« AnkstesnisTęsti »
By ALBERT KINROSS
Author of "Joan of Garioch,” etc
Illustrations by Dalton Stevens
Perhaps you can let me know on what after
noon I may expect you. T was after the publication of my first
book, a historical romance dealing He had touched my vanity, he had with the life and times of Charles XII of roused my sense of adventure. Picture Sweden, that I received a letter in a me as I was, a poor young man of our strange and none too legible hand, ad- sober middle class who had starved himdressed to me in the care of Messrs. Nicoll self in order to write a book. It was, in & Prout, the firm whose imprint stood its way, a successful book. A second imupon my title-page. Such letters, coming pression had been called for, a pirate had from grateful readers, were scarce in those seized upon it in America, and my net days. I opened it. I flushed with plea- profit was close on sixty pounds. For a sure as I deciphered my unknown friend's beginner I had not done so badly. warm praises and flattering testimony to I wander from the point. Let us get the success wherewith I had presented a back to it. · Here was a high personage difficult personality and a barbaric period. who desired my acquaintance, a notable He was in a position to judge of both, he of the Roman Catholic Church, with said, and his own studies and a recent spell quarters in St. James's Place. I did not of travel had led him across much of the know Wexford House, but I knew St. ground so vividly depicted.
James's Place. Prying round London, as This letter was signed "S. Bellamy," was my constant habit in those days, I had and infolded with it was an ordinary card acquired a familiarity with the exteriors such as a caller might send in by a ser- of many famous houses, with the lay and vant. "Monsignor Canon Bellamy," it atmosphere of most of the great squares read, “17 Fairview Crescent, Claverton." and of all the royal palaces. I wondered Claverton I knew by repute as a fashion- over that hidden life, I speculated and able watering-place in the southwest of wove romances; and when a gentlewoEngland.
man issued from one of those noble manTo the letter was added a postscript: sions, affording me a glimpse of the hall
and powdered servants, I experienced a Call on me one afternoon. I am an old thrill which she, stepping into her carriage man, and you, I judge, are a young one. I or limousine, might have envied. I was a am often in London, and you will find me at prowler and a nobody, with a high, roWexford House in St. James's Place. I mantic passion for the unknown, and, livshould be delighted to make the acquaint- ing in London as I did on the hazardous ance of a writer who has given me so much earnings of a bookish hack, was I not altopleasure, and hear something of his plans gether surrounded by the mysterious and for the future; and, moreover, I have a inaccessible? It is a city the wealth and proposal to make which I think will inter
power and splendor of which would leave est you. I shall be in town all next week. such a one as I was then gasping and ever
open-mouthed. Of its squalor, rascality, mired the smooth, melliflucus artifices of and evil I saw much and yet saw nothing. Mr. Pope. A neglected house, it seemed, Youth has that knack, and middle age without much life in it. None at all, if I mourns the loss of it.
except a tabby-cat that brooded on the I return once more to Wexford House in door-step. St. James's Place. It must be, I fancied, one So much for the front of Wexford of the five large mansions which make an House. My next course was to take it in inclosure of the park end of that aristo- the rear. I found the narrow outlet which cratic back-water. In a public house I connects St. James's Place with St. James's consulted the London Directory. Wex- Park, and discovered that the mansion ford House, I soon discovered, lay be- possessed a garden of its own and rose to tween the residences of the Duke of Mells five sheer stories. A score of windows and the Earl of Templehaven, the latter overlooked the park, and the little garden of which has no special name, but only a had its gate of entry. For London this number. I found that number in St. was luxury indeed. I thought of my own James's Place, and so to Wexford House. penurious quarters and my hemmed-in In the directory the present tenant was
view. Roofs and chimney-stacks were all inscribed as plain Hugh Janvier. The I saw with the bodily eye, and at night I name meant nothing to me then. He often rose to deal with cats. Here one must be a rich man, and possibly the could look out and observe the courtships friend or patron of monsignor, if one so of true lovers. A couple sat on a bench highly placed could suffer such protection. just now. He was earnest and silk-hatHugh Janvier, I decided, was his friend. ted; she was tender, and her gray shoes I had no means of ascertaining the actual matched her stockings. Oh, heart, dear facts, for I was too poor and too obscure heart of me, how lonely and friendless and to belong to clubs, and I had no acquaint- unloved I felt in this great city! I went ance among the well informed who con- away from there and mounted to my attic. duct our newspapers. I was a solitary I wrote in haste and agitation: student, with a turn for the historical ro
Monsignor, I will come to you on Tuesmance, a precarious income, and an attic
day afternoon next at five o'clock. I am, in the dingier part of Bloomsbury. My
as you supposed, a young man, a very young library was the one at the British Mu
man. Pray do not expect too much of me. There I browsed, there I raised
I am grateful for the praises you bestowed my facts and fancies, there I wandered off
on my poor book, and my future plans deinto foreign lands, and made those vision
pend on inspiration. ary friendships with the illustrious dead to which, all said and done, I owe my I inscribed myself his "obedient serpresent enviable position.
vant,” and put my name in full, "John Before replying to my unknown corre- Stacey Cornwallis Loughborough." It is spondent I took the liberty of marking a grand name, and I was proud of it. down Wexford House. So much has al
II ready been hinted. Like a pointer, or, better still, a detective, I gathered such in- On the Tuesday I was punctual and more formation as its exterior could offer, and than punctual. It was an afternoon of even looked in at the lower windows. mid-December, a black fog in the air, the These were separated by an iron railing streets doubly dark, and all the elements from the street, and at that distance af- against me.
I was not to be deterred, forded no serious clue to the pomp and however. At a quarter to the hour I armagnificence of Mr. Janvier. The house rived in St. James's Place; and there, coolitself was spacious and plain-fronted, de- ing my heels, inhaling the fog, and collidsigned, no doubt, by one of those Georgian ing with lamp-posts, I marked time and architects who aped the classic and ad- waited for the appointed moment. The
I want you
hour struck, at last it struck, and I was free to ring the bell of Wexford House.
I stood in the porch of that great mansion, expecting a lobby full of footmen, a hall of dazzling splendor, and, beyond these, Monsignor Canon Bellamy, with cassock and skull-cap, seated in a deep chair before the blazing fire that cunning hands had laid in the big library. It was an interior by Fortuny. Actually, the face of Wexford House was dark and blind, with only a single muffled light burning below-stairs, and presenting that aspect of desertion which great houses show in the dead season.
The door swung back, and I discerned a hall and only a single man-servant. Both were dimmed by the intruding fog. Still, it was a fine hall, and more brilliantly occupied and illuminated
“Mr. Loughborough?” The man-servant had recalled my wits from their wool-gathering; and without waiting for a reply, "This way,” he added, examining me with all the odious insolence of his class. He felt and made me feel my shabbiness.
I followed him, and scorned him in return. He was a big fellow, and would have made two of me.
He led me up a wide and enshrouded staircase, -that whole house seemed deathly and enshrouded, - we passed into a corridor, then up more stairs, and so to a small study. Within this cozy chamber sat monsignor.
I had expected a stout, benignant priest, shrewd, able, and pink-jowled with good living, or else a lean and ardent-eyed ascetic. Monsignor was neither. He possessed a watery quality which I have since learned to associate with the more scholarly among our aristocracy. A wisp of a man, thin, bald, ancient, with a lamentable nose and vague, blue eyes, he stood up to receive me. His courtesy contrasted well with that of the disdainful man-servant. He did his best to put me at my
Breeding is breeding, and no matter how lamentable the personage, it is the last thing to decay.
He offered me a chair, and a large cigar similar to the one he himself was smoking.
The fire was a gas-stöve; we sat together and looked at it. His costume was something like that of an ordinary parson, and included legs and trousers. His head, I have before remarked, was bare and bald.
"It was good of you to come,” he began; “I feared you might not care to face this dreadful weather.”
-"Not at all, not at all,” said I, puffing away at the large cigar.
“It occurred to me after I had sent my letter that possibly you did not live in London. A lucky chance," he added.
Naturally, I agreed with him.
"Mr. Janvier will be in presently," he pursued. "This is his house; but of course you know it.”
Again I assented, omitting, however, to state the precise circumstances in which I had acquired my information.
“Do you know why I wrote to you?” he inquired, after these preliminaries.
"You liked my book," I began.
"Certainly, I liked your book; but I want you to write another one, to collaborate."
“Collaborate?" It was the first I had heard of it.
“The last ten years,” he pursued, “I have devoted myself to a task which the historian has neglected. There exists no life, there has been no memoir, of the greatest adventurer who ever lived."
I pricked up my ears at this.
"The greatest adventurer who ever lived," he repeated, and then added: “I am no hand at a novel, but with your magic pen - the pen of a wizard, if I may say so-we might do something considerable. I have all the materials; the research work is done; it only remains for you to write the story.”
"What story?" I interrupted.
“We are coming to that," said he, rising from his chair and crossing over to a side-table.
He returned with a bulky pile of manuscript, typed and all ready for the publishers, which he dumped down before me. It looked as though it had traveled overmuch, and had been rudely treated in the process.
“This is my 'Life of Perkin War- We started at Tournai, and finished on beck,'” he resumed. "The publishers to the scaffold, and this story, no less than whom I have submitted it decline it. They the manner of its telling, wearied me as have used it badly, have they not? One nothing has ever wearied me before or has even gone so far as to spill coffee upon since. Though monsignor might have chapter eleven. They say-their letters, spent ten years and as many hundred at least, are very courteous— they say that pounds on research work and the collectas an historical work my book stands no ing of materials, it seemed to me that chance of success; that, despite its unique there were no materials to collect. He interest, there exists no public demand for had only a bare and unconvincing outline, such a biography. Their letters are virtu- plentifully provided with gaps, with guessally of one mind, and maybe the public work. The motive force and the psycholdoes adopt this attitude. I have, however, ogy alike were incomplete; he had no spent ten years of my life and as many clear, inevitable picture of his hero, and hundred pounds on the bare collection of no more have I. To this day I fail to my materials. Is all this labor and ex- see him, despite all that was to follow, penditure to run to waste?"
and the ridiculous chain of accident which He eyed me, and I quailed before the
name and fame with this sudden ferocity wherewith he put the "feigned boy." question. The matter of his frustrate toil Monsignor had set himself down again had moved him, and he was now as nearly and told this story. He told it as a sucplebeian and human as myself. More so,
cession of craven episodes, and it was perhaps; for when your true aristocrat never explained why one episode rose out once begins, he runs to an extremity. of the other. So do schoolmasters inflict "I read your novel," he continued, ris- their lessons on the defenseless
I ing and striding to and fro before me. had looked for more sense in a monsignor, “ 'If this young man can do so much with
more genuine culture in Wexford Charles XII,' I said, 'what would he not House, St. James's Place. I was at that make of Perkin Warbeck?' Reshaped time young enough to be honest, so I told into a historical romance, - for that is him exactly what I felt about it. what the fickle public asks of us,-my “This Perkin Warbeck,” I said, “as book would make the lasting fame of any you describe him, and as no doubt he is writer. There is a fortune in this scheme, depicted by your leaky chroniclers, is and there is fame as well. As to the nothing more than a driveling, base-born money, I ask no more than the bare re- coward, as passive as a Hindu, yet withturn of what I have expended; the fame out the Hindu's deep philosophy. His adwe will share alike. Its glory must cover ventures seem to be forced on him; they both our names and hand them down." arise from no inner need or impulse.
I was moved. Eloquence, sincerity, had When they become at all dangerous, he then more weight with me; nor had I runs away, and leaves his followers in the counted on anything so savage and deter- lurch; when at last he is caught, he is as mined from this watery old gentleman. abject as a worm. He is supposed to be
“I am afraid that I know next to noth- a pretender to the throne of England, and ing of Perkin Warbeck," I replied, as to win that throne he tries on five sepasoon as ever he gave me an opportunity. rate occasions, with more or less success, “Apart from Dr. Gairdner and what we to raise the country against Henry VII. learned at school-"
In reality, or, rather, as you have de“He was the greatest adventurer who scribed him to me, he is ever the tool of ever lived," monsignor had interrupted greater men, the weakling, the cat's-paw, me, and then and there, in so far as he had ready to their hand, the victim of their fathomed it, he told me the story of Per- policy or their ambitions. He is entirely kin's life from beginning to end.
negative, and even his one romance was
with a woman who took and buried four fog outside Hayes. Ever go fox-hunting, husbands! How can one make a hero of Mr. Loughborough?" an adventurer who never struck or re- “I 'm afraid not,” was my reply. ceived a blow, a heroine of a lady so im- His dark gaze rested for a moment on partial? His adventures leave me cold. my face, then passed into a smile. What could I do with him? He became "Neither does our friend here,” he said. an impostor because he was bullied into it, Then, looking me over more intently still, and finding here an easy means of escaping he added: "You and monsignor are going honest work, he stuck to the job, and to collaborate. It will be the opportunity courts and princes used him. He is ever of a lifetime.” a pawn, and you cannot build a historical "But there is nothing in the story that romance about a pawn. Give me a king I could seize on," I began. or queen, a knight or bishop! I want life, “If monsignor says there is, there is.” blood, the joy and fire of passion, the surge He laughed. of great events; I want the clash of weap- Again I protested. ons, a dazzling, fated, or romantic fig- “Of course-of course you will. What
terms? I sce we must make What else I might have said to that terms." poor man I do not know, for at this par- I looked from one to the other. ticular juncture he leaped up from his "I have already spent a thousand seat.
pounds in travel and the collection of ma“But I have spent ten years over it !” terials,” chimed in monsignor. he cried in desperation. "And Perkin "Leave Mr. Loughborough to me," inWarbeck was the greatest adventurer- terposed our host; and, taking me by the ah, here is Mr. Janvier."
shoulder, added, "I am monsignor's man The reader will guess the cause of this of business. Monsignor is a child when diversion: we had been interrupted by no it comes to business. Rewritten as a hisless a personage than the lord and master torical novel, he feels that his 'Life of of Wexford House himself.
Perkin Warbeck' would be the novel of He had come in breezily, and was still
He tells me that he is unable wearing his hunting-dress-pink coat, to write a novel, but that, helped by your white breeches, and topped boots. Yet it brilliant pen—" was his face which most impressed me at “Really," I interrupted, “I am afraid that moment. Swarthy and brigandlike, that monsignor is mistaken. Warbeck, as clean-shaved, and with a jaw of steel, he he has been explained to me, is one of looked as though here, indeed, was the those shadowy figures of whom one knows arch-adventurer so coveted by monsignor. next to nothing, and apart from a few
"This is the Mr. Loughborough of curious facts that have been rescued, I whom I told you," said that venerable bi- fear one cares very little about him." ographer.
“But we are not going to disappoint “Mr. Loughborough-pleased to meet monsignor. Bettina and I are very fond you, sir," remarked the new-comer. I of him.” judged by his accent and this cordial turn "Well, why don't you collaborate? that he was an American; and, as the And there are other writers--" event proved, I was right.
“But he wants you—particularly you. He was not at all concerned with Per- Come, now, is it a question of money?" kin Warbeck.
I rose, and recovered my hat and over“There was no fog in the country," he coat. announced. “Had a great run.
"It is a question of conscience," I thunDetling Forstal, found two foxes and dered, sick and tired of the pair of them. killed one; other one got away. All over "It is a question of my artistic honesty, of by three. Motored back, and caught the everything that I hold sacred. I take no