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   Chapter 18 THE SILLY LIFE

The Prophet of Berkeley Square By Robert Hichens Characters: 55067

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


"Call a cab for Sir Tiglath, Mr. Ferdinand," whispered the Prophet-"a four-wheeler with a lame horse. I'll take both Mr. and Madame Sagittarius in the brougham."

"Must the horse be lame, sir?"

"Yes. I absolutely decline to encourage the practice of using good horses in four-wheeled cabs. It's a disgrace to the poor animals. It must be a very lame horse."

"Yes, sir."

And Mr. Ferdinand, standing upon the doorstep, whistled to the night.

Strange to say, in about two minutes there appeared round the corner the very same cabman who had conveyed the Prophet and Lady Enid to the astronomer's on the previous day, driving the very same horse.

"This horse will do admirably," said the Prophet to Mr. Ferdinand.

"He isn't lame, sir."

"P'r'aps not; but he knows how to tumble down. Sir Tiglath, here is a cab for you. We shall go in the brougham. Zoological House, Regent's Park, is the direction. Let me help you in, Madame."

As the Prophet got in to sit bodkin between his old and valued friends, he whispered to the footman,-

"Tell Simkins to drive as fast as possible. We are very late."

The footman touched his hat. Just as the carriage moved off, the Prophet protruded his head from the window, and saw the astronomer rolling into the four-wheeler, the horse of which immediately fell down in a most satisfactory manner.

There was no general conversation in the brougham, but the Prophet, who was obliged to sit partly on Madame, and partly on Mr. Sagittarius and partly on air, occasionally heard in the darkness at his back terrible matrimonial whisperings, whose exact tenor he was unable to catch. Once only he heard Madame say sibilantly and with a vicious click,-

"I might have known what to expect when I married a Prophet-when I passed over the pons asinoribus to give myself to a monstram horrendo."

To this pathetic heart-cry Mr. Sagittarius made a very prolonged answer. The Prophet knew it was prolonged because Mr. Sagittarius always whispered in such a manner as to tickle the nape of his neck. But he could not hear anything except a sound like steam escaping from a small pipe. The steam went on escaping until the brougham passed through a gate, rolled down a declivity, and drew up before an enormous mansion whose windows blazed with light.

"Is this the Zoological Gardens?" inquired Madame in a stern voice. "Is this the habitation of the woman Bridgeman?"

"I suppose this is Zoological House," replied the Prophet, sliding decorously off Madame's left knee in preparation for descent.

"My darling! my love!" said Mr. Sagittarius. "I swear upon the infant head of our Capricornus that Mrs. Bridgeman and I are-"

"Enough!" cried Madame. "Jam satus! Be sure that I will inquire into this matter."

The carriage door was opened and, with some struggling, the Prophet and his two valued friends emerged and speedily found themselves in a very large hall, which was nearly full of very large powdered footmen. In the distance there was the sound of united frivolities, a band of twenty guitars thrumming a wilful seguidilla. Roses bloomed on every side, and beyond the hall they beheld a vision of illuminated vistas, down which vague figures came and went.

Evidently when Mrs. Bridgeman let herself go she let herself go thoroughly.

Mr. Sagittarius gazed about him with awe-struck amazement, but Madame was equal to the occasion. She cast the rabbit-skins imperially to a neighbouring flunkey, arranged her hair and fichu before a glass, kicked out her skirt with the heel of one of the kid boots, nipped the green chiffon into prominence with decisive fingers, and then, turning to the Prophet with all the majesty of a suburban empress, said in a powerful voice,-

"Step forward, I beg. J'ai pret."

The Prophet, thus encouraged, stepped forward towards an aperture that on ordinary days contained a door, but that now contained a stout elderly lady, with henna-dyed hair, a powdered face, black eyebrows and a yellow gown, on which rested a large number of jewelled ornaments that looked like small bombs. At this lady's elbow stood a footman with an exceedingly powerful bass voice, who shouted the names of approaching guests in a manner so uncompromising as to be terrific. Each time he so shouted the stout lady first started and then smiled, the two operations succeeding one another with almost inconceivable rapidity and violence.

"What name, sir?" asked the footman of the Prophet, bending his powdered head till it was only about six feet two inches from the floor.

"Mr. Hennessey Vivian," replied the Prophet, hesitating as to what he should add.

"Mr. Hemmerspeed Vivian!" roared the footman. "What name, Madame?" (to Madame Sagittarius).

"Mr. and Madame Sagittarius of Sagittarius Lodge, the Mouse!" replied the lady majestically.

"Mr.-and Madame-Segerteribus-of-Segerteribus-Lodge, the Mouse!" bawled the footman.

The stout lady, who was Mrs. Vane Bridgeman, started and smiled.

"Delighted to see you, Mr. Segerteribus!" she said to the Prophet.

The Prophet hastened to explain through the uproar of twenty guitars.

"Mr. Vivian is my name. I think Miss Minerva Partridge-"

Mrs. Bridgeman started and smiled.

"Of course," she exclaimed. "Of course. You are to be kind enough to introduce me some day to Mr. Sagi-Sagi-something or other, and I am to introduce him to Sir Tiglath Butt, when Sir Tiglath Butt has been introduced to me by dear Miss Partridge. It is all to work out beautifully. Yes, yes! Charming! charming!"

"I have ventured to bring Mr. and Madame Sagittarius with me to-night," said the Prophet.

Mrs. Bridgeman started and smiled.

"They are my old and valued friends, and-and here they are."

"Delighted! delighted!" said Mrs. Bridgeman, speaking in a confused manner through the guitars. "How d'you do, Mr. Sagittarius?"

And she shook hands warmly with a very small and saturnine clergyman decorated with a shock of ebon hair, who was passing at the moment.

"Biggle!" said the little clergyman.

Mrs. Bridgeman started and smiled.

"Biggle!" repeated the little clergyman. "Biggle!"

The guitars rose up with violence, and all the hot, drubbing passion of Bayswater being Spanish.

"Yes, indeed, I so agree with you, dear Mr. Sagittarius," said Mrs. Bridgeman to the little clergyman.

"Biggle!" the little clergyman cried in a portentous voice. "Biggle! Biggle!"

"What does he mean?" whispered Mrs. Bridgeman to the Prophet. "How does one?"

"I think that is his name. These are Mr. and Madame Sagittarius."

Mrs. Bridgeman started and smiled.

"Biggle-of course," she said to the little clergyman, who passed on with an air of reliant self-satisfaction. "Delighted to see you," she added, this time addressing the Prophet's old and valued friends. "Ah! Mr. Sagi-Sagi-um-I have heard so much of you from dear Miss Minerva."

The wild, high notes of a flute, played by a silly gentleman from Tooting, shrilled through the tupping of the guitars, and Mr. Sagittarius, trembling in every limb, hissed in Mrs. Bridgeman's ear,-

"Hush, ma'am, for mercy's sake!"

Mrs. Bridgeman started and forgot to smile.

"My loved and honoured wife," continued Mr. Sagittarius, in a loud and anxious voice, "more to me than any lunar guide or starry monitor! Madame Sagittarius, a lady of deep education, ma'am."

"Delighted!" said Mrs. Bridgeman, making a gracious grimace at Madame, who inclined herself stonily and replied in a sinister voice,-

"It is indeed time that this renconter took place. Henceforth, ma'am, I shall be ever at my husband's side, per fus et nefus-et nefus, ma'am."

"So glad," said Mrs. Bridgeman. "I have been longing for this-"

"Mr. Bernard Wilkins!" roared the tall footman.

Mr. Sagittarius started and Mrs. Bridgeman did the same and smiled.

"Bernard Wilkins the Prophet!" Mr. Sagittarius exclaimed. "From the Rise!"

"Mrs. Eliza Doubleway!" shouted the footman.

"Mrs. Eliza!" cried Mr. Sagittarius, in great excitement. "That's the soothsayer from the Beck!"

"Madame Charlotte Humm!" yelled the footman.

"Madame Humm!" vociferated Mr. Sagittarius, "the crystal-gazer from the Hill!"

"Professor Elijah Chapman!" bawled the footman.

"The nose-reader!" piped Mr. Sagittarius. "The nose-reader from the Butts!"

"Verano!" screamed the footman, triumphantly submerging the flute and the twenty guitars. "Verano!"

"The South American Irish palmist from the Downs! My love," said Mr. Sagittarius, in a cracking voice, "we are in it to-night, we are indeed; we are fairly and squarely in it."

Madame began to bridle and to look as ostentatious as a leviathan.

"And if we are, Jupiter!" she said in a voice that rivalled the footman's-"if we are, we are merely in our element. They needn't think to come over me!"

"Hush, my love! Remember that-"

"Dr. Birdie Soames!" interposed the vibrant bass of the footman.

"The physiognomy lady from the Common!" said Mr. Sagittarius, on the point of breaking down under the emotion of the moment. "Scot! Scot! Great Scot!"

Mrs. Bridgeman was now completely surrounded by a heterogeneous mass of very remarkable-looking people, among whom were peculiarly prominent an enormously broad-shouldered man, with Roman features and his hair cut over his brow in a royal fringe, a small woman with a pointed red nose in bead bracelets and prune-coloured muslin, and an elderly female with short grizzled hair, who wore a college gown and a mortar-board with a scarlet tassel, and who carried in one hand a large skull marked out in squares with red ink. These were Verano, the Irish palmist from the Downs; Mrs. Eliza Doubleway, the soothsayer from Beck; and Dr. Birdie Soames, the physiognomy lady from the Common. Immediately around these celebrities were grouped a very pale gentleman in a short jacket, who looked as if he made his money by eating nothing and drinking a great deal, a plethoric female with a mundane face, in which was set a large and delicately distracted grey eye; and a gentleman with a jowl, a pug nose, and a large quantity of brass-coloured hair about as curly as hay, which fell down over a low collar, round which was negligently knotted a huge black tie. This trio comprised Mr. Bernard Wilkins, the Prophet from the Rise; Madame Charlotte Humm, the crystal-gazer from the Hill; and Professor Elijah Chapman, the nose-reader from the Butts. No sooner was the news of the arrival of these great and notorious people bruited abroad through the magnificent saloons of Zoological House than Mrs. Bridgeman's guests began to flock around them from all the four quarters of the mansion, deserting even the neighbourhood of the guitars and the inviting seclusion of the various refreshment-rooms. From all sides rose the hum of comment and the murmur of speculation. Pince-nez were adjusted, eyeglasses screwed into eyes, fingers pointed, feet elevated upon uneasy toes. Pretty girls boldly trod upon the gowns of elderly matrons in the endeavour to draw near to Mrs. Bridgeman and her group of celebrities; youths pushed and shoved; chaperons elbowed, and old gentlemen darted from one place to another in wild endeavours to find an inlet through the press. And amid this frantic scramble of the curious, the famous members of the occult world stood, calmly conscious of their value and in no wise upset or discomposed. Verano stroked his Roman features, and ran his large white hand through his curly fringe; Dr. Birdie Soames tapped her skull; Mrs. Eliza Doubleway played with her bead bracelets; Mr. Bernard Wilkins and Madame Charlotte Humm conversed together in dreamy murmurs; while Professor Elijah Chapman shook his brass-coloured hair till it fell forward over his variegated shirt-front, and glanced inquiringly at the multitudes of anxious noses which offered themselves to his inspection beneath the glare of the electric lights.

Mr. and Madame Sagittarius, completely overlooked in the throng, elbowed, trampled upon, jogged from behind and prodded from before, gazed with a passion of bitter envy at their worshipped rivals, who were set in the full blaze of success, while they languished in the outer darkness of anonymous obscurity.

"O miseris hominum men-don't set your feet on me, sir, if you please!" cried Madame. "O pectorae caec-ma'am, I beg you to take your elbow from my throat this minute!"

But even her powerful and indignant organ was lost in the hubbub that mingled with the wild music of the guitars, to which was now added the tinkle of bells and the vehement click of a round dozen of castanets, marking the bull-fighting rhythm of a new air called "The Espada's Return to Madrid."

"Jupiter!" she gurgled. "I shall be suff-"

"Mr. Amos Towle!" roared the footman savagely.

"The great medium from the Wick!"

"Towle the seer!"

"Amos Towle, the famous spiritualist!"

"Mr. Towle who materialises!"

"The celebrated Towle!"

"The great and only Towle!"

"Oh, is it the Towle?"

"I must see Towle!"

"Where is he? Oh, where is Towle?"

"Towle who communicates with the other world!"

"Towle the magician!"

"Towle the hypnotist!"

"Towle the soothsayer!"

"The magnetic Towle!"

"The electric Towle!"

"We must-we must see Towle!"

Such were a very few of the exclamations that instantly burst forth upon the conclusion of the footman's announcement. The elbowing and trampling became more violent than ever, and Mrs. Bridgeman was forced-from lack of room-to forego her society start, though she was still able to indulge in her society smile, as she bowed, with almost swooning graciousness, to a short, perspiring, bald and side-whiskered man in greasy broadcloth, who looked as if he would have been quite at home upon the box of a four-wheeled cab, as indeed he would, seeing that he had driven a growler for five-and-twenty years before discovering that he was the great and only Towle, medium, seer, and worker-of-miracles-in-chief to the large and increasing crowd that lives the silly life.

"Oh, Mr. Towle-charmed, delighted!" cried Mrs. Bridgeman. "I was so afraid-How sweet of you to come out all this way from your eyrie at the Wick! You'll find many friends-dear Madame Charlotte-the Professor-Mrs. Eliza-they're all here. And Miss Minerva, too! Your greatest admirer and disciple!"

At this moment the crowd, wild in its endeavour to touch the inspired broadcloth of the great Towle, surged forward, and the Prophet was driven like a ram against the left side of his hostess.

"I beg-your-pard-" he gasped; "but could you tell-me-where Miss Minerv-erva-is? I special-ly want to-to-"

"I think she's with Eureka in tea-room number 1," replied Mrs. Bridgeman. "Oh, dear! Near the band. Oh, dear! Oh, my gown! Oh! So sweet of you to come, Mrs. Lorrimer! Just a few interesting people! Oh, gracious mercy! Oh, for goodness' sake!"

She was thrust against a new arrival, and the Prophet, bringing his shoulders vigorously into play, according to the rules of Rugby football, presently found himself out in the open and free to wander in search of Miss Minerva, whom he was most anxious to encounter before the arrival of Sir Tiglath Butt, which must now be imminent, despite the marked disinclination of his horse to proceed at the rate of more than half a mile an hour.

The Prophet abandoned Mr. and Madame Sagittarius to their fate, thankful, indeed, to be rid for a moment of their prophetic importunity.

Following the gasped directions of Mrs. Bridgeman, he made towards the guitars, threading a number of drawing-rooms, and passing by the doors of various mysterious chambers which were carefully curtained off in a most secret manner. Here and there he saw groups of people-men in extraordinary coats and with touzled masses of hair, women in gowns made of the cheapest materials and cut in the most impossible fashions. Some wore convolvulus on their heads, ivy-leaves, trailing fuchsia, or sprigs of plants known only to suburban haberdashers; others appeared boldly in caps of the pork-pie order, adorned with cherry-coloured streamers, clumps of feathers that had never seen a bird, bunches of shining fruits, or coins that looked as if they had just emerged from the seclusion of the poor-box. Thread gloves abounded, and were mostly in what saleswomen call "the loud shades"-bright scarlet, marigold yellow, grass green or acute magenta. Mittens, too, were visible covered with cabalistic inscriptions in glittering beadwork. Not a few gentlewomen, like Madame, trod in elastic-sided boots, and one small but intrepid lady carried herself boldly in a cotton skirt topped with a tartan blouse "carried out" in vermilion and sulphur colour, over which was carelessly adjusted a macintosh cape partially trimmed with distressed-looking swansdown. Here and there might be seen some smart London woman, perfectly dressed and glancing with amused amazement at the new fashions about her; here and there a well set-up man, with normal hair and a tie that would not have terrified Piccadilly. But for the most part Mrs. Bridgeman's guests were not quite usual in appearance, and, indeed, were such as the Prophet had never gazed upon before.

Presently the uproar of the guitars grew more stentorian upon his ear, and, leaving on his left an astonishing chamber that contained from a dozen to fifteen small round tables, with nothing whatever upon them, the Prophet emerged into an inner hall where, in quite a grove of shrubs hung with fairy lights, twenty young ladies, dressed from top to toe in scarlet, and each wearing a large golden medal, were being as Spanish as if they had not been paid for it, while twelve more whacked castanets and shook bells with a frenzy that was worth an excellent salary, the silly gentleman from Tooting the while blowing furiously upon his flute, and combining this intemperate indulgence with an occasional assault upon a cottage piano that stood immediately before him, or a wave of the baton that asserted his right to the position of chef d'orchestre. Immediately beyond this shrine of music the Prophet perceived a Moorish nook containing a British buffet, and, in quite the most Moorish corner of this nook, seated upon a divan that would have been at home in Marakesh, he caught sight of Miss Minerva in company with a thin, fatigued and wispy lady in a very long vermilion gown, and an extremely small gentleman-apparently of the Hebrew persuasion-who was smartly dressed, wore white gloves and a buttonhole, and indulged in a great deal of florid gesticulation while talking with abnormal vivacity. Miss Minerva, who was playing quietly with a lemon ice, looked even more sensible than usual, the Prophet thought, in her simple white frock. She seemed to be quite at home and perfectly happy with her silly friends, but, as soon as she saw him hovering anxiously to the left of the guitars, she beckoned to him eagerly, and he hurried forward.

"Oh, Mr. Vivian, I'm so glad you've come! Let me introduce you to my great friend Eureka"-the lady in vermilion bowed absent-mindedly, and rolled her huge brown eyes wearily at the Prophet-"and to Mr. Briskin Moses."

The little gentleman made a stage reverence and fluttered his small hands airily.

"Pretty sight, pretty sight!" he said in a quick and impudent voice. "All these little dears enjoying themselves so innocently. Mother Bridgeman's chickens, I call them. But it's impossible to count them, even after they're hatched. Cheese it!"

The final imperative was flung demurely at a mighty footman, who just then tried to impound Mr. Moses's not quite finished brandy-and-soda.

"Sir?" said the mighty footman.

"Cheese it!" cried Mr. Moses, making a gesture of tragic repugnance in the direction of the footman.

The mighty footman cheesed it with dignity, and afterwards, in the servants' hall, spoke very bitterly of Israel.

The Prophet was extremely anxious to get a word alone with Miss Minerva. Indeed, it was really important that he should warn her of Sir Tiglath's approach, but he could find no opportunity of doing so, for Mr. Moses, who was not afflicted with diffidence, rapidly continued, in a slightly affected and tripping cockney voice,-

"Mother Bridgeman's a dear one! God bless her for a pretty soul! She'd be sublime in musical comedy-the black satin society lady, you know, who makes the aristocratic relief,-

"'I'm a Dowager Duchess, and everyone knows I'm a lady right down to the tip of my toes.'

"Very valuable among the minxes; worth her weight in half-crowns! I'd give her an engagement any day, pretty bird! Ever seen her driving in a cab? She takes off her gloves and spreads her hands over the apron to get the air. A canary! Anything for me to-night, Eureka? A dove, a mongoose-anything lucky? Give us a chance, mother!"

The lady in vermilion, who had a tuft of golden hair in the midst of her otherwise raven locks, glanced mysteriously at Mr. Moses.

"See anything, mother?" he asked, with theatrical solemnity. "A tiny chunk of luck for tricky little Briskin?"

"I do see something," said Eureka, in a dim and heavy voice. "It's just close to you on that table by the brandy."

Mr. Moses started, and cast a glance of awe at the tumbler.

"My word," he cried-"my word, mother! What's the blessed little symbol like? Not a pony fresh from Jerusalem for your believing boy!"

"You must wait a moment. It is not clear," replied Eureka, slowly and dreamily, fixing her heavy eyes on the brandy-and-soda. "It's all cloudy."

"Been imbibing, mother? Has the blessed little symbol been at it again? Briskin's shock-shocked!"

"It's getting clearer. It stands in a band of fire."

"Shade of Shadrach! Apparition of Abednego! Draw it mild and bitter, mother!"

"Ah! now it steps out. It's got a hump."

"Got the hump, mother? My word! then it must be either a camel or an undischarged bankrupt! Which is it, pretty soul?"

"It's a rhinoceros. It's moving to you."

"Yokohama, mother! Tell the pretty bird to keep back! What's it mean?"

"It's a sign of plenty."

"Plenty of what, mother? The ready or the nose-bag? Give us a chance!"

"Plenty of good fortune, because its head is towards you. If it had presented its tail, it would mean black weather."

"Don't let it turn tail, for Saturday's sake, mother. Keep its head straight while I finish the brandy!"

And so saying, little Mr. Moses, with elaborate furtiveness, caught up the tumbler, poured its contents down his throat, and threw himself back on the divan with the air of a man who had just escaped from peril by the consummate personal exercise of unparalleled and sustained ingenuity.

During this scene Miss Minerva had preserved her air of pronounced Scottish good sense, while listening attentively, and she now said to Eureka,-

"D'you see anything for Mr. Vivian, dear Eureka? Even the littlest thing would be welcomed."

Eureka stared upon the Prophet, who began to feel very nervous.

"There's something round his head," she remarked, with her usual almost sacred earnestness.

The Prophet mechanically put up his hands, like a man anxious to interfere with the assiduous attentions of a swarm of bees.

"Something right round his head."

"Is it a halo?" asked Miss Minerva.

"Is it a Lincoln & Bennet, mother?" cried Mr. Moses. "One of the shiny ones-twenty-one bob, and twenty-five-and-six if you want a kid lining?"

"No; it's like some sort of bird."

"'I heard the owl beneath my eaves complaining,'" chirped Mr. Moses, taking two or three high notes in a delicate tenor voice. "'I looked forth-great Scot! How it was raining!' Is it an owl, mother? Ask it to screech to Briskin."

"It is no owl," said Eureka to the Prophet. "It is a sparrow-your bird."

"Is it upon the housetop, mother, having a spree all on its little alone?"

"No; it is hovering over the gentleman."

"What does that mean?" said the Prophet, anxiously.

But at this point Eureka suddenly seemed to lose interest in the matter. "Oh, you're all right," she said carelessly. "I'm tired. I should like a wafer."

"Mother's peckish. Mother, I see an ostrich by your left elbow. That's a sign that you're so peckish you could swallow anything. Waiter!"

"Sir!"

"This lady's so peckish she could eat anything. Bring her some tin-tacks and a wafer. Stop a sec. Another brandy for Briskin. Your calves'd do for the front row; 'pon my word, they would. Trot, boy, trot!"

"I must speak to you alone for one moment," whispered the Prophet to Miss Minerva, under cover of the quips of Mr. Moses. "Sir Tiglath's coming!"

Miss Minerva started.

"Sir Tig-" she exclaimed and put her finger to her lips just in time to stop the "lath" from coming out. "Mr. Moses, I'm going to the buffet for a moment with Mr. Vivian. Eureka, darling, do eat something substantial! All this second sight takes it out of you."

Eureka acquiesced with a heavy sigh, Mr. Moses cried, "Aunt Eureka's so hungry that one would declare she could even eat oats if she found they were there!" and Miss Minerva and the Prophet moved languidly towards the buffet, endeavouring, by the indifference of their movements, to cover the agitation in their hearts.

"Sir Tiglath coming here!" cried Miss Minerva under her breath, as soon as they were out of earshot. "But he doesn't know Mrs. Bridgeman!"

"I know-but he's coming. And not only that, Mr. and Madame Sagittarius are here already!"

Miss Minerva looked closely at the Prophet in silence for a moment. Then she said,-

"I see-I see!"

"What?" cried the Prophet, in great anxiety, "not the sparrow on my head?"

"No. But I see that you're taking to your double life in real earnest."

"I?"

"Yes. Now, Mr. Vivian, that's all very well, and you know I'm the last person to complain of anything of that sort, so long as it doesn't get me into difficulties."

"Think of the difficulties you and everyone else have got me into," ejaculated the poor Prophet, for once in his life stepping, perhaps, a hair's-breadth from the paths of good breeding.

"Well, I'm sure I've done nothing."

"Nothing!" said the Prophet, losing his head under the influence of the guitars, which were now getting under way in a fantasia on "Carmen." "Nothing! Why, you made me come here, you insisted on my introducing Mr. Sagittarius to Mrs. Bridgeman, you told Sir Tiglath Mrs. Bridgeman and I were old friends and had made investigations together, assisted by Mr. Sagittarius, you-"

"Oh, well, that's nothing. But Sir Tiglath mustn't see me here as Miss Minerva. Has he arrived yet?"

"I don't think so. He's got the cab we had yesterday and the horse."

"The one that tumbles down so cleverly when it's not too tired? Capital! Run to the cloak-room, meet Sir Tiglath there, and persuade him to go home."

But here the Prophet struck.

"I regret I can't," he said, almost firmly.

"But you must."

"I regret sincerely that I am unable."

"Why? Mr. Vivian, when a lady asks you!"

"I am grieved," said the Prophet, with a species of intoxicated obstinacy-the guitars seemed to be playing inside his brain and the flute piping in the small of his back,-"to decline, but I cannot contend physically with Sir Tiglath, a man whom I reverence, in the cloak-room of a total stranger."

"I don't ask you to contend physically."

"Nothing but personal violence would keep Sir Tiglath from coming in."

"Reall

y! Then what's to be done?"

She pursed up her sensible lips and drew down her sensible eyebrows.

"I know!" she cried, after a moment's thought. "I'll masquerade to-night as myself."

"As yourself?"

"Yes. All these dear silly people here think that I've got an astral body."

"What's that?"

"A sort of floating business-a business that you can set floating."

"What-a company?"

"No, no. A replica of yourself. The great Towle-"

"He's here to-night."

"I knew he was coming. Well, the great Towle detached this astral body once at a séance and, for a joke-a silly joke, you know-"

"Yes, yes."

"I christened it by my real name, Lady Enid Thistle, and said Lady Enid was an ancestress of mine."

"Why did you?"

"Because it was so idiotic."

"I see."

"Well, I've only now to spread a report among these dear creatures that I'm astral to-night, and get Towle to back me up, and I can easily be Lady Enid for an hour or two. In this crowd Sir Tiglath need never find out that I'm generally known in these circles as Miss Partridge."

"Do you really think-"

"Yes, I do. But I must find Towle at once."

So saying she hastened away from the buffet, followed by the trotting Prophet. As she passed Eureka and Mr. Moses, she said,-

"Eureka, darling, do I look odd? I suddenly began to feel astral just as I was going to eat a sandwich. I can't help thinking that Lady Enid-you know, my astral ancestress, who's always with me-is peculiarly powerful to-night. D'you notice anything?"

"Watch out for it, mother!" cried Mr. Moses. "See if it's got the lump."

Eureka fixed her heavy eyes on Miss Minerva and swayed her thin body to and fro in as panther-like a manner as she could manage.

"Mother's after it," continued Mr. Moses, twitching his left ear with his thumb in a Hebraic manner and shooting his shining cuffs; "mother's on the trail. Doves for a bishop and the little mangel-wurzel for the labouring man. Clever mother! She'll take care it's suitable. Is it a haggis, mother, hovering over the lady with outspread wings?"

Eureka closed her eyes and rocked herself more violently.

"I see you," she said in a deep voice. "You are astral. You are Lady Enid emerged for an hour from our dear Minerva."

"I thought so," cried Lady Enid, with decision. "I thought so, because when someone called me Miss Minerva just now I felt angry, and didn't seem to know what they meant. Tell them, dear Eureka,-tell all my friends of your discovery."

And she hastened on with the Prophet in search of the great Towle.

"I'll get him to back Eureka up, and then it will be quite safe," she said. "Ah! there he is with Harriet Browne, the demonstrator from the Rye."

Indeed, at this moment a small crowd was visible in one of the further drawing-rooms, moving obsequiously along in reverent attendance upon the great Towle, Mrs. Bridgeman and a thickset, red-faced lady, without a waist and plainly clad in untrimmed linsey-wolsey, who was speaking authoritatively to a hysterical-looking young girl, upon whose narrow shoulder she rested a heavy, fat-fingered hand as she walked.

"Harriet's evidently going to demonstrate," added Lady Enid. "That's lucky, because then I can get a quiet word with Towle."

"Demonstrate?" said the Prophet.

"Yes. She's the great Christian Scientist and has the healing power. She demonstrated over Agatha Marshall's left ear. You know. The case got into the papers. Ah, Harriet, darling!"

"My blessing! My Minerva!" said Harriet in a thick and guttural voice.

"Lady Enid, Harriet love, to-night. Eureka says I'm astral. Oh, Mr. Towle, what an honour to meet you-what an honour for us all!"

The great Towle ducked and scraped in cabman fashion.

"Oh, will you materialise for us to-night?"

"Yes, yes," cried Mrs. Bridgeman, trembling with excitement. "He's promised to after supper. He says he feels less material then-more en rapport with the dear spirits."

"How delightful! Mr. Towle, tell me, do you agree with Eureka? I await your fiat. Am I astral?"

"Ay, miss, as like as not," said the great man, twisting his lips as if they held a straw between them. "Astral, that's it. That's it to a T."

"Then I'm Lady Enid Thistle, my ancestress, who's always with me?"

"Ay, ay! Every bit of her. Her ladyship to a T."

The company was much impressed, and whispers of "It's Lady Enid; Eureka and Mr. Towle say it's her ladyship in the astral plane!" flew like wildfire through the rooms.

At this point Harriet Browne, who was sufficiently Christian and scientific to like to have all the attention of the company centred upon her, cleared her throat loudly and exclaimed,-

"If I am to heal this poor sufferer, I must be provided with an armchair."

"An armchair for Mrs. Browne!"

"Fetch a chair for Harriet!"

"Mrs. Harriet can't demonstrate without a chair!"

"What is she going to do?" whispered the Prophet to Lady Enid, feeling thoroughly ashamed of his ignorance.

"Demonstrate."

"Yes, but what's that?"

"Put her hands over that girl and think about her."

"Is that all?"

"Yes."

"Does she do it out of kindness?"

"Of course. But she's paid something, not because she wants to be paid, but because it's the rule."

"Oh!"

An armchair was now wheeled forward, and Mrs. Harriet ensconced herself in it comfortably.

"I'm very tired to-night," she remarked in her thick voice. "I've had a hard afternoon."

"Poor darling!" cried Mrs. Bridgeman. "Fetch a glass of champagne for Mrs. Harriet somebody. Oh, would you, Mr. Brummich?"

Mr. Brummich, a gentleman with a remarkably foolish, ascetic face and a feebly-wandering sandy beard, was just about to hasten religiously towards the Moorish nook when the great Towle happened, by accident, to groan. Mrs. Bridgeman, started and smiled.

"Oh, and a glass of champagne for Mr. Towle, too, dear Mr. Brummich!"

"Certainly, Mrs. Bridgeman!" said dear Mr. Brummich, hurrying off with the demeanour of the head of an Embassy entrusted with some important mission to a foreign Court.

"Were you at work this afternoon, Harriet, beloved?" inquired Mrs. Bridgeman of Mrs. Browne, who was leaning back in the armchair with her eyes closed and in an attitude of severe prostration.

"Yes."

"Which was it, lovebird? Hysteric Henry?"

"No, he's cured."

Cries of joy resounded from those gathered about the chair.

"Hysteric Henry's cured!"

"Henry's better!"

"The poor man with the ball in his throat's been saved!"

"How wonderful you are, Harriet, sweet!" cried Mrs. Bridgeman. "But, then which was it?"

"The madwoman at Brussels. I've been thinking about her for two hours this afternoon, with only a cup of tea between."

"Poor darling! No wonder you're done up! Ought you to demonstrate? Ah! here's the champagne!"

"I take it merely as medicine," said Mrs. Harriet.

At this moment, Mr. Brummich, flushed with assiduity, burst into the circle with a goblet of beaded wine in either hand. There was a moment of solemn silence while Mrs. Harriet and the great Towle condescended to the Pommery. It was broken only by a loud gulp from the hysterical-looking girl who was, it seemed, nervously affected by an imitative spasm, and who suddenly began to swallow nothing with extreme persistence and violence.

"Look at that poor misguided soul!" ejaculated Mrs. Harriet, with her lips to the Pommery. "She fancies she's drinking!"

The poor, misguided soul, yielded again to her distraught imagination, amid the pitiful ejaculations of the entire company, with the exception of one mundane, young man who, suddenly assailed by the wild fancy that he wasn't drinking, crept furtively to the Moorish rook, and was no more seen.

"Give her a cushion!" continued Mrs. Harriet, authoritatively.

"Mr. Brummich!" said Mrs. Bridgeman.

Mr. Brummich ran, and returned with a cushion.

"Sit down, poor thing! Sit at my feet!" said Mrs. Harriet, giving the hysterical-looking girl a healing push.

The girl subsided in a piteous heap, and Mrs. Harriet, who had by this time taken all her medicine, leant over her and inquired,-

"Where d'you feel it?"

The girl put her hands to her head.

"Here," she said feebly. "It's like fire running over me and drums beating."

"Fire and drums!" announced Mrs. Harriet to the staring assembly. "That's what she's got, poor soul!"

Ejaculations of sympathy and horror made themselves heard.

"Drums! How shocking!" cried Mrs. Bridgeman. "Can you cure even drums, Harriet, my own?"

"Give me ten minutes, Catherine! I ask but that!"

And, so saying, Mrs. Harriet planted her fat hands upon the head of the young patient, closed her eyes and began to breathe very hard.

Silence now fell upon the people, who said not a word, but who could not prevent themselves from rustling as they pressed about this exhibition of a latter-day apostle. The Prophet and Lady Enid were close to the armchair, and the Prophet, who had never before been present at any such ceremony-it was accompanied by the twenty guitars, now tearing out the serenade, "From the bull-ring I come to thee!"-was so interested that he completely forgot Mr. and Madame Sagittarius, and lost for the moment all memory of Sir Tiglath. The silly life engrossed him. He had no eyes for anyone but Mrs. Harriet, who, as she leaned forward in the chair with closed eyes, looked like a determined middle-aged man about to offer up the thin girl on the footstool as a burnt sacrifice.

"You're better now, poor thing," said Mrs. Harriet, after five minutes has elapsed. "You're feeling much better?"

"Oh, no, I'm not!" said the girl, shaking her head under the hands of the demonstrator. "The fire's blazing and the drums are beating like anything."

Mrs. Harriet's hue deepened, and there was a faint murmur of vague reproof from the company.

"H'sh!" said the demonstrator, closing her hands upon the patient's head with some acrimony. "H'sh!"

And she began to breathe hard once more. Another five minutes elapsed, and then Mrs. Harriet exclaimed with decision,-

"There! It's gone now, all gone! I've sent it right away. The fire's out and the drums have stopped beating!"

Exclamations of wonder and joy rose up from the spectators. They were, however, a trifle premature, for the hysterical girl-who was, it seemed, a person of considerable determination, despite her feeble appearance-replied from the footstool,-

"No, it isn't. No they haven't!"

Mrs. Harriet developed a purple shade.

"Nonsense!" she said. "You're cured, love, entirely cured!"

"I'm not," said the girl, beginning to cry. "I feel much worse since you pressed my head."

There was a burst of remonstrance from the crowd, and Mrs. Harriet, speaking with the air of an angry martyr, remarked,-

"It's just like the drinking-she fancies she isn't cured when she is, just the same as she fancied she was drinking when she wasn't."

This unanswerable logic naturally carried conviction to everyone present, and the hysterical girl was warmly advised to make due acknowledgement of the benefits received by her at the healing hands of Mrs. Harriet, while the latter was covered with compliments and assiduously conducted towards the buffet, escorted by the great Towle.

"Isn't she wonderful?" said Mrs. Bridgeman, turning ecstatically to the person nearest to her, who happened to be the saturnine little clergyman. "Isn't she marvellous, Mr.-er-Mr. Segerteribus?"

"Biggle!" cried the little clergyman.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Biggle!" vociferated the little clergyman. "Biggle!"

"Certainly. Did you ever see anything like that cure? Ah! you ought to preach about dear Harriet, Mr. Segerteribus, you really-"

"Biggle!" reiterated the little clergyman, excitedly. "Biggle! Biggle!"

"What does he-" began Mrs. Bridgeman, turning helplessly towards the Prophet.

"It's his name, I fancy," whispered the Prophet.

Mrs. Bridgeman started and smiled.

"Mr. Biggle," she said.

The little clergyman moved on towards the guitars with all the air of a future colonial bishop. Mrs. Bridgeman, who seemed to be somewhat confused, and whose manner grew increasingly vague as the evening wore on, now said to those nearest to her,-

"There are fifteen tables set out-yes, set out,-in the green boudoir."

"Bedad!" remarked an Irish colonel, "then it's meself'll enjoy a good rubber."

"For table-turning," added Mrs. Bridgeman. "Materialisation in the same room after supper. Mr. Towle-yes-will enter the cabinet at about eleven. Where's Madame Charlotte?"

"Looking into the crystal for Lady Ferrier," said someone.

"Oh, and the professor?"

"He's reading Archdeacon Andrew's nose, by the cloak-room."

Mrs. Bridgeman sighed.

"It seems to be going off quite pleasantly," she said vaguely to the Prophet. "I think-perhaps-might I have a cup of tea?"

The Prophet offered his arm. Mrs. Bridgeman took it. They walked forward, and almost instantly came upon Sir Tiglath Butt, who, with a face even redder than usual, was rolling away from the hall of the guitars, holding one enormous hand to his ear and snorting indignantly at the various clairvoyants, card-readers, spiritualists and palmists whom he encountered at every step he took. The Prophet turned pale, and Lady Enid, who was just behind him, put on her most sensible expression and moved quickly forward.

"Ah, Sir Tiglath!" she said. "How delightful of you to come! Catherine, dear, let me introduce Sir Tiglath Butt to you. Sir Tiglath Butt-Mrs. Vane Bridgeman."

Mrs. Bridgeman behaved as usual.

"So glad!" she said. "So enchanted! Just a few interesting people. So good of you to come. Table-turning is-"

At this moment Lady Enid nipped her friend's arm, and Sir Tiglath exclaimed, looking from Mrs. Bridgeman to the Prophet,-

"What, madam? So you're the brain and eye, eh? Is that it?"

The guitars engaged in "The Gipsies of Granada are wild as mountain birds," and Mrs. Bridgeman looked engagingly distraught, and replied,-

"Ah, yes, indeed! The brain and I, Sir Tiglath; so good of you to say so!"

"You prompted his interest in the holy stars?" continued Sir Tiglath, speaking very loud, and still stopping one ear with his hand. "You drove him to the telescope; you told him to clear the matter up, did you?"

"What matter?" said Mrs. Bridgeman, trying not to look as stupid as she felt, but only with moderate success.

"Say the oxygen, darling," whispered Lady Enid in one of her ears.

"Say the oxygen!" hissed the Prophet into the other.

"The occiput?" said Mrs. Bridgeman, hearing imperfectly. "Oh, yes, Sir Tiglath, I told him,-I told Mr. Biggle-to make quite sure-yes, as to the occiput matter."

The saturnine little clergyman, who was again in motion near by, caught his name and stopped, as Sir Tiglath, roaring against "The Gipsies of Granada," continued,-

"And your original adviser was Mr. Sagittarius, was he?"

On hearing a word she understood, Mrs. Bridgeman brightened up, and, perceiving the little clergyman, she answered,-

"Mr. Sagittarius-ah, yes! Sir Tiglath is speaking of you, Mr. Sagittarius."

The little clergyman turned almost black in the face.

"Biggle!" he exclaimed, in a voice of thunder. "Biggle! Biggle!"

And, without further parley, he rushed to the cloak-room, seized someone else's hat and coat, and fared forth into the night. Lady Enid, who had meant to coach Mrs. Bridgeman very carefully for the meeting with Sir Tiglath, but whose plans were completely upset by the astronomer's premature advent, now endeavoured to interpose.

"By the way," she said, in a very calm voice, "where is dear Mr. Sagittarius? I haven't seen him yet."

"I'm afraid he's angry with me," said Mrs. Bridgeman, alluding to the little clergyman. "I really can't think why."

"Sir Tiglath," said Lady Enid, boldly taking the astronomer's arm. "Come with me. I want you to find Mr. Sagittarius for me. Yes, they do make rather a noise!"

This was in allusion to the guitars, for the astronomer had now placed both hands over his ears in the vain endeavour to exclude "The Gipsies." Deafness, perhaps, rendered him yielding. In any case, he permitted Lady Enid to detach him from Mrs. Bridgeman and to lead him through the rooms in search of Mr. Sagittarius.

"Perhaps he's here," said Lady Enid, entering a darkened chamber. "Oh, no!"

And she hastily moved away, perceiving a large number of devoted adherents of table-tapping busily engaged, with outspread fingers and solemn faces, at their intellectual pursuit. Avoiding the archdeacon, who was now having his nose read by the professor, she conducted the astronomer, rendered strangely meek by the guitars, into a drawing-room near the hall, in which only four people remained-Verano and Mrs. Eliza Doubleway, who were conferring in one corner, and Mr. and Madame Sagittarius, who were apparently having rather more than a few words together in another.

"Ah! there's Mr. Sagittarius!" said Lady Enid.

"Minnie!" cried Mrs. Eliza, beckoning to Lady Enid. "Minnie, ducky!"

Lady Enid pretended not to hear and tried to hasten with the astronomer towards the Sagittariuses. But Mrs. Eliza was not to be put off.

"Minnie, my pet!" she piped. "Come here, Minnie!"

Lady Enid was obliged to pause.

"What is it, dear Eliza?" she asked, at the same time making a face at the soothsayer to indicate caution.

Mrs. Eliza and Verano rose and approached Lady Enid and the astronomer.

"I was laying the cards last night at Jane Seaman's-you know, dear, the Angel Gabriel who lives on the Hackney Downs-and whatever do you think? The hace of spades came up three times in conjugation with the Knave of 'earts!"

"Terrific! Very great!" buzzed Verano, with a strong South American Irish brogue-a real broth of a brogue.

"Wonderful!" said Lady Enid, hastily, endeavouring to pass on.

"Wait a minute, darling. Well, I says to Jane-I was laying the cards for her 'usband, dear-I says to Jane, I says, without doubt Hisaac is about to pass over, I says, seeing the red boy's come up in conjugation with the hace. 'Lord! Mrs. Eliza! Lay them out again,' she says, 'for,' she says, 'if Hike is going to pass over,' she says-"

"Extraordinary, dear Mrs. Eliza! You're a genius!" cried Lady Enid in despair.

"Tremendous! Very big!" buzzed Verano, staring at Sir Tiglath. "You got a very spatulate hand there, sir! Allow me!"

And to Lady Enid's horror he seized the astronomer's hand with both his own.

"How dare you tamper with the old astronomer, sir?" roared Sir Tiglath. "Am I in a madhouse? Who are all these crazy Janes! Drop my hand, sir!"

Verano obeyed rather hastily, and Lady Enid convoyed the spluttering astronomer towards the corner which contained Mr. and Madame Sagittarius.

Now these worthies were in a mental condition of a most complicated kind. The reception at Zoological House had upset in an hour the theories and beliefs of a lifetime. Hitherto Madame had always been filled with shame at the thought that she was not the wife of an architect but of a prophet, and Mr. Sagittarius had endeavoured to assume the mein and costume of an outside broker, and had dreamed dreams of retiring eventually from a hated and despised profession. But now they found themselves in a magnificent mansion in which the second-rate members of their own tribe were worshipped and adored, smothered with attentions, plied with Pommery and looked upon as gods, while they, in their incognito, were neglected, and paid no more heed to than if they had been, in reality, mere architects and outside brokers, totally unconnected with that mysterious occult world which is the fashion of the moment.

This position of affairs had, not unnaturally, thrown then into a condition of the gravest excitement. Madame, more especially, had reached boiling point. Feeling herself, for the first time, an Imperial creature in exile, who had only to declare herself to receive instant homage and to be overwhelmed with the most flattering attentions, her lust of glory developed with alarming rapidity, and she urged her husband to cast the traditions that had hitherto guided him to the winds and to declare forthwith his identity with Malkiel the Second, the business-like and as it were official head of the whole prophetic tribe.

Mr. Sagittarius, for his part, was also fired with the longing for instant glory, but he was by nature an extremely timid-or shall we say rather, an extremely prudent-man. He remembered the repeated injunctions of his great forebear who had lived and died in the Susan Road beside the gasworks. More, he remembered Sir Tiglath Butt. He was torn between ambition and terror.

"Declare yourself, Jupiter!" cried Madame. "Declare yourself this moment!"

"My love!" replied Mr. Sagittarius. "My angel, we must reflect."

"I have reflected," retorted Madame.

"There are difficulties, my dear, many difficulties in the way."

"And what if there are? Per augustum ad augustibus. Every fool knows that."

"My dear, you are a little hard upon me."

"And what have you been upon me, I should like to know? What about those goings-on with the woman Bridgeman? What about your investigations with that hussy Minerva? You've been her owl, that's what you've been!"

She began to show grave symptoms of hysteria. Mr. Sagittarius patted her hands in great anxiety.

"My love, I have told you, I have sworn-"

"And what man doesn't swear whenever he gets the chance?" cried Madame. "Why did I ever marry? Heu miserum me."

"My angel, be calm. I assure you-"

"Very well then, declare yourself, Jupiter, this minute, or I'll declare yourself for you!"

"But, my love, think of Sir Tiglath! I dare not declare myself. He will be here at any moment, and he has sworn to kill me, if I'm not an American syndicate!"

"Rubbish!"

"But, my-"

"Rubbish! That's only what Mr. Vivian says."

"Well, but-"

"Besides, you can put on your toga virilibus and knock him down. It's no use talking to me, Jupiter."

"I know it isn't, my darling, I know. But-"

"If you don't declare yourself I shall declare yourself for you this very moment. I will not endure to be left in the corner while all these nobodies are being truckled to. Bernard Wilkins, indeed! A prophet we wouldn't so much as recognise to be a prophet, and that there Mrs. Eliza-people from the Wick going down to supper in front of us, and a man from the Butts put before you! It's right down disgusting, and I won't have it."

It was exactly at this point in the matrimonial conference that Lady Enid and Sir Tiglath Butt, shaking themselves free of Mrs. Eliza and Verano, bore down upon Mr. and Madame Sagittarius, who were so busily engaged in disputation that they did not perceive that anyone was near until Lady Enid touched Mr. Sagittarius upon the arm.

That gentleman started violently and, on perceiving Sir Tiglath Butt, who was positively sputtering with wrath at the palmistic attentions paid to him by Verano, shrank against his wife, who pushed him vigorously from her, and, getting upon her feet, announced in a loud voice,-

"Very well, Jupiter, since you won't declare yourself I shall go at once to the woman Bridgeman and declare yourself for you!"

And with this remark she scowled at Lady Enid and walked majestically away, tossing her head vehemently at Mrs. Eliza and Verano as she swept into the adjoining drawing-room.

"Dear me," said Lady Enid, with great curiosity. "Dear me, Mr. Sagittarius, is your wife going to make a declaration? This is most interesting!"

And, moved by her besetting idiosyncrasy, she added to the astronomer, "Excuse me," Sir Tiglath, "I'll be back in one moment!" and glided swiftly away in the wake of Madame, leaving Mr. Sagittarius and his deadliest foe tete-a-tete.

"Is this a madhouse, sir?" cried Sir Tiglath, on being thus abandoned. "The old astronomer demands to know at once if one is, or is not, in a vast madhouse?"

"I don't know, sir, indeed," replied Mr. Sagittarius. "I should not like to express an opinion on the point. If you will excu-"

"Sir, the old astronomer will not excuse you," roared Sir Tiglath, forcibly preventing Mr. Sagittarius, who was pale as ashes, from escaping into the farther room. "He will not be run away from by everybody in this manner."

"I beg pardon, sir, I had no intention of running away," said Mr. Sagittarius, making one last despairing effort to assume his toga virilibus.

"Then why did you do it, sir? Tell the old astronomer that!" cried Sir Tiglath, seizing him by the arm. "And tell him, moreover, what you and the old female Bridgeman have been about together?"

"Nothing, sir; I swear that Mrs. Bridgeman and myself have never-"

"Never made investigations into the possibility of there being oxygen in many of the holy stars? Do you affirm that, sir?"

"I do!" cried Mr. Sagittarius. "I am an outside broker."

"Do you affirm that you are no astronomer, sir? Do you declare that you are not a man of science?"

"I do! I do!"

"Not an astronomer of remarkable attainments, but very modest and retiring withal? Oh-h-h!"

"Modest and retiring, sir?" cried Mr. Sagittarius, suddenly illumined by a ray of hope. "That's just it! I am a modest and retiring outside broker, sir."

And he violently endeavoured to prove the truth of the words by escaping forthwith into obscurity.

"There never was a modest and retiring outside broker!" bellowed Sir Tiglath. "There never was, and there never will be. The old-"

"What's that?" interrupted Mr. Sagittarius. "Whatever's that?"

For at this moment an extraordinary hum of voices made itself audible above the fifty guitars, and a noise of many feet trampling eagerly upon Mrs. Bridgeman's parquet grew louder and louder in the brilliant rooms. Attracted by the uproar, Sir Tiglath paused for a moment, still keeping his hand upon the lapel of Mr. Ferdinand's coat, however. The noise increased. It was evident that a multitude of people was rapidly approaching. Words uttered by the moving guests, exclamations, and ejaculations of excitement now detached themselves from the general murmur.

"The Prophet from the Mouse!"

"The great Malkiel here!"

"The founder of the almanac!"

"The greatest Prophet of the age!"

"Malkiel the Second from the Mouse!"

"Where is Malkiel?"

"We must find Malkiel!"

"We must see Malkiel!"

"Is it really Malkiel?"

"Oh, is it the Malkiel? Where-where is Malkiel?"

Such cries as these broke upon the ears of the astronomer and Mr. Sagittarius.

Sir Tiglath grew purple.

"Malkiel who has insulted the holy stars here!" he roared, letting go of Mr. Sagittarius. "Where-where is he?"

"In there, sir, I verily believe!" cried Mr. Sagittarius, pointing in the direction of the crowd with a hand that shook like all the leaves in Vallombrosa.

"Let me find him!" shouted the astronomer. "Let me only discover him! I'll break every bone in his accursed body."

And with this rather bald statement he rolled out of the room in one direction, while Mr. Sagittarius, without more ado, cast aside his toga virilibus and darted out of it into another, just as Madame escorted by Mrs. Bridgeman, Lady Enid, the great Towle and the whole of the company assembled at Zoological House, appeared majestically-and proceeding as an Empress-in the aperture of the main doorway.

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