Category: Love Letters
Norman Gortsby sat on a bench in the Park, with his back to a strip of
bush-planted sward, fenced by the park railings, and the Row fronting him
across a wide stretch of carriage drive.  Hyde Park Corner, with its
rattle and hoot of traffic, lay immediately to his right.  It was some
thirty minutes past six on an early March evening, and dusk had fallen
heavily over the scene, dusk mitigated by some faint moonlight and many
street lamps.  There was a wide emptiness over road and sidewalk, and yet
there were many unconsidered figures moving silently through the half-
light, or dotted unobtrusively on bench and chair, scarcely to be
distinguished from the shadowed gloom in which they sat.

The scene pleased Gortsby and harmonised with his present mood.  Dusk, to
his mind, was the hour of the defeated.  Men and women, who had fought
and lost, who hid their fallen fortunes and dead hopes as far as possible
from the scrutiny of the curious, came forth in this hour of gloaming,
when their shabby clothes and bowed shoulders and unhappy eyes might pass
unnoticed, or, at any rate, unrecognised.

   A king that is conquered must see strange looks,
   So bitter a thing is the heart of man.

The wanderers in the dusk did not choose to have strange looks fasten on
them, therefore they came out in this bat-fashion, taking their pleasure
sadly in a pleasure-ground that had emptied of its rightful occupants.
Beyond the sheltering screen of bushes and palings came a realm of
brilliant lights and noisy, rushing traffic.  A blazing, many-tiered
stretch of windows shone through the dusk and almost dispersed it,
marking the haunts of those other people, who held their own in life's
struggle, or at any rate had not had to admit failure.  So Gortsby's
imagination pictured things as he sat on his bench in the almost deserted
walk.  He was in the mood to count himself among the defeated.  Money
troubles did not press on him; had he so wished he could have strolled
into the thoroughfares of light and noise, and taken his place among the
jostling ranks of those who enjoyed prosperity or struggled for it.  He
had failed in a more subtle ambition, and for the moment he was heartsore
and disillusionised, and not disinclined to take a certain cynical
pleasure in observing and labelling his fellow wanderers as they went
their ways in the dark stretches between the lamp-lights.

On the bench by his side sat an elderly gentleman with a drooping air of
defiance that was probably the remaining vestige of self-respect in an
individual who had ceased to defy successfully anybody or anything.  His
clothes could scarcely be called shabby, at least they passed muster in
the half-light, but one's imagination could not have pictured the wearer
embarking on the purchase of a half-crown box of chocolates or laying out
ninepence on a carnation buttonhole.  He belonged unmistakably to that
forlorn orchestra to whose piping no one dances; he was one of the
world's lamenters who induce no responsive weeping.  As he rose to go
Gortsby imagined him returning to a home circle where he was snubbed and
of no account, or to some bleak lodging where his ability to pay a weekly
bill was the beginning and end of the interest he inspired.  His
retreating figure vanished slowly into the shadows, and his place on the
bench was taken almost immediately by a young man, fairly well dressed
but scarcely more cheerful of mien than his predecessor.  As if to
emphasise the fact that the world went badly with him the new-corner
unburdened himself of an angry and very audible expletive as he flung
himself into the seat.

"You don't seem in a very good temper," said Gortsby, judging that he was
expected to take due notice of the demonstration.

The young man turned to him with a look of disarming frankness which put
him instantly on his guard.

"You wouldn't be in a good temper if you were in the fix I'm in," he
said; "I've done the silliest thing I've ever done in my life."

"Yes?" said Gortsby dispassionately.

"Came up this afternoon, meaning to stay at the Patagonian Hotel in
Berkshire Square," continued the young man; "when I got there I found it
had been pulled down some weeks ago and a cinema theatre run up on the
site.  The taxi driver recommended me to another hotel some way off and I
went there.  I just sent a letter to my people, giving them the address,
and then I went out to buy some soap--I'd forgotten to pack any and I
hate using hotel soap.  Then I strolled about a bit, had a drink at a bar
and looked at the shops, and when I came to turn my steps back to the
hotel I suddenly realised that I didn't remember its name or even what
street it was in.  There's a nice predicament for a fellow who hasn't any
friends or connections in London!  Of course I can wire to my people for
the address, but they won't have got my letter till to-morrow; meantime
I'm without any money, came out with about a shilling on me, which went
in buying the soap and getting the drink, and here I am, wandering about
with twopence in my pocket and nowhere to go for the night."

There was an eloquent pause after the story had been told.  "I suppose
you think I've spun you rather an impossible yarn," said the young man
presently, with a suggestion of resentment in his voice.

"Not at all impossible," said Gortsby judicially; "I remember doing
exactly the same thing once in a foreign capital, and on that occasion
there were two of us, which made it more remarkable.  Luckily we
remembered that the hotel was on a sort of canal, and when we struck the
canal we were able to find our way back to the hotel."

The youth brightened at the reminiscence.  "In a foreign city I wouldn't
mind so much," he said; "one could go to one's Consul and get the
requisite help from him.  Here in one's own land one is far more derelict
if one gets into a fix.  Unless I can find some decent chap to swallow my
story and lend me some money I seem likely to spend the night on the
Embankment.  I'm glad, anyhow, that you don't think the story
outrageously improbable."

He threw a good deal of warmth into the last remark, as though perhaps to
indicate his hope that Gortsby did not fall far short of the requisite

"Of course," said Gortsby slowly, "the weak point of your story is that
you can't produce the soap."

The young man sat forward hurriedly, felt rapidly in the pockets of his
overcoat, and then jumped to his feet.

"I must have lost it," he muttered angrily.

"To lose an hotel and a cake of soap on one afternoon suggests wilful
carelessness," said Gortsby, but the young man scarcely waited to hear
the end of the remark.  He flitted away down the path, his head held
high, with an air of somewhat jaded jauntiness.

"It was a pity," mused Gortsby; "the going out to get one's own soap was
the one convincing touch in the whole story, and yet it was just that
little detail that brought him to grief.  If he had had the brilliant
forethought to provide himself with a cake of soap, wrapped and sealed
with all the solicitude of the chemist's counter, he would have been a
genius in his particular line.  In his particular line genius certainly
consists of an infinite capacity for taking precautions."

With that reflection Gortsby rose to go; as he did so an exclamation of
concern escaped him.  Lying on the ground by the side of the bench was a
small oval packet, wrapped and sealed with the solicitude of a chemist's
counter.  It could be nothing else but a cake of soap, and it had
evidently fallen out of the youth's overcoat pocket when he flung himself
down on the seat.  In another moment Gortsby was scudding along the dusk-
shrouded path in anxious quest for a youthful figure in a light overcoat.
He had nearly given up the search when he caught sight of the object of
his pursuit standing irresolutely on the border of the carriage drive,
evidently uncertain whether to strike across the Park or make for the
bustling pavements of Knightsbridge.  He turned round sharply with an air
of defensive hostility when he found Gortsby hailing him.

"The important witness to the genuineness of your story has turned up,"
said Gortsby, holding out the cake of soap; "it must have slid out of
your overcoat pocket when you sat down on the seat.  I saw it on the
ground after you left.  You must excuse my disbelief, but appearances
were really rather against you, and now, as I appealed to the testimony
of the soap I think I ought to abide by its verdict.  If the loan of a
sovereign is any good to you--"

The young man hastily removed all doubt on the subject by pocketing the

"Here is my card with my address," continued Gortsby; "any day this week
will do for returning the money, and here is the soap--don't lose it
again it's been a good friend to you."

"Lucky thing your finding it," said the youth, and then, with a catch in
his voice, he blurted out a word or two of thanks and fled headlong in
the direction of Knightsbridge.

"Poor boy, he as nearly as possible broke down," said Gortsby to himself.
"I don't wonder either; the relief from his quandary must have been
acute.  It's a lesson to me not to be too clever in judging by

As Gortsby retraced his steps past the seat where the little drama had
taken place he saw an elderly gentleman poking and peering beneath it and
on all sides of it, and recognised his earlier fellow occupant.

"Have you lost anything, sir?" he asked.

"Yes, sir, a cake of soap."

Category: Love Letters
It was autumn in London, that blessed season between the harshness of
winter and the insincerities of summer; a trustful season when one buys
bulbs and sees to the registration of one's vote, believing perpetually
in spring and a change of Government.

Morton Crosby sat on a bench in a secluded corner of Hyde Park, lazily
enjoying a cigarette and watching the slow grazing promenade of a pair of
snow-geese, the male looking rather like an albino edition of the russet-
hued female.  Out of the corner of his eye Crosby also noted with some
interest the hesitating hoverings of a human figure, which had passed and
repassed his seat two or three times at shortening intervals, like a wary
crow about to alight near some possibly edible morsel.  Inevitably the
figure came to an anchorage on the bench, within easy talking distance of
its original occupant.  The uncared-for clothes, the aggressive, grizzled
beard, and the furtive, evasive eye of the new-comer bespoke the
professional cadger, the man who would undergo hours of humiliating tale-
spinning and rebuff rather than adventure on half a day's decent work.

For a while the new-comer fixed his eyes straight in front of him in a
strenuous, unseeing gaze; then his voice broke out with the insinuating
inflection of one who has a story to retail well worth any loiterer's
while to listen to.

"It's a strange world," he said.

As the statement met with no response he altered it to the form of a

"I daresay you've found it to be a strange world, mister?"

"As far as I am concerned," said Crosby, "the strangeness has worn off in
the course of thirty-six years."

"Ah," said the greybeard, "I could tell you things that you'd hardly
believe.  Marvellous things that have really happened to me."

"Nowadays there is no demand for marvellous things that have really
happened," said Crosby discouragingly; "the professional writers of
fiction turn these things out so much better.  For instance, my
neighbours tell me wonderful, incredible things that their Aberdeens and
chows and borzois have done; I never listen to them.  On the other hand,
I have read 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' three times."

The greybeard moved uneasily in his seat; then he opened up new country.

"I take it that you are a professing Christian," he observed.

"I am a prominent and I think I may say an influential member of the
Mussulman community of Eastern Persia," said Crosby, making an excursion
himself into the realms of fiction.

The greybeard was obviously disconcerted at this new check to
introductory conversation, but the defeat was only momentary.

"Persia.  I should never have taken you for a Persian," he remarked, with
a somewhat aggrieved air.

"I am not," said Crosby; "my father was an Afghan."

"An Afghan!" said the other, smitten into bewildered silence for a
moment.  Then he recovered himself and renewed his attack.

"Afghanistan.  Ah!  We've had some wars with that country; now, I
daresay, instead of fighting it we might have learned something from it.
A very wealthy country, I believe.  No real poverty there."

He raised his voice on the word "poverty" with a suggestion of intense
feeling.  Crosby saw the opening and avoided it.

"It possesses, nevertheless, a number of highly talented and ingenious
beggars," he said; "if I had not spoken so disparagingly of marvellous
things that have really happened I would tell you the story of Ibrahim
and the eleven camel-loads of blotting-paper.  Also I have forgotten
exactly how it ended."

"My own life-story is a curious one," said the stranger, apparently
stifling all desire to hear the history of Ibrahim; "I was not always as
you see me now."

"We are supposed to undergo complete change in the course of every seven
years," said Crosby, as an explanation of the foregoing announcement.

"I mean I was not always in such distressing circumstances as I am at
present," pursued the stranger doggedly.

"That sounds rather rude," said Crosby stiffly, "considering that you are
at present talking to a man reputed to be one of the most gifted
conversationalists of the Afghan border."

"I don't mean in that way," said the greybeard hastily; "I've been very
much interested in your conversation.  I was alluding to my unfortunate
financial situation.  You mayn't hardly believe it, but at the present
moment I am absolutely without a farthing.  Don't see any prospect of
getting any money, either, for the next few days.  I don't suppose you've
ever found yourself in such a position," he added.

"In the town of Yom," said Crosby, "which is in Southern Afghanistan, and
which also happens to be my birthplace, there was a Chinese philosopher
who used to say that one of the three chiefest human blessings was to be
absolutely without money.  I forget what the other two were."

"Ah, I daresay," said the stranger, in a tone that betrayed no enthusiasm
for the philosopher's memory; "and did he practise what he preached?
That's the test."

"He lived happily with very little money or resources," said Crosby.

"Then I expect he had friends who would help him liberally whenever he
was in difficulties, such as I am in at present."

"In Yom," said Crosby, "it is not necessary to have friends in order to
obtain help.  Any citizen of Yom would help a stranger as a matter of

The greybeard was now genuinely interested.

The conversation had at last taken a favourable turn.

"If someone, like me, for instance, who was in undeserved difficulties,
asked a citizen of that town you speak of for a small loan to tide over a
few days' impecuniosity--five shillings, or perhaps a rather larger
sum--would it be given to him as a matter of course?"

"There would be a certain preliminary," said Crosby; "one would take him
to a wine-shop and treat him to a measure of wine, and then, after a
little high-flown conversation, one would put the desired sum in his hand
and wish him good-day.  It is a roundabout way of performing a simple
transaction, but in the East all ways are roundabout."

The listener's eyes were glittering.

"Ah," he exclaimed, with a thin sneer ringing meaningly through his
words, "I suppose you've given up all those generous customs since you
left your town.  Don't practise them now, I expect."

"No one who has lived in Yom," said Crosby fervently, "and remembers its
green hills covered with apricot and almond trees, and the cold water
that rushes down like a caress from the upland snows and dashes under the
little wooden bridges, no one who remembers these things and treasures
the memory of them would ever give up a single one of its unwritten laws
and customs.  To me they are as binding as though I still lived in that
hallowed home of my youth."

"Then if I was to ask you for a small loan--" began the greybeard
fawningly, edging nearer on the seat and hurriedly wondering how large he
might safely make his request, "if I was to ask you for, say--"

"At any other time, certainly," said Crosby; "in the months of November
and December, however, it is absolutely forbidden for anyone of our race
to give or receive loans or gifts; in fact, one does not willingly speak
of them.  It is considered unlucky.  We will therefore close this

"But it is still October!" exclaimed the adventurer with an eager, angry
whine, as Crosby rose from his seat; "wants eight days to the end of the

"The Afghan November began yesterday," said Crosby severely, and in
another moment he was striding across the Park, leaving his recent
companion scowling and muttering furiously on the seat.

"I don't believe a word of his story," he chattered to himself; "pack of
nasty lies from beginning to end.  Wish I'd told him so to his face.
Calling himself an Afghan!"

The snorts and snarls that escaped from him for the next quarter of an
hour went far to support the truth of the old saying that two of a trade
never agree.

Category: Love Letters
The great galleon lay in semi-retirement under the sand and weed and
water of the northern bay where the fortune of war and weather had long
ago ensconced it.  Three and a quarter centuries had passed since the day
when it had taken the high seas as an important unit of a fighting
squadron--precisely which squadron the learned were not agreed.  The
galleon had brought nothing into the world, but it had, according to
tradition and report, taken much out of it.  But how much?  There again
the learned were in disagreement.  Some were as generous in their
estimate as an income-tax assessor, others applied a species of higher
criticism to the submerged treasure chests, and debased their contents to
the currency of goblin gold.  Of the former school was Lulu, Duchess of

The Duchess was not only a believer in the existence of a sunken treasure
of alluring proportions; she also believed that she knew of a method by
which the said treasure might be precisely located and cheaply
disembedded.  An aunt on her mother's side of the family had been Maid of
Honour at the Court of Monaco, and had taken a respectful interest in the
deep-sea researches in which the Throne of that country, impatient
perhaps of its terrestrial restrictions, was wont to immerse itself.  It
was through the instrumentality of this relative that the Duchess learned
of an invention, perfected and very nearly patented by a Monegaskan
savant, by means of which the home-life of the Mediterranean sardine
might be studied at a depth of many fathoms in a cold white light of more
than ball-room brilliancy.  Implicated in this invention (and, in the
Duchess's eyes, the most attractive part of it) was an electric suction
dredge, specially designed for dragging to the surface such objects of
interest and value as might be found in the more accessible levels of the
ocean-bed.  The rights of the invention were to be acquired for a matter
of eighteen hundred francs, and the apparatus for a few thousand more.
The Duchess of Dulverton was rich, as the world counted wealth; she
nursed the hope, of being one day rich at her own computation.  Companies
had been formed and efforts had been made again and again during the
course of three centuries to probe for the alleged treasures of the
interesting galleon; with the aid of this invention she considered that
she might go to work on the wreck privately and independently.  After
all, one of her ancestors on her mother's side was descended from Medina
Sidonia, so she was of opinion that she had as much right to the treasure
as anyone.  She acquired the invention and bought the apparatus.

Among other family ties and encumbrances, Lulu possessed a nephew, Vasco
Honiton, a young gentleman who was blessed with a small income and a
large circle of relatives, and lived impartially and precariously on
both.  The name Vasco had been given him possibly in the hope that he
might live up to its adventurous tradition, but he limited himself
strictly to the home industry of adventurer, preferring to exploit the
assured rather than to explore the unknown.  Lulu's intercourse with him
had been restricted of recent years to the negative processes of being
out of town when he called on her, and short of money when he wrote to
her.  Now, however, she bethought herself of his eminent suitability for
the direction of a treasure-seeking experiment; if anyone could extract
gold from an unpromising situation it would certainly be Vasco--of
course, under the necessary safeguards in the way of supervision.  Where
money was in question Vasco's conscience was liable to fits of obstinate

Somewhere on the west coast of Ireland the Dulverton property included a
few acres of shingle, rock, and heather, too barren to support even an
agrarian outrage, but embracing a small and fairly deep bay where the
lobster yield was good in most seasons.  There was a bleak little house
on the property, and for those who liked lobsters and solitude, and were
able to accept an Irish cook's ideas as to what might be perpetrated in
the name of mayonnaise, Innisgluther was a tolerable exile during the
summer months.  Lulu seldom went there herself, but she lent the house
lavishly to friends and relations.  She put it now at Vasco's disposal.

"It will be the very place to practise and experiment with the salvage
apparatus," she said; "the bay is quite deep in places, and you will be
able to test everything thoroughly before starting on the treasure hunt."

In less than three weeks Vasco turned up in town to report progress.

"The apparatus works beautifully," he informed his aunt; "the deeper one
got the clearer everything grew.  We found something in the way of a
sunken wreck to operate on, too!"

"A wreck in Innisgluther Bay!" exclaimed Lulu.

"A submerged motor-boat, the _Sub-Rosa_," said Vasco.

"No! really?" said Lulu; "poor Billy Yuttley's boat.  I remember it went
down somewhere off that coast some three years ago.  His body was washed
ashore at the Point.  People said at the time that the boat was capsized
intentionally--a case of suicide, you know.  People always say that sort
of thing when anything tragic happens."

"In this case they were right," said Vasco.

"What do you mean?" asked the Duchess hurriedly.  "What makes you think

"I know," said Vasco simply.

"Know?  How can you know?  How can anyone know?  The thing happened three
years ago."

"In a locker of the _Sub-Rosa_ I found a water-tight strong-box.  It
contained papers."  Vasco paused with dramatic effect and searched for a
moment in the inner breast-pocket of his coat.  He drew out a folded slip
of paper.  The Duchess snatched at it in almost indecent haste and moved
appreciably nearer the fireplace.

"Was this in the _Sub-Rosa's_ strong-box?" she asked.

"Oh no," said Vasco carelessly, "that is a list of the well-known people
who would be involved in a very disagreeable scandal if the _Sub-Rosa's_
papers were made public.  I've put you at the head of it, otherwise it
follows alphabetical order."

The Duchess gazed helplessly at the string of names, which seemed for the
moment to include nearly every one she knew.  As a matter of fact, her
own name at the head of the list exercised an almost paralysing effect on
her thinking faculties.

"Of course you have destroyed the papers?" she asked, when she had
somewhat recovered herself.  She was conscious that she made the remark
with an entire lack of conviction.

Vasco shook his head.

"But you should have," said Lulu angrily; "if, as you say, they are
highly compromising--"

"Oh, they are, I assure you of that," interposed the young man.

"Then you should put them out of harm's way at once.  Supposing anything
should leak out, think of all these poor, unfortunate people who would be
involved in the disclosures," and Lulu tapped the list with an agitated

"Unfortunate, perhaps, but not poor," corrected Vasco; "if you read the
list carefully you'll notice that I haven't troubled to include anyone
whose financial standing isn't above question."

Lulu glared at her nephew for some moments in silence.  Then she asked
hoarsely: "What are you going to do?"

"Nothing--for the remainder of my life," he answered meaningly.  "A
little hunting, perhaps," he continued, "and I shall have a villa at
Florence.  The Villa Sub-Rosa would sound rather quaint and picturesque,
don't you think, and quite a lot of people would be able to attach a
meaning to the name.  And I suppose I must have a hobby; I shall probably
collect Raeburns."

Lulu's relative, who lived at the Court of Monaco, got quite a snappish
answer when she wrote recommending some further invention in the realm of
marine research.

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