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   Chapter 20 THE PROPHET RETIRES FROM BUSINESS

The Prophet of Berkeley Square By Robert Hichens Characters: 35759

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07


Exactly as the Prophet arrived at his resolution the hall door bell rang violently, and Gustavus, who had slipped down before the Prophet in order to seek the traveller to Java in the servants' quarters, hurried into the hall in rather a distracted manner.

"Stop, Gustavus!" said the Prophet.

Gustavus stopped. The bell rang again.

"Gustavus," said the Prophet, "if that is a visitor I am not at home. Mrs. Merillia is not at home either."

It was by this time between one and two in the morning.

"Not at home, sir. Yes, sir."

The Prophet concealed himself near the hat-rack, and Gustavus went softly to the door and opened it.

"Not at home, ma'am," the Prophet heard him say, formally.

"What d'you mean, young man?" replied the powerful voice of Madame. "Where is my husband?"

"Ma'am?"

"Where, I say, is my husband?"

"I couldn't say, I'm sure, ma'am. But Mrs. Merillia and Mr. Vivian are not at home."

"Then all I can say is they ought to be in at this time of night. Permit me to pass. Are you aware that Mr. Vivian has invited me to spend the night here? Noctes ambrosianes."

"But, ma'am, Mr. Viv-"

"That'll do. If I have any more of your impertinence I'll make you repent of it. You are evidently not aware who I am."

The Prophet, by the hat-rack, did not fail to hear a new note in the deep contralto of Madame, a note of triumph, a trumpet note of profound conceit. His heart sank before this determined music, and it sank even lower towards his pumps when, a moment later, he found himself confronted by the lady, wrapped closely in the rabbit-skins, and absolutely bulging with vanity and self-appreciation.

"What! Mr. Vivian!" began the lady.

"Hush!" said the Prophet, "for mercy's sake-hush!"

And, acting upon the impulse of the moment, he suddenly seized Madame by the hand, and hurried her through the swinging door into the servants' hall.

"Here's a go," murmured Gustavus in the greatest trepidation. "If they don't find the thin party I'm a josser."

Meanwhile the Prophet and Madame were standing face to face before the what-not of Gustavus.

"My grandmother is awake-that is asleep," said the Prophet. "We must not wake her on any account."

"Oh," returned Madame, with a toss of her head, "your grandmother seems to be a very fidgety old lady, I'm sure-although you do tell a parcel of lies about her."

"Lies!" said the Prophet, with some dignity.

"Yes-lies. She don't wear long clothes-"

"I beg your pardon!"

"She do not. She don't wear her hair down. She don't put her lips to the bottle. She don't. Where is Mr. Sagi-where is Malkiel the Second?"

"I have no idea. And now, Madame, I regret that I must conduct you to your carriage. The hour is late, my grandmother is seriously indisposed, and I myself need rest."

"Well, then, you can't have it," retorted the lady with authoritative spitefulness. "You can't have it, not till three o'clock."

"I beg your pardon!" said the Prophet, with trembling lips.

"What for?"

"I really regret that I must retire. Allow me-"

"I'll not allow you. Where is my husband? He's not at the Zoological Gardens."

"He has probably returned home."

"To the Mouse! Then he's a coward and an oath-breaker, and if Sir Tiglath was to catch him I shouldn't be sorry. Kindly lead me at once to the telescope. I will take his place. No one shall say that Madame Malkiel ever flinched at duty's call. Praesto et persistibus. Conduct me at once to the telescope."

"The telescope!" cried the Prophet. "What for?"

"Lawks!" cried Madame, with pronounced temper. "Did we not journey from the Mouse a-purpose to go practically into the mystery of the dressed Crab?"

"I really-I really cannot consent without a chaperon," began the Prophet.

"The wife of Malkiel the Second needs no chaperone," retorted Madame. "This night has altered my condition-I stand from henceforth far beyond the reach of etiquette. The world knows me now and will not dare to carp. Carpe dies."

During the foregoing colloquy her voice had become louder and louder, and the Prophet, dreading unspeakably lest his grandmother should be disturbed and affrighted once more, gave up the struggle, and, without more ado, conducted Madame into the butler's pantry in which the telescope still remained.

Meanwhile what had become of Malkiel the Second?

When Mrs. Merillia suddenly appeared before him in her night-bonnet and accused him of being a ratcatcher he had very naturally fled, his first impulse being to leave the house at once and continue his journey to the docks. But even a prophet is but mortal. Malkiel had passed through an eventful day followed by a still more eventful evening. His mind was completely exhausted. Even so, however, he might have continued upon his journey towards Java had not his legs prosaically shown signs of giving way under him just as he once more gained the hall. This decided him. He must have some short repose at whatever cost. He therefore pushed feebly at the nearest door, and found himself promptly in the apartment of the upper servants. Staggering to the what-not of Gustavus, he sank down upon it and fell into a melancholy reverie, from which he was roused by the constant tingling cry of Mrs. Merillia's second bell, which rang close to where he was reposing. He tried to start up, but failed, and it was only when the hall door bell, attacked by the Prophet, added its voice to its companion's that his terror lent him sufficient strength to flee very slowly into the inner fastnesses of this unknown region. There was a light in the servant's hall, but darkness lay beyond and Malkiel knew not whither he was penetrating. He barked his shins, but could not tell against what hard substance. He bruised his elbow, but could not know what piece of furniture had assailed it. On coming in contact with a dresser he saw a few sparks, but they speedily died out, and he was obliged to feel his way onward, till presently he came across a large leather chair in which Mrs. Merillia's cook was wont to sit while directing her subordinates at the basting machine. Into this he sank palpitating, and for a moment remained undisturbed. Then, to his horror, he heard in the adjoining room the strident voice of his loved and honoured wife apparently carrying on a decidedly vivacious argument with some person unknown. He bounded up. Possibly she was accompanied by Sir Tiglath, who must now be aware of his identity. In any case, her wrath at his scarcely chivalrous desertion of her in the house of a stranger would, he knew, be terrible. He dared not face it. He dared not allow his project of flight at dawn to be interfered with, as it certainly would be if he came across Madame. He therefore proceeded to flee once more. Nor did he pause until he had gained Mr. Ferdinand's pantry, where stood the telescope. Now, in this pantry there was a large cupboard in which were kept the very numerous and magnificent pieces of plate, etc., possessed by Mrs. Merillia; tall silver candelabra, standard lamps of polished bronze, richly-chased cups, gigantic vases for containing flowers, oriental incense holders upon stands of ebony, Spanish charcoal dishes of burnished brass, and other treasures far too numerous to mention. This cupboard was always carefully locked at night, but on this occasion Mr. Ferdinand, totally disorganised by the frightful scenes which had taken place at his dinner table during the evening, had retired to bed in a condition of collapse, leaving it open. Malkiel the Second, feeling frantically about in the dark, came upon the door of this cupboard, pulled it, found that it yielded to his hand, and, hearing the rapidly approaching voices of Madame and the Prophet, stumbled into the cupboard and sank down on a large gold loving-cup, with one foot in a silver soup tureen, and the other in a priceless sugar basin, just as the light of the candle borne by the Prophet glimmered in the darkness of the adjacent corridor.

"This way, Madame," said the Prophet. "But I really think such a proceeding is calculated to cause a grave scandal in the square."

Malkiel the Second drew the cupboard door to, and grasped a silver candelabrum in each hand to sustain himself upon the rather sharp rim of the loving-cup.

"What is the square to me or I to the square?" returned Madame with ungrammatical majesty. "Madame Malkiel is not governed by any ordinary laws. Lexes non scripta is her motto. To these alone she clings."

Her husband clung to the candelabra and burst into a violent perspiration. Through the keyhole of the cupboard a ray of light now shone, and he heard the frou-frou of his partner's skirt, the flump of the rabbit-skins as she cast them from her ample shoulders upon the floor. The Prophet's voice became audible again.

"What do you wish me to do?" he said, with a sort of embittered courtesy.

"Throw open the window, place yourself before the telescope, and proceed at once to your investigations," replied the lady.

"I am not in a condition to investigate," said the Prophet. "I am not indeed. If you will only let me get you a cab, to-morrow night-"

"It is useless to talk, Mr. Vivian," said Madame, very sharply. "The cab has not yet been made that will convey me to the Mouse to-night."

"But your husband-"

"My husband is a coward, unworthy of such a wife as he possesses. At the crisis of our fortunes-What's that?"

At this painful moment Malkiel the Second was so overcome by emotion, that he trembled, and allowed his left foot to rattle slightly on the sugar basin.

"What was it?" repeated Madame.

"Rats, I have no doubt," answered the Prophet, who had heard nothing. "I believe that the basements of these old houses are simply-well-simply permeated with rats."

For a moment Madame blanched, but she was a woman of spirit, and moreover she was almost intoxicated with ambition. Recognised at last as a lady of position and importance in one of the mansions of the idiotic great, she was more anxious than ever to remove forthwith into the central districts, there to exercise that sway which she had so long desired. Finding that there exists a world in which prophets-far from being considered as dirty and deceitful persons-are worshipped and adored, entertained with Pommery and treated almost as gods, she yearned to dwell in the midst of it. The peaceful seclusion of the Mouse was become hateful to her. The architects and their wives began to seem to her uplifted fancy little better than the circle that frequented Hagglin's Buildings, or appeared at the paltry entertainments given by the inhabitants of Drakeman's Villas. She was resolved to soar, and even rats should not turn her from her passionate purpose. Accordingly she replied,-

"Rats or no rats, I intend to see this matter out. Dixisti! The night wanes. Kindly go at once to the telescope."

The Prophet obeyed, first opening the window into the area. The rain had now cleared off, but the sky was still rather cloudy, and only a few stars peeped here and there.

"Really," said the Prophet, after applying his weary eye to the machine, "really I don't think it's any good, there are so very-"

"Have the goodness to place the old lady in the claws of the Crab, according to the directions of the coward who has deserted me."

Malkiel shook with shame upon the loving-cup.

"But I really can't find the Crab," said the Prophet, who was so tired that he could scarcely stand. "I can see the Great Bear."

"That is no use. The Bear has nothing to do with the old lady. You must find the Crab. Look again."

The Prophet did so. But his eye blinked with fatigue and the heavens swam before it.

"There is no Crab to-night," he said. "I assure you on my honour there is none."

Exactly as he finished making this statement a low whistle rang through the silence of the night. The Prophet started, Madame jumped, and Malkiel bounded on the loving-cup.

The whistle was repeated.

"It's the thing!" whispered the Prophet.

"What thing?" inquired Madame, who had become rather pale.

"The dark thing that told me the Crab was dressed. It has come again."

"My word!" ejaculated Madame, looking uneasily around. "Where is it?"

Just then Malkiel the Second's feet once more began to tremble among the plate of Mrs. Merillia.

"You hear it!" said the Prophet, much impressed.

"Did it rattle like that the other night?" gasped Madame, seizing the Prophet by the arm.

The Prophet told a lie with his head.

"Address it, I beg," said Madame, in a great state of excitement. "Meanwhile I will retire a few paces."

So saying, she backed into the passage, bearing the candle with her for company, and leaving the Prophet in total darkness. The low whistle sounded again, and a husky voice said,-

"Are you there?"

"Yes," replied the Prophet, summoning all his courage. "I am."

"What 'a' you put out the light for?" said the voice, which seemed to come from far away.

"I haven't put it out," returned the Prophet. "It's gone away."

At this juncture Malkiel, impelled by curiosity, ceased from trembling, and, leaning forward upon the loving-cup, glued his ear to the key-hole of the cupboard.

"Why was you so late to-night?" proceeded the voice. "She's been in a rare taking, I can tell you."

"Who?"

"Who? You know well enough."

"Do you mean my grandmother?"

"Your grandmother!" ejaculated the voice with apparent sarcasm. "Ah! of course, what do you think?"

"I'm sure I don't know," said the poor Prophet, whose reason was beginning to totter upon its throne.

"Well," proceeded the voice, "she thought you'd give it up."

"What-my grandmother did?"

"Ah, your grandmother. Get away with you! Ha! ha! ha!"

And the mysterious visitant broke forth into a peal of rather mundane laughter. After indulging in this unseemly mirth for about a minute and a half, the personage resumed,-

"The Crab did for her."

Upon hearing the mystic word Madame crept stealthily a pace or two nearer to the door, while the Prophet exclaimed,-

"The dressed Crab?"

"Ah, what do you think? Not a wink of sleep and thought every minute'd be 'er next."

"Good Heavens!"

"She says she'd never go near a crab again, not if it's ever so."

"You are sure?" said the Prophet, eagerly. "You are positive she said that?"

"I'd stake my Davy, and I wouldn't do that on everything. There ain't a man living as'll ever get her to go within fifty miles of a crab this side of Judgment."

At this point in the colloquy the curiosity of Madame overcame her, and she protruded her head suddenly beyond the edge of the doorway.

"Ulloh!" exclaimed the voice. "Why, what's 'a' you got there?"

Madame hastily withdrew, and the voice continued,-

"Blessed if it ain't a female!"

"I beg your pardon!" said the Prophet, trembling with propriety. "I-I-there is no female here!"

"Yes there is!" cried the voice, with a chuckle. "There's a female creeping and crawling about behind that there door."

The Prophet's sense of chivalry was now fully aroused.

"You are mistaken," he said firmly. "There are no females creeping and-and crawling about in this-this respectable house."

"Respectable!" ejaculated the voice, "respectable! I say there is a female. You're a nice one, you are! 'Pon my word, I've a good mind to run you in for Mormonism, I have. Wherever's she got to?"

On the last words a sudden blaze of light shot into the pantry, and at the same moment there was the sound of wheels rapidly approaching in the square.

"Hulloh!" said the voice, "someone a-comin'."

The light died out as rapidly as it had flashed in, the wheels drew close and stopped, and a bell pealed forth in the silent house.

"Merciful Heavens!" cried the Prophet, pressing his hands to his throbbing brow. "Merciful Heavens! who can that be?"

There was no answer, and the bell pealed again.

"Grannie will be disturbed!" exclaimed the Prophet, addressing himself, passionately to the darkness. "Grannie will be killed by all this uproar."

The bell pealed again.

"This must cease," cried the Prophet. "This must and shall cease. I will bring it all to an end once and for ever!"

And, with sudden desperate decision, he shut the window, burst out of the pantry and came upon Madame, who was standing in a somewhat furtive manner by the door that opened into the cellars of the mansion.

"Mr. Vivian," she began, in a rather subdued voice, "that isn't a comet, that's a copper!"

The bell rang again.

"D'you think-d'you think that can be my husband?" continued Madame, still seeming subdued. "I should like him-Do you think it's him?"

"What?"

"The bell."

"I will very soon see," replied the Prophet, in a most determined manner.

"But Mr. Viv-"

"Don't hold me, if you please. Kindly let me pass!"

And, breaking from the lady's anxious grasp, the Prophet rushed into the hall just as Gustavus appeared, descending the front stairs from the landing before Mrs. Merillia's door, where he had been in close conference with Mrs. Fancy.

"Stand back, Gustavus," said the Prophet.

"Sir!"

"Stand back!"

"But, sir, there is someone-"

"I know there is. I am about to answer the door myself."

"If you please, sir, Mrs. Merillia is greatly alarmed by the constant ringing, and Mrs. Fancy thinks-"

"Gustavus," said the Prophet in an awful voice, "you may retire, but first let me tell you one thing."

"Certainly, sir," said the footman, beginning to tremble.

"The circumstances that have rendered a hitherto peaceful household more disordered than an abode of madmen are about to be brought to an end for ever. There is a point at which a gentleman must either cease to be a gentleman or cease to be a man. I have reached that point, Gustavus, a

nd I am about to cease to be a gentleman."

And, with this terrible statement, the Prophet advanced with a sort of appalling deliberation and threw the front door wide open.

Upon the doorstep stood Lady Enid wrapped in a pink opera cloak and Sir Tiglath Butt shrouded in the Inverness. The Prophet faced them with a marble demeanour.

"I thought you'd be here, Mr. Vivian," began Lady Enid in a bright manner.

"I am here," said the Prophet, speaking in a voice that might well have issued from a statue.

"Where is he?" roared Sir Tiglath. "Where is he? Oh-h-h-h!"

"Sir Tiglath means Malkiel," explained Lady Enid. "He is most anxious to meet him."

"Why?" said the Prophet, still in the same inhuman voice.

"Well, we shall see when they do meet," said Lady Enid, throwing a look of keen curiosity at the astronomer. "I rather think-" here she lowered her voice and whispered in the Prophet's ear-"I rather think Sir Tiglath wishes to try if he can murder Malkiel. Do you believe he could bring it off?"

"I'm sure I don't know," answered the Prophet, with stony indifference. "Good-night to you!"

"But we want to come in," cried Lady Enid.

"Young man," roared Sir Tiglath, "the old astronomer will not leave this house till he has searched it from attic to cellar."

"I am sorry," replied the Prophet, "but I cannot permit my grandmother's servants or wine to be disturbed at such an hour. If you wish to murder Malkiel the Second, I shall not prevent you, but he is not here."

"Then where is he?" cried Lady Enid.

"I don't know. And now-"

The Prophet stepped back into the hall, and was about to close the door unceremoniously-having, as he intended, ceased to be a gentleman-when Lady Enid caught sight of the round and fixed eyes of Gustavus glaring out into the night from behind his master. The appalling feminine instinct, which makes woman the mistress of creation, suddenly woke within her, and she cried out in a piercing voice,-

"Malkiel's in the house, and Gustavus knows it!"

She spoke these words with such conviction that the Prophet spun round, top-wise, and stared at the unfortunate flunkey, who instantly fell upon his knee-breeches and stammered out,-

"Oh, sir, forgive me! It's Dr. Carter done it, sir, it is indeed. It's Dr. Carter done it!"

"Dr. Carter!" ejaculated the Prophet.

"The library, sir. He offered me the library eight times over, sir!"

"Who offered you the library?"

"The gent, sir, in Mr. Ferdinand's trouserings, what was at dinner, sir. He only wanted to change 'em, sir, and he says to me, he says, 'Let me,' he says, 'but remove these trouserings,' he says, 'before I make off to Java,' he says-"

"To where?" roared Sir Tiglath.

"To Java, sir, where the jelly and the sparrows is manufactured, sir, that is born, sir. 'And,' he says, 'here is a hundred pounds,' he says."

"Then he is in the house?" said the Prophet, sternly.

"Well, sir, he was, sir. And, as I ain't seen him go, sir, I expect as he's somewhere about changing of 'em, sir. Oh, sir, if you'll only look it over sir, It's all the thirst, sir, it's all the thirst-"

"What? You have been drinking?" cried the Prophet, in an outraged manner.

"No, sir, the thirst for knowledge, sir, as has brought me to this. Oh, sir, if only you'll-"

"Hush!" said the Prophet fiercely. "Sir Tiglath," he added, turning towards the puffing astronomer, "you can enter. My grandmother must have been right."

"Your grandmother?" said Lady Enid, with eager inquisitiveness.

"She informed me that the ruffian was in the house and had attempted to make away with her-"

"Dear me! this is most interesting!" interposed Lady Enid.

"But I supposed she had had the nightmare. It seems that I was wrong. If you will step in, you can search the house at once. And if you discover this nameless creature changing his-that is Mr. Ferdinand's trouserings-trousers, that is,-in any part of the building, as far as I am concerned you can murder him forthwith."

The Prophet spoke quite calmly, in a soft and level voice. Yet there was something so frightful in his tone and manner that even Sir Tiglath seemed slightly awe-stricken. At any rate, he accepted the Prophet's invitation in silence, and stepped almost furtively into the hall, on whose floor Gustavus was still posed in the conventional attitude of the Christian martyr. Lady Enid eagerly followed, and the Prophet was just about to close the door, when a dark, hovering figure that was pausing at a short distance off upon the pavement attracted his attention. He stopped short, and, perceiving that it was a policeman, beckoned to it. The figure approached.

"What's up now?" it said familiarly, emphasising the question with a sharp contraction of the left eyelid. "You're having a nice game to-night, and no mistake."

"Game!" replied the Prophet, sternly. "This is no game. Stand there, by the area gate, and if anyone should run out, knock him down with your truncheon. Do you hear me?"

With these impressive words he entered the house and shut the door, leaving the policeman to whistle inquiringly to the stars that were watching over this house, once peaceful, but now the abode of violence and tragedy.

In the hall he found Gustavus still on his knees between Lady Enid and Sir Tiglath.

"Lady Enid," he said, even in this hour mindful of the proprieties, "you have heard what this villain is doing here, and must be sensible that you can take no part in this search."

"Oh, but I particularly want-" began Lady Enid, hastily.

"Pardon me," said the Prophet, with more firmness than Napoleon ever showed to his marshals. "You must retire. Please come this way. Mrs. Fancy will look after you."

"Oh, but really, Mr. Vivian, I-"

"Kindly follow me."

Lady Enid hesitated for a moment, but the Prophet's manner was too much for her, and when he stepped, like a clockwork automaton with a steel interior, towards the staircase, she crept mildly in his wake.

"Can't I really-?" she whispered in his ear.

"Certainly not. If you were a married woman, possibly-"

"Well, but I am engaged," she murmured.

The Prophet stopped short.

"Engaged!" he said. "To whom?"

"Sir Tiglath."

"Engaged to Sir Tiglath!"

"Yes. He proposed to me to-night at Zoological House."

"Why?"

She might well have resented the question, but perhaps she divined the distraught and almost maniacal condition of mind that the Prophet masked beneath his impassive demeanour. At any rate she answered frankly,-

"Because he didn't find out I'm Miss Minerva, and in the midst of Mrs. Bridgeman's silly world I stood right out as the only sensible creature living. Isn't it fun?"

"Fun!"

"Yes. I always meant him to propose to me."

"Why?"

"Because I always thought it would be supremely idiotic of me to accept him."

The Prophet felt that if he listened to another remark of such a nature his brain would snap and he would instantly be taken with a tearing fit of hysterics. He therefore turned round and slowly ascended to the first floor.

"Kindly step into the drawing-room," he said, having first, by a rapid glance, assured himself that Malkiel was not changing Mr. Ferdinand's trousers there. "I will send Mrs. Fancy to chaperon you."

Lady Enid stepped in obediently, and the Prophet, who could distinctly hear Mrs. Fancy sobbing on the landing above, proceeded thither, took her hand and guided her down to the drawing-room.

"Oh, my poor, poor missis!" gulped the devoted creature. "Oh, my-"

"Precisely," rejoined the Prophet, with passionless equanimity. "Please go in there and remain to guard this young lady."

He assisted Mrs. Fancy to fall in a heap upon the nearest sociable, and then, still moving with a species of frozen deliberation, betook himself once more to the hall. The astronomer and Gustavus were standing there in silence.

"Sir Tiglath," said the Prophet, in a very formal manner, "you can now begin to search for this ruffian."

Sir Tiglath cleared his throat, and continued to stand still.

"I hope you will find him," continued the Prophet.

Sir Tiglath cleared his throat again and added,-

"Why?"

"Why? Because I think it quite time that he was murdered," answered the Prophet, unemotionally. "Well! why don't you search?"

The astronomer, whose face began to look less red than usual, rolled his glassy eyes round upon the shadowy hall, the dim staircase and the gloomy-looking closed doors that confronted them.

"Where is the old astronomer to search?" he asked, in a low voice. "Oh-h-h-h!"

The final exclamation sounded remarkably tremulous.

"Anywhere-except in my grandmother's bedroom. That of course is sacred. Well, why don't you begin?"

Sir Tiglath eyed the Prophet furtively.

"I'm-I'm going to," he murmured hoarsely. "The old astronomer does not know the meaning of the word-fear."

Exactly as he uttered these inspiring words the hall clock growled, like a very large dog, and struck two. Sir Tiglath started and caught hold of Gustavus, who started in his turn and shrank away. The Prophet alone stood up to the clock, which finished its remark with a click, and resumed its habitual occupation of ticking.

"Pray begin, Sir Tiglath," said the Prophet.

"The old astronomer-must have a-a-a-candle."

"Here is one," said the Prophet, handing the desired article.

"A lighted candle."

"Why lighted? Oh, so that you can see to murder him! Gustavus, light the candle."

Gustavus, who was trembling a good deal more than an autumn leaf, complied after about fifteen unavailing attempts.

"There, Sir Tiglath," said the Prophet. "Now you can begin." And he seated himself upon a settee, leaned back and crossed his legs.

"You will not accompany the old astronomer? Oh-h-h"

"No. I will rest here. When you have found the ruffian and murdered him, I shall be glad to hear your news."

And, so saying, the Prophet settled himself comfortably with a cushion behind his back, and calmly closed his eyes. The candlestick clattered in Sir Tiglath's gouty hand. The Prophet heard it, heard heavy feet shuffling very slowly and cautiously over the floor of the hall, finally heard the door leading to the servants' quarters swing on its hinges. Still he did not open his eyes. He felt that if he were to do so just then he would probably begin to shriek, rave, foam at the mouth, and in all known ways comport himself as do the inhabitants of Bedlam. A delicate silence fell in the hall. How long it lasted the Prophet never knew. It might have been five minutes or five years as far as he was concerned. It was broken at length by the following symphony of sounds-an elderly man's voice roaring, a woman's voice uttering a considerable number of very powerful screams on a rather low but still resounding note, a loud thump, a crash of glass, a prodigious clattering, as of utensils made in some noisy material falling from a height and rolling vigorously in innumerable directions, two or three bangs of doors, and the peculiar patter of rather large and flat feet, unaccustomed to any rapid exercise, moving over boards, oilcloth and carpet. Then the swing door sang, and the Prophet, opening his eyes, perceived Madame Malkiel moving forward with considerable vivacity, and screaming as she moved, her bonnet depending down her back and the rabbit-skins flowing from her ample shoulders. Immediately behind her ran her spouse, holding in one hand a silver pepper castor, and in the other a small and very beautifully finished bronze teapot of the William of Orange period. The worthy couple fleeted by, and the Prophet turned his expressionless eyes towards the swing door expecting immediately to perceive Sir Tiglath Butt in valiant pursuit. As no such figure presented itself, and as the Malkiels were now beginning to mount the stairs with continually increasing velocity, the Prophet slowly uncrossed his legs, and was thinking of getting upon his feet when there came a loud knock upon the hall door.

"Gustavus!" said the Prophet, glancing round.

He perceived the footman lying in a dead faint near the umbrella stand.

"Oh!" he said, speaking to himself aloud. "Oh! Then I must go myself."

Acting upon his conception of his duty, he accordingly walked to the front door, opened it, and found the policeman outside supporting the senseless form of Sir Tiglath Butt in one hand and holding a broken truncheon in the other.

"Well?" said the Prophet, calmly. "Well?"

"I knocked him down as he was making a bolt," said the policeman.

The Prophet found himself wondering why so industrious and even useful an occupation should be interfered with in such a manner. However, he only replied,-

"Indeed!"

"Ah," said the policeman, stepping into the hall and laying the astronomer out across a chair, "what's up?"

"They are both up," answered the Prophet, pointing with a lethargic finger towards the staircase, from which, at this moment, arose a perfect hubbub of voices.

"Come on!" cried the policeman.

"Why?" asked the Prophet.

"Why! you're a nice un, you are! Why! And nab 'em, of course!"

"You think it would be wise to-what was the word-nab them?" inquired the Prophet. "You really think so?"

"Well, what am I here for then?" said the policeman, with angry irony.

"Oh, if you prefer," rejoined the Prophet, civilly. "Nab them by all means. I shall not prevent you."

The policeman, who was an active and industrious fellow deserving of praise, waited for no further permission, but immediately darted up the stairs, and in less than a minute returned with Mrs. Merillia-attired in a black silk gown, a bonnet, and an Indian shawl presented to her on her marriage by a very great personage-in close custody.

"Here's one of 'em!" he shouted. "Here, you lay hold of her while I fetch the rest!"

And with these words he thrust the Prophet's grandmother into one of his hands, the broken truncheon into the other, and turning smartly round, again bounded up the stairs.

In a famous poem of the late Lord Tennyson there is related a dramatic incident of a lady whose disinclination to cry, when such emotion would have been only natural, was overcome by the presentation to her of her child. A somewhat similar effect was produced upon our Prophet by the constable's presentation to him of his honoured grandmother. The sight of her reverent head, surmounted by the bonnet which she had assumed in readiness to flee from the house which she could no longer regard as a home-the touch of her delicate hand-the flutter of her so hallowed Indian shawl-these things broke down the strange calm of her devoted grandson. Like summer tempest came his emotion, and, when the policeman presently returned with Malkiel the Second and Madame nabbed by his right and left hands, and followed by Lady Enid and the weeping Mrs. Fancy, he was confronted by a most pathetic tableau. The Prophet and Mrs. Merillia were weeping in each other's arm's while Sir Tiglath and Gustavus-just returned to consciousness-were engaged in examining the proceeding with puppy dog's eyes.

Over the explanations that ensued a veil may be partially drawn. One lifted corner, however, allows us to note that Sir Tiglath Butt, having come upon Madame hidden behind a bin of old port in the Prophet's cellar, had been seized by a desire not to alarm a lady so profound that it prompted him to hurry to the butler's pantry, and to seek concealment in the very cupboard which already contained Malkiel the Second. On perceiving that gentleman perched upon the loving-cup, and protected by candlesticks, sugar basins, teapots and other weapons, the astronomer's anxiety to become a murderer apparently forsook him. At any rate, he passed through the plate-glass of the window rather hastily into the area, where, as we know, he received the solicitous attentions of the policeman who had served as an intermediary between the Lord Chancellor's second cook-whose supper of dressed crab had caused so much confusion-and the supposed Mr. Ferdinand. Malkiel the Second, finding himself discovered, took to the open just as Madame fled forth from the cellar, to be overtaken by the very natural misconception that she was about to become the victim of a husband whose jealousy had at length caused him to assume his toga virilibus.

Perhaps it was Sir Tiglath's throwing off of the said garment which caused Lady Enid to throw him over. At any rate, she eventually married Mr. Robert Green and made him a very sensible wife.

The Malkiels returned to the Mouse, where they still live, and still carry on a certain amount of intercourse with architects and their wives. From time to time, however, they attend the receptions at Zoological House, and a rumour recently ran through the circles of the silly to the effect that they had been looking at a house not far from the Earls Court Station, with a view-it is surmised-of removing to more central districts.

They are no longer on terms with the Prophet.

He has retired from business and put down his telescope once and for all, recognising that prophecy is a dangerous employment, and one likely to bring about the very evils it foreshadows. Calmly he dwells with his beloved grandmother in the Berkeley Square, which has received them once more into its former favour. Sometimes, at night, when the sky is clear, and the bright stars, the guardian stars, keep watch over his aristocratic neighbourhood, he draws aside the curtain from the drawing-room window and glances forth at Mercury and Uranus, Jupiter, Saturn and Venus. And when his eyes meet their twinkling eyes, he exchanges with them-not a question and answer, not a demand for unholy information and a reluctant reply, but a serene, gentlemanly and perfectly decorous good-night.

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