_MISS CAYLEY'S ADVENTURES_ (1899), ch. 4
by Grant Allen
published by Grant Richards
THE ADVENTURE OF THE AMATEUR COMMISSION AGENT
MY eccentric American had assured me that if I won
the great race for him I need not be 'skeert' lest
he should fail to treat me well; and to do him
justice, I must admit that he kept his word
magnanimously. While we sat at lunch in the cosy
hotel at Limburg he counted out and paid me in hand
the fifty good gold pieces he had promised me
'Whether these Deutschers fork out my twenty
thousand marks or not,' he said, in his brisk way,
'it don't much matter. I shall get the contract,
and I shall hev gotten the advertizement!'
'Why do you start your bicycles in Germany,
though?' I asked, innocently. 'I should have
thought myself there was so much a better chance of
selling them in England.' He closed one eye, and
looked abstractedly at the light through his glass
of pale yellow Brauneberger with the other.
'England? Yes, England! Well, see, miss, you hev
not been raised in business. Business is business.
The way to do it in Germany is--to manufacture for
yourself: and I've got my works started right here
in Frankfort. The way to do it in England--where
capital's dirt cheap--is, to sell your patent for
every cent it's worth to an English company, and
let them boom or bust on it.'
'I see,' I said, catching at it. 'The
principle's as clear as mud, the moment you point
it out to one. An English company will pay you
well for the concession, and work for a smaller
return on its investment than you Americans are
content to receive on your capital!'
'That's so! You hit it in one, miss! Which will
you take, a cigar or a cocoa-nut?'
I smiled. 'And what do you think you will call
the machine in Europe?'
He gazed hard at me, and stroked his straw-
coloured moustache. 'Well, what do you think of
the Lois Cayley?'
'For Heaven's sake, no!' I cried, fervently.
'Mr. Hitchcock, I implore you!'
He smiled pity for my weakness. 'Ah, high-toned
again?' he repeated, as if it were some natural
malformation under which I laboured. 'Oh, ef you
don't like it, miss, we'll say no more about it. I
am a gentleman, I am. What's the matter with the
'Nothing, except that it's very bad Latin,' I
'That may be so; but it's very good business.'
He paused and mused, then he murmured low to
himself, '"When through an Alpine village passed."
That's where the idea of the Excelsior comes in;
see? "It goes up Mont Blanc," you said yourself.
"Through snow and ice, A cycle with the strange
'If I were you,' I said, 'I would stick to the
name Manitou. It's original, and it's
'Think so? Then chalk it up; the thing's done.
You may not be aware of it, miss, but you are a
lady for whose opinion in such matters I hev a high
regard. And you understand Europe. I do not. I
admit it. Everything seems to me to be verboten in
Germany; and everything else to be bad form in
We walked down the steps together. 'What a
picturesque old town!' I said, looking round me,
well pleased. Its beauty appealed to me, for I had
fifty pounds in pocket, and I had lunched
'Old town?' he repeated, gazing with a blank
stare. 'You call this town old, do you?'
'Why, of course! Just look at the cathedral!
Eight hundred years old, at least!'
He ran his eye down the streets, dissatisfied.
'Well, ef this town is old,' he said at last,
with a snap of his fingers, 'it's precious little
for its age.' And he strode away towards the
'What about the bicycle?' I asked; for it lay, a
silent victor, against the railing of the steps,
surrounded by a crowd of inquiring Teutons.
He glanced at it carelessly. 'Oh, the wheel?' he
said. 'You may keep it.' He said it so exactly in
the tone in which one tells a waiter he may keep
the change, that I resented the impertinence. 'No,
thank you,' I answered. 'I do not require it.'
He gazed at me, open-mouthed. 'What? Put my
foot in it again?' he interposed. 'Not high-toned
enough? Eh? Now, I do regret it. No offence
meant, miss, nor none need be taken. What I meant
to in-sinuate was this: you hev won the big race
for me. Folks will notice you and talk about you
at Frankfort. Ef you ride a Manitou, that'll make
'em talk the more. A mutual advantage. Benefits
you; benefits me. You get the wheel; I get the
I saw that reciprocity was the lodestar of his
life. 'Very well, Mr. Hitchcock,' I said,
pocketing my pride, 'I'll accept the machine, and
I'll ride it.' Then a light dawned upon me. I saw
eventualities. 'Look here,' I went on, innocently
--recollect, I was a girl just fresh from Girton--
'I am thinking of going on very soon to
Switzerland. Now, why shouldn't I do this--try to
sell your machines, or, rather, take orders for
them, from anybody that admires them? A mutual
advantage. Benefits you; benefits me. You sell
your wheels; I get----'
He stared at me. 'The commission?'
'I don't know what commission means,' I answered,
somewhat at sea as to the name; 'but I thought it
might be worth your while, till the Manitou becomes
better known, to pay me, say, ten per cent on all
orders I brought you.'
His face was one broad smile. 'I do admire at
you, miss,' he cried, standing still to inspect me.
'You may not know the meaning of the word
commission; but durned ef you haven't got a hang of
the thing itself that would do honour to a Wall
Street operator, anyway.'
'Then that's business?' I asked, eagerly; for I
'Business?' he repeated. 'Yes, that's jest about
the size of it--business. Advertizement, miss, may
be the soul of commerce, but Commission's its body.
You go in and win. Ten per cent on every order you
send me!' He insisted on taking my ticket back to
Frankfort. 'My affair, miss; my affair!' There
was no gainsaying him. He was immensely elated.
The biggest thing in cycles since Dunlop tyres,'
he repeated. 'And to-morrow they'll give me
advertizements gratis in every newspaper!'
Next morning, he came round to call on me at the
Abode of Unclaimed Domestic Angels. He was
explicit and generous. 'Look here, miss,' he
began; 'I didn't do fair by you when you
interviewed me about your agency last evening. I
took advantage, at the time, of your youth and
inexperience. You suggested 10 per cent as the
amount of your commission on sales you might
effect; and I jumped at it. T hat was conduct
unworthy of a gentleman. Now I will not deceive
you. The ordinary commission on transactions in
wheels is 25 per cent. I am going to sell the
Manitou retail at twenty English pounds apiece.
You shall hev your 25 per cent on all orders.'
'Five pounds for every machine I sell?' I
He nodded. 'That's so.'
I was simply amazed at this magnificent prospect.
'The cycle trade must be honeycombed with
middlemen' profits!' I cried; for I had my
'That's so,' he replied again. 'Then jest you
take and be a middlewoman.'
'But, as a consistent socialist----'
'It is your duty to fleece the capitalist and the
consumer. A mutual benefit triangular this time.
I get the order, the public gets the machine, and
you get the commission. I am richer, you are
richer, and the public is mounted on much the best
wheel ever yet invented.'
'That sounds plausible,' I admitted. 'I shall
try it on in Switzerland. I shall run up steep
hills whenever I see any likely customers looking
on; then I shall stop and ask them the time, as if
He rubbed his hands. 'You take to business like
a young duck to the water,' he exclaimed,
admiringly. 'That's the way to rake 'em in! You
go up and say to them, "Why not investigate? We
defy competition. Leave the drudgery of walking
up-hill beside your cycle! Progress is the order
of the day. Use modern methods! This is the age
of the telegraph, the telephone, and the
typewriter. You kin no longer afford to go on with
an antiquated, antediluvian, armour-plated wheel.
Invest in a Hill-Climber, the last and lightest
product of evvolootion. Is it commonsense to buy
an old-style, unautomatic, single-geared,
inconvertible ten-ton machine, when for the same
money or less you can purchase the self-acting
Manitou, a priceless gem, as light as a feather,
with all the most recent additions and
improvements? Be reasonable! Get the best!"
That's the style to fetch 'em!'
I laughed, in spite of myself. 'Oh, Mr.
Hitchcock, I burst out, 'that's not my style at
all. I shall say, simply "This is a lovely new
bicycle. You can see for yourself how it climbs
hills. Try it, if you wish. It skims like a
swallow. And I get what they call five pounds
commission on every one I can sell of them!" I
think that way of dealing is much more likely to
bring you in orders.'
His admiration was undisguised. 'Well, I do call
you a woman of business, miss,' he cried. 'You see
it at a glance. That's so. That's the right kind
of thing to rope in the Europeans. Some
originality about you. You take 'em on their own
ground. You've got the draw on them, you hev. I
like your system. You'll jest haul in the
'I hope so,' I said, fervently; for I had evolved
in my own mind, oh, such a lovely scheme for Elsie
He gazed at me once more. 'Ef only I could get
hold of a woman of business like you to soar
through life with me,' he murmured. I grew
interested in my shoes. His open admiration was
getting quite embarrassing. He paused a minute.
Then he went on: 'Well, what do you say to it?'
'To what?' I asked, amazed.
'To my proposition--my offer.'
'I--I don't understand,' I stammered out
bewildered. 'The 25 per cent, you mean?'
'No, the de-votion of a lifetime,' he answered,
looking sideways at me. 'Miss Cayley, when a
business man advances a proposition, commercial or
otherwise, he advances it because he means it. He
asks a prompt reply. Your time is valuable. So is
mine. Are you prepared to consider it?'
'Mr. Hitchcock,' I said, drawing back, 'I think
you misunderstand. I think you do not realise----'
'All right, miss,' he answered, promptly, though
with a disappointed air. 'Ef it kin not be
managed, it kin not be managed. I understand your
European ex-clusiveness. I know your prejudices.
But this little episode need not antagonise with
the normal course of ordinary business. I respect
you, Miss Cayley. You are a lady of intelligence,
of initiative, and of high-toned culture. I will
wish you good day for the present, without further
words; and I shall be happy at any time to receive
your orders on the usual commission.' He backed
out and was gone. He was so honestly blunt that I
really quite liked him. Next day, I bade a
tearless farewell to the Blighted Fraus. When I
told those eight phlegmatic souls I was going, they
all said 'So!' much as they had said 'So!' to every
previous remark I had been moved to make to them.
So' is capital garnishing: but viewed as a staple
of conversation, I find it a trifle vapid, not to
I set out on my wanderings, therefore, to go
round the world on my own account and my own
Manitou, which last I grew to love in time with a
love passing the love of Mr. Cyrus Hitchcock. I
carried the strict necessary before me in a small
waterproof bicycling valise; but I sent on the
portmanteau containing my whole estate, real or
personal, to some point in advance which I hoped to
reach from time to time in a day or two. My first
day's journey was along a pleasant road from
Frankfort to Heidelberg, some fifty-four miles in
all, skirting the mountains the greater part of the
way; the Manitou took the ups and downs so easily
that I diverged at intervals, to choose side-paths
over the wooded hills. I arrived at Heidelberg as
fresh as a daisy, my mount not having turned a hair
meanwhile--a favourite expression of cyclists which
carries all the more conviction to an impartial
mind because of the machine being obviously
hairless. Thence I journeyed on by easy stages to
Karlsruhe, Baden, Appenweier, and Offenburg; where
I set my front wheel resolutely for the Black
Forest. It is the prettiest and most picturesque
route to Switzerland; and, being also the hilliest,
it would afford me, I thought, the best opportunity
for showing off the Manitou's paces, and trying my
prentice hand as an amateur cycle-agent. From the
quaint little Black Eagle at Offenburg, however,
before I dashed into the Forest, I sent off a
letter to Elsie Petheridge, setting forth my lovely
scheme for her summer holidays. She was delicate,
poor child, and the London winters sorely tried
her; I was now a millionaire, with the better part
of fifty pounds in pocket, so I felt I could afford
to be royal in my hospitality. As I was leaving
Frankfort, I had called at a tourist agency and
bought a second-class circular ticket from London
to Lucerne and back--I made it second-class because
I am opposed on principle to excessive luxury, and
also because it was three guineas cheaper. Even
fifty pounds will not last for ever, though I could
scarce believe it. (You see, I am not wholly free,
after all, from the besetting British vice of
prudence.) It was a mighty joy to me to be able to
send this ticket to Elsie, at her lodgings in
Bayswater, pointing out to her that now the whole
mischief was done, and that if she would not come
out as soon as her summer vacation began--'twas a
point of honour with Elsie to say vacation, instead
of holidays--to join me at Lucerne, and stop with
me as my guest at a mountain pension, the ticket
would be wasted. I love burning my boats; 'tis the
only safe way for securing prompt action.
Then I turned my flying wheels up into the Black
Forest, growing weary of my loneliness--for it is
not all jam to ride by oneself in Germany--and
longing for Elsie to come out and join me. I loved
to think how her dear pale cheeks would gain colour
and tone on the hills about the Brunig, where, for
business reasons (so I said to myself with the
conscious pride of the commission agent), I
proposed to pass the greater part of the summer.
From Offenburg to Hornberg the road makes a good
stiff climb of twenty-seven miles, and some 1200
English feet in altitude, with a fair number of
minor undulations on the way to diversify it. I
will not describe the route, though it is one of
the most beautiful I have ever travelled--rocky
hills, ruined castles, huge, straight-stemmed pines
that clamber up green slopes, or halt in sombre
line against steeps of broken crag; the reality
surpasses my poor powers of description. And the
people I passed on the road were almost as quaint
and picturesque in their way as the hills and the
villages--the men in red-lined jackets; the women
in black petticoats, short-waisted green bodices,
and broad-brimmed straw hats with black-and-crimson
pompons. But on the steepest gradient, just before
reaching Hornberg, I got my first nibble--strange
to say, from two German students; they wore
Heidelberg caps, and were toiling up the incline
with short, broken wind; I put on a spurt with the
Manitou, and passed them easily. I did it just at
first in pure wantonness of health and strength;
but the moment I was clear of them, it occurred to
the business half of me that here was a good chance
of taking an order. Filled with this bright idea,
I dismounted near the summit, and pretended to be
engaged in lubricating my bearings; though as a
matter of fact the Manitou runs in a bath of oil,
self-feeding, and needs no looking after.
Presently, my two Heidelbergers straggled up--hot,
dusty, panting. Woman-like, I pretended to take no
notice. One of them drew near and cast an eye on
'That's a new machine, Fraulein,' he said, at
last, with more politeness than I expected.
'It is,' I answered, casually; 'the latest model.
Climbs hills like no other.' And I feigned to
mount and glide off towards Hornberg.
'Stop a moment, pray, Frşulein,' my prospective
buyer called out. 'Here, Heinrich, I wish you this
new so excellent mountain-climbing machine, without
chain propelled, more fully to investigate.'
'I am going on to Hornberg,' I said, with mixed
feminine guile and commercial strategy; 'still, if
your friend wishes to look----'
They both jostled round it, with achs
innumerable, and after minute inspection,
pronounced its principle wunderschon. 'Might I
essay it?' Heinrich asked.
'Oh, by all means,' I answered. He paced it down
hill a few yards; then skimmed up again.
'It is a bird!' he cried to his friend, with many
guttural interjections. 'Like the eagle's flight,
so soars it. Come, try the thing, Ludwig!'
'You permit, Fraulein?'
I nodded. They both mounted it several times.
It behaved like a beauty. Then one of them asked,
'And where can man of this new so remarkable
machine nearest by purchase himself make
'I am the Sole Agent,' I burst out, with swelling
dignity. 'If you will give me your orders, with
cash in hand for the amount, I will send the cycle,
carriage paid, to any address you desire in
'You!' they exclaimed, incredulously. 'The
Fraulein is pleased to be humorous!'
'Oh, very well,' I answered, vaulting into the
saddle; 'If you choose to doubt my word----' I
waved one careless hand and coasted off. 'Good-
morning, meine Herren.'
They lumbered after me on their ramshackled
traction-engines. 'Pardon, Fraulein! Do not thus
go away! Oblige us at least with the name and
address of the maker.'
I perpended--like the Herr Over-Superintendent at
Frankfort. 'Look here,' I said at last, telling
the truth with frankness, 'I get 25 per cent on all
bicycles I sell. I am, as I say, the maker's Sole
Agent. If you order through me, I touch my profit;
if otherwise, I do not. Still, since you seem to
be gentlemen,' they bowed and swelled visibly, 'I
will give you the address of the firm, trusting
to your honour to mention my name'--I handed them a
card--'if you decide on ordering. The price of the
palfrey is 400 marks. It is worth every pfennig of
it.' And before they could say more, I had spurred
my steed and swept off at full speed round a curve
of the highway.
I pencilled a note to my American that night from
Hornberg, detailing the circumstance; but I am
sorry to say, for the discredit of humanity, that
when those two students wrote the same evening
from their inn in the village to order Manitous,
they did not mention my name, doubtless under the
misconception that by suppressing it they would
save my commission. However, it gives me pleasure
to add per contra (as we say in business) that when
I arrived at Lucerne a week or so later I found a
letter, poste restante, from Mr. Cyrus Hitchcock,
inclosing an English ten-pound note. He wrote that
he had received two orders for Manitous from
Hornberg; and 'feeling considerable confidence that
these must necessarily originate' from my German
students, he had the pleasure of forwarding me what
he hoped would be the first of many similar
commissions. I will not describe my further
adventures on the still steeper mountain road from
Hornberg to Triberg and St. Georgen--how I got
bites on the way from an English curate, an
Austrian hussar, and two unprotected American
ladies; nor how I angled for them all by riding my
machine up impossible hills, and then reclining
gracefully to eat my lunch (three times in one day)
on mossy banks at the summit. I felt a perfect
little hypocrite. But Mr. Hitchcock had remarked
that business is business; and I will only add (in
confirmation of his view) that by the time I
reached Lucerne, I had sown the good seed in
fifteen separate human souls, no less than four of
which brought forth fruit in orders for Manitous
before the end of the season. I had now so little
fear what the morrow might bring forth that I
settled down in a comfortable hotel at Lucerne till
Elsie's holidays began; and amused myself meanwhile
by picking out the hilliest roads I could find in
the neighbourhood, in order to display my steel
steed's possibilities to the best advantage.
By the end of July, little Elsie joined me. She
was half-angry at first that I should have forced
the ticket and my hospitality upon her. 'Nonsense,
dear,' I said, smoothing her hair, for her pale
face quite frightened me. 'What is the good of a
friend if she will not allow you to do her little
'But, Brownie, you said you wouldn't stop and be
dependent upon me one day longer than was necessary
'That was different,' I cried. 'That was Me!
This is You! I am a great, strong, healthy thing,
fit to fight the battle of life and take care of
myself; you, Elsie, are one of those fragile little
flowers which 'tis everybody's duty to protect and
to care for.'
She would have protested more; but I stifled her
mouth with kisses. Indeed, for nothing did I
rejoice in my prosperity so much as for the chance
it gave me of helping poor dear overworked,
We took up our quarters thenceforth at a high-
perched little guest-house near the top of the
Brunig. It was bracing for Elsie; and it lay close
to a tourist track where I could spread my snares
and exhibit the Manitou in its true colours to many
passing visitors. Elsie tried it, and found she
could ride on it with ease. She wished she had one
of her own. A bright idea struck me. In fear and
trembling, I wrote, suggesting to Mr. Hitchcock
that I had a girl friend from England stopping with
me in Switzerland, and that two Manitous would
surely be better than one as an advertizement. I
confess I stood aghast at my own cheek; but my
hand, I fear, was rapidly growing 'subdued to that
it worked in.' Anyhow I sent the letter off, and
By return of post came an answer from my
'DEAR Miss--By rail herewith please receive one
lady's No. 4 automatic quadruple-geared
self-feeding Manitou, as per your esteemed favour
of July 27th, for which I desire to thank you. The
more I see of your way of doing business, the more
I do admire at you. This is an elegant poster!
Two high-toned English ladies, mounted on Manitous,
careering up the Alps, represent to both of us
quite a mint of money. The mutual benefit, to me,
to you, and to the other lady, ought to be simply
incalculable. I shall be pleased at any time to
hear of any further developments of your very
remarkable advertising skill, and I am obliged to
you for this brilliant suggestion you have been
good enough to make to me.--Respectfully,
'CYRUS W. HITCHCOCK.'
'What? Am I to have it for nothing, Brownie?'
Elsie exclaimed, bewildered, when I read the letter
I assumed the airs of a woman of the world. 'Why
certainly, my dear,' I answered, as if I always
expected to find bicycles showered upon me. 'It's
a mutual arrangement. Benefits him; benefits you.
Reciprocity is the groundwork of business. He gets
the advertisement; you get the amusement. It's a
form of handbill. Like the ladies who exhibit
their back hair, don't you know, in that window in
Thus inexpensively mounted, we scoured the
country together, up the steepest hills between
Stanzstadt and Meiringen. We had lots of nibbles.
one lady in particular often stopped to look on
and admire the Manitou. She was a nice-looking
widow of forty-five, very fresh and roundfaced; a
Mrs. Evelegh, we soon found out, who owned a
charming chalet on the hills above Lungern. She
spoke to us more than once: 'What a perfect dear of
a machine!' she cried. 'I wonder if I dare try
'Can you cycle?' I asked.
'I could once,' she answered. 'I was awfully
fond of it. But Dr. Fortescue-Langley won't let me
'Try it!' I said dismounting. She got up and
rode. 'Oh, isn't it just lovely!' she cried
'Buy one!' I put in. 'They're as smooth as silk;
they cost only twenty pounds; and, on every machine
I sell, I get five pounds commission.'
'I should love to,' she answered; 'but Dr.
'Who is he?' I asked. 'I don't believe in drug-
She looked quite shocked. 'Oh, he's not that
kind, you know,' she put in, breathlessly. 'He's
the celebrated esoteric faith-healer. He won't let
me move far away from Lungern, though I'm longing
to be off to England again for the summer. My
boy's at Portsmouth.'
'Then, why don't you disobey him?'
Her face was a study. 'I daren't,' she answered
in an awe-struck voice. 'He comes here every
summer; and he does me so much good, you know. He
diagnoses my inner self. He treats me psychically.
When my inner self goes wrong, my bangle turns
dusky.' She held up her right hand with an Indian
silver bangle on it; and sure enough, it was
tarnished with a very thin black deposit. 'My
soul is ailing now,' she said in a comically
serious voice. 'But it is seldom so in
Switzerland. The moment I land in England the
bangle turns black and remains black till I get
back to Lucerne again.'
When she had gone, I said to Elsie, 'That is odd
about the bangle. State of health might affect it,
I suppose. Though it looks to me like a surface
deposit of sulphide.' I knew nothing of chemistry,
I admit; but I had sometimes messed about in the
laboratory at college with some of the other girls;
and I remembered now that sulphide of silver was a
blackish-looking body, like the film on the
bangle. However, at the time I thought no more
about it. By dint of stopping and talking, we soon
got quite intimate with Mrs. Evelegh. As always
happens, I found out I had known some of her
cousins in Edinburgh, where I always spent my
holidays while I was at Girton. She took an
interest in what she was kind enough to call my
originality; and before a fortnight was out,
our hotel being uncomfortably crowded, she had
invited Elsie and myself to stop with her at the
chalet. We went, and found it a delightful little
home. Mrs. Evelegh was charming; but we could see
at every turn that Dr. Fortescue-Langley had
acquired a firm hold over her. 'He's so clever,
you know,' she said; 'and so spiritual! He
exercises such strong odylic force. He binds my
being together. If he misses a visit I feel my
inner self goes all to pieces.'
'Does he come often?' I asked, growing
'Oh, dear, no,' she answered. 'I wish he did: it
would be ever so good for me. But he's so much run
after; I am but one among many. He lives at
Chateau d'Oex, and comes across to see patients in
this district once a fortnight. It is a privilege
to be attended by an intuitive seer like Dr.
'Mrs. Evelegh was rich--'left comfortably,' as
the phrase goes, but with a clause which prevented
her marrying again without losing her fortune; and
I could gather from various hints that Dr.
Fortescue-Langley, whoever he might be, was
bleeding her to some tune, using her soul and her
inner self as his financial lancet. I also noticed
that what she said about the bangle was strictly
true; generally bright as a new pin, on certain
mornings it was completely blackened. I had been
at the chalet ten days, however, before I began to
suspect the real reason! Then it dawned upon me
one morning in a flash of inspiration. The evening
before had been cold, for at the height where we
were perched, even in August, we often found the
temperature chilly in the night, and I heard Mrs.
Evelegh tell Cecile, her maid, to fill the hot-
water bottle. It was a small point, but it somehow
went home to me. Next day the bangle was black,
and Mrs. Evelegh lamented that her inner self must
be suffering from an attack of evil vapours.
I held my peace at the time, but I asked Cecile a
little later to bring me that hot-water-bottle. As
I more than half suspected, it was made of india-
rubber, wrapped carefully up in the usual red
flannel bag. 'Lend me your brooch, Elsie,' I said.
'I want to try a little experiment.'
'Won't a franc do as well?' Elsie asked,
tendering one. 'That's equally silver.'
'I think not,' I answered. 'A franc is most
likely too hard; it has base metal to alloy it.
But I will vary the experiment by trying both
together. Your brooch is Indian and therefore soft
silver. The native jewellers never use alloy.
Hand it over; it will clean with a little
plate-powder, if necessary. I'm going to see what
blackens Mrs. Evelegh's bangle.'
I laid the franc and the brooch on the bottle,
filled with hot water, and placed them for warmth
in the fold of a blanket. After dejeuner, we
inspected them. As I anticipated, the brooch had
grown black on the surface with a thin iridescent
layer of silver sulphide, while the franc had
hardly suffered at all from the exposure.
I called in Mrs. Evelegh, and explained what I
had done. She was astonished and half incredulous.
'How could you ever think of it?' she cried,
'Why, I was reading an article yesterday about
india-rubber in one of your magazines,' I answered;
'and the person who wrote it said the raw gum was
hardened for vulcanising by mixing it with sulphur.
When I heard you ask Cecile for the hot-water-
bottle, I thought at once: "The sulphur and the
heat account for the tarnishing of Mrs. Evelegh's
'And the franc doesn't tarnish! Then that must
be why my other silver bracelet, which is English
make, and harder, never changes colour! And Dr.
Fortescue-Langley assured me it was because the
soft one was of Indian metal, and had mystic
symbols on it--symbols that answered to the
cardinal moods of my sub-conscious self, and that
darkened in sympathy.'
I jumped at a clue. 'He talked about your
subconscious self?' I broke in.
'Yes,' she answered. 'He always does. It's the
keynote of his system. He heals by that alone.
But, my dear after this, how can I ever believe in
'Does he know about the hot-water-bottle?' I
'Oh, yes; he ordered me to use it on certain
nights; and when I go to England he says I must
never be without one. I see now that was why my
inner self invariably went wrong in England. It
was all just the sulphur blackening the bangles.'
I reflected. 'A middle-aged man?' I asked.
'Stout, diplomatic-looking, with wrinkles round his
eyes, and a distinguished grey moustache, twirled
up oddly at the corners?'
'That's the man, my dear! His very picture.
Where on earth have you seen him?'
'And he talks of sub-conscious selves?' I went
'He practises on that basis. He says it's no use
prescribing for the outer man; to do that is to
treat mere symptoms: the sub-conscious self is the
inner seat of diseases.'
'How long has he been in Switzerland?'
'Oh, he comes here every year. He arrived this
season late in May, I fancy.'
'When will he visit you again, Mrs. Evelegh?'
I made up my mind at once. 'Then I must see him,
without being seen,' I said. 'I think I know
him. He is our Count, I believe.' For I had told
Mrs. Evelegh and Elsie the queer story of my
journey from London.
'Impossible, my dear! Im-possible! I have
implicit faith in him!'
'Wait and see, Mrs. Evelegh. You acknowledge he
duped you over the affair of the bangle.'
There are two kinds of dupe: one kind, the
commonest, goes on believing in its deceiver, no
matter what happens; the other, far rarer, has the
sense to know it has been deceived if you make
the deception as clear as day to it. Mrs. Evelegh
was, fortunately, of the rarer class. Next
morning, Dr. Fortescue-Langley arrived, by
appointment. As he walked up the path, I glanced
at him from my window. It was the Count, not a
doubt of it. On his way to gull his dupes in
Switzerland, he had tried to throw in an incidental
trifle of a diamond robbery.
I telegraphed the facts at once to Lady Georgina,
at Schlangenbad. She answered, 'I am coming. Ask
the man to meet his friend on Wednesday.'
Mrs. Evelegh, now almost convinced, invited him.
On Wednesday morning, with a bounce, Lady Georgina
burst in upon us. 'My dear, such a journey!--
alone, at my age--but there, I haven't known a
happy day since you left me! Oh, yes, I got my
the word for it: I declare to you, Lois, there
isn't a trick of the trade, in Paris or London--not
a perquisite or a tip that that girl isn't up to.
Comes straight from the remotest recesses of the
Black Forest, and hadn't been with me a week, I
assure you, honour bright, before she was
bandolining her yellow hair, and rouging her
cheeks, and wearing my brooches, and wagering
gloves with the hotel waiters upon the Baden races.
And her language: and her manners! Why weren't you
born in that station of life, I wonder, child, so
that I might offer you five hundred a year, and all
found, to come and live with me for ever? But this
Gretchen--her fringe, her shoes, her ribbons--upon
my soul, my dear, I don't know what girls are
coming to nowadays.'
'Ask Mrs. Lynn-Linton,' I suggested, as she
paused. 'She is a recognised authority on the
The Cantankerous old Lady stared at me. 'And
this Count?' she went on. 'So you have really
tracked him? You're a wonderful girl, my dear. I
wish you were a lady's maid. You'd be worth
me any money.'
I explained how I had come to hear of Dr.
Lady Georgina waxed warm. 'Dr. Fortescue-
Langley!' she exclaimed. 'The wicked wretch!
But he didn't get my diamonds! I've carried them
here in my hands, all the way from Wiesbaden:
I wasn't going to leave them for a single day to
the tender mercies of that unspeakable Gretchen.
The fool would lose them. Well, we'll catch him
this time, Lois: and we'll give him ten years for
'Ten years!' Mrs. Evelegh cried, clasping her
hands in horror. 'Oh, Lady Georgina!'
We waited in Mrs. Evelegh's dining-room, the old
lady and I, behind the folding doors. At three
precisely Dr. Fortescue-Langley walked in. I had
difficulty in restraining Lady Georgina from
falling upon him prematurely. He talked a lot of
high-flown nonsense to Mrs. Evelegh and Elsie
about the influences of the planets, and the
seventy-five emanations, and the eternal wisdom of
the East, and the medical efficacy of sub-conscious
suggestion. Excellent patter, all of it--quite
as good in its way as the diplomatic patter he had
poured forth in the train to Lady Georgina. It
was rich in spheres, in elements, in cosmic forces.
At last, as he was discussing the reciprocal
action of the inner self upon the exhalations of
the lungs, we pushed back the door and walked
calmly in upon him.
His breath came and went. The exhalations of the
lungs showed visible perturbation. He rose and
stared at us. For a second he lost his composure.
Then, as bold as brass, he turned, with a cunning
smile, to Mrs. Evelegh. 'Where on earth did you
pick up such acquaintances?' he inquired, in a
well-simulated tone of surprise. 'Yes, Lady
Georgina, I have met you before, I admit; but--it
can hardly be agreeable to you to reflect under
Lady Georgina was beside herself. 'You dare?'
she cried, confronting him. 'You dare to brazen
it out? You miserable sneak! But you can't bluff
me now. I have the police outside.' Which I
regret to confess was a lighthearted fiction.
'The police?' he echoed, drawing back. I could
see he was frightened.
I had an inspiration again. 'Take off that
moustache!' I said, calmly, in my most commanding
He clapped his hand to it in horror. In his
agitation, he managed to pull it a little bit awry.
It looked so absurd, hanging there, all crooked,
that I thought it kinder to him to remove it
alogether. The thing peeled off with
difficulty; for it was a work of art, very firmly
and gracefully fastened with sticking-plaster. But
it peeled off at last--and with it the whole of the
Count's and Dr. Fortescue-Langley's distinction.
The man stood revealed, a very palpable manservant.
Lady Georgina stared hard at him. 'Where have I
seen you before?' she murmured, slowly. 'That face
is familiar to me. Why, yes; you went once to
Italy as Mr. Marmaduke Ashurst's courier! I know
you now. Your name is Higginson.'
It was a come-down for the Comte de Laroche-sur-
Loiret, but he swallowed it like a man at a single
'Yes, my lady,' he said, fingering his hat
nervously, now all was up. 'You are quite right,
my lady. But what would you have me do? Times are
hard on us couriers. Nobody wants us now. I must
take to what I can.' He assumed once more the tone
of the Vienna diplomat. 'Que voulez-vous, madame?
These are revolutionary days. A man of
intelligence must move with the zeitgeist!'
Lady Georgina burst into a loud laugh. 'And to
think,' she cried, 'that I talked to this lackey
from London to Malines without ever suspecting him!
Higginson, you're a fraud--but you're a precious
He bowed. 'I am happy to have merited Lady
Georgina Fawley's commendation,' he answered, with
his palm on his heart, in his grandiose manner.
'But I shall hand you over to the police all the
same! You are a thief and a swindler!'
He assumed a comic expression. 'Unhappily, not a
thief,' he objected. 'This young lady prevented me
from appropriating your diamonds. Convey, the wise
call it. I wanted to take your jewel-case--and she
put me off with a sandwich-tin. I wanted to make
an honest penny out of Mrs. Evelegh; and--she
confronts me with your ladyship, and tears my
Lady Georgina regarded him with a hesitating
expression. 'But I shall call the police,' she
said, wavering visibly.
'De grace, my lady, de grace! Is it worth while,
pour si peu de chose? Consider, I have really
effected nothing. Will you charge me with having
taken--in error--a small tin sandwich-case--value,
elevenpence? An affair of a week's imprisonment.
That is positively all you can bring up against me.
And,' brightening up visibly, 'I have the case
still; I will return it to-morrow with pleasure to
'But the india-rubber water-bottle?' I put in.
You have been deceiving Mrs. Evelegh. It blackens
silver. And you told her lies in order to extort
money under false pretences.'
He shrugged his shoulders. 'You are too clever
for me, young lady,' he broke out. 'I have nothing
to say to you. But Lady Georgina, Mrs. Evelegh--
you are human--let me go! Reflect; I have things I
could tell that would make both of you look
ridiculous. That journey to Malines, Lady
Georgina! Those Indian charms, Mrs. Evelegh!
Besides, you have spoiled my game. Let that
suffice you! I can practise in Switzerland no
longer. Allow me to go in peace, and I will try
once more to be indifferent honest!' He backed
slowly towards the door, with his eyes fixed on
them. I stood by and waited. Inch by inch he
retreated. Lady Georgina looked down abstractedly
at the carpet. Mrs. Evelegh looked up abstractedly
at the ceiling. Neither spoke another word. The
rogue backed out by degrees. Then he sprang
downstairs, and before they could decide was well
out into the open.
Lady Georgina was the first to break the silence.
'After all, my dear,' she murmured, turning to me,
there was a deal of sound English common-sense
I remembered then his charge to the watch to
apprehend a rogue. 'How if 'a will not stand?'
'Why, then, take no note of him, but let him go;
and presently call the rest of the watch together,
and thank God you are rid of a knave.' When I
remembered how Lady Georgina had hob-nobbed with
the Count from Osten to Malines, I agreed to a
great extent both with her and with Dogberry.