The Treasure of Heaven - A Romance of Riches
by Marie Corelli
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"If all clergymen were like you, sir," said Helmsley to him one day, "there would be no atheists!"

The good man reddened at the compliment, as though he had been accused of a crime.

"You think too kindly of my efforts," he said gently. "I only speak to you as I would wish others to speak to me."

"'For this is the Law and the Prophets!'" murmured Helmsley. "Sir, will you tell me one thing—are there many poor people in Weircombe?"

The clergyman looked a trifle surprised.

"Why, yes, to tell the exact truth, they are all poor people in Weircombe," he answered. "You see, it is really only a little fishing village. The rich people's places are situated all about it, here and there at various miles of distance, but no one with money lives in Weircombe itself."

"Yet every one seems happy," said Helmsley thoughtfully.

"Oh, yes, every one not only seems, but is happy!" and the clergyman smiled. "They have the ordinary troubles that fall to the common lot, of course—but they are none of them discontented. There's very little drunkenness, and as a consequence, very little quarrelling. They are a good set of people—typically English of England!"

"If some millionaire were to leave every man, woman, and child a thousand or more pounds apiece, I wonder what would happen?" suggested Helmsley.

"Their joy would be turned to misery!" said the clergyman—"and their little heaven would become a hell! Fortunately for them, such a disaster is not likely to happen!"

Helmsley was silent; and after his kindly visitor had left him that day sat for a long time absorbed in thought, his hands resting idly on the osiers which he was gradually becoming too weak to bend.

It was now wearing on towards the middle of June, and on one fine morning when Mary was carefully spreading out on a mending-frame a wonderful old flounce of priceless point d'Alencon lace, preparatory to examining the numerous repairs it needed, Helmsley turned towards her abruptly with the question—

"When are you and Angus going to be married, my dear?"

Mary smiled, and the soft colour flew over her face at the suggestion.

"Oh, not for a long time yet, David!" she replied. "Angus has not yet finished his book,—and even when it is all done, he has to get it published. He won't have the banns put up till the book is accepted."

"Won't he?" And Helmsley's eyes grew very wistful. "Why not?"

"Well, it's for quite a good reason, after all," she said. "He wants to feel perfectly independent. You see, if he could get even a hundred pounds down for his book he would be richer than I am, and it would be all right. He'd never marry me with nothing at all of his own."

"Yet you would marry him?"

"I'm not sure that I would," and she lifted her hand with a prettily proud gesture. "You see, David, I really love him! And my love is too strong and deep for me to be so selfish as to wish to drag him down. I wouldn't have him lower his own self-respect for the world!"

"Love is greater than self-respect!" said Helmsley.

"Oh, David! You know better than that! There's no love without self-respect—no real love, I mean. There are certain kinds of stupid fancies called love—but they've no 'wear' in them!" and she laughed. "They wouldn't last a month, let alone a lifetime!"

He sighed a little, and his lips trembled nervously.

"I'm afraid, my dear,—I'm afraid I shall not live to see you married!" he said.

She left her lace frame and came to his side.

"Don't say that, David! You mustn't think it for a moment. You're much better than you were—even Mr. Bunce says so!"

"Even Mr. Bunce!" And he took her hand in his own and studied its smooth whiteness and beautiful shape attentively—anon he patted it tenderly. "You have a pretty hand, Mary! It's a rare beauty!"

"Is it?" And she looked at her rosy palm meditatively. "I've never thought much about it—but I've noticed that Angus and you both have nice hands."

"Especially Angus!" said Helmsley, with a smile.

Her face reflected the smile.

"Yes. Especially Angus!"

After this little conversation Helmsley was very quiet and thoughtful. Often indeed he sat with eyes closed, pretending to sleep, in order inwardly to meditate on the plans he had most at heart. He saw no reason to alter them,—though the idea presented itself once or twice as to whether he should not reveal his actual identity to the clergyman who visited him so often, and who was, apart from his sacred calling, not only a thinking, feeling, humane creature, but a very perfect gentleman. But on due reflection he saw that this might possibly lead to awkward complications, so he still resolved to pursue the safer policy of silence.

One evening, when Angus Reay had come in as usual to sit awhile and chat with him before he went to bed, he could hardly control a slight nervous start when Reay observed casually—

"By the way, David, that old millionaire I told you about, Helmsley, isn't dead after all!"

"Oh—isn't he?" And Helmsley feigned to be affected with a troublesome cough which necessitated his looking away for a minute. "Has he turned up?"

"Yes—he's turned up. That is to say, that he's expected back in town for the 'season,' as the Cooing Column of the paper says."

"Why, what's the Cooing Column?" asked Mary, laughing.

"The fashionable intelligence corner," answered Angus, joining in her laughter. "I call it the Cooing Column, because it's the place where all the doves of society, soiled and clean, get their little grain of personal advertisement. They pay for it, of course. There it is that the disreputable Mrs. Mushroom Ketchup gets it announced that she wore a collar of diamonds at the Opera, and there the battered, dissipated Lord 'Jimmy' Jenkins has it proudly stated that his yacht is undergoing 'extensive alterations.' Who in the real work-a-day, sane world cares a button whether his lordship Jenkins sails in his yacht or sinks in it! And Mrs. Mushroom Ketchup's diamonds are only so much fresh fuel piled on the burning anguish of starving and suffering men,—anguish which results in anarchy. Any number of anarchists are bred from the Cooing Column!"

"What would you have rich men do?" asked Helmsley suddenly. "If all their business turns out much more successfully than they have ever expected, and they make millions almost despite their own desire, what would you have them do with their wealth?"

Angus thought a moment.

"It would be difficult to advise," he said at last. "For one thing I would not have them pauperise two of the finest things in this world and the best worth fighting for—Education and Literature. The man who has no struggle at all to get himself educated is only half a man. And literature which is handed to the people free of cost is shamed by being put at a lower level than beer and potatoes, for which every man has to pay. Andrew Carnegie I look upon as one of the world's big meddlers. A 'cute' meddler too, for he takes care to do nothing that hasn't got his name tacked on to it. However, I'm in great hopes that his pauperising of Scottish University education may in time wear itself out, and that Scotsmen will be sufficiently true to the spirit of Robert Burns to stick to the business of working and paying for what they get. I hate all things that are given gratis. There's always a smack of the advertising agent about them. God Himself gives nothing 'free'—you've got to pay with your very life for each gulp of air you breathe,—and rightly too! And if you try to get something out of His creation without paying for it, the bill is presented in due course with compound interest!"

"I agree with you," said Helmsley. "But what, then, of the poor rich men? You don't approve of Carnegie's methods of disbursing wealth. What would you suggest?"

"The doing of private good," replied Angus promptly. "Good that is never heard of, never talked of, never mentioned in the Cooing Column. A rich man could perform acts of the most heavenly and helpful kindness if he would only go about personally and privately among the very poor, make friends with them, and himself assist them. But he will hardly ever do this. Now the millionaire who is going to marry my first love, Lucy Sorrel——"

"Oh, is he going to marry her?" And Helmsley looked up with sudden interest.

"Well, I suppose he is!" And Angus threw back his head and laughed. "He's to be back in town for the 'season'—and you know what the London 'season' is!"

"I'm sure we don't!" said Mary, with an amused glance. "Tell us!"

"An endless round of lunches, dinners, balls, operas, theatres, card-parties, and inane jabber," he answered. "A mixture of various kinds of food which people eat recklessly with the natural results,—dyspepsia, inertia, mental vacuity, and general uselessness. A few Court 'functions,' some picture shows, and two or three great races—and—that's all. Some unfortunate marriages are usually the result of each year's motley."

"And you think the millionaire you speak of will be one of the unfortunate ones?" said Helmsley.

"Yes, David, I do! If he's going back to London for the season, Lucy Sorrel will never let him out of her sight again! She's made up her mind to be a Mrs. Millionaire, and she's not troubled by any over-sensitiveness or delicacy of sentiment."

"That I quite believe—from what you have told me,"—and Helmsley smiled. "But what do the papers—what does the Cooing Column say?"

"The Cooing Column says that one of the world's greatest millionaires, Mr. David Helmsley, who has been abroad for nearly a year for the benefit of his health, will return to his mansion in Carlton House Terrace this month for the 'season.'"

"Is that all?"

"That's all. Mary, my bonnie Mary,"—and Angus put an arm tenderly round the waist of his promised wife—"Your husband may, perhaps—only perhaps!—become famous—but you'll never, never be a Mrs. Millionaire!"

She laughed and blushed as he kissed her.

"I don't want ever to be rich," she said. "I'd rather be poor!"

They went out into the little garden then, with their arms entwined,—and Helmsley, seated in his chair under the rose-covered porch, watched them half in gladness, half in trouble. Was he doing well for them, he wondered? Or ill? Would the possession of wealth disturb the idyll of their contented lives, their perfect love? Almost he wished that he really were in very truth the forlorn and homeless wayfarer he had assumed to be,—wholly and irrevocably poor!

That night in his little room, when everything was quiet, and Mary was soundly sleeping in the attic above him, he rose quietly from his bed, and lighting a candle, took pen and ink and made a few additions to the letter of instructions which accompanied his will. Some evenings previously, when Mary and Angus had gone out for a walk together, he had taken the opportunity to disburden his "workman's coat" of all the banknotes contained in the lining, and, folding them up in one parcel, had put them in a sealed envelope, which envelope he marked in a certain fashion, enclosing it in the larger envelope which contained his will. In the same way he made a small, neatly sealed packet of the "collection" made for him at the "Trusty Man" by poor Tom o' the Gleam, marking that also. Now, on this particular night, feeling that he had done all he could think of to make business matters fairly easy to deal with, he packed up everything in one parcel, which he tied with a string and sealed securely, addressing it to Sir Francis Vesey. This parcel he again enclosed in another, equally tied up and sealed, the outer wrapper of which he addressed to one John Bulteel at certain offices in London, which were in truth the offices of Vesey and Symonds, Bulteel being their confidential clerk. The fact that Angus Reay knew the name of the firm which had been mentioned in the papers as connected with the famous millionaire, David Helmsley, caused him to avoid inscribing it on the packet which would have to be taken to its destination immediately after his death. As he had now arranged things, it would be conveyed to the office unsuspectingly, and Bulteel, opening the first wrapper, would see that the contents were for Sir Francis, and would take them to him at once. Locking the packet in the little cupboard in the wall which Mary had given him, as she playfully said, "to keep his treasures in"—he threw himself again on his bed, and, thoroughly exhausted, tried to sleep.

"It will be all right, I think!" he murmured to himself, as he closed his eyes wearily—"At any rate, so far as I am concerned, I have done with the world! God grant some good may come of my millions after I am dead! After I am dead! How strange it sounds! What will it seem like, I wonder,—to be dead?"

And he suddenly thought of a poem he had read some years back,—one of the finest and most daring thoughts ever expressed in verse, from the pen of a fine and much neglected poet, Robert Buchanan:—

"Master, if there be Doom, All men are bereaven! If in the Universe One Spirit receive the curse, Alas for Heaven! If there be Doom for one, Thou, Master, art undone! "Were I a Soul in Heaven, Afar from pain;— Yea, on thy breast of snow, At the scream of one below, I should scream again— Art Thou less piteous than The conception of a Man?"

"No, no, not less piteous!" he murmured—"But surely infinitely more pitiful!"


And now there came a wondrous week of perfect weather. All the lovely Somersetshire coast lay under the warmth and brilliance of a dazzling sun,—the sea was smooth,—and small sailing skiffs danced merrily up and down from Minehead to Weircombe and back again with the ease and security of seabirds, whose happiest resting-place is on the waves. A lovely calm environed the little village,—it was not a haunt of cheap "trippers,"—and summer-time was not only a working-time, but a playing time too with all the inhabitants, both young and old. The shore, with its fine golden sand, warm with the warmth of the cloudless sky, was a popular resort, and Helmsley, though his physical weakness perceptibly increased, was often able to go down there, assisted by Mary and Angus, one on each side supporting him and guarding his movements. It pleased him to sit under the shelter of the rocks and watch the long shining ripples of ocean roll forwards and backwards on the shore in silvery lines, edged with delicate, lace-like fringes of foam,—and the slow, monotonous murmur of the gathering and dispersing water soothed his nerves and hushed a certain inward fretfulness of spirit which teased him now and then, but to which he bravely strove not to give way. Sometimes—but only sometimes—he felt that it was hard to die. Hard to be old just as he was beginning to learn how to live,—hard to pass out of the beauty and wonder of this present life with all its best joys scarcely experienced, and exchange the consciousness of what little he knew for something concerning which no one could honestly give him any authentic information.

"Yet I might have said the same, had I been conscious, before I was born!" he thought. "In a former state of existence I might have said, 'Why send me from this that I know and enjoy, to something which I have not seen and therefore cannot believe in?' Perhaps, for all I can tell, I did say it. And yet God had His way with me and placed me here—for what? Only to learn a lesson! That is truly all I have done. For the making of money is as nothing in the sight of Eternal Law,—it is merely man's accumulation of perishable matter, which, like all perishable things, is swept away in due course, while he who accumulated it is of no more account as a mere corpse than his poverty-stricken brother. What a foolish striving it all is! What envyings, spites, meannesses and miserable pettinesses arise from this greed of money! Yes, I have learned my lesson! I wonder whether I shall now be permitted to pass into a higher standard, and begin again!"

These inner musings sometimes comforted and sometimes perplexed him, and often he was made suddenly aware of a strange and exhilarating impression of returning youthfulness—a buoyancy of feeling and a delightful ease, such as a man in full vigour experiences when, after ascending some glorious mountain summit, he sees the panorama of a world below him. His brain was very clear and active—and whenever he chose to talk, there were plenty of his humble friends ready to listen. One day the morning papers were full of great headlines announcing the assassination of one of the world's throned rulers, and the Weircombe fishermen, discussing the news, sought the opinion of "old David" concerning the matter. "Old David" was, however, somewhat slow to be drawn on so questionable a subject, but Angus Reay was not so reticent.

"Why should kings spend money recklessly on their often filthy vices and pleasures," he demanded, "while thousands, ay, millions of their subjects starve? As long as such a wretched state of things exists, so long will there be Anarchy. But I know the head and front of the offending! I know the Chief of all the Anarchists!"

"Lord bless us!" exclaimed Mrs. Twitt, who happened to be standing by. "Ye don't say so! Wot's' 'ee like?"

"He's all shapes and sizes—all colours too!" laughed Angus. "He's simply the Irresponsible Journalist!"

"As you were once!" suggested Helmsley, with a smile.

"No, I was never 'irresponsible,'" declared Reay, emphatically. "I may have been faulty in the following of my profession, but I never wrote a line that I thought might cause uneasiness in the minds of the million. What I mean is, that the Irresponsible Journalist who gives more prominence to the doings of kings and queens and stupid 'society' folk, than to the actual work, thought, and progress of the nation at large, is making a forcing-bed for the growth of Anarchy. Consider the feelings of a starving man who reads in a newspaper that certain people in London give dinners to their friends at a cost of Two Guineas a head! Consider the frenzied passion of a father who sees his children dying of want, when he reads that the mistress of a king wears diamonds worth forty thousand pounds round her throat! If the balance of material things is for the present thus set awry, and such vile and criminal anachronisms exist, the proprietors of newspapers should have better sense than to flaunt them before the public eye as though they deserved admiration. The Anarchist at any rate has an ideal. It may be a mistaken ideal, but whatever it is, it is a desperate effort to break down a system which anarchists imagine is at the root of all the bribery, corruption, flunkeyism and money-grubbing of the world. Moreover, the Anarchist carries his own life in his hand, and the risk he runs can scarcely be for his pleasure. Yet he braves everything for the 'ideal,' which he fancies, if realised, will release others from the yoke of injustice and tyranny. Few people have any 'ideals' at all nowadays;—what they want to do is to spend as much as they like, and eat as much as they can. And the newspapers that persist in chronicling the amount of their expenditure and the extent of their appetites, are the real breeders and encouragers of every form of anarchy under the sun!"

"You may be right," said Helmsley, slowly. "Indeed I fear you are! If one is to judge by old-time records, it was a kinder, simpler world when there was no daily press."

"Man is an imitative animal," continued Reay. "The deeds he hears of, whether good or bad, he seeks to emulate. In bygone ages crime existed, of course, but it was not blazoned in headlines to the public. Good and brave deeds were praised and recorded, and as a consequence—perhaps as a result of imitation—there were many heroes. In our times a good or brave deed is squeezed into an obscure paragraph,—while intellect and brilliant talent receive scarcely any acknowledgment—the silly doings of 'society' and the Court are the chief matter,—hence, possibly, the preponderance of dunces and flunkeys, again produced by sheer 'imitativeness.' Is it pleasant for a man with starvation at his door, to read that a king pays two thousand a year to his cook? That same two thousand comes out of the pockets of the nation—and the starving man thinks some of it ought to fall in his way instead of providing for a cooker of royal victuals! There is no end to the mischief generated by the publication of such snobbish statements, whether true or false. This was the kind of irresponsible talk that set Jean-Jacques Rousseau thinking and writing, and kindling the first spark of the fire of the French Revolution. 'Royal-Flunkey' methods of journalism provoke deep resentment in the public mind,—for a king after all is only the paid servant of the people—he is not an idol or a deity to which an independent nation should for ever crook the knee. And from the smouldering anger of the million at what they conceive to be injustice and hypocrisy, springs Anarchy."

"All very well said,—but now suppose you were a wealthy man, what would you do with your money?" asked Helmsley.

Angus smiled.

"I don't know, David!—I've never realised the position yet. But I should try to serve others more than to serve myself."

The conversation ceased then, for Helmsley looked pale and exhausted. He had been on the seashore for the greater part of the afternoon, and it was now sunset. Yet he was very unwilling to return home, and it was only by gentle and oft-repeated persuasion that he at last agreed to leave his well-loved haunt, leaning as usual on Mary's arm, with Angus walking on the other side. Once or twice as he slowly ascended the village street he paused, and looked back at the tranquil loveliness of ocean, glimmering as with millions of rubies in the red glow of the sinking sun.

"'And there shall be no more sea!'" he quoted, dreamily—"I should be sorry if that were true! One would miss the beautiful sea!—even in heaven!"

He walked very feebly, and Mary exchanged one or two anxious glances with Angus. But on reaching the cottage again, his spirits revived. Seated in his accustomed chair, he smiled as the little dog, Charlie, jumped on his knee, and peered with a comically affectionate gravity into his face.

"Asking me how I am, aren't you, Charlie!" he said, cheerfully—"I'm all right, wee man!—all right!"

Apparently Charlie was not quite sure about it, for he declined to be removed from the position he had chosen, and snuggling close down on his master's lap, curled himself up in a silky ball and went to sleep, now and then opening a soft dark eye to show that his slumbers were not so profound as they seemed.

That evening when Angus had gone, after saying a prolonged good-night to Mary in the little scented garden under the lovely radiance of an almost full moon, Helmsley called her to his side.


She came at once, and put her arm around him. He looked up at her, smiling.

"You think I'm very tired, I know," he said—"But I'm not. I—I want to say a word to you."

Still keeping her arm round him, she patted his shoulder gently.

"Yes, David! What is it?"

"It is just this. You know I told you I had some papers that I valued, locked away in the little cupboard in my room?"

"Yes. I know."

"Well now,—when—when I die—will you promise me to take these papers yourself to the address that is written on them? That's all I ask of you! Will you?"

"Of course I will!" she said, readily—"You know you've kept the key yourself since you got well from your bad fever last year——"

"There is the key," he said, drawing it from his pocket, and holding it up to her—"Take it now!"

"But why now——?" she began.

"Because I wish it!" he answered, with a slight touch of obstinacy—then, smiling rather wistfully, he added, "It will comfort me to know you have it in your own possession. And Mary—promise me that you will let no one—not even Angus—see or touch these papers!—that you will take the parcel just as you find it, straight to the person to whom it is addressed, and deliver it yourself to him! I don't want you to swear, but I want you to put your dear kind hand in mine, and say 'On my word of honour I will not open the packet old David has entrusted to me. When he dies I will take it my own self to the person to whom it is addressed, and wait till I am told that everything in it has been received and understood.' Will you, for my comfort, say these words after me, Mary?"

"Of course I will!"

And placing her hand in his, she repeated it slowly word for word. He watched her closely as she spoke, her eyes gazing candidly into his own. Then he heaved a deep sigh.

"Thank you, my dear! That will do. God bless you! And now to bed!"

He rose somewhat unsteadily, and she saw he was very weak.

"Don't you feel so well, David?" she asked, anxiously. "Would you like me to sit up with you?"

"No, no, my dear, no! All I want is a good sleep—a good long sleep. I'm only tired."

She saw him into his room, and, according to her usual custom, put a handbell on the small table which was at the side of his bed. Charlie, trotting at her heels, suddenly began to whimper. She stooped and picked the little creature up in her arms.

"Mind you ring if you want me," she said to Helmsley then,—"I'm just above you, and I can hear the least sound."

He looked at her earnestly. His eyes were almost young in their brightness.

"God bless you, Mary!" he said—"You've been a good angel to me! I never quite believed in Heaven, but looking at you I know there is such a place—the place where you were born!"

She smiled—but her eyes were soft with unshed tears.

"You think too well of me, David," she said. "I'm not an angel—I wish I were! I'm only a very poor, ordinary sort of woman."

"Are you?" he said, and smiled—"Well, think so, if it pleases you. Good-night—and again God bless you!"

He patted the tiny head of the small Charlie, whom she held nestling against her breast.

"Good-night, Charlie!"

The little dog licked his hand and looked at him wistfully.

"Don't part with him, Mary!" he said, suddenly—"Let him always have a home with you!"

"Now, David! You really are tired out and over-melancholy! As if I should ever part with him!" And she kissed Charlie's silky head—"We'll all keep together! Good-night, David!"

"Good-night!" he answered. He watched her as she went through the doorway, holding the dog in her arms and turning back to smile at him over her shoulder—anon he listened to her footfall ascending the stairway to her own room—then, to her gentle movements to and fro above his bed—till presently all was silent. Silence—except for the measured plash of the sea, which he heard distinctly echoing up through the coombe from the shore. A great loneliness environed him—touched by a great awe. He felt himself to be a solitary soul in the midst of some vast desert, yet not without the consciousness that a mystic joy, an undreamed-of glory, was drawing near that should make that desert "blossom like the rose." He moved slowly and feebly to the window—against one-half of the latticed pane leaned a bunch of white roses, shining with a soft pearl hue in the light of a lovely moon.

"It is a beautiful world!" he said, half aloud—"No one in his right mind could leave it without some regret!"

Then an inward voice seemed to whisper to him—

"You knew nothing of this world you call so beautiful before you entered it; may there not be another world still more beautiful of which you equally know nothing, but of which you are about to make an experience, all life being a process of continuous higher progress?"

And this idea now not only seemed to him possible but almost a certainty. For as our last Laureate expresses it:—

"Whatever crazy sorrow saith, No life that breathes with human breath Has ever truly longed for death. 'Tis life whereof our nerves are scant, Oh life, not death, for which we pant— More life, and fuller, that I want!"

His brain was so active and his memory so clear that he was somewhat surprised to feel his body so feeble and aching, when at last he undressed, and lay down to sleep. He thought of many things—of his boyhood's home out in Virginia—of the stress and excitement of his business career—of his extraordinary successes, piled one on the top of the other—and then of the emptiness of it all!

"I should have been happier and wiser," he said, "if I had lived the life of a student in some quiet home among the hills—where I should have seen less of men and learned more of God. But it is too late now—too late!"

And a curious sorrow and pity moved him for certain men he knew who were eating up the best time of their lives in a mad struggle for money, losing everything of real value in their scramble for what was, after all, so valueless,—sacrificing peace, honour, love, and a quiet mind, for what in the eternal countings is of no more consideration than the dust of the highroad. Not what a man has, but what he is,—this is the sole concern of Divine Equity. Earthly ideas of justice are in direct opposition to this law, but the finite can never overbalance the infinite. We may, if we so please, honour a king as king,—but with God there are no kings. There are only Souls, "made in His image." And whosoever defaces that Divine Image, whether he be base-born churl or crowned potentate, must answer for the wicked deed. How many of us view our social acquaintances from any higher standard than the extent of their cash accounts, or the "usefulness" of their influence? Yet the inexorable Law works silently on,—and day after day, century after century, shows us the vanity of riches, the fall of pride and power, the triumph of genius, the immutability of love! And we are still turning over the well-worn pages of the same old school-book which was set before Tyre and Sidon, Carthage and Babylon—the same, the very same, with one saving exception—that a Divine Teacher came to show us how to spell it and read it aright—and He was crucified! Doubtless were He to come again and once more try to help us, we should re-enact that old-time Jewish murder!

Lying quietly in his bed, Helmsley conversed with his inner self, as it were, reasoning with his own human perplexities and gradually unravelling them. After all, if his life had been, as he considered, only a lesson, was it not good for him that he had learned that lesson? A passing memory of Lucy Sorrel flitted across his brain—and he thought how singular it was that chance should have brought him into touch with the very man who would have given her that "rose of love" he desired she should wear, had she realised the value and beauty of that immortal flower. He, David Helmsley, had been apparently led by devious ways, not only to find an unselfish love for himself, but also to be the instrument of atoning to Angus Reay for his first love-disappointment, and uniting him to a woman whose exquisitely tender and faithful nature was bound to make the joy and sanctity of his life. In this, had not all things been ordered well? Did it not seem that, notwithstanding his, Helmsley's, self-admitted worthlessness, the Divine Power had used him for the happiness of others, to serve as a link of love between two deserving souls? He began to think that it was not by chance that he had been led to wander away from the centre of his business interests, and lose himself on the hills above Weircombe. Not accident, but a high design had been hidden in this incident—a design in which Self had been transformed to Selflessness, and loneliness to love. "I should like to believe in God—if I could!" This he had said to his friend Vesey, on the last night he had seen him. And now—did he believe? Yes!—for he had benefited by his first experience of what a truly God-like love may be—the love of a perfectly unselfish, tender, devout woman who, for no motive at all, but simply out of pure goodness and compassion for sorrow and suffering, had rescued one whom she judged to be in need of help. If therefore God could make one poor woman so divinely forbearing and gentle, it was certain that He, from whom all Love must emanate, was yet more merciful than the most merciful woman, as well as stronger than the strongest man. And he believed—believed implicitly;—lifted to the height of a perfect faith by the help of a perfect love. In the mirror of one sweet and simple human character he had seen the face of God—and he was of the same mind as the mighty musician who, when he was dying, cried out in rapture—"I believe I am only at the Beginning!"[2] He was conscious of a strange dual personality,—some spirit within him urgently expressed itself as being young, clamorous, inquisitive, eager, and impatient of restraint, while his natural bodily self was so weary and feeble that he felt as if he could scarcely move a hand. He listened for a little while to the ticking of the clock in the kitchen which was next to his room,—and by and by, being thoroughly drowsy, he sank into a heavy slumber. He did not know that Mary, anxious about him, had not gone to bed at all, but had resolved to sit up all night in case he should call her or want for anything. But the hours wore on peacefully for him till the moon began her downward course towards the west, and the tide having rolled in to its highest mark, began to ebb and flow out again. Then—all at once—he awoke—smitten by a shock of pain that seemed to crash through his heart and send his brain swirling into a blind chaos. Struggling for breath, he sprang up in his bed, and instinctively snatched the handbell at his side. He was hardly aware of ringing it, so great was his agony—but presently, regaining a glimmering sense of consciousness, he found Mary's arms round him, and saw Mary's eyes looking tenderly into his own.

"David, dear David!" And the sweet voice was shaken by tears. "David!—Oh, my poor dear, don't you know me?"

Know her? In the Valley of the Shadow what other Angel could there be so faithful or so tender! He sighed, leaning heavily against her bosom.

"Yes, dear—I know you!" he gasped, faintly. "But—I am very ill—dying, I think! Open the window—give me air!"

She laid his head gently back on the pillow, and ran quickly to throw open the lattice. In that same moment, the dog Charlie, who had followed her downstairs from her room, jumped on the bed, and finding his master's hand lying limp and pallid outside the coverlet, fawned upon it with a plaintive cry. The cool sea-air rushed in, and Helmsley's sinking strength revived. He turned his eyes gratefully towards the stream of silvery moonlight that poured through the open casement.

"'Angels ever bright and fair!'" he murmured—then as Mary came back to his side, he smiled vaguely; "I thought I heard my little sister singing!"

Slipping her arm again under his head, she carefully administered a dose of the cordial which had been made up for him as a calmative against his sudden heart attacks.

He swallowed it slowly and with difficulty.

"I'm—I'm all right," he said, feebly. "The pain has gone. I'm sorry to have wakened you up, Mary!—but you're always kind and patient——"

His voice broke—and a grey pallor began to steal almost imperceptibly upwards over his wasted features. She watched him, her heart beating fast with grief and terror,—the tears rushing to her eyes in spite of her efforts to restrain them. For she saw that he was dying. The solemnly musical plash of the sea sounded rhythmically upon the quiet air like the soothing murmur of a loving mother's lullaby, and the radiance of the moonlight flooded the little room with mystical glory. In her womanly tenderness she drew him more protectingly into the embrace of her kind arm, as though seeking to hold him back from the abyss of the Unknown, and held his head close against her breast. He opened his eyes and saw her thus bending over him. A smile brightened his face—a smile of youth, and hope, and confidence.

"The end is near, Mary!" he said in a clear, calm voice; "but—it's not difficult! There is no pain. And you are with me. That is enough!—that is more than I ever hoped for!—more than I deserve! God bless you always!"

He shut his eyes again—but opened them quickly in a sudden struggle for breath.

"The papers!" he gasped. "Mary—Mary—you won't forget—your promise!"

"No, David!—dear David!" she sobbed. "I won't forget!"

The paroxysm passed, and his hand wandered over the coverlet, where it encountered the soft, crouching head of the little dog who was lying close to him, shivering in every limb.

"Why, here's Charlie!" he whispered, weakly. "Poor wee Charlie! 'Take care of me' is written on his collar. Mary will take care of you, Charlie!—good-bye, little man!"

He lay quiet then, but his eyes were wide open, gazing not upward, but straight ahead, as though they saw some wondrous vision in the little room.

"Strange!—strange that I did not know all this before!" he murmured—and then was silent, still gazing straight before him. All at once a great shudder shook his body—and his thin features grew suddenly pinched and wan.

"It is almost morning!" he said, and his voice was like an echo of itself from very far away. "The sun will rise—but I shall not be here to see the sun or you, Mary!" and rallying his fast ebbing strength he turned towards her. "Keep your arms about me!—pray for me!—God will hear you—God must hear His own! Don't cry, dear! Kiss me!"

She kissed him, clasping his poor frail form to her heart as though he were a child, and tenderly smoothing back his venerable snow-white hair. A slumbrous look of perfect peace softened the piteousness of his dying eyes.

"The only treasure!" he murmured, faintly. "The treasure of Heaven—Love! God bless you for giving it to me, Mary!—good-bye, my dear!"

"Not good-bye, David!" she cried. "No—not good-bye!"

"Yes—good-bye!" he said,—and then, as another strong shudder convulsed him, he made a last feeble effort to lay his head against her bosom. "Don't let me go, Mary! Hold me!—closer!—closer! Your heart is warm, ah, so warm, Mary!—and death is cold—cold——!"

Another moment—and the moonlight, streaming through the open window, fell on the quiet face of a dead man. Then came silence—broken only by the gentle murmur of the sea, and the sound of a woman's weeping.

[Footnote 2: Beethoven.]


Not often is the death of a man, who to all appearances was nothing more than a "tramp," attended by any demonstrations of sorrow. There are so many "poor" men! The roads are infested with them. It would seem, in fact, that they have no business to live at all, especially when they are old, and can do little or nothing to earn their bread. Such, generally and roughly speaking, is the opinion of the matter-of-fact world. Nevertheless, the death of "old David" created quite an atmosphere of mourning in Weircombe, though, had it been known that he was one of the world's famous millionaires, such kindly regret and compassion might have been lacking. As things were, he carried his triumph of love to the grave with him. Mary's grief for the loss of the gentle old man was deep and genuine, and Angus Reay shared it with her to the full.

"I shall miss him so much!" she sobbed, looking at the empty chair, which had been that of her own father. "He was always so kind and thoughtful for me—never wishing to give trouble!—poor dear old David!—and he did so hope to see us married, Angus!—you know it was through him that we knew each other!"

"I know!"—and Angus, profoundly moved, was not ashamed of the tears in his own eyes—"God bless him! He was a dear, good old fellow! But, Mary, you must not fret; he would not like to see your pretty eyes all red with weeping. This life was getting very difficult for him, remember,—he endured a good deal of pain. Bunce says he must have suffered acutely often without saying a word about it, lest you should be anxious. He is at rest now."

"Yes, he is at rest!"—and Mary struggled to repress her tears—"Come and see!"

Hand in hand they entered the little room where the dead man lay, covered with a snowy sheet, his waxen hands crossed peacefully outside it, and delicate clusters of white roses and myrtle laid here and there around him. His face was like a fine piece of sculptured marble in its still repose—the gravity and grandeur of death had hallowed the worn features of old age, and given them a great sweetness and majesty. The two lovers stood gazing at the corpse for a moment in silent awe—then Mary whispered softly—

"He seems only asleep! And he looks happy."

"He is happy, dear!—he must be happy!"—and Angus drew her gently away. "Poor and helpless as he was, still he found a friend in you at the last, and now all his troubles are over. He has gone to Heaven with the help and blessing of your kind and tender heart, my Mary! I am sure of that!"

She sighed, and her eyes were clouded with sadness.

"Heaven seems very far away sometimes!" she said. "And—often I wonder—what is Heaven?"

"Love!" he answered—"Love made perfect—Love that knows no change and no end! 'Nothing is sweeter than love; nothing stronger, nothing higher, nothing broader, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in heaven and in earth, for love is born of God, and can rest only in God above all things created.'"

He quoted the beautiful words from the Imitation of Christ reverently and tenderly.

"Is that not true, my Mary?" he said, kissing her.

"Yes, Angus! For us I know it is true!—I wish it were true for all the world!"

And then there came a lovely day, perfectly brilliant and intensely calm, on which "old David," was quietly buried in the picturesque little churchyard of Weircombe. Mary and Angus together had chosen his resting-place, a grassy knoll swept by the delicate shadows of a noble beech-tree, and facing the blue expanse of the ocean. Every man who had known and talked with him in the village offered to contribute to the expenses of his funeral, which, however, were very slight. The good Vicar would accept no burial fee, and all who knew the story of the old "tramp's" rescue from the storm by Mary Deane, and her gentle care of him afterwards, were anxious to prove that they too were not destitute of that pure and true charity which "suffereth long and is kind." Had David Helmsley been buried as David Helmsley the millionaire, it is more than likely that he might not have had one sincere mourner at his grave, with the exception of his friend, Sir Francis Vesey, and his valet Benson. There would have been a few "business" men,—and some empty carriages belonging to fashionable folk sent out of so-called "respect"; but of the many he had entertained, assisted and benefited, not one probably would have taken the trouble to pay him, so much as a last honour. As the poor tramping old basket-maker, whose failing strength would not allow him to earn much of a living, his simple funeral was attended by nearly a whole village,—honest men who stood respectfully bareheaded as the coffin was lowered into the grave—kind-hearted women who wept for "poor lonely soul"—as they expressed it,—and little children who threw knots of flowers into that mysterious dark hole in the ground "where people went to sleep for a little, and then came out again as angels"—as their parents told them. It was a simple ceremony, performed in a spirit of perfect piety, and without any hypocrisy or formality. And when it was all over, and the villagers had dispersed to their homes, Mr. Twitt on his way "down street," as he termed it, from the churchyard, paused at Mary Deane's cottage to unburden his mind of a weighty resolution.

"Ye see, Mis' Deane, it's like this," he said—"I as good as promised the poor old gaffer as I'd do 'im a tombstone for nuthin', an' I'm 'ere to say as I aint a-goin' back on that. But I must take my time on it. I'd like to think out a speshul hepitaph—an' doin' portry takes a bit of 'ard brain work. So when the earth's set down on 'is grave a bit, an' the daisies is a-growin' on the grass, I'll mebbe 'ave got an idea wot'll please ye. 'E aint left any mossel o' paper writ out like, with wot 'e'd like put on 'im, I s'pose?"

Mary felt the colour rush to her face.

"N—no! Not that I know of, Mr. Twitt," she said. "He has left a few papers which I promised him I would take to a friend of his, but I haven't even looked at them yet, and don't know to whom they are addressed. If I find anything I'll let you know."

"Ay, do so!" and Twitt rubbed his chin meditatively. "I wouldn't run agin' 'is wishes for anything if ser be I can carry 'em out. I considers as 'e wor a very fine sort—gentle as a lamb, an' grateful for all wot was done for 'im, an' I wants to be as friendly to 'im in 'is death as I wos in 'is life—ye understand?"

"Yes—I know—I quite understand," said Mary. "But there's plenty of time—-"

"Yes, there's plenty of time!" agreed Twitt. "But, lor,' if you could only know what a pain it gives me in the 'ed to work the portry out of it, ye wouldn't wonder at my preparin' ye, as 'twere. Onny I wishes ye just to understand that it'll all be done for love—an' no charge."

Mary thanked him smiling, yet with tears in her eyes, and he strolled away down the street in his usual slow and somewhat casual manner.

That evening,—the evening of the day on which all that was mortal of "old David" had been committed to the gentle ground, Mary unlocked the cupboard of which he had given her the key on the last night of his life, and took out the bulky packet it contained. She read the superscription with some surprise and uneasiness. It was addressed to a Mr. Bulteel, in a certain street near Chancery Lane, London. Now Mary had never been to London in her life. The very idea of going to that vast unknown metropolis half scared her, and she sat for some minutes, with the sealed packet in her lap, quite confused and troubled.

"Yet I made the promise!" she said to herself—"And I dare not break it! I must go. And I must not tell Angus anything about it—that's the worst part of all!"

She gazed wistfully at the packet,—anon she turned it over and over. It was sealed in several places—but the seal had no graven impress, the wax having merely been pressed with the finger.

"I must go!" she repeated. "I'm bound to deliver it myself to the man for whom it is intended. But what a journey it will be! To London!"

Absorbed in thought, she started as a tap came at the cottage door,—and rising, she hurriedly put the package out of sight, just as Angus entered.

"Mary," he said, as he came towards her—"Do you know, I've been thinking we had better get quietly married as soon as possible?"

She smiled.

"Why? Is the book finished?" she asked.

"No, it isn't. I wish it was! But it will be finished in another month——"

"Then let us wait that other month," she said. "You will be happier, I know, if the work is off your mind."

"Yes—I shall be happier—but Mary, I can't bear to think of you all alone in this little cottage——"

She gently interrupted him.

"I was all alone for five years after my father died," she said. "And though I was sometimes a little sad, I was not dull, because I always had work to do. Dear old David was a good companion, and it was pleasant to take care of him—indeed, this last year has been quite a happy one for me, and I shan't find it hard to live alone in the cottage for just a month now. Don't worry about me, Angus!"

He stooped and picked up Charlie, who, since his master's death, had been very dispirited.

"You see, Mary," he said, as he fondled the little dog and stroked its silky hair—"nothing will alter the fact that you are richer than I am. You do regular work for which you get regular pay—now I have no settled work at all, and not much chance of pay, even for the book on which I've been spending nearly a year of my time. You've got a house which you can keep going—and very soon I shall not be able to afford so much as a room!—think of that! And yet—I have the impertinence to ask you to marry me! Forgive me, dear! It is, as you say, better to wait."

She came and entwined her arms about him.

"I'll wait a month," she said—"No longer, Angus! By that time, if you don't marry me, I shall summons you for breach of promise!"

She smiled—but he still remained thoughtful.

"Angus!" she said suddenly—"I want to tell you—I shall have to go away from Weircombe for a day—perhaps two days."

He looked surprised.

"Go away!" he echoed. "What for? Where to?"

She told him then of "old David's" last request to her, and of the duty she had undertaken to perform.

He listened gravely.

"You must do it, of course," he said. "But will you have to travel far?"

"Some distance from Weircombe," she answered, evasively.

"May I not go with you?" he asked.

She hesitated.

"I promised——" she began.

"And you shall not break your word," he said, kissing her. "You are so true, my Mary, that I wouldn't tempt you to change one word or even half a word of what you have said to any one, living or dead. When do you want to take this journey?"

"To-morrow, or the next day," she said. "I'll ask Mrs. Twitt to see to the house and look after Charlie, and I'll be back again as quickly as I can. Because, when I've given the papers over to David's friend, whoever he is, I shall have nothing more to do but just come home."

This being settled, it was afterwards determined that the next day but one would be the most convenient for her to go, as she could then avail herself of the carrier's cart to take her as far as Minehead. But she was not allowed to start on her unexpected travels without a burst of prophecy from Mrs. Twitt.

"As I've said an' allus thought," said that estimable lady—"Old David 'ad suthin' 'idden in 'is 'art wot 'e never giv' away to nobody. Mark my words, Mis' Deane!—'e 'ad a sin or a sorrer at the back of 'im, an' whichever it do turn out to be I'm not a-goin' to blame 'im either way, for bein' dead 'e's dead, an' them as sez unkind o' the dead is apt to be picked morsels for the devil's gridiron. But now that you've got a packet to take to old David's friends somewheres, you may take my word for 't, Mis' Deane, you'll find out as 'e was wot ye didn't expect. Onny last night, as I was a-sittin' afore the kitchen fire, for though bein' summer I'm that chilly that I feels the least change in the temper o' the sea,—as I was a-sittin', I say, out jumps a cinder as long as a pine cone, red an' glowin' like a candle at the end. An' I stares at the thing, an' I sez: 'That's either a purse o' money, or a journey with a coffin at the end'—an' the thing burns an' shines like a reg'lar spark of old Nick's cookin' stove, an' though I pokes an' pokes it, it won't go out, but lies on the 'erth, frizzlin' all the time. An' I do 'ope, Mis' Deane, as now yer goin' off to 'and over old David's effecks to the party interested, ye'll come back safe, for the poor old dear 'adn't a penny to bless 'isself with, so the cinder must mean the journey, an' bein' warned, ye'll guard agin the coffin at the end."

Mary smiled rather sadly.

"I'll take care!" she said. "But I don't think anything very serious is likely to happen. Poor old David had no friends,—and probably the few papers he has left are only for some relative who would not do anything for him while he was alive, but who, all the same, has to be told that he is dead."

"Maybe so!" and Mrs. Twitt nodded her head profoundly—"But that cinder worn't made in the fire for nowt! Such a shape as 'twas don't grow out of the flames twice in twenty year!"

And, with the conviction of the village prophetess she assumed to be, she was not to be shaken from the idea that strange discoveries were pending respecting "old David." Mary herself could not quite get rid of a vague misgiving and anxiety, which culminated at last in her determination to show Angus Reay the packet left in her charge, in order that he might see to whom it was addressed.

"For that can do no harm," she thought—"I feel that he really ought to know that I have to go all the way to London."

Angus, however, on reading the superscription, was fully as perplexed as she was. He was familiar with the street near Chancery Lane where the mysterious "Mr. Bulteel" lived, but the name of Bulteel as a resident in that street was altogether unknown to him. Presently a bright idea struck him.

"I have it!" he said. "Look here, Mary, didn't David say he used to be employed in office-work?"

"Yes," she answered,—"He had to give up his situation, so I understand, on account of old age."

"Then that makes it clear," Angus declared. "This Mr. Bulteel is probably a man who worked with him in the same office—perhaps the only link he had with his past life. I think you'll find that's the way it will turn out. But I hate to think of your travelling to London all alone!—for the first time in your life, too!"

"Oh well, that doesn't matter much!" she said, cheerfully,—"Now that you know where I am going, it's all right. You forget, Angus!—I'm quite old enough to take care of myself. How many times must I remind you that you are engaged to be married to an old maid of thirty-five? You treat me as if I were quite a young girl!"

"So I do—and so I will!" and his eyes rested upon her with a proud look of admiration. "For you are young, Mary—young in your heart and soul and nature—younger than any so-called young girl I ever met, and twenty times more beautiful. So there!"

She smiled gravely.

"You are easily satisfied, Angus," she said—"But the world will not agree with you in your ideas of me. And when you become a famous man——"

"If I become a famous man——" he interrupted.

"No—not 'if'—I say 'when,'" she repeated. "When you become a famous man, people will say, 'what a pity he did not marry some one younger and more suited to his position——"

She could speak no more, for Angus silenced her with a kiss.

"Yes, what a pity it will be!" he echoed. "What a pity! When other men, less fortunate, see that I have won a beautiful and loving wife, whose heart is all my own,—who is pure and true as the sun in heaven,—'what a pity,' they will say, 'that we are not so lucky!' That's what the talk will be, Mary! For there's no man on earth who does not crave to be loved for himself alone—a selfish wish, perhaps—but it's implanted in every son of Adam. And a man's life is always more or less spoilt by lack of the love he needs."

She put her arms round his neck, and her true eyes looked straightly into his own.

"Your life will not be spoilt that way, dear!" she said. "Trust me for that!"

"Do I not know it!" he answered, passionately. "And would I not lose the whole world, with all its chances of fame and fortune, rather than lose you!"

And in their mutual exchange of tenderness and confidence they forgot all save

"The time and place And the loved one all together!"

It was a perfect summer's morning when Mary, for the first time in many years, left her little home in Weircombe and started upon a journey she had never taken and never had thought of taking—a journey which, to her unsophisticated mind, seemed fraught with strange possibilities of difficulty, even of peril. London had loomed upon her horizon through the medium of the daily newspaper, as a vast over-populated city where (if she might believe the press) humanity is more selfish than generous, more cruel than kind,—where bitter poverty and starvation are seen side by side with criminal extravagance and luxury,—and where, according to her simple notions, the people were forgetting or had forgotten God. It was with a certain lingering and wistful backward look that she left her little cottage embowered among roses, and waved farewell to Mrs. Twitt, who, standing at the garden gate with Charlie in her arms, waved hearty response, cheerfully calling out "Good Luck!" after her, and adding the further assurance—"Ye'll find everything as well an' straight as ye left it when ye comes 'ome, please God!"

Angus Reay accompanied her in the carrier's cart to Minehead, and there she caught the express to London. On enquiry, she found there was a midnight train which would bring her back from the metropolis at about nine o'clock the next morning, and she resolved to travel home by it.

"You will be so tired!" said Angus, regretfully. "And yet I would rather you did not stay away a moment longer than you can help!"

"Don't fear!" and she smiled. "You cannot be a bit more anxious for me to come back than I am to come back myself! Good-bye! It's only for a day!"

She waved her hand as the train steamed out of the station, and he watched her sweet face smiling at him to the very last, when the express, gathering speed, rushed away with her and whirled her into the far distance. A great depression fell upon his soul,—all the light seemed gone out of the landscape—all the joy out of his life—and he realised, as it were suddenly, what her love meant to him.

"It is everything!" he said. "I don't believe I could write a line without her!—in fact I know I wouldn't have the heart for it! She is so different to every woman I have ever known,—she seems to make the world all warm and kind by just smiling her own bonnie smile!"

And starting off to walk part of the way back to Weircombe, he sang softly under his breath as he went a verse of "Annie Laurie"—

"Like dew on the gowan lyin' Is the fa' o' her fairy feet; And like winds in simmer sighin' Her voice is low an' sweet Her voice is low an' sweet; An' she's a' the world to me; An' for bonnie Annie Laurie I'd lay me doun and dee!"

And all the beautiful influences of nature,—the bright sunshine, the wealth of June blossom, the clear skies and the singing of birds, seemed part of that enchanting old song, expressing the happiness which alone is made perfect by love.

Meanwhile, no adventures of a startling or remarkable kind occurred to Mary during her rather long and tedious journey. Various passengers got into her third-class compartment and got out again, but they were somewhat dull and commonplace folk, many of them being of that curiously unsociable type of human creature which apparently mistrusts its fellows. Contrary to her ingenuous expectation, no one seemed to think a journey to London was anything of a unique or thrilling experience. Once only, when she was nearing her destination, did she venture to ask a fellow-passenger, an elderly man with a kindly face, how she ought to go to Chancery Lane. He looked at her with a touch of curiosity.

"That's among the hornets' nests," he said.

She raised her pretty eyebrows with a little air of perplexity.

"Hornets' nests?"

"Yes. Where a good many lawyers live, or used to live."

"Oh, I see!" And she smiled responsively to what he evidently intended as a brilliant satirical joke. "But is it easy to get there?"

"Quite easy. Take a 'bus."

"From the station?"

"Of course!"

And he subsided into silence.

She asked no more questions, and on her arrival at Paddington confided her anxieties to a friendly porter, who, announcing that he was "from Somerset born himself and would see her through," gave her concise directions which she attentively followed; with the result that despite much bewilderment in getting in and getting out of omnibuses, and jostling against more people than she had ever seen in the course of her whole life, she found herself at last at the entrance of a rather obscure-looking smutty little passage, guarded by a couple of round columns, on which were painted in black letters a considerable number of names, among which were those of "Vesey and Symonds." The numeral inscribed above the entrance to this passage corresponded to the number on the address of the packet which she carried for "Mr. Bulteel"—but though she read all the names on the two columns, "Bulteel" was not among them. Nevertheless, she made her way perseveringly into what seemed nothing but a little blind alley leading nowhere, and as she did so, a small boy came running briskly down a flight of dark stairs, which were scarcely visible from the street, and nearly knocked her over.

"'Ullo! Beg pardon 'm! Which office d' ye want?"

"Is there," began Mary, in her gentle voice—"is there a Mr. Bulteel——?"

"Bulteel? Yes—straight up—second floor—third door—Vesey and Symonds!"

With these words jerked out of himself at lightning speed, the boy rushed past her and disappeared.

With a beating heart Mary cautiously climbed the dark staircase which he had just descended. When she reached the second floor, she paused. There were three doors all facing her,—on the first one was painted the name of "Sir Francis Vesey"—on the second "Mr. John Symonds"—and on the third "Mr. Bulteel." As soon as she saw this last, she heaved a little sigh of relief, and going straight up to it knocked timidly. It was opened at once by a young clerk who looked at her questioningly.

"Mr. Bulteel?" she asked, hesitatingly.

"Yes. Have you an appointment?"

"No. I am quite a stranger," she said. "I only wish to tell Mr. Bulteel of the death of some one he knows."

The clerk glanced at her and seemed dubious.

"Mr. Bulteel is very busy," he began—"and unless you have an appointment——"

"Oh, please let me see him!" And Mary's eyes almost filled with tears. "See!"—and she held up before him the packet she carried. "I've travelled all the way from Weircombe, in Somerset, to bring him this from his dead friend, and I promised to give it to him myself. Please, please do not turn me away!"

The clerk stared hard at the superscription on the packet, as he well might. For he had at once recognised the handwriting of David Helmsley. But he suppressed every outward sign of surprise, save such as might appear in a glance of unconcealed wonder at Mary herself. Then he said briefly—

"Come in!"

She obeyed, and was at once shut in a stuffy cupboard-like room which had no other furniture than an office desk and high stool.

"Name, please!" said the clerk.

She looked startled—then smiled.

"My name? Mary Deane."

"Miss or Mrs.?"

"'Miss,' if you please, sir," she answered, the colour flushing her cheeks with confusion at the sharpness of his manner.

The clerk gave her another up-and-down look, and opening a door behind his office desk vanished like a conjuror tricking himself through a hole.

She waited patiently for a couple of minutes—and then the clerk came back, with traces of excitement in his manner.

"Yes—Mr. Bulteel will see you. This way!"

She followed him with her usual quiet step and composed demeanour, and bent her head with a pretty air of respect as she found herself in the presence of an elderly man with iron-grey whiskers and a severely preoccupied air of business hardening his otherwise rather benevolent features. He adjusted his spectacles and looked keenly at her as she entered. She spoke at once.

"You are Mr. Bulteel?"


"Then this is for you," she said, approaching him, and handing him the packet she had brought. "They are some papers belonging to a poor old tramp named David, who lodged in my house for nearly a year—it will be a year come July. He was very weak and feeble and got lost in a storm on the hills above Weircombe—that's where I live—and I found him lying quite unconscious in the wet and cold, and took him home and nursed him. He got better and stayed on with me, making baskets for a living—he was too feeble to tramp any more—but he gave me no trouble, he was such a kind, good old man. I was very fond of him. And—and—last week he died"—here her sweet voice trembled. "He suffered great pain—but at the end he passed away quite peacefully—in my arms. He was very anxious that I should bring his papers to you myself—and I promised I would so——"

She paused, a little troubled by his silence. Surely he looked very strangely at her.

"I am sorry," she faltered, nervously—"if I have brought you any bad news;—poor David seemed to have no friends, but perhaps you were a friend to him once and may have a kind recollection of him——"

He was still quite silent. Slowly he broke the seals of the packet, and drawing out a slip of paper which came first to his hand, read what was written upon it. Then he rose from his chair.

"Kindly wait one moment," he said. "These—these papers and letters are not for me, but—but for—for another gentleman."

He hurried out of the room, taking the packet with him, and Mary remained alone for nearly a quarter of an hour, vaguely perplexed, and wondering how any "other gentleman" could possibly be concerned in the matter. Presently Mr. Bulteel returned, in an evident state of suppressed agitation.

"Will you please follow me, Miss Deane?" he said, with a singular air of deference. "Sir Francis is quite alone and will see you at once."

Mary's blue eyes opened in amazement.

"Sir Francis——!" she stammered. "I don't quite understand——"

"This way," said Mr. Bulteel, escorting her out of his own room along the passage to the door which she had before seen labelled with the name of "Sir Francis Vesey"—then catching the startled and appealing glance of her eyes, he added kindly: "Don't be alarmed! It's all right!"

Thereupon he opened the door and announced—

"Miss Deane, Sir Francis."

Mary looked up, and then curtsied with quite an "out-of-date" air of exquisite grace, as she found herself in the presence of a dignified white-haired old gentleman, who, standing near a large office desk on which the papers she had brought lay open, was wiping his spectacles, and looking very much as if he had been guilty of the womanish weakness of tears. He advanced to meet her.

"How do you do!" he said, uttering this commonplace with remarkable earnestness, and taking her hand kindly in his own. "You bring me sad news—very sad news! I had not expected the death of my old friend so suddenly—I had hoped to see him again—yes, I had hoped very much to see him again quite soon! And so you were with him at the last?"

Mary looked, as she felt, utterly bewildered.

"I think," she murmured—"I think there must be some mistake,—the papers I brought here were for Mr. Bulteel——"

"Yes—yes!" said Sir Francis. "That's quite right! Mr. Bulteel is my confidential clerk—and the packet was addressed to him. But a note inside requested that Mr. Bulteel should bring all the documents at once to me, which he has done. Everything is quite correct—quite in order. But—I forgot! You do not know! Please sit down—and I will endeavour to explain."

He drew up a chair for her near his desk so that she might lean her arm upon it, for she looked frightened. As a matter of fact he was frightened himself. Such a task as he had now to perform had never before been allotted to him. A letter addressed to him, and enclosed in the packet containing Helmsley's Last Will and Testament, had explained the whole situation, and had fully described, with simple fidelity, the life his old friend had led at Weircombe, and the affectionate care with which Mary had tended him,—while the conclusion of the letter was worded in terms of touching farewell.

"For," wrote Helmsley, "when you read this, I shall be dead and in my quiet grave at Weircombe. Let me rest there in peace,—for though my eyes will no more see the sun,—or the kindness in the eyes of the woman whose unselfish goodness has been more than the sunshine to me, I shall—or so I think and hope—be spiritually conscious that my mortal remains are buried where humble and simple folk think well of me. This last letter from my hand to you is one not of business so much as friendship—for I have learned that what we call 'business' counts for very little, while the ties of sympathy, confidence, and love between human beings are the only forces that assist in the betterment of the world. And so farewell! Let the beloved angel who brings you these last messages from me have all honour from you for my sake.—Yours,

David Helmsley."

* * * * *

And now, to Sir Francis Vesey's deep concern, the "beloved angel" thus spoken of sat opposite to him, moved by evident alarm,—her blue eyes full of tears, and her face pale and scared. How was he to begin telling her what she was bound to know?

"Yes—I will—I must endeavour to explain," he repeated, bending his brows upon her and regaining something of his self-control. "You, of course, were not aware—I mean my old friend never told you who he really was?"

Her anxious look grew more wistful.

"No, and indeed I never asked," she said. "He was so feeble when I took him to my home out of the storm, and for weeks afterwards he was so dangerously ill, that I thought questions might worry him. Besides it was not my business to bother about where he came from. He was just old and poor and friendless—that was enough for me."

"I hope—I do very much hope," said Sir Francis gently, "that you will not allow yourself to be too much startled—or—or overcome by what I have to tell you. David—he said his name was David, did he not?"

She made a sign of assent. A strange terror was creeping upon her, and she could not speak.

"David—yes!—that was quite right—David was his name," proceeded Sir Francis cautiously. "But he had another name—a surname which perhaps you may, or may not have heard. That name was Helmsley——"

She sprang up with a cry, remembering Angus Reay's story about his first love, Lucy Sorrel, and her millionaire.

"Helmsley! Not David Helmsley!"

"Yes,—David Helmsley! The 'poor old tramp' you sheltered in your home,—the friendless and penniless stranger you cared for so unselfishly and tenderly, was one of the richest men in the world!"

She stood amazed,—stricken as by a lightning shock.

"One of the richest men in the world!" she faltered. "One of the richest——" and here, with a little stifled sob, she wrung her hands together. "Oh no—no! That can't be true! He would never have deceived me!"

Sir Francis felt an uncomfortable tightness in his throat. The situation was embarrassing. He saw at once that she was not so much affected by the announcement of the supposed "poor" man's riches, as by the overwhelming thought that he could have represented himself to her as any other than he truly was.

"Sit down again, and let me tell you all," he said gently—"You will, I am sure, forgive him for the part he played when you know his history. David Helmsley—who was my friend as well as my client for more than twenty years—was a fortunate man in the way of material prosperity,—but he was very unfortunate in his experience of human nature. His vast wealth made it impossible for him to see much more of men and women than was just enough to show him their worst side. He was surrounded by people who sought to use him and his great influence for their own selfish ends,—and the emotions and sentiments of life, such as love, fidelity, kindness, and integrity, he seldom or never met with among either his so-called 'friends' or his acquaintances. His wife was false to him, and his two sons brought him nothing but shame and dishonour. They all three died—and then—then in his old age he found himself alone in the world without any one who loved him, or whom he loved—without any one to whom he could confidently leave his enormous fortune, knowing it would be wisely and nobly used. When I last saw him I urged upon him the necessity of making his Will. He said he could not make it, as there was no one living whom he cared to name as his heir. Then he left London,—ostensibly on a journey for his health." Here Sir Francis paused, looking anxiously at his listener. She was deadly pale, and every now and then her eyes brimmed over with tears. "You can guess the rest," he continued,—"He took no one into his confidence as to his intention,—not even me. I understood he had gone abroad—till the other day—a short time ago—when I had a letter from him telling me that he was passing through Exeter."

She clasped and unclasped her hands nervously.

"Ah! That was where he went when he told me he had gone in search of work!" she murmured—"Oh, David, David!"

"He informed me then," proceeded Sir Francis, "that he had made his Will. The Will is here,"—and he took up a document lying on his desk—"The manner of its execution coincides precisely with the letter of instructions received, as I say, from Exeter—of course it will have to be formally proved——"

She lifted her eyes wonderingly.

"What is it to me?" she said—"I have nothing to do with it. I have brought you the papers—but I am sorry—oh, so sorry to hear that he was not what he made himself out to be! I cannot think of him in the same way——"

Sir Francis drew his chair closer to hers.

"Is it possible," he said—"Is it possible, my dear Miss Deane, that you do not understand?"

She gazed at him candidly.

"Yes, of course I understand," she said—"I understand that he was a rich man who played the part of a poor one—to see if any one would care for him just for himself alone—and—I—I—did care—oh, I did care!—and now I feel as if I couldn't care any more——"

Her voice broke sobbingly, and Sir Francis Vesey grew desperate.

"Don't cry!" he said—"Please don't cry! I should not be able to bear it! You see I'm a business man"—here he took off his spectacles and rubbed them vigorously—"and my position is that of the late Mr. David Helmsley's solicitor. In that position I am bound to tell you the straight truth—because I'm afraid you don't grasp it at all. It is a very overwhelming thing for you,—but all the same, I am sure, quite sure, that my old friend had reason to rely confidently upon your strength of character—as well as upon your affection for him——"

She had checked her sobs and was looking at him steadily.

"And, therefore," he proceeded—"referring again to my own position—that of the late David Helmsley's solicitor, it is my duty to inform you that you, Mary Deane, are by his last Will and Testament, the late David Helmsley's sole heiress."

She started up in terror.

"Oh no, no!—not me!" she cried.

"Everything which the late David Helmsley died possessed of, is left to you absolutely and unconditionally," went on Sir Francis, speaking with slow and deliberate emphasis—"And—even as he was one of the richest men, so you are now one of the richest women in the world!"

She turned deathly white,—then suddenly, to his great alarm and confusion, dropped on her knees before him, clasping her hands in a passion of appeal.

"Oh, don't say that, sir!" she exclaimed—"Please, please don't say it! I cannot be rich—I would not! I should be miserable—I should indeed! Oh, David, dear old David! I'm sure he never wished to make me wretched—he was fond of me—he was, really! And we were so happy and peaceful in the cottage at home! There was so little money, but so much love! Don't say I'm rich, sir!—or, if I am, let me give it all away at once! Let me give it to the starving and sick people in this great city—or please give it to them for me,—but don't, don't say that I must keep it myself!—I could not bear it!—oh, I could not bear it! Help me, oh, do help me to give it all away and let me remain just as I am, quite, quite poor!"


There was a moment's silence, broken only by the roar and din of the London city traffic outside, which sounded like the thunder of mighty wheels—the wheels of a rolling world. And then Sir Francis, gently taking Mary's hand in his own, raised her from the ground.

"My dear,"—he said, huskily—"You must not—you really must not give way! See,"—and he took up a sealed letter from among the documents on the desk, addressed "To Mary"—and handed it to her—"my late friend asks me in the last written words I have from him to give this to you. I will leave you alone to read it. You will be quite private in this room—and no one will enter till you ring. Here is the bell,"—and he indicated it—"I think—indeed I am sure, when you understand everything, you will accept the great responsibility which will now devolve upon you, in as noble a spirit as that in which you accepted the care of David Helmsley himself when you thought him no more than what in very truth he was—a lonely-hearted old man, searching for what few of us ever find—an unselfish love!"

He left her then—and like one in a dream, she opened and read the letter he had given her—a letter as beautiful and wise and tender as ever the fondest father could have written to the dearest of daughters. Everything was explained in it—everything made clear; and gradually she realised the natural, strong and pardonable craving of the rich, unloved man, to seek out for himself some means whereby he might leave all his world's gainings to one whose kindness to him had not been measured by any knowledge of his wealth, but which had been bestowed upon him solely for simple love's sake. Every line Helmsley had written to her in this last appeal to her tenderness, came from his very heart, and went to her own heart again, moving her to the utmost reverence, pity and affection. In his letter he enclosed a paper with a list of bequests which he left to her charge.

"I could not name them in my Will,"—he wrote—"as this would have disclosed my identity—but you, my dear, will be more exact than the law in the payment of what I have here set down as just. And, therefore, to you I leave this duty."

First among these legacies came one of Ten Thousand Pounds to "my old friend Sir Francis Vesey,"—and then followed a long list of legacies to servants, secretaries, and workpeople generally. The sum of Five Hundred Pounds was to be paid to Miss Tranter, hostess of "The Trusty Man,"—"for her kindness to me on the one night I passed under her hospitable roof,"—and sums of Two Hundred Pounds each were left to "Matthew Peke, Herb Gatherer," and Farmer Joltram, both these personages to be found through the aforesaid Miss Tranter. Likewise a sum of Two Hundred Pounds was to be paid to one "Meg Ross—believed to hold a farm near Watchett in Somerset." No one that had served the poor "tramp" was forgotten by the great millionaire;—a sum of Five Hundred Pounds was left to John Bunce, "with grateful and affectionate thanks for his constant care"—and a final charge to Mary was the placing of Fifty Thousand Pounds in trust for the benefit of Weircombe, its Church, and its aged poor. The money in bank notes, enclosed with the testator's last Will and Testament, was to be given to Mary for her own immediate use,—and then came the following earnest request;—"I desire that the sum of Half-a-crown, made up of coppers and one sixpence, which will be found with these effects, shall be enclosed in a casket of gold and inscribed with the words 'The "surprise gift" collected by "Tom o' the Gleam" for David Helmsley, when as a tramp on the road he seemed to be in need of the charity and sympathy of his fellow men and which to him was


And I request that the said casket containing these coins may be retained by Mary Deane as a valued possession in her family, to be handed down as a talisman and cornerstone of fortune for herself and her heirs in perpetuity."

Finally the list of bequests ended with one sufficiently unusual to be called eccentric. It ran thus:—"To Angus Reay I leave Mary Deane—and with Her, all that I value, and more than I have ever possessed!"

Gradually, very gradually, Mary, sitting alone in Sir Francis Vesey's office, realised the whole position,—gradually the trouble and excitation of her mind calmed down, and her naturally even temperament reasserted itself. She was rich,—but though she tried to realise the fact, she could not do so, till at last the thought of Angus and how she might be able now to help him on with his career, roused a sudden rush of energy within her—which, however, was not by any means actual happiness. A great weight seemed to have fallen on her life—and she was bowed down by its heaviness. Kissing David Helmsley's letter, she put it in her bosom,—he had asked that its contents might be held sacred, and that no eyes but her own should scan his last words, and to her that request of a dead man was more than the command of a living King. The list of bequests she held in her hand ready to show Sir Francis Vesey when he entered, which he did as soon as she touched the bell. He saw that, though very pale, she was now comparatively calm and collected, and as she raised her eyes and tried to smile at him, he realised what a beautiful woman she was.

"Please forgive me for troubling you so much,"—she said, gently—"I am very sorry! I understand it all now,—I have read David's letter,—I shall always call him David, I think!—and I quite see how it all happened. I can't help being sorry—very sorry, that he has left his money to me—because it will be so difficult to know how to dispose of it for the best. But surely a great deal of it will go in these legacies,"—and she handed him the paper she held—"You see he names you first."

Sir Francis stared at the document, fairly startled and overcome by his late friend's generosity, as well as by Mary's naive candour.

"My dear Miss Deane,"—he began, with deep embarrassment.

"You will tell me how to do everything, will you not?" she interrupted him, with an air of pathetic entreaty—"I want to carry out all his wishes exactly as if he were beside me, watching me—I think—" and her voice sank a little—"he may be here—with us—even now!" She paused a moment. "And if he is, he knows that I do not want money for myself at all—but that if I can do good with it, for his sake and memory, I will. Is it a very great deal?"

"Is it a great deal of money, you mean?" he queried.

She nodded.

"I should say that at the very least my late friend's personal estate must be between six and seven millions of pounds sterling."

She clasped her hands in dismay.

"Oh! It is terrible!" she said, in a low strained voice—"Surely God never meant one man to have so much money!"

"It was fairly earned,"—said Sir Francis, quietly—"David Helmsley, to my own knowledge, never wronged or oppressed a single human being on his way to his own success. His money is clean! There's no brother's blood on the gold—and no 'sweated' labour at the back of it. That I can vouch for—that I can swear! No curse will rest on the fortune you inherit, Miss Deane—for it was made honestly!"

Tears stood in her eyes, and she wiped them away furtively.

"Poor David!" she murmured—"Poor lonely old man! With all that wealth and no one to care for him! Oh yes, the more I think of it the more I understand it! But now there is only one thing for me to do—I must get home as quickly as possible and tell Angus"—here she pointed to the last paragraph in Helmsley's list of bequests—"You see,"—she went on—"he leaves Mary Deane—that's me—to Angus Reay, 'and with Her all that I value.' I am engaged to be married to Mr. Reay—David wished very much to live till our wedding-day—"

She broke off, passing her hand across her brow and looking puzzled.

"Mr. Reay is very much to be congratulated!"—said Sir Francis, gently.

She smiled rather sadly.

"Oh, I'm not sure of that," she said—"He is a very clever man—he writes books, and he will be famous very soon—while I—" She paused again, then went on, looking very earnestly at Sir Francis—"May I—would you—write out something for me that I might sign before I go away to-day, to make it sure that if I die, all that I have—including this terrible, terrible fortune—shall come to Angus Reay? You see anything might happen to me—quite suddenly,—the very train I am going back in to-night might meet with some accident, and I might be killed—and then poor David's money would be lost, and his legacies never paid. Don't you see that?"

Sir Francis certainly saw it, but was not disposed to admit its possibility.

"There is really no necessity to anticipate evil," he began.

"There is perhaps no necessity—but I should like to be sure, quite sure, that in case of such evil all was right,"—she said, with great feeling—"And I know you could do it for me——"

"Why, of course, if you insist upon it, I can draw you up a form of Will in ten minutes,"—he said, smiling benevolently—"Would that satisfy you? You have only to sign it, and the thing is done."

It was wonderful to see how she rejoiced at this proposition,—the eager delight with which she contemplated the immediate disposal of the wealth she had not as yet touched, to the man she loved best in the world—and the swift change in her manner from depression to joy, when Sir Francis, just to put her mind at ease, drafted a concise form of Will for her in his own handwriting, in which form she, with the same precision as that of David Helmsley, left "everything of which she died possessed, absolutely and unconditionally," to her promised husband. With a smile on her face and sparkling eyes, she signed this document in the presence of two witnesses, clerks of the office called up for the purpose, who, if it had been their business to express astonishment, would undoubtedly have expressed it then.

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