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Chapter 2

  • IT WAS with considerable misgivings that Nana Rau drove with two dusk_ssistants down to Epsom the following morning.
  • With him was all his baggage, a formidable-looking amount for a night out; bu_hen the dazzling splendour of Eastern attire cannot be measured by Wester_artorial restrictions. These big trunks contained the full war paint whic_ana Rau and suite intended to don after luncheon, and ere proceeding t_indsor.
  • One thing Nana Rau was fully resolved upon. Nothing should induce him to pla_nto "Vaughan's" hands unless the latter could provide him with a proper wa_ut of the difficulty. It was only natural that the Prince should desire t_rotect himself, and nothing short of being able to show that he was th_nnocent victim of a vile conspiracy would satisfy him.
  • The Indians reached Vaughan's hospitable mansion at length and were met at th_oor by that individual himself.
  • "I am afraid I shall have to request you to dispense with a deal of ceremony,"
  • he said. "The fact is, this place has been let furnished for about a year, an_y late tenants only turned out of it last week, and thus we are terribl_hort of servants. These footmen don't seem able to do anything without a lo_f women to help them."
  • Vaughan, or Gryde rather, rang the bell violently, and presently a pair o_en-servants appeared breathlessly. They were a fine-looking pair of men, an_heir livery left nothing to be desired. The astute reader will have littl_ifficulty in guessing who these footmen were.
  • "Whatever have you fellows been doing?" Gryde demanded.
  • "Please, sir," replied one, in the purest of Cockney accents, "it's all alon_f the new cook, which she's drunk—"
  • Gryde waved these details aside.
  • "I desire to know nothing of these matters," he replied. "Take the Prince u_o the room prepared for him, and these gentlemen also, and see that they hav_verything they require. Luncheon is prepared, I suppose?"
  • "Luncheon is waiting in the dining-room now, sir."
  • A little later and Nana Rau, together with his host and attendants, sat dow_o one of the most perfect luncheons it is possible to imagine. The Prince wa_ bit of an epicure in his way, and as the meal proceeded he softened. Th_hoice champagne rendered him indifferent to the calls of Windsor. And really,
  • it seemed quite bad taste to stand in the light of so enlightened a  _bo_ivant_  as Vaughan.
  • Absolutely nothing had been left undone. The luncheon was a work of art, th_ines were cameos in their way, and the waiting of the two confederates lef_othing to be desired. In the poetic language of the modern Babylon, Nana Ra_as an accomplished "tiddler"; in the old days he would have been a three-
  • bottle man, and to leave such a feast of alcohol for a mere Court functio_artook almost of the nature of a crime.
  • "Then why leave it?" Gryde asked, when the attendants had withdrawn and he an_he Prince were alone. "Stay and make an evening of it."
  • "What's the good of talking that dashed nonsense?" said Nana Rau thickly. "Yo_now as well as possible that I must go."
  • "But it was arranged that I was to take your place."
  • "O! I know that's your game. I suppose you've got some diplomatic swindle on.
  • Only show me a clear way out—a way which will absolutely absolve me from al_lame—and you shall take my place with pleasure."
  • "I am about to do so," said Gryde.
  • "I think I shall be able to satisfy even your scruples if you will permit m_o leave you for a minute."
  • Nana Rau waved his hand majestically. He wanted no other company beyond tha_uperb champagne. He closed his eyes with the ecstasy of it He opened the_gain with a start five minutes later. Then, with a beatific smile upon hi_ace, he slipped from his chair on to the floor and slept.
  • * * * * *
  • Let no slur rest upon the fair fame of Nana Rau. For instance, he was a grea_eal more sober than Mr. Pickwick when discovered in the village pound. Bu_ven the strongest of heads cannot rise superior to a bottle or so of '7_hampagne  _plus_  a narcotic of potent properties.
  • A minute or two later Gryde entered the room, followed by his two "footmen."
  • "You fellows did your part uncommonly well," Gryde said. "The Christy minstre_n the floor is firm enough, and so are the others. They are perfectly saf_ere until this time to-morrow. Now then, boys—no time to be lost. Let us g_pstairs at once and get the Eastern robes on. Very nice to think that w_hould be actually provided with our disguises."
  • The work was by no means easy, though Gryde was an artist so far as thi_ranch of his profession was concerned. But patience and skill overcomes al_hings, and at length the task was accomplished. It would indeed have puzzle_n Englishman to have told the counterfeit from the originals.
  • "This thing will make a bit of a stir," said Gryde.
  • "Egad, you are right there," said one of the others, grimly. "Look here, Mr.
  • Vaughan, I'm not very particular, but I have jibbed a bit over this job. An_rdinary woman in England, but when it comes to—"
  • "You seem to regard me as somewhat simple," Gryde interrupted. "Do you suppos_ should be guilty of anything in such fearful taste?"
  • "But I was under the impression that we were going down on purpose to—"
  • "So we are. But my words will come true all the same. At six o'clock thi_vening important information, bearing upon the face of it every evidence o_ruth, will reach the India Office. A certain great lady will be informed o_he same without delay. And Nana Rau will not kiss the hand of her to whom h_wes fealty."
  • The scrupulous one said no more, being quite satisfied with this explanation.
  • A little later a resplendent carriage drove up to the house, and the thre_ndians gravely emerged. Two of them stood aside and bowed low as Gryd_assed, and then, when the two huge trunks were hoisted on the carriage, the_ntered.
  • The journey to Paddington was made without incident. Gryde had laid his plan_o carefully, he had made so many inquiries beforehand, that he has nothing t_ear from any display of ignorance on his part.
  • Everything went well, the retained carriage was entered at length, and th_rain started.
  • "Nothing wanting," said Gryde, with an air of satisfaction; "not a singl_itch—and, really, this is a most critical part of the performance. They migh_ave laid a strip of crimson carpet across the platform, but at times lik_hese one is not disposed to be hypercritical. Windsor will be the nex_rouble."
  • But Windsor proved no bother at all. The red liveried servants were allowed t_ake everything in their own hands, and ere long the adventurers foun_hemselves bowling along the wide avenues up to the Castle.
  • "How do you feel?" asked Gryde.
  • "Uncommonly nervous," said the others in chorus.
  • Gryde smiled. He did not appear to be suffering from the same malady. On th_ontrary, he was perfectly at his ease.
  • "The great charm of this mode of life," he muttered," lies in the fact that i_ever lacks variety."