sir," he said quietly.
"Good!" said Sir Tancred, and he rose.
They walked down to the railway station; and on the way Sir Tancred informed Tinker that he was to take Elizabeth Kernaby up to London, to 11a Cadogan Square, and, at a cost of six out of his seven shillings, bought two half third-class tickets. On their way back he learned, no less to his surprise than his joy, that Tinker was the possessor of eighteenpence. To make assurance surer, therefore, he bought a basket of strawberries, and when the Biggleswades returned to the hotel for lunch, they found the Beauleighs in the porch, eating them.
"Would you like some strawberries, little girl?" said Tinker as they passed, and he held out the basket to the child.
"Yeth, pleath," she said, and stepped forward to take one.
"No, no, Keziah," broke in Mrs. Biggleswade. "You know they don't agree with you!" And she caught her away, and hurried her into the hotel.
"Children like sweet things; but they sometimes don't agree with them," said Mr. Biggleswade sapiently, his loose and flabby bulk swelling yet bigger at the thought that he was speaking to a member of the aristocracy.
"That is very true," said Sir Tancred pleasantly.
Surprised by this affability, but swift to seize on a conversational opening with a baronet, Mr. Biggleswade stayed talking with him in the porch; he talked to him all lunch-time: and he talked to him on the sands after lunch. His unbridled appetite for the society of the aristocracy proved his undoing. For at a few minutes to three Sir Tancred proposed a stroll along the shore. They went slowly, Mr. Biggleswade rising to the great social occasion for which he had so long hankered, and proving himself, in his talk, a thorough man of the world.
As they passed round the promontory at the end of the little bay, and Sir Tancred took out his handkerchief, Tinker was awaiting the signal, impatient, but cool; and as they passed out of sight, he began to steal up behind the drowsy Mrs. Biggleswade and presently, touching the child on the shoulder, beckoned her to come with him.
She looked timidly at Mrs. Biggleswade whose eyes were closed, and rose. Tinker drew her quietly away. They had not gone twenty yards when a jerking nod awoke Mrs. Biggleswade, and she missed the child. She scrambled up, turned and saw her, and cried, "Come here, you naughty girl. Come here at once!"
"Are you Bessie Kernaby?" said Tinker to the child.
"Yeth, yeth," she said, turning to go to her tyrant.
Tinker gripped her arm, and cried, "Pstt! Pstt! Hold her, Blazer! Hold her!" and waved him at Mrs. Biggleswade.
Blazer darted forward, growling with a fine show of teeth.
Mrs. Biggleswade, like a wise woman, stood stock-still, and sent a shrill scream ringing down the shore, and another, and another, and another.
Tinker caught Elizabeth's hand and cried, "Come on! Come on! We've only just time to catch the train!" And the two children set off running to the station.
On the edge of the sands Tinker stopped for a moment, whistled shrilly, brought Blazer racing after them, and ran on again. He could hear the far-away rattle of the express.
Mr. Biggleswade was too deeply engrossed in his talk with Sir Tancred to notice the first half-dozen screams from his wife; and they came faintly round the promontory. Then he heard them, said, "By Jove! that's Maria!" and started to run back. Sir Tancred ran by his side. When they came round the promontory they saw Mrs. Biggleswade waving frantically towards the station, and half-way to it two little figures running. Mr. Biggleswade showed himself a man of action. He swung round, and, with the swiftness of an accomplished boxer, dealt Sir Tancred an unexpected blow on the side of the head which knocked him over half-stunned, and almost in the same moment started to run after the children. He was half a mile from them, and they were less than a quarter of a mile from the station, but naturally he ran much faster.
As the children reached the platform the express steamed in. Tinker hurried his prize into an empty third-class carriage, in the forepart of the train, and pushed the ticketless Blazer under the seat. Then he put his head out of the window, and saw to his disgust Mr. Biggleswade, his coat-tails flying, two hundred yards from the station, yelling lustily, but making a very good pace indeed for his flabby bulk. The doors were shutting, and Tinker watched the guard breathlessly. When he whistled, Mr. Biggleswade had yet fifty yards to go. At the sound he yelled louder than ever, and made a tremendous spurt. The train was well on the move when he rushed into the station; but he dashed at a compartment in the last carriage, wrenched the door open, scrambled on to the footboard, and tumbled in, amidst the shouts of the indignant porters.
Tinker drew in his head with a blank face. It had been no part of his father's plan that Mr. Biggleswade should travel by the same train to London, and his heart sank a little. But remembering Blazer, his spirits rose, and he turned to the little girl with a cheerful face. She was panting, crying, and wringing her hands in a paroxysm of nervous excitement. He sat down beside her, thumped her on the back—a way he had with tearful females—wiped away her tears with his handkerchief, and poured comforting assurances of safety into her ears.
When at last he had soothed her he began to question her, and drew from her the story of her captivity. She had driven miles and miles with the gentleman who had fetched her from Kensington Gardens, to a little house in a long street. There she had found the Biggleswades. Mrs. Biggleswade had taken away her nice clothes, and dressed her in these common things. Then she had cut off her hair.
"I was wondering about your hair," interrupted Tinker.
For answer the little girl lifted up her black locks, hat and all; displayed a fuzzy little fair poll underneath them, and let them drop on it again.
"I see," said Tinker, and he went on with his questioning.
She had stayed with the Biggleswades, shut up in a room upstairs, she did not know how many days; and then they had come down to Solesgate. All the while Mrs. Biggleswade had been very unkind to her, and slapped her whenever she cried for her mother.
The remembrance of her misfortunes set her crying again, and again, with quiet patience, he consoled her. Presently she was babbling cheerfully of her home, her mother, and her dolls, and asking many questions. He made the replies politeness demanded, but he lent an abstracted ear to her talk, for he was considering different plans for escaping Mr. Biggleswade, most of them useless by reason of the slowness of Elizabeth. He could only make up his mind that they must dash for a cab as quickly as they could, and trust to Blazer for protection.
It seemed to him a very long journey; and even when he had made his plan, he found it no little task to take his part in the conversation. As the train ran into London, he told her that Mr. Biggleswade was in the train, and they must bolt for the cab. At once she was all panic and tears, and he had much ado to brace her for effort before the train slowed down at the terminus. Before it had stopped he was out of the carriage, helping her down. They ran towards the barrier; but the platform was long, and Elizabeth was slow. While they were yet thirty yards from it, Mr. Biggleswade was on them. With a savage blow he sent Tinker flying, caught up the screaming Elizabeth, and dashed on, crying loudly, "The nearest hospital! The nearest hospital! My little girl! My little girl!"
Everyone made way for him; but Tinker picked himself up, bolted after him, hissing on Blazer, took a flying leap on to his back, and locked his arms round his neck in a strangling grip, as the prompt and nimble Blazer buried his teeth in his calf. Mr. Biggleswade dropped Elizabeth and tore viciously at Tinker's hands. The passengers and porters came crowding round, and the moment the throng was thick enough, Tinker dropped to his feet and gripped Elizabeth by the arm, shouting, "Police! Police!"
Mr. Biggleswade struggled to choke Blazer off his leg. A police inspector pushed through the crowd, and cried, "What's all this?"
"The young rascal has enticed away my little girl, and brought her up to London!" cried Mr. Biggleswade, who had divested himself of Blazer, and was holding him off by the collar; and with the other hand he grabbed at Elizabeth.
"It's a lie!" cried Tinker, as the inspector grasped his shoulder. "This is Elizabeth Kernaby! He stole her!" And on the words he jerked off her hat and wig.
At the sight of the fuzzy little bare poll light slowly dawned on the inspector; but even more quickly Mr. Biggleswade had seen that the game was up, flung Blazer away from him, and bolted through the barrier. The Inspector rushed after him; but Blazer, who apparently had not had enough of Mr. Biggleswade's calf, outstripped him, and pinned the fugitive on the very step of a hansom.
When Tinker and Elizabeth, escorted by an excited and applauding crowd, came out of the station they found Mr. Biggleswade, the inspector, two constables, and Blazer in a tangled, battling group. Tinker saw his chance of escaping any further aid from the police, thrust Elizabeth into a hansom, gave the cabman the address, whistled Blazer out of the fight, jumped in after her, and drove off amid the cheers of the crowd. By the time the dishevelled police had Mr. Biggleswade secured, and could turn their attention to them, the children were half a mile away.
Tinker's hands had been torn by the savage rascal, and on the way to Cadogan Square he was busy staunching their bleeding. By tearing his handkerchief in two he managed with Elizabeth's aid to bandage both; but he was vexed that they must make such an unpleasant appearance before her relatives. When they reached Cadogan Square he paid the cabman, and rang the bell; but when the door opened, Elizabeth assumed the leadership. She caught Tinker's hand, dragged him past the astonished footman, hurried him up the stairs, and burst with him into a drawing room, where half a score of mournful people were discussing over their tea the further measures for her recovery.
"I've come back, mamma! And this is Hildebrand Anne Beauleigh, but his real name is Tinker!" cried Elizabeth.
In a breath Mrs. Kernaby had her in her arms; there were screams and pantings, and a bandying to and fro of smelling salts. Everyone was hugging Elizabeth, or shaking hands with Mr. Kernaby, or slapping one another on the back and assuring one another that they had always said so. Tinker watched their exuberance with some distaste, which redoubled when Elizabeth's tangled and incoherent tale drew upon him the embraces of half a dozen animated and highly scented ladies of the kind who haunt the houses of unprotected millionaires. When at last quiet was restored, he told his story, omitting as many of his own doings as were not absolutely necessary to make it clear, in a fear lest they should provoke another outburst of embraces.
When he had clearly grasped the fact that Tinker was the son of Sir Tancred Beauleigh, all the warm-heartedness of his native Drumtochty bubbled up in Mr. Joseph Kernaby; he shook him warmly by the hand, and cried:
"Mah mannie; eh, but you're a braw sonsie laddie; an' aiblins ye need it, nor yoursel' nor any o' your noble an' deesteengueeshed family shall ne'er ask the twice a wee bit bite or soop unner this humble roof."
Tinker, not having the Gaelic, was somewhat taken aback by the cryptic utterance; but an anxious-looking younger son of an embarrassed peer, who for a considerable consideration was bear-leading the millionaire through the social labyrinth, hurriedly interpreted it to him as a standing invitation to dinner. He thanked Mr. Kernaby, and begged that a telegram might at once be sent to his father, informing him of his success and safety.
"They tallygrams they yanners the saxpences, mah mannie," said the millionaire with a falling face. "A poostcaird is a verra——"
But the anxious-looking younger son cut him short, said that it should be sent at once, and bade the footman charged with its despatch bring also a doctor to dress Tinker's wounded hands.
Meanwhile Sir Tancred, as soon as he learnt that Mr. Biggleswade had caught the express, had hurried hot-foot in a devouring anxiety to Beachley, where dwelt a pawnbroker, raised money, and caught there a train to town. When he reached Cadogan Square he found Tinker making an excellent tea after his exhausting labours, and giving an account of the Biggleswades to a detective from Scotland Yard. When he had heard Sir Tancred's story, too, the detective said that Mr. Biggleswade would get five years; and the event proved him right.
There was no getting away from the grateful Kernabys, but after the cooking of the Royal Victoria hotel Sir Tancred was more than ready for a good dinner. He found in his host and hostess a strong disposition to adopt Tinker forthwith; and before the end of dinner he found them no less inclined to adopt him, too. But it could not be.
After dinner, disregarding the faint expostulations of the anxious-looking younger son, the millionaire rose to his feet and pronounced a glowing, fervid, but, save for the couplet,
"The rank is but the guinea stamp The maan's the maan for a' that"
unintelligible eulogy on the family of Beauleigh.
As he drove away with Tinker to the Hotel Cecil, Sir Tancred crinkled the millionaire's cheque in his waistcoat pocket, and said, "Four thousand pounds is a good day's work—two thousand for you—and two thousand for me. We'll move to Brighton. But I spent some of the most horrible hours of my life wondering if that beast had got into the same compartment with you. None of the fools at the station could tell me."
"I was afraid you'd be anxious, sir," said Tinker, patting his arm. "But I think that Blazer and I could have dealt with him."
Then he gave Blazer—who, distended by the fat of the land, was snoring heavily through happy dreams of the human calf, at the bottom of the cab—a gentle kick, and said with sad severity, "I shall never make a real bloodhound of Blazer. Bloodhounds leap at a man's throat; they don't collar him by the leg."
THE STOLEN FLYING-MACHINE
"You vas a vonder-child!" said Herr Schlugst. "You know dat machine as good as me!" And his goggle eyes stared out of his round, good-natured face at Hildebrand Anne in a wondering admiration.
"Yes; I think I have got the hang of her," said Hildebrand Anne with some pride, looking up at the great cigar-shaped balloon which hung motionless in the still air.
"Vat for do dey call thee Tinkar? You vas not look like a tinkar; and you vas not haf—do not haf de tinkar brain."
"Well, I've been called Tinker ever since I can remember; and one name's as good as another," said Hildebrand Anne indifferently. "But you'll let me cross over to Paris with you to-morrow, won't you?"
"I vill not! I vill not! Dere is de danger! De great danger! We must vant de calm dat ees dead! I take no von vith me but mine own self! And I vas not vould go, not for nodings; but I vas vant de tousand pounds. Dere is my leetle girl to be lived and educate."
"But I do so want to be one of the first to cross the Channel in a flying-machine," said Tinker plaintively.
"Ach, to be vurst! to be vurst! Dat is you English top and toe! Do I vas hunt de orchid to be vurst discoverer? Not mooch. I hunt him for money. Do I cross de Channel in my machine to be vurst? Nein, nein. I cross him for de tousand pounds. And you I vould not take, no, not for de oder tousand pound. Bah! You vas not at all von vonder-child; you vas von foolish! Good-night, mine young friend, good-night." And Herr Schlugst went into the galvanised iron hut where for the time being he lived, watching over his precious machine.
The Tinker came out of the palisade which surrounded it, and walked down the cliff into Brighton quite disconsolate; he could not see how to get his way. He came into the Paragon Hotel and dressed for dinner as sulky as a naturally cheerful soul could be. He showed no readiness to talk, and his father presently condoled with him on his lowness of spirits. Tinker said briefly that he had had a disappointment.
"Ah, they are terrible things, disappointments, when one is eleven years old," said Sir Tancred. "Later in life they lose their edge."
On his words there came into the dining room a rotund, middle-aged Jewish gentleman, coated with dust and wearing a harassed air.
"Look," said Sir Tancred, "that's Blumenruth, the Jungle millionaire."
The financier gazed gloomily round the room, looking for a table. At the sight of Sir Tancred, an idea seemed to strike him, his face brightened a little, and he came to them.
"How do you do, Sir Tancred Beauleigh?" he said, shaking hands warmly. "May I dine at your table? I want a word with you, a word which may be profitable to both of us."
"By all means," said Sir Tancred in the manner he always adopted towards profitable financiers of Hamburg extraction, a manner extremely condescending, without being offensive.
The financier sat down; smudged the dust across his face with a coloured silk handkerchief; and breathed heavily. Then he looked at Tinker as though he would like him sent away.
"Anything you may say before him will go no further," said Sir Tancred, quick to mark the meaning of the look. "Let me introduce you. Mr. Blumenruth, my son Hildebrand."
The financier bowed, but he still looked unhappy at Tinker's presence. A waiter brought him some soup, and he began upon it hurriedly. Sir Tancred went on with his dinner in a tranquil indifference. The financier finished his soup: looked again at Tinker, and burst out: "Well, it can't make any difference! I want your help, Sir Tancred, and you're the one man in England who can help me; you're used to these things." And he smudged the dust on his face a little more.