ANETH

Charles Consinor, ninth Earl of Roane, was considerably discouraged at
the moment when Luke the butler placed the big blue government envelope
upon his table, thoughtfully leaving it at the top of the daily heap of
missives from impatient creditors.

During a gay and dissipated life, his lordship had seen the ample
fortune left him by his father gradually melt away, until now, in his
old age, he found it difficult to secure sufficient funds to enable him
to maintain a respectable position in the world. He had been ably
assisted in his extravagances by his only son, the Viscount Roger
Consinor, who for twenty years past had performed his full share in
dissipating the family fortunes.

Aside from their mutual prodigality, however, the two men had little in
common. The father was reckless, open-handed and careless of
consequences, indulging himself frankly in such dissipations as most men
are careful to hide. The son was reserved and sullen, and posed as a man
eminently respectable, confining his irregularities mainly to the gaming
table. Between them they had loaded the estates with mortgages and sold
every stick and stone that could be sold. At last the inevitable
happened and they faced absolute ruin.

There seemed no way out of their difficulties. The viscount had
unfortunately married a wife with no resources whatever, although her
family connections were irreproachable. The poor viscountess had been a
confirmed invalid ever since her baby girl was born, some eighteen years
before, and was merely tolerated in the big, half-ruined London mansion,
being neglected alike by her husband and her father-in-law, who had both
come to look upon her as a useless incumbrance. More than that, they
resented the presence of a young, awkward girl in the house, and for
that reason banished Aneth at twelve to a girl’s school in Cheshire,
where she had remained, practically forgotten, until her eighteenth
year. Then the lady preceptress shipped her home because her tuition fee
was not promptly paid.

Aneth found her mother so confirmed in the selfish habits of the
persistent invalid, that the girl’s society, fresh and cheery though it
proved, only irritated her nerves. She found her father, the morose
viscount, absolutely indifferent and unresponsive to her desire to be
loved and admitted into his companionship. But old Lord Roane, her
grandfather, had still a weakness for a pretty face, and Aneth was
certainly pretty. Moreover, she was sweet and pure and maidenly, and no
one was better able to admire and appreciate such qualities than the
worn-out roué whose life had been mainly spent in the society of light
women. So he took the girl to his evil old heart, and loved her, and
tried to prevent her discovering how unworthy he was of her affection.
The love for his granddaughter became the one unselfish, honest love of
his life, and it assisted wonderfully in restoring in him some portion
of his long-lost self-respect.

Aneth, finding no other friend in the gloomy establishment that was now
her home, soon became devoted, in turn, to her grandsire, and although
she was shrewd enough, in spite of her inexperience, to realize that his
life had been, and still was, somewhat coarse and dissipated, she fondly
imagined that her influence would, to an extent, reclaim him–which it
actually did, but only to an extent.

There was little concealment in the family circle as to the state of
their finances. Father and son quarreled openly about the division of
what little money could be raised on the overburdened estates, and the
girl was not long in realizing the difficulties of their position. If
the viscount had nothing to gamble with, he became insufferable and
almost brutal in his manner; if Lord Roane could not afford to dine at
the club and amuse himself afterward, he was irritable and abusive to
all with whom he came in contact, save only his granddaughter. The
household expenses were matters of credit, and the wages of the servants
were greatly in arrears.

And so, when the affairs of the family had become well-nigh desperate,
the big blue envelope with the government stamp arrived, and like magic
all their difficulties dissolved.

A newly appointed cabinet minister–a man whom Lord Roane had reason to
consider an enemy rather than a friend–had for some surprising and
unknown reason interested himself in Roane’s behalf, and the result was
a diplomatic post for him in Egypt under Lord Cromer, and a position for
the viscount in the Egyptian Department of Finance. The appointments
were lucrative and honorable, and indicated the Government’s perfect
confidence in both father and son.

Lord Roane was astounded. Never would he have dared demand such
consideration, and to have these honors thrust upon him at a time when
they would practically rescue his name and fortune from ruin was almost
unbelievable.

He accepted the appointment with alacrity, joyful at the prospect of a
winter in gay Cairo. Roger shared his father’s felicity, because the
gaming in the oriental city would be more fascinating than that of
London, where people had begun to frown when he entered a room. The
invalid viscountess hoped Egypt would benefit her health. Aneth welcomed
any change from the horrible condition in which they had existed
latterly.

“Grandfather,” said she, gravely, “our gracious Queen has given to you
and to my father positions of great trust. I am sure that you will
personally do your duty loyally, and with credit to our honored name;
but I’m afraid for father. Will you promise me to keep him from
card-playing and urge him to lead a more reputable life?”

“Phoo! Nonsense, child. Roger will behave himself, I am sure, now that
he will have important duties to occupy him. The Minister of Finance
will keep him busy, never fear, and he will have neither time nor
inclination for folly. Don’t worry, little one. Our fortunes have
changed; we shall now be able to pay the butcher and baker and
candlestick-maker, and there is little doubt the Consinors will speedily
become the pride of the nation. Ahem! Tell Luke, my dear, to fetch my
brandy and soda as you go out. And, stay! Remember, we are to leave
London on the fourth of October and you must have both your mother and
yourself ready to depart promptly. I depend upon you, Aneth.”

She kissed him and went away without further comment, reflecting, with a
sigh, that her fears and warnings were alike unheeded.

Lord Roane, left to himself, began wondering anew to what whim of fate
he owed his good fortune. Really, there seemed no clue to the mystery.

It was a complicated matter, even to one on the inside, so it is no
wonder the old nobleman failed to comprehend it.

Many years ago the cabinet minister and Lord Roane had been intimate
friends; then the former fell madly in love with a little Egyptian
princess who was the rage of the London season, and sought her hand in
marriage. Roane also became enamored of the beautiful Hatatcha, and went
so far as to apply for a divorce from his wife, that he might wed her.
The fascinating Egyptian, guileless of European customs and won by the
masterful ardor of Roane, chose him from among all her suitors, and
casting aside the honest love of Roane’s friend, fell unconsciously into
the trap set for her and became the mistress of the man who promised her
such rare devotion. Presently, however, the heartless roué tired of his
easy conquest and carelessly thrust her aside, although the divorce for
which he had applied on false representations had now been granted, and
he was free to marry his victim had he so wished.

All London was indignant at his act at the time, and no one was more
enraged than Roane’s former friend. He searched everywhere for the
Egyptian princess when Hatatcha fled from London to hide her shame, and
on his return from the unsuccessful quest, he quarreled with Roane and
would have killed him had not mutual friends interposed.

Time had, of course, seared all these old wounds, although the hatred
between the two men would endure to the grave. The betrayer was careless
of criticism and wealthy enough to defy it. The man who had truly loved
was broken-hearted, and from that time avoided all society and
especially that of women. But he plunged into politics for diversion,
and in that field won for himself such honor and renown in future years
that at last he became a member of Her Majesty’s cabinet, second in
power only to the Premier himself.

Thus Prince Kāra found him. The Egyptian had only to use the magic name
of Hatatcha to secure a private audience with the great man, who
listened quietly while Kāra demanded vengeance upon his grandmother’s
betrayer.

“In England,” said the minister, “there is no vendetta. The rage I
fostered thirty-odd years ago, when my heart was wrung with despair, has
long since worn itself out. Time evens up these old scores without human
interference. Roane is to-day on the verge of ruin. His only son is a
confirmed gambler. Their race is nearly run, and the gray hairs of
Hatatcha’s false lover will go dishonored to the grave. Is that not
enough?”

“By no means,” returned Prince Kāra, with composure. “They must be made
to suffer as my grandmother suffered, but with added agony for the years
of impunity that have elapsed. It was her will–the desire of her long,
miserable life. Will you, her old friend, deny her right to be avenged?”

A flood of resentment swept into the heart of the listener. Years may
sear a wound; but if it is deep, the scar remains.

“What do you ask of me?” he answered.

Before replying, Kāra reflected for some time, his eyes steadily fixed
upon the floor.

“Are there no women in Lord Roane’s family?” he asked, finally.

“There are two, I believe–his son’s wife, who is an invalid, and his
granddaughter.”

“Ah!” The long-drawn exclamation was one of triumphant satisfaction.
Again the Egyptian relapsed into thought, and the minister was growing
impatient when his strange visitor at last spoke.

“Sir,” said he, “you ask me what you can do to assist me. I will tell
you. Obtain for Lord Roane a diplomatic post in Cairo, under Lord
Cromer. Obtain some honorable place for his son as well. That will take
the entire family to Egypt–my own country.”

“Well?”

“In London there is no vendetta. Crimes that the law cannot reach are
allowed to go unpunished. In Egypt we are Nature’s children. No false
civilization glosses our wrongs or denies our right to protect our
honor. I implore you, my lord, as you respect the memory of poor
Hatatcha, to send Lord Roane and his family to Egypt.”

“I will,” said the minister, with stern brow.

And so it was that the Government remembered old Lord Roane, and
likewise his illustrious son, the Viscount Roger Consinor, and sent them
to Egypt on missions of trust.