Joseph Hatton.

By order of the Czar : a novel online

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fish hopes. Am leaving by tlie Paris mail to-night.
Shall go through to Milan and straight on to Venice.
Wire me to Grand Hotel, Milan. Hope there is no mis*
take about your message. Sincere regards.


The nearest telegraph office was at Burlington House.
Sam had jostled several persons in Piccadilly on his way
to it. An old gentleman called him a " bear." " Not
always," said Sam to himself. " Sometimes a bull, but
always the right animal, fortunately j hope I'm going to
reverse the old proverb about luck in love ; though my luck
is not at cards, they say the Stock Exchange is as bad as
cards. Am I really going to be lucky in love as well ? "

All kinds of romantic hopes went rattling through his

nrflin flQ


seem to have time to call a cab, and then the distance was
so short. Besides, he did not want to speak to anyone
but himself. He handed in his message, paid for the
stamps, stuck them upon the form with the greatest care,
and waited until he saw the despatch on the operator's

At twenty minutes to nine to the second, the brougham
was at the door. The luggage was inside and out.

" Too much luggage," said Sam in an interrogative
fashion and somewhat fidgetty.

" Think not, sir."

" I can send for more clothes if I want them."

"Yes, sir."

* Will your assistant know what to send ? "

" Yes, sir."

" Don't quite know what I'm going to do, or how long I
shall be away. "

" Have arranged accordingly, sir."

"You have."

" Yes, sir."

" That's all right. Don't want to be bothered."

" No, sir."

" Wire for cabin on board the boat."

" Yes, sir."

" And for special compartment from Calais."

" Yes, sir."

" Get one at Charing Cross to Dover if you can."

" Yes, sir."

Devereux accomplished everything as Sam desired. He
always did. His silver and golden keys opened locks and
hearts. And Devereux was just as generous in using
Sam's money as the master was himself.

The boat was not crowded. Sam found a fairly com-
fortable cabin. But he paced the deck from start to landing.
It was a starlight night. He built castles up in the clouds.


Not only built them but furnished them. His principal
castle was a pretty detached house at Kensington. It had
stables, a garden, and was decorated under the personal
direction of Dolly Norcott, Jenny and himself. They spent
most of the spring months in finding it and putting it in
order. Before the season was over they were married at
St. George's, Hanover Square. All this was pleasant
dreaming. Of course the breakfast would take place at
Westbury Lodge ; that is if they had a breakfast. Proba-
bly Mrs. Milbanke would prefer the new fashion of an
afternoon wedding and an evening reception ; or rather
was it evening or afternoon ; he forgot which ; but it was
" the swell thing" he thought now not to have breakfast.

The night was very calm. Sam smoked. So did Deve-
reux. The servant, however, kept clear of the master.
He was one of those perfect retainers who know exactly
when to be on hand and when not. Devereux had not
read the telegram from Venice, but he had come to the
conclusion that the expedition was one of a very personal
character. He knew it was not a business trip. He knew
it was not one of pleasure apart from the Milbankes. He
knew that his master had no real pleasure outside that par-
ticular family. He knew his master was in love with Miss
Norcott. He knew of the engagement of that young lady
to his master's rival. He knew she had gone to Italy with
her sister and brother-in-law. He knew that Mr. Philip
Forsyth was traveling in their company. All London
knew that the rising young student son of Lady Forsyth
had gone to paint in Venice, and all the section of London
which read the Morning Post knew that he was engaged to
Miss Norcott, the daughter of the eminent and long since
retired city merchant, and sister-in-law of the wealthy
young city lawyer, Mr. Walter Milbanke. Therefore, De-
vereux was a trifled worried about his master's trip,
although he had quietly said to himself that he should not


wonder " if Samuel Swynford, Esquire, did not come out
trumps in that affair yet."

It was not Sam's lot to engage in any adventure on his
way to Milan. He met no fascinating beauty en route.
Had he done so he would have compared her so much to
her disadvantage with Dolly Norcott that she would not
have stirred his imagination even into a desire for a flirtation.
Moreover, he had no mysterious attachment, as Philip For-
syth had, when that gallant had renewed his acquaintance
with the countess at Victoria Station. Sam was as true to his
ideal Dolly as if she had never snubbed him, as if she had
never warned him they could not be any nearer than friends,
as if indeed she had not been engaged to his rival. He was
a curious mixture, this prosperous young man of business.
The secret of Sam's success on the Stock Exchange lay in
his never losing his head, as his friends said. And yet,
contemplating him in the midst of his city work, you might
have doubted the truth of this judgment. Cordiner said
of him :

" Sam Swynford is an enthusiast ; it isn't excitement, the
apparent nervousness you think you detect in him when
he is doing a big thing ; it is the enthusiasm of the moment,
that's what it is ; the same kind of enthusiasm that gives a
soldier the dash and pluck necessary in a charge ; the
impulse, so to speak, of the moment. But that over, there
is no firmer, no more solid operator than Sam Swynford ;
a young fellow who never wobbles ; is never doubtful about
what is the right thing to do ; doesn't ask advice ; is as
firm as a rock and as hard for ( the time ; though, mind you,
one of the most generous fellows living."

This description of Sam was no doubt correct, and will
account for the quiet, steady, respectful way in which Sam
approached his destiny at Venice,

" I can arrange everything to your satisfaction," he
repeated calmly. " There is only one meaning in those


words. She knows the only thing that can satisfy me. I
told her I had made a heap of money ; I told her why I
had not proposed to Dolly ; I told her that I would have
done so if I had been in the position I then was at Lady
Forsyth's party. What is it ? Have they quarreled ? Has
Dolly rebelled ? Has she discovered that she really does
like me ? We were always such good friends. She treated
me as a sort of tame cat, I must allow ; a kind of poor
relation ; a brother, say. But we were great friends, and
she knew I worshipped her. Perhaps Forsyth thought she
would worship him. A conceited chap, Forsyth ; like all
those fellows who get their bread at the West End instead
of in the city ; like all professional fellows as against
trade and commerce and even banking. If Dolly likes it
I'll be a banker, anything in fact. I have money enough
to leave the city altogether if she wishes it. We shall see.
Perhaps it is some trifling affair after all. Forsyth may be
in difficulties ? Or Mrs. Milbanke may have been specu-
lating ? Or Walter ? No, that is too absurd. There has
been a row. Mrs. Milbanke is a clever woman. She
knows exactly what I feel about Dolly. She is going to
play me off against the painter. Well, let her, I don't mind.
I have thought sometimes that Dolly really likes me as well
as she likes Forsyth. Besides, she is accustomed to
my society. I know what pleases her. Women may
pretend not to care for all sorts of little attentions :
they may profess they don't like too much worship.
I believe if I did not feel such a fool when I am with Dolly
I should have got on better. Why am I such an ass when
I am at the Milbankes' ? It is only when Dolly is there
that I don't feel like myself. Self-consciousness, I sup-
pose. I don't suffer from that folly in the city, nor at the

At intervals along the journey this is how Sam's thoughts
rambled on. It would have been very clear to Cordiner,


if he could have had the smallest clue to Sam's feeling,
that if he did not lose his head he had long since lost his
heart. Let us hope that the worthy young man of stocks
and shares and financial adventure may not have lost it in

When he arrived at Milan he found the following tele-
gram awaiting him :

" Thanks, dear friend no mistake feel that you have
guessed my object aright, your happiness and hers.


Sam smiled as he read and re-read Jenny's message. All
the world seemed new to him. The hotel could not hold
him. He went out into the city. He walked for miles.
He was in no hurry, as it seemed to Sam, to go on. What
had come over him ? Had things gone wrong ? No, he
was convinced that everything was going right.

" Pleasant city this, Devereux."

" Yes, sir."

"Seen the Cathedral? "

"No, sir."

" See it."

"Yes, sir."

" I shall not go on until the morning."

" Very well, sir."

"Want to arrive at Venice at night."

" Yes, sir."

" To-morrow night."

"Yes, sir."

" Shall go and sleep for an hour or two."

"You look tired, sir."

" I am. First train in the morning."

"Yes, sir."

Sam had not slept a wink since he left London. Jenny's
telegram had given him a new spell of wakeful life. But


now that he had built a number of fresh castles in the air,
and with every prospect, as it seemed to him, of their
realization, an exposition of sleep came over him ; and the
man who never lost his head, according to Cordiner (who
never took the heart into consideration), went to bed, and
when he awoke after eight hours he thought he had not
closed his eyes for more than a minute, though he felt won-
derfully refreshed.

Meanwhile the last festal lamps were flickering out in
Venice. Old Time, the scene-shifter, was preparing for
further strange developments of this present drama of love
and vengeance, of comedy incidents and tragic situations.



" THE sooner we leave Venice the better," said Mrs. Mil-
banke to her devoted and genial partner. " Whether Mr.
Forsyth remains or not is of no moment to us : we have
done with Philip Forsyth forever, and I think we are well
out of him."

" I suppose so," said Walter, lighting a cigar, and
looking contemplatively across the lagoon. " I'm not sure,
my dear."

" I think I am."

" It is all very sudden and very different from what we

" It is," said Jenny, taking a seat by his side and casting
her eyes in the same direction, but speaking as if she
were addressing an imaginary Walter somewhere' in the
neighborhood of the Lido."

They were sitting in the open balcony under a pleasant
awning, the sun dancing upon the water beneath them.


and fro, and there was a great air of calm and repose in
the atmosphere, which was in pleasant contrast with the
recent bustle and excitement of the Royal fetes. The
King and Queen had left amidst salvoes of artillery and
braying of trumpets, and whether the Countess Stravensky
had followed in their wake or preceded them, was an open
question upon which Walter could not satisfy his inquiring
spouse. The mysterious disappearance of General Petrono-
vitch was the talk of Venice, and it was half hinted on all
hands that he had gone away to keep some mysterious
rendezvous with the countess. His wife, the Princess
Radna, still remained in Venice, but the courteous
manager of the hotel had informed Mrs. Milbanke that
her Highness had given instructions to her people for
their return to Paris on the morrow.

Walter and Jenny had discussed these incidents of fact
and gossip over breakfast, but without being moved by
them very much either one way or the other, their im-
mediate interest in life at the moment being concentrated
upon Dolly and Sam Swynford. Walter was enjoying his
after-breakfast cigar, and endeavoring to lay out his plans
for the remainder of their Italian trip.

" You see," he continued, still looking across the lagoon
and trying to blow a cloud of smoke after his thoughts,
lt I had made my arrangements for a stay of at least a
month here in Venice ; and indeed have taken these
rooms for that time."

" I know," said Jenny, " but Dolly's plans were of a
much more serious character than that. She had settled,
not for a month, but for life."

" And her scheme still holds good," said Walter, smiling,
" only she has changed her traveling companion."

" Well, and so have we," said Jenny, endeavoring to
drop into Walter's semi-philosophic vein ; " only that our
trip is a summer holiday."

" You think she loves Swynford ? "


" I'm sure she does," said Jenny, " and has loved him
all the time, even when she accepted Mr. Philip Forsyth."

"Then why did she accept him?" asked Walter.

" Now, my dear," said Jenny, with the faintest suspicion
of irritability, " don't let us go over that again. I a"n
quite willing to assume my share of the blame of it, all
the blame, if necessary ; but I thought we had concluded
our little controversy on that point last night. I'm sure
I never slept a wink, what with your reiteration of the
salient points, as you called them, and my thinking of
them over and over again, afterwards. For heaven's sake
let us say no more about responsibilities. Blame me, if
you like, entirely."

" My dear," said Walter, taking her hand affectionately,
still gazing out across the lagoon, " we are both to blame."

" Very well, then," replied Jenny, " there is an end of it.
We have done the right thing at last."

" You really think so ? " said Walter.

" I am sure so," she replied. " Mr. Philip Forsyth
thought more of his art than of Dolly, and finally more of
that intriguing countess than of either his art or Dolly."

" Has the countess really left Venice? " asked Walter.

" No doubt of it," Jenny replied ; " and Philip has not
been seen in this hotel for the last two days."

" You know that his luggage is still here," said Walter.

" Part of it part of it," said Jenny, with some irritation.
" It seems he took away his large portmanteau, and I am
quite sure the porter has some secret understanding about
forwarding the rest after him."

" It is all very strange," said Walter. " If he had said
' good-bye ' left a note sent a telegram done anything
that we might have acted upon, our position would have
been so much more satisfactory."

" His conduct," said Jenny, " is all the more scandalous.
It is evident to me that there was a rivalry between this


wretched General Petronovitch and Philip, a rivalry which
we shall hear more of. The Princess Radna, I am told,
intends to obtain a divorce j she will lay her case before
the Czar himself."

" Does it strike you at all," asked Walter, for the first time
turning towards his wife and neglecting his cigarette, u that
this General Petronovitch may have met with foul play?"

" No ; why should it? This is not ancient Venice.
What foul play could possibly happen to him, except the
foul play that is evidently part of his character ; the foul
play of a reprobate ? "

" And Philip ? " continued Walter, interrogatively ; " you
arc quite satisfied in your own mind that he is under no
restraint, that he left us voluntarily, and is away for his
own wicked purposes ? "

"I only know," Jenny replied, "that his conduct at
the countess' reception was shameful ; that his manner
towards the hostess was that of a weak fool under the
fascinations of a designing woman ; that his withdrawal
from our society the next day, and his appearance with
the Countess Stravensky in her ostentatious gondola,
are a sufficient justification of what we have thought
desirable in the interest of Dolly."

" But you didn't see him, my dear, in the gondola."

"Beppodid," she replied, "and Beppo saw the boat
turn into the little canal,, which has a side entrance into
the palace where she gave her very mixed and Bohemian
reception. ''

" You thought differently of the reception, my dear, when
she invited us, and were tremendously impressed with it
until "

" Philip made a fool of himself," exclaimed Jenny,
interrupting her argumentative lord ; " and why you will
go on repeating a!l this, and come back to it as if we were
discussing it now for the first time, and had not sat up


half the night similarly engaged, I cannot, for the life of
me, understand. Philip deserted us, and practically threw
over Dolly ; we shall not admit this outside our own little
family circle, but that is the fact. Dolly was shamefully
jilted. We only say that, I repeat, to ourselves. Sam
Swynford comes upon the scene ; proposes for Dolly, as
he had intended to do some weeks ago ; is accepted ;
Dolly is happy ; Swynford is a good fellow, and he is
happy; and what in heaven is the matter with you,
Walter ? "

' How came Swynford here at all ? It is that which
puzzles me," said Walter. " If you had been perfectly
frank with me, I don't suppose we should have had these
discussions. You are keeping something back."

Again he turned his face interrogatively upon Jenny.
She pressed his hand and rose to her feet.

" You are always in such a hurry, Walter. I should
have told you all in good time ; and I am sure you will
forgive me now if you compel me to confess before I
meant to. The telegram I sent to my dressmaker was
not to my dressmaker at all ; it was a private message to
Sam Swynford, inspired thereto by our conversation at
Lady Forsyth's, and suggested to him that he should come
to Venice."

" I thought so," said Walter.

" If you thought .so, why didn't you say so ; it would
have spared us so much irritation."

u I am not irritated," said Walter, " and you know I
would spare your feelings in every possible way; your
subterfuge about the dressmaker was unworthy; and it
was unkind also to keep me in the dark."

" I feel it was, dear ; I know if was. I confess it. I
apologize ; my only excuse is that Dolly was with us when
I told the little fib about the message ; I could not, of
course, take her into my confidence ; as for you, dear, I
humbly ask your forgiveness."


She fluiig her arms round her lawful critic, deposited
her head upon his shoulder, and Walter gave her what he
considered to be a triumphant kiss.

" Now then," he said cheerfully, " that's all right. I
forgive you ; we understand each other. I have no doubt
you did the right thing ; I have no doubt Dolly has done
the right thing ; I am sure Sam Swynford has ; and I am
quite sure that Philip Forsyth has behaved shamefully."

" Walter, you are a darling ! " exclaimed his wife, re-
turning his kiss. " And now, what are your plans ? "

" To get out of Venice at once as you proposed," said
Walter ; and, as he said so, they both, by mutual impulse,
left the balcony as if to pack ; but they were both attracted
by the entrance of the manager of the hotel.

" A letter," he said, " very urgent, for Mr. Milbanke."

Walter opened it. It was from Philip Forsyth only a
few lines :

" Forgive me. Accept my abject regrets and apologies. Dolly
will easily forgive me. I am utterly unworthy of her and of your
friendship. Tell her so. We shall probably never meet again. I
have left Venice on a long journey. My conduct on the night of the
Countess Stravensky's reception may explain my change of plans and
life. I feel it due to you to say this. No one need be alarmed as to
my safety. I have written to my mother. If ever you and yours think
of me again, remember me when most I seemed entitled to your respect
and esteem.


<; Thank you," said Walter, turning to the manager.
"" There is no answer."

'' The messenger did not wait," said the manager.

" You have instructions to forward on the remainder of
Mr. Forsyth's baggage ? "

" Yes, sir, it goes to Paris."

*' I am sorry," said Walter, " to tell you that this has
broken up our little party. We shall leave to-morrow for
$Jie lakes and Switzerland ; but we are very much in-


debted to you for your kindness and attention. We shall
pay for your rooms until the end of the term for which I
engaged them, and we shall hope to return next spring
for a long stay in Venice. Any loss that you may have
sustained by our monopoly of the hotel during the fdtes I
shall discharge with pleasure."

tl Monsieur is most generous," said the manager. " I
hold myself at your command." With which the cour-
uous host withdrew, and Walter and his wife returned to
the subject in hand.

' That letter, my dear," said Jenny, " is our justifi-

" Yes," said Walter, "it relieves my mind very con-
siderably. I should have felt troubled about leaving
Venice without having something definite from Forsyth.
Now all we have .to do is to try and forget the disagree-
able part of our journey, to look upon what has happened
as all for the best, and continue our holiday in a cheerful

" We never, my dear Walter, were more unanimous
upon any subject. Where do you propose to go ? "

" I think we might spend a few days at Verona, a week
or two at Belaggio, and then travel quietly through
Switzerland and home by Paris."

" Delightful," said Jenny, as Dolly and Sam Swynford
entered the room. " Don't you think so ? " she said,
addressing Doliy and her new fiance.

" The morning," said Dolly, " or what ? Venice is
certainly lovely. Sam has given me an ice at Florian's,
and I have been feeding the pigeons."

" For sixty seconds," said Sam, cheerily, " I was afraid
the pigeons were going to feed on Dolly. She was
literally in a cloud of feathers. I had positively to rescue


" Not the first rescue," said Dolly, with a fttnk,
affectionate expression in her dancing eyes that compre-
hended the whole group.

" Your sister," said Sam, " is a trifle mysterious or
mischievous don't know which ; both, perhaps. She has
been saying that all the way here, and yet I'm sure the
ice was harmless enough. If it had been punch a la
Romaine well, there, I'll say no more about it, except
between our four selves t-hat this is the happiest moment
of my life."

"There ! " said Dolly, " and you've said that before."

" And on many occasions," said Jenny, merrily. " Wal-
ter always says it when he makes a speech."

" Come to think of it," said Sam, " you are possibly
right. Don't remember that I ever made more than two
or three speeches in my life, and I believe I have always
rung in that convenient expression. But I hope that
doesn't take away from its point to-day. If I had wings
like those pigeons, I think I should just soar right up into
that blue sky and come tumbling down again in very fun,
just as one of the fluffiest of them did after he made the
acquaintance of Dolly."

" I daresay," said Walter. " Have a cigar ? "

" I'll have anything you like, my dear boy."

" Dolly," said Waiter, as she stood there beaming upon
him, " sit down, and don't look so miserable. If you
have any little purchases to make, take a little rest and go
out and make them ; we leave Venice to-morrow."

<( Leave Venice ! " exclaimed Swynford, looking at

" Leave Venice ! " said Dolly, looking at Jenny.

" We are tired of Venice," said Jenny. " But we are
not going home ; don't be afraid. What do you say to
the Lake of Como, Sam ? "

" The Lake of Como," replied S\vynford, " where the
marble palace lifts its something to eternal summer antf


blushes forth in the midst of roses, or what is it? I'm
not good at poetical quotation."

"Quite good enough," said Walter. "That's the

" And a little cottage in a shabby village when we get
there ? " said Swynford.

" By no means," said Walter.

* It was so in the play, you know," said Swynford,
turning to Dolly.

" This is not a play," rejoined Walter, " and we don't
want any of your comedy dialogue, Sam ; only a little of
your common sense."

" All right," said Sam. "Proceed; all my common sense
is at your disposal. Not got much of it, but such as it is
and all I have pray command me."

" Do you propose to give us the pleasure of your
company ? " asked Walter.

" I propose to give myself the pleasure of your com-

" For how long ? " asked Walter.

" Until you're tired of me \ and as regards Dolly, even
a little longer."

" You talked this morning of sending to London for
some luggage."

" I have sent for my Sunday clothes," said Sam,

" To this address ? "

11 To the Hotel Milano."

Online LibraryJoseph HattonBy order of the Czar : a novel → online text (page 24 of 30)