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   Chapter 1 MRS. MERILLIA IS CARRIED TO BED

The Prophet of Berkeley Square By Robert Hichens Characters: 32383

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


The great telescope of the Prophet was carefully adjusted upon its lofty, brass-bound stand in the bow window of Number One Thousand Berkeley Square. It pointed towards the remarkably bright stars which twinkled in the December sky over frosty London, those guardian stars which always seemed to the Prophet to watch with peculiar solicitude over the most respectable neighbourhood in which he resided. The polestar had its eye even now upon the mansion of an adjacent ex-premier, the belt of Orion was not oblivious of a belted earl's cosy red-brick home just opposite, and the house of a certain famous actor and actress close by had been taken by the Great Bear under its special protection.

The Prophet's butler, Mr. Ferdinand-that bulky and veracious gentleman-threw open the latticed windows of the drawing-room and let the cold air rush blithely in. Then he made up the fire carefully, placed a copy of Mr. Malkiel's Almanac, bound in dull pink and silver brocade by Miss Clorinda Dolbrett of the Cromwell Road, upon a small tulip-wood table near the telescope, patted a sofa cushion affectionately on the head, glanced around with the meditative eye of the butler born not made, and quitted the comfortable apartment with a salaried, but soft, footstep.

It was a pleasant chamber, this drawing-room of Number One Thousand. It spoke respectfully of the generations that were past and seemed serenely certain of a comfortable future. There was no too modern uneasiness about it, no trifling, gim-crack furniture constructed to catch the eye and the angles of any one venturing to seek repose upon it, no unmeaning rubbish of ornaments or hectic flummery of second-rate pictures. Above the high oaken mantel-piece was a little pure bust in marble of the Prophet when a small boy. To right and left were pretty miniatures in golden frames of the Prophet's delightfully numerous grandmothers. Here might be seen Mrs. Prothero, the great ship-builder's faithful wife, in blue brocade, and Lady Camptown, who reigned at Bath, in grey tabinet and diamond buckles, when Miss Jane Austen was writing her first romance; Mrs. Susan Burlington, who knew Lord Byron-a remarkable fact-and Lady Sophia Green, who knew her own mind, a fact still more remarkable. The last-named lady wore black with a Roman nose, and the combination was admirably convincing. Here might also be observed Mrs. Stuefitt, Mistress of the Mazurka, and the Lady Jane Follington, of whom George the Second had spoken openly in terms of approbation. She affected plum colour and had eyes like sloes-the fashionable hue in the neat-foot-and-pretty-ankle period. The flames of the fire twinkled brightly over this battalion of deuced fine women, who were all, without one exception, the grandmothers-in various degrees-of the Prophet. When speaking of them, in the highest terms, he never differentiated them by the adjectives great, or great-great. They were all kind and condescending enough to be his grandmothers. For a man of his sensitive, delicate and grateful disposition this was enough. He thought them all quite perfect, and took them all under the protection of his soft and beaming eyes.

Of Mrs. Merillia, the live grandmother with whom he had the great felicity to dwell in Berkeley Square, he seldom said anything in public praise. The incense he offered at her shrine rose, most sweetly perfumed, from his daily life. The hearth of this agreeable and grandmotherly chamber was attractive with dogs, the silver cage beside it with green love-birds. Upon the floor was a heavy, dull-blue carpet over which-as has been intimated-even a butler so heavy as Mr. Ferdinand could go softly. The walls were dressed with a dull blue paper that looked like velvet.

Here and there upon them hung a picture: a landscape of George Morland, lustily English, a Cotman, a Cuyp-cows in twilight-a Reynolds, faded but exquisitely genteel. A lovely little harpsichord-meditating on Scarlatti-stood in one angle, a harp, tied with most delicate ribands of ivory satin powdered with pimpernels, in another. Many waxen candles shed a tender and unostentatious radiance above their careful grease-catchers. Upon pretty tables lay neat books by Fanny Burney, Beatrice Harraden, Mary Wilkins, and Max Beerbohm, also the poems of Lord Byron and of Lord de Tabley. Near the hearth was a sofa on which an emperor might have laid an easy head that wore a crown, and before every low and seductive chair was set a low and seductive footstool.

A grandmother's clock pronounced the hour of ten in a frail and elegant voice as the finely-carved oak door was opened, and the Prophet seriously entered this peaceful room, carrying a copy of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius in his hand.

He was a neatly-made little man of fashionable, even of modish, cut, spare, smart and whimsical, with a clean-shaved, small-featured face, large, shining brown eyes, abundant and slightly-waving brown hair, that could only be parted, with the sweetest sorrow, in the centre of his well-shaped, almost philosophical head, and movements light and temperate as those of a meditative squirrel. Having just dined he was naturally in evening dress, with a butterfly tie, gleaming pumps, and a buttonhole of violets. He shut the door gently, glanced at his nice-looking grandmothers, and, walking forward very quietly and demurely, applied his eye to the telescope, lowering himself slightly by a Sandow exercise, which he had practised before he became a prophet. Having remained in this position of astronomical observation for some minutes, he deviated into the upright, closed the window, and tinkled a small silver bell that stood on the tulip-wood table beside Malkiel's Almanac.

Mr. Ferdinand appeared, looking respectfully buoyant.

"Has Mr. Malkiel sent any reply to my inquiry, Mr. Ferdinand?" asked the Prophet.

"He has not, sir," replied Mr. Ferdinand, sympathetically.

"Did the boy messenger say he delivered my note?"

"He said so, sir, on his Bible oath, sir."

"And do you believe him?"

"Oh, sir!" responded Mr. Ferdinand, in a shocked voice, "surely a London lad would not be found to tell a lie!"

"I hope not, Mr. Ferdinand. Still-did he look a nervous sort of lad?"

"He was a trifle pale, sir, about the gills-but a heart of gold, sir, I feel sure. He wore four medals, sir."

"Four medals! Nevertheless, he may have been frightened to go to Mr. Malkiel's door. That will do, Mr. Ferdinand."

Mr. Ferdinand was about to bow and retire when the Prophet, after a moment of hesitation, added,-

"Stay, Mr. Ferdinand. Mrs. Merillia has gone to the Gaiety Theatre to-night. I expect her back at half-past eleven. She may need assistance on her return."

"Assistance, sir! Mrs. Merillia, sir!"

Mr. Ferdinand's luminous eyes shone with amazement.

"She may-I say she may-have to be carried to bed."

Mr. Ferdinand's jaw dropped. He gave at the knees and was obliged to cling to a Chippendale cabinet for support.

"Have an armchair ready in the hall in case of necessity and tell Gustavus to sit up. Mrs. Merillia must not be dropped. You understand. That will do, Mr. Ferdinand."

Mr. Ferdinand endeavoured to bow, and ultimately succeeded in retiring. When his tremulous shoulders were no longer visible, the Prophet opened Marcus Aurelius, and, seating himself in a corner of the big couch by the fire, crossed his legs one over the other and began to read that timid Ancient's consolatory, but unconvincing, remarks. Occasionally he paused, however, murmured doubtfully, "Will she have to be carried to bed?" shook his head mournfully and then resumed his reading.

While he thus employs his time, we must say a word or two about him.

Mr. Hennessey Vivian was now a man of thirty-eight, of excellent fortune, of fine connections, and of admirable disposition. He had become an orphan as soon as it was in his power to do so, having lost his father-Captain Vivian of Her Majesty's Tenth Lancers-some months before, and his mother-who had been a Merillia of Chipping Sudbury-a few minutes after his birth. In these unfortunate circumstances, over which he, poor infant, had absolutely no control-whatever unkind people might say!-he devolved upon his mother's mother, the handsome and popular Mrs. Merillia, who assumed his charge with the rosy alacrity characteristic of her in all her undertakings. With her the little Hennessey had passed his infantine years, blowing happy bubbles, presiding over the voyages of his own private Noah-from the Army and Navy Stores, with two hundred animals of both sexes!-eating pap prepared by Mrs. Merillia's own chef, and sleeping in a cot hung with sunny silk that might have curtained Venus or have shaken about Aurora as she rose in the first morning of the world. From her he had acquired the alphabet and many a ginger-nut and decorative bonbon. And from her, too, he had set forth, with tears, in his new Eton jacket and broad white collar, to go to Mr. Chapman's preparatory school for little boys at Slough. Here he remained for several years, acquiring a respect for the poet Gray and a love of Slough peppermint that could only cease with life. Here too he made friends with Robert Green, son of Lord Churchmore, who was afterwards to be a certain influence in his life. His existence at Slough was happy. Indeed, so great was his affection for the place that his removal to Eton cost him suffering scarcely less acute than that which presently attended his departure from Eton to Christchurch. Over his sensations on leaving Oxford we prefer to draw a veil, only saying that his last outlook-as an undergraduate-over her immemorial towers was as hazy as the average Cabinet Minister's outlook over the events of the day and the desires of the community.

But if the moisture of the Prophet did him credit at that painful period of his life, it must be allowed that his behaviour on being formally introduced into London Society showed no puling regret, no backward longings after echoing colleges, lost dons and the scouts that are no more. He was quite at his ease, and displayed none of the high-pitched contempt of Piccadilly that is often so amusingly characteristic of the young gentlemen accustomed to "the High."

Mrs. Merillia, who had been a widow ever since she could remember, possessed the lease of the house in Berkeley Square in which the Prophet was now sitting. It was an excellent mansion, with everything comfortable about it, a duke on one side, a Chancellor of the Exchequer on the other, electric light, several bathrooms and the gramophone. There was never any question of the Prophet setting up house by himself. On leaving Oxford he joined his ample fortune to Mrs. Merillia's as a matter of course, and they settled down together with the greatest alacrity and hopefulness. Nor were their pleasant relations once disturbed during the fifteen years that elapsed before the Prophet applied his eye to the telescope in the bow window and gave Mr. Ferdinand the instructions which have just been recorded.

These fifteen years had not gone by without leaving their mark upon our hero. He had done several things during their passage. For instance, he had written a play, very nearly proposed to the third daughter of a London clergyman and twice been to the Derby. Such events had, not unnaturally, had their effect upon the formation of his character and even upon the expression of his intelligent face. The writing of the play-and, perhaps, its refusal by all the actor-managers of the town-had traced a tiny line at each corner of his mobile mouth. The third daughter of the London clergyman-his sentiment for her-had taught his hand the slightly episcopal gesture which was so admired at the Lambeth Palace Garden Party in the summer of 1892. And the great race meeting was responsible for the rather tight trousers and the gentleman-jockey smile which he was wont to assume when he set out for a canter in the Row. From all this it will be guessed that our Prophet was exceedingly amenable to the influences that throng at the heels of the human destiny. Indeed, he was. And some few months before this story opens it came about that he encountered a gentleman who was, in fact, the primary cause of this story being true. Who was this gentleman? you will say. Sir Tiglath Butt, the great astronomer, Correspondent of the Institute of France, Member of the Royal College of Science, Demonstrator of Astronomical Physics, author of the pamphlet, "Star-Gazers," and the brochure, "An investigation into the psychical condition of those who see stars," C.B.F.R.S. and popular member of the Colley Cibber Club in Long Acre.

The Prophet was introduced to Sir Tiglath at the Colley Cibber Club, and though Sir Tiglath, who was of a freakish disposition and much addicted to his joke declined to speak to him, on the ground that he (Sir Tiglath) had lost his voice and was unlikely to find it in conversation, the Prophet was greatly impressed by the astronomer's enormous brick-red face, round body, turned legs, eyes like marbles, and capacity for drinking port-wine-so much so, in fact that, on leaving the club, he hastened to buy a science primer on astronomy, and devoted himself for several days to a minute investigation of the Milky Way.

As there is a fascination of the earth, so is there a fascination of the heavens. Along the dim, empurpled highways that lead from star to star, from meteorite to comet, the imagination travels wakefully by night, and the heart leaps as it draws near to the silver bosses of the moon. Mrs. Merillia was soon obliged to permit the intrusion of a gigantic telescope into her pretty drawing-room, and found herself expected to converse at the dinner-table on the eight moons of Saturn, the belts of Jupiter, the asteroids of Mars and the phases of Venus. These last she at first declined to discuss with a man, even though he were her grandson. But she was won over by the Prophet's innocent persuasiveness, and drawn on until she spoke almost as readily of the movements of the stars as formerly she had spoken of the movements of the Court from Windsor to London, and from London to Balmoral. In truth, she expected that Hennessey's passion for the comets would cease as had ceased his passion for the clergyman's daughter; that his ardour for astronomy would die as had died his ardour for play-writing; that he would give up going to Corona Borealis and to the Southern Fish as he had given up going to the Derby. Time proved her wrong. As the days flew Hennessey became increasingly impassioned. He was more often at the telescope than at the Bachelors', and seemed on the way to become almost as gibbous as the planet Mars. Even he slightly neglected his social duties; and on one terrible occasion forgot that he was engaged to dine at Cambridge House because he was assisting at a transit of Mercury.

Now all this began to weigh upon the mind of Mrs. Merillia, despite the amazing cheerfulness of disposition which she had inherited from two long lines of confirmed optimists-her ancestors on the paternal and maternal sides. She did not know how to brood, but, if she had, she might well have been led to do so. And even as it was she had been reduced to so unusual a condition of dejection that, a week before the evening we are describing, she had been obliged to order a box at the Gaiety Theatre, she, who, like all optimists, habitually frequented those playhouses where she could behold gloomy tragedies, awful melodramas, or those ironic pieces called farces, in which the ultimate misery of which human nature is capable is drawn to its farthest point.

In the beginning of this new dejection of hers, Mrs. Merillia was now seated in a stage box at the "Gaiety," with an elderly General of Life Guards, a Mistress of the Robes, and the grandfather of the Central American Ambassador at the Court of St. James, and all four of them were smiling at a neat little low comedian, who was singing, without any voice and with the utmost precision, a pathetic romance entitled, "De Coon Wot Got de Chuck."

Meanwhile the Prophet was engaged fo

r the twentieth time in considering whether Mrs. Merillia, on her return from this festival, would have to be carried to bed by hired menials.

Why?

This brings us to the great turning point in our hero's life, to the point when first he began to respect the strange powers stirring within him.

Until he encountered Sir Tiglath Butt in the dining-room of the Colley Cibber Club Hennessey had been but a dilettante fellow. He had written a play, but airily, and without the twenty years of arduous and persistent study declared by the dramatic critics to be absolutely necessary before any intelligent man can learn how to get a bishop on, or a chambermaid off, the stage. He had nearly proposed to a clergyman's daughter, but thoughtlessly, and without any previous examination into the clericalism of rectory females, any first-hand knowledge of mothers' meetings, devoid of which he must be a stout-hearted gentleman who would rush in where even curates often fear to tread. He had been to the Derby, but without wearing a bottle-green veil or carrying a betting-book. In fact, he had not taken life very seriously, or fully appreciated the solemn duties it brings to all who bear its yoke. Only when the plump red hand of Sir Tiglath-holding a bumper of thirty-four port-pointed the way to the heavens, did Hennessey begin-through his telescope-to see the great possibilities that foot it about the existence of even the meanest man who eats, drinks and suffers. For through his telescope he saw that he might be a prophet. Malkiel read the future in the stars. Why not he?

He endeavoured to do so. He sought an intimacy with the benefic Jupiter, and found it-perhaps by a secret kowtowing to Sagittarius. He made up openly to Canis Major and was shortly on what might almost be considered terms of affection with Venus. And he was, moreover, presently quite fearless in the presence of Saturn, quite unabashed beneath the glittering eye of Mercury. Then, as the neophyte growing bold by familiarity with the circle of the great ones, he ventured on his first prophecy, a discreet and even humble forecast of the weather. He predicted a heavy fall of snow for a certain evening, and so distrusted his own prediction that when the evening came, mild and benign, he sallied forth to the Empire Palace of Varieties, and stayed till near midnight, laughing at the sallies of French clowns, and applauding the frail antics of cockatoos on motor bicycles. When, on the stroke of twelve, he came airily forth wrapped in the lightest of dust coats, he was obliged to endure the greatest of man's amazements-the knowledge that there was a well of truth within him. Leicester Square was swathed in an ivory fleece, and he was obliged to gain Berkeley Square on foot, treading gingerly in pumps, escorted by linkmen with flaring golden torches, and preceded by tipsy but assiduous ruffians armed with shovels, who, with many a lusty oath and horrid imprecation, cleared a thin thread of path between the towering walls of snow that sparkled faintly in the gaslight.

This experience fired him. He rose up early, lay down late, and, quite with her assent, cast the horoscope of Mrs. Merillia in the sweat of his brow. He cast, we say, her horoscope and, from a certain conjunction of the planets, he gathered, to his horror, that upon the fifteenth day of the month of January she would suffer an accident while on an evening jaunt. We find him now, on this fifteenth day of the first month, aware of his revered grandmother's intrepid expedition to the Gaiety Theatre, waiting her return to Berkeley Square with mingled feelings which we might analyse for pages, but which we prefer baldly to state.

He longed to be proved indeed a prophet, and he longed also to see his beloved relative return from her sheaf of pleasures in the free and unconstrained use of all her graceful limbs. He was, therefore, torn by foes in a mental conflict, and was in no case to sip the philosophic honey of Marcus Aurelius as he sat between the telescope and the fire in the comfortable drawing-room awaiting his grandmother's return.

"Gustavus," said Mr. Ferdinand in the servants' hall to the flushed footman who lay upon a what-not, sipping a glass of ale and reading a new and unabridged farthing edition of Carlyle's French Revolution, "Gustavus, Mrs. Merillia has been and gone to the Gaiety Theatre to-night. We expect her back at eleven-thirty sharp. She may need assistance on her return, Gustavus."

The footman put down the tumbler which he was in the act of raising to his pouted lips.

"Assistance, Mr. Ferdinand!" he ejaculated. "Mrs. Merillia, Mr. Ferdinand!"

"She may-we say she may-have to be carried to bed, Gustavus."

Gustavus's jaw dropped, and the French Revolution fluttered in his startled hands.

"Good lawks, Mr. Ferdinand!" he exclaimed (not quoting from Carlyle).

"Have an armchair ready in the hall, Gustavus. Mrs. Merillia must not be dropped. You understand? That will do, Gustavus."

And Mr. Ferdinand passed to the adjacent supper-table, to join the upper housemaid in a discussion of two subjects that were very near to their hearts, a round of beef and a tureen of pickled cabbage, while Gustavus got up from the what-not in a bemused manner, and proceeded to search dreamily for an armchair. He came upon one by chance in the dining-room, and wheeled it out into the hall just as the clocks in the house rang out the half-hour after eleven.

The Prophet above sprang up from the couch by the fire, Mr. Ferdinand below closed his discussion with the upper housemaid, and the former rapidly came down, the latter up, stairs as the roll of wheels broke through the silence of the square.

Gustavus, in an attitude of bridled curiosity, was posed beneath a polar bear that held an electric lamp. His hand was laid upon the back of the armchair, and his round hazel eyes were turned expectantly towards the hall as his two masters joined him.

"Is all ready, Mr. Ferdinand?" said the Prophet, anxiously.

"All is ready, sir," replied the butler.

"Wheel the chair forward, Gustavus, if you please," said the Prophet. "Mrs. Merillia must not be dropped. Remember that."

"Not be dropped, sir-no."

The chair ran forward on its amicable castors as a carriage was heard to stop outside. Mr. Ferdinand flung open the portal, and the Prophet glided out excitedly upon the step.

"Well?" he cried, "well?"

A footman, in a long drab coat with red facings, was preparing to get off the box of a smart brougham, but before he could reach the pavement, a charming head, covered with a lace cap, was thrust out of the window, and a musical and almost girlish voice cried,-

"All nonsense, Hennessey, all rubbish! Saturn don't know what he's talkin' about. Look!"

The carriage door was vivaciously opened from the inside and a delightful little old lady, dressed in brown silk, with a long, cheerful pointed nose, rosy cheeks, and chestnut hair-that almost mightn't have been a wig in certain lights-prepared to leap forth without waiting for the reverent assistance that the Prophet, flanked by Mr. Ferdinand and Gustavus, was in waiting to afford.

As she jumped, she began to cry, "Not much wrong with me, is there, Hennessey?" but before the sentence was completed she had caught her neat foot in her brown silk gown, had stumbled from the step of the carriage to the pavement, had twisted her pretty ankle, had reeled and almost fallen, had been caught by the Prophet and Mr. Ferdinand, borne tenderly into the hall, and placed in the armchair which the terrified Gustavus, with almost enraged ardour, drove forward to receive her. As she sank down in it, helpless, Mrs. Merillia exclaimed, with unabated vivacity,-

"It's happened, Hennessey, it's happened! But it was my own doin' and yours. You shouldn't have prophesied at your age, and I shouldn't have jumped at mine.

"Dearest grannie!" cried the Prophet, on his knees beside her, "how grieved, how shocked I am! Is it-is it-"

"Sprained, Hennessey?"

He nodded. Mechanically Mr. Ferdinand nodded. Gustavus let his powdered head drop, too, in imitation of his superiors.

"I'll tell you in the drawin'-room."

She placed her pretty, mittened hands upon the arms of the chair, and gave a little wriggle, trying to get up. Then she cried out musically,-

"No, I must be carried up. Mr. Ferdinand!"

"Ma'am!"

"Is Gustavus to be trusted?"

"Trusted, ma'am!" cried Mr. Ferdinand, looking at Gustavus, who had assumed an expression of pale and pathetic dignity. "Trusted-a London footman! Oh, ma'am!"

His voice failed. He choked and began to rummage in the pocket of his black tail coat for his perfumed handkerchief.

"T'st, t'st! I mean his arms," said Mrs. Merillia, patting her delicate hands quickly on the chair. "Can he carry me?"

The countenance of Mr. Ferdinand cleared, while Gustavus eagerly extended his right arm, bent it sharply, and allowed his magnificent biceps to rise up in sudden majesty. Mrs. Merillia was reassured.

"Hoist me to the drawin'-room, then," she said. "Hennessey, will you walk behind?"

The procession was formed, and the little old lady proceeded by a succession of jerks to the upper floor, her silk gown rustling against the balusters, and her tiny feet dangling loosely in mid-air, while her long and elegant head nodded each time Mr. Ferdinand and Gustavus pranced carefully sideways to a higher step. The Prophet followed solicitously behind, with hands outstretched to check any dangerous recoil. His face was very grave, but not entirely unhappy.

"Set me down by the fire," said Mrs. Merillia, when she found herself being smoothly propelled through the atmosphere of the drawing-room.

The menials obeyed with breathless assiduity.

"And now bring me a sandwich, a glass of toast and water and a fan, if you please. Yes, put the footstool well under me."

"Dearest grannie," said the Prophet, when the men had retired, "are you in great pain?"

"No, Hennessey. Are you?"

Mrs. Merillia's green eyes twinkled.

"I!"

"Yes, at my accident. For my ankle is sprained, I'm almost sure, and I shall have to lie up presently in wet bandages. Tell me, are you really pained that I have had the accident you prophesied?"

She glanced from her grandson to the telescope that pointed toward the stars and back again.

"I am, indeed, sincerely grieved," the Prophet answered with genuine emotion.

"Yes. But if I'd jumped out all right, and was sittin' here now in a perfect condition of health, you'd have been sincerely grieved, too."

"I hope not, grannie," said the Prophet. But he looked meditative.

Mr. Ferdinand brought the toast and water, the sandwich and the fan. When he had trodden across the carpet out of the room Mrs. Merillia continued,-

"Hennessey, you see where this prophetic business is leadin' you. It has made you charmed at my accident. Yes, it has."

She spoke without any pathos, humorously indeed, in a bright tone full of common sense. And she nodded at him over her toast and water with a chaffing, demure smile. But the Prophet winced and put his hand to his thick brown hair.

"No, no," he cried quickly. "That's impossible. It can't be." But the statements sounded like perturbed questions.

"Think!" said his grandmother, looking down at her poor, helpless foot as it lay on the velvet stool. "If I hadn't had an accident to-night, you'd have been obliged to think ill of-of-which of them was it that had the impertinence to talk my affairs over with you?"

"Mercury and Uranus, Jupiter, Saturn and Venus," said the Prophet with almost terrible gravity.

"Exactly. I always have thought ill of the last, but that's nothin' to do with it. Weigh me in the balance against five planets-are they all planets?-and how do the scales go? You see, Hennessey!"

The Prophet looked much distressed. He saw his beloved grandmother by the fire and the bright stars twinkling through the frosty window-panes. He thought of his telescope, of Sir Tiglath, of Mr. Malkiel, and of the future, and the velvety blue walls of the drawing-room seemed to spin round him.

"Prophecy," continued Mrs. Merillia, fanning herself till the lace lappets of her priceless cap fluttered above her orderly and clasping wig, "is dangerous, for often it can cause its own fulfilment. If you hadn't said that because of a certain conjunction of planets-or whatever it was-in my horoscope, I should have an accident to-night, I shouldn't have jumped out of the brougham. I should have waited for Mr. Ferdinand to assist me, as befits a gentlewoman."

"But, grannie, I assure you I was most anxious to save you. I hoped I had made a mistake in your horoscope. I did, really. I was so nervous that I sent to Mr. Malkiel while you were at the theatre and implored him to look into the matter as an expert."

"Mr. Malkiel! Who is he? Do we know him?"

"No. But we know his marvellous Almanac."

"The Almanac person! Why, Malkiel is surely a myth, Hennessey, a number of people, a company, a syndicate, or something of that kind."

"So I thought, grannie. But I have made inquiries-through a detective agency-and I have discovered that he is one person; in fact, a man, just like you and me."

"Rather an odd man then! Is he in the Red Book?"

"No. He is, I understand, of a very retiring and secretive disposition. In fact, I have had great difficulty in learning anything about him. But at length I have discovered that he receives and answers letters at an address in London."

"Indeed. Where is it?"

"Jellybrand's Library, Eleven Hundred Z, Shaftesbury Avenue. I sent a boy messenger there to-day."

"Did you receive a reply?"

"No. I think the boy-although Mr. Ferdinand tells me he wore four medals, I presume for courage-must have become nervous on perceiving Mr. Malkiel's name on the envelope, have thrown the note down a grating, and bolted before he reached the place, though he said-on his Bible oath, I understand from Mr. Ferdinand-he delivered the note. In any case I got no answer. How are you feeling?"

"Twisted, but prophetic. I foretell that my ankle will be swelled beyond recognition to-morrow. Help me to bed, Hennessey."

The Prophet flew to his dear relative's assistance, and Mrs. Merillia endeavoured to rise and to lean upon his anxious arm. After a struggle, however, in which the Prophet took part and two chairs were overset, she was obliged to desist.

"You must ring the bell, Hennessey," she said. "Mr. Ferdinand and Gustavus must carry me to bed in the chair."

The Prophet sprang tragically to the bell. It was answered. The procession was re-formed, and Mrs. Merillia was carried to bed, still smiling, nodding at each stair and bearing herself with admirable courage.

As Mr. Ferdinand and Gustavus descended to the basement after the completion of their unusual task, the latter said solemnly,-

"However should master have come to know as the missis wouldn't be able to put foot to floor this night, Mr. Ferdinand? However?"

"I cannot answer you, Gustavus," Mr. Ferdinand replied, shaking his broad and globe-like head, round whose bald cupola the jet-black hair was brushed in two half moons decorated with a renowned "butler's own special pomade."

"Well, Mr. Ferdinand," rejoined Gustavus, stretching out one hand for pale ale, the other for French Revolution, "I don't like it."

"Why, Gustavus?" inquired Mr. Ferdinand, preparing to resume his discussion with the accommodating upper housemaid. "Why?"

"Because it seems strange like, Mr. Ferdinand," said Gustavus, lifting the glass to his lips, the French Revolution to his eyes.

"It do seem strange, Gustavus," answered Mr. Ferdinand, leaving out the "like" in a cultivated manner. "It do."

In the drawing-room the Prophet stood, with clenched hands, gazing through the telescope at Mercury and Uranus, Jupiter, Saturn and Venus, while, on the second floor, Mrs. Fancy Quinglet, Mrs. Merillia's devoted, but occasionally disconcerting, maid, swathed her mistress's ankle in bandages previously steeped in cold water and in vinegar.

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