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Chapter IV An old House Stained of Weather and Memories—A Reputation and a Remark

STRANGE that Sir William should have been talking of the Hyde-Shaxtons, for he was to see them both again that night!

It was near the half-hour when Mr. Oughtryn's groom arrived at the house. It was one of a row of buildings on a hillside and was approached through a long garden. Heans turned off the main street into a lane, and let himself in through a double back-gate. An abrupt cliff frowned over the back, and out of this, extensive stables—now much neglected—had been hollowed. The yard was flagged between these and the house, which was a long, oblong, ungabled structure, with a low shingle-roof almost hiding a cramped second story. It was a faint, old, imperishable dwelling, with wild bushes in unsought places, growing it seemed from the stones.

The house was harshly built, and had a dignity bred rather of the bourgeoning of human necessity than the arts. Oughtryn, his daughter, and a woman inhabited seven rooms in the centre portion, while Heans had two ground chambers entered from the yard on the right. The left end, including a large conical room or meeting hall, was uninhabited. Heans' sitting-room was at first plainly furnished with some chairs of pink horsehair, a beaufet, and a dining-table, while the bedroom, looking on the yard, was simple and clean. To the former room, however, Oughtryn had added from time to time a few “gentleman-like adornments”; such as some prints of strangled race-horses; a large copper épergne like an outstretched hand, asking nothing less than pumpkins; a stuffed clock in a glass-case; and an immense piece of catacomb furniture having a strange resemblance to a palace wardrobe. It was an old house: once inhabited, it was said, by the officers of the garrison. It was in the large council room—so it was told—that the first officers of the settlement burnt the early records of the colony, and the Governor was found dead in his chair.note




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A whinny greeted Sir William's beast as, opening a great bolt in the first of the three doors, he led it in and baited it beside a pretty gray with a black mane and a fine, large dapple horse. The stalls were narrow and partitioned off by walls, the place—according to rumour—having once been the quarters of a considerable establishment of assigned servants. It was lit by three port-holes cut in the front wall, which, like that at the back, seemed of basalt or dark freestone, and built into the latter, the partitions, each with its cap of wood, ran away in dim rotation into gloom.

Changing to a pair of highlows, Heans arranged his horse's bed. He was thus engaged when a light fluttered in on the walls, and a young girl stood in the door with a lantern. She had a hand over her eyes, which were almost entirely shut as if blind, and blinked weakly as she peered into the stall. She wore a gray dress with a cape, and a small black apron. Her soft amber hair was parted flat on her head, which she carried slightly bowed, as if with constant groping through the mist of those poor restless windows. Her face, with its trembling lids, expressed the words “serene music.”

She put the lamp down by the door, and said it was late, and his supper was in his room. She added that she had fed and watered “Jan and Vesta.” Her voice had a natural unquiet, yet withal a sort of echo of precision. Sir William thanked her rather brusquely. He was brushing his animal down with great nicety, and seemed hardly to hear what she said.

She watched him in a serene way, while he concluded his task. The lantern threw its beams about the lengthy place, showing the stalls like walls in a dream, and the high back rock scarred here and there with hieroglyphics. Just above the dapple cob had been cut the bust of a man in cocked hat and epaulettes, and further up, under a great crack splitting the wall across, were the rude letters—

STONE HIM TO DEATH

Below these, on a level with the stall walls, was the rough semblance of a clenched fist and arm bound across with a knife, while low on the rear of the stall in which Sir William worked was the rickety announcement: “W's got a BLACK charmer.” Cobwebs hung upon these dusty wounds, softening the fierce injunction, mocking the ribald jest with waving threads. Either cut as a pathetic sentiment, or for instruction in the picklock art, was a carving in the far reaches of the stable of a massive prison lock, with bolt shot, having three pieces of steel inserted in the keyhole at different angles, and beside it a key with its handle broken.

The girl shifted the lantern where its light ran further into the


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stall and said, as she did so:—“Sir William, Sergeant Morrissett was here this afternoon.”

“Morrissett! What was it this time, Miss Abelia?”

“He did not ask to go through the dwelling rooms—I don't think father would have countenanced it.”

“Oh, he might and welcome, miss!” said Heans. “Last time he purloined only some letters, of an old relation. They were returned to me—somewhat spilt over and scarred with cigar marks—but, after all, given back. Ah, ah, my dear, so they've been bothering you in my absence!”

“Sir, there is no reason for anxiety.” (She spoke her mind in a precise, even, blinking way.) “If Mr. Daunt was your enemy, Sir William, for what reason could he want the ‘big room’?”

“What, they're not going to quarter police in the chamber!”

“Oh no, Sir William; on Friday there's to be a grand ball. They want to hire the room, because of the size and the carven cornice. They have been flattering father. Mr. Daunt when he was here in September asked what was in that part of the house, and when father took him through the room, he said something about its being ‘made for a reception.’ I heard father say, he'd heard Governor Collins had been found dead there, and Mr. Daunt answering, ‘Nothing so famous, I'm afraid; it happened in another house called Regent's Villa.’ ”

“Ah, most faithful reporter,” panted Heans; “it is Daunt's very voice and greedy heart. That would be too valuable a piece of history for your father to possess. Daunt will have the Governor die appropriately in a house of his own naming. How do you know, pray, it is the Superintendent who wants it?”

“Mr. Morrissett told me so. Mr. Daunt thought the old room would be curious to her ladyship. It is a farewell party for the Lady Franklin herself, who is leaving with her husband to explore the swamps and snow-mountains between here and Macquarie Harbour. The gentlemen are so charmed with her intrepidity.”

“So that was his reason, Miss Abelia?”

“Oh sir, I don't know that he is such a provoking gentleman! But he seems to anger you, sir, and you are never so very hasty. I have noticed certain things: for instance, he will nearly always accept an advantage from anyone, however little it is, and however lowly they're situated. He doesn't seem to be able to resist doing so. Then, though he seems just and scrupulous, he is stern in his profession. I think—he likes overlooking his prisoners. Father says his mind is on you too much—as if you were the place of a crime he had committed.”

A woman's voice called “Abelia” from the house. The girl turned and groped back into the yard. “Oh, see, sir, there is a light now in the great room!” said she. “There are some gentlemen in the window in uniform——”




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Sir William strode in his highlows out of the stall, and stood beside her. A lit door was open on the right of the house and a woman stood there. Some ladies and gentlemen were also visible in a pair of windows—candle-lit—on the extreme left. Lit as the windows were, the figures and faces stood out but softly—a number of ladies and six or seven men. A single female sat talking with an officer near the glass, her head a little turned aside and her hand under her chin. She was pale, and though the wings of her bonnet hid all but her nose and cheek, Heans recognised her, saying in a sharp voice, “By Heaven, I know the lady in the window!”

Abelia gave him one quiet, fluttering glance. She then made across the yard in her wavering, half-blind way. As she did so, a door opened in the great room, and a second candle shone into the yard. Three men were gathered dimly in it, and the voice of one harshed hollowly across the court: “These are the stables where the lantern is—very extensive,” They stepped, as he spoke, into the yard, and advanced slowly across, their sabres tapping the flags.

Sir William moved from the stable-door and went into a smaller cavern on the right where he kept his brushes and accoutrements. As he went in he heard Abelia's voice rising in answer to someone's in the yard. She said, with a quavering distinctness: “The door where the light stands.” Sir William stepped further into the dark, and touching some bags of chaff, sat down on one of them.

The men came into the stable, talking loudly. “How can a woman judge!” said a high, excited voice. “It would seem they are either all mercy or all severity.”

“For every young woman willing to learn,” came a downright answer, “my dear fellow, there are fifty mad to teach—and these, as stands to reason, the more ignorant.”

“Hullo—the old fellow's got a regular mews, here!” said a third voice, with a hoarse chuckle. “Did Daunt tell you he's been a prisoner, and don't care who knows it? Always hauling it into the talk. Fantastical chap. ‘Oh, I'm a free man now,’ says he, ‘and risen, as they call it.’ ”

“Shist! He may have a fellow here, somewhere. Mind what you say.”

“That the daughter—the girl that passed us?”

“Yes.”

“Something about her like a child I've seen—oh, I know, riding with a prisoner called Heans. I used to be interested in that man. He was a bit of an architect, and quite a nice fellow for a prisoner. Got the gambling virus, and did a wonderful escape the very day after he'd been at my house. Daunt, there, caught him at Spring Bay, not a mile from the schooner. Very sly, he was, keeping it dark. He's a farm servant now at New Town—he, a capital top-sawyer of a fellow.”




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“Why that man, Heans, is a groom somewhere in the town—so Somers informed me.”

“No—no, Daunt said his punishment was a sinecure—got him through Sir John or somebody interfering with the proper course of the law! You know how Daunt goes on where Sir John is concerned.”

“Well, Garion told me Daunt himself put him with an emancipist.”note

“Eh! that's bad. I can't imagine him so diminished. No doubt Daunt's having him watched. I like Daunt in private life—I like some of the things I've seen him do—things for a friend—but, d—n it, I don't know that I'd care to be in his hands! He had a hate for that man—above his mere scepticism of the bailiff.”

“Of course, Kent and I are new comers here, Shaxton, but we heard Daunt and his prisoner fell out over some officer's wife. It's hard to see Daunt heart-struck on a woman!”

“What—ho-ho—who spread that?”

“It's common talk. On dit, leaked out through a maid-servant. She caught them at blows in the lady's drawing-room.”

“Who said that?”

“Beal told me that… But I heard Daunt himself say, in a discussion on women, that the woman in a certain case was so infatuated she acted as go-between for a prisoner and a schooner captain. Yes—dropping her husband's money from a fly in a by-street. And when Beal taxed him with its being the same woman, he said, ‘You're the very devil himself, Beal!’ Mind, I don't think Daunt's quite the thing. I mean, I think he's one of those men who doesn't realise how much he guides himself by the letter. He thinks he can act a man-of-honour and think a cad. Look at the things he says. I've known him go on like a mean woman. These fellows are dangerous, Captain Shaxton. The letter's nothing but a fine uniform when your passions become involved. Any day they are liable to slop over into some satanic tyranny.”

“Why—d—n it! you'd make a villain of old Daunt! I never saw a man with such an obstinate sense of right. Do you know that fellow spent a week cross-examining a prisoner before he'd flog him—and that with Magruder against him! There was that case of Welland. Ho, there's name!”

“Ah, you're a loyal fellow, Shaxton! I request your pardon if I've said anything against a friend.”

“A friend! Ho-ho, Daunt's a crotchety fellow! No, I don't say that. Lord, what a devil of a lark! Now, I'll tell you—I know that woman. I've heard of that affair with Heans. But you don't mean to say she used her husband's money?”




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“Come, Shaxton,” put in the younger man, pursing his lips and wriggling his shoulders as he turned away, “let us go back to the ladies. These stalls will do.” He stalked slowly to the door as he spoke.

“Why, Shaxton,” said the other, staring at him earnestly, “I hope I haven't offended you.”

The younger man, without turning from the door, where he was now looking out with arms folded, said easily enough: “Some one is coming across, sir. Swords, sir. It is the Commandant of foot-police himself, I think.”

Shaxton, modulating his voice a little, was simulating a kind of wild badinage. “What—ho-ho—this is good as Galigani's! Now, Karne, did he spread that—let that go, I mean—about the woman? I mean, did Daunt really tell it that way? Now I want to know the truth, for a reason, yes. I thought I knew what happened on that occasion. I may be able to correct you.”

“Me! Shaxton, I swear, on my soul, he let the thing pass! You wouldn't accuse me of speaking like a cad about a man. Watch him when he comes in now, how wary—how stern and definite he will be. That was how he spoke, touching the table nicely with his fingers. It was obvious what he meant. Why should I, for this once, suppose he had no double meaning!”

“Tell ye what,” said Shaxton, “ho-ho—have you any objection to my asking him?” (In a fierce chuckling whisper) “I'll bet ye a fiver—here you are, Captain Karne—a fiver it wasn't true about that girl. She'd never,” he added, sotto voce, as steps were heard, “she'd never do a trick like that.”

Karne had his elbow on the stall wall, and was trying to laugh away his irritation as he looked towards the door. The horses rattled up their running-chains.

Steps and a sabre echoed in the yard, and a man in a cocked hat appeared in the light, backed by two faces in gray stove-pipes. He was talking rather drowsily, but his stout, short, flattish face was alert and grave. His over-thick, bristly black hair was cut short like his side-whiskers, and greying where it sprouted from his temples. He wore a white overcoat buttoned across his uniform, the sleeves hanging empty, and carried a sword in a small white hand. Moreover, his stern eyes were dark and tired.

The three men turned in, chorusing in a high indifferent manner some surprise at the fittings and features of the shadowy place. The two last in black, a young man with a red chin-beard, and a yellow-haired, high coloured little gentleman with a strong horse face, wore single-breasted frock-coats of almost pea-jacket length, velvet of cuffs and collars, the severity of which was qualified in the second instance by a buff waistcoat, and in the first by a green cravat tied in the large new bow.

“Ha!” said the red-faced gentleman, showing his strong teeth


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in an apologetic yawn, “an opportune size. Been stealing some plums, Shaxton, for that model prison of yours?”

“I?” said Shaxton, glancing up at the cliff, yet continuing to thrust at a hole in the stall-wall with his sword-hilt. “Ho-ho, it's you, Sturt! No, this wouldn't do for the Port Arthur people. Give us credit for fires and ventilation!”

“Shaxton's is a moral place—in the form of a cross,” said Daunt, who had advanced in, looking indifferently about him, but now was eyeing Shaxton with a keen and curious expression. “With Leete of the Cascades to cut the stone out” (he looked up at the wall, now addressing Shaxton) “and such places as this as blundering examples, you should raise a monument to solitude at Port Arthur.”

“Yes, that's good,” approved Shaxton, giving a grunting laugh, but not turning. “And none knows better than you what we're attempting. As Binifield said, why should we degrade ourselves by whipping these harebrained fellers? They abscond and abscond and abscond. They are apprehended, read encouragement in another's eye, and again endanger the safety of the settlements with their cunning. This is an attempt to let their own brains punish 'em.”

Daunt continued to examine Shaxton. He detected, evidently an unusual note in his tone, while the sharpish smile of Karne, swinging wide-legged, hands behind back, against the stall-end, invested both men with a suggestion of constraint. He suddenly turned his full steady stare upon the latter, saying rather sharply and in a peculiar, questioning manner, “I've seen you before, sir?” It was with him a favourite method of human approach, invented possibly for use among the criminal. Even among the free it was invariably taken as a statement. In the present case the officer approached, smiled angrily, stammering, “Yes—yes, I've had the honour of meeting you several times. My name's Karne.”

At that moment the red-faced gentleman drew attention to the hieroglyphics on the wall, announcing that some “old-timer had been emphasizing his sentiments in the stone.” “Slash,” says he, buttonholing his companion, “read it, Slash. Is that first letter a B or a W?”

“I make two letters of it,” said the man with the red beard. “Stone him to death,” he spelt out, in a tone fallen rather hoarse.

“Ah,” says the red-faced gentleman, “and what would you have dealt out to that ruffian, Mr. Commandant?”

Daunt's face looked up wooden and stern. “This was mere bravado,” he muttered, with a slight smile of politeness, “done in a night, no doubt, by three or four men. Such publishings of hate are meat and drink to those who cannot nurse their grievances, and would not much increase the unhappiness of the officer who walked, as he knew, with his life in his hand.


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Shaxton, here, believes all this natural hate is to be stilled by a dose of ‘silence.’ Well and good! We prison people, however, cling to bodily punishment—degrading as it is to punisher. The prisoner's brain's a variable engine. We learn early just how much to tamper with it. Shaxton steps in with a whole gallery of masks and slippered warders over a bit of flooring that would sink me.”

“Ho-ho,” chuckled Shaxton. “I must laugh at you, Mr. Superintendent. When you're angry you're so good-tempered. Like the lady in the play—so ‘precise’ even when you're presuming. Say at once we're building a Bedlam.”

“I do,” said Daunt, with a cold and expressionless certainty, “and for the very brain you want to punish: the brain that feeds on society.”

Shaxton gave up his play with the wall, and, giggling a little, faced round with his shoulder against it.

“Well, I know you,” he said, looking at Daunt and smiling, his face rather yellow. “You're right, you think, and so you'll say it. The place is to be put into being. There's no stopping it now. Heavens! I'm tired of it. They've had me stuck down to details like a fly on a pin. You saw the first plans, didn't you: you and Shelstone? It was Heans—a convict—elevated it; and we all attended that night. What's become of that fellow since his skedaddle? These fellows—Karne here—tell me you've got a fine old story about a woman in the case?”

“Oh, come now, Shaxton!” laughed the officer known as Kent.

“I was present at Wellington Crescent, sir,” said Karne, folding his arms and staring downwards, “when you were discussing with Beal the infatuation of certain women with prisoners. You remember you left it open to conclude a certain officer's lady had helped the convict with her husband's money?”

Daunt gave the speaker a sort of pondering glare, never glancing at Shaxton

“You young hell-rake!” he broke out, laughing loudly, yet frankly crestfallen. “Very well done—ha, ha! I shall have a nice name! You mustn't go watching me over the wine-glass. Jack's not satisfied with my entertainment; he must have a quiz at the sit of my cravat.” (He looked round with his rueful laugh.) “He's peeping under the table, all the while we're hobnobbing, measuring the indifferent style of my pantaloons! By all the laws of friendship, what have you caught me saying? Named no lady, I hope!”

“Karne's joking,” said the red-faced gentleman, with an immense grin.

“No, sir,” said Karne, somewhat wildly. “Certainly you named no lady.”




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“Was it true though, about that woman?” asked Shaxton, hoarsely chuckling with the others.

Daunt swung a little towards his questioner, his hand on his chin, his brow slightly knitted over the ghost of a hardening smile. Their eyes met, and Shaxton dropped his, lifting and tapping his sword as he leant against the wall.

“I'll be perfectly candid with you, Shaxton,” said Daunt, with a sudden deepening to official weariness. “The police, in this case, had knowledge of a package dropped from a carriage by this woman, and picked up by a discredited gambler who, immediately becoming possessed of funds, purchased and fitted out the old Government schooner in which Heans tried to effect his escape. The carriage-hood was up, and in throwing back the package, a tassel of the lady's shawl became caught in the hood-spring, attracting the driver; who seeing something in the road, would have stopped, had not the lady bidden him somewhat hastily to get on. This crossing his suspicions, caused him to look back at the bottom of the street, where he caught the Captain lifting the package. When we advertised for information concerning the escaped schooner, the hackneyman brought in the story.”

A sudden heave of the shoulders and Shaxton pushed himself from the partition. With much chuckling and a very pale ugly ironical countenance, he caught Daunt's arm, staring up into his quiet hardening face. “Well, look there now!” he cried as if lost in the story's scandalous interest, “and didn't you say the very money was her husband's?”

The other shifted back a precise, cold step.

“To be properly honest with you, Shaxton,” he said, with a stern swiftness, “I concluded so. We knew one of the men was indigent, and the convict—then allowed a small remittance from the Crown—had been punting openly.”

“Upon my oath,” chuckled the other, turning away with a sort of slow jocularity, “I thought I knew that woman! I'm a worldly sort, but I don't go these depths. If I was to tell you gentlemen that I believed it true, you'd call it an amazing tale. I'm sure you would—ho-ho! Mind, she had a leaning for him not only! She must give the cadging beast the money—the money of the—ho-ho—the money of the cheerful piece—her husband! Here's a prisoner of good family—tchic, tchic!—a baronet of breeding, drags the poor soul into the kennel beside him, and bares her silly bosom, that would have harboured him, to this and that man's mud. I—I feel this.” (He strode to the door into the yard, slurring his words.) “You remember, Mr. Gentleman Superintendant, I opened my door to him!” he shouted. “My God—my God—the poor little witch! I thought it was one of our Mothers of Patience!”

The gentlemen exchanged discomfited glances.

“Speaking frankly,” said Daunt, with a hoarse droop in his


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voice, as he turned after Shaxton, “I can't forgive myself for letting the prisoner into a gentleman's house. We police see so much ugly depravity, we lose our sense of vigilance before the filbert-nailed criminal. But I admit—well—it was a case in which I was to blame, Shaxton, for a piece of bitter weakness: an old matter of belief in women.”

“Ah, I know that,” said Shaxton, rounding by the lantern and pushing it aside with his wellington. “Lucky beggar—you never need to believe in anything. But you musnt't go saying these things—you've got a reputation to keep up. I stick by the Superintendent—don't I, Karne?” He looked up, chuckling whimsically, and Karne barked an ambiguous—

“Indeed, indeed, sir,” amid a negative laugh of relief.

In the midst of it, a crash as from a falling chain startled the company, and Sir William Heans stooped into the light, feeling his way slowly with his hand round the side of the arch leading from the harness-cave. He had removed his highlows, and held an amber-headed cane and a black top-hat in his left hand. In their surprise, the gentlemen, who had been moving doorwards, slowed to a halt, and Shaxton, whipping up the lantern from the floor, shot the light on the moving figure.

Under his hair, somewhat deranged and streaked upon his forehead, his face looked thin, puffed, and grey of cheek, and his plaid legs stepped out in a slow, cramped, and painstaking manner. He stopped in the arch, somewhat dazzled by the lantern, but staring at Shaxton, who with a strange hard cry suddenly dropped the light a foot and then again tremblingly raised it.

“Shaxton—you know me,” Heans said.

“Heans,” said the other, thickly.

“I am not happily known to these gentlemen.” (He bowed three shivering angry bows.) “I heard what has been said. I couldn't allow this to go on, for the sake of the woman you have been discussing. I am as worldly a man as any here, and if she had been a bad woman, you understand me when I say I should not have faced you.” (His quickened breaths cut for an instant through the caves.) “If she had done what Mr. Daunt credits her with doing—taken her husband's money to help me—Sir William Heans—there would have been no need for this. I am such a fellow as that. I would have remained in that place.” (He motioned back with his hat in a kind of choked silence), “till these gentlemen had gone—till you had done — you, Captain Shaxton, and you” (he looked at Daunt,) “who dismiss your prisoner's feelings—grooms and what not—and arrange your soirées with so rough a conscience.”

The gentlemen—still struck aback—stood staring in a kind of sour nonchalance—Sturt's horse face with a faint point of encouragement; Daunt somewhat negative and distressed.

“'Pon my life, sir,” muttered Karne, with a reddish


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countenance, “might have given us a hint, sir! Didn't dream the man we were discussing was in engagement here!”

“Indeed, I must apologise,” said Daunt, wearily enough. “I am confronted by these people, every hour of the day. It depends on their conduct. I cannot allow one to be more important than another.”

Shaxton's voice wheezed out: “Oh, come, now, you knew that I and my wife had known him.”

“Perhaps you will tell me what would become of me,” said Daunt, with a little injured laugh, “if I countenanced the social claims of every prisoner in my safe-keeping?”

“'Pon my soul,” wheezed Shaxton, “I'll drop this light! I can't stand it to his face. … Heans now—Heans—Heans—how did you get her to do that?”

Heans made an unmoved, deprecating gesture with his eyeglass—a little pathetically dingy. “Forgive me, Shaxton,” he said, “for being material. I have unfinished duties. Do not drop it. ….”

“Damme, it's heavy, Sir William Heans! I can't hold the thing up for ever.”

“I take you, Shaxton,” said Sturt, with his brave head up and speaking in a strong cool voice. “You are inclined to be sceptical. Now, I am not. Isn't this in the circumstances the action of one of our gentlemen? If I may put a word in, sir,” said he, addressing Heans, “and urging its indelicacy in behalf of the unknown, I should ask you to state exactly how you came by that sum of money?”

“Indeed, my service to you, sir,” said Sir William, bowing towards the speaker in some confusion and sadness. “I can correct Captain Shaxton. … if he is still sceptical. … about the fair incognita. It took the entreaties of myself, green to the place and desperate, to persuade her to take my money and drop it from her barouche. When the police deprived me of my effects on landing, they had passed and returned to me my handkerchiefs, among which were some notes concealed in a perfume-pad. At first I put these aside with a view to escaping. In the end, however, I played away and was cheated of twenty pounds. The remainder—after my friend and I had by a miracle evaded Mr. Daunt—I hid in a box of Tunbridge-ware, having a picture of the Pantiles on the lid, in this woman's house, and she at my begging entreaty, and because of the horror she had for my situation, at the mercy, as I was, of certain unscrupulous persons beneath my station, removed them and cast them into the hands of my friend at the top of Davey Street.”

“Ah yes—yes,” said Daunt, removing a cheroot which he had just lighted, and staring at Heans rather dark-humouredly, “that is true. Certainly I was on his track.”

“Ah, sir, you approve of me!” said Heans, tossing his glass icily.

“Steady now,” said Kent.




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“I know you for a man who will cut any number of capers,” said the Superintendent, with an ugly sternness. “You would not ask me to approve.”

Hereupon Shaxton—who seemed to have recovered from his first shocking pallor at the sight of Heans—lowered his lantern, and stepping back, button-holed the Superintendent with a remarkable and clumsy freedom. “I—ho-ho—” he said, bending and staring in the other's eyes with a giggling, ironical smile, “I ask you to approve.”

Daunt, seemingly jealous for his privacy, and much ashamed of the business, here pulled away, rather protestingly staring into the other's baleful eyes. “Shaxton,” he said, with a sudden little smile and nod, “you may command even the police, and call us careless. We will pass the pad for you and Heans' rash incognita with pleasure.”

“Bravo—bravo,” said the gentleman with the red chin-beard. Sturt stared inquiringly from one to the other, his face a brave question. Sir William looked for an instant in deadly earnest. “An acknowledgment of mistake, I give you my honour!” Karne was heard to mutter.

Shaxton dropped Daunt's coat, while his chuckling eye flashed laughingly away and laughingly back. The lamp swung in his hand, and he continued to giggle menacingly between his depressed and drooping lips. “Ho-ho,” he said, his eyes again on the other's, “you must allow me to protect the woman! It's rather funny of you, Superintendent. So help me G—d, I thought you were devoted to her! Weren't you—you won't mind my saying it?—weren't you constantly in her drawing-room when I was present?”

“True,” said Daunt, staring palely at the other, “the foolish girl certainly had her day of lionizing.”

“I swear before G—d, I thought you set up for a sort of guardian of her,” Shaxton chuckled, approaching a fraction closer. “Chedsey, or is it Beal? has a tale about your having a heroic set-to with Heans, there, in her husband's room?”

“Yes, I attempted to protect her name,” said Daunt, lifting his head a little proudly and sourly. “We all have our heroic moment about the women.”

At once Heans, who, leaning with his right hand against the wall, and looking down, had listened to the labelling of his character, uncaring, if with a vexed and wearying air, whipped out in a burdened ill-held voice: “What incident is this which has broken your belief in the unknown?”

The Superintendent raised his eyes to the prisoner, with the question: “You will continue to connect yourself with her—and her reputation?” while Shaxton, yet chuckling, stared back over his shoulder into Heans' face. A blenched stare took Heans, like a reflection of the latter's unseen eyes. He picked suddenly at the stones with his riding-cane.




  ― 144 ―

Shaxton flashed back at Daunt. “She was struck on you, too,” he went on, as if there had been no interruption; “I think this very sour of you, Superintendent. You want a better bile. You're rather cynical—aren't you! Here you are squeezing her through—for a friend—with a lavender pad! Poor piece!” (He smiled malignly at the Superintendent who, for some seconds, stared or glared at him.) “Come, gentlemen,” he added, hoarsely, “we must get back to the ladies.” (The shadows leapt as he turned doorwards.) “Bah! it reminds me of the old woman who regretted she had not married a watchman, as he had his lantern in everybody's yard. Dash it, before I went for any one, if I was in the habit of rooting in refuse with it, I'd wipe my weapon!”

Raising the lantern, he again squared round by the door, and stood staring back at Heans, The others stopped rather protestingly: Daunt, as it happened, in sombre, nodding expostulation with Sturt. “There you are, Heans,” sighed the Captain, ruefully; “all the possible virtues still—eh? It's a strange world! 'Pon honour, I hope you're comfortable in it—not too much against you! Why now—have you still that pad in your possession?”

Sir William's eyes flashed at the other, and he half turned away as if he would return into the cave, pushing back, however, with a quick, cramped effort. “Indeed, sir, I have not,” he said, shaking in an agitated way the frayed ribbon of his glass as if he would have slightly snubbed the other; “it is in the possession of a Mrs. Quaid, from whom I had rooms, at No 5, B—— Street. She was a selfish, bothersome, anxious person, and would no doubt have retained it. Indeed, I may say, she was so much impressed by the story that it had been embroidered by an acquaintance of my own, a lady of title, that, when leaving, I bestowed it upon her that she might be easy in her mind, at least, about my ton.” (Here Heans, with a slight grey laugh, put his eyeglass to his eye.) “Do me the kindness, Captain Shaxton, should you call and examine the scent-pad for the purpose of assuring yourself against a baseless aspersion—do me the honour to obtain at my expense—I have an old ring here which I am sure she will accept—some volumes of Plutarch's Lives of the Ancients in her possession, the study of which I have missed sadly since I have been in assignment here.”

Shaxton, striding across half-jovially, half-malignly, wheezed, “Yes, I'll do it—yes, poor Heans. You don't mean to say the old hussy deprived you of 'em!” and clasped carelessly the ring which Sir William thrust into his hand. At the same moment Captain Sturt stepped over and offered the prisoner some choice Orinoco tobacco from a silver box.

“In bargaining as to price,” continued Sir William, bowing and dipping in his hand in an abrupt manner, “she wanted a shilling more than I could reasonably expend. So agreeable in you to oblige me, Mr. Shaxton, and you, sir—in a stranger too


  ― 145 ―
Pray give my respects to the poor woman. The fellow with the books will find me, here, in Oughtryn's house! (He nodded here and there, suddenly broken in spirit and rather ghastly pale.) “I ask permission,” he added, “to remind you I have some duties yet unfinished.” And before any one could speak, he whipped on his hat, and turned very quickly away into the arch. Perhaps to lessen the impression of sadness left by his stumbling shadow, Daunt, of the police, called after him in a hoarse, leisurely voice, “Very good hit, sir—very good hit!” And as he put the gentlemen through the door, he glanced slowly about the stable, up at the walls, and at the legend: “Stone him to death.”

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