Puslapio vaizdai

owner, disguised in a complete suit by a Bond Street tailor, looked if possible more grotesque than before.

Maxwell lit a cigarette and eyed regretfully the suit he would never see again.

"Isn't it time you were getting home?" he said at last as his visitor still showed no signs of moving.

"I have no home," said the man. "But you must live somewhere," said Maxwell sharply. "Where did you sleep last night?"

"On the Embankment," replied the other.

Maxwell shuddered. He felt in his pockets, to which he had transferred such small change as the night's adventure had left him. The result of the search was a half-sovereign and a few shillings.

"Here," he said, "you can get a night's lodging with this and live for a day or two till you get work."

The man took the money without enthusiasm and counted it. "Can't do much with eighteen bob," was the only comment he made.

"You're an ungrateful scoundrel," said Maxwell, losing his temper.

"I ain't got much to be grateful for, goodness knows," replied the other. "I chuck myself into the river to drown and be out of every one's way. You come along and pull me out and now you want to put me off with eighteen shillings! If you have a fancy for saving folk's lives, I think you ought to pay for it."

There was something in the man's view which appealed to Maxwell as reasonable in spite of his irritation. He turned to his writing-table and took a cheque-book from a drawer.

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"No, you can't have any more whisky," said Maxwell, noticing the gesture. "You've had enough to keep you from cold. If you have more you won't be able to find your way and then you'll get into trouble with the police."

He filled in a cheque for £10, blotted it and handed it to Bellows.

"Here's something to start you in life again. Don't try and drown yourself or any tomfoolery of that kind in future. And if you get into difficulties don't come to me. Good-night."

The man took the cheque, examined it dispassionately and thrust it in his pocket. Then he went towards the door. "Good-night, governor," he said.

Maxwell went downstairs with him and showed him out. He noticed with some bitterness that the man made no attempt to thank him. But then if a man does not thank you for saving his life he can hardly be expected to do so for £10. As he re-entered his room a sick feeling of disgust at the whole incident seized poor Maxwell. There lay the man's clothes in a heap on the carpet, which they were rapidly converting into a marsh. His best arm-chair was a sodden ruin. But the man himself was gone. That was one blessing. It was true that he left Maxwell the poorer by two suits of clothes, an overcoat, about eleven pounds in money and a certain amount of excellent whisky, but he had gone at last and his preserver resolved to take particular care never to see him again.

But if Maxwell imagined that he had heard the last of his rash act of philanthropy he was grievously mistaken. Two days afterwards the following advertisement appeared in the "Personal" column of the Times:

FOUND, on the Thames Embankment at midnight, an overcoat, marked Richard Maxwell. Owner may have it on calling at 8 Great College Street, Westminster, and paying the cost of this advertisement.

The overcoat was spoiled to Maxwell by the recollection of the adventure it had shared with him and he never wished to see it again. So he decided to pay no attention to the advertisement. The finder might sell the coat and reimburse himself for his trouble out of the proceeds. After coming to this decision he dismissed the matter from his mind and went to luncheon at his club.

He had not sat down to his meal five minutes before a friend came up. "Hullo! Maxwell," he said. "Is it your overcoat that was found on the Embankment? It's advertised in the Times this morning?"

"Yes," said Maxwell.

"How very interesting!" said the other cheerfully. "Tell me, do you usually leave your clothes about on the Embankment in the middle of the night?"

"No," answered Maxwell.

"My dear fellow," said the other laughing, "do be more communicative. Don't make a mystery of it. It's absurd to make mysteries. They're always found out."

"There is no mystery," said Maxwell peevishly. "There was a fellow trying to drown himself and I pulled him out, that's all."

His friend laughed with immense relish. "How like you Maxwell!" he said. "There never was such a chap for interfering."

Interfering! The one word which Maxwell could not bear. "Confound you!" he said savagely. "Don't stand giggling there."

Ten minutes later another man came up. "I say, Maxwell," he said, "what about that overcoat? Was it you who were trying to drown yourself or the other fellow ?"

"What do you want to know for?" asked Maxwell sulkily.

"Simpson and I have a bet on about it. I said it was the other fellow.

You're such a chap to interfere, you know."

"Of course," said Maxwell with bitter irony. "Well, if it's any satisfaction to you to know, it was the other fellow."

For two days Maxwell was continually haunted by the spectre of this overcoat. All sorts of wonderful theories were started as to what he was doing on the Embankment at midnight and he was perpetually being appealed to at the club, at the theatre, in the street, to say whether they were true or not. The air seemed thick with wagers on the subject among his particular set till Maxwell began to wonder whether he would not find his overcoat figuring in "The Betting" in the Sportsman. On the third day the advertisement appeared a second time in the Times.

If the story was to be allowed to die -and Maxwell wished it to do so with all possible expedition-it was impossi ble to allow the wretched coat to continue to be advertised at intervals in the newspapers. He therefore told his servant to go down to Westminster to claim it and pay whatever expenses had been incurred. As soon as the man brought it back he told him to throw it away.

But the reappearance of the advertisement revived the interest of his friends in the garment, and for the next few days their inquiries were once more incessant. Maxwell raged under the infliction, but this of course only made the temptation to chaff him greater.

At last, however, this joke, like other jokes, wore itself out and he had really begun to think the whole Bellows incident was closed, when one morning a couple of months later, just as he had finished his leisurely breakfast, his servant announced a person to see him on business.

"Did he say what his business was?" asked Maxwell.

"He said something about some clothes sir," replied the man.

"Show him up." said Maxwell, whose tailor from time to time sent a man round with the latest patterns.

A minute later his man returned showing in John Bellows, who was dressed in seedy black and carried a parcel under his arm. Maxwell frowned.

"Well?" he said, when they were alone.

"I thought I'd call round with these clothes, sir," said Bellows gloomily. "They're hardly suited to a man in my position and I thought you might want them back."

"I don't," said Maxwell. "But you may put them down."

The man put them down on the table and stood looking at Maxwell.

"You haven't got such a thing as a drink about you, I suppose?" he said after a pause, looking round the room for the spirit-case.

Maxwell went to the sideboard and produced a decanter and a glass.

"If you drank less and worked more, you'd get on better in the world," he said.

"That's true, sir," said the other. "That's cruel true. Here's to you, sir, and thank you kindly."

Thanks came rarely from Bellows and perhaps Maxwell valued them unduly in consequence. His heart softened a little.

"How are you getting on?" he asked "Have you got any work?"

"No, sir," replied Bellows. "Why not?"


"It's not so easy to get work. to that," he added, "you don't seem so very busy yourself, sir."

"I don't want work," said Maxwell, who felt that the war was being car ried into his own country.

"No more do I," said the man. Maxwell was silent. The parallel

between their two positions had not occurred to him.

Bellows finished his whisky and water meditatively.

"You ought to have let me drown," he said.

"I believe you're right," said Maxwell.

"But you didn't," added the other almost sternly. "You jumped into the river and pulled me out. I can't forget that."

"I wish you could," interjected Maxwell.


"But I can't," said Bellows. "I feel you're in a sort of way responsible for So when I'm hard up I naturally turn to you. I can't help myself." "So you're hard up, are you?" said Maxwell grimly.

"Of course, sir," said the other humbly. "You gave me £10 I know, but that's two months ago and here I am, you see, stony-broke. You might lend me another tenner, sir, just to help me along?"

"And if I did lend you £10," said Maxwell, “what chance is there of your paying me back?"

"It is a chance, sir, I must say," returned the other, shaking his head.

"There I don't agree with you." said Maxwell. "I don't think there's a ghost of a chance about it."

The man stood hat in hand contemplating the carpet on which the stain left by his wet clothes was still visible. He showed no inclination to go. "Well," said Maxwell at last, getting impatient, "what are you waiting for? Why don't you go?"

"I've nowhere to go to," replied the other.

"What the devil's that to do with me?" said Maxwell irritably.

"Oh, sir, don't be hard on me!" said Bellows, beginning to snivel. "I'm a poor man and I've no friends but you, and if you hadn't pulled me out of the water that night I shouldn't be here

now," and he wiped his eyes ostentatiously with his coat-sleeve.

If there was one thing Maxwell hated it was emotion. The spectacle of a middle-aged man preparing to blubber in his sitting-room revolted him. In desperation he once more produced his cheque-book and rapidly filled in a cheque.

"Here's another £10," he said, "and remember it's the last. I told you before not to come again. I shall now give orders to my servant not to admit you in future. Be off with you and try to get some honest work."

The man took the cheque and his de parture. Maxwell rang for his servant. "If that person calls again, Parker," he said, "send him away." "Very well, sir," said Parker. Two months rolled by and Maxwell heard no more of John Bellows. Then one day the man's existence was recalled to his mind by Parker.

"That person was here again to-day. sir," he said, as he was assisting his master to dress for dinner.

"What person?" asked Maxwell. "The person who called some weeks back. You gave me orders not to admit him, sir."

the whole story would get into the papers with Maxwell as the hero. The prospect was more than he could bear.

"No, Parker," he said, "you needn't do that. If you can't get rid of him in any other way, give him five shillings.” Parker looked at his master gravely. "Very well, sir," he said.

As Maxwell drove in his hansom to Grosvenor Square where he was dining, he reflected bitterly on the sufferings of philanthropists. This half-drowned man seemed determined to dog his footsteps for the rest of his natural life. After mulcting him of various sums of money, he was now taking away his character with Parker. That admirable servant had evidently come to the conclusion that his master had done something disgraceful, that Bellows knew it and was blackmailing him, and that Maxwell was afraid to hand him over to the police. The Scotch have a superstition that it is unlucky to save any one from drowning. So have the Chinese. Maxwell began to agree with them.

From this time Bellows made a practice of calling at St. James's Street at intervals and receiving five shillings from Parker. Maxwell

"I remember," said Maxwell. "What writhed under this extortion but could did you do?"

"I said you were not at home, sir." "What did he say then?"

"He said he would wait, sir. I told him you were not expected home for some time. I said you were out of town, sir."

"You did quite right, Parker."

"He was very obstinate, sir. I had some difficulty in getting him to go away. Perhaps I had better threaten him with the police if he comes again?"

This idea, however, did not commend itself to Maxwell. The police would take Bellows into custody, Bellows would tell his story to the magistrate, the magistrate would probably be facetious at his-Maxwell's-expense, and

not make up his mind to put an end to it. At length, however, there came a morning when he met Bellows in person. He was just approaching his door and was in the act of getting out his latch-key when Bellows touched him on the arm. Maxwell turned upon him savagely, the memory of his wrongs quite blinding him to the absurdity of the situation. "What are you slouching round here for?" he asked angrily. "Didn't I tell you you were not to come here again?"

Bellows began to snivel at once. "You're very hard, sir," he said. "You're my only friend and when I ask you for help you treat me like a criminal."

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The ingratitude of this remark, coming from a man who was living on his doles, exasperated Maxwell. Impulsively he seized Bellows by the collar and shook him.

At this moment, as ill-luck would have it, two young ladies approached, both of whom Maxwell knew, while the younger of them inspired him with a feeling which, if it was not exactly love, bade fair to become so. Evelyn Allieson was a charming girl of two and twenty. She and Maxwell were kindred souls, both impulsive, both a little inclined to step in where more cautious souls would have refrained from meddling, both prone to jump at conclusions. They had met at several country houses, and Maxwell valued her good opinion more than he would have cared to admit even to himself.

Miss Allieson's astonishment may easily be imagined on coming upon Maxwell at twelve o'clock in the morning in the middle of St. James's Street in the act of violently assaulting an elderly man in feeble health and seedy raiment. Her instinct of knight-errantry at once awoke at the spectacle, and leaving her companion she quickened her steps and laid a hand on Maxwell's arm.

"Mr. Maxwell!" she said. "For shame! How can you be so violent? You'll hurt him."

"Hurt him!" said Maxwell wrathfully. "I'll strangle him, confound him!" But he loosed his hold none the less. After all there was something slightly grotesque in a scene of this kind in the middle of the morning and in the middle of St. James's Street.

Bellows, released from his grip, whimpered outright. Evelyn's soft heart was touched at once.

"Oh, Mr. Maxwell," she said, "how cruel of you! Look! He's crying."

At this Bellows wept with increased fervor.

"What has he done?" she went on.

"I believe you were going to strike him! Mr. Maxwell, how could you?”

Maxwell said nothing. He had the most satisfactory explanation in the world to offer, but ill-temper mastered him and he could not utter a word.

"Well?" said Evelyn, "why don't you tell me? I think you ought to tell me." But Maxwell was still silent. Bellows, however, who was delighted to find a sympathetic listener, began to pour out his griefs.

"I only asked Mr. Maxwell for help," he snivelled. "Six months ago he pulled me out of the river when I was trying to drown myself and just now, when I saw him, I asked him to help me. I thought he would do something for me. If it weren't for him I should be dead and give no trouble to any one."

"Hush!" said Evelyn. "You mustn't talk like that. It's very wrong for anybody to kill himself."

"I had nothing to eat," answered Bellows with a gush of self-pity.

"Poor man!" said Evelyn. "And did Mr. Maxwell save you?"

"Yes. He saved me and now he won't help me."

Evelyn turned to Maxwell with virtuous indignation in her pretty gray eyes. "Mr. Maxwell, I'm ashamed of you," she said. "I thought you had a better nature. You must give him some money at once."

Too angry to explain or remonstrate Maxwell felt in his pockets, produced a sovereign purse and handed it to her in silence. To give the money to Bellows himself would have been too much humiliation.

Poor Maxwell! The manœuvre which saved his pride told heavily on his pocket. Impulsively Evelyn thrust purse and all into Bellow's hand. The purse, like its contents, was of gold, and in spite of his rage its disappearance was an additional pang to him.

"And now I think you ought to shake

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