On the morning after that which he had spent in the study of Art, Count
Litvinoff was busily engaged in turning out the pockets of coats, and
‘making hay’ of the contents of portmanteaus, conducting a vigorous
search for something or other, and singing softly to himself the
‘Oh, ’tis love, ’tis love, ’tis love, that makes the world go round;
Every day beneath his sway fools old and young are found.
‘Tis love, ’tis love that makes the world go round.’
‘It may do that,’ he said, dropping suddenly into prose, ‘but it
doesn’t find missing property. I shall have to buy one, which will be
annoying, when that one has been kicking about ever since I came from
Liverpool. Ah! here it is. I’ve saved at least four and sixpence, which
to a man in my delicate position is a largish sum. For, after all, you
can’t insult a man by pursuing him about London with a cigar-case that
cost less.’
He opened the little crocodile-skin trifle and looked into it.
‘It has been used as a letter-case before now, and it would rather
complicate matters if I left one of somebody’s notes sticking in the
lining. Things are a little bit that way as it is. The world is very,
very small. A remark, by the way, which is invariably made by people
who have more than one creditor. But it is strange that I should have
run right into the midst of this Ferrier set. One would think that
there was only one county in England, and that was Derbyshire.’
He sighed a little, but brightened as his eye fell on the chair which
Roland had occupied two nights before. His voice took up the song again
as he returned his belongings to something like order. He had just
made his sitting-room presentable again when the waiter appeared, and
offered, with an air of virtuous and respectful protest, a folded piece
of paper, which had been white once, but since that time had apparently
sojourned in the pockets of one who carried his meals about with him.
‘Seductive billet-doux,’ said Litvinoff, as he took it. ‘Is it by
chance a tinker’s bill?’
‘It was brought, sir,’ said the waiter, ‘by a man who appears to be a
foreigner. He said he’d wait for an answer.’
‘Show that distinguished gentleman up.’
While his order was being obeyed, Litvinoff looked at the paper again.
It was not a letter or a bill, after all; but seemed intended to answer
the purpose of a visiting card, for all that was written on it was
‘Johann Hirsch.’
Litvinoff was not altogether unaccustomed to being called upon by
foreign gentlemen with bold and original views on the subject of
visiting-cards. He never refused to see any of these visitors, and
always sent them away charmed with the beauty of his sentiments and
the liberality of his intentions, and occasionally with something more
As the waiter closed the door and retreated with a glance of politely
veiled contempt, the man whom he had shown in came forward, and
Litvinoff recognised in him at once the person who had been so
interested in the ‘Prophetic Vision’ on Sunday evening. He offered the
visitor his hand with sunny cordiality.
‘I am delighted to see you. I have not forgotten your kind interest in
my lecture at the Agora. Please take that arm-chair.’
The other did so.
‘I speak English not well,’ he began. ‘Perhaps the Herr Count speaks
‘Certainly,’ he replied, in that language; ‘but to my friends I am not
Count, but Citizen Litvinoff.’
‘I cannot claim to be a friend of yours,’ said the other, who seemed to
speak under the influence of some constraint; ‘but I am a friend to the
cause you advocate. I do not come to you for myself, but to ask you to
help another, who is in sore trouble and distress.’
‘I am very sorry. Who is he?’
‘It is a woman. The wife of an exile, one of us, separated from her
husband by circumstances I may not tell of, but which are not to the
discredit of either.’
‘What is her name?’ asked Litvinoff, a shade more interested than if it
had been the exiled husband who needed relief.
‘I don’t know her name,’ said Hirsch; ‘but she is very poor and very
proud, and I am afraid very ill.’
‘Unfortunate combination,’ muttered the Count, below his breath, in
‘But, my good friend Hirsch, how do you propose to give money to this
distressed lady, whose name you do not even know?’
‘There is only one from whom she will take it, and from him I come.
He will give it to her. You will have no credit for your generosity,
citizen, for she will not know from whom it comes.’
‘I don’t think credit is what we work for, _nous autres_,’ said the
Count, with a slightly injured air.
‘I must tell you the truth,’ answered the Austrian, with a shrug of
his shoulders and an outward gesture of the palms of his hands.
‘Doubtless; but may I not know the name of the benefactor from whose
assistance this lady’s pride does not shrink?’
‘Assuredly; he told me that if I mentioned his name to you, it would be
enough to guarantee your attention.’
A very slight change passed over the Count’s face, and yet there seemed
nothing in that speech to stir up uneasiness. The expression was so
transient that it escaped the sharp eyes that watched him from under
Hirsch’s shaggy eyebrows.
‘Distress itself is the best guarantee for my attention.’
He rose and unlocked a despatch box and took out a cheque-book.
As he took up a pen and sat down he asked,–
‘What is our friend’s name?’
‘His name is Petrovitch. You knew him in Russia, I believe.’
‘I have heard much of him lately in London, but I have never been so
fortunate as to meet him here.’
‘He was with me at the Agora on Sunday.’
Litvinoff looked up pleasantly from the cheque he had been filling in.
‘Ah, so,’ he said, ‘I wonder he could not have answered you about the
‘He could have done,’ said the other rather grimly, ‘if I had thought
of asking him, but I did not think of doing so.’
‘Well, I must hope soon to meet Citizen Petrovitch. In the meantime
give him this, with my best hopes for the welfare of his lady friend. I
wish it may be useful, small though it is.’
‘There’s no doubt about that,’ said Hirsch, rising as the other held
out the cheque, and glancing at the two figures on it, before folding
it very small and concealing it in an inner part of his nondescript
‘By the way,’ said Litvinoff, ‘I’ve made that out to Petrovitch’s
order, as I did not know the lady’s name.’
‘It is better so perhaps,’ said Hirsch. ‘Good day.’
‘Do not go yet,’ said the other, hospitably; ‘won’t you stay and have
some lunch?’
‘Thank you, no; I have eaten.’
‘Well, at anyrate, you’ll have a glass of wine, won’t you?’
‘I am not thirsty, I thank you; good day.’
‘Good day,’ said the Count, shaking hands cordially. As the door closed
behind the other he sank into an arm-chair.
‘What an exceedingly fatiguing person. He chooses amiable and courteous
messengers, this Petrovitch. I wonder if I _did_ know him in Russia.
My memories of childhood’s hour are singularly confused, but it’s
impossible to remember everybody, that’s one comfort. It is remarkable
how well people remember me, when there’s anything to be got by it.
This princely drawing of cheques, however, will come to an abrupt
termination shortly, and then–I wonder exactly how long it will be
before I send in my name to people on dirty bits of paper as a preface
to requests for cheques for destitute lady friends?’
He deftly rolled a cigarette, lighted it, and then said, musingly,–
‘That property in Volhynia, would it be possible–By heaven, it would
be a gallant attempt–it would be almost genius. As a forlorn hope it
would be sublime; but I have still some hopes that are not forlorn, and
the position of an English landowner is not unenviable. It would at
anyrate enable one to give cheques with a freer hand to any mysterious
stranger with dirty linen whose anonymous lady friends may happen to be
hard up. Hullo, my friend!’–as his eye fell on the cigar-case–‘I’d
almost forgotten you. I suppose I must be about my business. There are
very few men, I am convinced, who work as hard for “the daily crust” as
I do.’ He flung the end of his cigarette in the fire, and put on his

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‘And now,’ he said, taking up his hat, ‘to seek the Midland Hotel, and
face whichever Ferrier the Fates may send me. Probably I shall have my
walk for nothing; they will be engaged in business, these interesting
victims of a misunderstanding which I so deeply deplore.’
He smiled hopefully at himself in the glass, and went out.
‘Is Mr Ferrier in?’ he asked, when he reached the Midland Hotel, and
the answer being ‘Yes,’ he turned into the coffee-room to wait, still
uncertain as to which brother he should see.
It was Richard who came down to him after a few minutes–Richard, whose
face, ulster, and soft hat all seemed to be of the same shade of drab.
‘Good morning, Count Litvinoff,’ he said; ‘can I be of any service to
‘It was your brother I wished to see,’ said the Count. ‘He did me the
honour to spend a few moments at my rooms last night, and I think this
must be his. May I trouble you to give it to him?’
Here he produced the cigar-case.
‘I don’t think it belongs to my brother,’ said Richard, ‘and I’m sorry
I can’t do anything in the matter; but I sha’n’t see him again.’
‘Ah! you are leaving London?’
‘I’m leaving this hotel.’
‘Well, perhaps you are right to seek one more cheerfully placed. You
are not looking well; perhaps this situation depresses you?’
‘Oh, I’m all right, thanks. I’m rather glad you happened to call,
because I shall perhaps not see you again. I’m afraid I was rather
uncivil yesterday, and, if so, I’m sorry: I didn’t intend it, but it
struck me afterwards that it might seem so to you. The fact is, I was
horribly put out about something.’
‘Oh, don’t mention it. I saw then that you were annoyed about
something, and now I know what it was. I know enough of English
manners, Mr Ferrier, to know that here a stranger’s interference in
personal or family matters is the unpardonable sin. But my faith, you
know, compels me to set aside conventions that are only conventions,
and to try to give help wherever help can be given.
‘I am so complete a stranger,’ he went on, regardless of a slight
movement of impatience from the other, ‘so utterly, so palpably
disinterested, that I hope I may without offence say to you what I
intended to say to Mr Roland.’
‘I don’t see that anything could be said to my brother without offence
that could not equally well be said to me.’
‘This, then, is what I would ask. Is there anything I can do to effect
a reconciliation between you and your brother, and prevent this breach
from growing wider?’
‘I had never told you that there was any breach,’ Richard said stiffly.
‘No,’ he said, ‘but all others have not your powers of reticence.’
‘I presume my brother has been confiding in you.’
‘Your brother told me–what perhaps his pride forbade him to tell
you–that you had accused him of something of which he assured me he
was as innocent as–as I am,’ ended Litvinoff, raising his eyebrows
Richard’s first impulse was to request the Count to mind his own
business, but he remembered that the interferer was a foreigner, and
besides, Litvinoff’s manner was so honest, and what he said was true
enough. He certainly must be disinterested. So he constrained himself
to say, with very little change of manner,–
‘If my brother wishes to disprove any charges I may bring, he’d better
disprove them to me.’
‘But are you quite sure that you were not mistaken? May not your
feelings on another matter have predisposed you to believe without
evidence enough in this?’
‘I quite fail to understand,’ said Richard, frowning.
‘Is it not possible that you may have thought of him less as your
brother than as your rival?’
‘If you have anything more to say that _needs_ saying, I shall be glad
if you will say it plainly.’ Richard spoke angrily.
‘Plainly, then–you also are a suitor for the hand of Miss Stanley?’
Ferrier’s hand clenched itself, and then made a little movement which
seemed quite involuntary. The blood rushed to his face as he spoke.
‘May I ask who gave you that piece of false information?’
‘Certainly you may ask,’ answered Litvinoff, smiling very sweetly.
Other people’s tempers did not seem to affect him much. ‘You may ask,
but I–I must not reply.’
‘It is lucky that I don’t need your answer. There’s only one person who
would have told you such a lie, and for the future you’d better keep
your interference for him, as he seems to like it.’
‘And you, perhaps you’d better keep your insolence for those who’ll
stand it,’ said Litvinoff, with the same gentle smile. ‘Perhaps
our next meeting may be in a country where it is customary to
avenge insults in some other way than what you call, I think, a
rough-and-tumble fight. _Au revoir!_’
‘You don’t seem to find other countries very anxious to have you, since
you have had to run away from one at least,’ said Richard passionately.
‘Oh, delicacy and nobility of English chivalry!’ said the Count,
turning at the door to favour the other with one last smile. ‘How
unfortunate for Miss Stanley that you at least are impossible. Pouf!
The _bourgeoisie_ is the same, all the world over!’
He lingered in the hall to make himself a cigarette, half expecting
Richard to follow him, but as he did not, strolled slowly away into the
Richard remained standing in the coffee-room with one hand on the table
by which the conversation had taken place.
He felt indignantly injured by Litvinoff’s interference, and in the
first moments of passion felt sure that his interference had not been
disinterested. But as he grew calmer, and was able to think the matter
out quietly, he could not suggest to himself any possible reason for
the Count’s wishing to adjust the quarrel between himself and Roland,
except the one he had given. Yet, even if the Russian had been merely
filling the _rôle_ of ‘friend of humanity,’ Dick felt glad that he had
shown resentment. One might overlook intermeddling which had its rise
in an overpowering interest in one’s own personality; but when one
was included merely in a vast aggregate like humanity, the compliment
which might have been as salt to over-officiousness did not exist,
and the conduct of the Count became simply offensive. But, after all,
most of his resentment was levelled at the man who had put this weapon
into the Russian’s hands. Had his brother completely lost all sense
of honour–of decency even–that he should thus make him, Richard,
the subject of confidence with a stranger? And such confidences, too;
confidences that hinged on _her_ name.
‘But why should I expect anything better from him, after his conduct to
that poor child?’
Then he thought of all he fancied he had discovered about Alice, and
all the little things that had aggravated the quarrel with Roland. All
the substance of the quarrel would not, perhaps, seem insurmountable if
it were written here in detail, but to Richard and his brother these
things appeared in far other proportions. The mutual jealousy and
distrust that had been growing up between them in the past months was
as so much dry tinder ready to catch fire at any spark of a pretext for
anger which either might have lighted on.
And this case of Alice was something more than a trifling pretext.
Richard himself was neither an angel nor a monk, but at least he played
the game of life according to the rules. And, consequently, he felt
towards his brother much as an old _écarté_ player might towards a man
who kept kings up his sleeve.
He decided to spend a few more hours in the search for Alice, which,
hitherto unavailing, he had kept up for the last two days, and then he
would go down home and see Gates, and Roland would have his wish. The
same roof should not cover them again.