Crimes of Old London (2023)

Table of Contents
First published by Odhams, London, 1919 TABLE OF CONTENTS THE SCOURED SILK First published in All-Story Weekly, 8 Jun 1918 THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTUREOF MR. JOHN PROUDIE Also published in The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories, Valancourt Books, 1949 HEARTSEASE First published in All-Story Weekly, 29 June 1918 THE HOUSEKEEPER Reprinted inTwilight and Other Supernatural Romances by Marjorie Bowen,Ash-Tree Press, 1998, as "The Confession of Beau Sekforde" THE GILT SEDAN CHAIR First published in All-Story Weekly, 18 May 1918 THE PACKET OF COMFITS First published in The Novel Magazine, April 1918 BRENT'S FOLLY Reprinted in:Twilight and Other Supernatural Romances by Marjorie Bowen, Ash-Tree Press, 1998Great Supernatural Stories: 101 Horrifying Tales, Fall River Press, 2017 A QUIET WOMAN Reprinted in The 20-Story Magazine, #134, August 1933 SEVEN DEADLY SINS ILLUSTRATED IN MEDIAEVAL MANNERBY PHILLYS VERE CAMPBELL Published in The Pall Mall Magazine, December 1913 to June 1914 I. — PRIDE First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, December 1913 II. — GLUTTONY First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, January 1914 III. — LUXURY First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, February 1914 IV. — WRATH First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, March 1914 V. — ENVY First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, April 1914 VI. — AVARICE First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, May 1914 VII. — SLOTH First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, June 1914 THE END FAQs Videos

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Marjorie Bowen

Crimes of Old London (1)

Based on a painting by John O'Connor (1830-1889)

First published by Odhams, London, 1919

This e-book edition: Project Gutenberg Australia, 2023

Crimes of Old London (2)

"Crimes of Old London,"
Title Page, Odhams, London, 1919


  • 1. The Scoured Silk
  • 2. The Extraordinary Adventure Of Mr. JohnProudie
  • 3. Heartsease
  • 4. The Housekeeper
  • 5. The Gilt Sedan Chair
  • 6. The Packet Of Comfits
  • 7. Brent's Folly
  • 8. A Quiet Woman

  • The Seven Deadly Sins
  • I. Pride
  • II. Gluttony
  • III. Luxury
  • IV. Wrath
  • V. Envy
  • VI. Avarice
  • VII. Sloth


First published in All-Story Weekly, 8 Jun 1918

Collected in:
Crimes of Old London, Odhams Ltd., London, 1919
Old Patch's Medley, Selwyn & Blount, London, 1930,
(as "The Orford Mystery")

Reprinted in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Aug 1951

Crimes of Old London (3)

All Story Weekly, 8 June 1918, with "The Scoured Silk"

THIS is a tale that might be told in many waysand from various points of view; it has to be gathered from hereand there—a letter, a report, a diary, a casual reference;in its day the thing was more than a passing wonder, and it lefta mark of abiding horror on the neighborhood.

The house in which Mr. Orford lived has finally beendestroyed, the mural tablet in St. Paul's, Covent Garden, may besought for in vain by the curious, but little remains of the oldpiazza where the quiet scholar passed on his daily walks, thevery records of what was once so real have become blurred, almostincoherent in their pleadings with things forgotten; but thisthing happened to real people, in a real London, not so long agothat the generation had not spoken with those who remembered someof the actors in this terrible drama.

It is round the person of Humphrey Orford that this taleturns, as, at the time, all the mystery and horror centered; yetuntil his personality was brought thus tragically into fame, hehad not been an object of much interest to many; he had, perhaps,a mild reputation for eccentricity, but this was founded merelyon the fact that he refused to partake of the amusements of hisneighbors, and showed a dislike for much company.

But this was excused on the ground of his scholarlypredilections; he was known to be translating, in a leisurelyfashion, as became a gentleman, Ariosto's great romance intoEnglish couplets, and to be writing essays on recondite subjectsconnected with grammar and language, which were not the lessesteemed because they had never been published.

His most authentic portrait, taken in 1733 and intended for afrontispiece for the Ariosto when this should come to print,shows a slender man with reddish hair, rather severely clubbed, abrown coat, and a muslin cravat; he looks straight out of thepicture, and the face is long, finely shaped, and refined, witheyebrows rather heavier than one would expect from such delicacyof feature.

When this picture was painted Mr. Orford was living nearCovent Garden, close to the mansion once occupied by the famousDr. Radcliffe, a straight-fronted, dark house of obviousgentility, with a little architrave portico over the door and afew steps leading up to it; a house with neat windows and agloomy air, like every other residence in that street and mostother streets of the same status in London.

And if there was nothing remarkable about Mr. Orford'sdwelling place or person there was nothing, as far as hisneighbors knew, remarkable about his history.

He came from a good Suffolk family, in which county he wasbelieved to have considerable estates (though it was a known factthat he never visited them), and he had no relations, being theonly child of an only child, and his parents dead; his father hadpurchased this town house in the reign of King William, when theneighborhood was very fashionable, and up to it he had come,twenty years ago—nor had he left it since.

He had brought with him an ailing wife, a house-keeper, and aman-servant, and to the few families of his acquaintance near,who waited on him, he explained that he wished to give young Mrs.Orford, who was of a mopish disposition, the diversion of a fewmonths in town.

But soon there was no longer this motive for remaining inLondon, for the wife, hardly seen by anyone, fell into a shortillness and died—just a few weeks after her husband hadbrought her up from Suffolk. She was buried very simply in St.Paul's, and the mural tablet set up with a draped urn in marble,and just her name and the date, ran thus:

Flora, Wife of Humphrey Orford, Esq.,
of this Parish,
Died November, 1713, Aged 27 Years.

Mr. Orford made no effort to leave the house; he remained,people thought, rather stunned by his loss, kept himself close inthe house, and for a considerable time wore deep mourning.

But this was twenty years ago, and all had forgotten theshadowy figure of the young wife, whom so few had seen and whomno one had known anything about or been interested in, and alltrace of her seemed to have passed out of the quiet, regular, andeasy life of Mr. Orford, when an event that gave rise to somegossip caused the one-time existence of Flora Orford to berecalled and discussed among the curious. This event was noneother than the sudden betrothal of Mr. Orford and theannouncement of his almost immediate marriage.

The bride was one who had been a prattling child when thegroom had first come to London: one old lady who was forever ather window watching the little humors of the street recollectedand related how she had seen Flora Orford, alighting from thecoach that had brought her from the country, turn to this child,who was gazing from the railing of the neighboring house, andtouch her bare curls lovingly and yet with a sad gesture.

And that was about the only time anyone ever did see FloraOrford, she so soon became ailing; and the next the inquisitiveold lady saw of her was the slender brown coffin being carriedthrough the dusk towards St. Paul's Church.

But that was twenty years ago, and here was the baby grown upinto Miss Elisa Minden, a very personable young woman, soon to bethe second Mrs. Humphrey Orford. Of course there was nothing veryremarkable about the match; Elisa's father, Dr. Minden, had beenMr. Orford's best friend (as far as he could be said to have abest friend, or indeed any friend at all) for many a long year,both belonged to the same quiet set, both knew all about eachother. Mr. Orford was not much above forty-five or so, anelegant, well-looking man, wealthy, with no vices and a calm,equable temper; while Miss Elisa, though pretty andwell-mannered, had an insufficient dowry, no mother to fend forher, and the younger sisters to share her slender advantages. Sowhat could anyone say save that the good doctor had done verywell for his daughter, and that Mr. Orford had been fortunateenough to secure such a fresh, capable maiden for his wife?

It was said that the scholar intended giving up his bookishways—that he even spoke of going abroad a while, to Italy,for preference; he was of course, anxious to see Italy, as allhis life had been devoted to preparing the translation of anItalian classic.

The quiet betrothal was nearing its decorous conclusion whenone day Mr. Orford took Miss Minden for a walk and brought herhome round the piazza of Covent Garden, then took her across thecobbled street, past the stalls banked up with the first springflowers (it was the end of March), under the portico built by thegreat Inigo Jones, and so into the church.

"I want to show you where my wife Flora lies buried," said Mr.Orford.

And that is really the beginning of the story.

Now, Miss Minden had been in this church every Sunday of herlife and many weekdays, and had been used since a child to seethat tablet to Flora Orford; but when she heard these words inthe quiet voice of her lover and felt him draw her out of thesunlight into the darkness of the church, she experienced a greatdistaste that was almost fear.

It seemed to her both a curious and a disagreeable thing forhim to do, and she slipped her arm out of his as she replied.

"Oh, please let us go home!" she said. "Father will be waitingfor us, and your good Mrs. Boyd vexed if the tea isover-brewed."

"But first I must show this," he insisted, and took her armagain and led her down the church, past his seat, until theystood between his pew end and the marble tablet in the wall whichwas just a hand's space above their heads.

"That is to her memory," said Mr. Orford. "And you see thereis nothing said as to her virtues."

Now, Elisa Minden knew absolutely nothing of her predecessor,and could not tell if these words were spoken in reverence orirony, so she said nothing but looked up rather timidly fromunder the shade of her Leghorn straw at the tall figure of herlover, who was staring sternly at the square of marble.

"And what have you to say to Flora Orford?" he asked sharply,looking down at her quickly.

"Why, sir, she was a stranger to me," replied Miss Minden. Mr.Orford pressed her arm.

"But to me she was a wife," he said. "She is buried under yourfeet. Quite close to where you are standing. Why, think of that,Lizzie, if she could stand up and put out her hand she couldcatch hold of your dress—she is as near as that!"

The words and his manner of saying them filled Miss Mindenwith shuddering terror, for she was a sensitive and fancifulgirl, and it seemed to her a dreadful thing to be thus standingover the bones of the poor creature who had loved the man who wasnow to be her husband, and horrible to think that the handful ofdecay so near them had once clung to this man and loved him.

"Do not tremble, my dear girl," said Mr. Orford. "She isdead."

Tears were in Elisa Minden's eyes, and she answeredcoldly:

"Sir, how can you speak so?"

"She was a wicked woman," he replied, "a very wickedwoman."

The girl could not reply as to that; this sudden disclosing ofa painful secret abashed her simple mind.

"Need we talk of this?" she asked; then, under herbreath—"Need we be married in this church, sir?"

"Of course," he answered shortly, "everything is arranged.Tomorrow week."

Miss Minden did not respond; hitherto she had been fond of thechurch, now it seemed spoilt for her—tarnished by thethought of Flora Orford.

Her companion seemed to divine what reflection lay behind hersilence.

"You need not be afraid," he said rather harshly. "She isdead. Dead."

And he reached out the light cane he wore and tapped on thestone above his wife's grave, and slowly smiled as the sound ranghollow in the vaults beneath.

Then he allowed Elisa to draw him away, and they returned toMr. Orford's comfortable house, where in the upper parlor Dr.Minden was awaiting them together with his sister and her son, asoldier cousin whom the quick perceptions of youthful friends hadbelieved to be devoted to Elisa Minden. They made a pleasantlittle party with the red curtains drawn, and the fire burning upbetween the polished andirons and all the service for tea laidout with scones and Naples cake, and Mrs. Boyd coming to and frowith plates and dishes. And everyone was cheerful and friendlyand glad to be indoors together, with a snowstorm coming up andpeople hurrying home with heads bent before a cutting wind.

But to Elisa's mind had come an unbidden thought:

"I do not like this house—it is where Flora Orforddied."

And she wondered in which room, and also why this had neveroccurred to her before, and glanced rather thoughtfully at thefresh young face of the soldier cousin as he stood by the fire inhis scarlet and white, with his glance on the flames.

But it was a cheerful party, and Elisa smiled and jested withthe rest as she reserved the dishes at tea.

There is a miniature of her painted about this time, and onemay see how she looked with her bright brown hair and brightbrown eyes, rosy complexion, pretty nose and mouth, and her bestgown of lavender blue tabinet with a lawn tucker and a lawn capfastened under the chin with frilled lappets, showing now the bigLeghorn hat with the velvet strings was put aside.

Mr. Orford also looked well tonight; he did not look his fullage in the ruddy candle glow, the grey did not show in hisabundant hair nor the lines in his fine face, but the elegance ofhis figure, the grace of his bearing, the richness of his simpleclothes, were displayed to full advantage; Captain Hoare lookedstiff and almost clumsy by contrast.

But now and then Elisa Minden's eyes would rest ratherwistfully on the fresh face of this young man who had no deadwife in his life. And something was roused in her meek youth andpassive innocence, and she wondered why she had so quietlyaccepted her father's arrangement of a marriage with this elderlyscholar, and why Philip Hoare had let her do it. Her thoughtswere quite vague and amounted to no more than a confused sensethat something was wrong, but she lost her satisfaction in thetea-drinking and the pleasant company, and the warm room with thedrawn curtains, and the bright fire, and rose up saying they mustbe returning, as there was a great store of mending she hadpromised to help her aunt with; but Mrs. Hoare would not help herout, but protested, laughing, that there was time enough forthat, and the good doctor, who was in a fine humor and in no moodto go out into the bleak streets even as far as his own door,declared that now was the time they must be shown over thehouse.

"Do you know, Humphrey," he said, "you have often promised usthis, but never done it, and, all the years that I have knownyou, I have never seen but this room and the dining-room below;and as to your own particular cabinet—"

"Well," said Mr. Orford, interrupting in a leisurely fashion,"no one has been in there, save Mrs. Boyd now and then, toannounce a visitor."

"Oh, you scholars!" smiled the doctor. "A secretivetribe—and a fortunate one; why, in my poor room I have hadthree girls running to and fro!"

The soldier spoke, not so pleasantly as his uncle.

"What have you so mysterious, sir, in this same cabinet, thatit must be so jealously guarded?" he asked.

"Why, nothing mysterious," smiled the scholar; "only my books,and papers, and pictures."

"You will show them to me?" asked Elisa Minden, and her lovergave graceful consent; there was further amiable talk, and thenthe whole party, guided by Mr. Orford holding a candle, made atour of the house and looked over the fine rooms.

Mrs. Hoare took occasion to whisper to the bride-to-be thatthere were many alterations needed before the place was ready fora lady's use, and that it was time these were put inhand—why, the wedding was less than a fortnight off!

And Elisa Minden, who had not had a mother to advise her inthese matters, suddenly felt that the house was dreary andold-fashioned, and an impossible place to live in; the very roomsthat had so pleased her good father—a set of apartments fora lady—were to her the most hateful in the house, for they,her lover told her, had been furnished and prepared for FloraOrford, twenty years ago.

She was telling herself that when she was married she must atonce go away and that the house must be altered before she couldreturn to it, when the party came crowding to the threshold ofthe library or private cabinet, and Mr. Orford, holding thecandle aloft, led them in. Then as this illumination was notsufficient, he went very quickly and lit the two candles on themantelpiece.

It was a pleasant apartment, lined with books from floor toceiling, old, valuable, and richly bound books, save only in thespace above the chimney piece, which was occupied by a portraitof a lady and the panel behind the desk; this was situated in astrange position, in the farthest corner of the room fronting thewall, so that anyone seated there would be facing the door withthe space of the room between; the desk was quite close to thewall, so that there was only just space for the chair at whichthe writer would sit, and to accommodate this there were nobookshelves behind it, but a smooth panel of wood on which hung asmall picture; this was a rough, dark painting, and represented aman hanging on a gallows on a wild heath; it was a subject out ofkeeping with the luxurious room with its air of ease andlearning, and while Mr. Orford was showing his first editions,his Elzevirs and Aldines, Elisa Minden was staring at this uglylittle picture.

As she looked she was conscious of such a chill of horror anddismay as nearly caused her to shriek aloud. The room seemed toher to be full of an atmosphere of terror and evil beyondexpression. Never had such a thing happened to her before; hervisit to the tomb in the afternoon had been as nothing to this.She moved away, barely able to disguise an open panic. As sheturned, she half-stumbled against a chair, caught at it, andnoticed, hanging over the back, a skirt of peach-colored silk.Elisa, not being mistress of herself, caught at this garment.

"Why, sir," cried she hysterically, "what is this?"

All turned to look at her; her tone, her obvious fright, wereout of proportion to her discovery.

"Why, child," said Mrs. Hoare, "it is a silk petticoat, as allcan see."

"A gift for you, my dear," said the cheerful doctor.

"A gift for me?" cried Elisa. "Why, this has been scoured, andturned, and mended, and patched a hundred times!"

And she held up the skirt, which had indeed become like tinderand seemed ready to drop to pieces.

The scholar now spoke.

"It belongs to Mrs. Boyd," he said quietly. "I suppose she hadbeen in here to clean up, and has left some of her mending."

Now, two things about this speech made a strange impression oneveryone; first, it was manifestly impossible that the goodhousekeeper would ever have owned such a garment as this, thatwas a lady's dress and such as would be worn for a ball;secondly, Mr. Orford had only a short while before declared thatMrs. Boyd only entered his room when he was in it, and then of anecessity and for a few minutes.

All had the same impression, that this was some garmentbelonging to his dead wife and as such cherished by him; all,that is, but Elisa, who had heard him call Flora Orford a wickedwoman.

She put the silk down quickly (there was a needle stickinginto it and a spool of cotton lying on the chair beneath) andlooked up at the portrait above the mantelpiece.

"Is that Mrs. Orford?" she asked.

He gave her a queer look.

"Yes," he said.

In a strange silence all glanced up at the picture.

It showed a young woman in a white gown, holding a crystalheart that hung round her neck; she had dark hair and a prettyface; as Elisa looked at the pointed fingers holding the prettytoy, she thought of the tablet in St. Paul's Church and Mr.Orford's words—"She is so near to you that if she couldstretch out her hand she could touch you," and without any remarkabout the portrait or the sitter, she advised her aunt that itwas time to go home. So the four of them left, and Mr. Orford sawthem out, standing framed in the warm light of the corridor andwatching them disappear into the grey darkness of the street.

It was a little more than an hour afterwards when Elisa Mindencame creeping down the stairway of her home and accosted hercousin, who was just leaving the house.

"Oh, Philip," said she, clasping her hands, "if your errand benot a very important one, I beg you to give me an hour of yourtime. I have been watching for you to go out, that I might followand speak to you privately."

The young soldier looked at her keenly as she stood in thelight of the hall lamp, and he saw that she was veryagitated.

"Of course, Lizzie," he answered kindly, and led her into thelittle parlor off the hall where there was neither candles orfire, but leisure and quiet to talk.

Elisa, being a housekeeper, found a lamp and lit it, andapologized for the cold, but she would not return upstairs, shesaid, for Mrs. Hoare and the two girls and the doctor were allquiet in the great parlor, and she had no mind to disturbthem.

"You are in trouble," said Captain Hoare quietly.

"Yes," replied she in a frightened way, "I want you to comewith me now to Mr. Orford's house—I want to speak to hishousekeeper."

"Why, what is this, Lizzie?"

She had no very good explanation; there was only the visit tothe church that afternoon, her impression of horror in thecabinet, the discovery of the scoured silk.

"But I must know something of his first wife, Philip," sheconcluded. "I could never go on with it—if I didnot—something has happened today—I hate that house, Ialmost hate—him."

"Why did you do it, Lizzie?" demanded the young soldiersternly. "This was a nice homecoming for me...a man who might beyour father...a who frightens you."

Miss Minden stared at her cousin; she did not know why she haddone it; the whole thing seemed suddenly impossible.

"Please, you must come with me now," she said.

So overwrought was she that he had no heart to refuse her, andthey took their warm cloaks from the hall and went out into thedark streets.

It was snowing now and the ground slippery under foot, andElisa clung to her cousin's arm. She did not want to see Mr.Orford or his house ever again, and by the time they reached thedoorstep she was in a tremble; but she rang the bell boldly.

It was Mrs. Boyd herself who came to the door; she beganexplaining that the master was shut up in his cabinet, but thesoldier cut her short.

"Miss Minden wishes to see you," he said, "and I will wait inthe hall till she is ready."

So Elisa followed the housekeeper down to her basementsitting-room; the man-servant was out, and the two maids werequickly dismissed to the kitchen.

Mrs. Boyd, a placid soul, near seventy-years, waited for theyoung lady to explain herself, and Elisa Minden, flushing andpaling by turns, and feeling foolish and timid, put forth theobject of her coming.

She wanted to hear the story of Flora Orford—there wasno one else whom she could ask—and she thought that she hada right to know.

"And I suppose you have, my dear," said Mrs. Boyd, gazing intothe fire, "though it is not a pretty story for you tohear—and I never thought I should be telling it to Mr.Orford's second wife!"

"Not his wife yet." said Miss Minden.

"There, there, you had better ask the master yourself,"replied Mrs. Boyd placidly; "not but that he would be fierce atyour speaking of it, for I do not think a mention of it haspassed his lips, and it's twenty years ago and best forgotten, mydear."

"Tell it me and then I will forget," begged Miss Minden.

So then Mrs. Boyd, who was a quiet, harmless soul with nodislike to telling a tale (though no gossip, as events hadproved, she having kept her tongue still on this matter for solong), told her story of Humphrey Orford's wife; it was told invery few words.

"She was the daughter of his gamekeeper, my dear, and hemarried her out of hand, just for her pretty face. But they werenot very happy together that I could ever see; she was afraid ofhim and that made her cringe, and he hated that, and she shamedhim with her ignorant ways. And then one day he found her with alover, saving your presence, mistress, one of her own people,just a common man. And he was just like a creature possessed; heshut up the house and sent away all the servants but me, andbrought his lady up to town, to this house here. And what passedbetween her and him no one will know, but she ever looked likeone dying of terror. And then the doctor began to come, Dr.Thursby, it was, that is dead now, and then she died, and no onewas able to see her even she was in her coffin, nor to send aflower. 'Tis likely she died of grief, poor, fond wretch. But, ofcourse, she was a wicked woman, and there was nothing to do butpity the master."

And this was the story of Flora Orford.

"And the man?" asked Miss Minden, after a little.

"The man she loved, my dear? Well, Mr. Orford had him arrestedas a thief for breaking into his house, he was wild, that fellow,with not the best of characters—well, he would not say whyhe was in the house, and Mr. Orford, being a Justice of thePeace, had some power, so he was just condemned as a commonthief. And there are few to this day know the truth of the tale,for he kept his counsel to the last, and no one knew from him whyhe had been found in the Squire's house."

"What was his end?" asked Miss Minden in a still voice.

"Well, he was hanged," said Mrs. Boyd; "being caughtred-handed, what could he hope for?"

"Then that is a picture of him in the cabinet!" cried Elisa,shivering for all the great fire; then she added desperately,"Tell me, did Flora Orford die in that cabinet?"

"Oh, no, my dear, but in a great room at the back of the housethat has been shut up ever since."

"But the cabinet is horrible," said Elisa; "perhaps it is herportrait and that picture."

"I have hardly been in there," admitted Mrs. Boyd, "but themaster lives there—he has always had his supper there, andhe talks to that portrait my dear—'Flora, Flora' he says,'how are you tonight?' and then he imitates her voice,answering."

Elisa Minden clapped her hand to her heart.

"Do not tell me these things or I shall think that you arehateful too, to have stayed in this dreadful house and enduredthem!" Mrs. Boyd was surprised.

"Now, my dear, do not be put out," she protested.

"They were wicked people both of them and got their deserts,and it is an old story best forgotten; and as for the master, hehas been just a good creature ever since we have been here, andhe will not go talking to any picture when he has a sweet youngwife to keep him company."

But Elisa Minden had risen and had her fingers on the handleof the door.

"One thing more," said she breathlessly; "that scouredsilk—of a peach color—"

"Why, has he got that still? Mrs. Orford wore it the night hefound her with her sweetheart. I mind I was with her when shebought it—fine silk at forty shillings the yard. If I wereyou, my dear, I should burn that when I was mistress here."

But Miss Minden had run upstairs to the cold hall.

Her cousin was not there; she heard angry voices overhead andsaw the two maid-servants affrighted on the stairs; a disturbancewas unknown in this household.

While Elisa stood bewildered, a door banged, and Captain Hoarecame down red in the face and fuming; he caught his cousin's armand hurried her out of the house.

In an angry voice he told her of the unwarrantable behavior ofMr. Orford, who had found him in the hall and called him"intruder" and "spy" without waiting for an explanation; thesoldier had followed the scholar up to his cabinet and there hadbeen an angry scene about nothing at all, as Captain Hoaresaid.

"Oh, Philip," broke out poor Elisa as they hastened throughthe cold darkness, "I can never, never marry him!"

And she told him the story of Flora Orford. The young manpressed her arm through the heavy cloak.

"And how came such a one to entangle thee?" he asked tenderly."Nay, thou shalt not marry him."

They spoke no more, but Elisa, happy in the protecting andwholesome presence of her kinsman, sobbed with a sense of reliefand gratitude. When they reached home they found they had beenmissed and there had to be explanations; Elisa said there wassomething that she had wished to say to Mrs. Boyd, and Philiptold of Mr. Orford's rudeness and the quarrel that hadfollowed.

The two elder people were disturbed and considered Elisa'sbehavior strange, but her manifest agitation caused them toforbear pressing her for an explanation; nor was it any useaddressing themselves to Philip, for he went out to his delayedmeeting with companions at a coffee-house.

That night Elisa Minden went to bed feeling more emotion thanshe had ever done in her life; fear and disgust of the man whomhitherto she had placidly regarded as her future husband, and ayearning for the kindly presence of her childhood's companionunited in the resolute words she whispered into her pillow duringthat bitter night.

"I can never marry him now!"

The next day it snowed heavily, yet a strange elation was inElisa's heart as she descended to the warm parlor, bright fromthe fire and light from the glow of the snow without.

She was going to tell her father that she could not carry outher engagement with Mr. Orford, and that she did not want ever togo into his house again.

They were all gathered round the breakfast-table when CaptainHoare came in late (he had been out to get a newsletter) andbrought the news that was the most unlooked for they couldconceive, and that was soon to startle all London.

Mr. Orford had been found murdered in his cabinet.

These tidings, though broken as carefully as possible, threwthe little household into the deepest consternation andagitation; there were shrieks, and cryings, and running to andfro.

Only Miss Minden, though of a ghastly color, made no especialdisplay of grief; she was thinking of Flora Orford.

When the doctor could get away from his agitated womenkind, hewent with his nephew to the house of Mr. Orford.

The story of the murder was a mystery. The scholar had beenfound in his chair in front of his desk with one of his ownbread-knives sticking through his shoulders; and there wasnothing to throw any light as to how or through whom he had methis death.

The story, sifted from the mazed incoherency of Mrs. Boyd, thehysterics of the maids, the commentaries of the constables, andthe chatter of the neighbors, ran thus:

At half-past nine the night before, Mrs. Boyd had sent one ofthe maids up with her master's supper; it was his whim to have italways thus, served on a tray in the cabinet. There had been wineand meat, bread and cheese, fruit and cakes—the usualplates and silver—among these the knife that had killed Mr.Orford.

When the servant left, the scholar had followed her to thedoor and locked it after her; this was also a common practice ofhis, a precaution against any possible interruption, for, hesaid, he did the best part of his work in the evening.

It was found next morning that his bed had not been slept in,and that the library door was still locked; as the alarmed Mrs.Boyd could get no answer to her knocks, the man-servant had sentfor someone to force the lock, and Humphrey Orford had been foundin his chair, leaning forward over his papers with the knifethrust up to the hilt between his shoulders; he must have diedinstantly, for there was no sign of any struggle, nor anydisarrangement of his person or his papers. The first doctor tosee him, a passer-by, attracted by the commotion about the house,said he must have been dead some hours—probably since thenight before; the candles had all burnt down to the socket, andthere were spillings of grease on the desk; the supper tray stoodat the other end of the room, most of the food had been eaten,most of the wine drunk, the articles were all there in orderexcepting only the knife sticking between Mr. Orford'sshoulder-blades.

When Captain Hoare had passed the house on his return frombuying the newsletter he had seen the crowd and gone in and beenable to say that he had been the last person to see the murderedman alive, as he had had his sharp encounter with Mr. Orfordabout ten o'clock, and he remembered seeing the supper things inthe room. The scholar had heard him below, unlocked the door, andcalled out such impatient resentment of his presence that Philiphad come angrily up the stairs and followed him into the cabinet;a few angry words had passed, when Mr. Orford had practicallypushed his visitor out, locking the door in his face and biddinghim take Miss Minden home.

This threw no light at all on the murder; it only went toprove that at ten o'clock Mr. Orford had been alive in hiscabinet.

Now here was the mystery; in the morning the door was stilllocked, on the inside, the window was, as it had been since earlyevening, shuttered and fastened across with an iron bar, on theinside, and, the room being on an upper floor, access would havebeen in any case almost impossible by the window which gave on tothe smooth brickwork of the front of the house.

Neither was there any possible place in the room where anyonemight be hidden—it was just the square lined with theshallow bookshelves, the two pictures (that sombre little onelooking strange now above the bent back of the dead man), thedesk, one or two chairs and side tables; there was not so much asa cupboard or bureau—not a hiding-place for a cat.

How, then, had the murderer entered and left the room?

Suicide, of course, was out of the question, owing to thenature of the wound—but murder seemed equally out of thequestion; Mr. Orford sat so close to the wall that the handle ofthe knife touched the panel behind him. For anyone to have stoodbetween him and the wall would have been impossible; behind theback of his chair was not space enough to push awalking-stick.

How, then, had the blow been delivered with such deadlyprecision and force?

Not by anyone standing in front of Mr. Orford, first becausehe must have seen him and sprung up; and secondly, because, evenhad he been asleep with his head down, no one, not even a verytall man, could have leaned over the top of the desk and drivenin the knife, for experiment was made, and it was found that noarm could possibly reach such a distance.

The only theory that remained was that Mr. Orford had beenmurdered in some other part of the room and afterwards dragged tohis present position.

But this seemed more than unlikely, as it would have meantmoving the desk, a heavy piece of furniture that did not look asif it had been touched, and also became there was a paper underthe dead man's hand, a pen in his fingers, a splutter of inkwhere it had fallen, and a sentence unfinished. The thingremained a complete and horrid mystery, one that seized theimagination of men; the thing was the talk of all thecoffee-houses and clubs.

The murder seemed absolutely motiveless, the dead man was notknown to have an enemy in the world, yet robbery was out of thequestion, for nothing had been even touched.

The early tragedy was opened out. Mrs. Boyd told all she knew,which was just what she had told Elisa Minden—the affairwas twenty years ago, and the gallows bird had no kith or kinleft.

Elisa Minden fell into a desperate state of agitation, a swiftchange from her first stricken calm; she wanted Mr. Orford'shouse pulled down—the library and all its contents burnt;her own wedding-dress did she burn, in frenzied silence, and nonedare stop her; she resisted her father's entreaties that sheshould go away directly after the inquest; she would stay on thespot, she said, until the mystery was solved.

Nothing would content her but a visit to Mr. Orford's cabinet;she was resolved, she said wildly, to come to the bottom of thismystery and in that room, which she had entered once and whichhad affected her so terribly, she believed she might find someclue.

The doctor thought it best to allow her to go; he and hercousin escorted her to the house that now no one passed without ashudder and into the chamber that all dreaded to enter.

Good Mrs. Boyd was sobbing behind them; the poor soul wasquite mated with this sudden and ghastly ending to her orderlylife; she spoke all incoherently, explaining, excusing, andlamenting in a breath; yet through all her trouble she showedplainly and artlessly that she had had no affection for hermaster, and that it was custom and habit that had been wounded,not love.

Indeed, it seemed that there was no one who did love HumphreyOrford; the lawyers were already busy looking for a next-of-kin;it seemed likely that this property and the estates in Suffolkwould go into Chancery.

"You should not go in, my dear, you should not go in," sobbedthe old woman, catching at Miss Minden's black gown (she was inmourning for the murdered man) and yet peering with a fearfulcuriosity into the cabinet.

Elisa looked ill and distraught but also resolute.

"Tell me, Mrs. Boyd," said she, pausing on the threshold,"what became of the scoured silk?"

The startled housekeeper protested that she had never seen itagain; and here was another touch of mystery—the oldpeach-colored silk skirt that four persons had observed in Mr.Orford's cabinet the night of his murder, had completelydisappeared.

"He must have burnt it," said Captain Hoare, and though itseemed unlikely that he could have consumed so many yards ofstuff without leaving traces in the grate, still it was the onlypossible solution.

"I cannot think why he kept it so long," murmured Mrs. Boyd,"for it could have been no other than Mrs. Orford's bestgown."

"A ghastly relic," remarked the young soldier grimly.

Elisa Minden went into the middle of the room and stared abouther; nothing in the place was changed, nothing disordered; thedesk had been moved round to allow of the scholar being carriedaway, his chair stood back, so that the long panel on which hungthe picture of the gallows, was fuller exposed to view.

To Elisa's agitated imagination this portion of the wall sunkin the surrounding bookshelves, long and narrow, looked like thelid of a coffin.

"It is time that picture came down," she said; "it cannotinterest anyone any longer."

"Lizzie, dear," suggested her father gently, "had you notbetter come away?—this is a sad and awful place."

"No," replied she. "I must find out about it—we mustknow."

And she turned about and stared at the portrait of FloraOrford.

"He hated her, Mrs. Boyd, did he not? And she must have diedof fear—think of that!—died of fear, thinking all thewhile of that poor body on the gallows. He was a wicked man andwhoever killed him must have done it to revenge FloraOrford."

"My dear," said the doctor hastily, "all that was twenty yearsago, and the man was quite justified in what he did, though Icannot say I should have been so pleased with the match if I hadknown this story."

"How did we ever like him?" muttered Elisa Minden. "If I hadentered this room before I should never have been promised tohim—there is something terrible in it."

"And what else can you look for, my dear," snivelled Mrs.Boyd, "in a room where a man has been murdered."

"But it was like this before," replied Miss Minden; "itfrightened me."

She looked round at her father and cousin, and her face quitedistorted.

"There is something here now," she said, "something in thisroom."

They hastened towards her, thinking that her over-strainednerves had given way; but she took a step forward.

Shriek after shriek left her lips.

With a quivering finger she pointed before her at the longpanel behind the desk.

At first they could not tell at what she pointed; then CaptainHoare saw the cause of her desperate terror.

It was a small portion of faded, peach-colored silk showingabove the ribbed line of the wainscot, protruding from the wall,like a garment of stuff shut in a door.

"She is in there!" cried Miss Minden. "In there!"

A certain frenzy fell on all of them; they were in aconfusion, hardly knowing what they said or did. Only CaptainHoare kept some presence of mind and, going up to the panel,discerned a fine crack all round.

"I believe it is a door," he said, "and that explains how themurderer must have struck—from the wall."

He lifted the picture of the hanged man and found a small knobor button, which, as he expected, on being pressed sent the panelback into the wall, disclosing a secret chamber no larger than acupboard.

And directly inside this hidden room that was dark to thesight and noisome to the nostrils, was the body of a woman,leaning against the inner wall with a white kerchief knottedtightly round her throat, showing how she had died; she wore thescoured silk skirt, the end of which had been shut in the panel,and an old ragged bodice of linen that was like a dirtyparchment; her hair was grey and scanty, her face past anylikeness to humanity, her body thin and dry.

The room, which was lit only by a window a few inches squarelooking onto the garden, was furnished with a filthy bed of ragsand a stool with a few tattered clothes; a basket of broken bitswas on the floor.

Elisa Minden crept closer.

"It is Flora Orford," she said, speaking like one in adream.

They brought the poor body down into the room, and then it wasclear that this faded and terrible creature had a likeness to thepictured girl who smiled from the canvas over themantelpiece.

And another thing was clear and, for a moment, they did notdare speak to each other.

For twenty years this woman had endured her punishment in thewall chamber in that library that no one but her husband entered;for twenty years he had kept her there, behind the picture of herlover, feeding her on scraps, letting her out only when thehousehold was abed, amusing himself with her torture—shemending the scoured silk she had worn for twenty years, sittingthere, cramped in the almost complete dark, a few feet from wherehe wrote his elegant poetry.

"Of course she was crazy," said Captain Hoare at length, "butwhy did she never cry out?"

"For a good reason," whispered Dr. Minden, when he had signedto Mrs. Boyd to take his fainting daughter away. "He saw tothat—she has got no tongue."

The coffin bearing the nameplate "Flora Orford" wasexhumed, and found to contain only lead; it was substituted byanother containing the wasted body of a woman who died by her ownhand twenty years after the date on the mural tablet to hermemory.

Why or how this creature, certainly become idiotic anddominated entirely by the man who kept her prisoner, had suddenlyfound the resolution and skill to slay her tyrant and afterwardstake her own life (a thing she might have done any time before)was a question never solved.

It was supposed that he had formed the hideous scheme tocomplete his revenge by leaving her in the wall to die ofstarvation while he left with his new bride for abroad, and thatshe knew this and had forestalled him; or else that her poor,lunatic brain had been roused by the sound of a woman's voice asshe handled the scoured silk which the captive was allowed tocreep out and mend when the library door was locked. But overthese matters and the details of her twenty years' suffering, itis but decent to be silent.

Lizzie Minden married her cousin, but not at St. Paul's,Covent Garden. Nor did they ever return to the neighborhood ofHumphrey Orford's house.


Also published in The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories, Valancourt Books, 1949

MR. JOHN PROUDIE kept a chemist's shop in SohoFields, Monmouth Square; it was a very famous shop, situated atthe corner, so that there were two fine windows of leaded glass,one looking on Dean Street and one on the Square, and at thecorner the door, with a wooden portico by which two stepsdescended into the shop.

A wooden counter, polished and old, ran round this shop, andwas bare of everything save a pair of gleaming brass scales;behind, the walls were covered from floor to ceiling by shelveswhich held jars of Delft pottery, blue and white, and Italianmajolica, red and yellow, on which were painted the names of thevarious drugs; in the centre the shelves were broken by a doorthat led into an inner room.

On a certain night in November when the shop was shut, the oldhousekeeper abed, and the fire burning brightly in the parlour,Mr John Proudie was busy in his little laboratory compoundingsome medicines, in particular a mixture of the milky juice ofblue flag root and pepper which he had found very popular forindigestion.

He was beginning to feel cold, and, not being a young man (atthis time, the year 1690, Mr Proudie was nearly sixty), a littletired, and to think with pleasure of his easy chair, his hotdrink of mulled wine on the hearth, his Gazette with itsexciting news of the war and the Commons and the plots, when aloud peal at the bell caused him to drop the strainer he washolding—not that it was so unusual for Mr Proudie's bell toring after dark, but his thoughts had been full of these sametroubles of plots and counter-plots of the late Revolution, andthe house seemed very lonely and quiet.

'Fine times,' thought Mr Proudie indignantly, 'when an honesttradesman feels uneasy in his own home!'

The bell went again, impatiently, and the apothecary wiped hishands, took up a candle, and went through to the dark shop. As hepassed through the parlour he glanced up at the clock and wassurprised to see that it was nearly midnight. He set the candlein its great pewter stick on the counter, whence the light threwglistening reflections on the rows of jars and their riches, andopened the door. A gust of wind blew thin cold sleet across the,polished floor, and the apothecary shivered as he cried out: 'Whois there?'

Without replying a tall gentleman stepped down into the shop,closing the door behind him.

'Well, sir?' asked Mr Proudie a little sharply.

'I want a doctor,' said the stranger, 'at once.'

He glanced round the shop impatiently, taking no more noticeof Mr Proudie than if he had been a servant.

'And why did you come here for a doctor?' demanded theapothecary, not liking his manner and hurt at the insinuationthat his own professional services were not good enough.

'I was told,' replied the stranger, speaking in tolerableEnglish, but with a marked foreign accent, 'that a doctor lodgedover your shop.'

'So he does,' admitted Mr Proudie grudgingly; 'but he isabed.'

The stranger approached the counter and leant against it inthe attitude of a man exhausted; the candlelight was now full onhim, but revealed nothing of his features, for he wore a blackmask such as was used for travelling on doubtful rendezvous; ablack lace fringe concealed the lower part of his face.

Mr Proudie did not like this; he scented mystery and underhandintrigue, and he stared at the stranger very doubtfully.

He was a tall, graceful man, certainly young, wrapped in adark blue mantle lined with fur and wearing riding gloves and topboots; the skirts of a blue velvet coat showed where the mantlewas drawn up by. his sword, and there was a great deal of finelace and a diamond brooch at his throat.

'Well,' he said impatiently, and his black eyes flashedthrough the mask holes, 'how long are you going to keep mewaiting? I want Dr Valletort at once.'

'Oh, you know his name?'

'Yes, I was told his name. Now, for God's sake, sir, fetchhim—tell him it is a woman who requires his services!'

Mr Proudie turned reluctantly away and picked up the candle,leaving the gentleman in the dark, mounted the stairs to the tworooms above the shop, and roused his lodger.

'You are wanted, Dr Valletort,' he said through the door;'there is a man downstairs come to fetch you to a lady—abitter night and he a foreign creature in a mask,' finished theold apothecary in a grumble.

Dr Francis Valletort at once opened the door; he was not inbed, but had been reading by the light of a small lamp. Tall andelegant, with the pallor of a scholar and the grace of agentleman, the young doctor stood as if startled, holding hisopen book in his hand.

'Do not go,' said Mr Proudie on a sudden impulse; 'these aretroubled times and it is a bitter night to be abroad.'

The doctor smiled.

'I cannot afford to decline patients, MrProudie—remember how much I am in your debt for food andlodging,' he added with some bitterness.

'Tut, tut!' replied Mr Proudie, who had a real affection forthe young man. 'But no doubt I am an old fool—come down andsee this fellow.'

The doctor took up his shabby hat and cloak and followed theapothecary down into the parlour and from there into theshop.

'I hope you are ready,' said the voice of the stranger fromthe dark; 'the patient may be dead through this delay.'

Mr Proudie again placed the candle on the counter; the redflame of it illuminated the tall, dark figure of the stranger andthe shabby figure of the doctor against the background of thedark shop and the jars—labelled 'Gum Camphor', 'MandrakeRoot', 'Dogwood Bark', 'Blue Vervain', 'Tansy', 'Hemlock', andmany other drugs, written in blue and red lettering under theglazing.

'Where am I to go and what is the case?' asked FrancisValletort, eyeing the stranger intently.

'Sir, I will tell you all these questions on the way; thematter is urgent.'

'What must I take with me?'

The stranger hesitated.

'First, Dr Valletort,' he said, 'are you skilled in theItalian?'

The young doctor looked at the stranger very steadily. 'Istudied medicine at the University of Padua,' he replied.

'Ah! Well, then, you will be able to talk to the patient, anItalian lady who speaks no English. Bring your instruments andsome antidotes for poisoning, and make haste.'

The doctor caught the apothecary by the arm and drew him intothe parlour. He appeared in considerable agitation.

'Get me my sword and pistols,' he said swiftly, 'while Iprepare my case.'

He spoke in a whisper, for the door was open behind them intothe shop, and the apothecary, alarmed by his pale look, answeredin the same fashion: 'Why are you going? Do you know thisman?'

'I cannot tell if I know him or not—what shall I do? Godhelp me!'

He spoke in such a tone of despair and looked so white and illthat Mr Proudie pushed him into a chair by the fire and bade himdrink some of the wine that was warming.

'You will not go out tonight,' he said firmly.

'No,' replied the doctor, wiping the damp from his brow, 'Icannot go.'

John Proudie returned to the shop to take this message to thestranger, who, on hearing it, broke into a passionate ejaculationin a foreign language, then thrust his hand into his coatpocket.

'Take this to Francis Valletort,' he answered, 'and then seeif he will come.'

He flung on the counter, between the scales and candle, a ringof white enamel, curiously set with alternate pearls and diamondsvery close together, and having suspended from it a fine chainfrom which hung a large and pure pearl.

Before the apothecary could reply Francis Valletort, who hadheard the stranger's words, came from the parlour and snatched atthe ring. While he was holding it under the candle flame andgazing at the whiteness of diamond, pearl, and enamel, the maskedman repeated his words.

'Now will you come?'

The doctor straightened his thin shoulders, his hollow facewas flushed into a strange beauty.

'I will come,' he said; he pushed back the brown locks thathad slipped from the black ribbon on to his cheek and turned topick up his hat and cloak, while he asked Mr Proudie to go up tohis room and fetch his case of instruments.

The apothecary obeyed; there was something in the manner ofFrancis Valletort that told him that he was now as resolute inundertaking this errand as hitherto he had been anxious to avoidit; but he did not care for the adventure. When the stranger hadthrust his hand into his pocket to find the ring that hadproduced such an effect on the doctor, Mr Proudie had noticedsomething that he considered very unpleasant. The soft doeskinglove had fallen back, caught in the folds of the heavy mantle asthe hand was withdrawn, and Mr Proudie had observed a black wristthrough the lace ruffles: the masked cavalier was a negro. MrProudie had seen few coloured men and regarded them withsuspicion and aversion; and what seemed to him so strange wasthat what he styled a 'blackamoor' should be thus habited infashionable vestures and speaking with an air of authority.

However, evidently Francis Valletort knew the man or at leasthis errand—doubtless from some days of student adventure inItaly; and the apothecary did not feel called upon to interfere.He returned with the case of instruments to find the stranger andthe doctor both gone, the parlour and the shop both empty, andthe candle on the counter guttering furiously in the fiercedraught from the half-open door.

Mr Proudie was angry; there had been no need to slip away likethat, sending him away by a trick, and still further no need toleave the door open at the mercy of any passing vagabond.

The apothecary went and peered up and down the street; all waswet darkness; a north wind flung the stinging rain in his face; adistant street lamp cast a fluttering flame but no light on theblackness.

Mr Proudie closed the door with a shudder and went back to hisfire and his Gazette.

'Let him,' he said to himself, still vexed, 'go on his fool'serrand.'

He knew very little of Francis Valletort, whose acquaintancehe had made a year ago when the young doctor had come to him tobuy drugs. The apothecary had found his customer earnest,intelligent, and learned, and a friendship had sprung up betweenthe two men which had ended in the doctor renting the two roomsabove the shop, and, under the wing of the apothecary, picking upwhat he could of the crumbs let fall by the fashionablephysicians of this fashionable neighbourhood.

'I hope he will get his fee tonight,' thought Mr Proudie, ashe stirred the fire into a blaze; then, to satisfy his curiosityas to whether this were really a medical case or only an excuse,he went to the dispensary to see if the doctor had taken anydrugs. He soon discovered that two bottles, one containing anantidote against arsenic poisoning, composed of oxide of iron andflax seed, the other a mixture for use against lead poisoning,containing oak bark and green tea, were missing.

'So there was someone ill?' cried Mr Proudie aloud,and at that moment the door bell rang again.

'He is soon back,' thought the apothecary, and hastened toundo the door; 'perhaps he was really hurried away and forgot hiscase.' He opened the door with some curiosity, being eager toquestion the doctor, but it was another stranger who stumbleddown the two steps into the dark shop—a woman, whose headwas wrapped in a cloudy black shawl.

The wind had blown out the candle on the counter and the shopwas only lit by the illumination, faint and dull, from theparlour; therefore, Mr Proudie could not see his second visitorclearly, but only sufficiently to observe that she was richlydressed and young; the door blew open, and wind and rain wereover both of them; Mr Proudie had to clap his hand to his wig tokeep it on his head.

'Heaven help us!' he exclaimed querulously. 'What do you want,madam?'

For answer she clasped his free hand with fingers so chillthat they struck a shudder to the apothecary's heart, and brokeout into a torrent of words in what was to Mr Proudie anincomprehensible language; she was obviously in the wildestdistress and grief, and perceiving that the apothecary did notunderstand her, she flung herself on her knees, wringing herhands and uttering exclamations of despair.

The disturbed Mr Proudie closed the door and drew the ladyinto the parlour; she continued to speak, rapidly and with manygestures, but all he could distinguish was the name of FrancisValletort.

She was a pretty creature, fair and slight, with braids ofseed pearls in her blonde hair showing through the dark net ofher lace shawl, an apple-green silk gown embroidered withmultitudes of tiny roses, and over all a black Venetian velvetmantle; long corals were in her ears, and a chain of amber roundher throat; her piteously gesticulating hands were weighted withlarge and strange rings.

'If you cannot speak English, madam,' said Mr Proudie, who wassorry for her distress, but disliked her for her outlandishappearance and because he associated her with the blackamoor, 'Iam afraid I cannot help you.'

While he spoke she searched his face with eager haggard browneyes, and when he finished she sadly shook her head to show thatshe did not understand. She glanced round the homely roomimpatiently, then, with a little cry of despair and almoststumbling in her long silken skirts, which she was too absorbedin her secret passion to gather up, she turned back into theshop, making a gesture that Mr Proudie took to mean she wished toleave. The apothecary was not ill-pleased at this; since theycould not understand each other her presence was but anembarrassment. He would have liked to have asked her to wait thedoctor's return, but saw that she understood no word of English;he thought it was Italian she spoke, but he could not be evensure of that.

As swiftly as she had come she had gone, unbolting the doorherself and disappearing into the dark; as far as Mr Proudiecould see, she had neither chair nor coach; in which case shemust have come from nearby, for there was but little wet on herclothes.

Once more the apothecary returned to his fire, noticing thefaint perfume of iris the lady had left on the air to mingle withthe odours of Peruvian bark and camomile, rosemary and saffron,beeswax and turpentine, myrrh and cinnamon that rendered heavythe air of the chemist's shop.

'Well, she knows her own business, I have no doubt,' thoughtMr Proudie, 'and as I cannot help her I had better stay quietlyhere till Francis Valletort returns and elucidates themystery.'

But he found that he could not fix his thoughts on theGazette, nor, indeed, on anything whatever but themysterious events of the evening.

He took up an old book of medicine and passed over the pages,trying to interest himself in old prescriptions of blood root,mandrake and valerian, gentian, flax seed and hyssop, alum, pokeroot and black cherry, which he knew by heart, and which did notnow distract him at all from the thought of the woman in her richforeign finery, her distress and distraction, who had come soswiftly out of the night.

Now she had gone, uneasiness assailed him—where had shedisappeared? Was she safe? Ought he not forcibly to have kept hertill the return of Francis Valletort, who spoke both French andItalian? Certainly he had been the cause of the lady's visit; shehad said, again and again, 'Valletort—Francis Valletort.'The apothecary drank his spiced wine, trimmed and snuffed hiscandles, warmed his feet on the hearth and his hands over theblaze, and listened for the bell that should tell of the doctor'sreturn.

He began to get sleepy, almost dozed off in his chair, and wasbecoming angry with these adventures that kept him out of his bedwhen the bell rang a third time, and he sat up with that startthat a bell rung suddenly in the silence of the night never failsto give.

'Of course it will be Francis Valletort back again,' he said,rising and taking up the candle that had now nearly burnt down tothe socket; it was half an hour since the doctor had left thehouse.

Once again the apothecary opened the door on to the wet, windynight; the candle was blown out in his hand.

'You—must come,' said a woman's voice out of thedarkness; he could just distinguish the figure of his formervisitor, standing in the doorway and looking down on him; shespoke the three English words with care and difficulty, and withsuch a foreign accent that the apothecary stared stupidly, notunderstanding, at which she broke out into her foreignejaculations, caught at his coat, and dragged at himpassionately.

Mr Proudie, quite bewildered, stepped into the street, andstood there hatless and cloakless, the candlestick in hishand.

'If you could only explain yourself, madam!' he exclaimed indespair.

While he was protesting she drew the door to behind him and,seizing his arm, hurried along down Dean Street.

Mr Proudie did not wish to refuse to accompany her, but theadventure was not pleasing to him; he shivered in the night airand felt apprehensive of the darkness; he wished he had had timeto bring his hat and cloak.

'Madam,' he said, as he hurried along, 'unless you havesomeone who can speak English, I fear I shall be no good at all,whatever your plight.'

She made no answer; he could hear her teeth chattering andfeel her shivering; now and then she stumbled over the roughstones of the roadway. They had not gone far up the street whenshe stopped at the door of one of the mansions and pushed itgently open, guiding Mr Proudie into a hall in absolute silenceand darkness. Mr Proudie thought that he knew all the houses inDean Street, but he could not place this; the darkness hadcompletely confused him.

The lady opened another door and pushed Mr Proudie into achamber where a faint light burned.

The room was unfurnished, covered with dust and in disrepair;only in front of the shuttered windows hung long, dark blue silkcurtains. Against the wall was hung a silver lamp of beautifulworkmanship, which gave a gloomy glow over the desolatechamber.

The apothecary was about to speak when the lady, who had beenstanding in an attitude of listening, suddenly put her hand overhis mouth and pushed him desperately behind the curtains. MrProudie would have protested, not liking this false position, butthere was no mistaking the terrified entreaty in the foreignwoman's blanched face, and the apothecary, altogether unnerved,suffered himself to be concealed behind the flowing folds of thevoluminous curtains that showed so strangely in the unfurnishedroom.

A firm step sounded outside and Mr Proudie, venturing in theshadow to peer from behind the curtain, saw his first visitor ofthe evening enter the room. He was now without mask, hat, or wig,and his appearance caused Mr Proudie an inward shudder.

Tall and superb in carriage, graceful, and richly dressed, theface and head were those of a full-blooded negro; his rollingeyes, his twitching lips, and an extraordinary pallor thatrendered greenish his dusky skin showed him to be in some fiercepassion. His powerful black hands grasped a martingale of elegantleather, ornamented with silver studs.

With a fierce gesture he pointed to the lady's draggled skirtsand wet shawl, and in the foreign language that she had usedquestioned her with a flood of invective—or such it seemedto the terrified ears of Mr Proudie.

She seemed to plead, weep, lament, and defy all at once,sweeping up and down the room and wringing her hands, and now andthen, it seemed, calling on God and his saints to help her, forshe cast up her eyes and pressed her palms together. To theamazed apothecary, to whom nothing exciting had ever happenedbefore, this was like a scene in a stage play; the two brilliant,fantastic figures, the negro and the fair woman, going throughthis scene of incomprehensible passion in the empty room, litonly by the solitary lamp.

Mr Proudie hoped that there might be no violence in which hewould be called upon to interfere on behalf of the lady: neitherhis age nor his strength would give him any chance with theterrible blackamoor—he was, moreover, totally unarmed.

His anxieties on this score were ended; the drama beingenacted before his horrified yet fascinated gaze was suddenly cutshort. The negro seized the lady by the wrist and dragged herfrom the room.

Complete silence fell; the shivering apothecary was staininghis ears for some sound, perhaps some call for help, some shriekor cry.

But nothing broke the stillness of the mansion, and presentlyMr Proudie ventured forth from his hiding-place.

He left the room and proceeded cautiously to the foot of thestairs. Such utter silence prevailed that he began to think hewas alone in the house and that anyhow he might nowreturn—the front door was ajar, as his conductress had leftit; the way of escape was easy.

To the end of his days Mr Proudie regretted that he had nottaken it; he never could tell what motives induced him to returnto the room, take down the lamp, and begin exploring the house.He rather thought, he would say afterwards, that he wanted tofind Francis Valletort; he felt sure that he must be in the housesomewhere and he had a horrid premonition of foul play; he wassure, in some way, that the house was empty and the lady and theblackamoor had fled, and an intense curiosity got the better ofhis fear, his bewilderment, and his fatigue.

He walked very softly, for he was startled by the creaking ofthe boards beneath his feet; the lamp shook in his hand so thatthe fitful light ran wavering over walls and ceiling; everymoment he paused and listened, fearful to hear the voice or stepof the blackamoor.

On the first floor all the doors were open, the rooms allempty, shuttered, desolate, covered with dust and damp.

'There is certainly no-one in the house,' thought Mr Proudie,with a certain measure of comfort. 'Perhaps Valletort has gonehome while I have been here on this fool's errand.'

He remembered with satisfaction his fire and his bed, thesafe, comfortable shop with the rows of jars, the shiningcounter, and the gleaming scales, and the snug little parlourbeyond, with everything to his hand, just as he liked to find it.Yet he went on up the stairs, continuing to explore the desolate,empty house, the chill atmosphere of which caused him to shiveras if he was cold to the marrow.

On the next landing he was brought up short by a gleam oflight from one of the back moms. In a panic of terror he put outhis own lamp and stood silent and motionless, staring at thelong, faint ray of yellow that fell through the door that wasajar.

'There is someone in the house, then,' thought Mr Proudie. 'Iwonder if it is the doctor.'

He crept close to the door, but dared not look in; yet couldnot go away. The silence was complete; he could only hear thethump of his own heart.

Curiosity, a horrible, fated curiosity, urged him nearer,drove him to put his eye to the crack. His gaze fell on a manleaning against the wall; he was dressed in a rich travellingdress and wore neither peruke nor hat; his superb head was bareto the throat, and he was so dark as to appear almost of Africanblood; his features, however, were handsome and regular, thoughpallid and distorted by an expression of despair andferocity.

A candle stuck into the neck of an empty bottle stood on thebare floor beside him and illuminated his sombre and magnificentfigure, casting a grotesque shadow on the dark, panelledwall.

At his feet lay a heap of white linen and saffron-colouredbrocade, with here and there the gleam of a red jewel. Mr Proudiestared at this; as his sight became accustomed to the wavinglights and shades, he saw that he was gazing at a woman.

A dead woman.

She lay all dishevelled, her clothes torn and her black hairfallen in a tangle—the man had his foot on the end of it;her head was twisted to one side and there were dreadful marks onher throat.

Mr John Proudie gave one sob and fled, with the swiftness andsilence of utter terror, down the stairs, out into the street,and never ceased running until he reached home.

He had his key in his pocket, and let himself into his house,panting and sighing, utterly spent. He lit every light in theplace and sat down over the dying fire, his teeth chattering andhis knees knocking together. Like a man bewitched he sat staringinto the fire, raking the embers together, rubbing his hands andshivering, with his mind a blank for everything but that picturehe had seen through the crack of the door in the empty house inDean Street.

When his lamp and candles burnt out he drew the curtains andlet in the colourless light of the November dawn; he began tomove about the shop in a dazed, aimless way, staring at his jarsand scales and pestle and mortar as if they were strange thingshe had never seen before.

Now came a young apprentice with a muffler round his neck,whistling and red with the cold; and as he took down the shuttersand opened the dispensary, as the housekeeper came down andbustled about the breakfast and there was a pleasant smell ofcoffee and bacon in the place, Mr Proudie began to feel that thehappenings of last night were a nightmare indeed that had noplace in reality; he felt a cowardly and strong desire to saynothing about any of it, but to try to forget the blackamoor, theforeign lady, and that horrible scene in the upper chamber asfigments of his imagination.

It was, however, useless for him to take cover in the refugeof silence—old Emily's first remark went to the root of thematter. 'Why, where is the doctor? He has never been out so latebefore.'

Where, indeed, was Francis Valletort?

With a groan Mr Proudie dragged himself together; his body wasstiff with fatigue, his mind amazed, and he wished that he couldhave got into bed and slept off all memories of the previousnight.

Bur he knew the thing must be faced and, snatching up his hatand coat, staggered out into the air, looking by ten years anolder man than the comfortable, quiet tradesman of lastnight.

He went to the nearest magistrate and told his story; he couldsee that he was scarcely believed, but a couple of watchmen weresent with him to investigate the scene of last night's adventure,which, remarked the magistrate, should be easily found, sincethere was, it seemed, but one empty house in Dean Street.

The house was reached, the lock forced, and the placesearched, room by room.

To Mr Proudie's intense disappointment and amazementabsolutely nothing was found: the blue silk curtains had gone, ashad the silver lamp the apothecary had dropped on the stairs inhis headlong flight; in the upper chamber where he had staredthrough the crack of the door nothing was to be found—not astain on the boards, not a mark on the wall. Dusty, neglected,desolate, the place seemed as if it had not been entered foryears.

Mr Proudie began to think that he had been the victim of acompany of ghosts or truly bewitched. Then, inside the door, wasfound the pewter candlestick he had held mechanically in his handwhen hurried from his shop and as mechanically let fall here ashe had afterwards let fall the lamp.

This proved nothing beyond the fact that he had been in thehouse last night; but it a little reassured him that he was notaltogether losing his wits.

The fullest inquiries were made in the neighbourhood, butwithout result. No-one had seen the foreigners, no-one had heardany noise in the house, and it would have been generally believedthat Mr Proudie had really lost his senses but for onefact—Francis Valletort never returned!

There was, then, some mystery, but the solving of it seemedhopeless, No search or inquiries led to the discovery of thewhereabouts of the young doctor, and as he was of very littleimportance and had no friends but the old apothecary, hisdisappearance was soon forgotten.

But Mr Proudie, who seemed very aged and, the neighbours said,strange since that November night, was not satisfied with anysuch reasoning. Day and night he brooded over the mystery, andhardly ever out of his mind was the figure of the young scholarin his shabby clothes, with the strange face of one doomed as hestood putting his heavy hair back from his face and staring atthe little white ring on the old, polished counter.

As the years went by the rooms over the chemist's shop wereoccupied by another lodger and Mr Proudie took possession of thepoor effects of Francis Valletort—a few shabby clothes, afew shabby books; nothing of value or even of interest. But tothe apothecary these insignificant articles had an intense ifhorrid fascination.

He locked them away in his cabinet and when he was alone hewould take them out and turn them over. In between the thick,yellow leaves of a Latin book on medicine he found the thinleaves of what seemed to be the remains of adiary—fragments torn violently from the cover—mostlyhalf-effaced and one torn across and completely blotted withink.

There was no name, but Mr Proudie recognised the handwritingof Francis Valletort. With pain and difficulty the dim old eyesof the apothecary made out the following entries:

'July 15th, 1687—I saw her in the churchtoday—Santa Maria Maggiore. He is her husband, aCalabrere.' Several lines were blotted out, then came thesewords—'a man of great power; some mystery—hishalf-brother is an African...children of a slave...that such awoman...

'July 27th—I cannot see how this is going to end; hersister is married to the brother—Vittoria, thename—hers Elena della Cxxxxxx.'

'August 3rd—She showed me the ring today. I think shehas worn it since she was a child; it only fits her littlefinger.'

Again the manuscript was indecipherable; then followed somewords scratched out, but readable—

'As if I would not come to her without this token! But she isafraid of a trick. He is capable of anything—they, Imean; the brother is as his shadow. I think she trusts hersister. My little love!'

On another page were found further entries:

'October 10th—She says that if he discovered us he wouldkill her—us together. He told her he would kill her if sheangered him; showed her a martingale and said they would strangleher. My God, why do I not murder him? Carlo Fxxxxxx warned metoday.'

'October 29th—I must leave Padua. For hersake—while she is safe—if she is in trouble she willsend me the ring. I wonder why we go on living—it is over,the farewells.'

Mr Proudie could make out nothing more; he put down the pageswith a shudder. To what dark and secret tale of wrong and passiondid they not refer? Did they not hold the key to the events ofthat awful night?

Mr Proudie believed that he had seen the husband andbrother-in-law of some woman Francis Valletort had loved, who hadfollowed him to England after the lapse of years; having wrungthe secret and the meaning of the white ring from the wretchedwife, the husband had used it to lure the lover to his fate; inhis other visitor the apothecary believed he had seen the sisterVittoria, who, somehow, had escaped and endeavoured to gain helpfrom the house where she knew Francis Valletort lived, only to besilenced again by her husband. And the other woman—and themartingale?

'I saw her, too,' muttered Mr Proudie to himself, shiveringover the fire, 'but what did they do with Frank?'

He never knew, and died a very old man with all the details ofthis mystery unrevealed; the fragments of diary were burnt bysome careless hand for whom they had no interest; the adventureof Mr Proudie passed into the realms of forgotten mystery, andthere was no-one to tell of them when, a century later, repairsto the foundations of an old house in Dean Street revealed twoskeletons buried deep beneath the bricks. One was that of a man,the other that of a woman, round whose bones still hung a fewshreds of saffron-coloured brocade; and between them was a littlering of white enamel and white stones.


First published in All-Story Weekly, 29 June 1918

Reprinted in
Hutchinson's Adventure & Mystery Story Magazine,
February 1929, as "The Mystery of Hannah Power"

Crimes of Old London (4)

All Story Weekly, 29 June 1918, with "Heartsease"

ABOUT eleven o'clock at night on the 28th ofAugust, 1696, the watchman on duty at the corner of Drury Laneand Queen Street was startled by a woman brushing past him at arun; he had the impression that she had come from the house justbehind him, a respectable mansion of some importance.

He raised his lantern and turned its beams on the figurehastening away from him towards Lincoln's Inn Fields; it was ayoung gentlewoman decently habited, such a one as he had neverseen alone after dark in this or any other neighbourhood ofLondon, and he was minded to follow her, but that she appeared inno way discomposed or agitated; he thought that he had heard herlaugh, as she passed him, in a contented manner.

"Belike she knows her own business best," he said to himself,thinking of elopements or clandestine meetings in the Fields, andso returned to his box at the corner.

His laggardly conduct was further induced by the weather,which was of a wildness seldom known at this time of year;tearing clouds obscured the moon, now in its first quarter, gustsof rain shook down the silent street, a wind fit to take a manoff his feet raged from the north; and there was no one abroad;even the Lane was empty.

The watchman, with his thick cape about him, and withdrawninto the shelter of his box, could not dismiss from his mind thatslender figure.

He began to recall certain details that had made littleimpression at the time; first, she had had no cloak, or mantle,or hat, or gloves, nothing but a muslin cap tied under the chin,and a grey gown of some fine stuff, and a little apron ofsilvered silk; secondly, she had worn at her heart a great bunchof heartsease—purple, yellow, and white.

He turned his lantern on the house which he thought was theone that the young woman had come from; but now he admittedhimself mistaken, for the house was closed and shuttered; he knewthat it belonged to Mr. James Fortis, Member of Parliament forGuildford, and that the family had been away some time.

The watchman shivered back into his box, so that he could nolonger see the street, and, being warm and comfortable, presentlydozed a little.

It was but a short while before the violence of the winddisturbed him and he sat up, almost expecting the box to be blownabout his head.

His lantern gleamed down an empty street; he raised it, andsaw, with an unaccountable start, the figure of a man standing onthe steps of Mr. Fortis' house.

The stranger, who had started violently when the lantern lightfell on his face, recovered himself and spoke.

"It is all right, fellow," he said quietly. "I am Mr. StephenFortis."

He seemed in some considerable perturbation, and stood therewith the wind and rain blowing on him as if uncertain what to do,which air of agitation and hesitancy was foreign to thisgentleman, who was a well-known lawyer and man of fashion.

"I thought the family was away, your honour," said thewatchman, raising his voice against the storm.

"Everyone is away," replied Mr. Fortis hastily. "I amup from Guildford on business, and my brother lent me thehouse."

"There will be a servant here, then, sir?"

"There is no one."

"I thought I saw a young woman come from your house, sir; notthat she could have been a servant—"

Mr. Fortis, who was a singularly handsome man, turned a faceof such distress and alarm on the watchman that the latter wassuddenly both suspicious and frightened.

"She did not come from this house," said Mr. Fortis. "I amalone and I have had no visitors; the creature you speak of wassome lost wretch from the Lane or St. Giles—there are manyabout."

"Not on such a night as this, sir, and without acloak—and this was a gentlewoman—"

Mr. Fortis interrupted.

"It has nothing to do with me," he said.

The watchman could say no more; before such a man as Mr.Stephen Fortis he could only bow, and he was lumbering away whena gust of wind blew aside Mr. Fortis' mantle and showed that hegrasped something in his bare hand, a cluster of purple andyellow flowers.

"By God, sir," exclaimed the watchman, "that is what she woreon her heart!"

Mr. Fortis gave a stifled exclamation and then controlledhimself.

"Come into the house," he said.

The man followed him into the hall, and then into thedining-room, where a couple of candles burnt.

On the table, near the candles, were two little piles of gold,an ink-horn, a quill, and some paper.

Mr. Fortis flung off his soaked beaver.

"I have good reasons," he said, "for keeping secret mypresence in town. No wrong has been done or is intended. Take acouple of those gold pieces and hold your tongue."

The watchman saw no objection to this course; the intrigues ofgentlemen were not part of his duty; he was stretching out dirtyfingers for the money when he paused.

"There is blood on your left hand!" he exclaimed. Mr. Fortisstarted.

"Throw down those flowers, sir, for God's sake!" cried thewatchman, trembling.

Mr. Fortis obeyed, mechanically it seemed, and cast thecrushed cluster of heartsease beside the gold pieces on thetable.

They were fastened by a length of grey ribbon, dark and stiffwith blood; Mr. Fortis' hand, wrist, ruffle, and shirt were alikestained.

"Oh, Heavens!" he cried. "What is this?"

"What indeed," exclaimed the watchman, "but evidence of somedamnable crime against that poor creature—Sir, you musthelp me look for the woman who wore that posy."

Mr. Fortis gave him a wild glance, then looked with loathingat his stained hand; he tore away the lace and flung it down,then wiped away the blood on palm and finger with an end of hisrain-wet cloak.

"I know nothing of your wayfarer," he said. He spoke ratherwildly, and as if to himself. "Was ever man so persecuted and onthe eve of the elections? My brother must not lose his seatthrough this—" He turned again to the watchman. "Take thismoney and begone."

But the fellow shook his head.

"Where did you get that posy, sir?"

"Faugh! A trick—a silly trick—it was thrust on meby a passer by—"

"Then that passer by knows something of that young woman,sir."

"Maybe—but I do not—you cannot prove that I do orthat she was ever in this house—why, the whole thing may bea trick of your imagination—likely you were half-asleep orhalf-drunk—"

Mr. Fortis now spoke more with the usual assurance of agentleman and the customary firmness of a man of law; but as hefinished he fetched a little groan and turned aside as onepressed beyond bearing.

"It will show ill against you if you will not search with me,sir," said the watchman with clumsy persistence; he did not likethe looks of the gentleman, and he put the cluster of heartseaseinto his greatcoat pocket, and Mr. Fortis, noticing this, startedand muttered "Fool!" against himself for not destroying thehideous posy.

"Very well, I will come with you," he said desperately, "butit is near one o'clock now—where may she not have got intwo hours?"

"Who said it was two hours since I saw her, sir?" demanded thewatchman.

"Was ever a man so tormented?" cried Mr. Fortisfrantically.

The watchman was now convinced that there was some uglymystery behind all this, and resolved to gain some credit forhimself in the unravelling of it; the very position and fame ofMr. Stephen Fortis added zest to the affair.

"'Tis a wild night to go abroad for nothing," remarked thelawyer, as they closed the front door behind them.

"And you wet through once, sir," replied the watchman; "butmaybe you were not thinking of the weather when you last wentout."

Mr. Fortis cried out passionately at this insolence; but thefellow answered him—shouting between the volleys of thewind:

"Don't try—and slip away—Mr. Fortis—I knowyour name—and your residence."

The gentleman made no answer, and together they battledthrough the stormy night until they came to the corner of WildeHouse, and there they paused to get breath under the lowarcade.

"You are sure you would know her again?"

"Quite, sir; she had a very happy face."

"Happy? She looked happy?"

"Yes, sir, and she was hastening like one on a cheerful andimportant errand—"

"Then it was not she!" cried Mr. Fortis.

"Not who, sir?"

"Not—" Mr. Fortis checked himself. "If you had seen somepale, mad woman with melancholy in her countenance I might haveknown her—never mind, let us search for this happycreature."

The wind had fallen a little, and the moon now setting, sent afaint, vaporish light through the forlorn waste of clouds.

These singular companions faced the desolation of Lincoln'sInn Fields and took an aimless road across the darkness.

The yellow splash of lantern light, moving uncertainly overthe rough cobbles was noticed by a man crouching against therailings of one of the great mansions.

He came running forward.

"Watch, watch!" he cried. "Are you the watch?"

Mr. Fortis stepped back from the light and pulled his hat overhis eyes.

"I am looking for a young woman," said the newcomer, whoappeared to be an artisan of the better sort. "She is lodgingwith my wife in Holborn; she went out this evening and never camehome. I thought she might be lost in the Fields, but there isneither light nor peace abroad to-night, and I can findnothing."

"We are on the same errand," said the watchman, "we arelooking for a young gentlewoman—had she a grey dress andmuslin cap?"

"That is she; have you seen her?"

"And had she," continued the watchman, "a bunch of heartseaseat her heart?"

"She had, sir; she had bought them at Covent Garden thismorning."

"Well," replied the watchman, "I have seen her, but that was amatter of over two hours ago."

The storm was dying away; a gentler wind cleared the looseclouds from the sky, here and there a star appeared; it no longerrained.

"Let us continue our search," said Mr. Fortis in a faintvoice. He kept his face hidden.

Together the three traversed the great space of the opensquare, past the empty hackney stand, the deserted theatre, inand out the great trees whose branches still shook and quiveredwith the violence of the tempest—until, on the farther sideof the fields, finally, they found her, washed, by the force ofwind and rain, against two of the posts of the footway, as abroken branch of flowers might be driven by cruel weather againstthe garden wall.

She was as wet as if she had been drowned, her skirts clingingto her limbs and stuck with mud and small stones, snapped twigs,and glistening leaves; her cap and hair together made one soakedtwist on the stones beneath her; on her bosom was a red-stainedrag; the same hue was washed over her rain-soaked clothes; hereyes, blue as summer, gazed up from a wan and childish face thatthe rain had washed free from every impurity, and that faced theinscrutable heavens with an expression of wild question andsmiling agony for ever fixed there by the hand of Death.

The first to move was Mr. Fortis; he turned away with aterrible shudder and put his hand over his eyes.

The watchman bent over her and raised the scrap of linen thathad been pressed to the welling wound on her heart.

"Just where she wore her posy," he muttered. "Who was she?" heasked the stranger.

"A young lady from Guildford," answered the man hoarsely.

"Well, then," said the watchman slowly, "Mr. Stephen Fortiswill know her."

"Mr. Stephen Fortis!" cried the other. "Is he here? He is hermurderer—there is none other on God's earth had cause totake her life!"

As with one impulse he and the watchman caught at the wretchedgentleman and dragged him near the body that lay in the beams ofthe lantern now set on the ground.

He struggled to get at his sword, but they gripped himfirmly.

(Video) The Murder Case That Inspired Charles Dickens | Murder Maps | Real Crime

"As I live," he cried fiercely, in his desperation, "I aminnocent. This will ruin my brother. He has many enemies. AndI—I am but six weeks off my marriage day."

Before the day dawned the brother of the Member for Guildfordwas lodged in prison under a charge of murder.

As soon as the ghastly news had got hot-foot through the town,before even the brother or friends of the accused man could rallyto his defence, a lady attended only by her maid came to see theunhappy gentleman in his prison. It was his betrothed, thedaughter of the Earl of Thanet, Lady Sarah Pryde; she had comewithout the consent of her parents, nay, against their wishes,but in the first confusion and horror of the news they had beenpowerless to resist her passionate resolve to stand by herlover.

She was not allowed to see the prisoner nor to send any letteror message.

White-lipped and dry-eyed she hastened to the mansion of Mr.James Fortis.

The Member for Guildford had just arrived in London andreceived the lady in the parlour, where his brother had spokenthe night before with the watchman.

He was as pallid, as agitated as she, and had not so muchcontrol.

"I am ruined," he burst out, "ruined! Those damned Tories willmake this cost me my seat!"

He saw her desperate look and was instantly remorseful.

"My lady, my lady, you had best keep out of this," he cried."It is no story for you."

Slight and fragile-looking in her blue muslin morning gown, adark cloak flung about her shoulders, and her black locks fallingin disorder about her agonized face, she fronted James Fortis,more serene than he in her greater love and greater faith.

"Tell me all you know," she urged. "Who was—this mostunfortunate gentlewoman?"

Mr. Fortis commanded himself as best he could.

"So far there is no mystery, my lady," he answered. "She was aQuakeress of Guildford—a quiet creature of uneventfullife—about twenty-seven years of age."

"Tell me what else you know—tell me quickly. Do you notsee that I must know everything—that I may discover thetruth and save him?"

She spoke with a dignity and power that overawed Mr. Fortis'shaken soul.

"What do I know?" he answered. "Next to nothing! She wasmissed the day before yesterday, did not return from her usualwalk—they found she had taken the mail coach from Guildfordto London—the guard remembers her in a grey cardinal. Itwas found here last night."

At this Lady Sarah shuddered and took a step back from thetable.

"You must not say that," she exclaimed, "it could not be thesame—go on," she added, controlling herself. "What did thispoor creature do when she got to London?"

"Hannah Power—that is her name—went straight tothe lodgings of a Mrs. Garnet, in High Holborn, the wife of asaddler, formerly of Guildford; she had stayed there before, withher mother, when they had come to London to see the celebrationsfor the fall of Namur."

"And these people," cried Lady Sarah, quickly, "seeing thisyoung woman alone and without luggage, did they not communicatewith Guildford?"

"Would to God they had! Instead, they let her mope in herchamber; she only went out in the morning, when she returned witha root of heartsease which she had bought at Covent Garden; inthe evening she went out, saying that she had an appointment atLincoln's Inn Fields, and that it was a matter of life anddeath."

"And they let her go—alone?"

"Yes. The next thing is, the uncle appears, having come upfrom Guildford after the runaway, who has been traced to London.They went out to search for her—it was the saddler, MatthewGarnet, who met Stephen and the watchman in the Fields—andfound her."

"Who are these Garnets?" cried Lady Sarah. "They play astrange part, never telling anyone the girl is with them, lettingher out alone, after noticing she was distraught!"

"I do not trust them," replied Mr. Fortis. "At the lastelection this fellow was the agent of Pryor, the Tory who triedfor my seat, an unscrupulous knave, deep in obligation to hispatron, who had saved him from a hanging, to my thinking."

"Why, then," cried the Iady eagerly, "that is something to goupon."

The Member for Guildford answered almost sharply in his deepdistress:

"I fear it is nothing at all; they can prove the truth oftheir tale, and the Pryors have nothing to do with HannahPower."

"Do you know the Powers?" she asked.

"Nay, by name and repute only; they are not of our station,and belong to the faction of the Pryors."

"Then Stephen did not know this poor soul?" cried the lady,with a great hope beaming in her heart.

"He knew her," replied Mr. Fortis reluctantly. "A few yearsago she came into a little property from an aunt; the charge ofthis was in Stephen's hands, he had to call at her house todeliver her her moneys. I never heard that he saw her at anyother time, unless it was by chance in the streets."

"Then why should there be any suspicion whatever on Stephen?"cried the brave-hearted girl.

"Why?" answered Mr. Fortis in despair. "What of the watchman'stale—the bunch of heartsease in his hand, the grey cardinalfound here, and the handkerchief with 'S. F.' on it found on herbosom?"

Lady Sarah had not heard this detail before; she turned faintand could no longer stand, but sank into the nearest chair, herhands clasped tightly in her lap.

Before either could speak the Earl of Thanet was ushered intotheir presence.

He had come to claim his daughter—an angry and anoutraged man.

"Sarah, you must come home with me; matters are beyond yourmeddling."

She rose but shook her head.

"You cannot keep me out of this, my lord. I am to be Stephen'swife."

"That is yet to be seen," answered the wrathful Earl.

Now Mr. Fortis was roused to his brother's defence, and tochampioning that honour which was as dear to him as his own.

"My lord, my lord!" he cried. "Beware how you are harsh orunjust! You, who were willing to give your daughter to mybrother, ought to be the last to credit the foul aspersion caston him."

The Earl was something ashamed; he stood fumbling at his swordhilt and staring at the floor.

"What is your brother's tale?" he asked.

"What should it be but the simple truth?" replied Mr. Fortis,with an expression of great uneasiness that belied the confidenceof his words. "He denies everything. He had come up to town, asyou know, my lord, on business connected with hismarriage—and was lodging at the 'Black Bull,' Holborn."

"And what was he doing here last night?" demanded the Earlsharply.

"He came to get some papers I had asked him to send me toGuildford—the money on the table was some loose coin he hadfound in my desk; he went out to buy some twine to do up theparcel."

"At that hour of the night—in that weather?" asked mylord sarcastically.

Mr. Fortis, pallid to the lips, stuck doggedly to hisstory.

"The hour had escaped him—his mind was full of manythings."

"And the bunch of flowers?"

"They were thrust into his hand by a poor creature whom he metin the Fields; he had given her a coin. Till the watchman calledout, he had not noticed what he was carrying."

"Ah! The grey cardinal?"

Mr. Fortis smiled sadly.

"I see, my lord, that you have made yourself master of allpoints against my poor brother."

"I have spoken with the lawyer in whose hands the case is, andgone through all the evidence."

"The grey cardinal," said Mr. Fortis, with a quivering lip,"is not that worn by Hannah Power; it belongs to my wife."

At this lie Lady Sarah gave a shudder of anguish. The Earlbroke out into bitter anger.

"And is this the best tale you can put up between you? GoodGod, if you get a jury of fools there is not one who will believeyou!"

Such was also the private opinion of Mr. Fortis, but he stoodgallantly to his weak defences.

"There has never been a breath against my brother, my Iord,"he said proudly, "even a hint of scandal—even in hiscollege days; he has always been respected and admired. Howshould anyone dare to suspect him of this monstrous crime?"

The Earl was not convinced.

"He will find great difficulty in clearing himself," heremarked dryly. "Why, the truth is clear on the face of it! Hadhe not seen her many times in private? Was not she a simple womanand he a likely man?"

Quivering in every fibre Lady Sarah turned to her father.

"My lord, what do you mean?"

"Come, my dear," he said very kindly, "you must let me takeyou home."

But she turned on him wildly.

"No! I belong to Stephen—I am going to Stephen—youmust take me to him. I must speak with him."

In the end her frantic insistence prevailed; the Earl and Mr.Fortis conducted her to the prison and obtained permission forher to see Stephen Fortis in private.

Inside the cell where the accused man was confined, the twoyoung people, each pale and haggard as death, clung desperatelytogether, each forgetful, in the first few moments, of everythingsave the overwhelming emotion of love.

She was the first to regain her self-control; panting, pallid,and quivering, she lay in his arms (alone she could hardly standon her feet), and begged him (for her sake!) to have strength andcourage.

"Tell me the truth," she entreated. "What are youconcealing?"

"Have you not heard what I told James?" he groaned.

"No one believes that, not even my father, Stephen." She drewaway from him, struggling for composure and courage.

"Child, are you so sure the truth will set me free?"

The glory of her great love and loyalty shone in her beautifuleyes.

"Quite sure," she said.

He covered his face in his hands for a moment, then looked ather straightly.

"The truth," he answered hoarsely, "would damn me in any eyesbut yours, Sarah. I did meet Hannah Power last night."


"She came to James' house; that was her cardinal theyfound."

Lady Sarah went up to him and rested her head, with completetrust and faith, against his shoulder.

"Tell me all," she whispered.

"I do not know that I have a right, Sarah. And yet I must, andyou will think meanly of me for this telling. God knows I hadnever spoken but for this extremity!"

She clasped him closer, and he held to her as he spoke.

"This unhappy gentlewoman loved me," he said faintly. "I thinkshe was in a melancholy, not in her right mind to so pursue onewho cared not for her. I—I did what I could. It is aposition above all others intolerable for a man. I avoided her;she filled me with much compassion and some repulsion. Godforgive me! She tormented me. Every time there was some excuse,to fetch me into her presence and to argue with me her fonddelusion that we must love each other. I often thought thispassion was a madness, and that she might do some mischief, but Iwas the person above all others who could not betray herstate."

"Alas, poor creature!" murmured Lady Sarah.

"I saw her as seldom as I could. I would not have seen her atall but for fear she would commit some open folly. She used towrite to me when I was in town, letters no woman in her senseswould have written. When she heard of our betrothal she came atonce to town, and wrote to me asking me to see her for the lasttime. She said it must be in the evening, near Holborn. I madethe appointment at my brother's house."

She pressed his arm, strengthening him with her courage.

"I decided this must be the end of everything," he resumed. "Itook with me some money due to her and all her papers—shecame, all distraught; I noticed that she wore a cluster ofpansies—heartsease, as the old women call them. Once I hadtold her that I admired these flowers. She bade me look at them,telling me that they stood for' penseroso,' or thought. I put heroff this theme, and told her that she must, for her own fairfame, find another man of business. She became so stormy that Idoubted more than ever if she were in full possession of herwits, and with all the force I was able to command I bade herleave this folly that would be her ruin. Then she became so calmthat I had good hopes of her finally seeing reason."

"It was but the calm of despair," murmured Lady Sarah.

"But I—fool that I was, did not see it. I washalf-distracted myself. She made me one request, asking if Iwould step out at midnight as far as Wilde House portico, where amessenger of hers would meet me and tell me she was safely on herway home. 'For I know,' she said, 'that you will have no peace ofmind while I am in town, and I intend to take the night mail toGuildford.' She was so importunate that I agreed to this fantasyof hers, and she broke from me and rushed out into the rain,leaving behind her mantle, the money, and papers. At midnight Iwent out and waited under the lamp at the corner of the Fields. Awoman wrapped in a heavy shawl accosted me and asked if I wereMr. Stephen Fortis; as I said 'Yes' she thrust the flowers intomy hand, and disappeared into the dark. I half-saw, half-guessedthat this was the posy lately worn by Hannah Power, and that thiswas her manner of saying farewell. As I returned to the house Imet the watchman, whom—God help me!—I had forgotten.The rest you know."

"She slew herself," said Lady Sarah, in a low tone. "And theGarnets are helping the Powers and the Pryors to fix a crime onyou. But tell me, my dear, my love, your handkerchief was foundon her breast."

He started.

"I did not know that! But she had one of mine I lent her totie up a wound on her dog's foot in Guildford once."

"And her letters—did you keep any of her letters?" askedLady Sarah.

"Nay, in compassion, I destroyed them all."

The girl shivered.

"Then there is nothing but your word for this?"

"Nothing at all," he answered with a sad smile. "And probablyyou are the only person who will believe me."

So indeed it proved; the extraordinary tale of Stephen Fortiswas received with general incredulity; the Powers furiouslydenied that Hannah was capable of the conduct imputed to her bythe prisoner, and even his friends held that his tale had furtherdamaged a weak cause.

No influence could stem the tide of popular feeling. Theverdict at the inquest was "Wilful Murder against StephenFortis."

Three days before the date appointed for his execution,Stephen Fortis asked his betrothed to bring him his little Biblethat he had left with his other effects in his chamber at the"Black Bull."

These things, after having been searched by the lawyer'sagents, had been delivered to Mr. James Fortis; the Bible wasfound in the open portable desk that had been on the table in thebed-chamber.

The unfortunate lady was clasping it to her bosom with tearsof utter anguish, when a thick letter, twice sealed, fell out onthe floor at her feet.

This, which had never been opened, was addressed to:


at the Black Bull Inn, High Holborn, and had been sent by thepost.

The lady took this to Mr. James Fortis, who went with her tothe Black Bull Inn, and there the waiter was found who rememberedthe arrival of the letter on the 29th of August and having takenit upstairs and put it with the other papers on the gentleman'slittle desk; the arrest not then having been heard of,afterwards, in the excitement, he had forgotten all about it; itmust have got inside the shagreen case which held the Bible, andbeen overlooked by the constables in their search.

The letter was opened before a magistrate.

It was from Hannah Power, dated from High Holborn, August28th.

My own dear love—I may call you thatnow, and you will not frown, for when you read this I shall notbe able to vex you any more. You have been never kind tome—always chiding, and I love you so! Why could you nothave loved me a little? I will not live to see another woman yourwife. When I leave you to-night I shall be happy, for I shall benearing the end of my sufferings. You will see me calm, I shalltell you I am going home—'twill not be to Guildford.

I have stolen one of Matthew Garnet's knives from hisshop—'tis wrapped in your handkerchief that you left behindthe day you dressed poor Roreo's foot. I bought some pansies thismorning—belike you have forgotten how you commended themonce?


Twill be a wild night, and I must die in thedark—but 'tis a sweet pain that ends a long agony. Oh,heart, how I have suffered! I have loved you beyond reason andbeyond hope—and now beyond despair. When this reaches you Ishall be dead—perhaps they will have found me. Will you seethat they compose me decently for all I was a suicide? Do notcome to see me—you always hated me, but you will be sorry,and I do not want your pity.

I wonder why I want to seeyou again? I think it is because I should not have the courageunless I came straight from your scorn. My head hurts to-day, andI cannot remember things. Oh, God pity me!

Hannah Power.

After the discovery of Hannah Power's letter, the Garnets werefrightened into a full confession.

The woman had been taken into the wretched girl's confidenceas regards her feelings towards Mr. Fortis, and had perfectlyunderstood from her wild behaviour and words she let fall, thatshe was going to visit him that evening, and afterwards take herlife.

She had spoken to her husband, who had callously told her tolet things take their course; he was an agent of Mr. Pryor's, andwould be paid heavily for anything that would injure the Memberfor Guildford.

Fate Payed into their hands; soon afterwards Hannah Powerreturned, gave a letter to Mrs. Garnet and begged her to deliverit to Mr. Stephen Fortis, who would be under the portico of WildeHouse at midnight, and then ran out again into the wet.

The miserable couple opened the letter, found it to containwild and almost incoherent farewells, and destroyed it; MatthewGarnet now hurried out after Hannah Power, but too late; hediscovered her as she was afterwards found, only with the knifein her hand; he soon ascertained that she was dead, and at onceconceived the villainous idea of serving the family who were hispatrons, and ruining that to which they were opposed by turningthe suicide into a murder; he cast the knife far away from thecorpse, and detached the pansies and ribbon that had becomestained from the wound; the handkerchief he had found near, andhad thrust it in place of the posy in sheer horror at the wounddisclosed; it was pure chance that it happened to be thecherished bit of cambric once belonging to Stephen Fortis.

In pursuance of his devilish scheme, he returned to his house,put on his wife's hood and cloak, returned to the portico, sawMr. Fortis, and thrust the pansies into his hand, the objectbeing to mark the gentleman's clothes with blood even if he threwthe flowers instantly away.

Neither of them knew of the letter which was the means ofdiscovering the whole conspiracy, and which might never have cometo light but for the condemned man's asking for his Bible.

Matthew Garnet and his wife were transported to Jamaica; thePowers and Pryors, by utterly abandoning the wretched couple, andcompletely denying their allegations, saved themselves a share intheir punishment, but remained hopelessly damaged in prestige andreputation. Stephen Fortis, pardoned by the King for the crime hehad not committed, was happily married to the brave woman whosefaith in him had never been shaken.


Reprinted in
Twilight and Other Supernatural Romances by Marjorie Bowen,
Ash-Tree Press, 1998, as "The Confession of Beau Sekforde"

MR. ROBERT SEKFORDE, a rather damaged man offashion, entered, with a lurching step, his mansion near thetavern of the "Black Bull," High Holborn. He was still known as"Beau Sekforde," and was still dressed in the extreme of thefashion of this year 1710, with wide brocade skirts, an immenseperuke, and a quantity of lace and paste ornaments that werenearly as brilliant as diamonds.

About Mr. Sekforde himself was a good deal of this spuriousgorgeousness; from a little distance he still looked themagnificent man he once had been, but a closer view showed himruddled with powder and rouge like a woman, heavy about the eyesand jaw, livid in the cheeks; a handsome man yet, but one deeplymarked by years of idleness, good living, and the cheapdissipations of a nature at once brutal and effeminate. In thewell-shaped features and dark eyes there was not a contour or ashadow that did not help towards the presentment of a typevicious and worthless; yet he had an air of breeding, ofgallantry and grace that had hitherto never failed to win himfacile admiration and help him over awkward places in his career.This air was also spurious—spurious as the diamonds at histhroat and in his shoe-buckles; he was not even of gentle birth;the obscurity that hung round his origin was proof of the shamehe felt at the dismal beginning of a career that had been sobrilliant.

He entered his mansion, that was modest but elegant, andcalled for candles to be brought into his study.

Taking off slowly his white, scented gloves, he staredthoughtfully at his plump, smooth hands, and then at the walnutdesk scattered with silver and ebony stand dishes, pens andtaper-holders, and a great number of little notes on gilt-edgedand perfumed papers.

There was a great many others, neither gilt-edged norperfumed; Mr. Sekforde knew that these last were bills as surelyas he knew the first were insipid invitations to ratherthird-rate balls and routs.

Everything in Mr. Sekforde's world was becoming ratherthird-rate now.

He looked round the room desperately with that ugly glance ofdefiance which is not courage but cowardice brought to bay.

Nothing in the house was paid for; and his credit would notlast much longer; this had been a last venture to float his shakyraft on the waters of London society; he could foresee himselfgoing very comfortably to the bottom.


Unless he could again carry off some successful "coup" atcards; and this was unlikely; he was too well known now.

Every resource that could, at any pinch, afford means oflivelihood to an unscrupulous rogue and yet permit him to moveamong the people on whom he preyed, had already been played byMr. Sekforde.

The sound of the opening door caused him to look up; hedreaded duns, and was not sure of the unpaid servants.

But it was his wife who entered; at sight of her, BeauSekforde cursed in a fashion that would have surprised hisgenteel admirers, over whose tea-tables he languished soprettily.

"Oh, pray keep civil," said the lady, in a mincing tone.

She trailed to the fireplace and looked discontentedly at thelogs that were falling into ashes.

"The upholsterer came," she added, "with a bill for near athousand guineas—I had difficulty in sending him away; isnothing in the house paid for?"


She looked at him with a contempt that was more for herselfthan for him; she was quite callous and heartless; a sense ofhumour, a nice appreciation of men and things alone prevented herfrom being odious.

"Lord!" she smiled. "To live to be fooled by BeauSekforde!"

She was a Countess in her own right; her patent was fromCharles II. and explained her career; she still had the air of abeauty, and wore the gowns usually affected by loveliness, butshe was old with the terrible old age of a wanton, soullesswoman.

Her reputation was bad even for her type; she had cheated ateverything from love to cards, and no tenderness or regrets hadever softened her ugly actions. At the end of her career aspresiding goddess of a gambling saloon she had married RobertSekforde, thinking he had money or at least the wits to get it,and a little betrayed by his glib tongue that had flattered herinto thinking her beauty not lost, her charm not dead, only tofind him an adventurer worse off than herself, who had not evenpaid for the clothes in which he had come to woo her; her solesatisfaction was that he had also been deceived.

He had thought her the prudent guardian of the spoils of alifetime; instead, selfishness had caused her to scatter whatgreed had gained, and for her too this marriage had been seizedas a chance to avert ruin. Haggard and painted, a dark wig on herhead, false pearls round her throat, and a dirty satin gownhanging gracefully round a figure still upright and elegant, shestared at the fire.

"We shall have to disappear," she remarked dryly. He looked ather with eyes of hate.

"You must have some money," he said bluntly.

Avarice, the vice of old age, flashed in her glance asjealousy would have gleamed in that of a younger woman.

"What little I have I need," she retorted. "The man has turnedsimple." She grinned at her reflection in the glass above thefireplace.

"Well, leave me, then," he said bitterly; could he be rid ofher, he felt it would gild his misfortune.

But my lady had come to the end of all her admirers; she couldnot even any longer dazzle boys with the wicked glory of herpast; she had no one save Mr. Sekforde, and she meant to cling tohim; he was a man, and twenty years younger than herself; heought, she thought, to be useful.

Besides, this woman who had never had a friend of her own sex,shuddered to think of the last loneliness it would be to livewithout a man attached to her—better the grave, and of thatshe had all the horror of the true atheist.

"You talk folly," she said with a dreadful ogle. "I shallremain."

"Then you will starve, my lady!" he flung out violently.

"Oh, fie, sir, one does not starve."

He could not endure to look at her, but staring at the desk,began to tear up the notes before him.

"Will you not go to a mask to-night?" she askedquerulously.

"I have no money to pay for a chair," he sneered.

"We might win something at cards."

"People are very wary."

"You were very clever at tricking me," remarked the Countess,"cannot you trick someone else, Mr. Sekforde?"

He wheeled round on her with concentrated venom.

"Ah, madam, if I were a bachelor—"

She quailed a little before his wrath, but rallied to replywith the spirit of the woman who had been spoilt by a king:

"You think you are so charming? Wealthy matches areparticular. Look in the glass, sir; your face is as ruined asyour reputation."

He advanced on her and she began to shriek in a dreadfulfashion; the town woman showed through the airs of the greatlady.

"I'll call the watch!" she shrilled.

He fell back with a heavy step and stood glaring at her.

"A pair of fools," said my lady bitterly.

Then her cynical humour triumphed over her disgust.

"Your first wife would smile to see us now," she remarked.

Beau Sekforde turned to her a face suddenly livid.

"What do you know about my first wife?" he demandedfiercely.

"Nothing at all," replied my lady. "You kept her rather in thebackground, did you not? But one can guess."

Mr. Sekforde raged; he loathed any reference to the woman whomhe had married in his obscurity, and who had been his drudge inthe background through all his shifting fortunes; her worn face,her wagging tongue, her rude manners, had combined to make thethorn in the rose-bed of his softest days.

He had hated her and believed that she had hated him; she wasa Scotchwoman, a shrew, thrifty, honest, plain, and a goodhousekeeper; she had always made him very comfortable at home,though she had shamed him on the rare occasions when she hadforced him to take her abroad.

She had died only a few months before his presentmarriage.

"One can guess," repeated the Countess, showing teeth darkbehind her rouged lips in a ghastly grin, "that you made her lifevery pleasant."

He sprang up and faced her, a big, heavy bully for all hissatins and French peruke.

"Oh," she shrilled, frightened but defiant, "you look likemurder."

He turned away sharply and muttered some hideous words underhis breath.

"What are you going to do?" asked my lady, with a quizzicalglance round the tawdry splendour that had been hired to lure herinto marriage, and that now would be so shortly rent away.

Beau Sekforde controlled his wrath against the terrible womanwho had deceived him into losing his last chance of retrievingruin.

"Where are the servants?" he asked.

"All gone. I think they have taken some of the plate and allthe wine. There is some food downstairs."

Mr. Sekforde had seen it as he came up; a hacked piece of fatham on a dirty dish, a stained cloth and a jagged loaf had beenlaid out on the dining-room table.

"I have had my dinner," remarked the Countess.

Her husband rudely left the room; he was hungry and forced tosearch for food, but the remembrance of the meal waitingnauseated him; he was delicate in his habits, and as he descendedthe stairs he thought of his late wife—she had been awonderful housekeeper—even in poverty she had never failedto secure comfort.

As he opened the door of the dining-room he was agreeablysurprised.

Evidently one of the servants had remained after all.

The hearth had been swept and a neat fire burnt pleasantly; aclean cloth was on the table, and the service was set outexactly; a fresh loaf, butter, wine, fruit, a dish of hot meat,of cheese, of eggs stood ready; there was wine and brightlypolished glasses.

"I did not know," Mr. Sekforde muttered, "that any of thehussies in this house could work like this."

He admired the spotless linen, the brilliant china, thegleaming glasses, the fresh and appetizing food, and ate anddrank with a pleasure that made him forget for the moment histroubles.

One thing only slightly disturbed his meal; among the disheswas a plate of goblin scones; they were of a peculiar shape andtaste, and he had never known anyone make them but the late JaneSekforde.

When he had finished he rang the bell for candles, for theshort November day was closing in.

There was no answer.

Surprised and slightly curious to see the servant who had beenso deft, Mr. Sekforde went to the head of the basement stairs andshouted lustily; still there was no reply.

He returned to the dining-room; the candles were lit and setprecisely on the table.

Mr. Sekforde ran upstairs to his wife.

"Who is in this house?" he asked in a tone of someagitation.

The Countess was by the fire, seated on a low chair; beforeher on the floor was a wheel of playing cards from which she wastelling her fortune.

"Who is in the house?" she sneered. "A drunken ruffian."

Misery was wearing thin the courtier-like manner from both ofthem.

"You old, wicked jade," he replied, "there is someone hidingin this house."

She rose, scattering the cards with the worn toe of her littlesatin shoe.

"There is no one in the house," she said, "not a baggage ofthem all would stay. I am going out. I want lights and amusement.Your house is too dull, Mr. Sekforde."

With this speech and an air that was a caricature of thegraces of a young and beautiful woman she swept out of theroom.

Even her own maid, a disreputable Frenchwoman, had left her,having moved out of the impending crash; but my lady had neverlacked spirit; she attired herself, put all the money she had inher bosom, and left the house to pass the evening with one of hercronies, who kept an establishment similar to that which she hadbeen forced to abandon.

Even the departure of her vindictive presence did not sweetenfor Beau Sekforde the house that was the temple of hisfailure.

He glared at the furniture that should have been paid for bybills on his wife's fortune, and went to his chamber.

He, too, knew haunts, dark and gleaming, where health andmoney, wits and time might be steadily consumed, and where onewho was bankrupt in all these things might be for the timetolerated if he had a flattering and servile tongue and anappearance that lent some dignity to mean vices and ignoblesins.

He found a fire in his bed-chamber, the curtains drawn, hiscloak, evening rapier, and gloves put ready for him, the candleslit on his dressing-table.

He dressed himself rather soberly and went downstairs.

The meal was cleared away in the dining-room, the firecovered, the chairs put back in their places.

Beau Sekforde swore.

"If I had not seen her fastened down in her coffin I shouldhave sworn that Jane was in this house," he muttered, and hisblood-shot eyes winced a little from the gloom of the emptyhouse.

Again he went to the head of the basement stairs andlistened.

He could hear faintly yet distinctly the sound of someonemoving about—the sound of dishes, of brisk footstep ofclattering irons.

"Some wench has remained," he said uneasily, but he didnot offer to investigate those concealed kitchen premises.

That evening his companions found him changed—a quiet,sullen, dangerous mood was on him; they could easily understandthis, as tales of the disaster of his marriage had already leakedabroad.

But something deeper and more terrible even than his almostaccomplished ruin was troubling Robert Sekforde.

He returned very late to the mansion in High Holborn; he haddrunk as much wine as his friends would pay for, and there waslittle of the elegant gallant about the heavy figure in thestained coat with wig awry and the flushed, swollen face, whostumbled into the wretched place he named home with unconscioussarcasm.

A light stood ready for him in the hall; he took this up andstaggered upstairs, spilling the candle-grease over his laceruffles.

Half-way up he paused, suddenly wondering who had thought toleave the light.

"Not my lady wife—not my royal Countess," hegrinned.

Then a sudden pang of horror almost sobered him. Jane hadnever forgotten to put a candle in the hall. He paused, as ifexpecting to hear her shrill, nagging voice.

"You're drunk," he said to himself fiercely; "she is dead,dead, dead."

He went upstairs.

The fire in his room was bright, the bed stood ready, hisslippers and bedgown were warming, a cup of posset stood steamingon the side-table.

Mr. Sekforde snatched up his candle and hurried to the room ofthe Countess.

He violently entered and stood confronting her great bed withthe red damask hangings.

With a shriek she sat up; her cheeks were still rouged, thefalse pearls dangled in her ears, the laced gown was open on herskinny throat; a cap with pink ribbons concealed her scant greyhair.

She flung herself, with claw-like hands, on an embroideredpurse on the quilt, and thrust it under her pillow; it containedher night's winnings at cards.

"Have you come to rob me?" she screamed.

Terror robbed her of all dignity; she crouched in the shadowsof the huge bed, away from the red light cast on her dreadfulface by the candle her husband held.

Beau Sekforde was not thinking of money now, and her wordspassed unheeded.

"Who is in this house?" he demanded.

"You are mad," she said, a little recovering her composure,but keeping her hands very firmly on the purse beneath thepillow; "there is no one in this house."

"Did you put a candle for me and prepare my room andlight the fire and place the posset?"

He spoke thickly and leant against the bed-post; the candle,now almost guttered away, sent a spill of grease on the heavyquilt.

"You are drunk, you monstrous man!" screamed my lady. "If youare not away instantly I'll put my head out of the window andscreech the neighbourhood up!"

Beau Sekforde, regarding her with dull eyes, remained at hisoriginal point.

"There was someone in the kitchen this afternoon," heinsisted. "I heard sounds—"

"Rats," said my lady; "the house is full of 'em."

A look of relief passed over the man's sodden features.

"Of course, rats," he muttered.

"What else could it be?" asked the Countess, sufficientlyimpressed by his strange manner momentarily to forget hergrievance against him.

"What else?" he repeated; then suddenly turned on her withfury, lurching the candle into her face.

"Could rats have set this for me?" he shouted.

The Countess shrank back; when agitated her head trembled withincipient palsy, and now it trembled so that the false pearlsrattled hollow against her bony neck.

"You will fire the bed-curtains!" she shrilleddesperately.

He trembled with a loathing of her that was like a panic fearof fury.

"You time-foundered creature!" he cried. "You bitter horror!And 'twas for you I did it!"

She sprang to her knees in the bed, her hands crooked as ifready for his face; there was nothing left now of the fine damenurtured in courts, the beauty nursed in the laps of princes. Shehad reverted to the wench of Drury Lane, screaming abuse fromalley to alley.

"If you are disappointed, what about me?" she shrieked. "HaveI not tied myself to a low, ugly fool?"

He stepped back from her as if he did not understand her, and,muttering, staggered back into his own room.

There he lit all the candles, piled up the fire with morefuel, glanced with horror at the bed, flung off his coat and wig,and settled himself in the chair with arms before the fire tosleep.

The Countess, roused and angered, could sleep no more.

She rose, flung on a chamber-robe of yellow satin lined withmarten's fur, that was a relic of her court days and threadbareand moth-eaten in places, though giving the effect of muchsplendour.

Without striking a light she went cautiously out into thecorridor, saw the door of her husband's room ajar, a bright glowfrom it falling across the darkness, and crept steadily in.

He was, as she had supposed, in an intoxicated stupor of sleepby the fire.

His head had sunk forward on the stained and untied lacecravat on his breast; his wigless head showed fat and shaven andgrey over the temples, his face was a dull purple, and his mouthhung open.

His great frame was almost as loose as that of a man newlydead, his hands hung slack, and his chest heaved with his noisybreathing. My lady was herself a horrid object, but that did notprevent her giving hint a glance of genuine disgust.

"Beau Sekforde indeed!" she muttered.

She put out all the candles save two on the dressing-table,found the coat her husband had flung off, and began going swiftlythrough the pockets.

He had been, as she had hoped, fortunate at cards that night;he was indeed, like herself, of a type who seldom wasunfortunate, since he only played with fools or honest men,neither of whom had any chance against the peculiar talents ofthe sharper.

The Countess found sundry pieces of gold and silver, which sheknotted up in her handkerchief with much satisfaction.

She knew that nothing but money would ever be able to be ofany service to her in this world.

Pleased with her success, she looked round to see if therewere anything else of which she could despoil her husband.

Keeping her cunning old eyes constantly on him, she crept tothe dressing-table and went over the drawers and boxes.

Most of the ornaments that she turned out glittered andgleamed heavily in the candle-light. But she knew that they wereas false as the pearls trembling in her own ears; one or twothings, however, she added to the money in the handkerchief, andshe was about to investigate further when a little sound, like acough, caused her to look sharply round.

The room was full of warm shadows, the fire was sinking lowand only cast a dim light on the heavy, sleeping figure on thehearth, while the candle-sticks on the dressing-table served onlyto illuminate the bent figure of the Countess in her brilliantwrap.

As she looked round she found herself staring straight at thefigure of a woman, who was observing her from the other side ofthe bed.

This woman was dressed in a grey tabinet fashioned like thedress of an upper servant. Her hair was smoothly banded, and herfeatures were pale and sharp; her hands, that she held ratherawkwardly in front of her, were rough and work-worn.

Across one cheek was a long scratch.

The Countess dropped her spoils; she remembered her husband'swords that she had taken for the babbling of a drunkard.

So there was someone in the house.

"How dare you?" she quavered, and in a low tone, for she didnot wish to rouse her husband. "How dare you come here?"

Without replying the woman moved across to the sleeping manand looked down at him with an extraordinary expression ofmingled malice and protection, as if she would defend him fromany evil save that she chose to deal herself.

So sinister was this expression and the woman's whole attitudethat the Countess was frightened as she never had been in thecourse of her wicked life.

She stood staring the handkerchief, full of money andornaments, dropped on the dressing-table unheeded.

Beau Sekforde moved in his sleep and fetched a deep groan.

"You impertinent creature!" whispered the Countess, takingcourage. "Will you not go before I wake my husband?"

At these last words the woman raised her head; she did notseem to speak, yet, as if there were an echo in the room, theCountess distinctly heard the words "My husband!" repeated afterher in a tone of bitter mockery.

A sense of unreality such as she had never known beforetouched the Countess; she felt as if her sight were growing dimand her hearing failing her; she made a movement as if to brushsomething from before her eyes.

When she looked again at Beau Sekforde he was alone; no onewas beside him.

In dreaming, tortured sleep he groaned and tossed.

"The baggage has slipped off," muttered the Countess; "belikeit is some ancient dear of his own. I will send her away in themorning."

She crept back to her own room, forgetting her spoils.

She did not sleep, and Mr. Sekforde did not wake till the palewinter dawn showed between the curtains.

The Countess looked round on a chamber in disorder, but forBeau Sekforde everything was arranged, shaving water ready, hisbreakfast hot and tempting on a tray, his clothes laid out.

When he had dressed and come downstairs he found his wifeyawning over a copy of the Gazette.

She remembered last night quite clearly, and considerablyregretted what she had left behind in Beau Sekforde's room in herconfusion.

She gave him a glance, vicious with the sense of anopportunity lost.

He flung at her the question he had shouted last night. "Whois in this house?"

"Some woman has stayed," she answered. "I think it was Joannathe housekeeper, but I did not see very clearly. She must be outnow, as I have rung the bell and there has been no answer."

"My breakfast was brought up to me," said Mr. Sekforde. "So itis Joanna Mills, is it?"

The Countess was angry; she had had to go to the kitchen andpick among yesterday's scraps for her own food.

"And who is she?"

"You said, madam, the housekeeper."

"She must be very fond of you," sneered my lady. He started atthat and turned on her a ghastly look. "Oh, don't think I amjealous!" she grinned cynically.

"It was the word you used," he muttered. "I do not thinkanyone has been fond of me save one—" He paused andpassed his hand over his weary, heavy eyes.

"I dreamt of her last night."


"Jane, my wife."

The Countess remembered the ugly echo of her words lastnight.

"Your wife—do you forget that I and no other am yourwife?"

"I do," he replied sullenly; "to me Jane is always mywife."

"A pity," said my lady sarcastically, "that she did not livelonger."

He gave her a queer look.

"And now we have got to think of ourselves," he said abruptly."I cannot keep these things much longer—you had bettergo."


"What do I care?" he answered cruelly.

"I stay here," she replied. "Is the rent paid?"


"Well, they will not disturb us till quarter-day," said mylady calmly. "You do not want to be parted from your loving wife,do you, dear?"

He stared at her as if her words had a double meaning.

"Cannot you be quiet about my wife?" he exclaimed.

"La! The man is off his head!" shrilled my lady. "JaneSekforde is dead!"

"That is why I think about her," he retorted grimly.

"A model husband," jeered the Countess, eyeing him viciously."I am sorry I never knew the sweet creature you regret so keenlyand so touchingly."

He raged at her like a man whose nerves are overwrought.

"Will you not let the matter be? Think of yourself, youmonstrous horror! You will soon be in the Fleet!"

This picture was sufficiently realistic to make the Countessshiver.

"What are you going to do?" she asked with suddenfeebleness.

He did not know; brooding and black-browed, he withdrew to thewindow-place and stared out at the leaden November sky that hungso heavily over the London streets.

"I suppose if you were free of me you would take your handsomeface to market again?" added my lady, with a sudden flash of newfury.

He gave her a red look, at which she shrank away.

"Well, still we do not decide on anything," she quavered.

He would not answer her, but flung out of the house.

His unsteady steps were directed to St. Andrew's Church.

It was a long time since Beau Sekforde had been near achurch.

Even when his wife had been buried here he had not attendedthe service.

He stood now in the porch, biting his thumb; then presently heentered.

Hesitating and furtive he went round the walls until he cameto the new, cheap tablet with the badly cut draped urn and theflorid Latin setting forth the virtues of Jane Sekforde.

"They don't say anything about her being a good housekeeper,"he found himself saying aloud. "Why, she told me once she wouldcome back from the grave to set her house in order."

He looked round as if to seek the answer of some companion,then laughed sullenly, drew his hat over his eyes, and left thechurch.

Towards dusk he wandered home.

The dining-room was neat and clean, the fire attended to, thedinner on the table. He managed to eat some of the food, butwithout appetite. The Countess was out; there was no traceanywhere of her slovenly splendour.

The whole house was as clean and precise as it had been whenthat neglected drudge, Jane Sekforde, had ruled over it.

When the Countess returned he was almost glad to seeher—he had been thinking so much, too much, of Jane.

He had thought of her as he had seen her last, cold in herbed, clothed in her best grey gown, and how he had stared at herand hung over her and drawn suddenly away, so sharply that thebutton of cut steel on his cuff had left a scratch on her deadcheek.

"Where is Joanna Mills?" he abruptly asked his wife.

She stared at him; in such a moment as this could he think ofnothing but the housekeeper? Was he losing his wits?

But she did not now much care; she had found a crony willingto shelter her and exploit her ancient glories.

"I am going away," she said. "I do not know who is in thehouse—I have seen no one."

He seemed to pay no attention at all to her first remark.

"What was that woman you saw last night like?"

"A very plain, shrewish-looking creature," replied my lady,with some bitterness, as she recalled how she had been startledinto dropping the filched money.

"Are you sure it was a woman?" asked Beau Sekforde with aghastly grin.

"Why, what else could it have been?" she repliedcuriously.

"I do not think it has been a woman for—some months," hesaid.

"Why, do you imagine there is a spectre in the place?"

He would not, could not answer; he left her, and went fromroom to room throwing everything into disorder, taking a horridpleasure in making a confusion in the neatness of the house.

And then he flung himself away from the dreary mansion,leaving the Countess, like an old, weary bird of prey, wanderingamong the untidy rooms to see if there were anything worth takingaway.

When he returned in the dark hours before the dawn he foundthe candle on the hall table.

"Curse you!" he screamed. "Cannot you let me alone?"

He hastened upstairs; everything was neat, his bed, his fire,his posset ready, his shoes warming, his candles lit.

His terrified eyes cast a horrid glance round the room.

"The medicine cupboard—has she tidied that?" hemuttered.

He crossed to where it hung in one corner, opened the door,and looked at the rows of pots and bottles.

One he knew well had been stained—had been left with abroken stopper...a bottle of a peculiar, ugly look, holding ayellow liquid that stained linen purple.

Such a stain, very tiny, had been on Jane Sekforde'spillow.

As he stared into the cupboard he saw that the bottle had beencleaned and set in its place, while a new, neat label had beenpasted on the front.

The writing was the writing of Jane Sekforde—it said inclear letters, "Poison."

Beau Sekforde dropped the candle and ran into the Countess'room.

"Wake up!" he shouted. "Wake up and hear me! She has comeback. I want to confess. I murdered her! Let them take meaway—somewhere where—where she cannot tidy forme."

The room was empty of the Countess, who had fled; an unnaturallight came from the unshuttered windows and showed a womansitting up in the great bed.

She had a pale, shrewish face, a grey garment on, and ascratch across her cheek.

As the shrieks of Beau Sekforde's confession echoed into thenight and drew the watch to thunder on the door, the womansmiled.


First published in All-Story Weekly, 18 May 1918

Crimes of Old London (5)

All Story Weekly, 18 May 1918, with "The Gilt Sedan Chair"

IT was a night so terrible that man's trust inGod might well be shaken.

For days the snow had lain frozen on the ground, and a darkand bitter fog had overhung London. By three o'clock the day wasover, by four it was dark. Neither by day nor night was there anylift in the heavy snow pall that covered the sky—there wasneither wind nor snow, only the intense, penetrating cold; evenin the country, miles away from the smoke of the city, it was notpossible to see farther than across the road; the hoary white,frozen fog blotted out everything save the objects close athand.

All houses, trees, fields, the few passers-by, the sparsetraffic, seemed cast out of lead, colourless, hard, immobile evenin the busiest parts of the town. Here, now night had fallen, inthis lonely part of Hampstead, neither man nor beast was abroadnor had been for several nights. Yet a man stood in the doorwayof a great solitary mansion on the Heath, obviously peering outinto the white, frozen obscurity and waiting for somearrival.

The house stood black and shuttered within the bleak, barren,and high-walled garden; only from behind the watcher at the doorshowed a thin glow of light which faintly penetrated the fog. Thesilence was complete and profound; the situation of the house wasin any case lonely, being well off the high road and on anisolated portion of the Heath. Casual passers-by seldom came thatway even in the daytime and in fine weather; now it seemed asdivided from the world as if it were some outpost of the infernalregions.

The watcher at the door, muffled to the chin in a fur-linedgreatcoat and with a beaver hat pulled over his eyes, took animpatient step or two into the garden. The icy snow crunchedunder his feet, the freezing air bit his face, he strained sightand hearing, but all was veiled and silent; the cold made himshudder to his heart.

He turned back to the house, leaving the hall door ajar behindhim, and entered one of the shuttered rooms at the back of thehouse.

A large fire burnt on the hearth, but the chamber was neitherwarm nor comfortable; it had no aspect of having ever been livedin; the heavy tapestry furniture was in holland covers, themassive chandelier was concealed by a bag of brown muslin; overthe mirror above the large mantelpiece was also drawn muslin, theormolu clock was not going, the polished floor, the paintedceiling were alike dusty. The two sconces either side the hearthhad been filled with wax lights and lit; untended, they haddripped over the silver gilt in drops of wax.

On the green marble-topped table stood several fine decantersof wine and spirits and tankards and glass, also some delicatechina plates, and a large fruit cake on a gilt salver.

By the fire, in a deep easy-chair drawn close to the blaze,sat a terrible-looking man of about sixty—fat, diseased,bloated, in the garb of a clergyman. His worn peruke hung on theback of his chair, his bald dirty head shone in the redcandle-light; he was drinking from a big mug of punch and staringwith bleared eyes into the fire, on which a great kettle wasboiling. Several bottles stood beside him on the floor; besidethem was a dog-eared Bible and soiled prayer-book.

The man who had been waiting at the door looked at him withdisgust and fury.

"You need not get drunk yet, Atkinson," he remarkedfiercely.

"I'm not drunk, my lord," returned the other thickly, "but wemust keep the cold out—a night like this." He looked roundat the young man with a very ugly leer. "So they have not comeyet?" he added. "Have a drink yourself, Lord Massingham."

My lord cursed forcibly; he flung his hat on to one of theshrouded chairs and loosened his coat at the throat, showing theclose folds of his fine cambric cravat and revealing the featuresso well known and so well hated, also sometimes so foolishlyloved.

He was handsome because he was young; when he should be as oldas the man by the fire he would probably be as hideous; vitalityand health were all there was to give charm and power to thefinely cast and vividly coloured face. He wore a plain ridingsuit of dark blue silk and no jewels; his hair, of a dark, dullbrown colour, hung loosely in its own natural and becoming waveand was tied by a narrow black ribbon; yet he was very plainly ofthe great world, his movements were full of trained grace, hismanners of arrogance.

"Supposing they do not come?" asked the jackal by thefire.

My lord paled at this insolence on the part of his creature.At his look the other cringed.

"Such a night, I mean," he explained feebly, and swallowed agreat draught of punch.

My lord swung on him and shook his fat shoulder.

"If you are too drunk to read the service I'll run youthrough," he snarled.

Before the terrified wretch could answer, a low clear whistlesounded through the stillness. My lord hurried to the front doorand opened it wide on to the dreadful night.

A blurred and ghastly light shone through the cold fog; soonthis showed as two lanterns, which came nearer up the path; snowand ice crackled beneath footsteps, hoarse whispering sounded,black shadows appeared, detached from the surrounding gloom bythat nebulous light; Lord Massingham picked up the lanthorn thatstood ready in the hall and went out to meet an approaching groupof men, who came slowly as if staggering under some burden.

My lord no longer felt the cold; the blood burnt hot in hischeeks. He swung up his light and seized the first figure by thearm.

"Have you got her?" he asked with fierce eagerness.

The other, who was muffled to the eyes and limped in his walk,answered with equally fierce brevity.

"Yes," he said.

Lord Massingham laughed.

"I knew you would. You are a good fellow after all, Jack," hewhispered.

"Oh, yes," sneered the other. "A good fellow, Harry."

"How is it you are on foot?" questioned my lord.

"Confound you! The horses could not keep the road. I had toleave the coach at the edge of the Heath."

"Well, you are here," answered Lord Massingham with thatscornful and impatient kindness he sometimes threw this chief ofall his jackals, "and you have got the girl."

"She did not come willingly, after all," said the jackal in anugly voice. "I hope you have provided the parson, for she is verynice in her notions and will likely do a mischief to someone ifshe is desperate." So the two, speaking in low tones, passed fromthe bleak darkness into the bleak house. When they were in thehall the newcomer pushed back his hat, and the beams of thelantern that Lord Massingham held revealed the likeness betweenthe two men.

They were brothers, and the family resemblance was strong,only the dark features of the younger were clouded by a doublebitterness: the sting of his deformed foot and the sting of hissubordinate position. With passions and tastes, pride and desiresequal to his brother, he had always had to cringe for his livingon his elder, who had everything.

They were known, in the evil world to which they belonged, byhideous nicknames; a third brother who was in the Church beingcalled Bishopsgate, the Hon. Jack Mervyn was called Cripplegate,and my lord the Earl designated by the ferocious title ofHellgate.

The Earl returned to the lit room with a smile of satisfactionon his triumphant face. The enterprise he had on hand was adaring one, even for him; no less than the abduction, to befollowed by the mock marriage (then such a fashionable deviceamong the men of the fashionable world), of the most charming andpopular actress in London, Lavinia Bellamy, who had hithertowithstood the pleas and devices of all her lovers, and hadmaintained a discreet behaviour that had greatly enhanced hervalue in the eyes of her admirers. The fact that it was reportedthat her coldness was due to a secret attachment to a poor memberof her own profession had whetted Lord Massingham's zeal in hispresent outrage, planned with a care he had given to few of hisintrigues.

There was, to him, an added and peculiar attraction in thefact that, while he was taking such trouble to gain possession ofthis poor actress partly by force, partly by deception, he wasbetrothed to his cousin, the Lady Dorothy Fenton, a great matchand a Duke's daughter, whose considerable fortune was a necessityfor his exhausted estates.

This false secret marriage with one beautiful and famouswoman, to be followed so shortly by another marriage with a womanalso famous and beautiful and of his own rank and world, appealedto many passions in the dark heart of Lord Massingham.

The mock parson cocked a bleary eye up at his master's haughtyand vindictive presence, fetched a groan and was about to takeanother draught of punch.

Lord Massingham dashed the mug from his lips and it shiveredon the iron firedogs.

"The little fool is to think that you are a parson, Atkinson,do you hear?" he commanded.

The tipsy wretch tried to pull himself together.

"So Cripplegate has got her, has he?" he stuttered,straightening his clerical cravat with unsteady fingers. "I hopethere will be no scenes." He shook his head with stupidgravity.

My lord smiled confidently.

"The wench will be very pleased to be made a Countess," hereplied, "especially as there is no other way out of it."

As he spoke the younger brother entered, bringing with him ablast of bitter air and flinging aside his heavy cloak, on whichhis breath lay frozen, from his neck and shoulders.

"I wonder what Dorothy would say to this night's work," heremarked quietly.

The Earl turned on him with an impulsive movement as if hewould have flung himself at his throat, then restrained himselfcontemptuously; he had other things to do besides punishing theinsolence of Cripplegate.

"If you mention that name in this place again I will thrashyou," he remarked. "Where is the woman?"

His brother smiled straight into his angry eyes.

"I told Griffiths and Savage to bring her in," he replied.

Almost as he spoke the door was pushed open and two stout,masked men entered, dragging between them the wretched occupantof the gilt sedan.

She wore a very full cardinal of quilted red sarcenet; beneathshowed the white and gold of her evening petticoats and herhigh-heeled satin shoes covered with the slush of the troddenice. Her scarf of gold and blue striped gauze was wound round herhead and face, beneath could be seen the white of thehandkerchief with which she was tightly gagged. The elaboratestructure of her hair had been disarranged in herstruggles—pomaded curls, pink velvet roses, and a brokenbraid of pearls showed on her bosom, falling from beneath herhood.

She was either unconscious or utterly exhausted, for her limbsfell slack and her head hung from side to side. There was nothingleft now of the beauty and charm that had provoked this vilerobbery; she looked merely helpless and piteous, broken andhumiliated in the grip of her captors.

Some vague stirrings of compassion touched the Earl's hardheart as he looked at her; as usual he vented himself on hisbrother.

"Was there any need to use her like this?" he frowned.

"She would have shrieked all the way—she fought like acat."

"I think it strange," said my lord sharply, "that she did notcome more easily."

He flattered himself that he had made an impression on theheart of the fair actress, and that she would not have been sounwilling as Cripplegate said he had found her. He swung round onthe lady with what tenderness he could muster and addressed herin those terms of spurious gallantry in which he was sopractised.

"Madam, compose yourself; you know whom you are with and whatfeelings hurried me to this seeming violence."

At the sound of his voice she seemed to start into life,recoiled from him deeper into the arms of her captors, and flungher shuddering hands up to her bound face.

"Madam, take heart; Lavinia, trust to me," continued the Earlwith his grand air. "Here is a clergyman present who will marryus." He took the woman from her guards and set her on a chair bythe table; she still had her hands so tightly pressed against herface that he could not remove the gag that held her silent.

Atkinson, the bogus parson, had now hustled the two ruffianswho had brought in the woman out of the room and sent themdownstairs to eat and sleep in the hall where the gilt sedanchair had been placed.

"You will be needed presently," he said. "My lord will havethe lady sent into the country; you must take her to thecoach."

"'Tis lost on the Heath," replied one of the men with a grin,and he began to describe the dangers and difficulties of thisdangerous abduction—how they had carried the wench awayfrom her escort in the fog and the crowd leaving the theatre, howthey had placed her in the gilt sedan, in the great coach and howCripplegate had gagged and bound her and driven the coach,himself, with two of his fellows on the box beside him and oneclinging to the straps behind.

Atkinson stopped the tale.

"I hope Hellgate has not gone too far," he said with aquivering mouth. "There will be a hue and cry over thisgirl."

He returned up the bleak, unlit stairs to the cold splendourof the great, shrouded room where he had left the two brothersand their victim. Despite the wine he had drunk to give himselfcourage, he would have liked to have washed his hands of thewhole business. He entered the room on tiptoe like one preparedfor an ugly sight.

My lord had unknotted the bandages from the woman's face, andshe was seated at the table by the wine and fruit, glasses anddishes, her countenance hidden in her hands, her body crouchedinto the recesses of the chair, her whole body still.

The Earl was bending over her, endeavouring to force on her aglass of spirit; Cripplegate stood by the fire, which he had justpiled up with fresh logs, and smiled at both of them.

There was something very sinister about the appearance of thislame young man. He wore the costume of wealth and elegance, paleapricot coloured satins embroidered with gold and scarlet thread,a muslin cravat with a paste buckle, hair pomaded andpowdered—all of which showed now that he had put aside hisheavy travelling coat and the slouch hat that had served todisguise him.

His face was wide and fine, like his brother's, but a peculiarlength of eyes, nostrils, and lips, a sharpness in thecheek-bones and chin, joined to his cold and sneering expression,gave him a very unpleasant appearance. His lameness affected hiswhole body, the shoulder of the left side dropped, and thebalance of his figure was thrown out from the waist; this,however, the rich, heavy clothes partially concealed, and theactual deformity of the foot and leg was hidden by the highleather boots he wore, in strange contrast to his eveningattire.

The Earl's short patience with the wretched object of hisvillainy came to an end.

"Lavinia, this is folly! Lift up your face—look at me! Iswear there is no harm intended—look up before you angerme."

The woman suddenly dropped her cold stiff hands and looked athim with utter horror in her disfigured face.

Surrounded by the fallen hair in which the broken braid ofpearls and the velvet flower showed as if in mockery, herfeatures, sharp with fear and anguish, showed pallid and bruisedin the candle-light. Her mouth was swollen and discoloured fromthe gag, her cheeks marked, a little stain of dried blood on oneof her temples showed where she had wounded herself in herfrantic attempts to leave the coach; her throat was so dry, herlips so numb, that she could hardly speak.

"You—you!" she stammered. Her desperate eyes shudderedaway from the Earl and rested on the man in the clergyman's dresswith the prayer-book in his hand. He, staring at her, lookedswiftly at my lord, for he knew that this was not LaviniaBellamy.

(Video) The Serial Wife Poisoner | Murder Maps | Real Crime

My lord could not speak; in all his wicked manhood he hadnever faced such a moment as this.

The victim of this foul attempt was not the poor actress,whose fate would merely cause a smile or a shrug, but LadyDorothy, the daughter of a Duke, for whose defence all thegentlemen of England would come forward—Dorothy theheiress, the toast, the aristocrat—his own promisedbride.

He turned about and his glance fell on the face ofCripplegate, distorted by a hideous sneer of triumph. With adreadful cry the elder brother flung himself on the younger, andthe two closed in a fierce embrace of hatred.

Lady Dorothy did not move; a little warmth and colour wascoming into her face, more life into her eyes; she gave ashuddering sigh.

Atkinson hurled himself on the brothers, and being a stout manand a desperate one, drove them apart.

"Why did you not let them kill each other?" asked Lady Dorothyhysterically. "It would have been better so." She moved stifflytowards the fire. "I am so cold," she added faintly.

Atkinson fetched her the glass of spirits the Earl had pouredout for her, and this time she put it to her lips and drank alittle.

In some way as she moved to the fire, she seemed to dominatethe three men, and they, so lately her arrogant captors, appearednow but as her slaves. She was no silly damsel, but a woman ofwit and intellect, of pride and character. Her beauty waseclipsed, bruised, and draggled as no one could ever havebelieved that such a sheltered beauty could be; she stood instrange surroundings, facing a strange company, but she was nolonger broken; now that her first physical pain and suffering waseased, now that she was free and warm, her pride outweighed herhumiliation.

Her attitude was as if she held a whip in her taut hands.

"Madam," said the Earl, not looking at her, and in muffledtones, "I will take you home."

"Like this?" she asked. "It will be dawn before we reach St.James's Square. What tale shall we tell?"

My lord groaned in very anguish; his first wild thought was tomarry her instantly—if this ruffian had but been really inholy orders!

"What can I offer—what can I say?" he muttered, thenstumbled over the word "marriage."

Her bitter contempt made him wince like a struck dog.

"There can be no talk of marriage between you and me, mylord!" she said, and her voice was now strong and clear. "But, byHeaven, there may be some talk of other things!"

He saw her lost—her and her money, and her beauty andher rank; he tried not to think of Cripplegate until he hadadjusted this terrible situation with her, for if he had thoughtof him he must have turned and slain him with his bare hands.Lady Dorothy put her hands to her forehead; for a moment sheseemed bewildered by the enormity of what had happened; she criedout to the younger brother with a note of feminine woe.

"Why did you do this thing?" she asked. "What harm did I everdo to you that you should thus ruin me—all of us?"

Cripplegate gave her an evil look; he knew that her agony wasthe sharper because she had nearly loved the Earl and might haveloved him had this never happened, for he was very attractive tohigh-spirited women; it was this stifled, slain passion that shelamented, all unconsciously, through all her despair.

"Both you and my lord thought me not worthyour—consideration," said Cripplegate. "It was foolish,madam, very foolish."

"You did this for sheer malice, then—for sheer hatred ofhim and me?"

"For hatred of the whole proud pack of you."

It was the scoundrel outcast, the despised black sheep, whospoke, the man trodden on, spurned, who had at last stung, in thefullness of his vengeance, those who had bruised him, heart andsoul, all his evil life.

Lady Dorothy made no attempt to answer flout with flout, norfury with fury; in the exaltation of her supreme misery she wasbeyond all outward manifestations of passion.

"All hates may be satisfied now," she said quietly; "we areruined."

She spoke of herself and her kin who would never, any of them,be able to recover from the disgrace of this night's work, butthe Earl took her words for himself. He certainly was ruined; inno way could he reinstate himself in the eyes of his promisedwife nor in those of her family; before the world he was lost anddishonoured, there was no means of expiation, there would be ascandal that would mount to the heavens, not to be concealed,avoided—blotted out.

"What do you mean to do?" she asked, staring at him.

He replied like one stupid and amazed:

"You believe I never meant this?"

But by these words he showed that his usual knowledge of womenhad failed him, for he called to her mind the bitterest part ofhis offence; she might have found possible to condone someoutrage inspired by love of herself, for she was a creature ofhigh passions and of a romantic temperament; but to have been thevictim of the insult designed for another woman was theunforgivable sin.

"No," she answered. "You were expecting Lavinia Bellamy, theactress...You meant to have married her—three weeks beforeour wedding-day, my lord!"

Her wavering finger pointed scorn at the pair of them.

"The fair name you have tarnished demands that one of youpays," she continued, "with life itself. Take up your weapons,sir, if you have any manhood left."

"I would fight, but not in your presence, cousin Dorothy,"returned the pallid Earl.

"Have I not seen enough to-night—do I not know enoughnow that I shall be frightened with a little blood?"

My lord came a step towards her.

"Whatever my follies may be, I swear I hold you dearest ofwomen, and as for what this fiend has devised for ourundoing—I would have died sooner than it should havehappened!"

He spoke in all sincerity and she must have known it, but hiscrime was beyond all palliative.

"You see," sneered Cripplegate, "he can turn even thisoccasion into a pretty speech!"

My lord ignored this; he looked only at his cousin.

"What do you demand of me?" he asked. "I will doanything."

"Kill your brother or be killed by him," she replied.

"By God, I will!" he replied. His spirit leapt to meet hers;nearer had he so admired her as at that moment of utter loss andanguish.

Cripplegate shrugged his uneven shoulders. This much of hisbreed showed in him that he made no effort to shirk theconsequences of his action; he also stood to lose all by thisnight's work, and must have known it when he first planned hismad revenge.

"This is all that you can do for me," said Lady Dorothy to theEarl. "Kill that man."

Both the brothers cried out so instantly, "I am ready!" thatit sounded like one voice; but Atkinson, moved by Heaven knowswhat obscure impulses and dread, what long-forgotten horrors andcodes, again flung himself between the young men.

"Madam," he gasped, "you cannot permit this thing—thiscannot be settled here and now—have pity on theseunfortunate gentlemen!"

She interrupted him with such force that it seemed as if thewords were struck out of his mouth, and he cowered back intosilence as if he had received a blow over the heart.

"Come from between them, you more than vile!" she cried. Againshe spoke to the Earl.

"Why do you waste time?"

He swung his sword out, but she would not have this.

"That weapon is for honourable men," she said; she turned tothe younger brother's coat that was flung across a chair by thefire and from the pocket of it took the case of pistols; thesearms had been used against her escort; she had heard one man fallgroaning.

She put the case on the table among the glasses and winebottles, the cake and fruit.

"Take these," she said.

The brothers moved as if there were no choice but to obey her;they examined the weapons quietly.

"Load them!" she commanded.

The clock struck two; the sound a little shook her from herbitter calm; she thought of those searching for her in theghastly cold and dark, of the grief and misery about to beentailed on all those who loved her and whom she loved, and she,faltering, recoiled from her fate.

The pistols were loaded now, and each had examined that of theother, under the eyes of Lady Dorothy.

"It is plain murder—without seconds, without a surgeon,"gibbered Atkinson, crouching against the wall.

The light was uncertain, the room full of leaping shadows, forthe fire was blazing in great flames and the candles had gutteredto their sockets. By this shuddering light the two men faced eachother.

"Now—across the table," said the Earl.

He gave a wild look at the woman by the fire; her red and pinkclothes were gleaming in the lustrous folds of silk and satins,her draggled pomaded hair showed colourless as her haggard face;she no longer looked a young woman.

"Give the signal, Cousin Dorothy," added Lord Massingham.

She clasped her interlocked hands across her strainingheart.

"Fire!" she said.

The table was not more than three feet across.

"Murder, murder!" mumbled Atkinson, cringing away in thecorner with his hands to his ears.

One shot only broke the stillness of the great house; theEarl, with his fingers still on the trigger, fell forward,clutched at the table, swept the glasses to the ground with hiscuff, and dropped to the floor.

He lay on his back, twisting.

Cripplegate laughed; he made no attempt to go to his brother,but stared at his smoking pistol as Lady Dorothy sped round thetable to the dying man. She went on her knees beside him swiftly,as if expecting him to speak, but he turned over on his facewithout any word, only a little half-fetched groan, and presentlylay dead.

Seeing him still she rose as swiftly as she had sunk to herknees, only first drawing the pistol from my lord's slackfingers. She was alone indeed, now, the one being to whom shecould have looked for protection was gone; she was in the powerof a merciless villain who had twice triumphed in this night ofhorror.

She glanced at the evil face of Cripplegate.

"Do you regret my lord?" sneered he.

Before either of the men could cry out she had raised herfrail hand and emptied the second pistol into the bosom of theyounger brother.

Atkinson sprang forward and seized her, but it was too late;as the smoke cleared Cripplegate was revealed prone between thetable and the hearth.

"What have you done?" chattered the wretched mock parson, bentwith terror and dragging at her rich skirts.

Lady Dorothy turned on him terrible eyes from which the lightof reason had for ever disappeared.

"Take up your book," she said. "You'll not want the marriageservice, but the prayers for the dead and damned. As for me, callthe gilt sedan chair. I will go home..."


First published in The Novel Magazine, April 1918

Crimes of Old London (6)

The Novel Magazine, April 1918, with "The Packet of Comfits"

ON a May evening in the year 1785, when VauxhallGardens had come to be accepted as the most fashionable place ofresort in London, having completely eclipsed Ranelagh, a littlescene took place in one of the alleys of the Gardens which wasthe beginning of this story of crime.

In a summer-house surrounded with plants of laurel and box,and away from the places of entertainment, dancing, and music, aman and a woman were engaged in a conversation out of place withtheir frivolous surroundings. She was bitterly frightened and hewas bitterly angry, and both were in the grip of a passion notconquered but subdued, that caused them to be almost besidethemselves despite their forced calm.

They had purposely chosen a spot far from any lanterns orillumination, but the moonlight was strong on the whitesummer-house, and fell in through the narrow window on to the twowho stood within facing each other.

The woman in her agitation and distress was leaning againstthe wall, holding in both hands her velvet mask. Her type wasdelicate, and she looked tired if not ill; the graces of herextreme youth were concealed by paint, powder, pomade, and anover-gorgeous dress, for she was arrayed in the extreme of anartificial fashion. Her tight bodice and full, hooped skirt ofgold and claret-coloured striped silk were adorned with frillsand furbelows of gold lace, her blue velvet mantle was lined withcostly black fur, and hung in great folds that made herslenderness appear fantastic by contrast. The hood had fallenback from curls elaborately dressed and twisted with a gold gauzescarf, the front was unclasped on a white bosom where diamondsshowed amid lace and ribbons. All this splendour appeared butpiteous in contrast with her haggard, unhappy youthfulness.

The man stood more in the shade, a fine young figure, precisein a soldier's uniform, with stiff side-curls and a sullenface.

"So this is what love ends in," said the girl, moistening herdry, rouged lips.

"You admit then that it was love?" he asked bitterly.

"You said so," she replied dully. "You said you wouldlive—die—suffer for me—and yet you cannot showordinary kindness."

"You," he returned fiercely, "said you would be faithful."

She moved her head against the wall in speechless distress;she was sick with trying to explain—to put into words thedesperate emotions that controlled her actions.

The man gave a short laugh, suddenly contemptuous of the wholesituation.

"Faithful!" he echoed. "I suppose women do not know what thething is!"

She was tortured into a reply.

"Perhaps men do not know what it is to be afraid. I do notthink they can, or they would not be so cruel."

He moved to the door, suddenly as weary as she of the terriblediscussion in which the happiness of both was going to stormywreck. But the thing that she was fighting for had not beenachieved, and she urged herself in her desperation to freshstrength, as she flung herself before him, clutching at thelapels of his coat.

"You have not given me my letters," she stammered. He flushedwith a sense of shame for her, for this anxiety of hers for herown safety seemed to him a terrible baseness; he was entirelyconvinced that he had never been her lover, but only her fool,and that caprice, not passion, had moved her in the past; herprudence, as he thought it, appeared to him an ugly thing.

"I brought you the letters to return them to you," he saidgrimly, "but I have changed my mind now I see your humour,madam—you have not been so kind to me that I should forbearbeing cruel to you."

He loosened her hands roughly and pushed her away from him;she caught at the door and still stood facing him, her great hoopbarring his path.

They were both in the full moonlight now, conspicuous againstthe white summer-house, which stood in tolerable imitation of aclassic temple against the dark, still laurels. They were nowforgetful of anything save each other, they did not seek to hushtheir voices, nor did they perceive a man coming along theshadowed alley towards them. He, however, saw them, recognizedthe blue mantle and striped gown, heard the voices raised inaccents of anger and fear and stepped quickly into thebushes.

Under the cover of the thick leaves he moved quickly andquietly towards the summer-house; he used the skill of one notunused to furtive, secret work, and was soon in safe ambushbehind the close laurel, from which he could observe thedistracted young creatures and hear their agonized accents.

"Oh, Robert," gasped the girl, "you know I must return, or Ishall be missed."

"Why, go!" he said, "I do not keep you."

"My letters."

"Are they not safe with me?"

"But if they should fall into the hands of another—willyou not understand the ruin it would be for me?"

"I understand," he replied, "but too well. I admire your greatprudence."

"For God's sake do not talk so bitterly! You know how I amplaced amid it all. I wish I were dead."

He answered with dreadful coldness.

"Indeed, madam, you had better be dead if you have not thecourage to live."

So saying, he put her from him resolutely and in a manner thatshe could not resist, and turning away, left her on the moonlitsteps.

The watcher noted his regimentals, his bearing, his face, witha keen and practised eye, then turned his keen gaze on thewretched girl, who was making a fierce effort to control andcontain her passion. The fear that had driven her to this secretinterview now nerved her to escape from her present situation;she went back into the summer-house for her mask and pulled herhood over her face.

As she was flying away with trembling steps she found thenew-comer, who had come now from behind the bushes, directly inher path.

So unlooked for was this that she almost stumbled into hisarms and could not repress a cry of utter dismay. He, cool andeasy, took off his hat and showed in the moonlight a fine andcynical face.

She knew him instantly for M. le Duc de Rohault, the FrenchAmbassador, and he had known her, from the moment he had firstheard her voice, for Lady Arabella Ware, the daughter of the manwho was the foremost statesman in the English Ministry.

With an effort that he could not but admire, the girlcommanded herself.

"Sir, you are in time to take me back to my party. I vow Ishall be missed. I came but a few steps down an alley with LadySylvia Tremaine."

She stopped short, conscious that her explanation, forced andhurried, was but a betrayal.

"And lost your way," finished the Frenchman suavely. "It is soeasy, mademoiselle—permit me to escort you back to madamethe Duchess, your mother, before the fête completely losesits brightness from your absence."

She was staring at him with eyes more full of terror than sheknew; his artificial gallantry contrasted bitterly with the crudewords that Captain Robert Tame had just spoken to her. M. deRohault was a man almost old enough to be her father, charming,witty, polished, lively—it did not seem possible that evenif she were in his power he would betray her. Yet she no longerfelt secure of any man's chivalry.

As she stepped again among her own people she felt, strangely,a throb of relief, as if the interview in the lonely summer-housebelonged to some evil dream which could now be forgotten, and shelooked at the great Earl who was to be her husband with a senseof protection even in his mere serene presence.

She would not have enjoyed even this passing relief from hertrouble if she could have seen the further actions of M. deRohault. As soon as he had left her he sought for his secretary,M. de Nivelle, and asked him if they had many lackeys present. Heseldom went anywhere without being unobtrusively accompanied byreliable men from the Embassy, and to-night there were fourwaiting by the gates for the departure of His Excellency.

M. de Rohault dispatched the secretary to fetch these, anddrawing him apart from the company, gave him his instructions ina quick low tone.

An hour later Captain Robert Tarne was walking away from theGardens in a mood that reeked not of earth nor sky. His love, hispride, his dignity, his very manhood had been struck at mostcruelly. For a year he had indulged the dream that he, the poorsoldier, would win openly, as he had won secretly, the greatman's daughter. She had fostered this delusion by her passionateletters, her oft-repeated vows—all the bitter sweetness oftheir stolen meetings. And he had been confident with the supremeconfidence of youth—the world was before him, why should henot achieve everything? She had but to wait. Then had come therude awakening; the girl was betrothed under his eyes to one ofthe greatest names in the land—a man of such repute andposition that Robert Tame felt himself a boy, a fool incomparison.

Yet, all the more because of this, he hotly pressed his claimon the terrified girl who had so repeatedly sworn fidelity tohim, only to find that she was not capable of sacrificinganything for him, and that her sole thought was to hush up herrash love-affair—and to obtain the return of herletters.

Her last frantic appeal had moved him to accede to herrequest, and he had promised to bring these poor mementoes oftheir unhappy love to Vauxhall and there to return them to her;but when he had seen her in her splendour, when he saw his rivalmagnificent in his unconscious triumph, when he considered hisown sincere love and genuine trust, the unhappy young man couldnot rise to any generosity.

Now, as he walked along the fresh country road, surrounded bythe fragrant dark of the May night, this packet of letters seemedlike a weight of fire in the pocket above his heart. She shouldnot have them back to turn over and perhaps laugh at, to profanewith hasty destruction (he now saw her as wholly evil), neitherwould he keep them to torture himself with—he would weightthem and sink them in the river and let the swift running watersof the Thames obliterate the words of false love.

So absorbed was he in these gloomy reflections that it waswith utter surprise that he felt a firm hand on his shoulder.

Turning swiftly he found a group of men behind him, who hadcome up noiselessly out of the dark. He saw at once that they hadsome sinister intent and took them for footpads.

"Fellows," he said, "I have nothing of any value—you maytake my watch and buckles if you will let me go at once. I am inno humour to be delayed."

"Nor am I," replied the man who had him by the arm, "but whenyou say you have nothing of an value, you are mistaken—youhave now in your pocket, sir, something very valuableindeed."

At this voice, so cultured and cool, speaking English with aslight foreign accent, Captain Tarne became uncomfortable, for hesaw that he was in the hands of no ordinary highwayman. He madean angry movement, but one of the other strangers instantlyseized his free arm, and the two held him helpless in a powerfulgrip. They were all cloaked and masked, and it was impossible toguess at their quality.

"Something," continued the spokesman, "very valuable to thepeace of a noble lady, my dear sir."

Robert Tame started, set his teeth, and listened in fiercesilence.

"Please give me those letters," added his captor.

"Who sent you?" demanded Captain Tarne roughly.

It was the most intolerable of all his intolerable thoughtsthat she should have told someone her story, and set another manto gain from him by force what he had refused to herentreaties.

He groaned in his rage and struggled fiercely with hiscaptors.

It was but a useless display of passion. They held himsecurely pinioned, and, being six against one, it took them but alittle while to render him powerless and effect their purpose,which was easily done by a quick search through his pockets.

Having found the piteous packet, which was tied by a cherishedblack ribbon that had at one time been worn round the neck of thewriter of them, they set free the struggling and despairing youngman, and disappeared as silently and as swiftly as they hadcome.

Lady Arabella Ware was enlightened as to the terrible positionin which she stood, when M. de Rohault called at her father'smansion in St. James's Square and requested to see her alone.

She came into the great, ornate drawing-room looking so ill,so young, and so different from what she had done a few dayspreviously at Vauxhall, that the cold Frenchman was almost movedto pity for his victim.

She wore a white muslin dress, plain and even untidy, herfair, but not bright hair was free of powder and hung like achild's about her slender shoulders. She looked sullen and sowithout charm that M. de Rohault wondered how the parents hadsecured her so magnificent a match; she was certainly a greatheiress, but the Earl was so wealthy as to be indifferent topecuniary advantages.

No ornaments relieved her careless attire; a small spaniel wasfastened to her waist by a broad blue ribbon; she seated herselfand the dog jumped on to her knee; she kept her glance on theground, and her small, nervous hands closed over the dog.

"I am in a position to do you a service," began M. deRohault—"a very considerable service, mademoiselle."

She did not answer nor look up.

"And you," continued the cool, pleasant voice, "are in aposition to do me a considerable service."

Now she gave a furtive look at the handsome man with his richappointments who leaned so easily against the chimney-piece andso completely dominated the situation.

"You have been very foolish, mademoiselle," said M. deRohault; "if your folly were known it would be more than deathfor you."

"You were spying then in Vauxhall," she muttered sullenly.

He shrugged his elegant shoulders.

"I know what passed between you and Captain Tarne."

She glanced at him with vivid hate in her childish eyes.

"What is that to you?" she demanded roughly.

He laughed effectively.

"The Earl is my very good friend—why should I allow himto marry you—on false pretences?"

She blazed at that.

"There was never any wrong in what I did, my lord?"

"Could you prove that?"

The wretched girl was silent.

"Is your lover so chivalrous that you can trust to him,mademoiselle?"

Her hands pressed so tightly on the dog on her lap that thelittle animal turned and whined up at her.

"I have no longer faith in the chivalry of any man," sheanswered heavily.

Her glance roved from side to side, and she bit her lower lip;he, well used to read human kind, was more alarmed by thisrestraint of hers than he would have been for the outburst he hadexpected. He wished to reassure her, and spoke softly and with asmile.

"Understand that I would not frighten you—I did not comefor that."

She interrupted him.

"You have a price to put upon your silence, my lord," she saidthen, with a pride that he had not looked for in her. "Tell mewhat it is, and let us end a scene so shameful to both ofus."

M. de Rohault was angered into cold harshness again.

"Very well—your father has papers which are ofimportance to France. I know where they are—in theleft-hand drawer of the ebony bureau in his cabinet. You mustget these for me."

She stared at him stupidly.

"You could easily do this, mademoiselle; you could get thekeys from your father or his secretary, you could enter thecabinet without suspicion."

"I'm to betray my father and my country?" she muttered.

"There is no need for heroics, mademoiselle," he said sharply.He proceeded to tell her the size and shape of the packet, thenumber of seals upon it, and what these were.

"It would be missed at once," she said dully.

"No, because I should return it to you immediately. I onlywant to take a copy."

"I will not do it," replied the girl stubbornly and fiercely.Her distorted face flamed with rage and bitter loathing. "Whyshould I be afraid? It is but your word against mine, and I knowthe Earl is of too noble a mind to listen to one who wantonlydefames a woman."

"If you are in this humour," replied M. de Rohault, "I musttell you that I have proofs."

And from the bosom of his waistcoat he took out the parcel ofletters that he had robbed from Captain Tarne and held them outtowards her; at the sight of this object, which had lately beenthe cause of her unceasing uneasiness and torment, in the handsof the man who had just proved himself her ruthless enemy, aconvulsion shook her thin body; she covered her face with herhands and some strangled words died in her throat.

The most cruel of her emotions was the wrath against the manshe had loved, for she made no doubt that Robert Tarne had,animated by a spirit of revenge against her for her infidelity,taken this vile means to torture and humiliate the creature whomhe had once vowed he would give his life to please.

The keen voice of M. de Rohault broke in on her desparatereflections; the sound of it was like the note of doom on herdistracted heart.

"I can give you two days, mademoiselle, no more."

With that, and a bow of freezing coldness, he left her, a preyto the most utter terror, bewilderment, and remorse.

Lady Arabella had neither experience nor friend to turn to inher extremity. She was a stranger, both to her parents and to theman to whom she was betrothed. A childhood of cold splendour hadenclosed her soul within itself, no one had ever troubled tounderstand her or in any way to invite her confidence; sheregarded those who were her masters with awe, with respect, withfear, not with trust or tenderness.

As the discovery of her pitiful, harmless, childishlove-affair seemed to her to spell a woe worse than damnation, sothe theft of her father's papers appeared to her as a crimewithout parallel. She foresaw unheard of disasters befalling herhouse and her nation through this possible action of hers, andher lack of knowledge of the world of politics made herovercharge with horror the likely consequences of her compliancewith M. de Rohault's request.

She hurried up to her room, the little dog attached to herwaist trotting by her side, and she flung herself on her greatbed with her arms clasped round the spaniel, who seemed to herthe only creature that loved her or had the least interest in herfate.

Her being was absorbed by one terrible idea: she was morallyand physically incapable of getting M. de Rohault his papers, andhe would expose her to her parents and the Earl.

She could not rise again that day; towards evening she fellinto slight convulsions, followed by an excess of fever. Duringthe night she was so ill that her governess and her maids wouldhave sent for assistance, but it was not the custom to disturbthe Duchess for any but the most serious matters, and as theirmistress forbade them to leave her and appeared to make an effortfor strength and calm, they forbode a duty that might have provedharmful for themselves.

Towards the dawn this unhappy creature did indeed regain sometranquillity, but it was the quiet of a fixed and terriblepurpose conceived by a feeble brain tormented to the point ofinsanity. Feigning to have completely recovered her strength andspirit she found some excuse for sending her women out of theroom and evading the vigilance of her governess, and, once alone,secured about her person a paper of arsenic that was kept in thedrawer of her dressing-table for making washes for whitening theskin.

She knew of the deadly properties of this drug, for thefashionable world was yet talking of the famous young beauty whohad lately died from too great a use of this same complexionpaint. Her only doubt was if the quantity in her possession wassufficient to effect her purpose.

That day no one observed anything unusual in her behaviour, noone suspected the alternate shiverings and burnings of fever thatcoursed through her blood, no one noticed her dry lips, herblazing eyes, the lightheadedness of her empty laugh, for she wasof no especial object of interest to any; nothing remarkable wasexpected from her, and she was accepted as the very ordinarycreature that she had always appeared to be.

At a big reception given that evening at her father's house inhonour of her approaching marriage, she seemed as happy as hergood fortune entitled her to be; most of the women envied her;she seemed so young, so wealthy, so placed above all hurt. Theeclat of her great match lent a charm to her presence, she movedabout her father's noble rooms the belle of the evening, followedby admiring and jealous glances.

M. de Rohault was present and found occasion to speak to heramid the gay press.

"Have you the papers, mademoiselle?" he asked.

He had stopped her in a half-curtained alcove set withcard-tables; she retreated into this and stood against one of thegilt mirrors.

She was again powdered, pomaded, patched, attired in palerose-coloured silk and white gauze, wreaths of artificial flowersall over her hoop, and pearls round her neck; the paint that wassuch an outrage to her youth could not disguise the fever thatshowed on her lips and cheeks and in her eyes.

"Oh, I will get the papers," she answered hastily. She beganto laugh, and pressed her handkerchief to her mouth.

M. de Rohault was vexed that his victim had not yet begun toput in motion the execution of his wishes. The matter was reallyimportant to him; the possession of the documents in questionwould enable him to perform a signal service to his country andto establish himself for ever as a skilful diplomat. He had longbeen crossing wits with the statesman who was this girl's father,and it had cost him infinite patience and skill even to discoverthe whereabouts of these papers.

Lady Arabella ceased laughing.

"I will do what you wish," she said in a dead tone.

"To-morrow," he returned, eyeing her keenly. "I shall wantthem to-morrow."

"Or—" she muttered, eyeing him furtively.

"Or the Earl and your father shall know everything," hefinished her broken sentence. She moistened her lips and satdown. And rose up again, fumbling at her bosom.

"I will certainly get those papers for you, sir," she said ina thick voice, and speaking very fast, "so let us be goodfriends, eh?"

He was pleased that she showed such sense, for he had beenprepared for a scene; he bowed over the hand she offered.

"I have been foolish," she continued in a voice now perfectlycontrolled, "and you have been skilful—well, I must acceptthe situation."

She paused, looked round, and then added:

"I wish to discuss with you how we shall meettomorrow—it will be difficult, as I am engaged allday—fetch some coffee, sir, that it may seem we talknaturally."

M. de Rohault admired the good sense of his accomplice. Heleft her a moment to tell a page to bring refreshments into thealcove; when he returned she was playing with a paper of comfitsthat she held on her rose-wreathed lap.

She offered him one on the palm of her hand.

"The Earl's gift," she smiled.

He took and ate the sweetmeat; she gave him another; when thecoffee was brought she sent him after the page to ask for someBaples cake and, while his back was turned, she put two more ofthe comfits in his cup.

Handsome and stately in his velvets and diamonds, with hisgraceful manner of courts and his cold air of power, the man atwhose mercy she lay leant towards her with the air of a friend,and discussed the details of their meeting on the morrow.

The girl was not listening to what he said; her glance was onthe fragile little cup he held; her features became rigid, andher eyes glazed with an intense horror.

"You are paying no attention, mademoiselle," said M. deRohault at length.

He had now finished his coffee, and set the cup down on thecard-table.

"I do not feel well," mumbled the Lady Arabella.

Her appearance was ghastly and indeed alarmed him. She rose,swaying in her hoop. He sprang to his feet.

"Keep your wits, girl," he commanded, gripping her arm.

She stared at him.

"Keep my wits," she repeated. "Yes, but my head hurts me. Iwill go to my room."

M. de Rohault was deeply angered.

"You will not," he said, "in this way escape the obligationsthat you are under to me."

She gave him a look full of an apprehension and terror thatalmost amounted to the stare of insanity.

With some incoherent words she escaped from his presence andstaggered into the splendid ballroom, only to fall with anhysterical cry at the feet of her betrothed husband as he came tolead her out for the gavotte.

The fête was broken up, and she was carried unconsciousto her chamber.

That night she fell into convulsions so terrible and sofrequent that her life was despaired of; in the morning Londonrang with the news of the death of the French ambassador, who hadfallen on the threshold of his chamber, and in a short timesuccumbed to a swift agony that his doctors declared must be dueto poison.

The uncontrolled ravings of the unhappy Lady Arabella and thediscovery among the dead man's papers of her foolish love-letterssoon threw a tragic light on the author and motive of thisuseless crime.

The betrothal was hastily broken off, the scandal hushed up bythe great ones of the land, whom it so nearly concerned, and thewretched girl, who had planned a crime that she had not thestrength to profit by, was hurried into obscurity in thecountry.

Her life, but not her reason, survived her dreadful illness;she never remembered her guilt nor those circumstances which hadbeen the cause of it, but became a fond, witless creature, gentleand harmless, but with a blank mind and childish ways.

Now that she was insane, sick, and utterly disgraced, herparents were glad to cover her miserable existence by anymarriage they could find, and accepted the sole offer that camefor the once courted heiress—that of Captain RobertTarne.

She knew him, and displayed the only joy she ever manifestedwhen in his presence; he took her abroad, and it was said thatthis extraordinary marriage was more than commonly happy, andthat the man, who felt himself guilty of the act that had firstcaused the tragedy, found a secret atonement in the care of afair, loving creaure as gentle and innocent as a child.


Reprinted in:
Twilight and Other Supernatural Romances by Marjorie Bowen, Ash-Tree Press, 1998
Great Supernatural Stories: 101 Horrifying Tales, Fall River Press, 2017

THEY said each Brent had his folly, a horse, awoman, a building, an idea, but the present Brent outshone hisancestors by the blatant coarseness of his particularcaprice.

When his father had seriously encumbered the estates to buildon another wing with a massive ballroom that accorded ill withthe Tudor Manor house, the county had remarked that the historicfolly of the Brents had passed the limits of the picturesque andromantic and become very like stupidity.

The next Brent, however, excelled the foolish action of hisfather, for his folly took the form of flesh and blood; to make amistake about a woman, said the county, was worse than to make amistake about a building, though there were some cynics whodeclared that the latter error was worse because the woman passedwith her generation and was easily forgotten, whereas the stoneand brick remained a lasting annoyance till someone had thecourage, time, and money to remove it.

But while she was there, certainly the woman was the greatercause for marvel, the greater shame to the good taste andintelligence of the Brents.

If she had been outrageous, impossible, an actress, aforeigner, a milkmaid, it might have been a folly forgiven andeven admired.

If she had been ugly and very rich, or beautiful and verypoor, it would have been a thing condoned—an action with atleast a motive, some reason to explain the extravagance, thedeparture from the usual which was more or less expected of theBrents.

But here there was nothing of wonderful, nothing of romantic—nothing to make people startle and stare.

She was the younger daughter of a dull, middle-class family ofcorrect education and morals, neither plain nor pretty, with badhealth and a lethargic temperament, and most dismal dull incompany.

She excelled in nothing, her taste was of the worst, she couldnot manage her servants nor her acquaintances, she was jealousand sullen and entirely indifferent to all that makes the fireand colour of life.

And she was five years older than her husband, and after manyyears of marriage was still childless.

And this was the folly of the last Brent, Sir Roger, handsome,accomplished, brilliant, wealthy.

People asked each other what hidden motive had induced him tooffer all to this woman who could not even appreciate what hegave.

Of all the follies of the Brents this was the mostinexplicable.

If she had been only wicked, the thing might have beenunderstood, if she had shown the least sign of any of the artsand graces of an enchantress he would have stood excused.

But she was neutral, she was nothing, she had not a singlecharm that would have induced an ordinary man to choose her forthe love of a season, and instead Roger Brent had chosen her forhis wife—this was what was neither understood nor forgiven.

The county disapproved and showed its disapproval; Sir Rogerlost many friends; he became a gloomy self-absorbed man,withdrawn slightly from his fellows.

He rarely left Brent Manor; he was a good landlord, a goodneighbour, a fine figure among the country gentry—if it had notbeen for his marriage.

But that had ruined all; Sir Roger at forty was considered asa man with no longer any possibilities before him; he would liveand die the squire of Brent Manor, nothing more.

For, like damp ashes on fire, his wife seemed to have chokedand stifled all that was eager, ambitious and ardent in SirRoger; he had sacrificed to this nullity all that a man couldsacrifice to beauty and worth.

When Charles Denton, who had known and envied Sir Roger in thedays of their common youth, returned to England from Spain, wherehe had been fulfilling honourable and profitable duties for HisMajesty's Government, he heard from several the story of thefolly of the last of the Brents.

The last of the Brents and the last of the follies itappeared, since there was no one of the name to carry on thefamily and the family traditions.

Denton was sorry; he had almost loved Sir Roger, they had beenconstantly together until Denton's foreign appointment hadseparated them.

He wrote to Sir Roger and asked if he might spend some of hisleave at Brent Manor; Sir Roger responded cordially, and Dentonwent down to Brent with a little ache of regret at his heart forthe fate of his friend.

He found him as much changed as the reports in London had ledhim to believe he would be, and despite his preparation he wasshocked, almost startled.

Sir Roger, for whom 'brilliant' had always seemed the mostfitting epithet, had become almost dull; he was silent, almostshy, even with the old friend whom he had seemed so glad towelcome.

His clothes were of an ancient pattern, he was listless in hismanner, the unpowdered hair was plentifully sprinkled with grey,the handsome face hard and lined.

The Manor house, too, seemed ill-kept and gloomy.

Denton had an impression of gloom from all hissurroundings.

At supper he saw the lady of the house. She was neatly dressedin a gay sacque; her manner was dull and civil.

Denton eyed her in vain for a single merit; her figure wasill-shaped and slightly stooping, her hands and feet were large,her complexion was of an ugly pallor, her features soft andheavy, eyes and hair of a colourless brown, her movements withoutmeaning, her words without grace.

Denton inwardly sighed and the supper hour passed heavily.

She left them early and Denton, spurred by a deep impulse,turned swiftly to his host and asked:

'Why did you marry her?'

Sir Roger was sitting in a dejected attitude with his head alittle lowered.

As his friend spoke he looked up, and a smile touched hissombre features.

'You are the first who has had the courage to demand thatquestion,' he responded.

'Or the bad taste,' apologized Denton.

Sir Roger shrugged his shoulders.

'The others were silent and stayed away, you speak and come,'he said.

Denton was indignant for his friend.

'Why should they stay away? The lady is well enough.'

'She blights,' said Sir Roger decisively.

Denton wondered that such a mediocrity should have thatpower—but it was what he had heard in London.

'A woman,' he replied, 'can keep in a woman's place—whyshould she interfere with your friends?'

Sir Roger smiled again.

'She is so dull, she deadens, so stupid she frightens, sounlovely she depresses.'

'And yet you married her!'

'Yes, I married her.'

'Why, Roger, why?'

'You wonder?'

'Who would not wonder, you who had everything, might havemarried a Princess, you might have had the best of life—instead—'

'This!' finished Sir Roger.

'There must be a reason.'

'You think so?'


'Would you like to hear it?'

'Certainly—I came here to hear it,' smiled Denton.

Sir Roger for a while was silent; he was turning over theincidents of his past as one turns the leaves of a long closedbook, with wonder and a little sadness at ancient things thatonce meant so much and now mean so little.

'Is it worth while?' he asked at length.

He rested his elbows on the table and looked rather drearilyat his friend.


'To tell you—to tell anyone how it happened,' replied SirRoger.

Denton looked with profound compassion at his lined face, hisbowed figure, his gray sprinkled hair, his careless dress.

And Brent looked with a dull envy at the neat elegance of hisfriend, who, powdered, fashionable, alert, seemed indeed to comefrom another world than that duty circle which comprised the lifeof Brent Manor.

'Tell me,' said Denton quietly.

Sir Roger laughed.

'Tell you why I married Lily Walters?' he asked.


Sir Roger shrugged his shoulders.

'Why not?' he answered.

He turned his eyes, still handsome but lustreless, towards thelog fire which flickered in the sculptured chimney place, and hisfine hands dropped and clasped slackly on the dark surface of thesombre oak table, where stood the glasses and the fruit and thebottles of old wine.

Then, like one who reads aloud slowly, and with a certaindifficulty, he began his strange relation.

'I greatly loved my life. I had everything to make existencepleasant. Health, name, money—wits—you know what I had, myfriend.'


'Everything. But I wished for more. I had a lust forknowledge, for power, for experience—I wished to reach thelimits of every sensation.

'For me there was no wine powerful enough, no woman beautifulenough, no gold bright enough—

'I wished to prove everything—to see everything—to know everything.

'For five years I travelled from one country to another; I hadenough money to obtain all my desires.

'I had friends, lovers, horses, houses, ships, I travelledsometimes in a coach and six, sometimes on foot, sometimes Ilodged in palaces, sometimes I slept in a ditch. I kissedprincesses by the light of a hundred candles, and peasant girlsby the dewy light of dawn, I stayed at the most dissolute courtsin Italy, and I shut myself for months in the austerity of aSpanish convent.

'I experienced poverty, luxury, every day I gainedknowledge.

'I practised in music, poetry, botany, medicine, painting,sculpture, astronomy—I sat at the feet of wise men and drewcrude knowledge from the unlettered of all countries.

'Still I was not satisfied.

'My health remained vigorous and my mind restless.

'So far I had not found one woman whom I could not replace,one friend whose company was a necessity, one art or science towhich I wished to devote my life.

'Then at The Hague I met a certain Doctor Strass, and underhis guidance I began to seriously study alchemy andoccultism.

'In this I found at last something that absorbed my wholebeing.

'Here was the love, the passion that should absorb mylife.

'For three years I lived for nothing else. I resolved to findthe elixir of life.'

Denton moved back out of the candlelight, so that he mightmore clearly see his friend's face, but Sir Roger was absolutelygrave.

He spoke as a man who, with quiet deliberation, relates sobersense.

'The elixir of life,' he repeated. 'The magic powder thatshould confer on me eternal youth and eternal enjoyment.'

'A strange whim,' said Denton quietly. 'You who hadeverything.'

'I wished to keep everything,' responded Sir Roger, 'but morethan that even, I wished for power.'

'The last temptation of the Devil!' smiled his friend.

'I wished for power,' repeated Brent, 'but I cannot explain.Enough that the thing took hold of me.

'I lived for that alone. Occult studies absorbed my time andlargely my fortune and my health.

'I seemed ever on the verge of a discovery; but I attainednothing.'

He paused, and a bitter sadness darkened his sensitiveface.

'Nothing,' he repeated. 'I but underlined the failures ofothers, but repeated once more the tale of delusion anddisappointment.

'But in this I had more strength than some, in that I resolvedto cease the fruitless and perilous study that had fascinated myentire soul.

'I determined to free myself from what was becoming anincubus.

'I was frightened by the fate of others whom I saw as halfmad, half idiotic old men fumbling with their philtres andmuttering over their furnaces; in short, I vowed to free myselffrom what I at last saw as but a net or device of the devil todraw me away from a useful and enjoyable life.

'With this resolve strong within me I returned to England, andmy desire for the normal desires of my former life was increasedby the sight of familiar faces and sights.

'I made up my mind to enter politics, and was on the point oftaking steps in this direction, when an event occurred whichagain altered everything.'

He paused and pressed the palms of his hands to his brows.Denton was regarding him curiously.

'One day a sober-looking person came to see me. He seemed adoctor or a lawyer of the better sort.

'He was not English; I took him to be a Dutchman or of the LowGerman nationality—he was habited very neatly and very precisein his speech.

'"I hear," said he without preamble, "that you have studiedalchemy."

'"For a while," said I, "but I have left that business."

'Whereat he smiled quietly and drew from his pocket a littlebox of tortoiseshell like a gentleman's box for snuff, andopening it, he drew out, wrapped in two foldings of scarlet silk,a piece of stone the size of a walnut and the colour of amber."This is what you have been looking for," he said calmly; "thisis what the vulgar called the Philosopher's Stone."

'At these words all the blood went back on my heart, and Ibegged for a portion with tears in my eyes.

'Whereupon he very comfortably took off a paring with hisnail, for the stone was soft like soap, and laid it in the palmof my hand.

'And while I was yet too amazed to speak he left me.

'I had yet with me my retorts and crucibles, and that night Ivery eagerly tested the portion of the stone on a piece of lead,and when in the morning I poured it forth it was pure rich gold.When this was set I took it round to the jeweller who worked forthe court, and asked him what it was, and he told me that it wasindeed gold of a finer quality than he had ever handledbefore.

'I was like a madman, for I had no means of finding mystranger, but that day he came again, and without preamble askedme if I was satisfied, and what I would do to possess the secretwhich, he declared, had become indifferent to him, as he hadpassed on to higher studies.

'And he told me about the wonders of this stone, how a fewdrops of it dissolved in water, if allowed to stand, would leavegreat rubies and pearls at the bottom, and if taken would conferyouth and beauty on him who drank.

'And presently he showed me this experiment, and we sat up allnight talking, and in the morning there were the jewels hard andglistening in our hands.

'And then he propounded to me what he would have medo—take some poor mean creature to wife, and with theelixir make her into a goddess.'

Brent paused thoughtfully; Denton was still looking at himwith intent eyes.

Sir Roger continued:

'I was to marry her first, to show my trust. I was to presenther to the town, and afterwards transform her. The idea pleasedme beyond words; it was what no man had ever done before.

'I agreed.

'My stranger presented me to Lily Walters. I easily obtainedthe consent of her family—in brief, I made a match thatconfounded all my friends.

'My Dutchman was at the church, and afterwards presented mewith a packet, which he said contained the recipe for the famousstone.

'Such was my impatience that I opened it in the coach ere wehad reached home.

'It was blank paper.

'I left my bride to run to the stranger's lodging, but he hadleft.

'I never saw him again.'

Sir Roger ended abruptly and turned his straight gaze on hisfriend's serious face.

'And that is why I married Lily Walters,' he concluded.

'And the rubies?' asked Denton, quietly.

'She wears them now and then, set in the gold I made with theparing of stone.'

Denton was silent.

'I have searched Europe for that man,' continued Sir Rogersullenly. 'I hope yet to kill him before I die.'

'You would be justified,' said Denton, easily. He rose andcrossed to the fire, still looking covertly and intently at hisfriend.

Sir Roger muttered to himself a little, and presently fellasleep with his head bowed on his heart.

Denton softly left the room.

He was startled to see Lady Brent waiting in the shadows ofthe great hall.

'I don't think Sir Roger is very well,' said Denton,quietly.

Her plain face quivered and her short-sighted eyesnarrowed.

'I always wait up when there is anyone here,' she said simply.'I never know what he will do.'

They looked at each other.

'He had a strange life before I married him,' continued LadyBrent. 'He brought me a ruby necklace, and told me it had beenmade by the Philosopher's Stone.'

'Those studies turn a man's brain,' said Denton.

'Oh!' answered Lady Brent in her thin ugly voice. 'Roger hasbeen mad a long time; no one knows the life I lead with him.'


Reprinted in The 20-Story Magazine, #134, August 1933

HE walked slowly through a day of complete andperfect winter; the trees were bare of even the curled leavesthat had remained to them but twenty-four hours before, for ahigh and bitter wind had been abroad the previous night.

Now it was quite still, the early afternoon was drawing to aclose, and the sun was sinking in a red haze behind the uplandsof Vyse Park.

Overhead the sky was colourless and chill, the landscape layveiled by indefinite shadows; everything had a bleak look ofgreyness, the frost stiffened the road, and the water in the rutswas filmed with ice.

Mathew Attenbury knew Vyse Park well, but he had never seen itin winter.

Vivid, poignant memories of these roads and fields in summerand in spring haunted his way as he approached the house.

Slowly and reluctantly, for his errand was terrible tohim—yet one that could not be refused. The husband of thewoman who had loved him, and who was also his own cousin andfriend, had written after a year's silence:

"Come and help me burn her letters; I cannot face the deedalone."

This message had not roused in him any fear that their secrethad been discovered; their friendship, their relationship hadcovered their love; their open fondness had disguised theirhidden passion.

And she had not been an ordinary woman, but a creature ofintelligence, of wit, of learning, and it had been natural forher to move amid men who admired and, perhaps, loved her.Attenbury could remember one who had certainly loved her—ayoung man who carried a pair of colours in the Guards; ahandsome, stupid creature—they had laughed at him, quitetenderly, together.

And George Vyse had never suspected anything. Attenbury wastheir oldest and dearest friend, and she was the last womananyone would have thought of as light or deceptive, she was soopen and frank, so simple and natural—a quiet woman, forall her brilliancy.

To Mathew Attenbury, for five years her lover, she appearedwholly good; in his eyes she was not smirched in the very leastby their relationship, they belonged to each other, and theirconsciences had always been at rest since they disturbed noconventions and hurt no one.

Utter secrecy had kept their love undegraded and veiled itwith romance.

They had always been kind to George, and he had been happy intheir affection; they had become so used to him that they hardlywished him out of the way.

A year ago she had died, very suddenly, in London, of thesmall-pox.

She had been brave and gay till the end; her hair, bright andtangled on the pillow, seemed like a joyous wreath even when herdisfigured face was blind and cold.

Two men at least had broken hearts for this death; MathewAttenbury went abroad, and wandered aimlessly through the decayedcities of Italy; George Vyse shut himself up in his countryhouse, the scene of all the happy summers of his wedded life.

Soon after Attenbury returned he had received the summons ofhis cousin.

He was immensely sorry for George, who had no memories such ashis own to illumine the bleak desolation of grievous loss.

Because of this pity he came now—and because the thinghad been asked in her name.

"You were her dearest friend," George Vyse had written; "thereis no one has the right to be here but you."

Poor George! How he loved her still!

Mathew Attenbury smiled from the riches of his storiedtreasures of remembrances—his life could never becompletely dull or empty as long as he had these preciousrecollections of the glorious love of a woman like Anne Vyse.

She had been so utterly his; such a comrade, such a friend,such a lover!

He wondered if his cousin guessed what he had missed when hehad missed the heart of Anne.

As for these letters that he had been asked to help read anddestroy or preserve, he knew what they would be—the witty,gay, and charming letters she wrote to her friends, things worthpreserving for their human quality of humour and sympathy, theirwide culture, their keen tact.

He had read some of them, and found all her hidden graces inthe frank words. Of his to her, and hers to him, he did not eventhink—on his side they had been instantly destroyed; andshe told him that she had not preserved a line that he had everwritten.

There had never been very many, for their separation had beenof brief duration and infrequent, but there had been enough totell everything. Her perfect discretion had been amply justifiedby the tragedy of her sudden death.

Had she left anything behind that could have betrayed thesecret of her life, how fair an edifice of faith and belief andkind friendship had she not ruined, how much bitter pain had shenot inflicted!

But there had been nothing among what had to be burnt afterher death in London, nothing among the things she had at VysePark to mar her husband's memory of her; her memory remainedequally unspotted to both Mathew Attenbury and George Vyse.

His delicate discretion that kept inviolate their perfect lovemade Attenbury absolutely confident that George would neverdiscover anything that was not pleasing to him among what Anne,taken so swiftly, so unprepared, had left behind.

As he neared the house, and looked across the beautiful lawnswhere the foreign trees still showed richly dark with foliage inthe English bareness of winter, at the plain, red-brick buildingwith the stone portico and flat windows, where he had spent suchjewelled hours of almost unearthly happiness, his heartcontracted with a pain nearly unendurable.

He came to a stand—a tall, cloaked, and muffled figurein the fading light, graceful and powerful, with that air ofsuppressed strength that must ever belong to healthy youth,however quiescent it may be.

He forced back the rising agony and went slowly on.

It would be pleasant to see George again, after all; he wasfond of George.

The two men met in the library, a place brown and gold and redin hue, old, worn, and pleasant, with the dim-coloured picturesabove the mantelpiece and dim-coloured books on the plainshelves, desks and floors polished, and chairs in faded crimsonleather, and dull-hued carpets on the floor.

All was lit by the living hues of the firelight, which wastinting everything with a glow of gold and pink, like wine androses mingled.

There was no other light save one thick candle, which stood onthe desk by which Sir George Vyse awaited his guest.

He was still in complete mourning, without a sword, and lookedill, almost old; but his handsome features retained their kindlyexpression, his manner an air of pleasant composure.

The two men, both typical, leisured gentlemen of fine breedand comeliness—though there was a touch of wildness inMathew Attenbury's dark good looks that, however subdued byquietness in dress, was unusual in one of his nationality andstation—met and greeted each other without reference to theoccasion of their coming together.

Mathew, whose senses were in general exquisite, and to-nighteven more than usually alert, noticed at once that George hadchanged; there was something about him dull and sombre, somethingneither happy nor cordial.

The lover, glancing at the husband out of softened eyes, morethan pitied this man who had such meagre memories with which tobrighten his bleak life.

He himself felt at that moment such a rush of passionate joyat the thought of what his own past held that the room seemed asbright to him as if it had held her actual presence.

"We both loved her, and she loved only me—only me!"

Exulting in this thought, a glow came into his cheek and hisfine eyes shone tenderly; he was able to speak of her with thatcalm sorrow that was allowed him.

"You have found some of Anne's things?" he remarked.

On the heavy desk that held the one candle was a lightwriting-case in blue velvet, adorned with seed pearls and tiedwith ivory ribbon.

Mathew Attenbury smiled at this with great love andunderstanding, it was redolent of Anne; everything she had ownedwas rich and beautiful.

"Letters," said George Vyse—"a few letters."

Mathew seated himself by the great fire; he did not troublemuch about what the other man was saying or doing—it wassuch a wonderful sensation to be here, under her roof, among herpossessions, that she was dead hardly seemed to matter.

"I do not know what to do," said Sir George, "that is why Isent for you. I do not know what I feel even. I suppose I must bea fool."

Mathew glanced at him. So poor George was just finding thatout.

"How can I help you, cousin?" he asked gently. The other stillstood by the desk, irresolutely fingering the blue velvetportfolio.

"You knew her so well, Mathew, you were such friends; you wereakin in so many matters that I knew nothing about."

"So you noticed that, did you?" thought Mathew beneath hissilence.

"So perhaps," continued George Vyse, "you could advise me whatto do."

"Surely," returned the younger man, "you need no advice as towhat to do in any matter that concerns Anne?"

"If she had been what I thought," said the widower, "I shouldhave been in no difficulty, cousin."

Mathew Attenbury had been about to move; he now remainedmotionless, slightly leaning forwards.

"These are love-letters," added George Vyse in the same flattone, "not written by me."

Mathew tried to laugh, to speak, to do something to ward offthis monstrous thing that had suddenly crashed on him; he couldonly make a silly sound of horror.

"Wonderful letters," said Sir George; he untied the strings ofthe portfolio and laid bare on the white lining about twelveletters, bound with a gold cord. "They loved very much, thesetwo. I did not know "—his lip curled with a smile dreadfulto see—"that there was love like this outside ofstory-books."

Mathew Attenbury rose. He had a confused sense that somethingwas expected of him, that there was something he could do toredeem this hideous moment; but all his faculties were occupiedby the horror of what had happened—their secret betrayed,their love profaned, her memory spoilt, George struck to theheart, and he—and he—

Why, they must try to kill each other. It all seemed moregrotesque than tragic; he dully put his hand to his sword.

"Yes, I thought of that," said George Vyse. "The obviousway—the only way, I suppose, you will say. I have beenthinking about it a great deal—when I have been sittinghere alone with her letters."

"You have known then—some time?"

"Several weeks."

"And you never sent for me before?"

"No—to what end? I do not know quite why I sent for younow after all, it is between me and her. I am almost sorry that Ihave told you what I have found."

"But I should have guessed," replied Mathew Attenbury. "You donot seem angry," he added curiously.

"Angry?" Sir George smiled. "I wonder if anyone was ever angrywith Anne? You know, I really thought she loved me. She saidso—so often—in many ways."

Fury touched Attenbury. He had never cared to glance at Anne'srelations with her husband, it was a subject he had never allowedhimself to think of. It was ugly to think that she had persuadedGeorge that she cared for him. Yet—he strove to bereasonable—what else could she do?

"What was she?" broke out George, after a bitter pause ofsilence. "What am I? A quiet woman—these letters—why,'tis as if they were written to a—why, I never thought sheeven knew of such love."

Attenbury interrupted.

"Cousin, words are so silly. There is only the sword."

"Why should I give her that?" replied the husband. "She hadeverything—her own way always—and always the laugh ofme."

His body was convulsed with a long sigh; he covered his facewith his hands for an instant.

"Burn the letters, Mathew, burn them!" he muttered. "Theyseemed to me—alive. I could not throw them in theflames. Do that for me."

(Video) Old Crime Meets New Crime | The Gap | @LADbible

With a bent head he left the room.

Mathew felt sick to the soul. He accused Anne of havingbetrayed him by this strange carelessness with regard to hisletters. Why should she, in face of all her promises to him, havekept what would ruin all their love?

Then his tenderness overcame his reproach. How she had lovedhim to have so treasured, in the face of all prudence, his wordsof adoration! Poor George!

He went to the little portfolio, and a sense of exultationtouched him. How they belonged to each other for alltime—his Anne!

He took up the letters, meaning to destroy them beforeGeorge's mood changed.

He dragged open the cord, he took out the letters, he staredat the passionate sentences addressed to "Anne—my Anne!"The period of the letters covered many months. They were clearlyin answer to equally passionate letters from the woman.

The signature was that of the stupid young soldier at whomboth he and she had laughed.



Published in The Pall Mall Magazine, December 1913 to June 1914


First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, December 1913

Crimes of Old London (7)

The Pall Mall Magazine, December 1913, with "Pride"

Crimes of Old London (8)

Crimes of Old London (9)

RIDE is the first of the deadly sins and paintedin the likeness of a peacock; there are few without this sin ingreat or small degree, and there is no sin so likely to catch aman by the heels and trip him into Hell's Mouth."

So spake the old monk, sitting by the fire,talking to the young novices on the long winter's evening; theyliked to listen to the holy stories the old monk told them, forthere was always a good comforting moral and some matter ofinterest too, for he had been in the world once, and rememberedit well enough, though he was now so far on the path toheaven.

"A man without pride," he continued, "is a saint, and a manall pride is a devil, and a dangerous devil especially if he benot a man at all, but a woman."

"Ah," said the novices wisely, and they looked into the fireand shook their heads and pursed their lips.

"The monk finished his glass of Hippocras, wiped his lips andproceeded to tell the story of pride, the first deadly sin.

"When I was in Paris." he said, "learning theology at theSorbonne, I often saw riding in a gilt chariot—theQueen."

"The Queen!"

"As you may have heard, her name was Isabeau, and she camefrom the East; her clothes were a wonder, her life was a scandal;she was quite the proudest creature any man had ever seen orheard of; she boasted that she had never set her foot in thepublic street nor in the house of one who was of less than bloodroyal; there was always a body of the Scottish Archers about hercar to prevent the mud from touching her wheels, and the foulbreath of the baser sort from reaching her.

"But she did not mind their eyes; indeed, she was alwaysraised high on her cushions that they might see her, and if shewas in a litter, the curtains were drawn, and her beauty wasdisplayed as freely, nay, as wantonly, as that of any commoncreature who goes about seeking her price.

"The treasury was empty because of her vesture and herservants and her dainty meats, her silk sheets, her baths ofrose-water; the soldiers were few and so were the ships; thepeasants were rioting in the country; the nobles pawned theirplate, but the Queen went in cloth-of-gold and wore the keep of aregiment in a single ring.

"You will have heard of the king...He was foolish in his mind,and played with clocks and cards all day long in his closet; hisonly company was his jester, and they were both in frayed robesand ill-nourished. He neither saw the Queen nor asked after her;they said that she had broken his heart and shattered his witslong ago.

Crimes of Old London (10)

"There were, of course, many cavaliers in her train—Ihave told you she was beautiful; her eyes and her hair weretawny, like a dark tiger-skin, her complexion was clear yetgolden, the carnation deep in the cheeks. The whole effect of herface was golden; she sparkled and glowed without the aid ofjewels.

"It was said she put dye upon her lips and cheeks, the juiceof scarlet geranium petals; I do not know, nor did it matter; shewas beautiful as only a proud, shameless woman canbe—beautiful to strike the eye and hold the heart, toexcite, to subdue, to awe, to lure...

"I often saw her ride past the Sorbonne; her head-dress threeor four feet high, scarlet, sparkling with gems, and hung with athin white gauze veil, that now floated away from her face andnow obscured it...Across her shoulders the fine ermine robe,flecked here and there with black, would fall apart, disclosingthe loveliness of her bosom beneath the thin cambric sewn withpearls that edged her purple velvet bodice, and then it would bedrawn together by the fairest hand in all the world, aye, and onthis hand there glittered the royal gems of France.

"She was always alone, always drawn by white horses, eight ofthem without a speck or flaw, and always followed by the mostbrilliant knights and nobles in the kingdom—her humbleservants all of them, her lovers, some; Duke François or anotherof her favourites close behind her, almost as magnificent as sheherself, and almost as proud. She ruled France in thosedays—ruled it hideously, without justice, without sense,without pity, her sole object the making of money for her ownmagnificence.

"Well—there was no one to gainsay her, and her splendourand her licence pleased the great nobles, I suppose—atleast they supported her; in the streets and the country-side shewas cursed with many oaths, for a foreign wanton, a tyrant, acreature who sucked the blood of the nation. What did shecare?

"She never heard them, or, if she did, if any occasionalmurmur did penetrate the scented atmosphere she breathed, it madeno impression on her gilded charm. She was cruel.

"She was also very like the peacock in this; there was littleelse but pride in that small head beneath the high crown.

"So it happened that she let her ruling vice destroy the onlything she cared for—if indeed it was possible for her tocare; who knows?

"One day when she rode abroad she saw a young man looking froman upper window; his arms were folded on the sill and thesunlight was on his face.

Crimes of Old London (11)

"This was no unusual sight, nor was the admiration in hiseyes.

"But the Queen looked at him a second longer than her usualwont.

"And the next time she rode that way (it was near the 'Prèsaux cleves' and May, and very sunny weather) he was thereagain, and yet again until in all it was seven times she had seenhim leaning from the window in the full sunlight looking down ather. The Duke François saw him; he saw the Queen look up and theyoung man look down, but he thought naught of it, so serene washe in his pride; could he imagine Isabeau would ever smile on onenot of royal blood, or the greatest among nobles?

"So the Duke went his way, swaggering through Paris, and therecame a day, about the beginning of June, the court being then atVincennes, when the young man climbed the palace wall and droppedright at the feet of the Queen where she sat alone in theorchard, in the daisied grass, with her psalter on her knee.

"What followed was a miracle—you may believe what I say,though, for I had it from the young man himself: she rose to herfeet—she was in silk from head to foot, with gold on herhair, and he in his ordinary garb, for he was no more than astudent at the Sorbonne—and she held out her arms and cameto him and they kissed without a word.

"They loved each other; from the first instant their eyes hadcrossed they loved each other. She had never lovedbefore—not even Duke François; yet her pride was still thestronger, for although she was a woman utterly without shame shekept this love secret—had she loved a Prince she would haveflaunted it, but this was only a poor clerk and all her wit andher power were turned to conceal her passion.

"For a while she contrived it—for she had all France ather service. and who was there to spy on her, or to dare to speakif they did, and of whom should she be afraid?

"There was one—Duke François—but in her pride andher absorption in her new love, and her great haughtiness, shedisdained hint.

"She had dismissed him from her favour as lightly as she wouldhave blown a feather from her sleeve, and his pride wassorely his and his ambition also. I do not know what they hadever been, the one to the other, but she had given him herconfidence, and made him virtually King of France, from which hehad soaring hopes and delighted in the power her favour left inhis hands. But there came a time when she must needs consult himon some affairs of State that she was too idle to attend to ortoo ignorant to understand, and the Duke perceived in her theeffect of advice not his own, and this angered him. For herpersonal coldness to himself he cared little enough, I think. Hewas as proud as she and as cruel, but neither so reckless nor sofoolish. It was said he schemed to take the place of the poorsilly King and would have stopped at nothing to this end, if hecould have cloaked his design beyond discovery.

"He made no complaint now of the Queen's waning favour, nor ofthe daily humiliations she put on him—for she was not aprudent woman, and too proud to conceal a changed feeling; heserved her ever with the same graceful readiness, but hiscourtesies only masked the fact that he was employing all his witand skill in findings out his rival, so that he might berevenged.

"At first he suspected the princes of the blood, the courtgallants—yet he wondered at her secrecy, and his carefulwatching and spying convinced him that it was not one of thesewho had taken his place.

"For a while he was baffled, for she was mostcareful—cautious and secretive for the first time in herfoolish life—and she had not a single confidante...

"But the young clerk was also ambitious, and the excessivefears of discovery of the Queen had began to gall him; he thoughtthat she might have brought him to court, and let him ride openlybeside her in cloth-of-gold through the streets of Paris. Yet hedared not even suggest such a thing; for when once he hinted tothe Queen that she might gild his obscurity she told him that didhe once lift his head out of the crowd, Duke François would sethis heel on that head and crush it into the dust. So he had tocontent himself with his secret influence on the affairs ofFrance—he wrought diligently and skilfully on the evillittle Queen, and she trusted him with the secrets of thestatecraft of France, and he advised her and gave her longscrolls of parchment covered with what she must do, and shemeekly obeyed him; it seemed in those days as it she would do allto please him—all and anything save own him.

"You might think that he would have been content, yet he wasnot, for she had made him take a great oath that never, no matterat what pass, would he disclose that the Queen had loved him.

"This oath rankled within him day and night, till he began toirk and fret at the concealment and to consider what he mighthave achieved had she set him beside her on the throne ofFrance—of how he might have been bowed down to andworshipped by those people who now took him as naught and neverturned their heads to look at him.

"So in all these three pride became the one thing burning upall other passions: in Duke François, angry pride had beensupplanted, killing all lingering tenderness for the Queen,humbled pride in her began to dim her true ardour for herplebeian lover, and baffled pride in the clerk began to stiflethe passion he felt for Isabeau.

"As the months rolled round to another summer this conflict ofpride with the softer emotions of their bosoms became a thingunbearable to all three.

"The Queen had a secret door in her apartments in the Louvre,and when the nights were moonless, and her women dismissed, shewould take her lantern and in some cunning disguise or other goforth, let herself out of the Palace with her own keys, hurryalong the dark streets of Paris and meet her lover either at the'Près aux cleves' where his house stood, or in thecemetery of the Couvent des Innocents, which stood open day andnight. In this ghastly place they met not only for love, for theyoung clerk, in defiance of God and eaten up and maddened bypride, was seeking to raise the Devil or one of his emissaries,who, as he hoped, might help him to thwart the Queen and gain theplace he longed for in the councils of France.

"And Isabeau helped in these experiments—her design,which she kept as secret as her lover kept his, being to obtainthe aid of the Devil in safely removing Duke François, whom atlast she was growing to fear.

"Perhaps a woman's instinct warned her that under his sereneair of homage he might be working her fatal mischief.

"She was only afraid of one thing in the world, and that wasthe discovery of her common lover, and she knew that this veryweak spot was that which Duke François would not like tostrike.

"About the very heat and height of summer, when the war wasfaring badly (the English burning and slaying close within ahundred miles of Paris), the people bent beneath taxes heavierthan any taxes had been yet even in the bad Queen's time, theharvest poor and rotting on the stalk, the air filled often withstorms and the echoes of riots and rebellions and fiercepunishments in Picardy and Normandy and Provence, Duke François,after six months of spying and watching, saw, with his own eyes,Isabeau go forth and meet a common clerk in the graveyard of theCouvent des Innocents.

"And then Duke François began to raise the Devil, too, afterhis own fashion.

"The nest day he was the Queen's courtier as usual, bowing andhumble at her side, and she was more than ever haughty and coldwith him, for his quiet presence and soft manners were becomingdaily more intolerable to her and an affront to herpride—yes, an affront to her pride to look at him andimagine his laughter did he know her secret—his laughter ather, the Queen!

"But that evening she was relieved of him; he went toAcquitaine, where his estates were, on the excuse of a rebellionamong his vassals, and that he must go to punish with sword andfire those who murmured against his iron government.

"But he left behind him strange rumours—it was said thatDevil-worship and Devil-raising were going on in Paris, and thatto these unholy dabblings in the black arts were to be traced themisfortunes and disasters overtaking France.

"The priests, who had been made desperate by the silence ofthe Blessed God to whom they prayed, and somewhat discomposedbesides by the temper of the people, who began to complain of ascant return for all their ollerings in the churches, were eagerenough to catch at these rumours and to encourage and inflamewith Holy zeal the miserable citizens of Paris, who, in truth,between Queen Isabeau and the English required no Devil to plaguethem.

"In a short while the rage against Devil-worshippers and thesearch for them became so fierce in France, and especially inParis, that Isabeau's lover was frightened and begged her todesist.

"But she was the Queen—she could not imagine danger andherself in the same company; she was infatuate in her study ofblack magic, and mad to raise the Devil and learn from him how tobe rid of Duke François—and how to get money—for shehad wrung almost the last mavaredi out of France and she was onewho needed to be gorged on gold to live.

"She would not turn back, and so it came about that on onenight in August—the fourteenth day of August—in theyear '20, this scene took place in the cemetery of theInnocents.

"You may believe what I say, for I was there.

"It was a hot night, but thick, loose black clouds racedacross the full yellow midsummer moon and the two figurescrouched behind a gaunt tomb were sometimes in silver light andsometimes in complete darkness. One was the Queen and one theyoung student of the Sorbonne...

"That night she looked most beautiful; she wore a red'coteardie' and black hose (she was habited like a man)and a short purple cloak and a purple hood drawn over her ebonyhair—but no poor sentence of mine could describe the flashand sparkle of her face, the delicate carnation of her cheeks andlips, the velvet sweep of her brows, the shade and softness ofher throat: she was a beautiful woman—beauty itself, sirs,the pure beauty of the flesh.

"They had made a horrid brew in an iron cauldron. There wereloathsome ingredients in it, that the youth shuddered to handle,but Isabeau cared not; the cauldron stood against the tomb andround it were traced pentacles and mystic signs in whitechalk.

"The Queen's white hands were busy in setting fire to thesulphurous mass that she had piled beneath the cauldron, when themoon sailed languidly free of the clouds into the clear darkocean of heaven, and glancing up, she saw she had raised theDevil indeed; he stood beside the dark wall of the tomb in theguise of Duke François.

"She raised her hand to shield her face—she thought ofthat even before she turned to flee; but he seized her upflungarm and dragged it down and held her fast. 'Majesty!' he said,and in that one word she heard her degradation and realised, forthe first time perhaps, the utter depths of her fall.

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"For the moment sheer terror was uppermost; she appealed tohis manhood the weaker to the stronger—an ancient instinctthat had long lain dormant in her imperious soul, but it did notsoften him to see her abasement; his pride was mounting as herssank, he remembered how she had flouted him, and that this washis vengeance.

"He called up his men; they came hurrying across thegraveyard.

"Here mark his devilry—they were all fellows he hadbrought from Acquitaine—who had never seen theQueen—and who beheld now nothing more than a couple ofyouths caught in the infamous and deadly practices of blackmagic.

"After them came a whole pack of the baser sort, carryingtorches and lanterns and accompanied by several of those fiercedogs of the kind men take with them when they hunt highwaymen andnight ruffians, and these, with the enthusiasm of the chase, andthe delight of seeing the quarry cornered, and the hope that nowthe Devil-worshippers were caught the misfortune of France wouldcease, were beside themselves, leaping, shouting and pushingforward across the gravestones, and only held in check by thepikes of the Duke's men from Aquitaine.

"It may he imagined that though some of them may have glimpsedher golden chariot in the distance, none knew the Queen.

"And she stood with her back against the wall, facing them inthe moonshine, so pale now compared with the angry red dancinglight of the coarse resin torches of the crowd.

"As for the other youth, the student I mean, he stood numb andbewildered and frightened to death, yet (with the instinct tostand by the woman) staying where he was, though none held him.Isabeau looked up at François.

"'You must save me,' she said haughtily, and she signedfuriously to her lover to leave her—but he, poor fool! didnot understand and instead drew nearer to her, clapping his handto his outmatched sword.

"Why should I save you, little witch?' cried the Duke in aloud voice, and he beckoned his followers nearer. 'See justicedone to these two,' he said, 'who were so manifestly raising theDevil! What shall their punishment be?'

"And they shouted violently, 'Death'—and Isabeau cowereda little, and then looked at François again and saw what revengehe had prepared for her—she must declare herself beforethese churls or be done to death by them; there was no pity inDuke François—she knew it in an instant.

"I think that in that instant, too, she had taken her resolve.Pride is a deadly sin, but always a brave one.

"She folded her arms on her bosom and looked sideways at themob, who ever pressed nearer with shouts of hatred.

"'Tell them who you are,' said the Duke. 'Give then, sweet,your name and quality.'

"She shot a glance up at him and hell-fire flashed in hereyes; she said nothing. He swung her round to face herpersecutors. At that the student sprang forward, hardly knowingwhat he did—or what had happened. 'Whom do youtouch—do you know who this is?' he cried, himself notknowing who Duke François was. But the Queen turned on him withall she knew of royalty in her looks and gesture.

"'Silence!' she commanded, 'or I curse you!'

"He fell back at that and was seized by the Duke's guard. Hehung his head, he had no great desire to speak, nor for anythingon the earth, for he saw that her love had vanished in aflash—that she thought no longer of him...that she was theQueen now, and no longer his lover...

"'Speak!' cried François. 'Will you not speak?'

"Surely he had never believed she would carry it so far...buther sole answer was to laugh.

"She stood full in the moonlight, a small figure, butdauntless; she slipped the royal signet from her finger anddropped it into the rank grass—she had only to show it togain instant safety, remember.

"But she set her foot on it instead, and laughed atFrançois.

"He had cone to shame her and he saw she was minded to baulkhim, and in his rage and his fury at the sight of pride carryingher so far he stepped aside and with a gesture offered her to therage of the crowd.

"His men lowered their pikes and the people surgedforward—little knowing on whom they were wreaking vengeanceat last.

"And she slid not speak...she put her cloak before her faceand set her back against the tomb.

"And so died the Queen of France; when the crowd had finishedwith her she need not have feared recognition.

"Her tattered corpse was flung into a ditch—and the Dukerode over it when he left the graveyard; maybe some of her bloodwas on his horse's hoofs.

"At least he respected her pride; it was given out that shewas dead of sudden fever, and there was a gorgeousfuneral—with a gorgeous doll in her place, while her boneswere nosed by swine.

"The student escaped," added the monk, "or how should I betelling you this?


First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, January 1914

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HE monks were in the garden gathering the herbsfor the distillery where their sweet wines, potent spirits andfragrant perfumes were made.

The four arcades of the cloister encompassed them, slenderred-brick arches with the head of an angel in white glazedpottery above each group of clustered pillars.

Overhead the sky was summer blue, against which rose thegraceful height of the campanile; the monastery stood on a hillcovered with fruit gardens, vineyards and cornfields, and wasreached by a toilsome, winding road, so that it seemed very farfrom the world indeed, more than half-way to heaven, if heavenwas as near as the monks believed.

The square garden in the midst of the cloisters was on thevery summit of the hill and in the very centre of the buildings;it was divided into four parts—the herb garden, the flowergarden, the fruit garden and God's garden, which was thegraveyard, and grew neither herbs nor fruit nor flowers, but onlylittle rusty iron crosses above the roughly turned sod.

The four divisions were marked by broad, low box edgesbordering pleasant paths, and in the centre was a white alabasterwell on four white alabaster steps; the ropes and buckets hungfrom a light iron framework, and round about, in the crevices ofthe slabs, grew maiden-hair fern and the small, odourless Italianviolet.

In the flower garden were roses, carnations, syringa, freesia,stocks, wallflowers, lilies in bloom, and jasmine, magnolia,gardenias, oleanders and myrtles still only covered with green;in the herb garden grew bushes of lavender as high as a man,tufts of sweet basil, thyme, pepper, mint, clove, citron,mustard, camomile, ginger, fennel and iris.

The fruit garden was shaded by fig and pear trees; beneaththem grew currant and gooseberry bushes, orange and lemon trees,raspberry canes and strawberry beds.

There the novices were walking with Father Aloysius.

In one corner of the fruit garden was the fish-pond, and someof the novices sat on the brick rim and ate figs.

They ate one for the Eternal Father, three for the HolyTrinity, one for the Virgin and seven for her seven sorrows.

Father Aloysius ate ten for the ten Commandments as well, andthen twelve for the twelve Apostles, for the figs were just ripe,soft and green and gold and purple, creamy white and deep rose-pink inside, with a perfume, faint indeed and evasive, butdelicate and seductive enough, as Father Aloysius said, to temptSaint Anthony.

And he ate seven for the seven active virtues, and seven forthe seven theological virtues.

Then he began to talk of the sin of Gluttony or Greed, as itis called in the rude tongue, but in the classicalGula.

Now Gluttony, or Gula, is the second deadly sin, saidthe monk, and is unlimited indulgence of the body, as Pride orSuperbia is indulgence of the mind; and whereas from Pridespring many minor sins, as Disobedience, Hypocrisy, Impudence,Arrogance, Impatience, Irreverence, Strife, Vainglory, Spite andSwelling of Heart—for indeed Pride is the very root of allthe sins—so out of Gluttony come various other sins, asSloth, Selfishness, Sourness, Discourtesy andWitlessness—it is, in fact, a very ugly and horrid sin, anddirectly against the commandment of God. He who is a slave toGluttony may not well withstand any other sin, and certain it isthat no glutton was ever vet a saint.

The novices continued to eat figs as they drew round the fish-pond to listen; they sighed at the wickedness of the world andsmiled to think how safe they were from it.

Now as Pride, continued Father Aloysius, is shown in thefigure of a peacock with a crown and a beautiful coat, who thinksof nothing but how he may display himself, so is Gluttony shownin the resemblance of a pig, which is a very unpleasing beast,bare of adornment, composed of naught but flesh, with a greatnose and mouth always searching for food, and a body so fat hislegs can scarcely support it. When he can find nothing to eat hesleeps, and he has no wits at all, and no disdain of dirt orfilth, but rather delights in it; his voice is rough and harsh,and he hath an unlovely odour. As this beast is, so is theglutton, for ever followed by contempt and laughter, the pointingof fingers and the shooting of lips.

Indeed it is doubtful if there be any sin which is sodisdained as this, for a man may not be a glutton and keep hisdignity, nay, he may not be a glutton and save his soul alive,though of most other sins this is possible—with submissionto Holy Church. Now how this second deadly sin, which is the uglysin of Gluttony or Gula, may directly lead to a miserableend in this world (to say nothing of what punishment is in storein the next world, the which is only known to the wrath of Godand the ingenuity of the devil), is shown in the story of DenisD'Espagnet, who was a merchant of Marseilles in France, and atfirst a very personable young man, albeit always given to thissin of Gluttony, though it must be admitted that he had noothers, at least none that were noticeable: but, as I have said,this sin sufficeth.

He had a very noble and princely fortune, a fine mansion inthe town, and many ships in the port; but it must not be supposedthat it was a fortune of his making, for what glutton was everindustrious? It is against nature.

It was his father who had made and left all this wealth, forhe was a very thrifty and wise merchant, and generous andcourteous withal.

He dealt with the East, with Algiers, with Barbary, withTurkey, India and China, and he brought gold and silver, ivoryand spices, silks and jewels, perfumes and porcelain, strangebirds and animals and cases of fruits and sweetmeats; and hisfame for his fair bargaining, his great wealth and his highconnections, was great. He lent money to Princes, to the King ofCyprus, the Doge of Venice and the Pope of Rome.

The King of France was in his debt, and, being willing tofavour him, stayed under his roof before he sailed fromMarseilles to fight the heathen.

It was winter weather, and in the royal guest's chamber burnta great fire perfumed with cascarilla, and while the King stoodbefore it, warming his hands, D'Espagnet cast into the flames allthe King's bonds for the money he owed him, thereby setting himfree from the burden of his debts; so that this fire cost manythousands of gold pieces.

Now it is manifest he would have done better to have made theKing pay his just debts and have given the money to Holy Church,but this was the action of Hilaire D'Espagnet, and fine andprincely it was considered.

But his son was a different man: he thought nothing of gainingmoney nor of spending it, but only of this ungodly sin ofGluttony.

His feasts were famous in Marseilles, nay in all France, forat no other table could such delicacies be found as at his.

From all over the world came the meat, the game, the fish, thefruit, the vegetables on which he fed, the rare and costly wineswhich he drank.

A hundred cooks were kept busy day and night devising newdishes, and the master cook had the wage of a king's general, andwore round his neck a gold chain, one link of which would haveransomed a lord.

There were brown cooks from India who looked to the making ofspices and sauces, yellow cooks from China who held the secret ofmany strange recipes unknown in Europe, French cooks for thepastries, Italian cooks for the creams and jellies, German cooksfor the baked meats and the mulled beers, Spanish cooks for thechocolate and the game, Persians to mix the sherbet and the fruitdrinks, and two English cooks to make what they call in thatcountry "rosbiffe," "biffstek" and "plumpouding."

In his garden were great tanks full of trout and crabs andlobsters, trees laden with fruit—and many growing underglass and kept warm with fires in the winter, that he might neverlack all the year round.

There were huge beds of lettuces, asparagus, tomatoes, onions,radishes, artichokes, fennel and marrows in the places where hisfather had had roses and carnations; these were all uprooted now,for nothing might remain in the garden which was not good toeat.

He had two hundred men looking after these things, a vast yardwhere he kept fat fowls and ducks and pheasants and herons andpeacocks, and a plot of cabbages on which great white snails werefed; the Chinese cooks could make wonderful soups out ofsnails.

He neglected his business, he had no liking for the company ofladies nor for the converse of friends, he went from his bed tohis table, and when one meal was ended he sat on cushions andthought of the next, or, to get an appetite, he walked round thegarden and admired the juicy fruits and the succulent vegetables,and the fat birds waddling up and down.

And there was one dainty he loved more than another, and thatwas citron pie. A plain and an ordinary thing, said FatherAloysius, it may sound to you, but you must not think of citronpies as you may have seen them, with a sodden crust and pulpyfruit within—nay, these pies, as made by the master cookhimself, were very different.

They were no bigger than a lady's palm, the crust was sodelicate you could blow it away. The centre was a perfect ripepeach, and over that a jelly of strained strawberries, over thatwhipped cream mixed with violets, and round about all a circle ofsnow flavoured with slices of citron, the whole enclosed in asilver filigree basket, frozen and sprinkled with jasmine budspreserved in sugar.

Such were the pies that Denis D'Espagnet prized above allsweetmeats; he even began to write verses in their honour, butwas too lazy to do more than the first line.

He lived in this manner for several years after his fatherdied; his fortune diminished through neglect, but he did notcare, for he still had ample for his food, and his person becamefat and round so that a piece the shape of a half-moon had to becut out of the table at the place at which he sat; but he made notrouble of that, and lamented not at all his lost comeliness, butlived contentedly until one day (a fatal day for him!) a fellow-merchant, who had been one of his father's friends, came to visithim, and Denis made a feast, and the hundred cooks worked all dayand all night, for the other merchant was not wholly free fromthe deadly sin of Gluttony. After the feast, which lasted threehours, the master cook himself brought in the citron pies, andDenis placed two of them on the plate of his friend and waitedwith complaisance, for he knew well enough that there was noexcelling these dainties in the length and breadth of theworld.

The friend tasted them.

There was a pause.

Denis still waited for the usual sigh of rapture; lie waitedso long that the master cook paled, thinking he had forgotten oneof the ingredients.

"Well enough," said the merchant at length. "But not likethose I have eaten at the Court of the Khan of Barbary."

Denis trembled like the quince jelly before him, and themaster cook burst into tears; it was the first time either ofthem had heard such heresy.

"Something is lacking," continued the friend. "I know notwhat—nay, I cannot fix the flavour—but something ishopelessly wrong. If you were to taste those made for theKhan—ah, then you would know the difference!"

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So the feast ended dismally, and that night Denis could notsleep for thinking of the citron pies made at the Court of theKhan of Barbary.

And the next day, before his friend departed, Denis begged andbesought him by some means to procure for him the recipe of thesesame tarts.

But the friend laughed and said that the only Christian whohad ever gone into the Khan's kitchen had come out as a piehimself—a great pie which had been served at the supper ofthe Prince's lampreys.

After this, life was spoiled for Denis; he could think ofnothing but those pies, more perfect than his own, being eatendaily at the Court of the Khan.

The master cook, too, fell into a melancholy and becamecareless, and once a pheasant came to table with the upper sidebrowner than the under, and a peach was served with a speck inthe skin.

Denis began to take no pleasure in his food, he lost flesh, hebrooded, and at last he resolved to go to Barbary himself, visitthe Khan, and taste the pies with his own lips and tongue.

Greatly he groaned at the exertion, for never yet had he leftMarseilles, but his ruling sin conquered; one of his galleons wasprepared; he took the master cook with five under him, greatstore of food and wine, two friends, a skilful captain and asturdy crew, and set sail for Barbary.

Now he had hardly got to sea before his troubles began, forthe rolling of the ship begot in him a sickness so that hegroaned and cried for very unhappiness, and all the captain coulddo with the telling of witty tales did not serve to cheerhim.

The cooks were ill, too, and there was nothing to eat save theordinary ship's rations which the sailors could prepare; but foronce (for the first time, indeed) Denis did not think offood.

The captain told stories of the journey to Samarkand and ofthe tomb of Timour Beg, built of stone green like water, of thecamels crossing the desert with nets hung with silver bells overtheir packs, of the wild and curious beasts he had himself seen,such as the manchora, whose teeth fit nto one another like combsput together, who has a blue body, the feet of an ox, the face ofa man, and a trumpet-shaped tail whereon he blows, making afearsome noise; Denis, however, gave no heed to these marvels,but lay and lamented.

But on the tenth day they sailed into smoother waters thatwere clear as an emerald, and one leaning over the ship's sidecould see the terrible sea-beasts at play, and the pearls andcoral and amber, ready for the gathering up.

Denis had no taste for these things, and begged the captain toput back to Marseilles; but his friends overruled him, sayingthat they might get to Barbary as soon as they might get toFrance.

Yet it had been well for Denis if he had had his way, for onthe twelfth day up came a great sea-rover with black sails, andquickly made captive the French galleon.

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Now it chanced that this rover was from Barbary, and theMarseilles captain explained that they were peaceful people andhonest traders, and that his master was on a visit to the Khanhimself.

But this availed them nothing, for the Barbary captain toldthem that his Prince was so vexed by the attacks of the King ofFrance upon various heathen Princes who were in league with him,that he had himself declared war against all Christians.

Whereupon Denis proclaimed his name, which was a great nameand well respected in the East; and when he heard it the heathenleapt for joy, for, said he, it is well known that that is thename of the Christian who lent the King of France money that hemight war against the Mussulman, and the Khan will be greatlyrejoiced to have him as a prisoner.

Denis with many tears and cries declared that he was notresponsible for his father's work, and that he had never lent amaravedi to a single soul—but what availed that?

He and his friends and the cooks, the captain and the crew,were bound and put in the hold, and the rover made all haste toBarbary, where he delivered his captives to the Khan.

The cooks (alas for the frailty of human nature!) turnedMussulmans and so were taken as slaves into the houses of richheathens; but Denis and his friends and the captain were staunchto the true faith, for they were never asked to forsake it; theywere lodged in the royal prison, and the crew were sent to theroyal galley; it is quite plain that the blessing of Heaven wasnot on that voyage.

These unfortunate Christians were cast into a miserabledungeon that looked into the Khan's garden: the window was nobigger than two hands put together, the walls were rough and thefloor was clamp, and once a day bread and water were given tothem, so that they sat and bewailed themselves.

But his guardian angel had not forsaken Denis, and stillcontrived to give him a chance to save his soul alive and die inpenitence.

The Khan's daughter was in the garden among the lilies whenthe captives were taken to their prison, and she chanced to fallin love with Denis, who had become comely again, his flesh havingshrunk from lack of food and misery.

Stout he still was, but fat is admired amongst these heathen,and the maiden herself was named Full Moon, because she was roundand white, having been fed on butter to make her plump andbleached to make her fair.

Now the Khan went away hunting, and on his return intended tohave the prisoners impaled to celebrate his birthday; but themaid was cunning enough, and with tricks and bribes she got thesentries away from the prison, and down she came one evening,veiled, scented with geranium and wearing a petticoat of goldsilk, a petticoat of white satin, trousers of silver gauze, andall manner of gems and chains of gold and silver, and she put herface to the window and cried softly, "Denis!" (for she had foundout his name) "Denis!"

He, hearing the voice and fearing some heathenish trick,desired the others to answer, but they would not; and presentlyhe went himself, trembling with fear.

But when he fixed his face in the window and saw the Khan'sdaughter he smiled, and she lifted her veil and sighed.

Denis, being desperate, made love to the lady. He praised herfigure and her face and her kindness (it is true that she wasmuch to his taste)—and presently he asked for somefood.

She stood on tiptoe and kissed the end of his chin (she couldreach no further, neither could he get his head out of thewindow), and promised to return with meat and drink.

And now the other prisoners clamoured to know who it was, forthey could see nothing; and Denis, willing to keep his goodfortune to himself (for what is food for one shared among four?),said it was the sentry telling him the Khan was away, and thatwhen he returned they would all be impaled; then when they wereagain asleep he went to the window and waited for thePrincess.

Faithfully she came, and brought with her a basket and handedup to him baked meats and roast game and almond cakes, fruit andiced sherbet, till the tears of joy ran down his face.

And while he ate she told him that she had a scheme for hisescape, that she would become a Christian for his sake and theycould fly away together to his country. Meanwhile she promised tocome every night and bring him food.

And so she did, and never a drop or a crumb did this glutton,for lust of his sin, share among the others, though he got dailyfatter and fatter as they got thinner and thinner.

Strange looks they began to cast on him, for, they said, it isstrange that he on bread and water should become again fat andround and soft, even as he was at Marseilles.

But he declared it was the grace of God sustaining him becausehe said the Pater Noster every night, and as his guardian angelsaw to it that the Princess came only when they were asleep, theywere forced to believe this, though no flesh grew on their boneseven if they said their Pater Noster thrice over.

One day Denis recalled the whole aim and purport of his visit,and, quivering with excitement, asked Full Moon to bring him somecitron pies such as were served at her father's table.

The next night she brought them, twelve of them on littleplates of saffron yellow porcelain...

And Denis admitted that they were indeed better than thosemade by the master cook, and every day he ate them and becamefatter still, for the pies were full of cream and butter and egg.So things went for a month, and then the Princess told Denis thatall was arranged. She had contrived to steal the keys of theprison, and of the garden, she had swift horses prepared to carrythem to the sea, and she had his galleon, all manned withChristians ready to take them to France.

To celebrate the news Denis ate five-and-thirty citronpies.

Now the next night, while the others slept, he sat waiting forthe maiden to open the door, and never a thought did he give tothese unfortunates, who were in mortal danger of death throughhim and his nasty greed—for why had the journey beenundertaken but for his gluttony?

The time passed, the ivory moonlight was pouring into thecell, the bulbul was singing outside, the rustle of thetamarisk and the pepper tree filled the air, and presently thedoor was softly unlocked and the Khan's daughter stood beforehim, wrapped in a black veil, and carrying such of her father'sjewels as she could find, tied in a scarlet cloth.

Up sprang Denis, and she whispered to him to Haste! haste! forthe Khan was returning that very night.

Haste he made indeed, but nothing did it avail him; for seethe horrid consequences of this ugly sin of Gluttony orGula, see the judgment of Heaven on this wretchedsinner!...

He could not pass the door.

Yea, so fat and large and gross and heavy had he become thatthere was no getting him through that narrow door, eithersideways or frontways or backways—the Princess stepped intothe garden and pulled, he heaved and puked till the sweat randown his face, but it was useless: not even half of him wouldpass.

Crimes of Old London (17)

His groans and moans awoke the others, who quickly dragged himback into the cell and stepped into liberty themselves.

The Princess, seeing this, began to shake with fear and wouldhave run back to the palace had not at that moment one of herslaves come panting up, saying the Khan was home.

Then the maiden, realising how desperate the case was, andbeing vexed with the great fatness of Denis, besought the threeother Christians to escape with her, telling them of all herpreparations.

Whereat they came right gladly: the captain and the Princessmounted on one horse, and the two friends on the other, and theythundered through the white town and the blue night down to thesea, where they found the Christian vessel and so were saved,together with the other poor souls, to the great glory ofGod.

Full Moon married the captain, who came into all thepossessions of Denis, for he, in the great fear and terror of hisfirst days at sea, had made a will leaving all his money to thecaptain if he brought him safe to land; and sure enough, thecaptain said, "I did bring him safely, or would have done if theheathen had not captured us."

Meanwhile Denis groaned and moaned in the prison and struggledto get out of the door—but what was the use? His guardianangel was tired of this sinner.

The Khan heard these cries and came to the prison...Ah, he wasa wrathful heathen when he found that his daughter had escapedwith all the Christians in his dominions.

No use were the cries and entreaties of Denis: the Khan'smaster cook entered the cell and dispatched him, and in severalportions they conveyed him away to the kitchens; flavoured withbamboo shoots and mustard he fed the Khan's lampreys for aweek.

So you see, added Father Aloysius, the result of this horridsin of Gluttony.

Clearly enough the novices saw it; they sighed and shook theirheads.

Then, as they had eaten all the ripe figs, they all went intothe refectory to supper.


First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, February 1914

Crimes of Old London (18)

The Pall Mall Magazine, February 1914, with "Luxury"

Crimes of Old London (19)

Crimes of Old London (20)

T was the middle of October; the chestnut treesin the valleys, the olive trees on the hill-side were heavy withfruit; on the sloping roofs of the cottages the figs were placedto dry; the gold and scarlet leaves of the vines hung shrivelled,and the grapes, purple, yellow, green and rose-coloured, wererevealed clustering to the bare poles; the oranges and lemonshung green as jade amongst the fresh foliage; in the gardenscarlet flowers bloomed and tall spears of tuberoseloysiusay longthe sun shone warmly, but at night there were heavy rains, andthe winds were chilly in the shadows.

While the monks worked in the distillery the novices made thewine, and Father Aaloysius directed their labours.

The big barns outside the convent were filled with vats intowhich the novices trod and pressed the grapes. The brown fingersand the brown feet of the novices were stained a dull red, redalso were the butts, and rivulets of red ran in and out betweenthe square paving-stones of the courtyard.

Hot and tired were the novices; the vintage was nearly over,and the wooden taps began to yield the bright liquid of the freshwine, while the drained niasses of bloodless grapes were throwninto the garden, where numbers of pale wasps devoured them.

The novices were discontented as well as tired; the Prior wasentertaining a certain Prince, on his travels through thecountry, and all day long his knights and squires went to and frothe gardens and courtyards, holding their noses because of thesmell of the fermenting wine, and raising their skirts andmantles out of reach of the trickling lees.

The novices marked them, marked their air of contempt, theirscornful laughter, their sniffs and puckerings of brows and lips,marked also their garments, the nets of gold and silver on theirheads, their hats with green and blue feathers, their mantlesembroidered with silk and woollen, their curious boots, tasselledgloves and wonderful daggers; and because of all this, andbecause they were labouring in rough brown habits, they becamevexed at their vocation and wishful that they, too, were in theworld.

And they were still further discontented when two of theknights, seating themselves on a low pink stone wall over whichthe last roses poured their yellow blossoms, began discoursinglightly of holy things in a loud tone, so that the monks workingat the vintage could not fail to hear.

And one knight told the other a story of a certain sinner whohad gone to Rome to see the Pope.

His Holiness was in his palace of St. Giovanni in Saterno, andhe received the penitent in the garden.

It was springtime (said the knight), and the square of gardenbetween the white marble cloisters was planted withviolets—nothing but violets—and in the centre was asmall fountain of alabaster from which trickled water as clearand sparkling as a diamond. Near this fountain the Pope waswalking, and so humble and pious was he that he wore the robe ofan ordinary monk and was telling over a string of white beads,each caryed from the bone of a saint.

Now when the penitent entered the garden he felt afraid anduneasy—he knew not why: afraid as if he were in thepresence of something horrible—uneasy as if in the presenceof something eyil.

The penitent thought it must lie with the violets; there wereso many of them, and the enclosed scent of them was so strong asto make the head giddy.

Albeit, he told his sin to the Pope and was absolved.

But even as he was leaving he turned him back and said: "Thereis one thing more, Holiness, I have often wondered at: how canone know a damned soul?"

"A damned soul?" repeated the Pope slowly.

"Even so—is there no sign by which one can tell it? Ihave asked many people, and they all have said, By a certain redlight in the eyes, a reflection of hell fire. Is this true,Holiness?"

"How can I tell if it be true?" answered the Pope, and hestooped for his rosary, which he had dropped.

So the other made his reverence and was for leaying, but as hepassed through the shade of the cloisters, he chanced to glanceback.

The Pope was looking in his direction, and the eyes of hisHoliness glowed red as a coal from the Pit—red, red andshining with flame.

Crimes of Old London (21)

Then the penitent turned and fled, and ran, and ran, and ran,because of the horror that was on him, until he came to theTiber, and there he threw himself in and was drowned, for no onemay see such a sight and live.

And when the knight had finished discussing this story, he andthe rest moved away laughing.

Now at this moment up came Father Aloysius to taste the wine,and to him the novices recounted the tale they had heard told bythe knight.

Make no account of that (replied the Father); now is his time,and he may levant and flourish in his impiety and wantonness: butthe time will come when the Devil and his imps will snatch himaway by the yellow hair of which he is so proud, and for all hiscries and lamentations the saints and angels will take no heed ofhim.

I perceive (continued Father Aloysius, seating himself on thepink wall) that ye are discontented on beholding all thesplendour of these knights.

But I tell you that Luxury—or Luxuria, in the classicaltongue—is the third of the deadly sins. I have already toldyou of Pride or Superbia, Greed or Gula, and what comes of them;and now I will tell you of Luxury or Luxuria, which is givenunder the form of a goat, a creature of unbridled desires, asdeaf to the voice of man as the sinner is deaf to the voice ofGod, and one of the symbols of the Evil One himself—he whosees an ape riding on a goat has certainly seen the Devil ridinghis favourite steed.

There was once (said Father Aloysius) a young man whose fatherkept him very straitly: every day he Went in frieze, a suit offour years' wear patched and darned, and for the winter a collarof red fox from which all the hair had fallen.

No natural joyance or pleasure of youth was allowed him; whenthe other young men went out to the games, or to see the horse-racing, or the Morality in the public square, he had to remain atthe window of his father's great dark palace and watch them withlonging eyes.

When the young maidens went out to the fields beyond the cityto gather the first flowers of the spring, he was never among thecavaliers who escorted them; when they returned with roundbunches of roses, red and white, and long boughs of hawthorn, itwas never to him that they offered favours taken from theirposies—no, for him there was nothing but the passingglance, the light laugh or the smile of pity.

There was poor food in the palace, though it was served onheavy silver; there was thin wine in the glasses, though theywere cut crystal; there were worn coverlets on the beds, and themoth had eaten the damask hangings, and dust had tarnished thegold thread of the armorial bearings in the tapestries.

For the father of Giulio (such being the name of this mostunfortunate young man) was held body and soul by another deadlysin—that of avarice.

But when he was not very old he died, leaving behind him asmuch wealth as would have bought twice over the city in which helived.

He left no heir but Giulio, and that youth now found himself,from a position of humiliating poverty, the most wealthy personin the land—which is to say, the most envied, the mostadmired, the most courted.

Everything was now changed in the old palace. Sculptors,painters and architects worked day and night to beautify it; theceilings were soon covered with pictures like glimpses ofParadise; the walls were inlaid with precious marbles, yellow,black, white and grey; in all the dusty corners, hitherto knownonly to the spider, hung silken draperies of scarlet and crimson;the gardens, so long lifeless and parched, bloomed with theoleander, the palm, the orange, the camellia and the rose; thedried basins of the fountains were replenished with crystal waterin which swam golden fish; the weeds were cleared from the lake,which now bore on its pellucid surface swans white as springblossoms.

The worn, tattered furniture disappeared, and in place of itthe palace was set out with chairs and tables of rare scentedwoods, inlaid with ivory and ebony; with couches covered withsatin cushions; with sideboards hearing dishes and goblets ofrock crystal, of agate, of sardonyx, painted lustre plates andtall glasses coloured like milk and rubies; with carpets ofPersia, a thousand hues mingled in their silken woof; withtapestry from Arras, stiff with thread and gold.

And the stairs that had been so silent now echoed the sound ofgilt shoes, the swish of trailing mantles, the clatter of swords,the rustle of silk; and the rooms which had been so long emptywere filled with perfumee and sighs and laughter and gentlebreaths and the wind of fans.

Giulio was transformed; instead of a doleful youth shrinkingin worn homespun, he was a splendid young man, robed like anEmperor's son; he was gay, he was witty, he wasgenerous—and, naturally, he was very much loved.

Never had the town known such gaiety. Every night there was afestival; every day there was a hunt, a tourney, races, games orsome such diversion. It was as if a shower of gold had beenpoured over the place: the miser's money was in everyone'spocket, the praise of his son on everyone's lips.

Now this was a merry life for Giulio, and never did he pauseto think of aught save this world, nor did he bestow a singlepenny on good works.

Nay, every holy monk who came to his door, begging the crumbsfor the poor, was sent rudely away. "When I was in misery," saidGiulio, "no man came to my aid, and now will I help no one, norwill I haye about me these miserable fellows, but rather thosewith bright looks who amuse me."

So his life went for a year or so, and during this time he hadnot once entered a church, or given money to the poor, or evenlaid a bunch of flowers before a wayside shrine—costlylilies and roses he would throw beneath the feet of some foolishwoman, jasmine and camellias he would twine in her hair; but hecould not spare even a cluster of wild violets for the Mother ofGod.

One day in full summer-tide, when Giulio felt suddenly andstrangely weary of all his joyous companions, he chanced to findhimself alone on the road some miles from the city gates; he wasseparated by the chances of the chase from his fellows, and notsorry to be alone. Nevertheless, he felt both hungry andfatigued; and as he had lost his way to the meeting-place, itseemed as if he had no chance of sharing the sumptuous collationhis servants had prepared.

A storm was coming up; the sun shed a strong gold light frombeneath a mass of purple cloud; the russet chestnut trees thatfilled the valley were half in violet shadow; a little wind castthe white dust up from the long road.

Turning a corner, Giulio suddenly saw before him a littlehouse which stood back from the road in a herb garden.

The road was familiar to Giulio, but he had no remembrance ofthis house; indeed, so astonished was he at the sight that hereined up his horse and rubbed his eyes. There it was, clearenough—a square white house standing full in thesunlight.

And in the garden a man in a dark-red robe was picking herbs.He carried on his arm a flat basket of withes full of lavender,basil, marjoram, saxifrage, vervain, citronella, clove, camomileand rue, the mingled odour of which made the air peculiarlyheavy, fragrant vet sickly; and as Giulio looked, he wondered atthe great size and beauty to which these herbs attained. Therewere no flowers in the garden, only these tall, blossomless greenplants.

"Friend, who art thou?" asked Giulio; and the man in the redrobe looked up from his work.

"Oh, I have all manner of names," he answered pleasantly. "Weare old acquaintances, Don Giulio, and presently shall know eachother better still."

The young man felt horribly afraid; he did not like the stormwhich was blowing up across the valley, nor the sunny whitehouse, the long white road, the man who was working there; allseemed to him as strange as some bad dream from which lie wouldbe indeed glad to awake.

"Will you dismount and rest a little?" asked the herb-gatherer.

"Nay," said Giulio hastily. "I must endeavour to find mycompanions."

"Will you take some fond and wine?" offered the other.

Giulio shook his head and made to ride on, but his horse wouldnot advance.

The man in the dark red habit came and leant on the fence; thepurple clouds had now overspread the whole sky. "You are veryanxious to leave me," he remarked. "Why in such a hurry to getaway now? One day soon you will begin to spend eternity withme."

Giulio's heart knocked against his side, his face went whiteas paper, and his hair rose on his head. "You must," he groaned,"be the Devil."

"Certainly," replied the personage, leaning on the fence; "andwe shall meet again very soon, Don Giulio."

"No!" shrieked the young man. "I defy you, I defy your arts! Iam a Christ-born child. I defy you!"

"So they all say at first," returned the Devil. "But it is notthe least use. The next time you pass this little garden of mineI shall have to ask you for the pleasure of your company."

With this he bowed very courteously and turned away, and thestorm broke, blotting out the landscape with rain and darkness,and Giulio's horse bolted with him along the white road, norstopped until he reached home, covered with foam and shiveringwith terror.

Giulio was also frightened. He tried to forget what he hadseen and heard, he tried to believe that it was all a dream or adelusion, and more eagerly than before he filled his days withriotous living and surrounded himself with noisy and extravagantcompanions; but, as indeed Diabolus himself had warned him, itwas no use, and in his heart Giulio knew it was no use; in themiddle of the feast he would suddenly sec before him the sunnyhouse and the herb garden, in the middle of the night he wouldwake up and see the figure of the personage in the red robe.

At length a day came when he could bear it no longer—heconfessed to a priest and prayed for his advice; but the holy manshook his head and told him he could do nothing for him. Then adeeper terror possessed the young man; he became gloomy and thin,and careless of his former pleasures; and one day he mounted hishorse and rode to Rome and threw himself at the feet of thePope.

His Holiness was very, very old, and quite tired of life; hesat in a little black chair near a sunny wall, and the littlelizards ran over his gilt shoes, so still he sat. His calm waslike medicine to the distraught soul of Giulio, and there,kneeling among the daisies, he told his tale. When he hadfinished the Pope remained still a long while, thinking.

Then he said, "My son, there is only one way in which you cansave your soul from the Father of Evil. You must build, to theGlory of God, a complete church. Complete. Not a brick must belacking. Inside and out it must be inlaid with coloured marbles;every altar must have a painting above it; every image a lampswinging before it. Adjoining must be a convent for the holymonks, a baptistery and a campanile. There must be a great gardenfor the comfort of the brothers, a fish-pond, an orchard, avineyard."

When the Holy Father had got thus far Giulio interrupted him."All this," he said dolefully, "cannot be accomplished in thelife of one man."

"But you, my son, have exceeding riches, and riches can domore than life."

"But it would take all the riches I possess," complained theyoung man.

The Pope smiled. "All the better for your soul, my son. Youwill no longer be able to dissipate your days with riotouscompanions, but must spend your time in contemplation of the HolyEdifice you are erecting; and when it is finished and the laststone is in place, and the lamps all lit and the incense burningbefore the altar, then, then alone, you will know that your soulis saved and that you can defy the Devil."

Giulio considered. "Is there no other way?" he asked atlength.

"No other way," nodded the Pope. Giulio turned to go, andbefore he had left the garden His Holiness was asleep in thesun.

The young man returned to his native city; he called togetherartists, sculptors and architects; he bought a piece of land on ahigh hill outside the town walls, and the church began to bebuilt, the gardens to be laid out, the orchards and vineyardsplanted, the convent walls to rise up, brick by brick.

"So I defy the Devil," thought Giulio, and this prideful ideathat he was setting himself against the Evil One so possessed himthat he forsook his former extravagant ways and lived modestly,and thought only of the church and how it night be finishedswiftly and worthily.

And whereas before he had been a mere object of wonder andamazement, and the beloved of vain fools, now he was praised bythe good and the poor, for his church was becoming the wonder ofthe country, and the building of it gave employment to hundredsof artists and thousands of masons.

Ten years went by and the church was nearing completion, solavishly had Giulio spent his fortune and so diligently had theworkmen laboured.

One morning in spring Giulio rode out of the town to the sea-coast, and, sitting idly on a grey rock, watched the sea.

It was early morning, and the sea was a dim colour betwixtgold and silver, the misty blue of the heavens was veiled withfaint pink clouds, and on the horizon gleamed a great goldenargosy.

Now, while Giulio was idly gazing at this distant ship, whichlooked like a flower fallen from heaven, and idly wondered whatport it had sailed from and to what port it was bound, he heardthe sound of gentle but very desperate sobbing.

All amazed he sprang up and gazed about the long, pale sands;and presently, in the mouth of a cave of green marble, he saw abeautiful woman seated and weeping dismally.

She wore a white velvet gown embroidered with roses made ofclustering rubies; her hair was unbound, and fell down eitherside of her face on to the sand, where it looked like virginamber newly washed clear by the tide.

On her little feet were shoes that each seemed one red rose,so sewn were they with rubies, and all her raiment was markedwith wet sand and stained by seaweed. When she heard Giulio'sfootstep she looked up—and oh, but she was lovely! Sobeautiful was she that if she had been seated in the desert theunicorn would have come and put his head in her lap and the lionwould have licked her hand.

Now while Giulio was building his church he had not thought atall of love and ladies; but when he saw this one as she satbefore him, with her knots of amber hair falling about hershoulders, and the crystal tears shining in the violet eyes whichlit the loveliest face ever beheld, it was as if a fierce flamebrake out in his heart, consuming all thought of, and desire for,anything but this woman.

As he stood staring at her, all bewildered by this newpassion, she rose up (just like a blossom she stood, straight,with a drooping head), and, blushing and sighing and weeping,with soft glances and sweet looks and sudden smiles, she told himher story.

She was a Princess, she said, and her name was Blanchefleur,and the golden argosy that Giulio had noticed was carrying herfrom one of her father's kingdoms to another (for he was a mightyEmperor), when her stepmother had bribed some creatures of hersto throw her overboard; which they had done, first tying togetherher hands and feet: yet by the help of the Madonna she had beensaved, for she remembered nothing after the blackness of thewater until she found herself, with the ropes gone from herwrists and ankles, on this strange shore.

Such was the damsel's story. Few beside Giulio believed it;rather was she accounted a witch or a fairy, or some such unholycreature. Yet say what they would, Giulio married her—yea,within three days of that meeting on the shore was she hiswife.

Now before long he began to find that to keep this lady costnear as much as to build a church, there were so many things sheneeded—gems, rich garments, chariots, feasts, palaces andslaves; nor did she fail to remind him that she was an Emperor'sdaughter, nor did he fail to give her all she asked for, for heloved her with a deathless love.

Little by little he began to neglect the church; it was sonearly finished, he was confident that he had defeated theDeyil—and Blanchefleur cared naught for the building of theholy edifice, but rather she led him gradually back to his oldlife, su that soon he preferred to sit and hold her mirror whileshe combed her amber hair, rather than to watch the painters atwork on the altar-pieces; and would sooner kneel on a cushion ather feet while she sang a loye song than go and hear matins orvespers in the new church.

And at last his great fortune began to yanish; he spent lessand less on the church, and more and more on Blanchefleur. Heborrowed money, he sold land and palaces, he pledged the merchantships be had at sea. The years went on, and still the church wasnot complete; the tower remained bare bricks, unlaced withmarble, and the gilt angel with the sword which was to stand onthe summit remained in the porch.

Again and again the Prior sent to him and humbly begged him togive orders to finish the tower, and the young man alwaysreplied, "To-morrow."

Now when he had sold all he could sell, and pledged all hecould pledge, the day came when his creditors gathered round himdemanding payment, and Giulio found that of all his greatpossessions there was hardly one white piece remaining that hecould call his own.

Then, like a man awakening from a deep dream of Easterndelight to the cold grey of a winter morning, he remembered hissoul and he remembered the church; he ran to the tower whereBlanchefleur sat, and took her in his arms and kissed her againand again.

"Blanchefleur." he said, "I have lost everything, and am liketo lose my soul too." He began to weep. "Give me the locket Igave thee yesterday—for I have nothing left in theworld."

Crimes of Old London (22)

Blanchefleur said nothing; with a smile she took the diamondheart from the long chain by which it hung over her violet gownand gave it him, and he went swiftly out and sold it for fivehundred ducats.

With the bag of gold in his hand he went sadly, sadly, humbly,humbly, up the hill to the church, and a great number of peopleran after him, out from the city gates, cursing him and hootinghim, for he owed more than he could ever pay.

But he hid the gold in his mantle and escaped them, and, paleand breathless, reached the convent and the Prior's room.

The Prior was painting a Book of Flowers; he sat in a blackchair at a black table which was covered with the little plantshe was copying.

"It is a long time since you have been here, Don Giulio," washis greeting.

The young man bowed his head. "I wish to finish the church,"he said, "but this is all the money that I have."

He untied the canvas bag and emptied the gold coins on to theblack table among the little plants.

"Alas!" said the Prior, "that is not enough—the marblealone will cost two thousand ducats—and to raise theangel—"

Giulio stayed to hear no more; he knew that nowhere could heget two thousand ducats...with a shriek which made the Priorshiver to his heart he turned and fled.

Only one thing was left to him now, and this wasBlanchefleur.

More than ever did he love her in this moment of his utterdesolation; she was more to him than a mere woman, howeverdear—she was the symbol of all his loves and lusts andlikings, and of that Deadly Sin for which he stood condemned tohell. She was lost, too, he thought, one with him; and as if withwinged feet he ran to her through the hooting town.

She was still in her tower. The creditors were taking thetapestries, the mirrors, the pictures from the walls; all washowling confusion in the palace, the slaves had fled—butshe sat still in the seat of the arched window looking out on thegarden.

"Blanchefleur!" cried the wretched young man."Blanchefleur!"

She turned and looked at him and began to laugh; she laughedand laughed—he sprang forward to seize her, and she brokeand vanished in his hands; then he knew her for what shewas—a doll, a puppet sent by the Evil One to lure him tohis ruin.

Then did this most unfortunate young man run out of his ruinedpalace and aimlessly flee from the town hack towards hischurch.

For even if it be unfinished, thought he, surely they willgive me an asylum where by great prayer and penitence I may savemy soul.

Crimes of Old London (23)

But he had not gone far on the long white road before heturned a corner and saw a sunny house standing in a herb garden.The personage in the dark red robe was leaning over the fence; hesmiled and held out his hand and caught Giulio's flying gown, anddrew him in through the narrow, open gate.

Nor was he ever seen again on the earth—but longremained an example of the terrible end that comes to those whofollow this sin of Luxury.


First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, March 1914

Crimes of Old London (24)

The Pall Mall Magazine, March 1914, with "Wrath"

Crimes of Old London (25)

Crimes of Old London (26)

NE November day, when the novices were seatedround the fire in the kitchen roasting chestnuts, a dispute fellout between two of them on some trifling matter, and FatherAloysius, who had observed much quarrelling of late among them,took the opportunity to talk to them of the fourth deadly sin,which is Ira, or, in the vulgar tongue, Wrath, which is the verysin, together with Pride, that caused Lucifer to be cast fromheaven.

And this story that Father Aloysius told was not one of hisown knowledge or his own country, but one that had been impartedto him by a certain Magister, who came from the bitter andbarbarous North, and had for a few days been a guest at theconvent.

And he, having witnessed divers curious things in his ownland, had made a great book of them, together with paintingsclone to please his fancy, and the receipts for certain charmsand a credible relation of his journeyings in search of thePhilosopher's Stone, which, he declared, was in the hands of theJews.

And several of these tales he had copied out and left withFather Aloysius for his instruction, declaring he knew them to betrue, and that they had all happened in his time, and to hisknowledge.

So this evening the monk brought down the manuscript of theMagister and read aloud the tale entitled, "A very FaithfulAccount of Some late Marvellous Happenings in the town of—"(for prudence, the name of the town was omitted, but the Magisterhad called it Alstein in Franconia). And this was the tale.

In a certain town there was a woman dwelling who wasuniversally held to be a witch.

She came of a great family, and had in her time been doweredwith lands and castles, but some mysterious disgrace had fallenon her youth, and she had nothing left but a small farm where shebrewed beer and made sausages and kept a few herons, whosefeathers she sold in the moulting season, and by these, with therevenue from the beer and the sausages, she made her living,though she used all means to disguise this fact, and pretendedthat she had wealth from her lands and forests which no longerexisted, as all knew well enough; but, as I have said, she was awitch, and who dared offend her? The whole town was in awe ofher, from the Sheriff to the humblest peasant, and the tricks shehad played on those who offended her were enough to fill a volumeby themselves.

Her name was Ottilia Von Angers, and surely never did anyonedisgrace a proud old name as she disgraced hers! Woe to the townthat sheltered her! (For she was not a native of this place, butcame from long off somewhere in Swabia, I think; at least herformer history was not clearly known.)

Well, this fine morning in May she jumps out of bed, puts onher worn old velvet kirtle and her old brass chain which she hadrubbed up to look like gold, and off she goes to the market tobuy the herbs for the beer and the meat for the sausages. Toright and left such bowing and salutations and lifting of caps!You would have thought it was a fair young maiden going abroadinstead of an old hag with a face yellow as butter looking herfull seventy years (though she admitted to scarce fifty).

There she was in the market-place, bargaining and chafferingand shrieking out on the impudent rogues that dared to cheat ahigh-born lady like her, when she saw a little cart being drivenfull speed through the buyers and sellers.

There was only one person in it, and she was an old womanwrapped in a black cloak with her grey hair blowing out behindher; every one stared at her, for she was a stranger. And Ottiliawas so interested that she stopped bargaining and hobbled afterthe cart.

When she came up with it, it was stayed outside a stall andthe old woman had descended—and what was she buying but twonew brooms!

So Ottilia pushes up to her and the following conversationbegan:

Who was she, what was she doing here, and why was she buyingbrooms?

Her name was Trina Von Ebers; she was a poor woman, God helpher, and she made her living selling cheeses. As for the brooms,she was buying them to sweep out the new house she hadtaken—servants were such sluts, as the noble lady mustknow.

These words pleased Ottilia, for she was proud as Diabolushimself, and she answered, yes, indeed, well she knew it,therefore she kept neither man nor maid; and now she rememberedshe required a broom herself, and these seemed strong and cheap,though God knew how these people cheated and lied.

So they fell bargaining over the brooms and the new-comer saidshe had come here to live, and to open a dairy for butter andcheeses, and she hoped the noble lady would accept the present ofa dish of her best butter (and good it was, she ventured to say)and a fine round cheese.

This immensely flattered Ottilia, who at once asked if herdear friend would come to dine with her. She had just brewed somenew beer—as to her name she was Ottilia Von Angers, and awell-dowered maiden.

The other hag accepted, and Ottilia hurried home to preparethe feast.

On the way she met a scullion of the sheriff's household, and,stopping him, she asked him what his master had for dinner.

To which the boy replied—a great game pie, two side-dishes of venison, an almond cream and a cake of cherries.

So home went Ottilia.

Now, though she had told old Trina she kept no servant, it wasnot true, for she had an old porter whom she nearly worked todeath, and when she reached home, him she sent with a message tothe Sheriff saying she heard he had a pie, two dishes of venison,an almond cream and a cake of cherries for his dinner, and shebegged he would send them to her, together with a cask of whitewine, for she desired to feed the poor of her neighbourhood, likethe pious woman she was.

And in case he felt disinclined to send, she reminded him ofwhat had befallen him the last time he would not help hercharities, viz. his mouth had been twisted up to his ear, and sohad remained for a week, which was doubtless God's judgment onhim.

Then the hag starts cleaning up the room and laying the tableand putting the furniture to the best advantage; then she goesinto the bedroom and fetches a small white monkey and she puts onhim a pair of green breeches and a blue coat, he crying the whileand preferring his nakedness; but my hag boxes his ears andquiets him.

Then back comes the porter with the Sheriff's dinner followinghim, borne by two cook-boys, for the Sheriff would as soon havefaced the whole army of the Margrave as deny anything toOttilia.

So the table was ready, and the wine broached and the beerpoured, and in came the other hag in a great cloak of catskindyed to look like sable.

And Ottilia's greeting was—where were the cheese and thebutter?

Well, could she carry them through the streets and she in herfine clothes? No, indeed, but to-morrow the servant wench shouldbring them.

This threw a cloud over their meeting, but they sat down tothe Sheriff's dinner and began to gossip and chatter and say howwicked the world was, and how birth and blood met with no respectnow-a-days, whereas any fat churl with a gold piece in his pocketgot more deference than a belted baron.

And the monkey sat on the table eating from Ottilia's plateand snatching the best morsels while she talked.

And Ottilia brought the conversation round to the cheese, andTrina said she would send for it, and, ringing the bell, summonsthe porter and bids him run down to her house and ask the maidfor one of her best cheeses.

Then the fellow answered: no, he would not run on any of hererrands, she was not his mistress.

What, did he dare speak to a lady with that rudeness?

Lady! She might well call herself a lady, for no one else everwould. Why, she was no better born than he.

Then the hag started screaming; he had better take care, sheknew how to deal with churls like him! She was a high-born maidenand could prove it!

The porter burst out laughing.

Why, she was seventy or more, and as for high-born, that shewas not, he could see; and not fit to sit at table with his noblemistress.

At this Trina screams out to Ottilia to chastise her insolentservant; but it chanced that Ottilia had been by no meansdispleased by the fellow's rudeness: first, because Trina had notbrought the present; secondly, because of the show she had madein the dyed catskin; thirdly, because the man had cunninglyflattered her in his last speech.

So she said: well, the boor was rude, but it was no fault ofhers, and her friend should have left him alone; after all it washer place to send the cheese, as she had promised. At this Trinacrosses her thumbs under the table, and, making a grimace at theporter, she hurries away.

Ottilia should have the cheese and might she enjoy it!

So my hags part coldly.

And Ottilia, looking after her guest, sees her dancing andleaping about the entrance and making faces at the porter. Sodown she comes running with a beer-mug in one hand and the monkeyon her shoulder; but when she had reached the gate Trina hadgone.

Now that night the porter was taken ill, so that his groansand cries echoed through the street; his head swelled, needlesand pins ran out of his mouth, and something seemed to run up anddown inside his throat, so that it was very plain that he had adevil.

So they carried him to the church and put him on a litterbefore the altar, where he lay like a dead man.

And beside him sat Ottilia, sighing and groaning and declaringthe fellow was bewitched and she knew who had done it: it wasthat wicked woman who had lately come into the town to sellcheeses; it would be a charity to all good Christians to burn herand her cheeses too.

After the fellow had lain there all night and never moved,they sent for a holy priest from the neighbouring village who wasan adept in such cases.

So he comes with the Sheriff and the Council and the knightsand barons of the town and they all gather round the poorporter.

The priest exhorts the devil, who will give no answer; but,the holy man in his agitation making a mistake in his Latin, thedevil suddenly speaks, in a heavy bass voice, and corrects him.Thereupon follows this conversation, which one present put downfor the benefit of the curious.

Priest: Who was he, and why was he annoying the poorporter?

Diabolus: They knew well enough who he was, and as forwhy he was there that was no concern of theirs. Let the holy manmend his Latin. Priest: Insolent answers would not helphim; depart he must and should.

Diabolus: That was a fine tale. Evidently the holy manwas stupid as well as ignorant.

Thereupon the priest recited certain prayers that caused thedevil to run in anger about the body of the poor porter till itseemed that the flesh must be torn from the bones.

Priest: Did these prayers annoy him?

Diabolus: Yes, certainly they did.

Priest: Well, would he answer a few questions and thendepart?

Diabolus: What questions?

Priest: Where did he come from?

Diabolus: Where the lean priest and the fat Sheriffwere going.

Priest: Let him be civil or the prayers would begin.Were there any witches in this town?

Diabolus: Yes, there was one in church now.

Then Ottilia began to weep and cry out how the ugly devilbelied even a poor pious woman like herself; but the Sheriff andthe knights and barons looked pale.

Priest: Would he tell them the others?

Diabolus: No.

He then proceeded to sing a love-song in Dutch, to the greatscandal of Georges Potsdammer, a worthy knight and the only onewho understood that language, and on the priest asking him whathe sang he answered: a hymn, and began to mock the holy man in ahorrid way.

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Priest: He had better depart, or they would begin theprayers again.

Diabolus: Well, let them give him something.

Priest: What did he want?

Diabolus: The great fat man with the red nose and thediamond agrafe in his cap.

Priest: That was the Sheriff, and why did he wanthim?

Diabolus: He annoyed him.

Priest: How could he annoy him? He might have theagrafe of jewels, but not the Sheriff.

Diabolus: Very well, then, they might pray as theyliked, they would not move him.

Which proved to be true. For they might pray as much as theyliked, they could not pray the devil out of the porter.

So presently up gets Ottilia and away she goes out of thechurch, so that everyone turns to look at her, she muttering thewhile that this was a holy man indeed who was not able to praythe devil out of her poor porter; but as for her she had neverthought that he could, not he—holy indeed! why, there werethose who could tell a different tale!

So off goes my hag straight to where old Trina is busy makingcheeses, and in she comes without as much as knocking.

And never a word she says at first, but looks round the room,and, sure enough, there were the two new broom-sticks lyingcrossed under the table and by the cupboard sits Master Catlooking as demure as you please and daintily licking the drops ofgrease off the ends of his fur!

Ottilia started shrieking.

She perceived that Trina was a witch and she had sent a devilinto her poor porter because the fellow had resented her rudenessyesterday.

Trina: Witch indeed! How dare she say so, and what didshe know of it?

Ottilia: What of the broom-sticks and the cat?

Trina: She had bought broom-sticks herself onlyyesterday, and what of the monkey in his little colouredhose?

Ottilia: Was it not to her credit that she tried tomake a Christian of the poor animal? Everyone knew that she was agod-fearing, pious lady. But she had not come here to quarrel;let Trina take the devil out of the porter and give her thecheese and the dish of butter, and they might be good friendsagain.

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Trina: She wanted no such friends; as for the cheeses,they were seven for a florin, and at that price she might havethem.

Ottilia: Seven a florin! She must be mad to speak so toa high-born maiden!

Trina: That was a good joke! Did she think she deceivedanyone with her brass chain rubbed up to look like gold, and herold velvet gown turned and scoured a dozen times?

At this Ottilia was so enraged she snatched up the broomsticksfrom under the table and began beating Trina; then up jumped theblack cat and ran between her ankles and tripped her up, andTrina seized the broomsticks and drove her out of doors.

Back Ottilia went, muttering to herself and dancing along thestreet so that everyone turned aside out of pure fright, and theSheriff, meeting her as he returned from the church, trembled allover at the sight of her, and begged her to accept a vase of hisnew honey.

"See that it is good measure," says she, with a leer, and shehobbles back and finds the monkey by the kitchen fire, dippinghis hand in the kettle and picking out the best bits of thestew.

At this she, further enraged, falls on him and beats himwithout mercy.

Ottilia: He was a worthless spirit! Could he not saveher porter—could he do nothing but eat and thieve?

Pipkin (which was the name of this creature): That wasa powerful spell laid on the porter, but if she would stopbeating him he would suggest how she might have her revenge.

Ottilia ceased her blows and they whispered together, andpresently they began to laugh and dance, and, my knave from theSheriff coming with the vase of honey, looked in at the windowand seeing, as he declared, three tall shadows leaping up anddown on the wall, back he ran, honey and all, and swears he willdeliver no more messages there, no, not if the Sheriff was to diphim in the river.

Now Trina gets ready her cheeses and goes to the market withthem. Everyone is looking grim, and the bell of the big church istolling, for the porter is just dead and the devil, in flying outof the corpse, snatched up the altar-cloth and whirled it awaythrough the window, and it may be seen at this moment stuck onthe weathercock on the steeple.

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But my hag cheerfully sets out her cheeses, and presently thepeople gather round, for the cheeses are large, fine and soft,and indeed better than any ever seen in that town before.

And, sure enough, she does a good trade, and it seems as ifevery cheese on the cart would be sold, when—whathappens?

Just as she is taking up the cheeses to hand them to hercustomers, up they all jump, like live things, and start runningdown the street.

Everyone stares and shrieks and crosses himself, and off go mycheeses, one after the other—jump, jump, jump!—andafter them the hag screaming and cursing.

But she might do as she liked; it was no use, the cheeseshurry along and she cannot keep up with them.

In and out of the long streets they go, out of the gate andpast Ottilia's farm.

And there she is at the window laughing and clapping herhands, with the monkey on her shoulder.

Ottilia She was well paid now for bewitching the poorporter! She might run till she burst, she would never get hercheeses again! Ha! ha! How strange she looked, with her skirtsall gathered up and her skinny legs looking like two sticks driedin the sun!

But Trina took no notice; she ran after the cheeses. Only whatwas the use?

They made straight for the river-bank, and there they jumpedinto the water, one after the other—plump! plump!plump!

And that was the end of the cheeses.

Now Ottilia and Pipkin had a feast, and because the Sheriffhad not sent the honey as he had promised, they put a spell onhim and turned all the beer in his cellar sour, and all the fishand meat in his pantry bad, so that the smell turned theSheriff's stomach.

So he in a fright sent another knave with a venison and asalmon and a great pot of honey; and what a feast my hag made!All the afternoon she was frying collops and sausages and makingsoup and boiling salmon.

Now, there were some friends of hers living near, hags likeherself, but afraid of her, and to these she sent a messageasking them to supper—for when she had good food she likedto make a show of it, so as to set all talking of her luxury andmagnificence.

In came the hags dressed like so many young beauties, and downthey sat to the feast, flattering and praising Ottilia andsmirking and smiling at each other as if they were the sweetest-tempered creatures in the world.

Well, just as my witch had brought in the salmon and set it onthe table and all the guests were ready to plunge in their knivesand forks, down comes the ceiling, spoils the feast, and nearlykills them all!

The table was broken beneath the wooden beams, the venison,the sausages, the salmon, the beer, the wine, the honey, werescattered right and left, so that there was not one crumb fit toeat.

Now the old women thought that this was some trick on the partof Ottilia (for she had served them not a few in the past), andas soon as they could escape from the ruins of the table theyrose up and went for her, beating her black and blue and swingingPipkin round by his tail and dashing his head against the wall,she crying out the while that she was innocent and would she havespoilt her own good dinner herself?

They never heeded a word, but beat her till they were tired;then they blew out in a cloud, scolding and quarrelling amongthemselves.

When they had gone, Ottilia, as soon as she could recoverherself, beat Pipkin a little more for not having been able toprevent the falling in of the roof, then put on her best gown andthe famous brass chain and went off to find a man to put the roofon again, then, as quick as she could, hobble, hobble, to theSheriff's.

Shivering and trembling, he bids her come in, though he is infull council discussing no less an important thing than putting apenny a quart on the price of beer.

In comes Ottilia demurely, and, sighing and weeping, shestarts her story.

Ottilia: With the venison and salmon his lordship hadbeen so good as to send she had made a little feast for some poorwomen of her acquaintance, and they, after thanking Heaven forits mercies, were just sitting to table when down came the roofand spoilt everything. This, like the death of the poor porter,was plainly witchcraft, and she accused the strange Trina VonEbers, and called on the Sheriff to obtain justice for her anddamages from that accursed witch. To wit; item, for thevalue of the porter, 50 florins; item, for the cost of anew roof, 10 florins; item, for the cost of the dinner 5florins; item, for a new gown totally spoilt by some soupfalling over it, 10 florins; and for another feast to compensateher friends for their disappointment, 15 florins.

The Sheriff did not know what to answer; he was as white asthe wall behind him. He bit his thumb and looked at thecouncillors, and the councillors looked at him, and they allcoughed and scratched their heads, and did not know what toanswer.

Then Ottilia began to frown and scream: What, were they notthere to see justice done on a high-born maiden in distress?

And the Sheriff hastily replied, yea, they were there to seejustice done, but could she prove the witchcraft? Might it nothave been an accident? And, as to the damages she claimed, theydid not think this stranger woman could disburse them.

So spoke the Sheriff out of fear of both witches, but Ottiliabecame more wrathful than ever. Let them search the stranger'shouse and see if they did not find money enough to satisfy herclaims! And, if they found nothing, let them take her out andburn her for the witch she undoubtedly was!

At these words in walks old Trina leaning on a crutch, andgoes stumping straight up to the Sheriff and tells her tale ofthe bewitched cheeses and demands that Ottilia be sent to therack until she confess it was her doing.

Then the Sheriff and the councillors wished that they hadnever been born, for, whichever hag they decided for, the otherwould destroy them with her spells, and the Sheriff saw no escapefor it but to die miserably, as the poor porter had died. So hesat there, trembling and biting his thumb, while my witches glareat each other awaiting his answer.

Then presently he thinks of a solution, and declares them bothpious women and innocent of all witchcraft, and suggests thatperchance there is some evil person in the town who has playedthese ugly tricks, or else that they were no tricks at all, butmere accidents.

Accidents! screams Ottilia, when he himself had heard thedevil speak from the mouth of her porter!

Accidents! cries Trina, when the cheeses had risen up likeChristians and run down the street—hop; hop; hop; and thewhole town had seen them!

So the Sheriff sighs and says, well, no doubt there waswitchcraft in it, and he can propose nothing but a witch-hunt,and pray Heaven they may find the evil-doer.

Now, this is not at all to the liking of my hags, and theystretch out their lean throats and scream out a protest, eachshrieking that the other is the witch and no need to searchfurther.

But the councillors are pleased with the Sheriff's plan, for,think they, the excitement of a witch-hunt will help to reconcilethe people to the rise in the price of beer.

So off they hurry and find swords and sticks and bunches ofhazel tied with scarlet thread and make a proclamation of awitch-hunt, to which all the town folk respond, well pleased.

And the two hags see nothing for it but to join in the chase,the one with her monkey, the other with her cat, though theirwrath against each other was by no means abated, and both yethoped to serve the other some shrewd trick or turn that wouldsend her to the stake.

Now, while this chase was taking place through the streets,the altar-cloth that had been fluttering from the weathercock ofthe steeple where it had been blown by the devil to the greatscandal of all good Christians, suddenly fluttered down, thoughthere was no wind, and fell on the roof of a house in the HighStreet, which the crowd at this minute were passing.

And the woman who lived there came running out, shouting:

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Had any one heard the like? All the apple-trees in her gardenhad become suddenly covered with fruit, and this but the middleof May!

Now, this greatly pleased my knaves, who thought that they hadfound magic at last; so they bundled the woman back into thehouse and rushed into the garden, and there, sure enough, werethree little apple-trees, covered with red and glossy fruit; butwhen one struck his teeth into them he found his mouth full ofashes.

So here they had it at last, and some were for taking thewoman and burning her at once, but there were two objections;item, she had a very good character, and earned her livingby knitting gloves for the priests; item, there was no oneamong them who knew how to burn a witch, and the fellow they hadsent for had not yet arrived.

In the midst of all the delay and confusion and bawling andfighting, two of the knaves start searching through the house forbroom-sticks, cauldrons, or any signs or mark of the EvilOne.

And what do they find?

A fair lame maiden, seated on the floor in one of the dustygarrets.

And she could give no account of herself; so they dragged herdown before the Sheriff, and the housewife declared that she hadnever seen her before, and that it was she, sure enough, who hadbewitched the apple-trees.

And my hags join in out of jealousy, seeing the girl is youngand comely, albeit lame, and swear this is the witch and noother, and now they can have their witch-burning.

So off they all go—hurry, hurry, hurry—to themarket-place, and, the witch-burner having arrived, the stake isprepared, and a fine bundle of green wood brought, and everyonepleased and content at the thought of the holy and pleasantspectacle, when what must Ottilia and Trina do but start anew toquarrel, each telling the other she should join the poor maidenat the stake.

And Pipkin and the cat begin fighting until it is an awfulsight; for as they fight they grow larger until the monkey is thesize of a soldier, and the cat the size of a bear.

Then, while every one is shivering and trembling, and notknowing what to do, there comes a clap of thunder, and who shouldstep into the market-square but the Devil himself?

Now, fiends, imps, evil spirits, familiars, ghosts and witcheswere well known to the good citizens, but the Devil himself wasquite another matter, and they all began to roar with fright.

To begin with, he was as tall as the cathedral, he had a tailthat lashed over the house-tops, and his long hair shook in thesky like banners. So he puts one hoof in the market-place andglances down with his red eyes, then he takes up the two witchesas a man might take up two hens and tucks them one under eacharm, and off he goes over the houses—stride, stride,stride—and disappears with another clap of thunder.

And that was the end of my hags.

Now when the crowd had recovered its senses, the cat and themonkey had disappeared, and there was the poor maiden weeping atthe stake. So they gave her her liberty; it seemed she was a poororphan hired to do a day's spinning, and her mistress had deniedher for fear. She afterwards married George Potsdammer; so thiswas a lucky day for her after all.

Now, everyone was satisfied, save the witch-burner, who said:how was he to be paid?

But the Sheriff was so pleased to be rid of Ottilia that hepaid the fellow the same, and so all went to a feast in the town-hall.

Alas, they might well feast! Soon it appeared that the devilhad let Ottilia loose again, and back she came in a new furtippet; but that is not in this tale.

Here ends the story of the Magister, and the next pages ofthis manuscript deal with a plan for conversion of the Jews andan account of Benedict D'Arles, who spent thirty years trying toproduce the Philosopher's Stone from decayed hen's-eggs, mercuryand seaweed, and died mad.


First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, April 1914

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The Pall Mall Magazine, Apri 1914, with "Envy"

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HE winter sun, pale and clear as thrice-refinedgold, warmed the rich countryside which lay beneath the Convent;the pine trees with fox-red cones, the thick olive trees with theclustering grey fruit, the chest nuts heavy with tawny foliage,covered the hill-slopes to where they joined the valleys, dividedby silver-stemmed larches and slender poplars, bearing a few lastleaves, flat and bright as a gipsy's sequins, into fields wheremen, women and oxen worked, turning over the fresh brownearth.

On the roofs of the farmhouses figs were drying in flatbaskets; from the doors and windows hung the red gold strings ofmaize; and in the gardens, by the stone wells or the marbleshrines of the Madonna set in the wall, the orange trees showedthe dark glossy foliage and the brilliant fruit.

The wine harvest was over; in the stone courtyards sat girlsand children rapidly fashioning covers for the flasks from thedried stems and leaves of the maize; the laurels were coveredwith berries, scarlet, purple and green; and here and there insome sheltered garden a white or crimson rose blossomed on thesame stem as the vivid yellow fruit.

Through this winter landscape rode a young lord with a sin onhis soul; he rode to the Convent. In his furred habit, withtassels of scarlet, he went humbly through the cloisters wherethe slanting sunlight lay, and confessed to Father Aloysius. Andthough the good monk absolved him, he was still uneasy, for hissin was a grievous one.

"How can it be?" he cried, "that I shall be forgiven?"

Then Father Aloysius took him by the hand and led him into thegarden.

It was very still; above the low line of the cloisters tineinsects crossed each other in the blue sky; there was just breezeenough to rustle the shining leaves of the lemon trees thatdrooped heavy fruit against the wall.

"There is no sin," said the monk, "too heinous to be forgiven,if one truly repents. As witness the tale of the hangman of Pisa,which is out of the book called The Rosarie of Our Lady,wherein are other examples, there being one for each bead on therosary.

"Now this hangman was a wicked and bitter man, who had neverdone a good action in his life, but had taken up his awful tradefor pleasure in it and would go to a hanging as merrily as a maidto a dancing. There was no one who loved him or respected him orpitied him; never was he seen in a church, nor any holy place,and when some poor wretch, about to die under his hand, wouldmurmur a prayer for God's pity, my hangman would laugh and scoffin a way horrid to hear.

"It happened one day that he was going forth to hang anoffender; he was clothed in the garments of the men he hadexecuted, and he carried a rope in his hand, for there was needof a new one for the gallows.

"It was a sweet and lovely day in spring, the flowers wereblowing in the gardens and on the hillsides, and many people weresinging because of the pleasant season of the year.

"The hangman felt suddenly uneasy: for the first time in hiswicked life he noticed how the children and the young maidens ranaway when they saw him coming, how the men crossed to the otherfootway, so that his path was always lonely.

"And for the first time since he had begun his present horridoccupation, he thought of the poor prisoner whom he was going tohang.

"When he came to Pisa bridge, where is the shrine of theVirgin set into the wall, a child running from him dropped acluster of wood-violets. And the hangman, on the impulse, pickedup the flowers and placed them on the little shelf before theVirgin, and at the same time commended his soul to Our Lady.

"Then he went on his way again, hurt, passing through a narrowstreet, he was intercepted by some relations of the man he wasgoing to hang, and they slew him.

"Now there was then in Pisa a certain priest who nightlywalked about every church in the city, and that night he rose upand went to the church of Our Lady.

"And as he passed through the churchyard, he saw a great manydead men gathered together in a company.

"Some of these dead men he knew, and of them he asked what wasthe matter.

"And one of them answered, 'The hangman is slain, and theDevil challenges his soul from Our Lady, who says it is hers; andthe Judge is even at hand coming hither to hear the cause, andtherefore,' said they 'we are now come together.'

"Then the priest thought that he also would be at thishearing, and so hid himself behind a thorn tree, and anon saw thejudicial seat prepared and furnished, whereon the judge, to wit,St. Michael, sat, and near him was Our Lady.

"Soon after, the devils brought in the soul of the hangmanpinioned, and they proved by good evidence that he belonged tothem.

"On the other hand, Our Lady pleaded for this poor wretch,contending that he at the hour of death commended his soul toher, and laid a bunch of violets before her shrine on Pisabridge.

"St. Michael, hearing the matter so well debated on eitherside, willing to obey Our Lady's desire, and yet loath to do thedevils any wrong, gave sentence that the hangman's soul shouldreturn to his body, and by his future conduct should his fate bedecided; he further ordered that the Pope should set forth apublic form of prayer for the hangman's soul.

"Thereupon the devils demanded who should do this errand toHis Holiness?

"'Why,' said Our Lady, 'yonder priest who lurketh behind thethorn tree.'

"So the priest was called forth, and the message given him,which he did accept, saying however, 'By what token shall Ipersuade His Holiness?'

"Then Our Lady took a rose from her girdle and delivered ithim, saying, 'This shall be the token whereby ye may desire thePope to take the pains to do as has been decreed.'

"So the soul of the hangman returned to his body, and thepriest went to Rome, and when the Pope saw the freshnessdfreshness of the rose after it had been three days in thepriest's wallet, he knew that the story was true, and he orderedprayers to be sent up for the recovered hangman.

"And the hangman so lived in holiness that when he died thoseabout him very plainly heard the opening of heaven's door toadmit his soul.

"By which you see," added Father Aloysius, "that one simpleprayer and a handful of flowers were sufficient to save the soulof a wicked man."

At which the young lord rejoiced, and went away comforted.

But a certain voting novice, seeing him depart in his finery,envied him, saying, "Look at his furred boots and his tassels,and the hat with the heron's feather, and the chain and the berylstone!"

Father Aloysius heard him and rebuked him:

"That man whom you envy," said he, "is fallen so low that heconsidered himself lost until I comforted him with the tale ofthe great mercy vouchsafed to the hangman of Pisa.

"He takes no pleasure in his hat or his feather, in his furredboots, nor in his chain with the beryl stone: therefore be notenvious of this splendour of his. And I would further remind youthat Envy or Invidia is the fifth of the Deadly Sins."

Now several of the novices who were about under the lemontrees, picking the fruit and piling it into deep wand baskets,began to dispute and complain about the dictum.

For envy (said they) could by no means be called a deadly sin,only a venial one, for what harm could come of it toanyone—either to the object envied or to the person whoenvied?

Neither could this sin be considered the beginning of othersins, or the root of evil, as were Pride, Greed, Wrath.

Besides, it was a failing common to all, and by no means to besubdued save by a saint or hermit, and even these had been knownto envy the angels in heaven.

Thereupon Father Aloysius seated himself on the edge of thewell, where he had the sun, and expounded the fifth deadly sin,which some, he said, put second, as next to Pride and beforeGreed and Wrath.

And after this manner he expounded:

St. Augustine saith, "Envy is sorrow of other men's weal, andjoy of other men's woe;" and that is a true definition.

It is a very horrible sin (said the Father), inasmuch as itgoes secretly and is very often undiscovered, so escaping amongthe ignorant, such as ye, as a venial fault hardly to be noticed,when instead it is the generator of more evil in the world thanthree of the other sins put together.

And I tell ye this, though there may be many a good or braveman, tinct in some way with the other sins, yet there was neverone that had a spark of virtue in him who was a prey to envy; forit is properly a sin of mean, small, creeping souls who lack thecourage for lustier vice.

Envy is one and the same with Malice, which it is sometimescalled it is against all virtue and all goodness, and it is likethe Devil, inasmuch as it rejoices at the harm which befallsmankind. It is the parent of backbiting, detraction, slander,false witness, scandal, unkindness and cruelty.

So great a sin is it that it is mentioned in the TenCommandments, which say nothing of Pride, nor Greed, norAvarice.

It goes against God when it complains of God's orderings, as,the pains of hell, or poverty, or loss of cattle, or rain, ortempest, all of which ills man should suffer patiently, for theycome from God's own hand.

And Envy is cowardly, and dare not openly show its face, butmurmurs and grumbles and complains and detracts privately; andthese secret mutterings of Envy are termed the Devil's PaterNoster, though the Devil never had a Pater Noster, butlewd folk so call this sour whispering of Envy.

And from Envy come rancour, and grudging, and bitterness ofheart, and discord, and false witness, and malignity.

And it is the most difficult sin of all to fight, for it goesgenerally cloaked in the semblance of some virtue.

And there is this tale to be told of Envy, though there aremany others more pointed and dreadful; but this I know to betrue:

It happened in a far country, where there is much snow andlittle sun, many clouds and few flowers.

There the hills are so high that one may walk all day throughthe valleys, and never see the sun, though it be never sobrightly shining. There are great waterfalls and ravines andlonely stretches of rock; and the land is mostly barren, for theyfind there neither gold nor silver mines, nor marble quarries norany natural riches; nor does any fruit flourish nor any grainsave that little they painfully grow on the shelves of rocks. Butin the lakes and bays are plenty of fish, and there are vastforests of pine, of which they sell the wood.

In this country is a castle, the most considerable they have,close to their largest town. They call it the Blue Tower becauseit is built of wood and painted blue; they use neither brick normarble in their building, but of wood they can make anything, adelicate toy for a child or a ship that will sail over theworld's seas.

They are a rude people, strong and fair, and still barbarousin their ways; they have no arts save those of embroidery andcarving, and their sole poetry is a number of wild, fierce songsthey sing in the evenings round the fire; it is said that many ofthem are not even Christians, but still devoted to heathenidols.

However this may be, they are cruel and brave in war, and dartout on their icy seas in their dragon-prowed galleys and seizeany luckless ship that may be in their waters.

And there is the excuse to be made for their godless conductthat they have a hard and bitter life in their cold and barrenland.

In this Blue Tower lived a certain nobleman with his daughter.They were very rich for that country, and would drive to and frothe town in a sledge with scarlet cushions and silver bells,drawn by four reindeer, with little gold tips to their horns; andthere was always plenty of meat on their table, even in thescarce seasons, and plenty of mead in their horn goblets, a greatfire burning always on their hearth, hangings of gaily workedwoollens and coloured lamps in their chambers, and on the lady'sarms bracelets of rough gold, and in her ears pendants ofturquoise.

They were, besides, much loved by their people, for they wereopen-handed and gay, and brave and just and kindly.

Among their peasants was one named Frithiof, who was good andintelligent, and clever indeed at the wood-carving in which thesepeople excelled; he could take a little bit of rough wood andturn it into the likeness of a flower, or a face, or a bird, or atoad, or a witch, or a fairy, while he drove the reindeer totheir stables.

And his master encouraged him, buying his work and praisingit, and at last ordered him to carve him a chair to sit in onfeast-days, a chair deep and high, with the old heroes they sangof after supper carved on the back, an inch deep in the goodthick wood.

Now when Frithiof heard this it was to him as if all thelittle silver sledge-bells were ringing in his heart, for he wasin love with a maiden named Rieke, and she loved him, and theprice of the chair would he sufficient wherewith to build a houseand buy a piece of ground, and perhaps even a reindeer, and sothey could be married before the winter was over.

His lord knew of this ambition of his, and favoured it, andshowed him the piece of land waiting for him, and his daughterdeclared she would give the bride a square of scarlet cloth for awedding present; and Frithiof heard the silver bells ring louderin his heart, and saw the cold northern sky rosy with hope.

Now Rieke was a very lovely maiden, with thick pale yellowhair, which hung to her knees, and blue eves like the littleflowers which grow up in the snow-hills, and are put there by theangels to remind men of God in desolate places.

She was pious, too, and industrious; she could comb and cardwool, spin and dye cloth, fashion garments and embroider them,milk the reindeer and harness them, make caps and purses andgloves and bags out of fur.

But withal she was of a discontented and jealous mind, andthough she truly loved Frithiof, she never saw him in his goodrough garments but she was shamed in her heart and wished thatshe had a finer lover.

And when he came and told her of his good fortune with thechair he was to carve for his lord, she was not so pleased as hehad thought she would he, and she sighed to herself, saying,"This is not a grand future: a few yards of ground and a hut."And in secret she filled her heart with all the old legends andtales in which maidens had come to marry great knights by reasonof their fair faces.

So the winter came, and the world was white and silent withsnow; it lay on the ground, on the boughs of the fir trees, onthe mountains and on the ice that covered the lakes and bays, onthe roof of the Blue Tower, and on the roofs of all the littlehuts beneath.

And as Rieke sat at her door, spinning, wearing a red gown anda blue apron and cross cloths of yellow and red on her head, shesaw the lord's daughter driving in her sledge through theforest.

She was going to some feast, for it neared Christmastide, andshe wore, plainly visible beneath her fur mantle, a whitevesture.

Now she, being a gracious lady and seeing Rieke working at herdoor, stopped her sledge and entered the hut and spoke kindly tothe girl about the wedding drawing so near.

And as she stood talking in the warm room, she put back hermantle, and Rieke saw the white gown, pure as the snow, withwhite fur on the bodice, buckled with rough pearls; and sheheeded nothing of what the lady said, but thought only of thewhite gown; and when she had gone, tinkle, tinkle with herreindeer over the snow, Rieke sat down and wept.

"I should look fairer than she in a white robe," she thought,"for I have yellow hair and hers is dark—but no one willever give me such a gown."

So she lamented until the devils of discontent and envy andmalice and jealousy got hold of her, and when Frithiof came toher that evening, flushed and happy from his work, she receivedhim sullenly.

As he sat by the fire and her old mother told them fairytales, he carved her a necklet of the blue mountain flowers, sodelicately done that at a breath they trembled like livingpetals.

But Rieke put it about her white neck sadly, and thought ofthe fine chains the lord's daughter had worn, of pure gold, seventimes round her throat, and then hanging to her knees.

And as the days went on she became more and more gloomy anddistracted, and took no pleasure in Frithiof's eager talk of thehome they would have, nor her mother's gossip of the weddingfeast, of the mead the good lord would send, and the piece ofscarlet cloth that was to be the gift from his daughter; forevery day she longed more and more for the white gown, and whenthey spoke of the dancing there would be, she looked at her roughshoes and thought, "How can I dance in these?"

Now there was a certain neighbour of hers, named Helva, whoowned a pair of shoes made of soft skin and laced with silk, andon Rieke once telling her how she envied them she pleasantlypromised to lend them for the wedding.

"But what is the use," thought Rieke, "of fine shoes, if Ihave to go in a coarse coloured gown?"

And she became so pale and ill and sad that Frithiof, full ashe was of his own joy, could not fail to notice it, and oftendemanded of her what the grief was; but she put him off, sinceshe was ashamed to tell.

But one evening he came to her, happy and singing, with theprice of the chair in his pocket, and she could bear it no more,but broke into tears and told him how she longed for a whitegown.

And Frithiof went out into the snow and looked up at the starsabove the pine trees and tried to understand.

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He loved her, therefore he could give her no blame; he onlyrealised that he had gold in his pocket, and that she was weepingfor a white gown. So he sighed, and sighed, and presently went toa neighbour and borrowed his sledge and drove to the town.

And there he went to a merchant's and bought a white gown withfur and rough pearl buckles, and the price of it was the gold hehad got foci the chair, and his savings besides, so that all thelong labour of days and nights and months and years went in thisflimsy piece of finery.

But Frithiof did not care; they could wait for the wedding andthe house as long as he could make her gay and joyous with hisgift.

And gay and joyous she was when he brought it to her; shekissed him, she danced and sang, and cared nothing when he toldher their wedding must be postponed, for he must go back to hiswork again to earn the money for the house and the piece of landand the reindeer.

So he went away and took a great block of wood and beganhopefully to carve a dragon for the prow of a ship, the which hehoped to sell to the shipbuilders who were getting ready newships for the spring.

But Rieke thought of nothing save the white gown. She did notlike to show it to her mother, because she had a kind of shame inthe possession of anything so costly; but late one afternoon,just before it came to the time of candle-lighting, she crept upto her room, slipped out of her red and blue clothes, and put onthe white gown.

Alas, there was no mirror on the rough pine walls, so Riekecould not admire herself; but she combed out her long yellow hairand shook it over her shoulder, and fingered the texture of thegown and admired the way the silver border rippled over thefloor.

But her coarse shoes spoilt all, and she thought that shewould go to Helva and borrow the fine slippers, at the same timemaking a show of the white gown before her friend, to whom shewanted to say, "See what a fine lover I have! He went into thetown and bought me this gown!"

So she stole softly downstairs and out into the snow. It wasvery cold, and heavy grey clouds were coming up over the hills,but Rieke thought she could get to Helva's and back before thestorm came, and she put on no cloak, for she had none worthy ofsuch a gown.

Hurrying she went over the snow. It was beginning to get dark,shadows lay blue beneath the pines, and the girl's breath showedfrozen before her; shivering with cold and panting with runningshe came to Helva's cottage.

Impatiently she knocked at the door, crying, "Come, Helva, andsee my new gown!"

But there was no answer, nor any light coming from thewindow.

"Come quick," cried Rieke, "for the storm is hastening overthe trees. It is getting dark, and I have no mantle!"

Then, as there was still no answer, she raised the latch andentered.

And she beheld Helva's mother and little sister weeping, andthey took no notice at all of her attire.

"Helva is dead," they said, and Rieke bowed her head and weptwith them.

Yet she could not help secretly wondering what had become ofthe fine silk-sewn slippers.

And presently she went into the bedchamber to say farewell toher friend.

And there lay Helva, smiling, on the clean sheets, and on herfeet were the shoes.

Now Rieke began to envy the dead.

"What are the shoes to her?" she thought. "She does not needthem in her grave; if she had been alive she would have giventhen to me, and it is foolish for these shoes to be lost in thecorruption of the earth when I need them."

And so, from envy and jealousy of the dead, she came to a moredreadful thing.

She slipped the shoes off Helva's feet and hid them in herbosom, and ran out of the cottage.

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The sky was now dark and the twilight fast descending, but atthe edge of the wood Rieke stopped and took off her shoes and puton the fine slippers, already cold from the cold flesh of thedead; and as she put them on she shivered to her heart.

And she began to be afraid.

"Just for to-night," she said; "to-morrow I will give themback."

Now she was dressed like the lord's daughter, but she wascold—ah, cold!

She wrapped her hair round her shoulders to keep herself warm,and she tried to hurry, but her limbs were too stiff to moveswiftly, and the storm came up, and the snow began to fall ingreat flakes, softly, softly, softly.

When she reached home she saw the cottage lights fallcheerfully across the night; eagerly she knocked and cried tothem to admit her, quick, quick! But her mother looked from thewindow, and seeing the white figure crouching outside she said,"This is not my daughter Rieke, this is a ghost or witch. Mydaughter Rieke is up at the Blue Tower helping the maids cardwool;" and she closed the shutters and bolted the door.

And Rieke cried and lamented outside in the falling snow, anddarkness, and the keen wind which shook the pines.

And when she saw that her mother would not open she turnedaway to Frithiof's cottage, and rapped with her frozen knuckleson the lattice. Frithiof was seated gazing into the red roses ofthe fire, and dreaming of the days when Rieke would sit besidehim during the long winter evenings.

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Then, while he carved, she would spin, and they would telleach other tales of the long ago, of dragons, salamanders, elves,witches and fairies, and great heroes in gold armour.

And he counted up once more on his fingers how long it wouldtake him to earn enough for their wedding, and while he countedhe heard the tap, tap, tap at the window, and presently a voicecrying, "Let me in, let me in!"

So he hurried to open the door and look out into the night,and out of the snowstorm came Rieke, chilling the room with hercold presence.

And she was all white, save for the long strands of her wetyellow hair.

And Frithiof brought her to the fire, and besought her tospeak to him; but she could say never a word more, for she wasfrozen to the heart.

Wet and chilly was the white gown, wet and chill the thinshoes; the bitter snowflakes melted on her cheeks and clung likea wreath about her hair; and though Frithiof kissed her and puthis warm cheeks next hers, he could bring no life into her; andthough he brought hot mead, he could not force it between herblue lips.

So he wrapped her up in his fur coat, and set her before thefire, and ran out to fetch her mother and the neighbours.

But what was the use of their hurrying with their possets andtheir blankets?

Rieke was dead in her garments of ice, dead and cold, cold asthe flying snow outside.

And they found that her feet were bare, so believed she hadlost her shoes; and when they came to put Helva in her grave theyfound the fine slippers on her feet as if they had never beendisturbed, which is a matter the good angels know of, surely.

So Frithiof never carved the dragon prow for the shipbuilders;of the wood he made a coffin for Rieke, and she was laid in it inthe white gown, and on the day before Christmas buried in thelittle church on the hill-side.

And Frithiof went away from there, no one knowing what he didwith his days, though it is believed he wandered much and died amonk in Syria.

But the chair with the price of which he bought the white gownmay still be seen in the great hall of the Blue Tower, and thoughit is a little eaten by the worms and the rats, you may stilldiscern the old heroes carved in the good black wood.

Now I might tell you many more stories of Envy—as thatof the man who envied his neighbour who had the ceiling of hisdining-hall covered with gold pieces, and at last did his own inlike fashion; but as he was not rich, he used gilded lead, andone day as he was carving the meat, down fell a false piece ofeight and killed him; or the lady who envied her brother's wifefor her small waist, and drew in her own so tightly that shedied; or the man who out of malice bore witness to a forgottencrime of his neighbour's, and so discovered one of his own forwhich he ended his life in prison; or the thieves who envied eachother's share of the booty and quarrelled so loud they were allapprehended and justly hanged; or the maid who swore evil thingsof another, and was ducked as a witch for coming by such secretknowledge of another's sins, which she could only have discovered(they said) by the aid of the Devil; or the monk who envied theabbot and spoke maliciously of him, and that day (being Friday)was choked with a fish-bone; or the woman who envied the statueof Our Lady for her jewelled crown, at which the lamp before theshrine went out, and in the dark the woman fell and broke herneck. But I have spoken enough of Envy and all the evilconsequences thereof, which I pray you heartily beware.

So the novices took up their baskets of lemons and carriedthem into the Convent.


First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, May 1914

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The Pall Mall Magazine, May 1914, with "Avarice"

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CERTAIN Cardinal came tostay at the Convent, and was entertained in a royal manner, asbefitted his rank; three weeks he lingered, putting the Conventto great expense, and when he left he gave them no more than hisblessing, though they had expected at least a relic for theChapel and a pound of gold for themselves.

And this led Father Aloysius, who was sorely angered, to speakof the sixth deadly sin, which is Avarice, or, in the classicaltongue, Auaricia, with which is included another sin, thatof Coveitise, of which Saint Paul saith: "The root of allharm is Coveitise."

Which sin is different from Avarice in this, thatCoveitise is the unlawful longing for what one has not,and Avarice is the longing to keep what one has without lawfulneed and excuse.

And there is an Avarice of glory and science, as well as anAvarice of cattle and treasure; an Avarice of things of the soul,as well as of things of the body.

And he who is avaricious breaks the first commandment, whichis against false gods—as he who follows this sin makes manyfalse gods and worships them all, and never chances to lift hiseyes to where the only and one God sits enthroned; nay, he isabsorbed in his worldly good, and thinks of naught else until theday the devil catches him by the neck, saving: "Ho, come you withme!"

Neither shall it save him (said Father Aloysius) if he wear aCardinal's hat!

And further to impress over and above all these gatheringcomplaints (for all from the Abbot to the scullions weremurmuring against their visitor) the hideousness and evilconsequence of this sin, he brought out the book of the GermanMagister, and read them this story:

Further back in this book of mine I spoke of a certainnotorious witch named Ottilia,* who was carried off bodily by thedevil, and afterwards returned, wearing a new fur tippet, to thegreat dismay of the townsfolk.

[* See "Wrath," Chapter IV. in this e-book.]

But who dare say anything?

She had a very plausible story to tell; she said she had beenvisiting an ancient aunt of hers, in a distant part of thecountry, who had died recently, and who had left her (honestwoman that she was!) two cats, a bag of gold, and the furtippet.

As for that scene in the market square, when one ventured tospeak of it, she treated it all as a jest—that was a finetale indeed; it was quite clear that there were a good manypeople with an evil conscience, when they imagined they sawthings like that!

So she went back to her beer-brewing and her sausage-making;she had a new roof put on her house, and she bought some newfurniture and a blue velvet gown, and no one dared say aught,though they all groaned and sighed at having her amongst themagain.

As for the cats, they were not like ordinary beasts, but hadlarge round heads and small bodies, and wore sad, dun-colouredcoats. One was called Guzzling Grizel, and the other Wait-on-yourself; for the first was never happy save when eating, and thesecond when asked a favour, however trifling, would always reply'Wait on yourself.'

Now it was perfectly well known that these cats were nothingbetter than imps who had taken the place of my Pipkin, who wasnever seen again. Nor was Trina, the other witch, ever seenagain—and none dared ask after her.

So Ottilia lived quietly for a while, making her beer and hersausages, and going to the market and selling them, sometimesbuying a broom and sometimes a bit of finery for herself or herimps.

And one clay she was sitting by the fire after dinner whenthere came a knock on the door.

So up she hobbled, ready with a sour word if it should he oneof my hags come to visit her; she sees instead a handsome youngman, very mournful and sad, so she begins smiling and saying allthe servants were abroad, and the porter asleep, as she alsowould have been had she not stayed up to say her prayers. Butwill he step inside and state his business?

My young man listens to all these lies very courteously, andasks if she be the Lady Ottilia?

"Yes," says she, highly flattered; "come in, fair sir, andtaste my beer, which is better than any brewed around."

So he entered and sat by the fire and sighed and groaned.

She: What was the matter with him that he seemed sodowncast? Let him taste her beer!

He: He had not come for her beer, but for her advice;for he was quite in despair, and he had heard she was verywise.

She: She believed she had as much sense as herneighbours!

He: Well, he was in trouble; let her help him, and sheshould not back for her reward.

She: She was willing to do her best as long as it wasnot some silly love affair, for with such things she had nopatience!

He: No, he had never been in love in his life, nor everseen a woman so pleasing to him as she was now, when she promisedto do her best for him!

At which Ottilia was mightily pleased, and told him he mustnot think of trying to get round her with compliments, for shewas not a foolish girl, but a woman turned thirty, though she hadheard said she looked younger.

"Not a day more than twenty-five," said he; at which GuzzlingGrizel and Wait-on-yourself burst into laughter, and Ottiliakicked them out of the room.

They: She had some vigour in her still, though she wasseventy-seven yesterday!

At this Ottilia hoped he would excuse the poor beasts, whowere little better than heathen still, for all the trouble shetook with them.

He: What did it matter? He was not such a goodChristian himself. If she would hear his trouble, it wasthis:

He was a master mariner, and had made many sailing; in manyparts of the world, and seen many strange lands.

And ever since he was a little child one thought had tormentedhim—why did the ships turn hack? Why not sail on and see ifthere was not another land?

For his part, he believed there was, and that if they sailedon through uncharted seas they would find this land: he had hadvisions of it, he had dreamed of it, he believed it was very richand beautiful, with gold and silver mines; and the man whodiscovered it could make himself king.

But for ten years he had wandered from one place to another,to kings, to princes, to towns, to the Pope, to bishops and greatknights, and no one would believe in him sufficiently to give himenough money to buy a boat and go in search of this New Country,nay, not even if he offered half of what he found.

And worse than that, he had now lost his profession, for nonewould trust him on their ship, for (said they) he was too crazed;and he was now at his last penny, for he had spent all hispatrimony in his wanderings.

Therefore, finding himself in this town, and hearing of herand her wisdom, he had come to ask her, first if there was such aland as he dreamt of; second, if he should ever find it; third,if she could help him to someone who would supply him with moneyfor the voyage.

On hearing this Ottilia took a long drink of beer, and thensat staring into the fire.

At last she said she could do none of these things herself,but if he would come with her to a friend of hers, she thoughtthat he might know everything, yea, and even get the help heneeded.

So he said, Yes, eagerly enough would he go with her, andswear to give her a good share of whatever he got from thisventure.

So my hag takes a stout broomstick from the corner, and jumpson it, and bids the young man mount behind, which he does; thenbehind him climb the two imps (grumbling that they had scarcelyany room), and oft they go, up the chimney and over the town,which lay dark below them, dotted with little twinklinglights.

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They flew over the houses and out into the open country, andalighted on the top of a hill where a large company was alreadygathered. A table was set in the middle, and on this stood agreat lantern, which gave forth an extraordinary light.

And all about were gathered men and women, or rather, as mystranger soon perceived, witches and warlocks.

On a high chair in the centre sat a man in a black coat with ablue band, and when he rose to welcome Ottilia, my strangernoticed that he wore hoggers (i.e. high boots withoutfeet), and that he had goat's hoofs, so that now he had no doubtat all about the character of the company.

The Devil (for it was no other) received him very civilly, andtook off the broad-lipped hat he wore (they were that year thefashion), and saluted him and asked him his name.

Now my master mariner was in some doubts whether he shouldspeak to a person obviously excommunicated, but neverthelessanswers that his name was Felipe Lopez.

"Very well," says the fiend, "as it is the etiquette here tocall everyone by a different name from that they have beenbaptised with, I will call you Goodman Tib;" and under this namehe was introduced to the company.

So they all took their seats; the feast was well enough, buteverything was eaten without salt, for that mineral, being anemblem of eternity, is forbidden to lost souls.

Now, seated on the right hand of the Devil was a very wellfavoured witch, and on his left one hardly less comely, and mystranger, Don Lopez, perceived that Ottilia was not at allpleased with this arrangement, but kept up an envious grumblingthat the best place should have been hers.

In the middle of the feast the Devil calls for all thescreaming and gossiping to cease, and asks Don Lopez what hewants with him.

Whereupon the other musters his courage and tells hisstory.

So the Devil reflects a little and presently he speaks.

Devil: If he helped Goodman Tib to find this NewCountry, would he promise him to deliver it over to his (Satan's)worship, excluding all priests, monks, nuns and everything in theshape of a cross, even to a pair of scissors?

Don Lopez: That was an unreasonable condition to make,for everyone knew that if he did any such thing he would beseized and burnt outright!

Devil: If he was tender in his conscience, why had hecome here for help?

Don Lopez: It wasn't a question of conscience at all,but of common sense; he was quite willing to serve the Devilsecretly.

Devil: No, he was tired of secret worship; he wantedchurches and priests and everything like God had.

Don Lopez: That was quite impossible, as he ought toknow by now.

And Ottilia leant across to him, and whispered to never mindOld Nick. "Black Tom is in a bad humour," says she; "take nonotice of him!"

Upon which the Devil starts up in a fury, and seizing a leg ofmeat comes flourishing it over his head.

Devil: Had he not forbidden them to speak of him inthat way? Were they not always to call him Lord, Master, andMajesty? And here was she referring to him as Old Nick and OldBlack Tom! Ah, he well knew the reason: it was because she hadnot had the best place at table, which she never would haveagain!

At this, seeing him so enraged, all the witches and warlocksbegan to mumble and whimper in fright, save Ottilia, who answeredhim roundly, and when he would have dashed out her brains withthe leg of meat, she gave him a blow with her broomstick thatsent him reeling, and then mounted her broomstick, pulled up DonLopez and the imps behind her, and sailed away haughtily, for(said she), "These feasts are not what they used to be; now onenever knows who will be there, and Old Black Tom himself islosing his manners."

On hearing her use this expression again, Don Lopez lookedback fearfully.

But the Devil seemed already to have forgotten them, and wasdancing on the table in the shape of fire-halls, a favouritediversion of his, which he performed very elegantly.

Now Don Lopez felt naturally dismal, but Ottilia took acheerful view.

There was (she said) a certain king who was famed for hisgreat wealth, and though he was very close with it, there weregood hopes that he might part with a little of it in such aninvestment as this, which promised him his money back a hundred-fold; he ruled in an island in the West, about three days'journey away.

Don Lopez: It was all very well to talk, but how was heto get the money for another three days' journey? He was alreadyat his last white piece.

Ottilia: Let him have patience and she would help him;she had taken a liking to him, and she believed in his ideas;only let him promise her half of what he found, and all would bewell.

So he promised, and she set him down at his doorstep, and offshe flew home, whisk, whisk, whisk, through the air as if shewere trying to sweep up the stars.

And when she got home she made some hot supper, and when shehad fed my cats she asked them how they should find money to sendthe young man on his way.

Wait-on-yourself was, as always, discouraging; said they hadbetter keep any money they could find for themselves instead ofwasting it on the first knave who asked for it; but GuzzlingGrizel suggested that they should ask the Sheriff to lend themthe amount, and Ottilia, who was quite ready to plague her oldvictim, said it was a fine suggestion.

So the next morning off she goes to the Town Hall, arrayed inher new blue gown and fur tippet, and pops in on the Sheriff, andasks him to lend her five hundred thalers.

Now the Sheriff was as much afraid of her as ever, but he didnot know where to get five hundred thalers, as he had lately madea purchase of some wine trees, which he was having planted in hisgarden, and as these had cost a great deal he had no money tospare.

Besides, he thought, if she was going to begin to demandmoney, a stand might as well be made first as last.

So he refuses as politely as possible, and offers her sweetwine and comfits, and sees her to the door in the most courtlymanner, and returns to the planting of his wine trees.

Now that night while he was in bed he heard a strange chantingrising from beneath his window, and these were the words ofit:

Perish, perish, soil and seed,
Flower, leaf and fruit;
Grow, grow, briar, weed,
Nightshade and mandrake root.

So out he jumps from the bed, and there was an awful sight tobe seen in the moonlight! All the fair field where he had plantedhis wine trees was being ploughed up, the little young trees layprone and dying, and up and down went the plough, which was drawnby two hideous toads. The Devil himself was driving, while aftercame a crowd of hags, led by Ottilia, leaping and capering, andcasting handfuls of seed into the deep ruts left by the plough(by which it may be observed that my witch had made up herquarrel with Satan).

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My poor Sheriff groans and goes back to bed, and tries tobelieve it is a dream; but no, next morning there are all thewine trees withered, and the ground covered with great coarse,rude weeds.

So he calls up the gardeners and tries to clear the ground;but what was the use?

My weeds would by no means be moved, but put out their thornyhands and flung down the gardeners, and used curses horrid tohear; so my Sheriff, all in a tremble, runs off to Ottilia.

Sheriff: He had changed his mind about the money; sheshould have it as soon as he could find it. Meanwhile, she mightsuggest something for his garden, which was clearlybewitched!

Ottilia: Let her have the money at once, and she wouldsee what she could do for his garden—though, let him mark,she knew nothing about it!

Sheriff: How was he to raise the money at once?

Ottilia: He was very simple! Let him sell three linksof his great chain of office!

Sheriff: But the chain did not belong to him, but tothe town!

Ottilia: All the better for him; and he could put threelinks of gilded lead in place of the others, and no one would beany the wiser!

In summa, the Sheriff sold the three links privatelyfor seven hundred thalers, five of which he sent to Ottilia, uponwhich my weeds, who had been quarrelling and cursing like aregiment of free lancers, disappeared in the night, and theSheriff put back the poor shivering wine trees.

Ottilia sent three hundred of the thalers to Don Felipe andput the rest by for herself.

So Don Felipe hired a ship and sailed for that island in theWest.

And when he reached it he paid off his mariners, and put onhis silvered silk and went to the king.

He found him in a castle on a river, a quiet spot outside thetown; it was, in fact, a quiet country, where all things were ofa grey colour, and the people moved slowly.

There were no bright flowers and no rare fruits nor birds norbeasts, hut there was plenty of good clothing and stout houses,and everyone seemed to have a penny in his pocket.

But the king wore a cotton velvet gown, shabby and mean, alittle greasy hat, and shoes broken at the toes.

He sat under the apple trees, and by his side was the queen,pale and homely, and darning hose.

And about the orchard played the seven princes in homespundoublets and the seven princesses in linsey-woolsey kirtles; theyall had long noses and small eyes like the king, and red hair andlarge mouths like the queen.

And though their father was the richest monarch in the world,there was not one of them who had not a patch or a darn on hisgarments or in his hose.

Now Don Felipe began to feel very dismal about the issue ofhis mission, but he tried to disguise the lowness of his spirits,and he gave the king an account of his project and his good hopesof success.

His Majesty was intelligent, and he listened keenly, strokinghis long chin and closing his small eves; and when Don Felipe hadfinished, he spoke thoughtfully, after this manner:

King: It was a fine story, and if there was truth init, they might both be rich men; but he must think it over: itwould cost a great deal of money to send a ship, and supposingafter all it turned out a delusion? All the money would be lost,and that was dreadful to think of.

Don Lopez: His Majesty need not think of it, for it wasperfectly certain that the money would not be lost, but returneda thousand-fold.

King: Yes, he might feel certain, but where werehis proofs?

Don Lopez: He had no proofs; let His Majesty risk themoney.

King: He had never risked anything yet. However, lethim tell him what he would get if he gave the ship and theexpedition succeeded.

Don Lopez: He would be king over the New Country, and aquarter of the treasure found there.

King: Those were miserable terms: he wanted all thetreasure.

Don Lopez: That was impossible: half was promisedalready to a certain lady who had helped him and was a very dearfriend of his.

King: Well, he would think over it.

So he dismissed Don Lopez, giving him neither drop nor crust,and began to talk over the matter with the queen.

The truth of the matter was that he was on the verge of warwith another king who ruled a little island near his own, and abitter grief it had been to him to think of the gold he mustspend on this war, for though it was very certain he wouldconquer his neighbour, still it was a poor little land, and wouldnot repay his expenditure: therefore how mighty convenient itwould be, could he but get this new land and the treasure! As forDon Felipe demanding half of it, that was a mere jest; they couldeasily find some way of disposing of his claims.

In summa, they agreed that if they and the fourteenprinces and princesses went without butter and sugar and newclothes for ten years, if they dismissed the Lord Chamberlain(and Heaven knew how useless he was!) and did his workthemselves, they might make up for what they would have to expendon the ship.

So the next day Don Felipe was sent for, and after muchbargaining he agreed to take five thousand pounds (as they callthe gold pieces in this country), wherewith to equip hisexpedition, though he swore that it was not enough.

With many sighs and groans the king took up his keys and wentto his treasury, and unlocked one of the cases where his bravegold was stored. But when he saw it there, fresh and bright andsmiling, and thought of counting out five thousand of thesedarlings and handing them over to this stranger, his heartutterly failed him; he hastily locked the casket and treasury andhurried away, saying rudely that he had changed his mind.

Now Don Felipe was an angry man: he cursed the grey island andthe grey king with the long lip, and out he set for the littlecountry with whom my miser was going to war.

And when he reached the court of the neighbouring king he hadnot a penny in his pocket, and he had sold his silvered silk forhis poke full of meal and a piece of flesh.

He found the king and all his courtiers roaring and shriekinground a great table, and they all had jolly red faces, theirmouths full of meat and their hearts of kindness.

They made him welcome, they feasted him and toasted him, andwhen he came to expound his theme, they all with one accord saidhe should have the money.

So they went on drinking and singing until they could neitherdrink nor sing, and so to bed, very contentedly.

But the next morning the monarch, being sober, sends for mymariner.

King: How were they to find the money? Himself he hadnone. The very clothes he wore were not paid for.

Don Lopez: He might borrow from the nobles.

King: He had already; he had not left a white piece toone of them. Don Lopez: There were always the Jews.

King: He had squeezed them dry already.

So Don Lopez could think of nothing more to say, and they satstaring at each other dismally.

Then in came the courtiers and turned their pockets out andracked their brains, but could neither find any money nor thinkof how to obtain any.

For, as the king remarked, all ordinary devices had beenexhausted long ago.

Then one of them remembered a certain fat priest who had animage of Our Lady which worked miracles, and, as lie put a goodprice on them, he was very rich.

King: Why did he not mention this priest years ago?

Courtier: Well, he was a holy man, and he (the speaker)was afraid of the vengeance of Heaven.

King: He was no holy man, or he would not charge forhis miracles, which were not his at all, but Our Lady's, and ifshe was given a new gown probably she would say nothing.

So the soldiers were sent out to seize the priest and takeaway his treasure, which they found was a mighty one.

They brought it away in two carts, and also the image of OurLady, who was wearing a very poor old smock, covered withtattered lace.

So the king, who was a just man, gives her the queen's bestgown; and content she must have been, for nothing happenedbecause of their taking of the treasure.

In this way Don Felipe at last equipped his ship and set sail,leaving the harbour at noon, driving before a southern gale, andso into the distance and away.

Meanwhile the king spent the money that remained wisely (whichmade men marvel), and prepared his country for war.

And war began and raged for a year and a day, on the land andon the sea.

And at the end of this time the miser had nearly crushed hisneighbour, for all the good fight that king made; for his countrywas small, and he had few ships, and few soldiers, and verylittle money.

But he maintained a high spirit and sang cheerfully over hisbottle at night, and fought bravely in the day with his finebattle-axe, whack, whack, whack!

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Still the time came when he could fight no more, for there wasnothing left to fight with; and the miser was preparing tocapture him and his subjects and make them all slaves for therest of their lives, when one fine day who should sail into theharbour but Don Lopez, whom everyone had given up for lost longago!

In summa, after many adventures which cannot here berelated, he had actually reached the New Country, and it was asrich and wonderful as ever he had dreamed: there were gold andsilver, new birds, new beasts, new flowers, new fruits, and DonLopez drew after him four great boats he had built, filled withingots of gold and silver and strings of rubies and emeralds. Youmay imagine the joy of my king, how he paid his soldiers andbought them new arms, and finally fell on and defeated his enemy,who was obliged to pay a heavy price for peace, and went mourningfor the rest of his days.

So my miser had not only lost the New Country because of hisavarice, but nearly his own as well; while the other kingspeedily became one of the richest and most powerful monarchs inthe world.

And the first thing he did was to send for the priest andoffer to return him his treasure; but they found him with a newimage working miracles, and already as rich as he had beenbefore, so they gave him no money, but a silver bird, which shonelike a lit lamp, and had tail-feathers of crimson.

But Don Lopez was not so generous: he had become avaricious,too, and the last thing he intended to do was to give half hisgains to Ottilia.

He hoped the hag was dead, and resolved never to go near thatcountry in case she was yet living, so put her out of his mindand spent his days and nights counting his money.

But one evening while he was in his strong room, surrounded bypearls and coral, and silver and amber, emeralds, rubies, lampsof turkis, royal bone and gold—while, I say, he wasgrinning and gloating over these treasures, down came my witchthrough the chimney, and oh, but he was vexed to see her.

She said nothing at all; she just raised her broomstick andbrought it skilfully down on his head.

In summa, the next morning they found Den Lopez lying,a yellow corpse, on the ground, and all about him, instead ofgold and silver and jewels, were heaps of withered leaves.

So that was the end of my avaricious Don Lopez and histreasure.

AS Father Aloysius dosed the book a messenger came running inwith a mouth like the letter O.

"The Lord Cardinal," cried he, "is dead! He was crossing theferry when it upset and he fell in and was frozen stiff like awinter radish!"

At the time Father Aloysius said nothing, but afterwards heremarked that it was yet a third instance of the judgmentovertaking avarice.


First published in The Pall Mall Magazine, June 1914

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The Pall Mall Magazine, June 1914, with "Sloth"

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T was when the mountains were all veiled insnow, the ground stiff with ice, and not one leaf left on thevines, nor indeed on any tree save the fir and olive, that FatherAloysius had occasion to speak again of the Deadly Sins; and thistime he spoke of SLOTH, the seventh sin, or, as it is betterexpressed, Accidie, which means really more than Sloth,also Melancholy and Gloom and Sourness, but is commonlytranslated Sloth, and has been called by a great man "the rotten-hearted sin of Accidie."

Now Father Aloysius had need to speak of this sin because itwas much abroad among the novices, who were very willing to lieabed in the morning complaining of the cold, and very loth to doany work, saving it was weather to sit by the fire and do noughtelse, adding matter of complaints as to the snow, and their stifffingers and cold toes, and making wry faces over the meals, andbeing generally dejected and miserable, huddling together andshivering in corners of the Monastery.

So Father Aloysius got them all together in the great hall andsettled himself by the fire and made them sit in two rows beforehim while he lectured them on the sin of Accidie, which hecould see (he said) by their blue faces and bunched shoulders hada hold of them all.

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For this seventh sin (said he) had an especial Devil, whichwas of a blue colour, and it is credibly asserted by many thatwhen this particular blue devil commences plaguing a man (as hedoes plague those who fall into this seventh sin), he is worsethan all the other devils and fiends and imps put together.

Now thus (he added) do I propound Accidie; what saysthe Book? "Cursed be he who doeth the service of Godnegligently," and he who follows this sin of Accidie doethall things negligently, yea, with heaviness and unlust andcarelessness and annoy.

Saint John too saith that this Accidie is anabomination: it might be called the child of Wrath and Envy, forthey make great bitterness in the heart, and from this bitternessis born Accidie; or it might be called the offspring ofPride, which so puffs up a man that he thinks there is no needfor him to labour or follow goodness, and so sits him downsourly, sucking his thumbs and growing dismal that the world ispassing him by without acknowledging his merits.

Then from this Accidie and Sloth comes a yet moredreadful thing, nay, the most awful thing known to man, namely adisdain and a despising of all the things of this world, and anindifferency to all man has done, and may do, and an apathytowards the great graces and beauties there are everywhere, and,worst of all, a despair of God's mercy and a dread of Hell, whichlast is that sin against the Holy Ghost which may not by anymeans be forgiven, and which opens a man's heart to all the sinsand evils there are, for he is in despair and melancholy, and,believing nothing, Both that which he lusts after and slips soonto perdition. And this was the sin of Judas.

And he that is taken by Accidie is dull in mind andbody, given to Ignorance, who is the mother of all harm, and toneglect and heavy slumbering, so that the days slip through hisfingers as sand through an open hand, and return whence they camewithout bringing him any profit; neither in this world, nor thenext, for Heaven is only to be gained by much striving, andParadise is for them that labour and not for idle folk.

And sometimes it happens that a man may sink so deep in thissin that he take his own life, which is very unnatural andhorrible to God; but more often they are like folk that fall intoa ditch and will not make the effort to rise out, nay, if onehelp them, they fall back again and there they lie, while allpass them.

Surely this is the most miserable and wretched of all theDeadly sins, and so the Virtue that is set against it is thehighest and noblest of all the Virtues, namely Fortitude, orStrength, of which there are several species, as Magnanimity andMagnificence and Faith and Constancy. And these are very powerfuland princely virtues, and certainly to be put before the othervirtues, which may be set forward thus: Meekness or Humility, asagainst Superbia, or Pride; against Inuidie, orEnvy, Love and Charity; against Ire or Wrath, Patience,Obedience, and Gentleness; against Avarice, Generosity and Pity;against Gula, or Gluttony, Temperance; againstLuxuria, or Lust, Chastity and Poverty; but the highest ofall these remains Fortitudo, which (as I have said) is setagainst this wretched sin of Accidie.

And at this place I will give you the story of the young manof Arles, which is memorable and well worthy to be preserved.

This young man was so sunk in this seventh sin that he had nomore pleasure in anything, but passed his days in bitterdiscontent and melancholy self-communings.

He was young and healthy and well-favoured, but he utterlyslighted these blessings: he had a fine house, horses in hisstables, and good food on his board, but he despised all of them;he had worthy friends whom he disdained, and he had certaintalents that he ignored and left uncultivated and rusty.

And there was all the world before him, and many things liemight perform and see, but he would have none of them, butremained always shut within his house, lazy, idle, melancholy,and drifting towards despair.

He wondered why he was born just to grow old and die; theworld seemed to him very miserable, and he doubted very much ofHeaven.

For he was as one blind, yea, his soul was blind and dumb; hecrept about the town of Arles, and saw nothing but rows of housesand commonplace people and dirt and sorrow; he went into thecountry, and saw nothing but these same people labouring in thefields and the poor huts in which they dwelt, all so dull andugly that he returned home gloomier than before. He did not seethe pretty maidens watering roses and carnations at theircasement windows, he did not see the little children playingbattledore and shuttlecock with little crowns of feathers (blueand red) that mounted up into the sunshine, nor the beautifulsleek cats on the doorsteps, nor the happy old women carding wooland singing hymns in praise of the Virgin, nor the young masonsat work on the new church all flushed with pride, nor theartisans going home in the evenings with eager feet.

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Nor when he went into the country did he notice the fairshapes and colours of the trees, the crystal stream churningswiftly over the stones, the little flowers on the bank, thesmooth white sides of the oxen drawing the plough, the littlebirds on the swaying boughs, the light and shadow of theforest.

Nay, not for him was the magnificence of the hills, or thebeauty of the valleys, or the glory of the changeful heavens,with the sun like red gold, the moon like a pearl, the stars likefrozen dewdrops; to him night and day were light and dark, andeach was more wearisome than the other.

And so tired of life did he become, that he resolved to makean end of it; and one day took a piece of rope and went outsidethe town walls, and wandered along till he found a quiet spot bya little river, and there he put the rope round the bough of anold thorn-tree, and hanged himself.

But the rope was too thin (he had been too lazy to search fora more fitting one), and broke, and down he fell among thealders, and sat there on the banks of the river looking up at therope, too slothful to mend it or return for another.

And when at last he took his eyes from the thorn-tree and therope he perceived an angel standing upon the other side of thestream, regarding him keenly.

"Good day, Messire," said the angel courteously.

Now the young man blushed a little for shame at being seen inthis guise, for his hosen were all wrinkled, his doublet stained,the buttons off his cuffs and the tags off his laces, besideswhich his boots were broken, and he had not shaved for a week;natheless he answered with his usual apathy—"Good day."

"Why are you so melancholy?" asked the angel. "And whereforeis this rope?"

The young man made an effort and replied gloomily:

"That is a rope to hang myself wherewith."

"Why?" asked the angel (he was very beautiful to look upon,with bright shining clothes, and two great wings lying outruffled on his back, and a crown of coloured feathers, but to thedull eyes of the young man he looked no more than a large kind ofbird).

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Moreover, he did not wish to talk, but to roll himself up onthe bank and sleep, and, had it been a mortal speaking, he wouldhave been sullenly silent; it being, however, an angel who wasaddressing him, he was impelled to some civility.

"Why, life is not worthy of being lived," he said.

"Nay," replied the angel, "yon are not worthy of livingit."

"Not at all," said the young man. "I am a very good citizen. Inever annoy my neighbours, and I always pay the taxes. But it isa miserable world, and I want to be out of it."

"Where do you mean to go?" asked the angel.

"Nowhere. I only want to be left in peace."

"Heaven is for those who labour, and there is no peace inHell, and very little in Purgatory," remarked the angelthoughtfully.

"I do not believe," returned the other, "in any of thethree."

"Then I suppose that you do not believe in me?"

"Certainly not. I see you are trying to make me think you arean angel; but it is all a pretence."

"What do you think I am?" asked the angel; he put his head onone side and looked at his reflection in the clear runningstream.

The young man yawned and replied very rudely: "I think thatyou are nothing better than a kind of bird—a common bird,but what your name is I have forgotten."

"You are, of course, quite blind," said the angel; "you arealso, I think, unhappy."

"Naturally," snapped the young man. "I was going to hangmyself when the rope broke."

"Would you not like to be happy?" asked the angel in a gentletone.

The young man began to sneer. "No one is happy."

"Then how does the world go on? Were every one like you itwould all stop to-morrow."

The young man thought over that; certainly he could vaguelyrecall a vast number of people who seemed to be quite content; hecould recall laughter and songs, and kisses, and gaydresses—he had always called these people fools and thesethings follies; but now, by the great goodness of God and becauseof the great joyousness radiating from the angel, he began towish suddenly that he too was a fool.

"Would you not like to be happy?" repeated the angel, and heflew on to a bough of the thorn-tree, where the broken rope stillhung, and sunned himself, spreading his bright wings in a greatarc either side of him.

"Yes," said the young man suddenly. "I should. But it is amiserable world, and I can find nothing to interestme—nothing to do. Tell me how I may find happiness."

"You must search for it," replied the angel.

The young man was very much disappointed. "I have heard thatanswer before," he said gloomily.

"Because it is the right and only one," said the angel.

The young man yawned. "You might as well set me to find thePhilosopher's Stone," he remarked.

"That is just what you should look for," said the angel; "itmeans happiness and health and wealth and honour—it meansthat you will see everything and understand everything."

For a moment the sluggard was roused, then he fell again intohis gloom: "for no one has ever found this stone," said he; "isit likely I shall?"

"Not at all," smiled the angel.

Now this annoyed the other. "Oh, I do not know!" he grumbled."I suppose that, after all, I have as much chance as any oneelse."

By which reply he showed that he was beginning to be a littledispossessed of his sin of Accidie, for a few momentspreviously nothing could have aroused him to anger.

"Well, try," suggested the angel; "it is better to besearching for what you will never find than to be hangingyourself on a May morning."

"Is it a May morning?" asked the young man stupidly; then headded: "Why do you trouble to give me advice?"

"Because you have the most beautiful rose-tree in Aries inyour garden," was the reply. "And I and my friends have oftenrested there on our way home in the evening, so I give you thisadvice out of gratitude for your hospitality."

Now the young man had never noticed the rose-tree, so he saidnothing, but sat looking foolish, and the angel lifted his headtowards heaven and flew away and away until he was but a speck inthe springtide blue.

And the young man looked at the broken rope, and decided thatit would be just as much trouble to get another one as to beginsearching for the Philosopher's Stone, and, after all, if theangel was an angel, perhaps he was right in what he said, andthere might be such a thing as happiness.

So he went home and made a few lazy experiments of his own,but they were quite foolish, and he began anew to be weary of itall, and to disbelieve in everything; but, on hearing some onelaughing in the street, he was inspired to continue his searchfor happiness, and he went to a certain Alchemist who lived inthat town and hired himself out to him as an assistant, so thathe might learn the practical parts of this science.

Now this Alchemist had been searching for the Philosopher'sStone for fifty years, and had spent many thousands of crowns onhis experiments; he had travelled in Persia, India, Arabia andPalestine in search of the great secret, and spoken with manylearned and famous men, Magi, Jews and Magicians.

But none of them had the secret, or, if they had, would notpart with it; so the Alchemist returned to his native town andworked by himself, and for his living he engraved gems andsilver, and sold perfumes and lotions, and painted pictures to beset in rare and costly books.

Now he had lately lost his assistant, who had left him to goon his travels, and he took my young sluggard because he offeredto serve without any wage.

And so they worked together at the furnaces and retorts,mixing the metals, melting, refining, separating and combining,and the young man became interested and almost glad to bealive.

For the old Alchemist told him many strange things, and forhimself he began to notice the colour and flash of jewels, thehardness and shape, the feel and sparkle of them, the scent andsweetness of the clear green essences, the crystal-clearperfumes, the white milk lotions all in their bottles, slender,squat or oblong, standing in rows on the Alchemist'sshelf—he learnt to understand the excitement of the longhours of waiting beside the furnace, burning deep-coloured like ared rose or clear like a red diamond, and he began to know thedelights of poring over the great old books where the ancientmasters had hidden their learning.

But he was still a victim of Accidie; never could hequite believe that there really was such a thing as thePhilosopher's Stone (though again and again the Alchemist hadtold him that there was no use in even beginning to look for itwithout Faith, fortified by Contemplation andPrayer), and still he had his moments of gloom andmelancholy and despair, when he wished that he had hanged himselfas he had meant to.

And often his Master would find him asleep by the furnace withthe fire gone out, and many times he would refuse to get up inthe mornings, or sit idle all day sucking his thumbs.

But the Alchemist bore all this, because he paid him nowage.

Now there was a certain book, the leaves of which were ofwood, and the covers of which were of pierced brass and within itwere most marvellous pictures made with a reed-pen, and colouredwith bright colours, and this book had been given to theAlchemist by a certain Jew, to whom he had once done a service,and this Jew had told him the book contained full directions formaking the Philosopher's Stone—but there was no writing init, only symbols and pictures, so that the meaning was mightydifficult to unravel: yet the Alchemist thought that he had doneit, only was his labour made useless because certain pages of thebook were missing, and could by no means be found, though he hadsearched all the world for them.

Now soon after the young man had begun to practise Alchemythere came a stranger to the house of the Alchemist, and desiredto see the Master.

He was a very sober person, decently clad in green, and wasthought to be a customer for gems or perfumes; but proved to beno such thing, for when he was alone with my Alchemist he saysvery quietly: "Have you a certain fair book, very old and largeand gilded? And has it leaves of wood, on which are certainpictures done with a reed-pen and admirably coloured?"

"Surely," replied the Alchemist, beginning to tremble withexcitement; "and these same pictures are no less than directionsfor the Magnum Opus, if a man could unravel the meaning,which, to wit, I think I have done, but alack, there are someleaves missing."

"Exactly," said the stranger, and he took from the breast ofhis robe four leaves of wood, covered with fair and shiningfigures. "Here are the remaining pages of that delicate andprecious book, and when you have the magistry of them, then youwill have discovered the great secret for which you have socheerfully and willingly laboured."

And at this the Alchemist began to weep and cry for joy, andbegged to know who his benefactor was—if he was some greatwizard such as Virgilius?

"I am," said the other, "no less," and with that left, whilethe Alchemist, all in an amazement, went up to his laboratory andset the missing pages in the book and began to study the problemof them.

And this he now soon mastered, discovering the primamateria, the agents he must use, the transmutations and theprojections he must proceed to.

Yet for a week he laboured, and there was no result in thevessels; then he applied himself to Prayer, and again setto work.

And presently he found in one of the vessels a strange stone,no larger than a nut, transparent and of a pale brimstone colour,and of smooth texture and a shining look, and this they wrappedin a piece of wax, and put in a crucible with two pounds of lead,and this crucible was set on the fire, and all night theAlchemist and the young man worked the bellows and prayed.

And towards the morning the crucible made a hissing sound,and, on taking it off the fire and looking in they found it wasfull of a seething metal of the fairest colours possible, andthey poured out this aurified lead on to a slab of pure cleanalabaster, where it flashed into a green tint, then settled intothe hue of a lively red, the colour of fresh blood. With thatthey poured it again into an ingot and left it to cool, and, onpresently looking at it, they found it to be a bar of the mostsplendid shining gold.

So, after praising God, they ran off with this ingot (stillwarm), and showed it to a goldsmith, who put it to all the testsand pronounced it the finest gold in the world.

"We have found the Philosopher's Stone," said they to eachother, and they went home, and, again following the directions,produced another piece of that excellent yellow and transparentsubstance, half of which they projected on to a cup of basemetal, which changed to pure gold with a small ruby in thebottom, made by the great strength and virtue of this wonderfulstone.

And the other half they dissolved with aqua-fortis, andit turned into a medicine the colour of honey and exceedinglysweet, and so strong that garnets, corals and silver-leaf beingput therein, did dissolve to their natural tinctures.

Now this medicine, being tasted, proved to be a most powerfulremedy, and cured them of all their pains and fatigues, and putnew life into them.

So they ran to a neighbour who was ill of a dropsy and gavehim to drink of the medicine, and he straight away recovered.

Now were they aware that they had really discovered that mostnoble substance which was also the Elixir of youth as well ascapable of turning into the finest gold all baser metal.

This was a secret that must be very jealously kept, for it wasobvious that if they made their discovery publicly known the Kingor some great one would seize them and keep them in durance,where they would be forced to use their knowledge for hisbenefit, as had indeed happened many times before to unfortunatealchemists.

On the other hand, if they remained in Arles, practising andsaying nothing, the secret would surely get abroad throughgossip, and they were equally sure to be murdered and robbed bysome profane person who lusted for gold.

So they resolved to give out that their experiments hadfailed, and that they were going on their travels in furthersearch of the great secret; and thus they would settle in someforeign land, and enjoy their discovery, protecting themselves bysaying that their wealth was natural wealth. And the Alchemist,who was a very pious, holy and charitable man (else he wouldnever have accomplished the Magnum Opus, for its achievement isnot given to carnal-minded or common people), intended to endowseven hospitals, seven churches and seven schools, together witha charnel-house, all built new from the ground, to the glory ofGod.

And the ingot of gold and the gold cup with a ruby in the bowl(as the pearl is within the shell of the oyster) he gave to apoor little church that had no treasures.

Then did these two put their affairs in order and sell uptheir goods and make their preparations for leaving theircountry.

Now as the Alchemist had never been rich, and the young man'sestate had decayed through his sloth and neglect, or had beendissipated by fools and stolen by knaves owing to hisindifferency and apathy, they found, on putting their resourcestogether, that they had but very little money with which to starton their travels and to set up a new laboratory, so they resolvedonce more to manufacture some portions of that noble andexcellent substance before they started; they calculated that, ifthey obtained three pieces the size of a small apple, it would besufficient for twenty tons of gold.

So they again followed the directions of the book, andproduced the three stones; two of which they put by in a neat boxof cedar-wood, and the third they divided, and cast a portion ofit, the size of a coriander seed, into the crucible withlead.

Now the Alchemist being on in years and fatigued, made amedicine of the rest of this portion (as they had done before)and drank it; soon after he fell into a sweet sleep, and theyyoung man was left alone to watch the furnace.

As he sat there, in the silence and loneliness, this miserablesin of Accidie, from which he had never been quite free,came upon him strongly; he wished he was in bed, instead oftending the furnace; he wished he could lead his old lazy life,instead of undertaking travels to a foreign country, wheredoubtless there would be perils and fatigues to be endured.

As for the Philosopher's Stone, he began to doubt that theyhad really discovered it—was it not all perhaps a delusion?Had that really been gold?—and, if so, how were they surethat they would ever find it again?

So he took down the book and the cedar-wood box containing theportions of the stone, and seated himself by the furnace andlooked from one to another, struggling with his doubts and hissloth.

Now at this moment there entered the room a person well knownto those who follow Accidie, and very familiar to my youngman, i.e. the Blue Devil, who is the captain of a band of smallerblue devils very little better than himself.

The young man had not seen him for a long time, not since hehad met the angel by the thorn-tree, and he was very displeasedto sec him now.

He was certainly very ugly; his feet turned backwards, he hada great hump on his back, his eyes were set crooked so that hecould never see things straight, and covered by thick blackglasses so that he could never see things clear.

He took the stool in the corner, he looked at the furnace, atthe book, and the cedar-wood box. "What a waste of time!" heremarked.

"No," said the young man. "I am making gold."

The Blue Devil laughed. "You had better go to bed," hereplied.

The young man shook his head. "No," he said. "I have found thePhilosopher's Stone, and soon I shall find happiness—as theangel told me."

"There are no angels," remarked the Blue Devil.

The young man continued, trying not to notice his visitor: "Ibelieve this book—and the evidences of these pieces ofstone."

"How silly!" said the Blue Devil. "The book is but acollection of jargon, and the stone is just a compound of mercuryand sulphur."

The other doubtfully opened the book, and certainly thepictures looked very dull and stupid; he opened the box, andcertainly the stones appeared very dull and ordinary. "But wemade gold and a ruby and a wonderful medicine," he objected.

"Nothing of the kind," said the Blue Devil. "You lost yourhead, and did not know what you were looking at."

"But the goldsmith and the man with the dropsy?"

"They were fools like yourself," replied the Blue Devil; "andremember the gold was given away (if you had tried tobuy something with it you would have soon seen if it wasgood gold or not); and, as for the sick man, he was probably notsick at all."

"Probably you are quite right," sighed the young man."Meanwhile, I ought to look to the fire; I see it is going out.Would you put on some more coal?"

"Not I," said the Blue Devil with a sneer. "Why should I getup from this chair where I am moderately comfortable tostoke that furnace when I know there is no good coming fromit?"

The young man yawned seven times, and it is a well-known thingthat he who yawns seven times gives the Blue Devil great powerover him.

So that the fiend spoke again at once, and quite briskly: "Whydo you stay here enduring all this discomfort and misery, whenyou might have been comfortably hanged long ago? You know thatthere is nothing in any of it—there is no Philosopher'sStone and no Elixir of youth and no happiness—why do yougive yourself all these fatigues?"

"But I promised the Alchemist," murmured the young man.

The Blue Devil soon disposed of that objection. "The Alchemisteither a fool who is cheating himself or a knave who is cheatingyou—come, put an end to it. You know that you decided longago that life was not worth living."

So saying, he produced a nice long coil of rope and fixed itto a strong nail on the wall, and up got my young man, overcomeby this dreadful sin of Accidie, and stuck his head in thenoose; but the Blue Devil had been too lazy to make the noose theright length, and so the young man stood with his feet on theground, and, being too slothful to move, in that position went tosleep.

Now he had placed on the edge of the furnace the book and thecedar-wood box, and the Blue Devil, as he slouched away, gavethem a shove and both fell into the furnace, where they wereburnt to cinders, which furnace, soon after growing cold, thetransmutation in the crucible was spoilt.

And so what did my Alchemist find in the morning?

That this excellent secret was for ever lost!

The furnace out—the lead unchanged in thevessel—and in the ashes the brass covers of the book andthe scorched remains of that precious substance.

And by the wall the young man standing asleep, his headhanging in the noose.

Now the Alchemist was a good, holy and patient man (or, as Ihave said, he could never have followed this profession); but,once he had grasped what had happened, he did not hesitate amoment.

He looked at the nail; he drove it farther in with a blow fromthe heel of his shoe, then he lowered the knot and tightened upthe rope.

And so my sluggard was hanged in earnest.

After this the Alchemist gathered up the available crowns andcalmly went off to another country, where he recommenced hislabours without an assistant.

And after a few years Virgilius again came to his aid, and herediscovered that marvellous stone, and died a holy man.

This is the end of these stories of the Seven Deadly Sins;there are others to be told of the Ten Commandments, which, saidFather Aloysius, are interesting, but greatly tax both power andintelligence to deal with.


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What was the worst punishment in Elizabethan times? ›

Those convicted of these crimes received the harshest punishment: death. Execution methods for the most serious crimes were designed to be as gruesome as possible. Heretics were burned to death at the stake. Traitors were hanged for a short period and cut down while they were still alive.

What were the social issues in Whitechapel? ›

In Whitechapel the police were viewed more negatively than in other areas of London because of the widespread poverty. The police were often attacked by violent gangs as they were seen as the upholders of unpopular government decisions. When public protests took place, it was very often the police who were attacked.

How were people tortured into confessing their crimes in the Elizabethan era? ›

Forms of Torture in Elizabethan England

Torture was also used to force criminals to admit their guilt or to force spies to give away information ("Torture in the Tower of London, 1597"). The Iron Boot: It was a turture device that put the victm's legs between two metal plates that were usually adorned with spikes.

What were sweatshops Whitechapel? ›

Casual labour – such as in the docks or in construction – meant that workers were employed a day at a time: no job or income security; Sweated labour meant work in cramped, dusty and unhealthy “sweatshops” for low wages in “sweated trades”, e.g. tailoring, dress and shoe making.

What was the most brutal punishment in the world? ›

Ouch! 8 of the most brutal execution methods from the ancient world
  • The Brazen Bull. ...
  • Death by molten metal. ...
  • Poena Cullei. ...
  • Flaying. ...
  • The Waist Chop. ...
  • An eye for an eye. ...
  • Crucifixion. ...
  • The Boats.

What was the most brutal punishment? ›

Scaphism. Scaphism was one of the worst and most painful, skin-crawling methods of torture. It was described by the Greeks as a punishment used by the Persians, and if they are to be believed, those Persians were insane.

Who committed the Whitechapel murders? ›

Jack the Ripper

Why did so many people in Whitechapel turn to crime? ›

Whitechapel offered a breeding ground for crime and poor behavioural habits, including murder, prostitution and violence – and vicious circles like these were rarely broken in such poor districts. The streets were unimaginably dirty, fresh food was hard to come by, pollution and the smell of sewage hung in the air.

Why was crime so common in Whitechapel? ›

As the population of London expanded it became an overcrowded slum and a centre for crime. It was the location of the Whitechapel Murders in 1888. What were living conditions like in the East End?

How were immigrants treated in Whitechapel? ›

Immigration led to a rise in tensions in Whitechapel. Groups did not trust each other and blamed each other fro hardship and crime. Existing communities in Whitechapel were fearful of the impact immigration.

What did the Irish immigrants do in Whitechapel? ›

Irish migrants had been settling in Whitechapel since the 1840s and by c. 1870 there were well-established Irish lodging houses. It was mostly Irish workers who were employed at the docks as 'navvies' (navigators); doing labouring jobs on canals, railways and roads; or working as dockers on the Thames.

What was the most common type of crime in Whitechapel? ›

The Whitechapel district of London, England, was terrorized by a series of brutal murders between 1888 and 1891. Eleven women were killed, at least five of them by a notorious figure known as Jack the Ripper. Most, and perhaps all, of the victims were prostitutes.

What is the most famous execution in history? ›

On Monday, 21 January 1793, arguably one of the most significant public executions in history took place – King Louis XVI of France was beheaded by guillotine in the centre of Paris, ending with the drop of the blade over a thousand years of monarchy in France.

What is the oldest punishment in the world? ›

The first established death penalty laws date as far back as the Eighteenth Century B.C. in the Code of King Hammurabi of Babylon, which codified the death penalty for 25 different crimes.

How does China execute prisoners? ›

In practice, China traditionally uses the firing squad as its standard method of execution. However, in recent years, China has adopted lethal injection as its sole method of execution, though execution by firing squad can still be administered.

What is the least punishing crime? ›

Infractions. Infractions, which can also be called violations, are the least serious crimes and include minor offenses such as jaywalking and motor vehicle offenses that result in a simple traffic ticket. Infractions are generally punishable by a fine or alternative sentencing such as traffic school.

What is the most common punishment in us? ›

Probation, the most frequently used criminal sanction, is a sentence that an offender serves in the community in lieu of incarceration.

What is the lightest punishment called? ›

Admonition (or "being admonished") is the lightest punishment under Scots law.

What were the worst crimes in the Elizabethan era? ›

Begging was a serious crime during the Elizabethan era. The Elizabethan government made begging a crime and therefore illegal and 'poor beggars' As their punishment 'poor beggars' would be beaten until they reached the stones that marked the town parish boundary.

What were the worst punishments in Tudor times? ›

The worst punishments were reserved for the most serious crimes. Executions, such as beheading, being hung, drawn and quartered or being burnt at the stake were punishments for people guilty of treason (crimes against the king) or heresy (following the wrong religion).

Why was Tudor punishment so harsh? ›

Tudor punishments were cruel and humiliating, designed to scare people into doing what the Tudors wanted. This was often Corporal Punishment – causing physical pain or discomfort. The Tudors hated people misbehaving or not attending church and children were punished in the same way as adults.

What was the biggest crime in history? ›

Full List
  • The Lindbergh Kidnapping.
  • Stealing the Mona Lisa, 1911.
  • The Fake Ape-Man, 1912.
  • The Fatty Arbuckle Scandal, 1920.
  • The Black Dahlia, 1947.
  • The Brinks Job, 1950.
  • The Lana Turner Affair, 1958.
  • The Great Train Robbery, 1963.

What's the worst crime to commit? ›

The most severely punished form is murder, defined as homicide committed with “malice aforethought.” This is a term with a very long history. Boiled down to its essentials, it means that the defendant had the intent to kill.

What are the top 3 worst crimes? ›

Top 10 Worst Crimes
  • 1 Genocide. Purposeful killing of a certain ethnic group because of stereotypes is ridiculous, cruel, and by far one of the most stupid things humans have done. ...
  • 2 Murder. There are so many ways you can murder. ...
  • 3 Torture. ...
  • 4 Terrorism. ...
  • 5 Rape. ...
  • 6 Animal Cruelty. ...
  • 7 Slavery. ...
  • 8 Human Trafficking.

What were boiled alive Tudor punishments? ›

In England, the ninth statute passed in 1531 (the 22nd year of the reign of King Henry VIII) made boiling alive the prescriptive form of capital punishment for murder committed by poisoning, which by the same Act was defined as high treason.

Was capital punishment boiled in oil? ›

boiling, in the history of punishment, a method of execution commonly involving a large container of heated liquid such as water, oil, molten lead, wax, tallow, or wine, into which a convicted prisoner was placed until he died. During the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, thousands of Christians were boiled in oil.

What was the most common punishment in the Elizabethan era? ›

Many offences were punished by the pillory – the criminal stood with his head and his hands through holes in a wooden plank. This could be as painful as public opinion decided, as the crowd gathered round to throw things at the wretched criminal.

Were black tudors treated equally? ›

The black Tudors of England: African porter who whipped a white servant is among 350 stories revealing how early immigrants were treated as equals in the Elizabethan era. The case of a black servant whipping a white one forms part of a growing body of evidence that Africans were treated equally in Tudor England.

How were black tudors treated? ›

They were baptised, married and buried by the Church of England and paid wages like other Tudors. Yet their experience was extraordinary because, unlike the majority of Africans across the rest of the Atlantic world, in England they were free.

Did the Tudors swear a lot? ›

If we go back to the Tudor and Stuart periods we find that swearing was mainly a religious issue. Just as taking an oath was to call upon God to guarantee the truth of a statement (so help me God), profane swearing took God's name in vain.


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