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    _An African Millionaire: Episodes in
  the Life of the Illustrious Colonel Clay_ 1897)

           by Grant Allen  (1848 - 1899)



ON our return to London, Charles and Marvillier had
a difference of opinion on the subject of Medhurst.

  Charles maintained that Marvillier ought to have
known the man with the cropped hair was Colonel
Clay, and ought never to have recommended him.
Marvillier maintained that Charles had seen Colonel
Clay half-a-dozen times, at least, to his own never;
and that my respected brother-in-law had therefore
nobody on earth but himself to blame if the roguc
imposed upon him.  The head detective had known
Medhurst for ten years, he said, as a most respectable
man, and even a ratepayer; he had always found
him the cleverest of spies, as well he might be,
indeed, on the familiar set-a-thief-to-catch-a-thief
principle.  However, the upshot of it all was, as
usual--nothing.  Marvillier was sorry to lose the
services of so excellent a hand; but he had done
the very best he could for Sir Charles, he declared;
and if Sir Charles was not satisfied, why, he might
catch his Colonel Clays for himself in future.

  'So I will, Sey,' Charles remarked to me, as we
walked back from the office in the Strand by
Piccadilly.  'I won't trust any more to these private
detectives.  It's my belief they're a pack of thieves
themselves, in league with the rascals they're set to
catch, and with no more sense of honour than a *~ulu

  'Better try the police,' I suggested, by way of
being helpful.  One must assume an interest in one's
employer's business.

  But Charles shook his head.  'No, no,' he said;
'I'm sick of all these fellows.  I shall trust in
future to my own sagacity.  We learn by experience,
Sey--and I've learned a thing or two.  One of them
is this: It's not enough to suspect everybody; you
must have no preconceptions.  Divest yourself
entirely of every fixed idea if you wish to cope with
a rascal of this calibre.  Don't jump at conclusions.
We should disbelieve everything, as well as distrust
everybody.  That's the road to success; and I mean
to pursue it.'

  So, by way of pursuing it, Charles retired to

  'The longer the man goes on, the worse he
grows,' he said to me one morning.  'He's just like
a tiger that has tasted blood.  Every successful haul
seems only to make him more eager for another.  I
fully expect now before long we shall see him down

  About three weeks later, sure enough, my respected connection
received a communication from  the abandoned swindler, with an
Austrian stamp and
a Vienna post-mark.

  'MY DEAR VANDRIFT.--(After so long and so
varied an acquaintance we may surely drop the
absurd formalities of "Sir Charles" and "Colonel.")
I write to ask you a delicate question.  Can you
kindly tell me exactly how much I have received from
your various generous acts during the last three years?
I have mislaid my account-book, and as this is the
season for making the income tax return, I am
anxious, as an honest and conscientious citizen, to
set down my average profits out of you for the
triennial period.  For reasons which you will amply
understand, I do not this time give my private
address, in Paris or elsewhere; but if you will
kindly advertise the total amount, above the signature
"Peter Simple," in the Agony Column of the _Times_,
you will confer a great favour upon the Revenue
Commissioners, and also upon your constant friend
and companion,         CUTHBERT CLAY,

                      'Practical Socialist.'

  'Mark my word, Sey,' Charles said, laying the
letter down, 'in a week or less the man himself will
follow.  This is his cunning way of trying to make
me think he's well out of the country and far away
from Seldon.  That means he's meditating another
descent.  But he told us too much last time, when
he was Medhurst the detective.  He gave us some
hints about disguises and their unmasking that I
shall not forget.  This turn I shall be even with

  On Saturday of that week, in effect, we were
walking along the road that leads into the village,
when we met a gentlemanly-looking man, in a
rough and rather happy-go-lucky brown tweed suit,
who had the air of a tourist.  He was middle-aged,
and of middle height; he wore a small leather
wallet suspended round his shoulder; and he was
peering about at the rocks in a suspicious manner
Something in his gait attracted our attention.

  'Good-morning,' he said, looking up as we
passed; and Charles muttered a somewhat surly
inarticulate, 'Good-morning.'

  We went on without saying more.  'Well, that's
not Colonel Clay, anyhow,' I said, as we got out of
earshot.  'For he accosted us first; and you may
remember it's one of the Colonel's most marked
peculiarities that, like the model child, he never
speaks till he's spoken to--never begins an acquaintance.  He
always waits till we make the first
advance; he doesn't go out of his way to cheat us;
he loiters about till we ask him to do it.'

  'Seymour,' my brother-in-law responded, in a
severe tone, 'there you are, now, doing the very
thing I warned you not to do!  You're succumbing
to a preconception.  Avoid fixed ideas.  The probability is this
man is Colonel Clay.  Strangers are
generally scarce at Seldon.  If he isn't Colonel
Clay, what's he here for, I'd like to know?  What
money is there to be made here in any other way?  I shall inquire
about him.'

  We dropped in at the Cromarty Arms, and
asked good Mrs. M'Lachlan if she could tell us
anything about the gentlemanly stranger.  Mrs. M'Lachlan replied
that he was from London, she
believed, a pleasant gentleman enough; and he had
his wife with him.

  'Ha!  Young?  Pretty?' Charles inquired, with a
speaking glance at me.

  'Weel, Sir Charles, she'll no be exactly what
you'd be ca'ing a bonny lass,' Mrs. M'Lachlan
replied; 'but she's a guid body for a' that, an' a
fine braw woman.'

  'Just what I should expect,' Charles murmured,
'He varies the programme.  The fellow has tried
White Heather as the parson's wife, and as Madame
Picardet, and as squinting little Mrs. Granton, and
as Medhurst's accomplice; and now, he has almost
exhausted the possibilities of a disguise for a really
young and pretty woman; so he's playing her off
at last as the riper product--a handsome matron.
Clever, extremely clever; but--we begin to see
through him.'  And he chuckled to himself quietly.

  Next day, on the hillside, we came upon our
stranger again, occupied as before in peering into
the rocks, and sounding them with a hammer.
Charles nudged me and whispered, 'I have it this
time.  He's posing as a geologist.'

  I took a good look at the man.  By now, of
course, we had some experience of Colonel Clay in
his various disguises; and I could observe that
while the nose, the hair, and the beard were varied,
the eyes and the build remained the same as ever. 
He was a trifle stouter, of course, being got up as a
man of between forty and fifty; and his forehead
was lined in a way which a less consummate artist
than Colonel Clay could easily have imitated.  But
I felt we had at least some grounds for our identification; it
would not do to dismiss the suggestion
of Clayhood at once as a flight of fancy.

  His wife was sitting near, upon a bare boss of
rock, reading a volume of poems.  Capital variant,
that, a volume of poems!  Exactly suited the
selected type of a cultivated family.  White Heather
and Mrs. Granton never used to read poems.  But
that was characteristic of all Colonel Clay's impersonations, and
Mrs. Clay's too--for I suppose I
must call her so.  They were not mere outer
disguises; they were finished pieces of dramatic
study.  Those two people were an actor and actress,
as well as a pair of rogues; and in both their *roles
they were simply inimitable.

  As a rule, Charles is by no means polite to
casual trespassers on the Seldon estate; they get
short shrift and a summary ejection.  But on this
occasion he had a reason for being courteous, and
he approached the lady with a bow of recognition.
'Lovely day,' he said, 'isn't it?  Such belts on the
sea, and the heather smells sweet.  You are stopping
at the inn, I fancy?'

  'Yes,' the lady answered, looking up at him
with a charming smile.  ('I know that smile,'
Charles whispered to me.  'I have succumbed to it
too often.')  'We're stopping at the inn, and my
husband is doing a little geology on the hill here.  I hope Sir
Charles Vandrift won't come and catch
us.  He's so down upon trespassers.  They tell us
at the inn he's a regular Tartar.'

  ('Saucy minx as ever,' Charles murmured to me.  'She said it on
purpose.')  'No, my dear madam,' he
continued, aloud; ' you have been quite misinformed.
I am Sir Charles Vandrift; and I am not a Tartar. 
If your husband is a man of science I respect and
admire him.  It is geology that has made me what
I am to-day.'  And he drew himself up proudly.  'We
owe to it the present development of South African

  The lady blushed as one seldom sees a mature
woman blush--but exactly as I had seen Madame
Picardet and White Heather.  'Oh, I'm so sorry,'
she said, in a confused way that recalled Mrs.
Granton.  'Forgive my hasty speech.  I--I didn't
know you.'

  ('She did,' Charles whispered.  'But let that
pass.')  'Oh, don't think of it again; so many
people disturb the birds, don't you know, that we're
obliged in self-defence to warn trespassers sometimes off our
lovely mountains.  But I do it with
regret--with profound regret.  I admire the--er--the beauties of
Nature myself; and, therefore, I
desire that all others should have the freest
possible access to them--possible, that is to say,
consistently with the superior claims of Property.'

  'I see,' the lady replied, looking up at him
quaintly.  'I admire your wish, though not your
reservation.  I've just been reading those sweet
lines of Wordsworth's--

  And 0, ye fountains, meadows, hills, and groves,
  Forebode not any severing of our loves.

I suppose you know them?'  And she beamed on
him pleasantly.

  'Know them?' Charles answered.  'Know them! 
Oh, of course, I know them.  They're old favourites
of mine--in fact, I adore Wordsworth.'  (I doubt
whether Charles has ever in his life read a line of
poetry, except Doss Chiderdoss in the _Sporting Times_.)  He took
the book and glanced at them.  'Ah, charming, charming!' he said,
in his most ecstatic tone.  But his eyes were on the lady, and
not on the poet.

  I saw in a moment how things stood.  No matter
under what disguise that woman appeared to him,
and whether he recognised her or not, Charles couldn't
help falling a victim to Madame Picardet's attractions.  Here he
actually suspected her; yet, like a moth round
a candle, he was trying his hardest to get his wings
singed!  I almost despised him with his gigantic
intellect!  The greatest men are the greatest fools,
I verily believe, when there's a woman in question.

  The husband strolled up by this time, and entered
into conversation with us.  According to his own
account, his name was Forbes-Gaskell, and he was a
Professor of Geology in one of those new-fangled
northern colleges.  He had come to Seldon rock-spying, he said,
and found much to interest him.  He was fond of fossils, but his
special hobby was
rocks and minerals.  He knew a vast deal about
cairngorms and agates and such-like pretty things, and
showed Charles quartz and felspar and red cornelian,
and I don't know what else, in the crags on the
hillside.  Charles pretended to listen to him with
the deepest interest and even respect, never for a
moment letting him guess he knew for what purpose
this show of knowledge had been recently acquired.
If we were ever to catch the man, we must not
allow him to see we suspected him.  So Charles
played a dark game.  He swallowed the geologist
whole without question.

  Most of that morning we spent with them on the
hillside.  Charles took them everywhere and showed
them everything.  He pretended to be polite to the
scientific man, and he was really polite, most polite,
to the poetical lady.  Before lunch time we had
become quite friends.

  The Clays were always easy people to get on
with; and, bar their roguery, we could not deny
they were delightful companions.  Charles asked
them in to lunch.  They accepted willingly.  He introduced them
to Amelia with sundry raisings of
his eyebrows and contortions of his mouth.  'Professor and Mrs. 
Forbes-Gaskell,' he said, half-dislocating his jaw with his
violent efforts.  "They're
stopping at the inn, dear.  I've been showing them
over the place, and they're good enough to say
they'll drop in and take a share in our cold roast
mutton;' which was a frequent form of Charles's

  Amelia sent them upstairs to wash their hands--which, in the
Professors case, was certainly desirable, for his fingers were
grimed with earth and dust
from the rocks he had been investigating.  As soon
as we were left alone Charles drew me into the

  'Seymour,' he said, 'more than ever there is a
need for us strictly to avoid preconceptions.  We
must not make up our minds that this man is
Colonel Clay--nor, again, that he isn't.  We must
remember that we have been mistaken in *both* ways
in the past, and must avoid our old errors.  I shall
old myself in readiness for either event--and a
policeman in readiness to arrest them, if neceSsary!'

  'A capital plan,' I murmured.  'Still, if I may
venture a suggestion, in what way are theSe two
people endeavOuring to entrap us?  They have no
scheme on hand--no schloss, no amalgamation.'

  'Seymour,' my brother-in-law answered in his
board-room style, 'you are a great deal too previous,
as Medhurst used to say--I mean, Colonel Clay in
his character as Medhurst.  In the first place, these
are early days; our friends have not yet developed
their intentions.  We may find before long they
have a property to sell, or a company to promote,
or a concession to exploit in South Africa or elsewhere.  Then
again, in the second place, we don't
always spot the exact nature of their plan until it
has burst in our hands, so to speak, and revealed its
true character.  What could have seemed more
transparent than Medhurst, the detective, till he ran
away with our notes in the very moment of triumph?  What more
innocent than White Heather and the little curate, till they
landed us with a couple of Amelia's own gems as a splendid
bargain?  I will
not take it for granted any man is not Colonel Clay,
merely because I don't happen to spot the particular
scheme he is trying to work against me.  The rogue
has so many schemes, and some of them so well
concealed, that up to the moment of the actual
explosion you fail to detect the presence of moral
dynamite.  Therefore, I shall proceed as if there
were dynamite everywhere.  But in the third place--and this is
very important--you mark my words,
I believe I detect already the lines he will work
upon.  He's a geologist, he says, with a taste for
minerals.  Very good.  You see if he doesn't try to
persuade me before long he has found a coal mine,
whose locality he will disclose for a trifling consideration; or
else he will salt the Long Mountain with
emeralds, and claim a big share for helping to discover
them; or else he will try something in the mineralogical line to
do me somehow.  I see it in the very
transparency of the fellow's face; and I'm determined
this time neither to pay him one farthing on any
pretext, nor to let him escape me!'

  We went in to lunch.  The Professor and Mrs. Forbes-Gaskell,
all smiles, accompanied us.  I don't
know whether it was Charles's warning to take
nothing for granted that made me do so--but I
kept a close eye upon the suspected man all the
time we were at table.  It struck me there was
something very odd about his hair.  It didn't seem
quite the same colour all over.  The locks that hung
down behind, over the collar of his coat, were a trifle
lighter and a trifle grayer than the black mass that
covered the greater part of his head.  I examined
it carefully.  The more I did so, the more the
conviction grew upon me: he was wearing a wig.
There was no denying it!

  A trifle less artistic, perhaps, than most of Colonel
Clay's get-ups; but then, I reflected (on Charles's
principle of taking nothing for granted), we had
never before suspected Colonel Clay himself, except
in the one case of the Honourable David, whose red
hair and whiskers even Madame Picardet had admitted to be
absurdly false by her action of pointing
at them and tittering irrepressibly.  It was possible
that in every case, if we had scrutinised our man
closely, we should have found that the disguise
betrayed itself at once (as Medhurst had suggested)
to an acute observer.

  The detective, in fact, had told us too much.  I
remembered what he said to us about knocking off
David Granton's red wig the moment we doubted
him; and I positively tried to help myself awkwardly
to potato-chips, when the footman offered them, so
as to hit the supposed wig with an apparently careless
brush of my elbow.  But it was of no avail.  The
fellow seemed to anticipate or suspect my intention,
and dodged aside carefully, like one well accustomed
to saving his disguise from all chance of such real
or seeming accidents.

  I was so full of my discovery that immediately
after lunch I induced Isabel to take our new friends
round the home garden and show them Charles's
famous prize dahlias, while I proceeded myself to
narrate to Charles and Amelia my observations and
my frustrated experiment.

  'It is a wig,' Amelia assented.  'I spotted it at
once.  A very good wig, too, and most artistically
planted.  Men don't notice these things, though
women do.  It is creditable to you, Seymour, to
have succeeded in detecting it.'

  Charles was less complimentary.  'You fool,' he
answered, with that unpleasant frankness which is
much too common with him.  'Supposing it is, why
on earth should you try to knock it off and disclose
him?  What good would it have done?  If it is a
wig, and we spot it, that's all that we need.  We
are put on our guard; we know with whom we have
now to deal.  But you can't take a man up on a
charge of wig-wearing.  The law doesn't interfere
with it.  Most respectable men may sometimes wear
wigs.  Why, I knew a promoter who did, and also
the director of fourteen companies!  What we have
to do next is, wait till he tries to cheat us, and then--pounce
down upon him.  Sooner or later, you
may be sure, his plans will reveal themselves.'

  So we concocted an excellent scheme to keep
them under constant observation, lest they should
slip away again, as they did from the island.  First
of all, Amelia was to ask them to come and stop at
the castle, on the ground that the rooms at the inn
were uncomfortably small.  We felt sure, however,
that, as on a previous occasion, they would refuse
the invitation, in order to be able to slink off unperceived, in
case they should find themseles apparently suspected.  Should
they decline, it was
arranged that *Cūsarine should take a room at the
Cromarty Arms as long as they stopped there, and
report upon their movements; while, during the day,
we would have the house watched by the head gillie's
son, a most intelligent young man, who could be
trusted, with true Scotch canniness, to say nothing
to anybody.

  To our immense surprise, Mrs. Forbes-Gaskell
accepted the invitation with the utmost alacrity.  She was
profuse in her thanks, indeed; for she told
us the Arms was an ill-kept house, and the cookery
by no means agreed with her husband's liver.  It
was sweet of us to invite them; such kindness to
perfect strangers was quite unexpected.  She should
always say that nowhere on earth had she met with
so cordial or friendly a reception as at Seldon Castle.  But--she
accepted, unreservedly.

  'It *can't* be Colonel Clay,' I remarked to Charles.  'He would
never have come here.  Even as David
Granton, with far more reason for coming, he wouldn't
put himself in our power: he preferred the security
and freedom of the Cromarty Arms.'

  'Sey,' my brother-in-law said sententiously,
'you're incorrigible.  You *will* persist in being the
slave of prepossessions.  He may have some good
reason of his own for accepting.  Wait till he shows
his hand--and then, we shall understand everything.'

  So for the next three weeks the Forbes-Gaskells
formed part of the house-party at Seldon.  I must
say, Charles paid them most assiduous attention.  He positively
neglected his other guests in order to
keep close to the two new-comers.  Mrs. Forbes-Gaskell noticed
the fact, and commented on it.  'You are really too good to us,
Sir Charles,' she said
'I'm afraid you allow us quite to monopolise you!'

  But Charles, gallant as ever, replied with a smile,
'We have you with us for so short a time, you
know!'  Which made Mrs. Forbes-Gaskell blush
again that delicious blush of hers.

  During all this time the Professor went on calmly
and persistently mineralogising.  'Wonderful character!' Charles
said to me.  'He works out his
parts so well!  Could anything exceed the picture
he gives one of scientific ardour?'  And, indeed, he
was at it, morning, noon, and night.  'Sooner or
later,' Charles observed, 'something practical must
come of it.'

  Twice, meanwhile, little episodes occurred which
are well worth notice.  One day I was out with the
Professor on the Long Mountain, watching him
hammer at the rocks, and a little bored by his performance, when,
to pass the time, I asked him what
a particular small water-worn stone was.  He looked
at it and smiled.  'If there were a little more mica
in it,' he said, 'it would be the characteristic gneiss
of ice-borne boulders, hereabouts.  But there isn't
*quite* enough.'  And he gazed at it curiously.

  'Indeed,' I answered, 'it doesn't come up to
sample, doesn't it?'

  He gave me a meaning look.  'Ten per cent,' he
murmured in a slow, strange voice; 'ten per cent is
more usual.'

  I trembled violently.  Was he bent, then, upon
ruining me?  'If you betray me----' I cried, and
broke off.

  'I beg your pardon,' he said.  He was all pure

  I reflected on what Charles had said about taking
nothing for granted, and held my tongue prudently.

  The other incident was this.  Charles picked a
sprig of white heather on the hiil one afternoon, after
a picnic lunch, I regret to say, when he had taken
perhaps a glass more champagne than was strictly
good for him.  He was not exactly the worse for it,
but he was excited, good-humoured, reckless, and
lively.  He brought the sprig to Mrs. Forbes-Gaskell, and handed
it to her, ogling a little.  'Sweets to the
sweet,' he murmured, and looked at her meaningly.  'White heather
to White Heather.'  Then he saw
what he had done, and checked himself instantly.

  Mrs. Forbes-Gaskell coloured up in the usual
manner.  'I--I don't quite understand,' she faltered.

  Charles scrambled out of it somehow.  'White
heather for luck,' he said, 'and--the man who is
privileged to give a piece of it to you is surely

  She smiled, none too well pleased.  I somehow
felt she suspected us of suspecting her.

  However, as it turned out, nothing came, after all,
of the untoward incident.

  Next day Charles burst upon me, triumphant.  'Well, he has
shown his hand!' he cried.  'I knew
he would.  He has come to me to-day with--what
do you think?--a fragment of gold, in quartz, from
the Long Mountain.'

  'No!' I exclaimed.

  'Yes,' Charles answered.  'He says there's a vein
there with distinct specks of gold in it, which might
be worth mining.  When a man begins *that* way
you know what he's driving at!  And what's more,
he's got up the subject beforehand; for he began
saying to me there had long been gold in Sutherlandshire--why not
therefore in Ross-shire?  And
then he went at full into the comparative geology of
the two regions.'

  'This is serious,' I said.  'What will you do?'

  'Wait and watch,' Charles answered; 'and the
moment he develops a proposal for shares in the
syndicate to work the mine, or a sum of money down
as the price of his discovery--get in the police, and
arrest him.'

  For the next few days the Professor was more
active and ardent than ever.  He went peering about
the rocks on every side with his hammer.  He kept 
on bringing in little pieces of stone, with gold 
specks stuck in them, and talking learnedly of the 
'probable cost of crushing and milling.'  Charles 
had heard all that before; in point of fact, he had 
assisted at the drafting of some dozens of 
prospectuses.  So he took no notice, and waited for 
the man with the wig to develop his proposals.  He 
knew they would come soon; and he watched and waited.  
But, of course, to draw him on he pretended to be 

  While we were all in this attitude of mind, 
attending on Providence and Colonel Clay, we 
happened to walk down by the shore one day, in the 
opposite direction from the Seamew's Island.  
Suddenly we came upon the Professor linked arm-in-arm 
with--Sir Adolphus Cordery!  They were wrapped in 
deep talk, and appeared to be most amicable.

  Now, naturally, relations had been a trifle 
strained between Sir Adolphus and the house of 
Vandrift since the incident of the Slump; but under 
the present circumstances, and with such a matter 
at stake as the capture of Colonel Clay, it was 
necessary to overlook all such minor differences.  
So Charles managed to disengage the Professor from 
his friend, sent Amelia on with Forbes-Gaskell 
towards the castle, and stopped behind, himself, 
with Sir Adolphus and me, to clear up the question.

  'Do you know this man, Cordery?' he asked, with 
some little suspicion.

  'Know him?  Why, of course I do,' Sir Adolphus 
answered.  'He's Marmaduke Forbes-Gaskell, of the 
Yorkshire College, a very distinquished man of 
science.  First-rate mineralogist--perhaps the best 
(*but* one) in England.'  Modesty forbade him to 
name the exception.

  'But are you sure it's he?' Charles inquired, 
with growing doubt.  'Have you known him before?  
This isn't a second case of Schleiermachering me, 
is it?'

  'Sure it's he?' Sir Adolphus echoed.  'Am I sure of 
myself?  Why, I've known Marmy Gaskell ever since we 
were at Trinity together.  Knew him before he married 
Miss Forbes of Glenluce, my wife's second cousin, and 
hyphenated his name with hers, to keep the property 
in the family.  Know them both most intimately.  Came 
down here to the inn because I heard that Marmy was 
on the prowl among these hills, and I thought he had 
probably found something good to prowl after--in the 
way of fossils.'

  'But the man wears a wig!' Charles expostulated.

  'Of course,' Cordery answered.  'He's as bald as a 
bat--in front at least--and he wears a wig to cover 
his baldness.'

  'It's disgraceful,' Charles exclaimed; 
'disgraceful--taking us in like that.'  And he grew 
red as a turkey-cock.

  Sir Adolphus has no delicacy.  He burst out 

  'Oh, I see,' he cried out, simply bursting with 
amusement.  'You thought Forbes-Gaskell was Colonel 
Clay in disguise!  Oh, my stars, what a lovely one!'

  'You, at least, have no right to laugh,' Charles
responded, drawing himself up and growing still
redder.  'You led me once into a similar scrape,
and then backed out of it in a way unbecoming a
gentleman.  Besides,' he went on, getting angrier at
each word, 'this fellow, whoever he is, has been
trying to cheat me on his own account.  Colonel
Clay or no Colonel Clay, he's been salting my rocks
with gold-bearing quartz, and trying to lead me on
into an absurd speculation!'

  Sir Adolphus exploded.  'Oh, this is too good,'
he cried.  'I must go and tell Marmy!'  And he
rushed off to where Forbes-Gaskell was seated on a
corner of rock with Amelia.

  As for Charles and myself, we returned to the
house.  Half an hour later Forbes-Gaskell came back,
too, in a towering temper.

  'What is the meaning of this, sir?' he shouted
out, as soon as he caught sight of Charles.  'I'm
told you've invited my wife and myself here to your
house in order to spy upon us, under the impression
that I was Clay, the notorious swindler!'

  'I thought you were,' Charles answered, equally
angry.  'Perhaps you may be still!  Anyhow, you're
a rogue, and you tried to bamboozle me!'

  Forbes-Gaskell, white with rage, turned to his
trembling wife.  'Gertrude,' he said, 'pack up your
box and come away from these people instantly.  Their pretended
hospitality has been a studied insult.  They've put you and me in
a most ridiculous
position.  We were told before we came here--and
no doubt with truth--that Sir Charles Vandrift was
the most close-fisted and tyrannical old curmudgeon
in Scotland.  We've been writing to all our fiiends
to say ecstatically that he was, on the contrary, a
most hospitable, generous, and large-hearted gentleman.  And now
we find out he's a disgusting cad,
who asks strangers to his house from the meanest
motives, and then insults his guests with gratuitous
vituperation.  It is well such people should hear the
plain truth now and again in their lives: and it
therefore gives me the greatest pleasure to tell Sir
Charles Vandrift that he's a vulgar bounder of the
first water.  Go and pack your box, Gertrude!  I'll
run down to the Cromarty Arms, and order a cab
to carry us away at once from this inhospitable
sham castle.'

  'You wear a wig, sir; you wear a wig,' Charles
exclaimed, half-choking with passion.  For, indeed,
as Forbes-Gaskell spoke, and tossed his head angrily,
the nature of his hair-covering grew painfully
apparent.  It was quite one-sided.

  'I do, sir, that I may be able to shake it in the
face of a cad!' the Professor responded, tearing it
off to readjust it; and, suiting the action to the
word, he brandished it thrice in Charles's eyes; after
which he darted from the room, speechless with

  As soon as they were gone, and Charles had
recovered breath sufficiently to listen to rational
conversation, I ventured to observe, 'This comes of
being too sure!  We made one mistake.  We took
it for granted that because a man wears a wig, he
mUst be an impostor--which does not necessarily
follow.  We forgot that not Colonel Clays alone
have false coverings to their heads, and that wigs
may sometimes be worn from motives of pure
personal vanity.  In fact, we were again the slaves
of preconceptions.'

  I looked at him pointedly.  Charles rose before
he replied.  'Seymour Wentworth,' he said at last,
gazing down upon me with lofty scorn, 'your
moralising is ill-timed.  It appears to me you
entirely misunderstand the position and duties of a
private secretary!*

  The oddest part of it all, however, was this--that
Charles, bcing convinced Forbes-Gaskell, though he
wasn't Colonel Clay, had been fraudulently salting
the rocks with gold, with intent to deceive, took
no further notice of the alleged discoveries.  The
consequence was that Forbes-Gaskell and Sir
Adolphus went elsewhere with the secret; and it
was not till after Charles had sold the Seldon Castle
estate (which he did shortly afterward, the place
having somehow grown strangely distasteful to him)
that the present 'Seldon Eldorados, Limited,' were
put upon the market by Lord Craig-Ellachie, who
purchased the place from him.  Forbes-Gaskell, as
it happened, had reported to Craig-Ellachie that he
had found a lode of high-grade ore on an estate
unnamed, which he would particularise on promise
of certain contingent claims to founder's shares;
and the old lord jumped at it.  Charles sold at
grouse-moor prices; and the consequence is that the
capital of the Eldorados is yielding at present very
fair returns, even after allowing for expenses of
promotion--while Charles has been done out of a
good thing in gold-mines!

  But, remembering 'the position and duties of a
private secretary,' I refrained from pointing out to
him at the time that this loss was due to a fixed
idea--though as a matter of fact it depended upon
Charles's strange preconception that the man with
the wig, whoever he might be, was trying to diddle