Page images

Sûr Imar, however hopeless my prospect may be. Already I feel that my life has been exalted, my standard elevated, my character in every way

"I am sorry to hurry you, Mr Cranleigh, in the course of your self-congratulations; but some invasion of our refuge may be expected now at almost any moment. And afterwards there may not be good opportunity of speaking."

Thereupon I told him, as briefly as I could, how my admiration first began, and how it had become entire devotion, in spite of the niggardly occasions it had found, and that now I set before me but one object in the world, and cared not for obstacles, denials, scruples, opinion of others, or perdition of myself-in for it I was, and go through with it I would. Then he stopped me, as if I spoke at random.

"Did you begin it, sir, in this lofty manner? Were all these fine sentiments already in your mind, when you peeped through the hedge at my daughter?"

"Sir, you exaggerate that small proceeding; and I am not a bit ashamed of it now," I replied, "because of the glorious results it has produced."

"I am a little inclined to think that I hear a thumping"-in my heart there was one of the biggest thumpings ever known, as I defied him thus, and he disarmed me in that manner. "Is it the arrival of your Civic Force?"

The Peelers, the Coppers, the Bobbies, there they were, beyond all doubt; and I believe that I shall pay the Police - rate our tribute to the powers invisiblefor the rest of my life without a growl, because of the moment of their knocking at that door.

"Stop, sir," I shouted, as the Prince was marching off, in his

leisurely style for nothing ever made him hurry-"there is one thing I have forgotten. Fasten up the dogs. I was ordered especially to tell you that; otherwise the poor things may be shot."


"Dogs must take their chance in conflict of mankind. But I leave them to you, Mr Cranleigh." I knew not then that the true Caucasian is never brought up to love animals, and I wondered to find him so unjust. If a man likes to rush into a conflict, well and good. But to let a dog sacrifice himself to loyal feeling, appears to me unrighteous on the master's part. So I ran for my life, and caught Kuban and Orla (who would have rushed pointblank at the muzzle of a cannon), and with much difficulty, and some help, thumped them into their kennels.

Meanwhile the kicking at the upper door, and the shouting of hoarse voices, and the hoisting of coned heads between the ivied battlements, were waxing every moment; and so was the ferocity of the warriors inside, who had not enjoyed a fight, perhaps, ever since they came to England, the country of policemen, who mainly beat white gloves. But the master of the place ordered all his henchmen back, and made them stand their murderous guns against the peaceful ivy.

Then he swang on its pivot the bar of the door, which had been readjusted since Slemmick dashed through, and throwing it wide he stood among the foes, and spoke.

"This is a very great commotion you are raising. Is there law in this land, that such things are allowed?"

We beheld a large force of constables outside, as if much resistance had been expected; and some of the mounted police were present to intercept any runaway. "Sir,

there is law in the land; and under it I hold a search-warrant of these premises, with orders to arrest all persons here, in case of certain discoveries. Sergeant, you will see that no one leaves the place without my permission. Now, sir."

Exhibiting his warrant, the chief officer fixed keen eyes upon Sûr Imar's face, and scanned with stern suspicion the tranquil smile and the very peaceful aspect. "To the mill first! To the mill at once!" he shouted, with some show of temper, being annoyed, as I could see, by the calmness of this reception. "Sir, will you have the kindness to inform me why the mill is not at work, as usual?"

"It was scarcely worth while, when I expected you, to begin work, and then be interrupted."

"You expected me, sir? What the devil do you mean?" cried the officer, as one in a fury.

"For some little time," Sûr Imar answered, with one of his most majestic bows, "I have looked forward to this pleasure; but until this morning I could not be sure of the hour most convenient to you. But according to a proverb of your country, 'better late than never,' sir. The mill is at your service, and all that it contains. I have also provided some refreshment for your men. Not such as I could wish, but what you call 'rough and ready.""

"And you have laid it out in the mill ! The very place we were to have broken up! Of course, you have had time to clear everything away. It is a farce, sir, a farce, to carry out our orders now." "It would be that at any time, for you never should have received them. There is in this country, though the constitution is the noblest in the world-which generally means the least corrupt-very imperfect communication between

the working departments. Perhaps you will encourage your men to search; while I am proving it needless. That would be of a piece with your other arrangements. That is not your style of business? Nay, but feeding is. I perceive that your men have walked far, good sir. I entreat you to let them recruit their strength. Stepan, bring two more chairs this way. Gentlemen, I hope that you can manage roast-beef cold. If the date had been more definite, we could have shown more hospitality."

"These things are beyond my understanding," said the officer, gazing at his men, who stood strictly at attention, with eyes very right for the great sirloin; “I have never been more astonished in my life. Will you give me your word, sir, that no one shall leave the place?

Then I see no good

reason against a little refreshment, while you are explaining this strange state of things to me. Members of the Force, all fall to! Ha, what perfect discipline!"

I scarcely know when I have been more pleased, in my little way of regarding things, than I was at that moment to see everybody converted from the track of war, as one might say, to the course, or (as might be considered even better, when the fork takes its place as the knife's better half) the chairs-the comfortable dining-chairs of peace. Gallant as any known soldier on the globe, which can show more varieties of them, than of soil or climate, is the true British Peeler in quest of promotion; and these were all picked men, as they soon began to prove; and a warm sense of Providence arose within me, at the privilege of seeing them pitch into the victuals, instead of storming Caucasus.

"I am not intelligent of British manners," quoth Sûr Imar to the

chief officer, "as if I had the honour, sir, of belonging to your island. But so far as a foreigner may understand your race, I trust that they will make progress now."

"Like a house on fire," replied the officer with a bow, and perhaps some inclination to do better with his lips, than discipline as yet encouraged. "Sir, I understood that you were going to show me something."

"Sir, in my native land we have a manner, suggested perhaps by the rigour of the climate, of producing a savoury broil at short notice. Measures to that effect were taken, upon your first application at my door; and if you will do me the honour of coming to my room, I would ask for the advantage of your opinion on that subject. I trust that Mr George Cranleigh will join us."

"Mr Cranleigh! Is this Sir Harold Cranleigh's son ?" the officer enquired, and a very gentlemanlike expression, which had been dawning on his austere features, became established there for the rest of the day. "After you, sir. After you!" with a bow that did credit to the Force, he protested; and soon he held his own in a spirited discussion upon the most effective form discovered for a carving-knife.

[ocr errors]

Well, sir, what report am I to make?" he asked, in a very proper frame of mind, when now there was little left, and still less wanted; "according to instructions, made strict search of suspected premises, encountered no resistance, found nothing in contravention of the law, but excellent dinner prepared for us. Embraced the opportunity, according to precept and example of superior officers; found no occasion to take any one in charge, and know no more than we knew before." "You shall know more than you knew before. You shall not return

without perfect satisfaction as to the question which brought you here. You have exhibited the common-sense, the self-restraint, and the consideration which English officials alone display. You perceived that it would be what you call a farce, to search the suspected premises, when you found that your visit was expected. But the gendarmery of any other country would have wreaked their anger and disappointment upon the suspected objects. They would have shattered my machinery, sir; and that would have been a heavy blow to me. I have naturally been indignant at the low suspicions entertained of me. Otherwise I would have routed them, by referring your chiefs to the Foreign Office. One word there would have saved all this trouble. But now you shall understand this mighty secret; and so shall Mr Cranleigh, if he cares to know it."

With these words our kind host left the table, and crossed the room to a large cupboard, which he unlocked, and took from it a box containing things that jingled. This box he placed between us with the cover off, and we saw a quantity of small metallic objects, of very queer forms and various construction, like pieces of a Chinese puzzle. Sûr Imar stood regarding us with a smile; for he saw that neither of us was a whit the wiser.

"Those are the products of my mill," he said; "no very portentous secret; but it might be fatal to my object, if my little scheme were to find its way prematurely into the public Press. Therefore, I will ask you, Mr Officer, not to enter this in your report, though you are at liberty to mention it in confidence to your chief. Mr Cranleigh, I am sure, will not speak of it at all, if I put it to him so. Now, what do you call these little things?"

"Couldn't guess to save my life," the officer replied, as he fingered one or two; "artificial insects, spiders, tadpoles, shrimps, or dragon-flies-no, that won't do; I give it up, Sir Imar."

"I know what it is," I said, not by any stroke of genius, but through my brother's workshop; "it is all of it type, of some queer sort, but what the metal is I have not the least idea."

"Type it is, as you perceive. But to what language it belongs, I doubt whether even the British Museum could tell you. For the very simple reason that nothing has been printed in that language yet. It is type of the Lesghian alphabet, the first that has ever been cut, or cast, or in any other manner fashioned. Our language is a very fine one, infinitely the finest of all the forms of speech in the long tract of mountains. But nothing in it has been printed yet. We are obliged to have recourse to Arabic, if we desire to publish anything. And not only that, but the children even of our noblest families have not the least idea- -Officer, I see that you are pressed for time; but if you had leisure to see me work this press, not with those castings, but the larger form, the capitals in fact, the coarse capitals, which we turned out first for we had to feel our

way I am almost sure that you would agree with me

[ocr errors]

"I am sure that I should, sir. No doubt about that. I never saw anything so beautiful in my life. But we have exceeded our time, Sir Imar. Thank you-well, I will taste a toss of that liqueur. Upon my word, you know the right thing all round! Sir Imar, your best health! Trappistine is not a patch on it. Beg pardon, Sir Imar, for having hit your gate so hard. I am not quite a literary man myself, but am able to allow for all in that way situated. Good-bye, Sir Imar, and if any one encroaches upon the freedom of the Press, for the folk about here are not like us, just one line to Scotland Yarda cigar, sir? Yes, it will enable me to think. And I shall take that young fellow's horse back to the station."

[ocr errors]

Sûr Imar sat down, while I went to see them off; and outside the upper door they gave three cheers. "Wonderful old chap! Grand old cock!" the officer said to me as I offered him a light; "English Aristocracy not a patch upon him for cooking a dinner or for languages. But as mad as a March hare; what a pity! Don't he know what is good, though? Mr Cranleigh, attend to me. A man who can do French things to satisfy an Englishman-that's what I call international, and no mistake!”


Before I went away, which I was obliged to do without even a glimpse of Dariel, her father very kindly put this question to me, "Do you really wish to know more, my friend, of the scheme which has brought me to this lonely valley, and kept me occupied here so long, in the hope that I may be of service to the race which has trusted and

loved me, but received from me as yet no better reward than disaster and war? You are eager to be told? Then if you can come on Saturday, when the work of the day has been accomplished, you shall hear, not of that alone, but of things. which have befallen me, from which you will perceive most clearly that the greater the distance preserved

henceforth between Mr Cranleigh and all Caucasians, the better it will be for his welfare and that of all his relations."

Now it is useless for me to trouble anybody, even if anybody would be troubled, with all the wild thoughts that came into my head, and all the sad things that would not let my heart alone, as I went with this burden of doubt to bear. It must not be supposed for a moment, because I have chanced not to touch upon the matter, that I had cast away all sense of duty to my relatives in this adventure. The home, and the farm, and the welfare of the family, had not been impaired by a single penny, through what some might call the distraction of my mind. Only let every one attend to business, as I had never failed to do all this time, and what a different place the world would be! And as for disturbing my father and mother, with any description of what had happened to myself, when the chances were that all of it would come to nothing -that would indeed have been a wicked thing to do, in spite of all their preference for Harold.

So clear was I from doubt upon that score, and all my proceedings had been so blameless, ever since that casual "peep through the hedge -as Dariel's father called it -that instead of any squeamishness or self-reproach, I had two points to dwell upon of maltreatment to myself. Why had I been sent to London on a special errand, and then deprived of all chance of completing it? And again, had I been told of that hateful Prince Hafer, and purposely goaded into just wrath against him, simply that I might break forth into rude behaviour, and so be dismissed as a savage, who could not control himself before a lady?

That supposition was too wretched

to be borne with, not for the low esteem of me it implied, but rather on account of the paltriness imputed to the highest, and noblest, and loveliest of her sex. Against all that my truer mind revolted, and my own experience did the like. But men have a trick of saying such small things about women (when the feminine back is turned), partly because they think it lofty so to speak, and partly because of the poets and sages who have set them this example, and partly (a very small part, let us hope) in right of their own experience. And these things come into a man's lower mind, when depression sinks it in the mud-deposits of the heart.

"Halloa, George Cranleigh! What a blue study you must be in! Don't I carry a light at my fore-peak? And if you can't see it you might smell it."

It was rather dark as I came near home, after that interview with the police, and the trees at the back of the Hall were thick; but I might have seen Stoneman and his cigar, if I had been at all on the look-out. "Come in," he went on; "I waylaid you because I want a chat with you most uncommonly, and they told me at your den that you were gone this way. Fishing again? No rod this time! But perhaps you leave it at some farmhouse." This man had his little faults; and among them was a trick of suggesting a handy fib, and then smashing it, if exercised; the which is not a friendly trick. "Not been fishing, eh? Something better, I daresay. Well, come in here; I want to show you something good, and the wonderful fellow who does it."

This was as dark as the sky itself to me. But I followed him, for he was a leading man; and in little matters I submit my steps to theirs. Verily, on this occasion I

« PreviousContinue »