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yer think your business 'll go, Albert?' he says. I felt in a queer sort of defiant mood -I'd had nearly half a bottle of portand suddenly I says straight out, 'What sort of place is Africa, Uncle?' His little · eyes blazed at me for a moment, and I thought he was going to lose his temper. Then he stops, and gives a sort of whimper, and sinks down again on his knees. He made a funny noise as if he was goin' to cry. Then he says in that husky voice: 'Efrica? Efrica? Oh, Efrica's a funny
ENT DEAFNESS THAT
place, Albert. It 's "HE HAS A CONVENIbig-' He stretched ASSAILED HIM AT out his little arms, and
sat there as though he was dreamin'. Then he continues, 'In the cities it's struggle and struggle and struggle, one man 'gainst another, no mercy, no quarter.' And suddenly he caught hold of my arm and he says, 'You can't help it, can yer, Albert, if one man gets on, and another man goes under?' I did n't know what to say, and he seems to shrink away from me, and he
"I WOULD SOMETIMES WAKE UP IN THE NIGHT VISUALIZING ALL SORTS OF STRANGE AND UNTOWARD EPISODES"
stops and he stares and stares and stares, and then he says in a kind of whisper: "Then you get out on the plains-and it 's all silent-and you 're away up in the
karoo, and there 's just the great stone slabs and nothing but yer solitude and yer thoughts and the moon above. And it is all so still-' Then he stops again, and suddenly raises his little arm and points. Christ! for all the world as though he was pointin' at somethin' 'appenin' out there on the karoo!"
Christopher rose from his seat and walked to the window. He was pale. Albert," he said. Ain't 'e done you
"Don't be a fool, "What does it matter?
all right? Ain't 'e set you up in the green-grocery?"
Albert looked wildly round, and licked the end of a cigarette which had gone out. "I don't see that there 's anything we can do," I remarked unconvincingly.
Albert wiped his brow.
"No," he argued; "it ain't our business. It's only that sometimes I-"
He did not finish his remark, and we three brothers looked at one another furtively.
And then began one of those curious telepathic experiences that play so great a part in the lives of all of us. I have complained that none of my brothers or sisters showed any leaning toward education or mental advancement of any sort, but I have not perhaps insisted that despite this it was one of our boasts that we were an honest family. Even Will, despite his recklessness and certain vicious traits, had always played the game. Albert and Richard and Christopher had been perilously poor, but I do not believe that they would have ever acted in a deliberately dishonest or mean fashion. don't think I would myself, although I had had perhaps rather less temptation. And despite our variety of disposition and trade, we were a fairly united family. We understood one another.
The advent of Uncle Herbert and his peculiar behavior reacted upon us unfavorably. With the accession of this unexpected wealth and security we became. suspicious of one another. Moreover, when we brothers met together after the evening I have just described, we looked at one another half knowingly, and the slogan,
"It ain't no business of mine," became charged with the acid of mutual recrimination. As far as possible we avoided any intimate discussion, and kept the conversation on a detached plane. We were riotously merry, unduly affectionate, and, according to all the rules of the game, undeniably guilty.
What was uncle staring at? I would sometimes wake up in the night and begin feverishly visualizing all sorts of strange and untoward episodes. What were these haunting fears at the back of his mind? Why was he so silent on the primal facts of his position? I knew that in their individual ways all my brothers and sisters were undergoing a similar period of trial. I could tell by their eyes.
unfortunate results. Richard and Christopher quarreled and dissolved their partnership. Albert's business failed. Nancy's husband threw up his work and led a frankly depraved life on the strength of his wife's settled income. An adventurer named Ben Cotton married my sister Louie, obviously because she had a little. money. Laura quarreled with her husband, the Baptist, and on the strength of her new independence left him, and the poor man hanged himself a few months later.
To all these stories of misadventure and trouble Uncle Herbert listened with a great show of profuse sympathy, but it was patent that their real significance did. not get through to him. He always acted lavishly and impulsively. He set Albert He started both
up in business again. up in business again.
Christopher and Richard independently.
He gave the girls more money, and sent a preposterous wreath to the Baptist's funeral. did not seem to mind what he did for us, provided we continued to laugh and jest round his generous board.
It is curious that this cataclysm in our lives affected Albert more than any of us. Perhaps because he was in his way more temperamental. He began to lose a grip on his business and to drink.
He came to me one night in a very excited state. It appeared that on the previous evening he had come home late and had been drinking. One of the children annoyed him, a boy named Andrew, and Albert had struck him on the head harder that he had meant to. There had very nearly been a tragedy.
His wife had been very upset and threat- night before. He gave the name of Josh. ened to leave him.
Albert cried in a maudlin fashion, and said he was very unhappy. He wished Uncle Herbert had never turned up. Then he recalled the night in the conservatory, when Uncle Herbert had talked about Africa.
"I believe there was dirty work," said Albert. "I believe he did some one down. He killed him out there on the karoo and robbed him of his money."
"It ain't no business of ours." The phrase came to
He looked like a seaman of some sort. Uncle Herbert had appeared dazed when he heard the name. He told them in a faint voice to show the stranger in. They were alone less than five minutes, when
"HE AND CHRISTOPHER
my mind, but I did not use it. I was worried myself. I suggested that we should have a family meeting and discuss the best thing to do, and Albert agreed.
But the meeting itself nearly ended in another tragedy. Albert dominated it. He said we must all go to uncle and say to him straight out:
"Look here, this is all very well, but you 've got to tell us how you made your money."
And Christopher replied:
"Yes, I dare say. And then he 'll cut up rusty, and tell us all to go to hell, and go away. And then where will we be?"
Louie and I agreed with Albert, but all the rest backed Christopher, and the discussion became acrimonious and at times dangerous. We broke up without coming to any decision, but with Albert asserting vehemently that he was going the next day on his own responsibility to settle the matter. He and Christopher nearly came to blows.
We were never in a position to do more than speculate upon what the result of that interview would have been, because it never took place. In the morning we heard that uncle was dead. He had died the previous evening while receiving a visitor, suddenly, of heart failure, at the very time when we were arguing about him.
When we went round to the house, the servants told us that an elderly gentleman had called about nine o'clock the
the stranger came out, and
They found uncle lying in a huddled heap by the Chesterfield. A doctor was sent for, but he was dead. During the excitement of the shock Mr. Josh disappeared and had not been seen since. But later in the afternoon he called and said that if there was to be any inquest, he was willing to come and give evidence. He left an address.
Of course there was a post-mortem, and I need hardly say that all our interest was concentrated on this mysterious visitor. He was a tall, elderly man with a gray pointed beard, a sallow complexion, and a face on which the marks of a hard and bitter life of struggle had left their traces. The case was very simple and uneventful. The doctor said that death was due to heart-failure, possibly caused by some sudden shock. The heart in any case was in a bad state. The servants gave evidence of the master's general disposition and of the visit of the stranger. When Mr. Josh was called, he spoke in a loud, rather raspish voice, like a man calling into the wind. He simply stated that he was an old friend of Mr. Her
MAN, WITH A GRAY POINTED BEARD... AND MARKS OF A HARD AND BITTER LIFE"
"A TALL ELDERLY bert Read's. He had known him for nearly twenty-five years in South Africa. Happening to be in London, he looked him up in a telephone directory, and paid him an unexpected visit. They had spoken for a few moments, and Mr. Read had appeared
very pleased and excited at meeting him. again. Then suddenly he had put up his hands and fallen forward. That was all. The coroner thanked him for his evidence. and a verdict of "Death from natural causes" was brought in.
When the case was over, I approached Mr. Josh and asked him if he would come back to the house with us. He nodded in a nonchalant manner and followed me out. On the way back I made vain attempts to draw him out, but he was as uncommunicative as Uncle Herbert himself. He merely repeated what he had said at the in
reading was finished, mumbling something to the lawyer. I think he asked him if he 'd like a drink. I know the lawyer merely glared at him, coughed, and said nothing.
When he had taken his departure in a frigidly ceremonious manner, we all seemed too numbed to become garrulous. It was a dull day, and a fine rain was driving against the window-panes. We sat about smoking and looking at one another and occasionally whispering in strained voices. We might have been a collection of people waiting their turn on the guillotine
quest. We had lunch, and a "SUDDENLY HE HAD PUT rather than a united family
curiously constrained meal it was, all of us speaking in little self-conscious whispers, with the exception of Albert, who did n't speak at all, and Mr. Josh, who occasionally shouted "Yes," or "No, thank you," in a loud voice.
At three o'clock Uncle Herbert's lawyer arrived, and we were all called into the drawing-room for the reading of the will. I asked Mr. Josh to wait for us, and he said he would. It need hardly be said that we were all in a great state of trepidation. I really believe that both Albert and I would have been relieved if it were proved that uncle had died bankrupt. If we did indulge in this unaccountable arrière-pensée we were quickly doomed to disappointment. The lawyer, speaking in a dry, unimpressive voice, announced that "as far as he could for the moment determine," Herbert Read had left between sixty-five and seventy thousand pounds. Thirty thousand of this was bequeathed to various charitable institutions in South Africa, and the residue of the estate was to be divided equally between his nephews and nieces. I shall never forget the varied expressions on the faces of my brothers and sisters when each one realized that he or she was to inherit between four and five thousand pounds. We gasped and said nothing, though I remember Christopher, when the
who had just inherited a fortune. Mr. Josh had gone out
for a stroll during the reading of the will, and we were all strangely anxious to see him. He appeared to be our last link that might bind the chain of our earthly prospects to a reasonable stake.
He returned about five o'clock and strolled carelessly into the room, nodding at us in a casual and indifferent manner as he seated himself.
We gave him some tea, and he lighted a cheroot. And then each of us in turn made our effort to draw him out. We began casually; then we put leading questions and tried to follow them up quickly. But Mr. Josh was apparently not to be drawn. He evidently disliked us or was bored with us and made no attempt to illuminate the dark shadows of our doubts. Perhaps he rather enjoyed the game. The room began to get dark, and we slunk back into the gloom and gradually subsided into silence. We sat there watching the stranger; the red glow of his cheroot seemed the only vital thing.
It was Albert, as usual, who broke the spell. He suddenly got up and walked to the window; then he turned and cried
"Well, I don't know about all you. But I know about myself. I'm not going to touch a penny of this damned money."
I was sitting quite near our visitor, and
in the half-light I saw a strange look come
"Why not, Albert?"
moreover, devoted to each other, and their only difference was one of temperament. Lynneker was essentially a dreamer and something of a poet, with a great gift of imagination. Banstow was a hard-headed, Now in
"Because the money 's not clean," he hard-working man of affairs. shouted into the room.
I don't know how it was that none of
the others took this up. But we all sat there looking at the stranger. It was as though we waited breathlessly upon a verdict that he alone could give. He looked round at us, and carefully flicking the end of his cheroot, he obliged us with this epigram:
"No money is clean. It passes through too many hands." We waited for more, but nothing came. Then Albert
this case, which do you think would be the successful one? You would naturally
put your money on Banstow. And you would be wrong every time. For a year or two they worked together, and then Banstow was offered an overseer's job in a tin-mine. They continued to live together, but their work separated them. Lynneker was employed on an ostrich farm. The ostrich farm was a huge success, but the tin-mine failed. That seemed to make the be
bore down on him with a "ON THE WAY BACK I MADE ginning of their divergence. tempestuous movement. VAIN ATTEMPTS TO DRAW Whatever Lynneker touched, succeeded; whatever Banstow
"Look here," he said. "I don't know anything about you. But you knew Uncle 'Erbert for twenty-five years. For God's sake, tell us how he made his money."
The stranger looked at him, and blew smoke between his teeth; then he said slowly:
"Made his money? Your uncle never made more than two or three hundred a year in his life."
"Ah, I knew it!" exclaimed Albert.
Whether it was the result of my brother's forceful manner or whether it was the atmosphere of suspense that urged him to it, I do not know. But certain it is that at that point our visitor sank back languidly in his chair and spoke:
"I'll tell you what I know."
We none of us moved, but we leaned forward and watched him as he proceeded:
"In the spring of eighteen-forty-five," he began, "two young men set out from England to seek their fortunes in South Africa. Their names were Jules Lynneker and Karl Banstow. They were of the same age, and were filled with the wildest hopes and dreams. They were,