It was nine o'clock and after. The great show at Olympia was at its height;
the packed house was roaring with delight over the daring equestrianship of
"Mlle. Marie de Zanoni," and the sound of the cheers rolled in to the hug_ressing-tent, where the artists awaited their several turns, and th_hevalier, in spangled trunks and tights, all ready for his call, sat huggin_is child and shivering like a man with the ague.
"Come, come, buck up, man, and don't funk it like this," said Señor Sperati,
who had graciously consented to assist him with his dressing because of th_njury to his hand. "The idea of you losing your nerve, you of all men, an_ecause of a little affair like that. You know very well that Nero is as saf_s a kitten to-night, that he never has two smiling turns in the same week,
much less the same day. Your act's the next on the programme. Buck up and g_t it like a man."
"I can't, señor, I can't!" almost wailed the chevalier. "My nerve is gone.
Never, if I live to be a thousand, shall I forget that awful moment, tha_ppalling 'smile.' I tell you, there is wizardry in the thing; the beast i_ewitched. My work in the arena is done—done for ever, señor. I shall neve_ave courage to look into the beast's jaws again."
"Rot! You're not going to ruin the show, are you, and after all the money I'v_ut into it? If you have no care for yourself, it's your duty to think abou_e. You can at least try. I tell you you must try! Here, take a sip of brandy,
and see if that won't put a bit of courage into you. Hello!" as a burst o_pplause and the thud of a horse's hoofs down the passage to the stables cam_olling in, "there's your wife's turn over at last; and there—listen! th_ingmaster is announcing yours. Get up, man; get up and go out."
"I can't, señor—I can't! I can't!"
"But I tell you you must."
And just here an interruption came.
"Bad advice, my dear captain," said a voice—Cleek's voice—from the other en_f the tent; and with a twist and a snarl the "señor" screwed round on hi_eel in time to see that other intruders were putting in an appearance as wel_s this unwelcome one.
"Who the deuce asked you for your opinion?" rapped out the "señor" savagely.
"And what are you doing in here, anyhow? If we want the service of a vet.,
we're quite capable of getting one for ourselves without having him shove hi_resence upon us unasked."
"You are quite capable of doing a great many things, my dear captain, eve_aking lions smile!" said Cleek serenely. "It would appear that the gallan_aptain von Gossler, nephew, and, in the absence of one who has a bette_laim, heir to the late Baron von Steinheid—That's it, nab the beggar. Played,
sir, played! Hustle him out and into the cab, with his precious confederate,
the Irish-Italian 'signor,' and make a clean sweep of the pair of them. You'l_ind it a neck-stretching game, captain, I'm afraid, when the jury comes t_ear of that poor boy's death and your beastly part in it."
By this time the tent was in an uproar, for the chevalier's wife had com_urrying in, the chevalier's daughter was on the verge of hysterics, and th_hevalier's prospective son-in-law was alternately hugging the great beast-
tamer and then shaking his hand and generally deporting himself like _espectable young man who had suddenly gone daft.
"Governor!" he cried, half laughing, half sobbing. "Bully old governor. It'_ver—it's over. Never any more danger, never any more hard times, never an_ore lion's smiles."
"No, never," said Cleek. "Come here, Madame Pullaine, and hear the good new_ith the rest. You married for love, and you've proved a brick. The dream'_ome true, and the life of ease and of luxury is yours at last, Mr. Pullaine."
"But, sir, I—I do not understand," stammered the chevalier. "What ha_appened? Why have you arrested the Señor Sperati? What has he done? I canno_omprehend."
"Can't you? Well, it so happens, chevalier, that the Baron von Steinheid die_omething like two months ago, leaving the sum of sixty thousand pound_terling to one Peter Janssen Pullaine and the heirs of his body, and that _ertain Captain von Gossler, son of the baron's only sister, meant to mak_ure that there was no Peter Janssen Pullaine and no heirs of his body t_nherit one farthing of it."
"Sir! Dear God, can this be true?"
"Perfectly true, chevalier. The late baron's solicitors have been advertisin_or some time for news regarding the whereabouts of Peter Janssen Pullaine,
and if you had not so successfully hidden your real name under that of you_rofessional one, no doubt some of your colleagues would have put you in th_ay of finding it out long ago. The baron did not go back on his word and di_ot act ungratefully. His will, dated twenty-nine years ago, was never altere_n a single particular. I rather suspect that that letter and that gift o_oney which came to you in the name of his steward, and was supposed to clos_he affair entirely, was the work of his nephew, the gentleman whose exit ha_ust been made. A crafty individual that, chevalier, and he laid his plan_leverly and well. Who would be likely to connect him with the death of _east-tamer in a circus, who had perished in what would appear an accident o_is calling? Ah, yes, the lion's smile was a clever idea—he was a sharp rasca_o think of it."
"Sir! You—you do not mean to tell me that he caused that? He never went nea_he beast—never—even once."
"Not necessary, chevalier. He kept near you and your children; that was al_hat he needed to do to carry out his plan. The lion was as much his victim a_nybody else—you or your children. What it did it could not help doing. Th_ery simplicity of the plan was its passport to success. All that was require_as the unsuspected sifting of snuff on the hair of the person whose head wa_o be put in the beast's mouth. The lion's smile was not, properly speaking, _mile at all, chevalier; it was the torture which came of snuff getting int_ts nostrils, and when the beast made that uncanny noise and snapped its jaw_ogether, it was simply the outcome of a sneeze. The thing would be farcica_f it were not that tragedy hangs on the thread of it, and that a life, _seful human life, was destroyed by means of it. Yes, it was clever, it wa_iabolically clever; but you know what Bobby Burns says about the best lai_chemes of mice and men. There's always a Power—higher up—that works the rui_f them."
With that he walked by, and, going to young Scarmelli, put out his hand.
"You're a good chap and you've got a good girl, so I expect you will b_appy," he said; and then lowered his voice so that the rest might not reac_he chevalier's ears. "You were wrong to suspect the little stepmother," h_dded. "She's true blue, Scarmelli. She was only playing up to those fellow_ecause she was afraid the 'señor' would drop out and close the show if sh_idn't, and that she and her husband and the children would be thrown out o_ork. She loves her husband—that's certain—and she's a good little woman; and,
"Yes, Mr. Cleek?"
"There's nothing better than a good woman on this earth, my lad. Alway_emember that. I think you, too, have found one. I hope you have. I hop_ou'll be happy. What's that? Owe me? Not a rap, my boy. Or, if you feel tha_ou must give me something, give me your prayers for equal luck, and—send me _lice of the wedding cake. Good-night!"
And twisted round on his heel and walked out; making his way out to th_treets and facing the journey to Clarges Street afoot. For to be absolutel_ithout envy of any sort is not given to anything born of woman; and the sigh_f this man's happiness, the knowledge of this man's reward, brought upon hi_ bitter recollection of how far he still was from his own.
Would he ever get that reward? he wondered. Would he ever be nearer to it tha_e was to-night? It hurt—yes, it hurt horribly, sometimes, this stone-col_ilence, this walking always in shadowed paths without a ray of light, withou_he certainty of arriving _anywhere_ , though he plod onward for _ifetime—and the old feeling of savage resentment, the old sense of self-
pity—the surest thing on God's earth to blaze a trail for the oncoming of th_orst that is in a man—bit at the soul of him and touched him on the ra_gain.
He knew what that boded; and he also knew the antidote.
"Dollops, they broke into our holiday—they did us out of a part of it, didn'_hey, old chap?" he said, when he reached home at last and found the bo_nxiously awaiting him. "Well, we'll have a day for every hour they deprive_s of, a whole day, bonny boy. Pack up again and we'll be off to the land a_od made it, and where God's things still live; and we'll have a fortnight o_t—a whole blessed fortnight, my boy, with the river and the fields and th_lowers and the dreams that hide in trees."
Dollops made no reply. He simply bolted for the kit-bag and began to pack a_nce. And the morrow, when it came, found these two—the servant who was stil_ boy, and the master who had discovered the way back to boyhood'_ecrets—forging up the shining river and seeking the Land of Nightingale_gain.