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Chapter 13 BUSINESS FIRST.

  • The manager at Messrs. Drummond, Coutts and Barclay's, Limited, receive_olonel Kelmscott with distinguished consideration. A courteous, conciliator_ort of man, that manager, with his close-shaven face and his spotless shirt-
  • front.
  • "Five minutes, my dear sir?" he exclaimed, with warmth, motioning his visito_landly into the leather-covered chair. "Half an hour, if you wish it. W_lways have leisure to receive our clients. Any service we can render them,
  • we're only too happy."
  • "But this is a very peculiar bit of business," Colonel Kelmscott answered,
  • humming and hawing with obvious hesitation. "It isn't quite in the regular wa_f banking, I believe. Perhaps, indeed, I ought rather to have put it into th_ands of my solicitor. But, even if you can't manage the thing yourself, yo_ay be able to put me in the way of finding out how best I can get it manage_lsewhere."
  • The manager bowed. His smile was a smile of genuine satisfaction.
  • Colonel Kelmscott of Tilgate was in a most gracious humour.
  • The manager, with deference, held himself wholly at his client's
  • disposition.
  • So the Colonel proceeded to unfold his business. There were two young men, no_nocking about town, of the names of Guy and Cyril Waring—the one _ournalist, the other a painter—and they had rooms in Staple Inn, Holborn,
  • which would doubtless form a sufficient clue by which to identify them.
  • Colonel Kelmscott desired unobtrusively to know where these young me_anked—if indeed they were in a position to keep an account; and when that wa_ound out, he wished Messrs. Drummond, Coutts and Barclay, Limited, to place _um of money at their bankers to their credit, without mentioning the name o_he person so placing it, as well as to transmit to them a sealed envelope,
  • containing instructions as to the use to be made of the money in question.
  • The manager nodded a cautious acquiescence. To place the money to the credi_f the two young men, indeed, would be quite in their way. But to send th_ealed envelope, without being aware of its contents, or the nature of th_usiness on which it was despatched, would be much less regular. Perhaps th_olonel might find some other means of managing without their aid that portio_f the business arrangement.
  • The Colonel, for his part, fell in readily enough with this modest point o_iew. It amply sufficed for him if the money were paid to the young men'_redit, and a receipt, forwarded to him in due course, under cover of _umber, to the care of the bankers.
  • "Very well," the manager answered, rubbing his hands contentedly. "Ou_onfidential clerk will settle all that for you. A most sagacious person, ou_onfidential clerk. No eyes, no ears, no tongue for anything but our clients'
  • interests."
  • The Colonel smiled, and sat a little longer, giving further details as th_recise amount he wished sent, and the particular way he wished to send it—th_hole sum to be, in fact, twelve thousand pounds, amount of the purchase mone_f the Dowlands farms, whereof only six thousand had as yet been paid down;
  • and that six thousand he wished to place forthwith to the credit of Cyri_aring, the painter. The remaining six thousand, to be settled, as agreed, i_ive weeks' time, he would then make over under the self-same conditions t_he other brother, Guy Waring, the journalist. It had gone a trifle too cheap,
  • that land at Dowlands, the Colonel opined; but still, in days like these h_as very glad, indeed, to find a purchaser for the place at anything like it_alue.
  • "I think a Miss Ewes was the fortunate bidder, wasn't she?" the manager asked,
  • just to make a certain decent show of interest in his client's estate.
  • "Yes, Miss Elma Ewes of Kenilworth," the Colonel answered, letting loose for _oment his tongue, that unruly member. "She's the composer, you know—write_ongs and dances; remotely connected with Reginald Clifford, the man who wa_overnor of some West Indian Dutch-oven—St. Kitts, I think, or Antigua—h_ives down our way, and he's a neighbour of mine at Tilgate. Or rather she'_onnected with Mrs. Clifford, the Governor's wife, who was one of the younge_ranch, a Miss Ewes of Worthing, daughter of the Ewes who was Dean o_orchester. Elma's been a family name for years with all the lot of Eweses,
  • good, bad, or indifferent. Came down to them, don't you know, from tha_oumanian ancestress."
  • "Indeed," the manager answered, now beginning to be really interested—for th_liffords were clients too, and it behoves a banker to know everything abou_verybody's business. "So Mrs. Clifford had an ancestress who was a Roumanian,
  • had she? Well, I've noticed at times her complexion looked very southern an_ipsy-like—distinctly un-English."
  • "Oh, they call it Roumanian," Colonel Kelmscott went on in a confidentia_one, roping his white moustache, and growing more and more conversational;
  • "they call it Roumanian, because it sounds more respectable; but I believe, i_ou go right down to the very bottom of the thing, it was much more like som_ind of Oriental gipsy. Sir Michael Ewes, the founder of the house, in Georg_he Second's time, was ambassador for awhile at Constantinople. He began life,
  • indeed, I believe, as a Turkey merchant. Well, at Pera one day, so the stor_oes—you'll find it all in Horace Walpole's diary—he picked up with this dark-
  • skinned gipsy-woman, who was a wonderful creature in her way, a sort o_esmeric sorceress, who belonged to some tribe of far eastern serpen_harmers. It seems that women of this particular tribe were regularly traine_y the men to be capering priestesses—or fortune-tellers, if you like—wh_erformed some extraordinary sacred antics of a mystical kind, much after th_ashion of the howling dervishes. However that may be, Sir Michael, at an_ate, pacing the streets of Pera, saw the woman that she was passing fair, an_ell in love with her outright at some dervish entertainment. But being a ver_ell-behaved old man, combining a liking for Orientals with a British tast_or the highest respectability, he had the girl baptized and made into _roper Christian first; and then he married her off-hand and brought her hom_ith him as my Lady Ewes to England. She was presented at Court, to George th_econd; and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu stood her sponsor on the occasion."
  • "But how did it all turn out?" the manager asked, with an air of intelligen_istorical interest.
  • "Turn out? Well, it turned out in a thumping big family of thirteen children,"
  • the Colonel answered; "most of whom, happily for the father, died young, Bu_he five who survived, and who married at last into very good connections, al_ad one peculiarity, which they transmitted to all their female descendants.
  • Very odd these hereditary traits, to be sure. Very singular! Very singular!"
  • "Ah, to be sure," the manager answered, turning over a pile of letters. "An_hat was the hereditary trait handed down, as you say, in the family of th_oumanian lady?"
  • "Why, in the first place," the Colonel continued, leaning back in his chair,
  • and making himself perfectly comfortable, "all the girls of the Ewe_onnection, to the third and fourth generation, have olive-brown complexions,
  • creamy and soft, but clear as crystal. Then again, they've all got mos_xtraordinary intuition—a perfectly marvellous gift of reading faces. B_eorge, sir," the Colonel exclaimed, growing hot and red at the memory of tha_fternoon on the Holkers' lawn, "I don't like to see those women's eyes fixe_pon my cheek when there's anything going on I don't want them to know. _an's transparent like glass before them. They see into his very soul. The_ook right through him."
  • "If the lady who founded the family habits was a fortune-teller," the manage_nterposed, with a scientific air, "that's not so remarkable; for fortune-
  • tellers must always be quick-witted people, keen to perceive the changes o_ountenance in the dupes who employ them, and prompt at humouring all the fad_nd fancies of their customers, mustn't they?"
  • "Quite so," the Colonel echoed. "You've hit it on the nail. And thi_articular lady—Esmeralda they call her, so that Elma, which is short fo_smeralda, understand, has come to be the regular Christian name among all he_omen descendants—this particular lady belonged to what you might call a cast_r priestly family, as it were, of hereditary fortune-tellers, every one o_hose ancestors had been specially selected for generations for the work, til_ kind of transmissible mesmeric habit got developed among them. And they d_ay," the Colonel went on, lowering his voice a little more to a confidentia_hisper, "that all the girls descended from Madame Esmeralda—Lady Ewes o_harlwood, as she was in England—retain to this day another still odder an_ncannier mark of their peculiar origin; but, of course, it's a story tha_ould be hard to substantiate, though I've heard it discussed more than onc_mong the friends of the family."
  • "Dear me! What's that?" the manager asked, in a tone of marked curiosity.
  • "Why, they do say," the Colonel went on, now fairly launched upon a piece o_fter-dinner gossip, "that the eastern snake-dance of Madame Esmeralda'_eople is hereditary even still among the women of the family, and that,
  • sooner or later, it breaks out unexpectedly in every one of them. When the fi_omes on, they shut themselves up in their own rooms, I've been told, an_wirl round and round for hours like dancing dervishes, with anything they ca_et in their hands to represent a serpent, till they fall exhausted with th_ysterical effort. Even if a woman of Esmeralda's blood escapes it at al_ther times, it's sure to break out when she first sees a real live snake, o_alls in love for the first time. Then the dormant instincts of the race com_ver her with a rush, at the very dawn of womanhood, all quickened an_roused, as it were, in the general awakening."
  • "That's very curious!" the manager said, leaning back in his chair in turn,
  • and twirling his thumbs, "very curious indeed; and yet, in its way, ver_robable, very probable. For habits like those must set themselves deep in th_ery core of the system, don't you think, Colonel? If this woman, now, wa_escended from a whole line of ancestresses, who had all been trained fo_heir work into a sort of ecstatic fervour, the ecstasy and all that went wit_t must have got so deeply ingrained—"
  • "I beg your pardon," the Colonel interrupted, consulting his watch and seizin_is hat hastily—for as a Kelmscott, he refused point-blank to b_ectured—"I've an appointment at my club at half-past three, and I must no_ait any longer. Well, you'll get these young men's address for me, then, a_he very earliest possible opportunity?"
  • The manager pocketed the snub, and bowed his farewell. "Oh, certainly," h_nswered, trying to look as pleased and gracious as his features would permit.
  • "Our confidential clerk will hunt them up immediately. We're delighted to b_f use to you. Good morning. Good morning."
  • And as soon as the Colonel's back was turned, the manager rang twice on hi_harp little bell for the confidential clerk to receive his orders.
  • Mr. Montague Nevitt immediately presented himself in answer to the summons.
  • "Mr. Nevitt," the manager said, with a dry, small cough, "here's a bit o_usiness of the most domestic kind—strict seal of secrecy, not a word on an_ccount. Colonel Kelmscott of Tilgate wants to know where two young men, name_uy and Cyril Waring, keep their banking account, if any; and, as soon as h_nows, he wishes to pay in a substantial sum, quite privately, to thei_redit."
  • Mr. Montague Nevitt bowed a bow of assent; without the faintest sign o_assing recognition. "Guy and Cyril Waring," he repeated to himself, lookin_lose at the scrap of paper his chief had handed him; "Guy and Cyril Waring,
  • Staple Inn, Holborn. I can find out to-day, sir, if you attach any special an_ressing importance to promptitude in the matter."