Miranda of the Balcony - A. E. W. Mason - E-Book

Miranda of the Balcony E-Book

A. E. W. Mason

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"Miranda of the Balcony" by A. E. W. Mason. Published by Good Press. Good Press publishes a wide range of titles that encompasses every genre. From well-known classics & literary fiction and non-fiction to forgotten−or yet undiscovered gems−of world literature, we issue the books that need to be read. Each Good Press edition has been meticulously edited and formatted to boost readability for all e-readers and devices. Our goal is to produce eBooks that are user-friendly and accessible to everyone in a high-quality digital format.

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A. E. W. Mason

Miranda of the Balcony

A Story
Published by Good Press, 2019
EAN 4064066220037

Table of Contents

CHAPTER I
CHAPTER II
CHAPTER III
CHAPTER IV
CHAPTER V
CHAPTER VI
CHAPTER VII
CHAPTER VIII
CHAPTER IX
CHAPTER X
CHAPTER XI
CHAPTER XII
CHAPTER XIII
CHAPTER XIV
CHAPTER XV
CHAPTER XVI
CHAPTER XVII
CHAPTER XVIII
CHAPTER XIX
CHAPTER XX
CHAPTER XXI
CHAPTER XXII
CHAPTER XXIII
CHAPTER XXIV
MIRANDA OF THE BALCONY
CHAPTER I
IN WHICH A SHORT-SIGHTED TAXIDERMIST FROM TANGIER MAKES A DISCOVERY UPON ROSEVEAR
CHAPTER II
PRESENTS THE HERO IN THE UNHEROIC ATTITUDE OF A SPECTATOR
CHAPTER III
TREATS OF A GENTLEMAN WITH AN AGREEABLE COUNTENANCE, AND OF A WOMAN'S FACE IN A MIRROR
CHAPTER IV
TREATS OF THE FIRST MEETING BETWEEN CHARNOCK AND MIRANDA
CHAPTER V
WHEREIN CHARNOCK AND MIRANDA IMPROVE THEIR ACQUAINTANCESHIP IN A BALCONY
CHAPTER VI
WHILE CHARNOCK BUILDS CASTLES IN SPAIN, MIRANDA RETURNS THERE
CHAPTER VII
IN WHICH MAJOR WILBRAHAM DESCRIBES THE STEPS BY WHICH HE ATTAINED HIS MAJORITY, AND GIVES MIRANDA SOME PARTICULAR INFORMATION
CHAPTER VIII
EXPLAINS THE MYSTERY OF THE "TARIFA'S" CARGO
CHAPTER IX
SHOWS THE USE WHICH A BLIND MAN MAY MAKE OF A DARK NIGHT A WEEK
CHAPTER X
M. FOURNIER EXPOUNDS THE ADVANTAGES WHICH EACH SEX HAS OVER THE OTHER
CHAPTER XI
IN WHICH MIRANDA ADOPTS A NEW LINE OF CONDUCT AND THE MAJOR EXPRESSES SOME DISCONTENT
CHAPTER XII
THE HERO, LIKE ALL HEROES, FINDS HIMSELF IN A FOG
CHAPTER XIII
WHEREIN THE HERO'S PERPLEXITIES INCREASE
CHAPTER XIV
MIRANDA PROFESSES REGRET FOR A PRACTICAL JOKE
CHAPTER XV
IN WHICH THE MAJOR LOSES HIS TEMPER AND RECOVERS IT
CHAPTER XVI
EXPLAINS WHY CHARNOCK SAW MIRANDA'S FACE IN HIS MIRROR
CHAPTER XVII
SHOWS HOW A TOMBSTONE MAY CONVINCE WHEN ARGUMENTS FAIL
CHAPTER XVIII
IN WHICH THE TAXIDERMIST AND A BASHA PREVAIL OVER A BLIND MAN
CHAPTER XIX
TELLS OF CHARNOCK'S WANDERINGS IN MOROCCO AND OF A WALNUT-WOOD DOOR
CHAPTER XX
CHARNOCK, LIKE THE TAXIDERMIST, FINDS WARRINER ANYTHING BUT A COMFORTABLE COMPANION
CHAPTER XXI
COMPLETES THE JOURNEYINGS OF THIS INCONGRUOUS COUPLE
CHAPTER XXII
IN WHICH CHARNOCK ASTONISHES RALPH WARRINER
CHAPTER XXIII
RELATES A SECOND MEETING BETWEEN CHARNOCK AND MIRANDA
CHAPTER XXIV
A MIST IN THE CHANNEL ENDS, AS IT BEGAN, THE BOOK
THE END.

CHAPTER I

Table of Contents

IN WHICH A SHORT-SIGHTED TAXIDERMIST FROM TANGIER MAKES A DISCOVERY UPON ROSEVEAR.

CHAPTER II

Table of Contents

PRESENTS THE HERO IN THE UNHEROIC ATTITUDE OF A SPECTATOR.

CHAPTER III

Table of Contents

TREATS OF A GENTLEMAN WITH AN AGREEABLE COUNTENANCE AND OF A WOMAN'S FACE IN A MIRROR.

CHAPTER IV

Table of Contents

TREATS OF THE FIRST MEETING BETWEEN CHARNOCK AND MIRANDA.

CHAPTER V

Table of Contents

WHEREIN CHARNOCK AND MIRANDA IMPROVE THEIR ACQUAINTANCESHIP IN A BALCONY.

CHAPTER VI

Table of Contents

WHILE CHARNOCK BUILDS CASTLES IN SPAIN, MIRANDA RETURNS THERE.

CHAPTER VII

Table of Contents

IN WHICH MAJOR WILBRAHAM DESCRIBES THE STEPS BY WHICH HE ATTAINED HIS MAJORITY AND GIVES MIRANDA SOME PARTICULAR INFORMATION.

CHAPTER VIII

Table of Contents

EXPLAINS THE MYSTERY OF THE "TARIFA'S" CARGO.

CHAPTER IX

Table of Contents

SHOWS THE USE WHICH A BLIND MAN MAY MAKE OF A DARK NIGHT.

CHAPTER X

Table of Contents

M. FOURNIER EXPOUNDS THE ADVANTAGES WHICH EACH SEX HAS OVER THE OTHER.

CHAPTER XI

Table of Contents

IN WHICH MIRANDA ADOPTS A NEW LINE OF CONDUCT AND THE MAJOR EXPRESSES SOME DISCONTENT.

CHAPTER XII

Table of Contents

THE HERO, LIKE ALL HEROES, FINDS HIMSELF IN A FOG.

CHAPTER XIII

Table of Contents

WHEREIN THE HERO'S PERPLEXITIES INCREASE.

CHAPTER XIV

Table of Contents

MIRANDA PROFESSES REGRET FOR A PRACTICAL JOKE.

CHAPTER XV

Table of Contents

IN WHICH THE MAJOR LOSES HIS TEMPER AND RECOVERS IT.

CHAPTER XVI

Table of Contents

EXPLAINS WHY CHARNOCK SAW MIRANDA'S FACE IN HIS MIRROR.

CHAPTER XVII

Table of Contents

SHOWS HOW A TOMBSTONE MAY CONVINCE WHEN ARGUMENTS FAIL.

CHAPTER XVIII

Table of Contents

IN WHICH THE TAXIDERMIST AND A BASHA PREVAIL OVER A BLIND MAN.

CHAPTER XIX

Table of Contents

TELLS OF CHARNOCK'S WANDERINGS IN MOROCCO AND OF A WALNUT-WOOD DOOR.

CHAPTER XX

Table of Contents

CHARNOCK, LIKE THE TAXIDERMIST, FINDS WARRINER ANYTHING BUT A COMFORTABLE COMPANION.

CHAPTER XXI

Table of Contents

COMPLETES THE JOURNEYINGS OF THIS INCONGRUOUS COUPLE.

CHAPTER XXII

Table of Contents

IN WHICH CHARNOCK ASTONISHES RALPH WARRINER.

CHAPTER XXIII

Table of Contents

RELATES A SECOND MEETING BETWEEN CHARNOCK AND MIRANDA.

CHAPTER XXIV

Table of Contents

A MIST IN THE CHANNEL ENDS, AS IT BEGAN, THE BOOK.

MIRANDA OF THE BALCONY

Table of Contents

CHAPTER I

Table of Contents

IN WHICH A SHORT-SIGHTED TAXIDERMIST FROM TANGIER MAKES A DISCOVERY UPON ROSEVEAR

Table of Contents

The discovery made a great stir amongst the islands, and particularly at St. Mary's. In the square space before the Customs' House, on the little stone jetty, among the paths through the gorse of the Garrison, it became the staple subject of gossip, until another ship came ashore and other lives were lost. For quit2e apart from its odd circumstances, a certain mystery lent importance to Ralph Warriner. It transpired that nearly two years before, when on service at Gibraltar, Captain Warriner of the Artillery had slipped out of harbour one dark night in his yacht, and had straightway disappeared; it was proved that subsequently he had been dismissed from the service; and the coroner of St. Mary's in a moment of indiscretion let slip the information that the Home Office had requested him to furnish it with a detailed history of the facts. The facts occurred in this sequence.

At seven o'clock of a morning in the last week of July, the St. Agnes lugger which carries the relief men to and fro between the Trinity House barracks upon St. Mary's and the Bishop Lighthouse in the Atlantic, ran alongside of St. Mary's pier. There were waiting upon the steps, the two lighthouse men, and a third, a small rotund Belgian of a dark, shiny countenance which seemed always on the point of perspiring. He was swathed in a borrowed suit of oilskins much too large for him, and would have cut a comical figure had he not on that raw morning looked supremely unhappy and pathetic. M. Claude Fournier was a taxidermist by profession and resided at Tangier; he was never backward in declaring that the evidences of his skill decorated many entrance-halls throughout Europe; and some three weeks before he had come holiday-making alone to the islands of Scilly.

He now stood upon the steps of the pier nervously polishing his glasses as the lugger swung upwards and downwards on the swell. He watched the relief men choose their time and spring on board, and just as Zebedee Isaacs, the master of the boat, was about to push off with his boat-hook, he nerved himself to speak.

"I go with you to the Bishop, is it not?"

Isaacs looked up in surprise. He had been wondering what had brought the little man out in this dress and on this morning.

"There'll be a head-wind all the way," he said discouragingly, "and wi' that and a heavy ground sea we'll be brave an' wet before we reach the Bishop, brave an' wet."

"I do not mind," replied M. Fournier. "For the sea, I am dévot;" but his voice was tremulous and belied him.

Isaacs shook his head.

"It's not only the sea. Look!" And he stretched out his arm. A variable fog rolled and tumbled upon a tumbling wilderness of sea. "I'ld sooner have two gales lashed together than sail amongst these islands in a fog. I'ld never go to-day at all, but the boat's more'n three weeks overdue."

Indeed, as M. Fournier looked seawards, there was no glimpse of land visible. A fortnight of heavy weather had been followed by a week of fog which enveloped the islands like a drenched blanket. Only to-day had it shown any signs of breaking, and the St. Agnes lugger was the first boat, so far as was known, to run the hazard of the sea. It is true that two days before one man had run in to the bar of Tregarthen's Hotel and told how he had stood upon the top of the Garrison and had looked suddenly down a lane between two perpendicular walls of mist, and had seen the water breaking white upon Great Smith Rock, and in the near distance an open boat under a mizzen and a jib, beating out through the heavy swell towards the west. But his story was in no wise believed.

To all of Isaacs's objections M. Fournier was impervious, and he was at last allowed to embark.

"Now!" cried Zebedee Isaacs, as the lugger rose. M. Fournier gave a pathetic look backwards to the land, shut his eyes and jumped. Isaacs caught and set him upon the floor of the boat, where he stood clutching the runners. He saw the landing-steps dizzily rush past him up to the sky like a Jacob's ladder, and then as dizzily shut downwards below him like a telescope.

The boat was pushed off. It rounded the pier-head and beat out on its first tack, across the Road. M. Fournier crouched down under the shelter of the weather bulwark.

"As for the sea I am dévot," he murmured, with a watery smile.

In a little the boat was put about. From Sour Milk Ledge it was sailed on the port tack towards Great Minalto, and felt the wind and felt the sea. It climbed up waves till the red lug-sail swung over M. Fournier's head like a canopy; and on the downward slope the heavy bows took the water with a thud. M. Fournier knelt up and clung to the stays. At all costs he must see. He stared into the shifting fog at the rollers which came hopping and leaping towards him; and he was very silent and very still, as though the fascination of terror enchained him.

On the third tack, however, he began to resume his courage. He even smiled over his shoulder towards Zebedee Isaacs at the tiller.

"As for the sea," he began to say, "I am--" But the statement, which he was not to verify on this day, ended in a shriek. For at that moment a great green wave hopped exultingly over the bows, and thenceforward all the way to the Bishop the lugger shipped much water.

M. Fournier's behaviour became deplorable. As Isaacs bluntly and angrily summarised it, "he lay upon the thwarts and screeched like a rook;" and in his appeals to his mother he was quite conventionally French.

He made no attempt to land upon the Lighthouse. The relief men were hoisted up in the sling, the head-keeper and one of his assistants were lowered, and the lugger started upon its homeward run before the wind. The fog thickened and lightened about them as they threaded the intricate channels of the western islands. Now it was a thin grey mist, parting here and there in long corridors, driven this way and that, twirling in spires of smoke, shepherded by the winds; now again it hung close about them an impenetrable umber, while the crew in short quick tones and gestures of the arms mapped out the rocks and passages. About them they could hear the roar of the breaking waves and the rush of water up slabs and over ledges, and then the "glumph glumph" as the wave sucked away. At times, too, the fog lifted from the surface and hung very low, massed above their heads, so that the black hillocks of the islets stood out in the sinister light like headstones of a cemetery of the sea, and at the feet of them the water was white like a flash of hungry teeth.

It was at one such moment, when the boat had just passed through Crebawethan Neck, that M. Fournier, who had been staring persistently over the starboard bulwark, suddenly startled the crew.

"There's a ship on shore. Tenez--look!" he cried. "There, there!" And as he spoke the mist drove between his eyes and what he declared that he saw.

Zebedee Isaacs looked in the direction.

"On Jacky's Rock?" he asked, nodding towards a menacing column of black rock which was faintly visible.

"No, no--beyond!--There!" And M. Fournier excitedly gesticulated. He seemed at that moment to have lost all his terror of the sea.

"On Rosevear, then," said the keeper of the lighthouse, and he strained towards Rosevear.

"I see nothing," he said, "and--"

"There's nothing to see," replied Isaacs, who did not alter his course.

"But it's true," exclaimed the little Belgian. "I see it no more myself. But I have seen it, I tell you. I have seen the mast above the island--"

"You!" interrupted Isaacs, with a blunt contempt; "you are blind!" And M. Fournier, before anyone could guess his intention, flung himself upon Isaacs and jammed the tiller hard over to port. The boat came broadside to the wind, heeled over, and in a second the water was pouring in over the gunwale. Zebedee wrenched the main sheet off the pin, and let the big sail fly; another loosed the jib. The promptitude of these two men saved the boat. It ran its head up into the wind, righted itself upon its keel, and lay with flapping sails and shivered.

Isaacs without a word caught hold of M. Fournier and shook him like a rat; and every man of the crew in violent tones expounded to the Belgian the enormity of his crime. Fournier was himself well-nigh frantic with excitement. He was undaunted by any threats of violence; neither the boat, nor the sea, nor the crew had any terrors for him.

"There is a ship!" he screamed. "The fog was vanished--just for a second it was vanished, and I have seen it. There may be men alive on that rock--starving, perishing, men of the sea like you. You will not leave them. But you shall not!" And clinging to the mast he stamped his feet. "But you shall not!"

"And by the Lord he's right," said the lighthouse-keeper, gravely--so gravely that complete silence at once fell upon the crew. One man stood up in the bows, a second knelt upon the thwarts, a third craned his body out beyond the stern, and all with one accord stared towards Rosevear. The screen of haze was drawn aside, and quite clear to the view over a low rock, rose the mast and tangled cordage of a wreck.

The sheets were made fast without a word. Without a word, Zebedee Isaacs put the boat about and steered it into the Neck between Rosevear and Rosevean. As they passed along that narrow channel, no noise was heard but the bustle of the tide. For at the western end they saw the bows of a ship unsteadily poised upon a ledge. There was a breach amidships, the stern was under water, only the foremast stood; and nowhere was there any sign of life.

Isaacs brought the boat to in a tiny creek, some distance from the wreck.

"We can land here," he said, and the lighthouse-keeper and Fournier stepped ashore.

On the instant that quiet, silent islet whirred into life and noise. So startling was the change that M. Fournier jumped backwards while his heart jerked within him.

"What's that?" he cried, and then laughed as he understood. For a cloud of puffins, gulls, kittiwakes and shearwaters whirled upwards from that nursery of sea-birds and circled above his head, their cries sounding with infinite melancholy, their wings flickering like silver in that grey and desolate light.

"It's so like your Robinson Crusoe," said M. Fournier.

"It is more like our islands of Scilly," said the lighthouse-keeper, as he looked towards the wreck.

They climbed over the low rocks and walked along the crown of the island towards the wreck. There was no tree or shrub upon the barren soil, only here a stretch of sandy grass, there a patch of mallows--mallows of a rusty green and whitened with salt of the sea. In the midst of one such patch they came upon the body of a man. He was dressed in a pilot coat, sea boots and thick stockings drawn over his trousers to the hips, and he lay face downwards with his head resting upon his arms in a natural posture of sleep.

Fournier stood still. The lighthouse-keeper walked forward and tapped the sleeper upon the shoulder. But the sleeper did not wake. The lighthouse man knelt down and gently turned the man over upon his back; as he did so, or rather just before he did so, Fournier turned sharply away with a shudder. When the sailor was lying upon his back, the keeper of the lighthouse started with something of a shudder too. For the sailor had no face.

The lighthouse man drew his handkerchief from his pocket and gently covered the head. It seemed almost as if Fournier had been waiting, had been watching, for this action. For he turned about immediately and stood by the lighthouse-keeper's side. Above the lonely islet the sea-birds circled and called; on the sea the mist was now no more than a gauze, and through it the glow of the sun was faintly diffused.

"Strange that, isn't it?" said the lighthouse-keeper, in a hushed voice. "The sea dashed him upon the rocks and drew him down again and threw him up again until it got tired of the sport, and so tossed him here to lie quietly face downwards amongst the mallows like a man asleep."

Then he sat back upon his heels and measured the distance between the mallows and the sea with some perplexity upon his forehead--and the perplexity grew.

"It's a long way for the sea to have thrown him," he said, and as Fournier shifted restlessly at his side, he looked up into his face. "Good God, man, but you look white," he said.

"The sight is terrible," replied Fournier, as he wiped his forehead.

The lighthouse-keeper nodded assent.

"Yes, it's a terrible place, the sea about these western islands," he said. "Did you ever hear tell that there are sunken cities all the way between here and Land's End, the sunken cities of Lyonnesse? Terrible sights those cities must see. I often think of the many ships which have plunged down among their chimneys and roof-tops--perhaps here a great Spanish galleon with its keel along the middle of a paved square and its poop overhanging the gables, and the fishes swimming in and out of the cabins through the broken windows; perhaps there a big three-decker like Sir Cloudesley Shovel's, showing the muzzles of her silent guns; or a little steam-tramp of our own times, its iron sides brown with rust, and God knows what tragedy hidden in its tiny engine-room. A terrible place--these islands of Scilly, dwelling amongst the seas, as the old books say--dwelling amongst the seas."

He bent forward and unfastened the dead sailor's pilot jacket. Then he felt in his pocket and drew out an oilskin case. This he opened, and Fournier knelt beside him.

There were a few letters in the case, which the two men read through. They were of no particular importance beyond that they were headed "Yacht The Ten Brothers," and they were signed "Ralph Warriner," all of them except one. This one was a love-letter of a date six years back. It was addressed to "Ralph," and was signed "Miranda."

"Six years old," said the lighthouse-keeper. "For six years he has carried that about with him, and now it will be read out in court to make a sorry fun for people whom he never knew. That's hard on him, eh? But harder on the woman."

At the words, spoken in a low voice, M. Fournier moved uneasily and seemed to wince. The lighthouse-keeper held the letter in his hands and thoughtfully turned over its pages.

"I have a mind to tear it up, but I suppose I must not." He returned the papers to the oilskin case, and going back to the boat called for two of the crew to carry the body down. "Meanwhile," said he to Fournier, "we might have a look at 'The Ten Brothers.'"

They could not approach the bows of the ship, but overlooked them from a pinnacle of rock. There was, however, little to be remarked.

"She is an old boat, and she has seen some weather from the look of her," said the lighthouse-keeper. That, indeed, was only to be expected, for "The Ten Brothers" had been a trader before Ralph Warriner bought her, and two years had elapsed between the night when he slipped from Gibraltar Harbour, and the day when this boat came to its last moorings upon Rosevear.

The mist cleared altogether towards sunset. The sun shone out from the edge of the horizon a ball of red fire, and the lugger ferried the dead body back to St. Mary's over a sea which had the colour of claret, and through foam ripples which sparkled like gold.

The Miranda who wrote the love-letter was Miranda Warriner, Ralph Warriner's wife. Miranda Bedlow she had been at the date which headed the letter. She was living now at Ronda in the Andalusian hills, a hundred miles from Algeciras and Gibraltar, and had lived there since her husband's disappearance. To Ronda the oilskin case was sent. She heard the news of her Ralph's death with a natural sense of solemnity, but she was too sincere a woman to assume a grief which she could not feel. For her married life had been one of extraordinary unhappiness.

CHAPTER II

Table of Contents

PRESENTS THE HERO IN THE UNHEROIC ATTITUDE OF A SPECTATOR

Table of Contents

It was Lady Donnisthorpe who two years later introduced Luke Charnock to Mrs. Warriner. Lady Donnisthorpe was an outspoken woman with an untameable passion for match-making, which she indulged with the ardour and, indeed, the results of an amateur chemist. Her life was spent in mingling incompatible elements and producing explosions to which her enthusiasm kept her deaf, even when they made a quite astonishing noise. For no experience of reverses could stale her satisfaction when she beheld an eligible bachelor or maid walk for the first time into her parlour.

She had made Charnock's acquaintance originally in Barbados. He sat next her at a dinner given by the Governor of the Island, and took her fancy with the pleasing inconsistency of a boyish appearance and a wealth of experiences. He was a man of a sunburnt aquiline face, which was lean but not haggard, grey and very steady eyes, and a lithe, tall figure, and though he conveyed an impression of activity, he was still a restful companion. Lady Donnisthorpe remarked in him a modern appreciation of the poetry of machinery, and after dinner made inquiries of the Governor.

"He is on his way homewards from Peru," answered the latter. "He has been surveying for a railway line there during the last two years. What do you think of him?"

"I want to know what you think."

"I like him. He is modest without diffidence, successful without notoriety."

"What are his people?" asked Lady Donnisthorpe.

"I don't believe he has any. But I believe his father was a clergyman in Yorkshire."

"It would sound improper for a girl without visible relations to say that she was the daughter of a clergyman in Yorkshire, wouldn't it?" said her ladyship, reflectively. "But I suppose it's no objection in a man;" and in her memories she made a mark against Charnock's name. She heard of him again once or twice in unexpected quarters from the lips of the men who from East to West are responsible for the work that is done; and once or twice she met him, for she was a determined traveller. Finally, at Cairo, she sat next to Sir John Martin, the head partner of a great Leeds firm of railway contractors.

"Did you ever come across a Mr. Charnock?" she asked.

The head partner laughed.

"I did; I knew his father."

"It's a strange thing about Mr. Charnock," said she, "but one never hears anything of what he was doing before the last few years."

"Why not ask him?" said the North-countryman, bluntly.

"It might sound inquisitive," replied Lady Donnisthorpe, "and perhaps there's no need to, if you know."

"Yes, I know," returned Sir John, with a great deal of provoking amusement, "and, believe me, Lady Donnisthorpe, it's not at all to his discredit."

Lady Donnisthorpe began thereafter to select and reject possible wives for Charnock, and while still undecided, she chanced to pass one December through Nice. The first person whom she saw in the vestibule of the hotel was Luke Charnock.

"What in the world are you doing here?" she asked.

"Taking a week's holiday, Lady Donnisthorpe. I have been in Spain for the last two years, and shall be for the next nine months."

"In Spain?"

"I am making a new line between Cadiz and Algeciras."

"God bless the man, and I never thought of it!" exclaimed Lady Donnisthorpe. "I think you will do," she added, looking him over, and nodding her head.

"I hope so," replied Charnock, cheerfully. "It's a big lift for me."

"In a way, no doubt," agreed her ladyship. "Though, mind you, the land isn't what it was."

"The railway will improve it," said Charnock.

They happened to be talking of different subjects. Lady Donnisthorpe pursued her own.

"Then you won't be in England for a year?" she said regretfully.

"The company building the line is an English one," replied Charnock. "I shall have to see the directors in June. I shall be in London then."

"Then you must come and see me. Write before you leave Spain. Promise!" said Lady Donnisthorpe, who was now elated.

Charnock promised, and that day Lady Donnisthorpe wrote to her cousin, Miranda Warriner, at Ronda, who was now at the end of the first year of her widowhood, and of the third year of her ridiculous seclusion at that little hill-town of Spain. Miranda was entreated, implored, and commanded to come to London in May. There was the season, there was Miranda's estate in Suffolk, which needed her attention. Miranda reluctantly consented, and so Lady Donnisthorpe was the instrument by which Charnock and Mrs. Warriner became acquainted. But the foundations of that acquaintanceship were laid without her ladyship's agency, and indeed without the knowledge of either Charnock or Miranda.

A trifling defect in the machinery of a P. and O. boat began it. The P. and O. stayed for four days at Aden to make repairs, and so Charnock had four days to wait at Gibraltar before he could embark for England. He did not, however, spend more than two of those four days at Gibraltar, but picking up a yellow handbill in the lounge of the hotel, he obeyed its advice, and crossing the sunlit straits early the next morning saw the jealous hills about Tangier unfold and that cardboard city glitter down to the sea.

He was rowed ashore to the usual accompaniment of shouts and yells by a villainous boat's crew of Arabs. A mob of Barbary Jews screamed at him on the landing-stage, and then a Moorish boy with a brown roguish face who was dressed in a saffron jellabia, pushed his way forwards and in a conversational voice said, "You English? God damn you, give me a penny!"

Charnock hired that boy, and under his guidance sauntered through Tangier where the East and the West rub shoulders, where the camel snarls in the Sôk with an electric arc-lamp for a night-light, and all the races and all the centuries jostle together in many colours down the cobbles of its narrow streets. Charnock was shown the incidentals of the Tangier variety entertainment: the Basha administering more or less justice for less or more money at his Palace gate; the wooden peep-hole of the prison where the prisoners' hands come through and clutch for alms; a dancing-room where a Moorish woman closely veiled leaned her back against a Tottenham Court Road chest of drawers under a portrait of Mrs. Langtry, and beat upon a drum while another stamped an ungainly dance by the light of a paraffin lamp; and coming out again into the sunlight, Charnock cried out, "Hamet, take me somewhere where it's clean, and there's no din, and there are no smells."

Hamet led the way up the hills, and every now and then, as he passed a man better dressed than his fellows he would say in a voice of awe:

"That's a rich." He invariably added, "He's a Juice."

"Look here, Hamet," said Charnock, at length, "can't you show me a rich who isn't a Jew?"

"These are the loryers," observed Hamet, after the fashion of the March Hare when posed with an inconvenient question. He pointed to a number of venerable gentlemen in black robes who sat in wooden hutches open to the street. "I will show you," he continued, "a Moor who was the richest man in all Tangier."

The pair walked up out of the town towards the Mazan, and came to a lane shadowed by cedars and bordered with prickly pears. Here the resounding din of the streets below was subdued to a murmurous confusion of voices, from which occasionally a sharp cry would spirt up clear into the air like a jet of water. Only one voice was definite and incessant, and that voice came down to them from the trees higher up the lane--a voice very thin, but on that hot, still afternoon very distinct--a voice which perpetually quavered and bleated one monotonous invocation.

"Hassan Akbar," said Hamet.

The invocation became articulate as they ascended. "Allah Beh!" the voice cried, and again "Allah Beh!" and again, until the windless air seemed to vibrate with its recurrence.

They came upon the Moor who uttered this cry at the gate of the Moorish cemetery. A white, stubbly beard grew upon his chin and lips, but his strength was not diminished by his years, and with every movement of his body the muscles beneath the tough skin of his bare legs worked like live things. He sat cross-legged in the dust with a filthy sack for his only garment; he was blind, and his eyes stared from their red sockets covered with a bluish film as though the colours of the eyeballs had run.

"Allah Beh!" he cried, swaying his body backwards and forwards with the regularity of an automaton and an inimitable quickness. He paid no heed whatever to Charnock and the boy as they halted beside him. "Allah Beh!" he cried, and his chest touched the cradle of his knees. He marked the seconds with the pendulum of his body; he struck them with his strident invocation.

"He was the richest man in Tangier," said Hamet, and he told Hassan Akbar's story as though it was an affair of every day. Hassan had not secured the protection of any of the European Legations. He had hoped to hide his wealth by living poorly, and though he owned a house worth three thousand dollars in Tangier, he did not dwell in it. But no concealments had availed him. Someone of his familiars had told, and no doubt had made his profit from the telling. The Basha had waited his opportunity. It came when blindness left Hassan defenceless. Then the Basha laid hands upon him, forced him to give up the gains of a lifetime's trade, and so cast him out penniless to beg for copper flouss at the gate of the cemetery.

"And Europe's no more than seven miles away," cried Charnock. Even where he stood he could see the laughing water of the Straits, and beyond that, the summit of Gibraltar. "Who was it that told?" he asked.

"That is not known."

Charnock dropped some money into the blind man's lap, but Hassan did not cease from his prayer to thank him.

"He is very strong," said Hamet, who saw nothing strange in the story he had told. "He swings like this all day from seven in the morning to five at night. He never stops." And at that moment, upon the heels of Hamet's words, as though intentionally to belie them, Hassan Akbar suddenly arrested the motion of his body and suddenly ceased from his pitiable cry.

His silence and immobility came with so much abruptness that Charnock was fairly startled. Then Hamet held up a finger, and they both listened. Maybe the blind man was listening too, but Charnock could not be certain. His face was as blind as his eyes, and there was no expression in the rigid attitude of his body.