Edward Maitland.

By and by : an historical romance of the future (Volume 2) online

. (page 9 of 14)
Online LibraryEdward MaitlandBy and by : an historical romance of the future (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

in keeping of the lawyers of my guardian —
Lord Avenil."

Here the elder stranger whispered some-
thing to the witness Carol, from which he
seemed to dissent. He then said aloud to
the Court, —

'' The British Minister, who, I believe, is
present, can state whether he has received
from the Minister at Algiers the corroboration
of my statement for which I requested him
this morning to telegraph."

" It is true," said the British Minister,
rising, and addressing the Court, " that a
stranger of Central Africa, evidently a man
of distinction, arrived badly hurt at Algiers

VOL. II. i^

194 B\ AND BY.

at the time and in the manner we have heard
related ; but he made ' no revelation to the
Minister concerning his name or quality. His
sole confidences were given to this young
gentleman, for whose genuineness and trust-
worthiness my colleague at Algiers energeti-
cally vouches."

Here the elder stranger rose, and said that
he was present when the packet in question
arrived, and was acquainted with its contents.

In answer to the Court's enquiry, this wit-
ness stated that his name is Greathead ; that
he is a professional aeronaut, officially at-
tached to the aerial expedition of the Confe-
derated Nations to Central Africa, and at
present absent on special leave to come to
Jerusalem. He exhibited a document to that
effect, dated three days ago, and bearing the
signature and official seal of the admiral in

A glance of astonishment ran through the
assembly on finding so stout a testimony to
the accuracy of the Prince's information, and
finding it, too, in the person of an official of
the expedition. The President alone seemed
unmoved by it. In the same tone of cold,

BY AND BY. 195

measured courtesy, which had marked his
manner throughout, he said, —

'' It seems strange to the Court that your
services could be spared so soon after the
expedition reached the scene of its intended

"Not stranger to the Court than to my-
self," answered the aeronaut Greathead, in a
loud, hearty, abrupt tone, which contrasted
curiously with the keen inflection of the Pre-
sident's voice : " not stranger to the Court
than to myself ; but my dear boy here can
tell you all about it, if he chooses. It is all
owing to him that the revolution in Soudan
is over, the white settlers safe, and the throne
waiting to receive the new Emperor as soon
as he will let us carry him back."

The President did not give the assembly
time to indulge the surprise it felt at this
speech, but addressing the last witness,
said, —

" You are, perhaps, not acquainted with
the superstitious character of the people of
Soudan. But it is an undoubted fact that no
sovereign has a chance of acceptance unless
he be in tutelary possession of certain jewels,


196 BY AND BY.

known as the Talisman of Solomon, from
whom the royal family of the country claims
descent "

'' And therefore I have promised," inter-
rupted the younger Englishman, "that, on
the occasion of his coronation, — which I have,
in my own mind, fixed for the first anniver-
sary of his accession, — the Sacred Talisman
shall be forthcoming ; that is, provided he
proves by his conduct in the meantime — as I
have no doubt he will do — that he is not
unworthy of his high position."

And having said this, he turned and cast
upon the Prince a glance of such warm friend-
ship, as only a long and intimate acquaint-
ance would seem to account for.

This speech, so extraordinary for its ap-
parent and manifold presumption, was uttered
in a simple, eager manner, and without a
particle of consciousness of its almost pre-
ternatural boldness, on the part of the

The Prince himself was for several mo-
ments absolutely stupefied with surprise.
Then starting to his feet he confronted the
youth Carol, with an air that demanded an

BY AND BY. 197

explanation as to who it was that thus con-
stituted himself the arbiter of his destiny.
But the young man merely said to him, —

" Not now, my dear Prince. You shall
know all in good time."

The President overhearing his remark, him-
self addressed the witness, saying, —

''If we are to make the concessions de-
sired, it is necessary that we be fully en-
lightened ; and for that, it seems to the Court,
no time can be so good as the present."

" You forget my reservation," answered
Carol. '* I especially exempted anything that
touched upon my private affairs. All that I
care to state now is, that the secret of the
crown jewels and their whereabouts, has been
committed to me, and that I shall reveal it at
the fittinor time."

They had been standing side by side since
the Prince had risen, and it now became evi-
dent from the whispering going on among
the audience, that some startling suggestion
was being discussed by them. The whispers
became general, and then all eyes were turned
upon the pair in intent scrutiny. Then the

198 £V AND BY.

President, addressing the young Englishman,
said, —

*' Have you any objection to giving the
Court some particulars of your birth and
parentage ?"

" I cannot," he returned, " of my own know-
ledge, give the information') you ask, though
no doubt I was present on the occasion. But
there is one here who is both able and free
to relate what he knows about it." And he
indicated the elder foreigner.

'' Mr. Greathead," said the President, ^'will
you have the kindness to give the Court any
information you possess on this head ? The
birth, for instance, of Mr. Carol, — where did
it take place ?"

The witness stood erect, and assuming an
air of the utmost gravity, pointed upwards,
and said solemnly, —

" In heaven !"

" We are aware," said the President, " that
you are an aeronaut. Did it take place in
one of your own aeromotives ?"

Everybody, probably, except himself, no-
ticed that the President's voice had of late

BY AND BY. 199

entirely lost its keenness of tone, and his
manner its severity.

*' It occurred thus," said the witness Great-
head. " I, and some others, were stranded
on an iceberg in the Arctic seas, when a
balloon was blown to us, — a balloon of old-
fashioned and foreign make, — a floating,
rather than a flying machine. This child
was in it, evidently only just born "

" And the other occupants ?"

" When the balloon reached us it had but
one, an old man, an Asiatic, who expired
shortly afterwards."

'' But — but — you said the child was but
just born. The old man could — could —
could not have been its Mother ! Where
was She, then ?"

The loud, eager, and excited way in which
the President jerked out this extraordinary
speech, his eyes almost starting from his
head, and his forehead streaming with per-
spiration, attracted the observation of the
whole assembly. On being further informed
by Greathead that there was reason to sup-
pose a woman had fallen out and been lost,
very shortly before the balloon reached the

200 BY AND BY.

iceberg, he seemed to be gathering up his
whole strength to ask one more question.

** When, — when was this ?"

'' Christmas-day, twenty-one years ago."

At this, with a cry, the President dropped
senseless into his chair.

Fortunately a medical man was present,
and to him the patient was committed, while
the people talked together in groups.

Some who knew the President intimately,
said that it must be a heart complaint, to
which he had been liable ever since a loss
he had suffered many years ago. Presently
it was announced that he was better, and
refused to suspend the sitting for more than
a few minutes, when he expected to be
himself again.

At length the President announced the
resumption of the sitting. He asked the full
name of the younger foreigner.

*' Christmas Carol," was the reply.

" I knew it ! I knew it ! Mr. President,"
shouted a voice from the back part of the
platform. And there could be seen strug-
gling to the front the venerable figure of one
of our most successful, and therefore deser-

BY AND BY. 2ot

vedly respected, citizens, well known in con-
nection with the diamond trade.

" I knew it, Mr. President,'' he cried, '' the
'moment I saw Mr. Greathead, the aeronaut.
To my knowledge, those jewels were in his
possession nearly twenty-one years ago,
having been long previously spirited away
from Bornou, and lost in the great volcano of
the Pacific. I myself was the agent of their
sale to the Court of Soudan, at the time of
the late Emperor's coronation. I ask now^
by what devil's magic they have again come
to light, and in the possession of this youth ?"

" Do you dispute his right and title to
them ?" asked the President, with a curious

** It is for me to do that, if anybody may,''
interposed the Prince.

''And do you dispute it ?" asked the Presi-
dent, w4th the same perplexing expression on
his face.

" I am too much in the dark to affirm or
dispute anything," he replied.

Here the young stranger rose, and said
that he thought they were rather wandering
from the main question. It was necessary

202 BY AND BY.

for the Prince to start Avith himself and friend
without delay, if he was to redeem the pledge
which had been oriven on his behalf to the
people of Bornou. It was important, more-
over, that his return should have the benefit
of the distinction which the presence and
homage of the Federal expedition would give
it. He added that the circumstance that the
people believed the Prince to be at that
moment actually in the country, and living as
a voluntary hostage with the commander of
the expedition, made any delay most perilous
to his chances. So that, whether the Com-
mittee acceeded to his wishes or not, it was
better for him to go at once than to wait.

This was a new complication, and after
listening to some suggestions of his colleagues,
the President, still with an undefinable ex-
pression, but with a manner full of suavity,
enquired of Carol how the people of Bornou
came to labour under such a delusion.

"In the conference which I held with
them," replied the witness, " they took me
for him, and insisted that I was the Prince."

The singularity of the President's reply to
this answer, added to the peculiarity of his

BY AND BY. 203

manner, produced at first the impression that
his mind was still affected by his recent

*' It is clear then," he said, " that you
might return and personate the Prince, and
occupy the throne as Emperor, without
suspicion or risk. We can see for ourselves
the resemblance of which you speak. It is
as close as could well subsist even between
nearly-related members of the same family.
For my part, and I have every reason to feel
secure of the assent of my colleagues, I am
ready to grant the terms asked of us, pro-
vided you yourself occupy the throne of
Soudan. You evidently have all the mental
requisites for such a position, and the strange
fatality which has once more put you in pos-
session of the sacred gems, marks you out
for the post whose previous occupants have
been so ready to abandon it at the first sign
of danger."

It was not the first time during this re-
markable conference that the prevailing senti-
ment had been one of profound astonishment.
But it was the first time that an expression of
surprise had been suffered to invade the self-

304 BY AND BY.

possession of the young Englishman. His
voice, when at length he recovered himself
sufficiently to speak, betrayed yet another
feeling than that of surprise ; for he spoke in
tones of anger and indignation, demanding of
the President, —

"■ Do you, sir, when you counsel me to a
course of treachery and dishonour, really
know to whom you are speaking ?"

" I know that you are worthy of a king-
dom, both by merit and by station. Why
refuse to be a king ?"

The interest with which this strange col-
loquy was listened to, was of the most intense
description. Even those who had deemed
the President's mind affected, thought they
now discerned a sound meaning beneath his
words. Whatever their meaning was, they
evidently did not strike the young English-
man as irrational or incoherent. Faintly and
slowly, yet with intense distinctness, he at
length said, —

" No kingdom of this world possesses at-
tractions for me. To no spot of earth do I
care to be tied. My life and interest lie
yonder," and he pointed upwards, in manifest

BV AND BY. 205

allusion to his passion for atmospheric yacht-
ing. " Why tempt me thus ?'*

A haggard look came over the face of the
President. He shook like one in a palsy,
and his voice was harsh and hoarse as he
essayed to reply. He commenced a sentence
and then broke off, and commenced another of
different purport. At length he said, —

" Am I to understand that you finally and
decidedly refuse to avail yourself of the
chance I have put before you ?"

Instead of answering this query, Carol
turned to the Prince, who sat lost in amaze-
ment as to what it all could mean. The
Prince rose at his look ; when Carol, grasp-
ing one of his hands with one of his own,
and throwing the other round his neck,
cried, —

" Fear not, my Cousin ! It is not I who
will supplant you."

At this arose questionings as to who this
could be that thus claimed close kindred with
the best blood of Israel. It was while the
two young men, looking so marvellously like
each other that none could have told them
apart, gazed into each other's faces — the

2o6 BY AND BY.

Prince evidently bewildered, as at a revela-
tion he could not all at once comprehend —
that the President, demanding silence, said —

'' Christmas Carol, now that you positively
refuse to entertain my suggestion, I will
answer your question why I tempted you
thus. It is because I am your father ! And,
being your father, partake the enmity which
your mother's branch of the family bore to
the branch reigning in Soudan. I have
sworn that so long as that branch occupied
the throne in which it supplanted ours, Israel
should deal usuriously with its people. I
would see my son Emperor — that son, who
by belonging to the elder branch, is the true
and rightful heir. Tell me, has my revela-
tion taken you by surprise ?"

*' I knew all, save that you were my

'' When did you obtain your information ?"

" Last night, from the documents I found
in my grandfather s houses in Damascus and
the Lebanon. I learnt too, what yonder
diamond merchant will be interested in
knowing, — how the crown jewels were saved
from the crater of Kilauea. The Californian

BV AND BY. 207

sovereign carried them In a belt upon his
person. His confidential agent and minister
was no other than my grandfather himself,
who had obtained possession of them before
his exile from Soudan, and sold them to him.
He accompanied the Emperor of the North
Pacific in his flight ; and seeing them on the
point of being lost when the Emperor fell
into the volcano, he darted after him in order
to rescue, not the man, but the jewels, and
this at the imminent risk of his own life.
And he succeeded ; for he grappled with the
falling monarch, and as they rushed down-
ward through the air together, tore the sacred
gems from his person, and then let go to save
himself, while the king pursued his downward
career, and was lost in the fiery gulf. This
have I learnt from my grandfather's papers."
Here a private but animated conversation
occurred in a group in which we recognised
several of the most distinguished members of
the Stock Exchange and of the Sanhedrim.
They appeared after a little to have come to
an agreement ort some knotty point, for the
venerable chief of the Sanhedrim came for-
ward, and addressing the Court, said that while

2o8 BY AND BY.

in all matters affecting the foreign policy of the
nation they deferred to the authority of the
Stock Exchange, it devolved upon him as
chief of the home and local government to
put certain questions to the young gentleman
respecting whom such remarkable revelations
had just been made.

" And first," he said, " I have to enquire
precisely respecting the gems composing the
sacred Talisman of Solomon. Whom do you,
sir, consider the lawful proprietor at this
moment ?"

" Myself, undoubtedly," replied Mr. Carol,
(who will forgive us for not encumbering our
present narrative with his newly-discovered
titles of honour). " Myself, undoubtedly.
But I consider that I hold them in trust for
the future Emperor of Soudan."

The old man shook his head and smiled

'* There is a want of legal precision in your
language. Not that this detracts from your
merits, my dear Prince, as a prince, if you
will allow me to be the first so to call you.
If you hold them in trust for another, they
are not your own. May I ask you to

BY AND BY. 209

define your title to them more pre-
cisely ?"

" I consider that I have four distinct
grounds of ownership," replied the young
man. "■ First, I inherit them from my grand-
father, to whose property there is no joint or
rival claimant. Secondly, they were found
on an iceberg, when otherwise they were
hopelessly lost, and settled on me as a free
gift by the finder, my beloved foster-father
and guardian here, Bertie Greathead. Thirdly,
they are mine by right of a clause inserted in
the bill of sale by which they were transferred
to the late Emperor, a clause reserving to me
the right of repurchasing them within one
year of my coming of age."

" You are a better lawyer than I was giving
you credit for being," interrupted his interro-
gator, " though you have failed to perceive
that all this depends upon the validity of your
grandfather's title. But, my dear sir, are you
aware that few men, even in Jerusalem,
possess a fortune sufficient to purchase those
jewels ?"

" I do not lack the means," responded the
young man, with the admirable simplicity of

VOL. II. 14

210 : BY AND BY.

one born to vast fortunes. " And I have yet
another title to them, and one that renders it
unnecessary to rely on my inheritance from
my grandfather. But for me, they had been
lost for ever in the great Sahara. Moreover,
my right to them was recognised by the late
Emperor, both in the fact of his purchasing
them of me at their full value, and his con-
senting to my reclamation of them. His
dying injunctions prove this. At the same
time he commended his son to me. It is at
my option, then, either to restore to him the
jewels, or to give him their equivalent in
money. But for the happy termination of
the revolution which excluded him from the
throne, he would, of course, have preferred
to receive their value."

The Chief of the Sanhedrim here raised his
bent form to its full height, and glancing
round on the assembly as if with conscious
pride in the supreme importance of the words
he was about to utter, said, —

" Then, since these invaluable crown jewels

are your very own, as well as means ample

enough to have purchased them if they had

\ not been so ; and since you are, next to the

BY AND BY. 211

Prince of Abyssinia and Emperor of Soudan,
the sole survivor of a royal race in Israel, I,
on behalf of my brethren of the Sanhedrim,
and the people of Palestine as represented by
a quorum of the Stock Exchange of Jerusalem
here assembled, do invite you to solve the
difficulty which has long operated to the
national disadvantage, and accept the throne
of Syria and the adjoining provinces of Persia,
Arabia, and the Euphrates. You have your-
self proved that the Sacred Talisman of Solo-
mon is your own, by a treble or quadruple
right. The lawful possessor of that talisman
alone Is worthy to sit on the throne of David
and Solomon, ruling the tribes of Israel."

As he concluded, loud acclaims rent the air,
and many a hoary head bowed in thankful-
ness, and many a lip trembling with emotion
uttered the ancient expression of supreme
content, " Now can I depart In peace, having
seen the salvation of Israel."

The Prince of Soudan, however, was
observed to turn very pale, doubtless
thinking that the boasted heirloom of his race
had now In very deed departed from him for


212 BY AND BY.

The first attempt of the new-found Prince
of Israel to reply to this flattering proposal,
was lost in the hubbub of voices congratu-
lating each other on the successful issue to a
long and difficult search ; for, as all the world
knows, it needs but a sovereign worthy to sit
on the throne of Jerusalem, to consolidate a
great eastern empire under Jewish sway.

On essaying a second time to make himself
heard, for none heeded his answer, taking for
granted its affirmative character, the elder
Englishman was observed to say something
as if in remonstrance to the prospective
monarch of the Orient. When, after this, he
obtained a hearing, he said, with becoming
modesty, that a proposition of such magnitude
was one for deliberating upon, for which a
certain time was necessary. Let the meeting
be adjourned, and perhaps on the following
day he would be prepared to communicate
his decision to the authorities.

The Assembly then broke up, without any
resolution being come to respecting the ex-
press object of its meeting, the greater and
nearer event having rendered cool delibera-
tion for the present impossible. We hope in

BY AND BY. 213

our issue of to-morrow evening to commu-
nicate to our readers and the world the great
news that at length '*a king rules in Zion,
and hath gathered the peoples under his
wings," as saith one of our ancient poets.


T was perhaps fortunate that beside
Bertie and the Prince, only one per-
son in the whole assembly caught
the remark which Criss had first
uttered in reply to the proposition last made
to him. That person was the President him-
self, who, fascinated as It were by the presence
of his new-found son, suffered no look or
word of Criss's to escape him. Criss*s ex-
clamation had been to the effect that he
seemed to have lighted upon a congregation
of Judases. It was at Bertie's entreaty that
he abstained from repeating the remark so as
to be heard by all.

As the assembly began to disperse, a mes-
senger approached Criss, and said that the
President earnestly desired his attendance in

£V AND BY. 215

an adjoining chamber. Criss paused but to
hold a few moments' conversation with Bertie
and the Prince, and then went to meet his

" Child of my Zoe !" exclaimed the latter
advancing to embrace him, " the shock of joy
on recognising you just now had well-nigh
killed me. Even yet am I feeble through its
effects. But you still look somewhat coldly
on me. Do you doubt that I am your father ?"

*' I do not doubt it," said Criss, '' though
it was only during the last hour, and by
means of certain relics which I obtained from
the Lebanon, that I have been led to
recognise you. This portrait was carefully
treasured by her. It is evidently the portrait
of yourself"

" Living image of her that you are, with
just a trace of myself and my own Greek
lineaments, behold here the companion pic-
ture to that, the picture of her, which has
never left my breast, even as she has never
vanished from my heart."

And he placed in Criss's hands an exquisite
likeness of the unfortunate Zoe.

Earnestly and tearfully Criss gazed upon

2i6 BY AND BY.

his mother's picture, but he still failed to
respond to his father's demonstrations of
affection. The latter perceived his coldness,
and sought to know the cause.

" You are reproaching me in your mind
for the neglect of which you consider me to
have been guilty in regard to you," he said ;
*^ but believe me, I have sought and sought
in vain to ascertain what had become of my
lost wife and her father. All that I could
ascertain was, that shortly after their ascent
from Damascus, a tremendous hurricane
occurred, and they were never seen again.
You were not born then, you know, though
your birth was expected. As it was, you
must have made your appearance too soon.
Our marriage was a concealed one. Zoe
continued to live with her father, who was
iruly a man to be dreaded, by me as well as
by her ; and we were tortured with anxiety
to keep her condition a secret from him.
Believe me, I do not deserve your reproach
on the score of neglect."

" My father," replied Criss with emotion,
*' you have failed utterly to divine the nature
of the feeling which divides us. I have to

BY AND BY, 217

thank you, and I do thank and bless you,
for having infused into me that admixture
of Greek blood which has saved me from
having a sordid nature, and enabled me to

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 9 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryEdward MaitlandBy and by : an historical romance of the future (Volume 2) → online text (page 9 of 14)