Roden's Corner
by Henry Seton Merriman
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"Good night," said Cornish. And he was left alone for the first time in his life with Von Holzen, who was clearing the table and making his preparations with a silent deftness of touch acquired by the handling of delicate instruments, the mixing of dangerous drugs.

"Then our good friend Lord Ferriby does not know that you are here?" he inquired, without much interest, as if acknowledging the necessity of conversation of some sort.

"No," answered Cornish.

"When I have shown you this experiment," pursued Von Holzen, setting the lamp on a side-table, "we must have a little talk about his lordship. With all modesty, you and I have the clearest heads of all concerned in this invention." He looked at Cornish with his sudden, pleasant smile. "You will excuse me," he said, "if while I am doing this I do not talk much. It is a difficult thing to keep in one's head, and all the attention is required in order to avoid a mistake or a mishap."

He had already assumed an air of unconscious command, which was probably habitual with him, as if there were no question between them as to who was the stronger man. Cornish sat, pleasantly silent and acquiescent, but he felt in no way dominated. It is one thing to assume authority, and another to possess it.

"I have a little laboratory in the factory where I usually work, but not at night. We do not allow lights in there. Excuse me, I will fetch my crucible and lamp."

And he went out, leaving Cornish alone. There was only one door to the room, leading straight out into the open. The office, it appeared, was built in the form of an annex to one of the storehouses, which stood detached from all other buildings.

In a few minutes Von Holzen returned, laden with bottles and jars. One large wicker-covered bottle with a screw top he set carefully on the table.

"I had to find them in the dark," he explained absent-mindedly, as if his thoughts were all absorbed by the work in hand. "And one must be careful not to jar or break any of these. Please do not touch them in my absence." As he spoke, he again examined the stoppers to see that all was secure. "I come again," he said, making sure that the large basket-covered bottle was safe. Then he walked quickly out of the room and closed the door behind him.

Almost immediately Cornish was conscious of a bitter taste in his mouth, though he could smell nothing. The lamp suddenly burnt blue and instantly went out.

Cornish stood up, groping in the dark, his head swimming, a deadly numbness dragging at his limbs. He had no pain, only a strange sensation of being drawn upwards. Then his head bumped against the door, and the remaining glimmer of consciousness shaped itself into the knowledge that this was death. He seemed to swing backwards and forwards between life and death—between sleep and consciousness. Then he felt a cooler air on his lips. He had fallen against the door, which did not fit against the threshold, and a draught of fresh air whistled through upon his face. "Carbonic acid gas," he muttered, with shaking lips. "Carbonic acid gas." He repeated the words over and over again, as a man in delirium repeats that which has fixed itself in his wandering brain. Then, with a great effort, he brought himself to understand the meaning of the words that one portion of his brain kept repeating to the other portion which could not comprehend them. He tried to recollect all that he knew of carbonic acid gas, which was, in fact, not much. He vaguely remembered that it is not an active gas that mingles with the air and spreads, but rather it lurks in corners—an invisible form of death—and will so lurk for years unless disturbed by a current of air.

Cornish knew that in falling he had fallen out of the radius of the escaping gas, which probably filled the upper part of the room. If he raised himself, he would raise himself into the gas, which was slowly descending upon him, and that would mean instant death. He had already inhaled enough—perhaps too much. He lay quite still, breathing the draught between the door and the threshold, and raising his left hand, felt for the handle of the door. He found it and turned it. The door was locked. He lay still, and his brain began to wander, but with an effort he kept a hold upon his thoughts. He was a strong man, who had never had a bad illness—a cool head and an intrepid heart. Stretching out his legs, he found some object close to him. It was Von Holzen's desk, which stood on four strong legs against the wall. Cornish, who was quick and observant, remembered now how the room was shaped and furnished. He gathered himself together, drew in his legs, and doubled himself, with his feet against the desk, his shoulder against the door. He was long and lithe, of a steely strength which he had never tried. He now slowly straightened himself, and tore the screws out of the solid wood of the door, which remained hanging by the upper hinge. His head and shoulders were now out in the open air. He lay for a moment or two to regain his breath, and recover from the deadly nausea that follows gas poisoning. Then he rose to his feet, and stood swaying like a drunken man. Von Holzen's cottage was a few yards away. A light was burning there, and gleamed through the cracks of the curtains.

Cornish went towards the cottage, then paused. "No," he muttered, holding his head with both hands. "It will keep." And he staggered away in the darkness towards the corner where the empty barrels stood against the fence.



"One and one with a shadowy third."

"You have the air, mon ami, of a malgamiter," said Mrs. Vansittart, looking into Cornish's face—"lurking here in your little inn in a back street! Why do you not go to one of the larger hotels in Scheveningen, since you have abandoned The Hague?"

"Because the larger hotels are not open yet," replied Cornish, bringing forward a chair.

"That is true, now that I think of it. But I did not ask the question wanting an answer. You, who have been in the world, should know women better than to think that. I asked in idleness—a woman's trick. Yes; you have been or you are ill. There is a white look in your face."

She sat looking at him. She had walked all the way from Park Straat in the shade of the trees—quite a pedestrian feat for one who confessed to belonging to a carriage generation. She had boldly entered the restaurant of the little hotel, and had told the waiter to take her to Mr. Cornish's apartment.

"It hardly matters what a very young waiter, at the beginning of his career, may think of us. But downstairs they are rather scandalized, I warn you," she said.

"Oh, I ceased explaining many years ago," replied Cornish, "even in English. More suspicion is aroused by explanation than by silence. For this wise world will not believe that one is telling the truth."

"When one is not," suggested Mrs. Vansittart.

"When one is not," admitted Cornish, in rather a tired voice, which, to so keen an ear as that of his hearer, was as good as asking her why she had come.

She laughed. "Yes," she said, "you are not inclined to sit and talk nonsense at this time in the morning. No more am I. I did not walk from Park Straat and take your defences by storm, and subject myself to the insult of a raised eyebrow on the countenance of a foolish young waiter, to talk nonsense even with you, who are cleverer with your non-committing platitudes than any man I know." She laughed rather harshly, as many do when they find themselves suddenly within hail, as it were, of that weakness which is called feeling. "No, I came here on—let us say—business. I hold a good card, and I am going to play it. I want you to hold your hand in the mean time; give me to-day, you understand. I have taken great care to strengthen my hand. This is no sudden impulse, but a set purpose to which I have led up for some weeks. It is not scrupulous; it is not even honest. It is, in a word, essentially feminine, and not an affair to which you as a man could lend a moment's approval. Therefore, I tell you nothing. I merely ask you to leave me an open field to-day. Our end is the same, though our methods and our purpose differ as much as—well, as much as our minds. You want to break this Malgamite corner. I want to break Otto von Holzen. You understand?"

Cornish had known her long enough to permit himself to nod and say nothing.

"If I succeed, tant mieux. If I fail, it is no concern of yours, and it will in no way affect you or your plans. Ah, you disapprove, I see. What a complicated world this would be if we could all wear masks! Your face used to be a safer one than it is now. Can it be that you are becoming serious—un jeune homme serieux? Heaven save you from that!"

"No; I have a headache; that is all," laughed Cornish.

Mrs. Vansittart was slowly unbuttoning and rebuttoning her glove, deep in thought. For some women can think deeply and talk superficially at the same moment.

"Do you know," she said, with a sudden change of voice and manner, "I have a conviction that you know something to-day of which you were ignorant yesterday? All knowledge, I suppose, leaves its mark. Something about Otto von Holzen, I suspect. Ah, Tony, if you know something, tell it to me. If you hold a strong card, let me play it. You do not know how I have longed and waited—what a miserable little hand I hold against this strong man."

She was serious enough now. Her voice had a ring of hopelessness in it, as if she knew that limit against which a woman is fated to throw herself when she tries to injure a man who has no love for her. If the love be there, then is she strong, indeed; but without it, what can she do? It is the little more that is so much, and the little less that is such worlds away.

Cornish did not deny the knowledge which she ascribed to him, but merely shook his head, and Mrs. Vansittart suddenly changed her manner again. She was quick and clever enough to know that whatever account stood open between Cornish and Von Holzen the reckoning must be between them alone, without the help of any woman.

"Then you will remain indoors," she said, rising, "and recover from your ... strange headache—and not go near the malgamite works, nor see Percy Roden or Otto von Holzen—and let me have my little try—that is all I ask."

"Yes," answered Cornish, reluctantly; "but I think you would be wiser to leave Von Holzen to me."

"Ah!" said Mrs. Vansittart, with one of her quick glances. "You think that."

She paused on the threshold, then shrugged her shoulders and passed out. She hurried home, and there wrote a note to Percy Roden.


"It seems a long time since I saw you last, though perhaps it only seems so to me. I shall be at home at five o'clock this evening, if you care to take pity on a lonely countrywoman. If I should be out riding when you come, please await my return.

"Yours very truly,


She closed the letter with a little cruel smile, and despatched it by the hand of a servant. Quite early in the afternoon she put on her habit, but did not go straight downstairs, although her horse was at the door. She went to the library instead—a small, large-windowed room, looking on to Oranje Straat. From a drawer in her writing-table she took a key, and examined it closely before slipping it into her pocket. It was a new key with the file-marks still upon it.

"A clumsy expedient," she said. "But the end is so desirable that the means must not be too scrupulously considered."

She rode down Kazerne Straat and through the wood by the Leyden Road. By turning to the left, she soon made her way to the East Dunes, and thus describing a circle, rode slowly back towards Scheveningen. She knew her way, it appeared, to the malgamite works. Leaving her horse in the care of the groom, she walked to the gate of the works, which was opened to her by the doorkeeper, after some hesitation. The man was a German, and therefore, perhaps, more amenable to Mrs. Vansittart's imperious arguments.

"I must see Herr von Holzen without delay," she said. "Show me his office."

The man pointed out the building. "But the Herr Professor is in the factory," he said. "It is mixing-day to-day. I will, however, fetch him."

Mrs. Vansittart walked slowly towards the office where Roden had told her that the safe stood wherein the prescription and other papers were secured. She knew it was mixing-day and that Von Holzen would be in the factory. She had sent Roden on a fool's errand to Park Straat to await her return there. Was she going to succeed? Would she be left alone for a few moments in that little office with the safe? She fingered the key in her pocket—a duplicate obtained at some risk, with infinite difficulty, by the simple stratagem of borrowing Roden's keys to open an old and disused desk one evening in Park Straat. She had conceived the plan herself, had carried it out herself, as all must who wish to succeed in a human design. She was quite aware that the plan was crude and almost childish, but the gain was great, and it is often the simplest means that succeed. The secret of the manufacture of malgamite—written in black and white—might prove to be Von Holzen's death-warrant. Mrs. Vansittart had to fight in her own way or not fight at all. She could not understand the slower, surer methods of Mr. Wade and Cornish, who appeared to be waiting and wasting time.

The German doorkeeper accompanied her to the office, and opened the door after knocking and receiving no answer.

"Will the high-born take a seat?" he said; "I shall not be long."

"There is no need to hurry," said Mrs. Vansittart to herself.

And before the door was quite closed she was on her feet again. The office was bare and orderly. Even the waste-paper baskets were empty. The books were locked away and the desks were clear. But the small green safe stood in the corner. Mrs. Vansittart went towards it, key in hand. The key was the right one. It had only been selected by guesswork among a number on Roden's bunch. It slipped into the lock and turned smoothly, but the door would not move. She tugged and wrenched at the handle, then turned it accidentally, and the heavy door swung open. There were two drawers at the bottom of the safe which were not locked, and contained neatly folded papers. Her fingers were among these in a moment. The papers were folded and tied together. Many of the bundles were labelled. A long narrow envelope lay at the bottom of the drawer. She seized it quickly and turned it over. It bore no address nor any superscription. "Ah!" she said breathlessly, and slipped her finger within the flap of the envelope. Then she hesitated for a moment, and turned on her heel. Von Holzen was standing in the doorway looking at her.

They stared at each other for a moment in silence. Mrs. Vansittart's lips were drawn back, showing her even, white teeth. Von Holzen's quiet eyes were wide open, so that the white showed all around the dark pupil. Then he sprang at her without a word. She was a lithe, strong woman, taller than he, or else she would have fallen. Instead, she stood her ground, and he, failing to get a grasp at her wrist, stumbled sideways against the table. In a moment she had run round it, and again they stared at each other, without a word, across the table where Percy Roden kept the books of the malgamite works.

A slow smile came to Von Holzen's face, which was colourless always, and now a sort of grey. He turned on his heel, walked to the door, and, locking it, slipped the key into his pocket. Then he returned to Mrs. Vansittart. Neither spoke. No explanation was at that moment necessary. He lifted the table bodily, and set it aside against the wall. Then he went slowly towards her, holding out his hand for the unaddressed envelope, which she held behind her back. He stood for a moment holding out his hand while his strong will went out to meet hers. Then he sprang at her again and seized her two wrists. The strength of his arms was enormous, for he was a deep-chested man, and had been a gymnast. The struggle was a short one, and Mrs. Vansittart dropped the envelope helplessly from her paralyzed fingers. He picked it up.

"You are the wife of Karl Vansittart," he said in German.

"I am his widow," she replied; and her breath caught, for she was still shaken by the physical and moral realization of her absolute helplessness in his hands, and she saw in a flash of thought the question in his mind as to whether he could afford to let her leave the room alive.

"Give me the key with which you opened the safe," he said coldly.

She had replaced the key in her pocket, and now sought it with a shaking hand. She gave it to him without a word. Morally she would not acknowledge herself beaten, and the bitterness of that moment was the self-contempt with which she realized a physical cowardice which she had hitherto deemed quite impossible. For the flesh is always surprised by its own weakness.

Von Holzen looked at the key critically, turning it over in order to examine the workmanship. It was clumsily enough made, and he doubtless guessed how she had obtained it. Then he glanced at her as she stood breathless with a colourless face and compressed lips.

"I hope I did not hurt you," he said quietly, thereby putting in a dim and far-off claim to greatness, for it is hard not to triumph in absolute victory.

She shook her head with a twisted smile, and looked down at her hands, which were still helpless. There were bands of bright red round the white wrists. Her gloves lay on the table. She went towards them and numbly took them up. He was impassive still, and his face, which had flushed a few moments earlier, slowly regained its usual calm pallor. It was this very calmness, perhaps, that suddenly incensed Mrs. Vansittart. Or it may have been that she had regained her courage.

"Yes," she cried, with a sort of break in her voice that made it strident—"yes. I am Karl Vansittart's wife, and I—cared for him. Do you know what that means? But you can't. All that side of life is a closed book to such as you. It means that if you had been a hundred times in the right and he always in the wrong, I should still have believed in him and distrusted you—should still have cared for him and hated you. But he was not guilty. He was in the right and you were wrong—a thief and a murderer, no doubt. And to screen your paltry name, you sacrificed Karl and the happiness of two people who had just begun to be happy. It means that I shall not rest until I have made you pay for what you have done. I have never lost sight of you—and never shall—"

She paused, and looked at his impassive face with a strange, dull curiosity as she spoke of the future, as if wondering whether she had a future or had reached the end of her life—here, at this moment, in the little plank-walled office of the malgamite works. But her courage rose steadily. It is only afar off that Death is terrible. When we actually stand in his presence, we usually hold up our heads and face him quietly enough.

"You may have other enemies," she continued. "I know you have—men, too—but none of them will last so long as I shall, none of them is to be feared as I am—"

She stopped again in a fury, for he was obviously waiting for her to pause for mere want of breath, as if her words could be of no weight.

"If you fear anything on earth," she said, acknowledging is one merit despite herself.

"I fear you so little," he answered, going to the door and unlocking it, "that you may go."

Her whip lay on the table. He picked it up and handed it to her, gravely, without a bow, without a shade of triumph or the smallest suspicion of sarcasm. There was perhaps the nucleus of a great man in Otto von Holzen, after all, for there was no smallness in his mind. He opened the door, and stood aside for her to pass out.

"It is not because you do not fear me—that you let me go," said Mrs. Vansittart. "But—because you are afraid of Tony Cornish."

And she went out, wondering whether the shot had told or missed.



"Hear, but be faithful to your interest still. Secure your heart, then fool with whom you will."

Mrs. Vansittart walked to the gate of the malgamite works, thinking that Von Holzen was following her on the noiseless sand. At the gate, which the porter threw open on seeing her approach, she turned and found that she was alone. Von Holzen was walking quietly back towards the factory. He was so busy making his fortune that he could not give Mrs. Vansittart more than a few minutes. She bit her lip as she went towards her horse. Neglect is no balm to the wounds of the defeated.

She mounted her horse and looked at her watch. It was nearly five o'clock, and Percy Roden was doubtless waiting for her in Park Straat. It is a woman's business to know what is expected of her. Mrs. Vansittart recalled in a very matter-of-fact way the wording of her letter to Roden. She brushed some dust from her habit, and made sure that her hair was tidy. Then she fell into deep thought, and set her mind in a like order for the work that lay before her. A man's deepest schemes in love are child's play beside the woman's schemes that meet or frustrate his own. Mrs. Vansittart rode rapidly home to Park Straat.

Mr. Roden, the servant told her, was awaiting her return in the drawing-room. She walked slowly upstairs. Some victories are only to be won with arms that hurt the bearer. Mrs. Vansittart's mind was warped, or she must have known that she was going to pay too dearly for her revenge. She was sacrificing invaluable memories to a paltry hatred.

"Ah!" she said to Roden, whose manner betrayed the recollection of her invitation to him, "so I have kept you waiting—a minute, perhaps, for each day that you have stayed away from Park Straat."

Roden laughed, with a shade of embarrassment, which she was quick to detect.

"Is it your sister," she asked, "who has induced you to stay away?"

"Dorothy has nothing but good to say of you," he answered.

"Then it is Herr von Holzen," said Mrs. Vansittart, laying aside her gloves and turning towards the tea-table. She spoke quietly and rather indifferently, as one does of persons who are removed by a social grade. "I have never told you, I believe, that I happen to know something of your—what is he?—your foreman. He has probably warned you against me. My husband once employed this Von Holzen, and was, I believe, robbed by him. We never knew the man socially, and I have always suspected that he bore us some ill feeling on that account. You remember—in this room, when you brought him to call soon after your works were built—that he referred to having met my husband. Doubtless with a view to finding out how much I knew, or if I was in reality the wife of Charles Vansittart. But I did not choose to enlighten him."

She had poured out tea while she spoke. Her hands were unsteady still, and she drew down the sleeve of her habit to hide the discoloration of her wrist. She turned rather suddenly, and saw on Roden's face the confession that it had been due to Von Holzen's influence that he had absented himself from her drawing-room.

"However," she said, with a little laugh, and in a final voice, as if dismissing a subject of small importance—"however, I suppose Herr von Holzen is rising in the world, and has the sensitive vanity of persons in that trying condition."

She sat down slowly, remembering her pretty figure in its smart habit. Roden's slow eyes noted the pretty figure also, which she observed, one may be sure.

"Tell me your news," she said. "You look tired and ill. It is hard work making one's fortune. Be sure that you know what you want to buy before you make it, or afterwards you may find that it has not been worth while to have worked so hard."

"Perhaps what I want is not to be bought," he said, with his eyes on the carpet. For he was an awkward player at this light game.

"Ah!" she exclaimed. "Then it must be either worthless or priceless."

He looked at her, but he did not speak, and those who are quick to detect the fleeting shade of pathos might have seen it in the glance of the tired eyes. For Percy Roden was only clever as a financier, and women have no use for such cleverness, only for the results of it. Roden was conscious of making no progress with Mrs. Vansittart, who handled him as a cat handles a disabled mouse while watching another hole.

"You have been busier than ever, I suppose," she said, "since you have had no time to remember your friends."

"Yes," answered Roden, brightening. He was so absorbed in the most absorbing and lasting employment of which the human understanding is capable that he could talk of little else, even to Mrs. Vansittart. "Yes, we have been very busy, and are turning out nearly ten tons a day now. And we have had trouble from a quarter in which we did not expect it. Von Holzen has been much worried, I know, though he never says anything. He may not be a gentleman, Mrs. Vansittart, but he is a wonderful man."

"Ah," said Mrs. Vansittart, indifferently; and something in her manner made him all the more desirous of explaining his reasons for associating himself with a person who, as she had subtly and flatteringly hinted more than once, was far beneath him from a social point of view. This desire rendered him less guarded than it was perhaps wise to be under the circumstances.

"Yes, he is a very clever man—a genius, I think. He rises to each difficulty without any effort, and every day shows me new evidence of his foresight. He has done more than you think in the malgamite works. His share of the work has been greater than anybody knows. I am only the financier, you understand. I know about bookkeeping and about—money—how it should be handled—that is all."

"You are too modest, I think," said Mrs. Vansittart, gravely. "You forget that the scheme was yours; you forget all that you did in London."

"Yes—while Von Holzen was doing more here. He had the more difficult task to perform. Of course I did my share in getting the thing up. It would be foolish to deny that. I suppose I have a head on my shoulders, like other people." And Mr. Percy Roden, with his hand at his moustache, smiled a somewhat fatuous smile. He thought, perhaps, that a woman will love a man the more for being a good man of business.

"Yes," said Mrs. Vansittart, softly.

"But I should like Von Holzen to have his due," said Roden, rather grandly. "He has done wonders, and no one quite realizes that except perhaps Cornish."

"Indeed! Does Mr. Cornish give Herr von Holzen his due, then?"

"Cornish does his best to upset Von Holzen's plans at every turn. He does not understand business at all. When that sort of man goes into business he invariably gets into trouble. He has what I suppose he calls scruples. It comes, I imagine, from not having been brought up to it." Roden spoke rather hotly. He was of a jealous disposition, and disliked Mrs. Vansittart's attitude towards Cornish. "But he is no match for Von Holzen," he continued, "as he will find to his cost. Von Holzen is not the sort of man to stand any kind of interference."

"Ah?" said Mrs. Vansittart again, in the slightly questioning and indifferent manner with which she received all defence of Otto von Holzen, and which had the effect of urging Roden to further explanation.

"He is not a man I should care to cross myself," he said, determined to secure Mrs. Vansittart's full attention. "He has the whole of the malgamiters at his beck and call, and is pretty powerful, I can tell you. They are a desperate set of fellows; men engaged in a dangerous industry do not wear kid gloves."

Mrs. Vansittart was watching him across the low tea-table; for Roden rarely looked at his interlocutor. He had more of her attention than he perhaps suspected.

"Ah," she said, rather more indifferently than before, "I think you exaggerate Herr von Holzen's importance in the world."

"I do not exaggerate the danger into which Cornish will run if he is not careful," retorted Roden, half sullenly.

There was a ring of anxiety in his voice. Mrs. Vansittart glanced sharply at him. It was borne in upon her that Roden himself was afraid of Von Holzen. This was more serious than it had at first appeared. There are periods in every man's history when human affairs suddenly appear to become unmanageable and the course of events gets beyond any sort of control—when the hand at the helm falters, and even the managing female of the family hesitates to act. Roden seemed to have reached such a crisis now, and Mrs. Vansittart; charm she never so wisely, could not brush the frown of anxiety from his brow. He was in no mood for love-making, and men cannot call up this fleeting humour, as a woman can, when it is wanted. So they sat and talked of many things, both glancing at the clock with a surreptitious eye. They were not the first man and woman to go hunting Cupid with the best will in the world—only to draw a blank.

At length Roden rose from his chair with slow, lazy movements. Physically and morally he seemed to want tightening up.

"I must go back to the works," he said. "We work late to-night."

"Then do not tell Herr von Holzen where you have been," replied Mrs. Vansittart, with a warning smile. Then, on the threshold, with a gravity and a glance that sent him away happy, she added, "I do not want you to discuss me with Otto von Holzen, you understand!"

She stood with her hand on the bell, looking at the clock, while he went downstairs. The moment she heard the street door closed behind him she rang sharply.

"The brougham," she said to the servant, "at once."

Ten minutes later she was rattling down Maurits Kade towards the Villa des Dunes. A deep bank of clouds had risen from the west, completely obscuring the sun, so that it seemed already to be twilight. Indeed, nature itself appeared to be deceived, and as the carriage left the town behind and emerged into the sandy quiet of the suburbs, the countless sparrows in the lime-trees were preparing for the night. The trees themselves were shedding an evening odour, while, from canal and dyke and ditch, there arose that subtle smell of damp weed and grass which hangs over the whole of Holland all night.

"The place smells of calamity," said Mrs. Vansittart to herself, as she quitted the carriage and walked quickly along the sandy path to the Villa des Dunes.

Dorothy was in the garden, and, seeing her, came to the gate. Mrs. Vansittart had changed her riding-habit for one of the dark silks she usually wore, but she had forgotten to put on any gloves.

"Come," she said rapidly, taking Dorothy's hand, and holding it—"come to the seat at the end of the garden where we sat one evening when we dined alone together. I do not want to go indoors. I am nervous, I suppose. I have allowed myself to give way to panic like a child in the dark. I felt lonely in Park Straat, with a house full of servants, so I came to you."

"I think there is going to be a thunderstorm," said Dorothy.

And Mrs. Vansittart broke into a sudden laugh. "I knew you would say that. Because you are modern and practical—or, at all events, you show a practical face to the world, which is better. Yes, one may say that much for the modern girl, at all events—she keeps her head. As to her heart—well, perhaps she has not got one."

"Perhaps not," admitted Dorothy.

They had reached the seat now, and sat down beneath the branches of a weeping-willow, trimly trained in the accurate Dutch fashion. Mrs. Vansittart glanced at her companion, and gave a little, low, wise laugh.

"I did well to come to you," she said, "for you have not many words. You have a sense of humour—that saving sense which so few people possess—and I suspect you to be a person of action. I came in a panic, which is still there, but in a modified degree. One is always more nervous for one's friends than for one's self. Is it not so? It is for Tony Cornish that I fear."

Dorothy looked steadily straight in front of her, and there was a short silence.

"I do not know why he stays in Holland, and I wish he would go home," continued Mrs. Vansittart. "It is unreasoning, I know, and foolish, but I am convinced that he is running into danger." She stopped suddenly, and laid her hand upon Dorothy's; for she had caught many foreign ways and gestures. "Listen," she said, in a lower tone. "It is useless for you and me to mince matters. The Malgamite scheme is a terrible crime, and Tony Cornish means to stop it. Surely you and I have long suspected that. I know Otto von Holzen. He killed my husband. He is a most dangerous man. He is attempting to frighten Tony Cornish away from here, and he does not understand the sort of person he is dealing with. One does not frighten persons of the stamp of Tony Cornish, whether man or woman. I have made Tony promise not to leave his room to-day. For to-morrow I cannot answer. You understand?"

"Yes," answered Dorothy, with a sudden light in her eyes, "I understand."

"Your brother must take care of himself. I care nothing for Lord Ferriby, or any others concerned in this, but only for Tony Cornish, for whom I have an affection, for he was part of my past life—when I was happy. As for the malgamiters, they and their works may—go hang!" And Mrs. Vansittart snapped her fingers. "Do you know Major White?" she asked suddenly.

"Yes; I have seen him once."

"So have I—only once. But for a woman once is often enough—is it not so?—to enable one to judge. I wish we had him here."

"He is coming," answered Dorothy. "I think he is coming to-morrow. When I saw Mr. Cornish yesterday, he told me that he expected him. I believe he wrote for him to come. He also wrote to Mr. Wade, the banker, asking him to come."

"Then he found things worse than he expected. He has, in a sense, sent for reinforcements. When does Major White arrive—in the morning?"

"No; not till the evening."

"Then he comes by Flushing," said Mrs. Vansittart, practically. "You are thinking of something. What is it?"

"I was wondering how I could see some of the malgamite workers to-morrow. I know some of them, and it is from them that the danger may be expected. They are easily led, and Herr von Holzen would not scruple to make use of them."

"Ah!" said Mrs. Vansittart, "you have guessed that, too. I have more than guessed it—I know it. You must see these men to-morrow."

"I will," answered Dorothy, simply.

Mrs. Vansittart rose and held out her hand. "Yes," she said, "I came to the right person. You are calm, and keep your head; as to the other, perhaps that is in safe-keeping too. Good night and come to lunch with me to-morrow."



"On se guerit de la bienfaisance par la connaissance de ceux qu'on oblige."

"Can you tell me if there is a moon to-night?" Mrs. Vansittart asked a porter in the railway station at The Hague.

The man stared at her for a moment, then realized that the question was a serious one.

"I will ask one of the engine-drivers, my lady," he answered, with his hand at the peak of his cap.

It was past nine o'clock, and Mrs. Vansittart had been waiting nearly half an hour for the Flushing train. Her carriage was walking slowly up and down beneath the glass roof of the entrance to the railway station. She had taken a ticket in order to gain access to the platform, and was almost alone there with the porters. Her glance travelled backwards and forwards between the clock and the western sky, visible beneath the great arch of the station. The evening was a clear one, for the month of June still lingered, but the twilight was at hand. The Flushing train was late to-night of all nights; and Mrs. Vansittart stamped her foot with impatience. What was worse was Dorothy Roden's lateness. Dorothy and Mrs. Vansittart, like two generals on the eve of a battle, had been exchanging hurried notes all day; and Dorothy had promised to meet Mrs. Vansittart at the station on the arrival of the train.

"The moon is rising now, my lady—a half-moon," said the porter approaching with that leisureliness which characterizes railway porters between trains.

"Why does your stupid train not come?" asked Mrs. Vansittart, with unreasoning anger.

"It has been signalled, my lady; a few minutes now."

Mrs. Vansittart gave a quick sigh of relief, and turned on her heel. She had long been unable to remain quietly in one place. She saw Dorothy coming up the slope to the platform. At last matters were taking a turn for the better—except, indeed, Dorothy's face, which was set and white.

"I have found out something," she said at once, and speaking quickly but steadily. "It is for to-night, between half-past nine and ten."

She had her watch in her hand, and compared it quickly with the station clock as she spoke.

"I have secured Uncle Ben," she said—all the ridicule of the name seemed to have vanished long ago. "He is drunk, and therefore cunning. It is only when he is sober that he is stupid. I have him in a cab downstairs, and have told your man to watch him. I have been to Mr. Cornish's rooms again, and he has not come in. He has not been in since morning, and they do not know where he is. No one knows where he is."

Dorothy's lip quivered for a moment, and she held it with her teeth. Mrs. Vansittart touched her arm lightly with her gloved fingers—a strange, quick, woman's gesture.

"I went upstairs to his rooms," continued Dorothy. "It is no good thinking of etiquette now or pretending——"

"No," said Mrs. Vansittart, hurriedly, so that the sentence was never finished.

"I found nothing except two torn envelopes in the waste-paper basket. One in an uneducated hand—perhaps feigned. The other was Otto von Holzen's writing."

"Ah! In Otto von Holzen's writing—addressed to Tony at the Zwaan at Scheveningen?"


"Then Otto von Holzen knows where Tony is staying, at all events. We have learnt something. You have kept the envelopes?"


They both turned at the rumble of the train outside the station. The great engine came clanking in over the points, its lamp glaring like the eye of some monster.

"Provided Major White is in the train," muttered Mrs. Vansittart, tapping on the pavement with her foot. "If he is not in the train, Dorothy?"

"Then we must go alone."

Mrs. Vansittart turned and looked her slowly up and down.

"You are a brave woman," she said thoughtfully.

But Major White was in the train, being a man of his word in small things as well as in great. They saw him pushing his way patiently through the crowd of hotel porters and others who had advice or their services to offer him. Then he saw Mrs. Vansittart and Dorothy, and recognized them.

"Give your luggage ticket to the hotel porter and let him take it straight to the hotel. You are wanted elsewhere."

Still Major White was only in his normal condition of mild and patient surprise. He had only met Mrs. Vansittart once, and Dorothy as often. He did exactly as he was told without asking one of those hundred questions which would inevitably have been asked by many men and more women under such circumstances, and followed the ladies out of the crowd.

"We must talk here," said Mrs. Vansittart. "One cannot do so in a carriage in the streets of The Hague."

Major White bowed gravely, and looked from one to the other. He was rather travel-worn, and seemed to be feeling the heat.

"Tony Cornish has probably written to you about his discoveries as to the malgamite works. We have no time to go into that question, however," said Mrs. Vansittart, who was already beginning to be impatient with this placid man. "He has earned the enmity of Otto von Holzen—a man who will stop at nothing—and the malgamiters are being raised against him by Von Holzen. Our information is very vague, but we are almost certain that an attempt is to be made on Tony's life to-night between half-past nine and ten. You understand?" Mrs. Vansittart almost stamped her foot.

"Oh yes," answered White, looking at the station clock. "Twenty minutes' time."

"We have the information from one of the malgamiters themselves, who knows the time and the place, but he is tipsy. He is in a carriage outside the station."

"How tipsy?" asked Major White; and both his hearers shrugged their shoulders.

"How can we tell you that?" snapped Mrs. Vansittart; and Major White dropped his glass from his eye.

"Where is your brother?" he said, turning to Dorothy. He was evidently rather afraid of Mrs. Vansittart, as a quick-spoken person not likely to have patience with a slow man.

"He has gone to Utrecht," answered Dorothy. "And Mr. von Holzen is not at the works, which are locked up. I have just come from there. By a lucky chance I met this man Ben, and have brought him here."

White looked at Dorothy thoughtfully, and something in his gaze made her change colour.

"Let me see this man," he said, moving towards the exit.

"He is in that carriage," said Dorothy, when they had reached a quiet corner of the station yard. "You must be quick. We have only a quarter of an hour now. He is an Englishman."

White got into the cab with Uncle Ben, who appeared to be sleeping, and closed the door after him. In a few moments he emerged again.

"Tell the man to drive to a chemist's," he said to Mrs. Vansittart. "The fellow is not so bad. I have got something out of him, and will get more. Follow in your carriage—you and Miss Roden."

It was Major White's turn now to take the lead, and Mrs. Vansittart meekly obeyed, though White's movements were so leisurely as to madden her.

At the chemist's shop, White descended from the carriage and appeared to have some language in common with the druggist, for he presently returned to the carriage, carrying a tumbler. After a moment he went to the window of Mrs. Vansittart's neat brougham.

"I must bring him in here," he said. "You have a pair of horses which look as if they could go. Tell your man to drive to the pumping-station on the Dunes, wherever that may be."

Then he went and fetched Uncle Ben, whom he brought by one arm, in a dislocated condition, trotting feebly to keep pace with the major's long stride.

Mrs. Vansittart's coachman must have received very decided orders, for he skirted the town at a rattling trot, and soon emerged from the streets into the quiet of the Wood, which was dark and deserted. Here, in a sandy and lonely alley, he put the horses to a gallop. The carriage swayed and bumped. Those inside exchanged no words. From time to time Major White shook Uncle Ben, which seemed to be a part of his strenuous treatment.

At length the carriage stopped on the narrow road, paved with the little bricks they make at Gouda, that leads from Scheveningen to the pumping-station on the Dunes. Major White was the first to quit it, dragging Uncle Ben unceremoniously after him. Then, with his disengaged hand, he helped the ladies. He screwed his glass tightly into his eye, and looked round him with a measuring glance.

"This place will be as light as day," he said, "when the moon rises from behind those trees."

He drew Uncle Ben aside, and talked with him for some time in a low voice. The man was almost sober now, but so weak that he could not stand without assistance. Major White was an advocate, it seemed, of heroic measures. He appeared to be asking many questions, for Uncle Ben pointed from time to time with an unsteady hand into the darkness. When his mind, muddled with malgamite and drink, failed to rise to the occasion, Major White shook him like a sack. After a few minutes' conversation, Ben broke down completely, and sat against a sand-bank to weep. Major White left him there, and went towards the ladies.

"Will you tell your man," he said to Mrs. Vansittart, "to drive back to the junction of the two roads and wait there under the trees?" He paused, looking dubiously from one to the other. "And you and Miss Roden had better go back with him and stay in the carriage."

"No," said Dorothy, quietly.

"Oh no!" added Mrs. Vansittart.

And Major White moistened his lips with an air of patient toleration for the ways of a sex which had ever been far beyond his comprehension.

"It seems," he said, when the carriage had rolled away over the noisy stones, "that we are in good time. They do not expect him until nearly ten. He has been attempting for some time to get the men to refuse to work, and these same men have written to ask him to meet them at the works at ten o'clock, when Roden is at Utrecht, and Von Holzen is out. There is no question of reaching the works at all. They are going to lie in ambush in a hollow of the Dunes, and knock him on the head about half a mile from here north-east." And Major White paused in this great conversational effort to consult a small gold compass attached to his watch-chain.

The two women waited patiently.

"Fine place, these Dunes," said the major, after a pause. "Could conceal three thousand men between here and Scheveningen."

"But it is not a question of hiding soldiers," said Mrs. Vansittart, sharply, with a movement of the head indicative of supreme contempt.

"No," admitted White. "Better hide ourselves, perhaps. No good standing here where everybody can see us. I'll fetch our friend. Think he'll sleep if we let him. Chemist gave him enough to kill a horse."

"But haven't you any plans?" asked Mrs. Vansittart, in despair. "What are you going to do? You are not going to let these brutes kill Tony Cornish? Surely you, as a soldier, must know how to meet this crisis."

"Oh yes. Not much of a soldier, you know," answered White, soothingly, as he moved away towards Uncle Ben. "But I think I know how this business ought to be managed. Come along—hide ourselves."

He led the way across the dunes, dragging Uncle Ben by one arm, and keeping in the hollows. The two women followed in silence on the silent sand.

Once Major White paused and looked back. "Don't talk," he said, holding up a large fat hand in a ridiculous gesture of warning, which he must have learnt in the nursery. He looked like a large baby listening for a bogey in the chimney.

Once or twice he consulted Uncle Ben, and as often glanced at his compass. There was a certain skill in his attitude and demeanour, as if he knew exactly what he was about. Mrs. Vansittart had a hundred questions to ask him, but they died on her lips. The moon rose suddenly over the distant trees and flooded all the sand-hills with light. Major White halted his little party in a deep hollow, and consulted Uncle Ben in whispers. Then bidding him sit down, he left the three alone in their hiding-place, and went away by himself. He climbed almost to the summit of a neighbouring mound, and stopped suddenly, with his face uplifted, as if smelling something. Like many short-sighted persons, he had a keen scent. In a few minutes he came back again.

"I have found them," he whispered to Mrs. Vansittart and Dorothy. "Smelt 'em—like sealing-wax. Eleven of them—waiting there for Cornish." And he smiled with a sort of boyish glee.

"What are you going to do?" whispered Mrs. Vansittart.

"Thump them," he answered, and presently went back to his post of observation.

Uncle Ben had fallen asleep, and the two women stood side by side waiting in the moonlight. It was chilly, and a keen wind swept in from the sea. Dorothy shivered. They could hear certain notes of certain instruments in the band of the Scheveningen Kurhaus, nearly two miles away. It was strange to be within sound of such evidences of civilization, and yet in such a lonely spot—strange to reflect that eleven men were waiting within a few yards of them to murder one. And yet they could safely have carried out their intention, and have scraped a hole in the sand to hide his body, in the certainty that it would never be found; for these dunes are a miniature desert of Sahara, where nothing bids men leave the beaten paths, where certain hollows have probably never been trodden by the foot of man, and where the ever-drifting sand slowly accumulates—a very abomination of desolation.

At length White rose to his feet agilely enough, and crept to the brow of the dune. The men were evidently moving. Mrs. Vansittart and Dorothy ascended the bank to the spot just vacated by White.

Only a few dozen yards away they could see the black forms of the malgamiters grouped together under the covert of a low hillock. Hidden from their sight, Major White was slowly stalking them.

Dorothy touched Mrs. Vansittart's arm, and pointed silently in the direction of Scheveningen. A man was approaching, alone, across the silvery sand-hills. It was Tony Cornish, walking into the trap laid for him.

Major White saw him also, and thinking himself unobserved, or from mere habit acquired among his men, he moistened the tips of his fingers at his lips.

The malgamiters moved forward, and White followed them. They took up a position in a hollow a few yards away from the foot-path by which Cornish must pass. One of their number remained behind, crouching on a mound, and evidently reporting progress to his companions below. When Cornish was within a hundred yards of the ambush, White suddenly ran up the bank, and lifting this man bodily, threw him down among his comrades. He followed this vigorous attack by charging down into the confused mass. In a few moments the malgamiters streamed away across the sand-hills like a pack of hounds, though pursued and not pursuing. They left some of their number on the sand behind them, for White was a hard hitter.

"Give it to them, Tony!" White cried, with a ring of exultation in his voice. "Knock 'em down as they come!"

For there was only one path, and the malgamiters had to run the gauntlet of Tony Cornish, who knocked some of them over neatly enough as they passed, selecting the big ones, and letting the others go free. He knew them by the smell of their clothes, and guessed their intention readily enough.

It was a strange scene, and one that left the two women, watching it, breathless and eager.

"Oh, I wish I were a man!" exclaimed Mrs. Vansittart, with clenched fists.

They hurried toward Cornish and White, who were now alone on the path. White had rolled up his sleeve, and was tying his handkerchief round his arm with his other hand and his teeth.

"It is nothing," he said. "One of the devils had a knife. Must get my sleeve mended to-morrow."



"Prends moy telle que je suy."

When Major White came down to breakfast at his hotel the next morning, he found the large room deserted and the windows thrown open to the sun and the garden. He was selecting a table, when a step on the verandah made him look up. Standing in the window, framed, as it were, by sunshine and trees, was Marguerite Wade, in a white dress, with demure lips, and the complexion of a wild rose. She was the incarnation of youth—of that spring-time of life of which the sight tugs at the strings of older hearts; for surely that is the only part of life which is really and honestly worth the living.

Marguerite came forward and shook hands gravely. Major White's left eyebrow quivered for a moment in indication of his usual mild surprise at life and its changing surface.

"Feeling pretty—bobbish?" inquired Marguerite, earnestly.

White's eyebrow went right up and his glass fell.

"Fairly bobbish, thank you," he answered, looking at her with stupendous gravity.

"You look all right, you know."

"You should never judge by appearances," said White, with a fatherly severity.

Marguerite pursed up her lips, and looked his stalwart frame up and down in silence. Then she suddenly lapsed into her most confidential manner, like a schoolgirl telling her bosom friend, for the moment, all the truth and more than the truth.

"You are surprised to see me here; thought you would be, you know. I knew you were in the hotel; saw your boots outside your door last night; knew they must be yours. You went to bed very early."

"I have two pairs of boots," replied the major, darkly.

"Well, to tell you the truth, I have brought papa across. Tony wrote for him to come, and I knew papa would be no use by himself, so I came. I told you long ago that the Malgamite scheme was up a gum-tree, and that seems to be precisely where you are."


"And so I have come over, and papa and I are going to put things straight."

"I shouldn't if I were you."

"Shouldn't what?" inquired Marguerite.

"Shouldn't put other people's affairs straight. It does not pay, especially if other people happen to be up a gum-tree—make yourself all sticky, you know."

Marguerite looked at him doubtfully. "Ah!" she said. "That's what—is it?"

"That's what," admitted Major White.

"That is the difference, I suppose, between a man and a woman," said Marguerite, sitting down at a small table where breakfast had been laid for two. "A man looks on at things going—well, to the dogs—and smokes and thinks it isn't his business. A woman thinks the whole world is her business."

"So it is, in a sense—it is her doing, at all events."

Marguerite had turned to beckon to the waiter, and she paused to look back over her shoulder with shrewd, clear eyes.

"Ah!" she said mystically.

Then she addressed herself to the waiter, calling him "Kellner," and speaking to him in German, in the full assurance that it would be his native tongue.

"I have told him," she explained to White, "to bring your little coffee-pot and your little milk-jug and your little pat of butter to this table."

"So I understood."

"Ah! Then you know German?" inquired Marguerite, with another doubtful glance.

"I get two pence a day extra pay for knowing German."

Marguerite paused in her selection, of a breakfast roll from a silver basket containing that Continental choice of breads which look so different and taste so much alike.

"Seems to me," she said confidentially, "that you know more than you appear to know."

"Not such a fool as I look, in fact."

"That is about the size of it," admitted Marguerite, gravely. "Tony always says that the world sees more than any one suspect. Perhaps he is right."

And both happening to look up at this moment, their glances met across the little table.

"Tony often is right," said Major White.

There was a pause, during which Marguerite attended to the two small coffee-pots for which she had such a youthful and outspoken contempt. The privileges of her sex were still new enough to her to afford a certain pleasure in pouring out beverages for other people to drink.

"Why is Tony so fond of The Hague? Who is Mrs. Vansittart?" she asked, without looking up.

Major White looked stolidly out of the open window for a few minutes before answering.

"Two questions don't make an answer."

"Not these two questions?" asked Marguerite, with a sudden laugh.

"No; Mrs. Vansittart is a widow, young, and what they usually call 'charming,' I believe. She is clever, yes, very clever, and she was, I suppose, fond of Vansittart; and that is the whole story, I take it."

"Not exactly a cheery story."

"No true stories are," returned the major, gravely.

But Marguerite shook her head. In her wisdom—that huge wisdom of life as seen from the threshold—she did not believe Mrs. Vansittart's story.

"Yes, but novelists and people take a true story and patch it up at the end. Perhaps most people do that with their lives, you know; perhaps Mrs. Vansittart—"

"Won't do that," said the major, staring in a stupid way out of the window with vacant, short-sighted eyes. "Not even if Tony suggested it—which he won't do."

"You mean that Tony is not a patch upon the late Mr. Vansittart—that is what you mean," said Marguerite, condescendingly. "Then why does he stay in The Hague?"

Major White shrugged his shoulders and lapsed into a stolid silence, broken only by a demand made presently by Marguerite to the waiter for more bread and more butter. She looked at her companion once or twice, and it is perhaps not astonishing that she again concluded that he must be as dense as he looked. It is a mistake that many of her sex have made regarding men.

"Do you know Miss Roden?" she asked suddenly. "I have heard a good deal about her from Joan."


"Is she pretty?"


"Very pretty?" persisted Marguerite.

"Yes," replied the major.

And they continued their breakfast in silence.

Marguerite appeared to have something to think about. Major White was in the habit of stating that he never thought, and certainly appearances bore him out.

"Your father is late," he said at length.

"Yes," answered Marguerite, with a gay laugh. "Because he was afraid to ring the bell for hot water. Papa has a rooted British conviction that Continental chambermaids always burst into your room if you ring the bell, whether the door is locked or not. He is nothing if not respectable, poor old dear—would give points to any bishop in the land."

As she spoke her father came into the room, looking, as his daughter had stated eminently British and respectable. He shook hands with Major White, and seemed pleased to see him. The major was, in truth, a man after his own heart, and one whom he looked upon as solid. For Mr. Wade belonged to a solid generation that liked the andante of life to be played in good heavy chords, and looked with suspicious eyes upon brilliancy of execution or lightness of touch.

"I have had a note from Cornish," he said, "who suggests a meeting at this hotel this afternoon to discuss our future action. The other side has, it appears, written to Lord Ferriby to come over to The Hague." There had in Mr. Wade's life usually been that "other side," which he had treated with a good, honest respect so long as they proved themselves worthy of it; but which he crushed the moment they forgot themselves. For there was in this British banker a vast spirit of honest, open antagonism by which he and his likes have built up a scattered empire on this planet. "At three o'clock," he concluded, lifting the cover of a silver dish which Marguerite had sent back to the kitchen awaiting her father's arrival. "And what will you do, my dear?" he said, turning to her.

"I?" replied Marguerite, who always knew her own mind. "I shall take a carriage and drive down to the Villa des Dunes to see Dorothy Roden. I have a note for her from Joan."

And Mr. Wade turned to his breakfast with an appetite in no way diminished by the knowledge that the "other side" were about to take action.

At three o'clock the carriage was awaiting Marguerite at the door of the hotel, but for some reason Marguerite lingered in the porch, asking questions and absolutely refusing to drive all the way to Scheveningen by the side of the "Queen's Canal." When at length she turned to get in, Tony Cornish was coming across the Toornoifeld under the trees; for The Hague is the shadiest city in the world, with forest trees growing amid its great houses.

"Ah!" said Marguerite, holding out her hand. "You see, I have come across to give you all a leg-up. Seems to me we are going to have rather a spree."

"The spree," replied Cornish, with his light laugh, "has already begun."

Marguerite drove away towards The Hague Wood, and disappeared among the transparent green shadows of that wonderful forest. The man had been instructed to take her to the Villa des Dunes by way of the Leyden Road, making a round in the woods. It was at a point near the farthest outskirts of the forest that Marguerite suddenly turned at the sight of a man sitting upon a bench at the roadside reading a sheet of paper.

"That," she said to herself, "is the Herr Professor—but I cannot remember his name."

Marguerite was naturally a sociable person. Indeed, a woman usually stops an old and half-forgotten acquaintance, while men are accustomed to let such bygones go. She told the driver to turn round and drive back again. The man upon the bench had scarce looked up as she passed. He had the air of a German, which suggestion was accentuated by the solitude of his position and the poetic surroundings which he had selected. A German, be it recorded to his credit, has a keen sense of the beauties of nature, and would rather drink his beer before a fine outlook than in a comfortable chair indoors. When Marguerite returned, this man looked up again with the absorbed air of one repeating something in his mind. When he perceived that she was undoubtedly coming towards himself, he stood up and took off his hat. He was a small, square-built man, with upright hair turning to grey, and a quiet, thoughtful, clean-shaven face. His attitude, and indeed his person, dimly suggested some pictures that have been painted of the great Napoleon. His measuring glance—as if the eyes were weighing the face it looked upon—distinctly suggested his great prototype.

"You do not remember me, Herr Professor," said Marguerite, holding out her hand with a frank laugh. "You have forgotten Dresden and the chemistry classes at Fraeulein Weber's?"

"No, Fraeulein; I remember those classes," the professor answered, with a grave bow.

"And you remember the girl who dropped the sulphuric acid into the something of potassium? I nearly made a great discovery then, mein Herr."

"You nearly made the greatest discovery of all, Fraeulein. Yes, I remember now—Fraeulein Wade."

"Yes, I am Marguerite Wade," she answered, looking at him with a little frown, "but I can't remember your name. You were always Herr Professor. And we never called anything by its right name in the chemistry classes, you know; that was part of the—er—trick. We called water H2 or something like that. We called you J.H.U, Herr Professor."

"What does that mean, Fraeulein?"

"Jolly hard up," returned Marguerite, with a laugh which suddenly gave place, with a bewildering rapidity, to a confidential gravity. "You were poor then, mein Herr."

"I have always been poor, Fraeulein, until now."

But Marguerite's mind had already flown to other things. She was looking at him again with a frown of concentration.

"I am beginning to remember your name," she said.

"Is it not strange how a name comes back with a face? And I had quite forgotten both your face and your name, Herr ... Herr ... von Holz"—she broke off, and stepped back from him—"von Holzen," she said slowly. "Then you are the malgamite man?"

"Yes, Fraeulein," he answered, with his grave smile; "I am the malgamite man."

Marguerite looked at him with a sort of wonder, for she knew enough of the Malgamite scheme to realize that this was a man who ruled all that came near him, against whom her own father and Tony Cornish and Major White and Mrs. Vansittart had been able to do nothing—who in face of all opposition continued calmly to make malgamite, and sell it daily to the world at a preposterous profit, and at the cost only of men's lives.

"And you, Fraeulein, are the daughter of Mr. Wade, the banker?"

"Yes," she answered, feeling suddenly that she was a schoolgirl again, standing before her master.

"And why are you in The Hague?"

"Oh," replied Marguerite, hesitating for perhaps the first time in her life, "to enlarge our minds, mein Herr." She was looking at the paper he held in his hand, and he saw the direction of her glance. In response, he laughed quietly, and held it out towards her.

"Yes," he said, "you have guessed right. It is the Vorschrift, the prescription for the manufacture of malgamite."

She took the paper and turned it over curiously. Then, with her usual audacity, she opened it and began to read.

"Ah," she said, "it is in Hebrew."

Von Holzen nodded his head, and held out his hand for the paper, which she gave to him. She was not afraid of the man—but she was very near to fear.

"And I am sitting here, quietly under the trees, Fraeulein," he said, "learning it by heart."



"Un homme serieux est celui qui se croit regarde."

When Lord Ferriby decided to accede to Roden's earnest desire that he should go to The Hague, he was conscious of conferring a distinct favour upon the Low Countries.

"It is not a place one would choose to go to at this time of year," he said to a friend at the club. "In the winter, it is different; for the season there is in the winter, as in many Continental capitals."

One of the numerous advantages attached to an hereditary title is the certainty that a hearer of some sort or another will always be forthcoming. A commoner finds himself snubbed or quietly abandoned so soon as his reputation for the utterance of egoisms and platitudes is sufficiently established, but there are always plenty of people ready and willing to be bored by a lord. A high-class club is, moreover, a very mushroom-bed of bores, where elderly gentlemen who have traveled quite a distance down the road of life, without finding out that it is bordered on either side by a series of small events not worth commenting upon, meet to discuss trivialities.

"Truth is," said his lordship to one of these persons, "this Malgamite scheme is one of the largest charities that I have conducted, and carries with it certain responsibilities—yes, certain responsibilities."

And he assumed a grave air of importance almost amounting to worry. For Lord Ferriby did not know that a worried look is an almost certain indication of a small mind. Nor had he observed that those who bear the greatest responsibilities, and have proved themselves worthy of the burden, are precisely they who show the serenest face to the world.

It must not, however, be imagined that Lord Ferriby was in reality at all uneasy respecting the Malgamite scheme. Here again he enjoyed one of the advantages of having been preceded by a grandfather able and willing to serve his party without too minute a scruple. For if the king can do no wrong, the nobility may surely claim a certain immunity from criticism, and those who have allowance made to them must inevitably learn to make allowance for themselves. Lord Ferriby was, in a word, too self-satisfied to harbour any doubts respecting his own conduct. Self-satisfaction is, of course, indolence in disguise.

It was easy enough for Lord Ferriby to persuade himself that Cornish was wrong and Roden in the right; especially when Roden, in the most gentlemanly manner possible, paid a cheque, not to Lord Ferriby direct, but to his bankers, in what he gracefully termed the form of a bonus upon the heavy subscription originally advanced by his lordship. There are many people in the world who will accept money so long as their delicate susceptibilities are not offended by an actual sight of the cheque.

"Anthony Cornish," said Lord Ferriby, pulling down his waistcoat, "like many men who have had neither training nor experience, does not quite understand the ethics of commerce."

His lordship, like others, seemed to understand these to mean that a man may take anything that his neighbour is fool enough to part with.

Joan was willing enough to accompany her father, because, in the great march of social progress, she had passed on from charity to sanitation, and was convinced that the mortality among the malgamiters, which had been more than hinted at in the Ferriby family circle, was entirely due to the negligence of the victims in not using an old disinfectant served up in artistic flagons under a new name. Permanganate of potash under another name will not only smell as sweet, but will perform greater sanitary wonders, because the world places faith in a new name, and faith is still the greatest healer of human ills.

Joan, therefore, proposed to carry to The Hague the glad tidings of the sanitary millennium, fully convinced that this had come to a suffering world under the name of "Nuxine," in small bottles, at the price of one shilling and a penny halfpenny. The penny halfpenny, no doubt, represented the cost of bottle and drug and the small blue ribbon securing the stopper, while the shilling went very properly into the manufacturer's pocket. It was at this time the fashion in Joan's world to smell of "Nuxine," which could also be had in the sweetest little blue tabloids, to place in the wardrobe and among one's clean clothes. Joan had given Major White a box of these tabloids, which gift had been accepted with becoming gravity. Indeed, the major seemed never to tire of hearing Joan's exordiums, or of watching her pretty, earnest face as she urged him to use "Nuxine" in its various forms, and it was only when he heard that cigar-holders made of "Nuxine" absorbed all the deleterious properties of tobacco that his stout heart failed him.

"Yes," he pleaded, "but a fellow must draw the line at a sky-blue cigar-holder, you know."

And Joan had to content herself with the promise that he would use none other than "Nuxine" dentifrice.

Lord Ferriby and Joan, therefore, set out to The Hague, his lordship in the full conviction (enjoyed by so many useless persons) that his presence was in itself of beneficial effect upon the course of events, and Joan with her "Nuxine" and, in a minor degree now, her "Malgamiters" and her "Haberdashers' Assistants." Lady Ferriby preferred to remain at Cambridge Terrace, chiefly because it was cheaper, and also because the cook required a holiday, and, with a kitchen-maid only, she could indulge in her greatest pleasure—a useless economy. The cook refused to starve her fellow-servants, while the kitchen-maid, mindful of a written character in the future, did as her ladyship bade her—hashing and mincing in a manner quite irreconcilable with forty pounds a year and beer money.

Major White met the travellers at The Hague station, and Joan, who had had some trouble with her father during the simple journey, was conscious for the first time of a sense of orderliness and rest in the presence of the stout soldier, who seemed to walk heavily over difficulties when they arose.

"Eh—er," began his lordship, as they walked down the platform, "have you seen anything of Roden?"

For Lord Ferriby was too self-centred a man to b keenly observant, and had as yet failed to detect Von Holzen behind and overshadowing his partner in the Malgamite scheme.

"No—cannot say I have," replied the major.

He had never discussed the malgamite affairs with Lord Ferriby. Discussion was, indeed, a pastime in which the major never indulged. His position in the matter was clearly enough defined, but he had no intention of explaining why it was that he ranged himself stolidly on Cornish's side in the differences that had arisen.

Lord Ferriby was dimly conscious of a smouldering antagonism, but knew the major sufficiently well not to fear an outbreak of hostilities. Men who will face opposition may be divided into two classes—the one taking its stand upon a conscious rectitude, the other half-hiding with the cheap and transparent cunning of the ostrich. Many men, also, are in the fortunate condition of believing themselves to be invariably right unless they are told quite plainly that they are wrong. And there was nobody to tell Lord Ferriby this. Cornish, with a sort of respect for the head of the family—a regard for the office irrespective of its holder—was so far from wishing to convince his uncle of error that he voluntarily relinquished certain strong points in his position rather than strike a blow that would inevitably reach Lord Ferriby, though directed towards Roden or Von Holzen.

Lord Ferriby heard, however, with some uneasiness, that the Wades were in The Hague.

"A worthy man—a very worthy man," he said abstractedly; for he looked upon the banker with that dim suspicion which is aroused in certain minds by uncompromising honesty.

The travellers proceeded to the hotel, where rooms had been prepared for them. There were flowers in Joan's room, which her maid said she had rearranged, so awkwardly had they been placed in the vase. The Wades, it appeared, were out, and had announced their intention of not returning to lunch. They were, the hotel porter thought, to take that meal at Mrs. Vansittart's.

"I think," said Lord Ferriby, "that I shall go down to the works."

"Yes, do," answered White, with an expressionless countenance.

"Perhaps you will accompany me?" suggested Joan's father.

"No—think not. Can't hit it off with Roden. Perhaps Joan would like to see the Palace in the Wood."

Joan thought that it was her duty to go to the malgamite works, and murmured the word "Nuxine," without, however, much enthusiasm; but White happened to remember that it was mixing-day. So Lord Ferriby went off alone in a hired carriage, as had been his intention from the first; for White knew even less about the ethics of commerce than did Cornish.

The account of affairs that awaited his lordship at the works was, no doubt, satisfactory enough, for the manufacture of malgamite had been proceeding at high pressure night and day. Von Holzen had, as he told Marguerite, been poor all his life, and poverty is a hard task-master. He was not going to be poor again. The grey carts had been passing up and down Park Straat more often than ever, taking their loads to one or other of the railway stations, and bringing, as they passed her house, a gleam of anger to Mrs. Vansittart's eyes.

"The scoundrels!" she muttered. "The scoundrels! Why does not Tony act?"

But Tony Cornish, who alone knew the full extent of Von Holzen's determination not to be frustrated, could not act—for Dorothy's sake.

A string of the quiet grey carts passed up Park Straat when the party assembled there had risen from the luncheon-table. Mrs. Vansittart and Mr. Wade were standing together at the window, which was large even in this city of large and spotless windows. Dorothy and Cornish were talking together at the other end of the room, and Marguerite was supposed to be looking at a book of photographs.

"There goes a consignment of men's lives," said Mrs. Vansittart to her companion.

"A human life, madam," answered the banker, "like all else on earth, varies much in value." For Mr. Wade belonged to that class of Englishmen which has a horror of all sentiment, and takes care to cloak its good actions by the assumption of an unworthy motive. And who shall say that this man of business was wrong in his statement? Which of us has not a few friends and relations who can only have been created as a solemn warning?

As Mrs. Vansittart and Mr. Wade stood at the window, Marguerite joined them, slipping her hand within her father's arm with that air of protection which she usually assumed towards him. She was gay and lively, as she ever was, and Mrs. Vansittart glanced at her more than once with a sort of envy. Mrs. Vansittart did not, in truth, always understand Marguerite or her English, which was essentially modern.

They were standing and laughing at the window, when Marguerite suddenly drew them back.

"What is it?" asked Mrs. Vansittart.

"It is Lord Ferriby," replied Marguerite.

And looking cautiously between the lace curtains, they saw the great man drive past in his hired carriage. "He has recently bought Park Straat," commented Marguerite.

And his lordship's condescending air certainly seemed to suggest that the street, if not the whole city, belonged to him.

Mr. Wade pointed with his thick thumb in the direction in which Lord Ferriby was driving.

"Where is he going?" he asked bluntly.

"To the malgamite works," replied Mrs. Vansittart, with significance. And Mr. Wade made no comment. Mrs. Vansittart spoke first.

"I asked Major White," she said, "to lunch with us to-day, but he was pledged, it appeared, to meet Lord Ferriby and his daughter, and see them installed at their hotel."

"Ah!" said Mr. Wade.

Mrs. Vansittart, who in truth seemed to find the banker rather heavy, allowed some moments to elapse before she again spoke.

"Major White," she then observed, "does not accompany Lord Ferriby to the malgamite works."

"Major White," replied Marguerite, demurely, "has other fish to fry."



"It is as difficult to be entirely bad as it is to be entirely good."

Percy Roden, who had been to Utrecht and Antwerp, arrived home on the evening of the day that saw Lord Ferriby's advent to The Hague. Though the day had been fine enough, the weather broke up at sunset, and great clouds chased the sun towards the west. Then the rain came suddenly and swept across the plains in a slanting fury. A cold wind from the south-east followed hard upon the heavy clouds, and night came in a chaos of squall and beating rain. Roden was drenched in his passage from the carriage to the Villa des Dunes, which, being a summer residence, had not been provided with a carriage-drive across the dunes from the road. He looked at his sister with tired eyes when she met him in the entrance-hall. He was worn and thinner than she had seen him in the days of his adversity, for Percy Roden, like his partner, had made several false starts upon the road to fortune before he got well away. Like many—like, indeed, nearly all—who have to try again, he had lightened himself of a scruple or so each time he turned back. Prosperity, however, seems to kill as many as adversity. Abundant wealth is a vexation of spirit to-day as surely as it was in the time of that wise man who, having tried it, said that a stranger eateth it, and it is vanity.

"Beastly night," said Roden, and that was all. He had been to Antwerp on banking business, and had that sleepless look which brings a glitter to the eyes. This was a man handling great sums of money. "Von Holzen been here to-day?" he asked, when he had changed his clothes, and they were seated at the dinner-table.

"No," answered Dorothy, with her eyes on his plate.

He was eating little, and drank only mineral water from a stone bottle. He was like an athlete in training, though the strain he sought to meet was mental and not physical. He shivered more than once, and glanced sharply at the door when the maid happened to leave it open.

When Dorothy went to the drawing-room she lighted the fire, which was ready laid, and of wood. Although it was nearly midsummer, the air was chilly, and the rain beat against the thin walls of the house.

"I think it probable," Roden had said, before she left the dining-room, "that Von Holzen will come in this evening."

She sat down before the fire, which burnt briskly, and looked into it with thoughtful, clever grey eyes. Percy thought it probable that Von Holzen would come to the Villa des Dunes this evening. Would he come? For Percy knew nothing of the organized attempt on Cornish's life which she herself had frustrated. He seemed to know nothing of the grim and silent antagonism that existed between the two men, shutting his eyes to their movements, which were like the movements of chess-players that the onlooker sees but does not understand. Dorothy knew that Von Holzen was infinitely cleverer than her brother. She knew, indeed, that he was cleverer than most men. With the quickness of her sex, she had long ago divined the source and basis of his strength. He was indifferent to women—who formed no part of his life, who entered in no way into his plans or ambitions. Being a woman, she should, theoretically, have disliked and despised him for this. As a matter of fact, the characteristic commanded her respect.

She knew that her brother was not in Von Holzen's confidence. It was probable that no man on earth had ever come within measurable distance of that. He would, in all likelihood, hear nothing of the attempt to kill Cornish, and Cornish himself would be the last to mention it. For she knew that her lover was a match for Von Holzen, and more than a match. She had never doubted that. It was a part of her creed. A woman never really loves a man until she has made him the object of a creed. And it is only the man himself who can—and in the long run usually does—make it impossible for her to adhere to her belief.

She was still sitting and thinking over the fire when her brother came into the room.

"Ah!" he said at the sight of the fire, and came forward, holding out his hands to the blaze. He looked down at his sister with glittering and unsteady eyes. He was in a dangerous humour—a humour for explanations and admissions—to which weak natures sometimes give way. And, looking at the matter practically and calmly, explanations and admissions are better left—to the hereafter. But Von Holzen saved him by ringing the front-door bell at that moment.

The professor came into the room a minute later. He stood in the doorway, and bowed in the stiff German way to Dorothy. With Roden he exchanged a curt nod. His hair was glued to his temples by the rain, which gleamed on his face.

"It is an abominable night," he said, coming forward. "Ach, Fraeulein, please do not leave us—and the fire," he added; for Dorothy had risen. "I merely came to make sure that he had arrived safely home." He took the chair offered to him by Roden, and sat on it without bringing it forward. He had but little of that self-assurance which is so highly cultivated to-day as to be almost offensive. "There are, of course, matters of business," he said, "which can wait till to-morrow. To-night you are tired." He looked at Roden as a doctor may look at a patient. "Is it not so, Fraeulein?" he asked, turning to Dorothy.


"Except one or two—which we may discuss now."

Dorothy turned and glanced at him. He was looking at her, and their eyes met for a moment. He seemed to see something in her face that made him thoughtful, for he remained silent for some time, while he wiped the rain from his face with his pocket-handkerchief. It was a pale, determined face, which could hardly fail to impress those with whom he came in contact as the face of a strong man.

"Lord Ferriby has been at the works to-day," he said; and then, with a gesture of the hands and a shrug, he described Lord Ferriby as a nonentity. "He went through the works, and looked over your books. I wrote out a sort of certificate of his satisfaction with both, and—he signed it."

Roden was leaning forward over the fire with a cigarette between his lips. He nodded shortly. "Good," he said.

"Yesterday," continued Von Holzen, "I met an old acquaintance—a Miss Wade—one of the young ladies of a Pensionnat at Dresden, in which I taught at one time. She is a daughter of the banker Wade, and told me, reluctantly, that she is at The Hague with her father—a friend of Cornish's. This morning I took a walk on the sands at Scheveningen; there was a large fat man, among others, bathing at the Northern bathing-station. It was Major White. It is a regular gathering of the clans. I saw a German paper-maker—a big man in the trade—on the Kursaal terrace this morning. It may be a mere chance, and it may not."

As he spoke he had withdrawn from his pocket a folded paper, which he was fingering thoughtfully. Dorothy, who knew that she had by her looks unwittingly warned him, made no motion to go now. He would say nothing that he did not deliberately intend for her ears as much as for her brother's. Von Holzen opened the paper slowly, and looked at it as if every line of it was familiar. It was a sheet of ordinary foolscap covered with minute figures and writing.

"It is the Vorschrift, the—how do you say?—prescription for the malgamite, and there are several in The Hague at this moment who want it, and some who would not be too scrupulous in their methods of procuring it. It is for this that they are gathering—here in The Hague."

Roden turned in his leisurely way, and looked over his shoulder towards the paper. Von Holzen glanced at Dorothy. He had no desire to keep her in suspense, but he wished to know how much she knew. She looked into the fire, treating his conversation as directed towards her brother only.

"I tried for ten years in vain to get this," continued Von Holzen, "and at last a dying man dictated it to me. For years it lived in the brain of one man only—and he a maker of it himself. He might have died at any moment with that secret in his head. And I,"—he folded the paper slowly and shrugged his shoulders—"I watched him. And the last intelligible word he spoke on earth was the last word of this prescription. The man can have been no fool; for he was a man of little education. I never respected him so much as I do now when I have learnt it myself." He rose and walked to the fire. "You permit me, Fraeulein," he said, putting the logs together with his foot.

They burnt up brightly, and he threw the paper upon them. In a moment it was reduced to ashes. He turned slowly upon his heel, and looked at his companions with the grave smile of one who had never known much mirth.

"There," he said, touching his forehead, with one finger; "it is in the brain of one man—once more." He returned to the chair he had just vacated. "And whosoever wishes to stop the manufacture of malgamite will need to stop that brain," he said, with a soft laugh. "Of course there is a risk attached to burning that paper," he continued, after a pause. "My brain may go—a little clot of blood no bigger than a pin's head, and the greatest brain on earth is so much pulp! It may be worth some one's while to kill me. It is so often worth some one's while to kill somebody else, even at a considerable risk—but the courage is nearly always lacking. However, we must run these risks."

He rose from his chair with a low and rather pleasant laugh, glancing at the clock as he did so. It was evidently his intention to take his leave. Dorothy rose also, and they stood for a moment facing each other. He was a few inches above her stature, and he looked down at her with his slow, thoughtful eyes. He seemed always to be making a diagnosis of the souls of men.

"I know, Fraeulein," he said, "That you are one of those who dislike me, and seek to do me harm. I am sorry. It is long since I discarded a youthful belief that it was possible to get on in life without arousing ill feeling. Believe me, it is impossible even to hold one's own in this world without making enemies. There are two sides to every question, Fraeulein—remember that."

He brought his heels together, bowed stiffly, from the waist, in his formal manner, and left the room. Percy Roden followed him, leaving the door open. Dorothy heard the rustle of his dripping waterproof as he put it on, the click of the door, the sound of his firm retreating tread on the gravel. Then her brother came back into the room. His rather weak face was flushed. His eyes were unsteady. Dorothy saw this in a glance, and her own face hardened unresponsively. The situation was clearly enough defined in her own mind. Von Holzen had destroyed the prescription before her on purpose. It was only a move in that game of life which is always extending to a new deal, and of which women as onlookers necessarily see the most. Von Holzen wished Cornish, and others concerned, to know that he had destroyed the prescription. It was a concession in disguise—a retrograde movement—perhaps pour mieux sauter.

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