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amidst the holland-covered furniture of the Delabole had lent a hand, had gone to ungloomy dining-room, slips about in the utterable grief. These two worthies had carpetless bedroom, and tosses in the illo long since seceded from them, and their made bed, “done for" by the fluffy female places had been filled by men of minor cain charge of the house. See the chambers pacity and considerably less courage. Men only half painted, and the lodgings with who pottered when they ought to live temporary denizens inducted into them, to struck, and struck when they ought to the horror of the regular tenants who have have delayed; inferior beings, whose fate unexpectedly returned. See the dreary was dismissed by Mr. Delabole with a days and long nights intended to have been shoulder-shrug, and by Mr. Vane with a spent in sketching-parties, and picnic-par- contemptuous oath. But the Terra del ties, and flirtations; on Swiss mountains; in Fuegos stood firm at a time when every looking on at the board of green cloth, public company in London was under the and watching the spinning ball
, or the harrow of discussion, and, so far as posshuffled cards; in bathing, and boating, sible, examination. It may be imagined and pleasure - taking generally; but now that it did not escape its share of censorious condemned to be passed over deeds and gossip. Clerks will talk ; even such inledgers, in file biting and hair splitting, tensely respectable men as those, old and and wondering when the worst will come, young, employed under Mr. Vane. What and how it is to be met.
the clerks said was merely this. That The Bank rate of discount has gone up whereas the letters and reports from the two per cent, money is tight, and several mines, after having been read by the geold-established houses are declared to be neral manager and the board, were usually "cranky.” As for the new companies, sent into the outer office to be copied, those which came into notice two years ago, in recently received had been detained by the the first blush of the "promoting" period, general manager. On its being further deeight or nine of them have gone already. bated amongst the clerks whether these reLittle Mr. Grimmer, the celebrated bank- ports had been submitted to the directors or ruptcy attorney, now staying down at read and bottled by the “ Toff” and “Pod," Margate, where he has taken a house on names by which Mr. Vane and Mr. Delathe Fort, and where his phaeton and pair bole were distinguished by their subordiare the admiration of the neighbourhood, nates, the question being put to the vote, reads the money article of the evening it was carried by a majority that the repaper with infinite gusto, and instructs his ports had been read and bottled by the youngest daughter, whom he idolises, to mix said T. and P. It is further noticed by him another glass of whisky-and-water, to the employés that the “Pod” had been which a portion of the news he re-peruses away from London for a fortnight, and that as he drinks it adds a lemony flavour. No the "Toff,” who had returned from his short need for Mr. Grimmer to hurry up to town holiday, and was on duty again, had been yet: his clerks know when his presence is constantly in receipt of telegrams, which required, and can summon him by tele- scarcely seemed to improve his temper. graph. Meanwhile let him ozonise his wiry But there were other signs of coming little body as much as possible, and rest squalls which the respectable clerks did not his busy brain. There will be plenty of notice, but to which the initiated might work for him when Term begins in No- well pay attention. Little Mr. Naseby, for vember, when, in the Bankruptcy Court, the first time in his life, drove down to the the “judges are met-a terrible show”. City offices of the company, in which he and when “dividend deferred,” and “ap- held so large a stake. He asked for Mr. plications to register,” “trustees' re- Delabole, but, in that gentleman's absence, leases,” and all the jargon of the court shall was ushered in to Mr. Philip Vane. His mean costs, and costs, and costs, all to be manner was wearied and languid, soft and added by Mr. Grimmer to the heap already sybaritic as usual ; but the questions he put put away in store for the sole benefit of his to the general manager were keen and probbright-eyed little daughter.
ing. Mr. Vane had seen Mr. Naseby before, Amidst the smashes which were knew that he enjoyed Delabole's confidence, sounding on every side no harm had yet knew also that he was a perfumer in Bondcome to the Terra del Fuegos Mining Com- street. Dissatisfied with Delabole for the pany. Several apparently flourishing spe- moment, and with Mrs. Bendixen's im. culations, originally promoted by Philip mediately - to - be - touched sixty thousand Vane, and to the floating of which Mr. pounds before his eyes, Philip Vane thought
fit to snub Mr. Naseby, and to reply, first him, invariably stood up, that the new Faguely, and then insolently, to the queries comers might not have any excuse for sitput to him. Nothing could be better bred ting down. than the little perfumer's manner; a short "Good morning," he echoed, on the dry cough was his strongest deprecation tenth day of the pressure, after a fussy old of the treatment which he received. He retired admiral, who had just taken his bowed himself ont politely, and took off his leave, "and be hanged to you,” he added, hat to the clerks generally as he passed as he saw the door safely close. through the outer office. But on his way the fifth man I have seen during the quar. to the West End he stopped his brougham ter of an hour I have been here, and I in Throgmorton-street, and instructed his have not had time to look at my letters brokers, Messrs. Bullen and Baren, to sell yet.” He sat down at his desk and began out every share he possessed in the Terra rapidly sorting into two divisions the del Fuegos Silver Mining Company. large mass of papers which lay upon it.
Mr. Parkinson, of Thavies Inn, was also The larger of these two divisions he sent considerably disquieted at the aspect of into the outer office by a clerk summoned affairs, and the government office clerks for the purpose, while he ran his eye again and the financially hampered barristers over the smaller ones, and selected therewho attended at his chambers for the pur- from one letter for immediate perasal. It pose of money-borrowing, found him more was very short, but its contents seemed to than ever astonished at the nature of their be satisfactory. “At last,” he muttered, requests, and more than ever disinclined, as he placed the letter carefully in the as they phrased it," to part.” Mr. Parkin- breast-pocket of his coat, “at last I am son, knowing himself to be a vulgar, weak, to obtain a little relief from this perpetual and irritable man, wisely refrained from wear and tear of body and soul. He is visiting the City office, where Philip Vane coming back to-morrow, he says, and I would, he was perfectly certain, have probed shall put it plainly to him at once that my each of his tenderest sores, and probably marriage must be no longer postponed, no exasperated him into committing himself. matter what might be the consequences. But he found means of communicating with He will oppose it, I know that, urging as Mr. Delabole, with whom he had an inti- his reason the panic and the dubious in. mate acquaintance of many years' standing, formation last received from the mines, but and the replies which he received from that I am determined not to be put off any gentleman, though short, were so extremely longer. In-I was going to say in gratitude irritating, that Mrs. Parkinson expressed to him, but I do not think there is much berself roundly on his domestic bearing, of that in my composition—in deference to and even the vicar hinted that his church- his wishes, that's a better phrase, I have warden was more prompt to anger than he postponed it two or three times, partly had supposed. And there were other direc- because he has undoubtedly done me many tors and shareholders who, many person- good turns, and may have the opportunity ally and some by letter, were worrying the of doing me many more, and partly because office to know how matters stood, and ask- he has, or bad, strong influence with Mrs. ing for information which was in no degree Bendixen, which he might have used imparted to them.
against me. If, however, I judge women All this time Philip Vane was to be found rightly—and I ought to be able to, if expeat his post, attending to business with the rience is of any use in such matters—from greatest regularity, seeing everybody who what I have noticed of the widow during desired admittance to him, and saying to the last few days, I may safely pit myself each and all of them as little as possible. against that or any other influence. There From the hour of his initiation into a high is no question of giving me up, the boot is City position, he had dropped his soft, on the other leg, by George; all she seems specious, pleasant manner, and adopted a afraid of is of losing me. Wonderful how sharp, curt tone, partly because he thought extraordinary attentive, and all that kind it was business-like, partly to save time, of thing, she has been since she came back which now was really valuable to him. from the Isle of Wight; never seems to Bat since this gloom had settled down upon like to let me out of her sight, and remains the financial world, his tone had become in London during all this beastly muggy more curt than ever. He returned the weather for the mere sake of seeing me briefest answers to all questions put to him, every day. Odd, but gratifying----uncomand when any visitors were shown in to monly gratifying." And, from the mere
force of habit, Asr. Vane opened a drawer " And what brings you into the City toin his desk, and took from it a hand-day, Doctor Asprey," asked Philip Vane, mirror, into which he looked for some when they had exchanged salutations, moments at the bright black eyes, and the “after being so recently here ? You are sound pearly teeth, and the close-cut beard, not one of those gobemouches who come which had worked so potent a charm. down to pick up rumours that they may
“Yes,” he added, as he replaced the repeat at evening-paper time in their glass and closed the drawer, “I think I clubs, nor are you our own artist,' comcould defy my friend Delabole, if there missioned to sketch the scene of the panic were to come any split between us. He for one of the illustrated journals.” might counsel the widow, but I should “No,” said the doctor, with a quiet smile, carry her off. She would thank him; she “I do not aspire to any such high position. would cling to me. With the chances before I simply looked in to know if you had me, I will defy any one in the world, ex- heard anything of Delabole ; if you had cept- And a cold shiver ran through any precise information as to the date of him as the thought passed across his brain his return." —“except that parson at Springside. I have “I had a letter from him this morning," contrived to keep the thought of that cursed replied Vane, “ in which he says he shall be fellow, and all he said, well under, but it back without fail to-morrow.' will surge up from time to time. Yes, if “To-morrow, good," said the doctor, he were quieted I should be perfectly safe; with the slightest manifestation of relief at for Madge, beyond confessing it to him, has the intelligence. “I am glad to hear it, but evidently neither the application nor the I should not have come into the City on inclination to take any further steps. Per- purpose, even to make this inquiry. The haps she does not even know anything fact is, I was summoned down to a very about my intended marriage. This man special meeting of the board of the inDrage learned it doubtless from that insurance office opposite, the Friendly Grasp, fernal paragraph in the paper; but Madge to which I am consulting physician. An never used to read any papers except the awkward business ; a widow has made claim Haresfoot, and it would scarcely be in that. for seven thousand pounds, the sum for I wonder,” he thought to himself, leaning which her husband was insured.” back in his chair dreamily, and plunging “There is nothing strange in that surely, his hands into his pockets," where Madge my dear doctor,” said Philip Vane, smiling. is and what she is doing! I never could 'Nothing at all,” said the doctor. “One see her name in any London play bill, or noticeable feature in the case is, that the hear of any one at all resembling her. directors know that the man was poisoned, How did this parson come to know her ? but there is nothing particularly strange in How did he become so intimate with her that she should confide to him that great
" Know he was poisoned! They secret? He
may be the chaplain of some pect so, you mean.” hospital, and she may have told him when 'They know it, my dear sir. I know it. she was very ill! Perhaps she's dead! I I am as morally certain of it as I am that never thought of that." And for the first you are talking to me now.” time since his separation from her, Philip “And whom do they imagine to be the Vane had a kindly recollecton of the young
murderer?” wife whom he had deserted years ago. “ The widow," said the doctor, quietly,
He was roused from his reverie by a rap “and an accomplice, a young man, a general at the door, followed by the entrance of a practitioner, whom, it is said, she is about clerk, who laid a card upon the table, and to marry." was bidden to usher the visitor in. The “ The insurance office will fight the case, visitor when he entered happened to be of course ?” asked Vane. Doctor Asprey, dressed, as usual, with “I think not. I strongly counselled scrupulous care, soft, bland, and placid. them not, as it is comparatively a young The clerk placed a chair for Doctor Asprey, office; and I strongly advised them to wait who was not one of those clients whom the for some future case before coming before general manager received standing. Even the public with a prosecution." if the doctor had not been, as he was, an Some future case ! Do you mean to intimate and constant visitor at the office, say these things are of common occurhe was not the style of man whom one
rence ?" could have treated with such impertinence. “My good sir, there are hundreds of
cases every year in which men and women “Exactly, but not after; in the very are murdered, and of which nothing is nick." known. I would undertake to kill you “I am glad you think so," said Vane, with a poison of which no trace should gloomily. But
you were not beforehand, ever be discovered, to stab you in a vital you will at least acknowledge, when you part, so that you should die instantly, and have read this.” And he handed a note there should scarcely be a drop of blood to across the table. tell where you had been hit. My dear Mr. "Naseby-resigns directorship, no longer Vane, I am horrifying you with my profes- qualified-has sold shares. I was aware of sional talk. You look positively unnerved.” this; I received this news by telegram the
“Not at all,” stammered Philip Vane. night before last. Hence my letter to you “I am intensely interested. Pray continue. of yesterday--my return to-day:" You were saying that"
« Oh! then you do feel it of importance. “Not another word to-day," said the I am glad to think you are impressed with doctor, rising. “I must run off; I must, the facts. From the first blush of your indeed. I shall see you to-morrow, when manner you appeared to me determined to I look in to talk to Delabole. Now, adieu.” carry everything off with a high hand.” He shook hands politely, but formally, with “ My dear friend Vane, I am always imthe general manager, and took his depar- pressible by facts, and what you mean by ture.
carrying off matters with a high hand, is And Mr. Philip Vane remained for an simply that I keep my wits about me, and hour motionless, passive, and chewing the am not downcast by trifles.” cud of the reflections which Doctor Asprey's “The rats are leaving the sinking ship,' words had aroused in his mind.
said Vane, sententiously, pointing to the The next day Mr. Delabole arrived at letter. the office. The very sight of him inspired “A very inapt illustration,” retorted the clerks, and such of the public as were Delabole. “In the first place, the ship is doing business in the outer office, with not sinking; in the second, this particular hope and comfort. His eyes were bright, rat was hunted out of it through a mishis cheeks flushed with health, his manner take of the officer left in charge. jaunty. His diamond rings blazed as he “You are alluding to me?" asked Philip waved his fat, white, little hand in cour Vane, flushing with rage. teous acknowledgment of his subordinates' “ I am alluding to you, my dear Philip,” greeting. The hall-porter essayed to pre- replied Delabole, quietly," and to no one cede him, but Mr. Delabole was much too else. Naseby came here for certain inquick for the plethoric functionary, and formation. He is a wealthy but pompous made his own way into the general ma- little man; you ignored his wealth, and innager's room, into which he passed, after a sulted his pomposity by your-pardon me, sharp decisive rap.
my dear Philip, I have not the advantages Philip Vane was seated at his desk, up of your education, and can find no other to his elbows in an accumulated mass of word for it-by your misplaced cheek;' paper. The sight seemed to afford Mr. he retired in dudgeon, and threw up the Delabole some amusement, as he burst into whole concern." a low but very hearty laugh at once.
“ That's his version of the case, and* Hallo!” said Vane, looking up from “ That is my common-sense view of it. his work, “it is you, is it; the prodigal But there is no reason that it should form returned ? Glad you seem amused. You a cause of argument between us, as there would have found it anything but a laugh- are hundreds of other Nasebys, or equivaing matter if you had been here. It has lents to Naseby, in the world. All that we been all very fine for you, spending your have to do is to get hold of them at once.” substance in riotous living, but deuced hard “Yes, that is all,” said Philip Vane, with lines for us who have had to champ away a sneer, “but is it easy ?” at these husks," pointing to the papers,
“Yes, it is not difficult, provided proper “which the swine refused to swallow.' means are taken," said Mr. Delabole. “We
“How charmingly scriptural and poetic must, all of us, throw ourselves heart and is the dear boy in his illustrations,” mur- soul into the breach, and work our utmost mured Mr. Delabole. "Yes, Philip, I until we have accomplished our ends." have returned !"
“Yes," said Philip Vane. “It is well “Not before it was time,” growled Mr. for you, who have just returned from a Vane.
fortnight's holiday, to talk about working your utmost, but I confess I am not able "I am perfectly certain of it,” retorted to second that admirable proposition. I Delabole. have already twice postponed my marriage “You must bring some very special in. for your convenience, and I was only Auence to bear upon me,” said Vane, with awaiting your return to fix an immediate a sneer. day, and arrange for absenting myself from “ I intend to." the City for some little time."
May I ask what it is ?” “I am greatly afraid, my dear Vane," “If you do, I answer you plainly. The said Mr. Delabole, firmly, but with perfect loss of Mrs. Bendixen and her sixty thoucalmness, “that that cannot be."
sand pounds." “Cannot be !" repeated Vane, starting “You overrate your influence in that from his chair. And why not?”
quarter, my good sir,” said Philip Vane, “Because," said Delabole, still calmly, with a sigh of relief. ' because the business of the office will not “It is not my influence, my good sir, permit it."
but the influence of the law; the influence “Business of the office be —d!” said of the parish register of Chepstow Church, Vane, savagely. “What business is there of Margaret Pierrepoint, your wife, the that presses for which I am specially re- actress whom you went down to see by quired ?"
stealth at Wexeter, and whom I went “A little matter involving peculiar down to see too; whose life I have tracked nicety of handling," said Mr. Delabole, backward and forward, and whose life's rising from his seat. “No one there,” he history I have at my tongue's end. Do continued, closing the door after he had you wish further personal evidences ? opened it suddenly and looked out. “It is Shall I ring the bell for Gillman, whom well to be particular both as regards eye. I employed to work the case out for me, shot and ear-shot in these matters,” he or do you acknowledge the authenticity added, poking the escutcheon of the lock of my information ?" over the keyhole with his stick. “I see “I acknowledge it,” said Philip Vane, from the letter you sent me that our further faintly,” and will do what you require.", application to Sir Geoffry Heriot has been
“Exactly,” said Mr. Delabole, cheerfully. fruitless and that he still refuses to sign “We will discuss the matter later. Now, the deed."
if you please, I will look through the " That's so."
minutes and see what has been going on “In this crisis," said Mr. Delabole, while I have been away. Mr. Packham," Irving's co-operation would be invaluable he called out, putting his head into the to us."
outer office, "be good enough to bring "That co-operation we shall never get." the current minute-book.”
“Unless Sir Geoffry gives us his signa- The clerk speedily came with the minute ture," said Mr. Delabole, looking straight book and read out many entries to Delainto the air before him, and playing with bole. But Philip Vane did not pay
much his watch-chain.
attention to that proceeding. He was en“He is a hard, inflexible man,” said tirely engrossed in thinking over what DocPhilip Vane. “He will never give in !" tor Asprey had said to him that morning.
“Then,” said Mr. Delabole, slowly, and with his eyes still in the air, “we must get
JUST PUBLISHED, THE somebody to get his signature for us."
EXTRA DOUBLE NUMBER FOR "And that somebody?"
CHRISTMAS, 1871, “That somebody is you, my dear Philip," said Mr. Delabole, fixing his eyes on Vane's face, and pointing straight at him with his
SLAVES OF THE LAMP. forefinger.
Now ready, price 5s.6d., bound in green cloth, "I! cried Vane, loudly; then lowering
THE SIXTH VOLUME his voice in deference to a gesture from his
OF THE NEW SERIES OP companion, he added: “Do you think you will get me to do this job for you ?”
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