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-
"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
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'
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."