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librarian of his treasures that he jotted down opposite the name of a borrower-the ancestor, you may like parenthetically to be told, of one since famous as an African traveller-that page forty-four of the second volume has been "inked." Opposite another's I find the entry that page twenty-four of volume one is "soiled;" while in a third case, page one hundred and eighty-eight of the same volume has been "greased," and so on with reference to one or two more, the whole of which it gave me a quaint kind of pleasure the other day to be able to verify. As the sequel will show, it was but a rapid and imperfect note I made of these things at the time. Clapping my purchase under my arm, I paid for it, and took my departure shortly afterwards for home.
Angus Macalister, antiquary, happened on that very evening to call upon me at my house to talk a matter over in respect of which he wanted my advice and to hear a bit of fiddlescraping, which is another little weakness I blush to have to confess. Angus himself was passionately musical (at least so he told me) and a very fair performer on the pan-pipes, while I was-well, addicted to making a noise.
"What do you think?" he said, when I had taken my instrument from under my chin, and was helping him to a drop of Glenlivat. "Old Isaacs -a 'cute Jew dealer of our acquaintance--" called upon me to-day to know if I would buy of him for ten pounds some six or seven ancient documents, framed and glazed, which he said he had just picked up a bargain. I looked at them, and, by the Lord Harry, recognised them at once as the very articles you told me the week before last had been issued as supplements to some not very antiquated Blue Books."
"And did you lighten his darkness, Angus ?" I asked.
"Just trust me for that," was the reply. "But, oh, Moses! you should have heard how he went on! He would have torn his hair only he remembered it was a wig and that he would be obliged to buy a new one. He wouldn't believe me at first; thought I was trying to best him, and so forth. By degrees, however, I got him to see he had been clean taken in. The things were sold him as real antiques by the very blackguard who would have palmed them off on me if you had not been present to spoil his little game. He asked fifteen pounds the pair for them, and when Isaacs got them for five began to whimper that he had parted for a song with property worth a cool hundred-and all because he happened to be temporarily hard up."
"And Isaacs was correspondingly elated at the thought of his bargain, of course?"
"You may just bet your life on that, sir. There was as much chuckling then as there was blaspheming directly I had convinced the old chap he had been sold. He swore until the place was blue; swore in English until he was fairly exhausted, and then turned to Hebrew, and was revived."
"Well," I responded reflectively, and adopting, for this occasion only, the popular terminology: "It isn't every day a Jew is had."
"No," assented Angus; " and I'll tell you another thingbut before he could proceed I cut in as though resenting an interruption : "And it isn't every day I am had, eh, Angus? in the matter of a book more particularly."
"By the Lord, no!" he replied, half quizzed, half alarmed by the suggestion. "If ever there was a tight 'un when it comes to a question of priceing a book, it is you, sir. should have been in the trade long ago, and no mistake." "And yet." I remarked, with something of sarcasm, not to say asperity, in my voice, " you rather did me over the Ivanhoe' to-day."
"Good heavens!" he exclaimed in horror. "You don't say so! I will give you back your money this very minute."
"Fact," I went on, seemingly without noticing the unusual outburst of generosity. "Look here, Angus; the set is practically spoiled. The whole of volume two inside the covers is smudged as foully as if it had lain a week in the gutter of a public slaughter-house."
"That is very extraordinary," he observed thoughtfully as I gingerly handed him the book for inspection. "Very extraordinary; very. Wait a minute, though. Let us see. Here is rather an odd entry overleaf in ink :
No. 15. Dr. Roger Wentworth. Received May 29. Returned June 9. Pages 7-163, inclusive, stained a dark red. Librarian thinks it blood. Dr. Wentworth to be called upon by committee to explain.
"With this further entry in pencil:
June 21. Dr. Wentworth pays for new set. This one put aside for second class subscribers.
"Ah!" continued the old man solemnly, after a pause employed in brushing up his memory and examining the book, "I recollect the circumstances now. And, what is more, I will tell them to you if you will have the patience to listen. It is rather a strange story, I can assure you."
"Proceed, by all means," I replied in a voice which showed pretty plainly that I was in no hurry to surrender my attitude of annoyance at what I considered to have been a bad bargain. "To begin with," observed the Antiquary, "What you see
there, as the shrewd old librarian surmised, is blood. The blood is that of a woman; the woman one who was murdered."
"The founder of the Wentworth family a murderer!" I said aghast. "And his descendants holding high their heads to-day with this stain upon their scutcheon! Come, Angus, this is too stiff an order altogether."
"Don't be impatient, sir, I pray. You are fond of a story, and this one is about as mysterious as any you've ever heard." "Well, go on, Angus; but first sit down and wet your lips with another whisky, so that the tale may go smoother in the telling," said I, my ill-humour visibly giving way.
"Of course," he began, after a sip of the Mountain Dew and a compliment or two upon the blend, "you've heard often enough of the first Wentworth we ever had in these parts. You can't remember him in the flesh, for you are too young. It was in the palmy days of the trade, and whilst Metalopolis was still a village. Wentworth was the only doctor the inhabitants had; his sometime predecessor and subsequent partner, Dr. Shadrach, dying just after the new man had bought a half share of the practice. Wentworth, shrewd fellow, seeing what the district was going to grow to, refused to join in with any other practitioner, and so grew speedily rich and prosperous. He worked like a horse; loved his work, too; was skilful, and, for a doctor, extremely tender-hearted. Helped the poor as much as he had time to do, was fairly regular at petty sessions, a lover of good sport, and a terror to poachers, pitch-and-toss players, and blackguards in general."
"In short, a fine old English gentleman, one of the olden style," I cut in, anxious to bring my visitor to a point.
"Quite so; ye may weel say that," replied Angus, in whom the native drink was beginning to loosen the native tongue, the peculiarities of which I cannot remember beyond the present paragraph. "Hech, but he was a rare mon. I hae his portrait in the shop at the present minute, wi' a fac seemile of his great, strong fist underneath."
I almost think I must have see-miled at the mis-pronunciation, for Angus stopped and said rather snappishly, "Well, what is it, sir? Have I said anything wrong?"
To which I felt compelled to answer-and I did so in the mildest manner possible-that I believed they said " similly" at Oxford.
"D-n Oxford," he retorted, with as much indignation at my interruption as contempt of University learning. "Haven't I been to Aberdeen? And although I never remember hearing the word there, I'll be bound they call it seemile. Anyhow, I've pronounced it in this way five and forty years without correction, and I'm not going to change it now for any Oxford pedant living."
"Well, well, we won't quarrel about it," said I soothingly. "With me it shall be see-mile to the day of my death since you wish it so. You were remarking that the original Wentworth was a fine fellow and—”
"Yes," said Angus, taking up the clue with the keenness of a well-seasoned story-teller who fears that his friend may forestall him. "You are right. I called the doctor a fine fellow, and so he was-tall, square-chested, well made, firmly knit and straight as a yard of pump water, which he ought to be, seeing he was seven years in the army.. Served through some of the principal fights in the American War of Independence, came near being scalped by Indians once, and was no sooner out of that scrape than he was caught by the French and put up to be shot as a spy. Got away that time by the skin of his teeth only to be taken prisoner at last with Cornwallis at the surrender of Yorktown.
"A dangerous man to tackle was Dr. Wentworth, and well for him it was so. Here in Metalopolis in those lawless days he would have been killed, as sure as a gun, else. At the works to which he was doctor was employed one of the prettiest little Welsh girls ever seen."
"Didn't know there were any pretty Welsh girls," I commented, with the usual Saxon scepticism and Saxon prejudice. "Where they are pretty they are pretty," replied Angus profoundly. "This one was something out of the common. Splendid peach-bloom cheeks; eyes black as pear pips, teeth which were perfect pearls, and a nose and lips just sufficiently pronounced to give piquancy to the face. She was seventeen, innocent as a baby and happy as a lark, when one day crossing the narrow plank which then spanned the Blue Pool near the quarry where the Kershaws get the limestone for their furnaces from, a gust of wind suddenly swayed the bridge and staggered her at one and the same time. She made a desperate clutch at the hand-guide of rope to steady herself, missed it, and went over into the boiling foam below.
"You know the water there, sir. The river shoots straight as an arrow in its gleaming course on one side, leaving the Blue Pool all to itself, quiet and cold and deep and deadly, on the other. It would have been all up with Polly but for Dr. Wentworth's accidental presence on the spot. Better for her and for the soul of her undiscovered murderer had it been all up with her!
"However, I mustn't go before my story.
"Wentworth, who saw the accident, threw off his coat and boots in a jiffey, took a header into the pool, and swam across it up to the dangerous side. There he waited his chance, and, sure enough, in a second or two the rush of the river drove the drowning girl right in upon him. It was a fearful fight for life,
but the doctor (as doctors don't always do) came off victorious. Help was luckily at hand, and rescuer and rescued were brought to bank, more dead than alive. The doctor, strong man, pulled to pretty quickly, and insisted on carrying Polly to his surgery, which was barely three hundred yards from the spot. Capital idea,' he used to remark, when telling the story--which was seldom, because he never cared much to talk about his own exploits; Capital idea! Kept up the circulation you know. Gave me a regular sweater, and so saved me the cold I should have been otherwise sure to catch after the immersion.'
"With the aid of his housekeeper the doctor soon brought his patient round. Next morning he packed her home to her father, practically none the worse for the wetting. And if you don't mind, sir, I'll be wetting myself just at this point-in the other eye.
"Certainly, Angus, certainly. Help yourself. There's plenty in the bottle, and more, I think, where that came from."
"Sir," said the story-teller gravely, "you are one of the few men in this world who possess wisdom as well as learning. You're a man of sense as well as a scholar; you're a
"Now, now," I remonstrated. "Your compliments will keep till the story is over."
"Fact," he persisted, with an effusiveness I had never known in him. "Fact, sir; you're a philosopher-which is why I like you. And, sir
"Now do go on with your tale," I interrupted-perhaps a little too hurriedly, seeing I was not certain what he was going to say. "Proceed, Angus. I am getting really inte
"Well," he observed, a trifle moodily," there is no great harm in speaking one's mind, is there? Especially when it's the truth. It is better to be praised to one's face than slandered behind one's back, I suppose?"
"But the story, Angus," was my petulant rejoinder. "You forget that it hangs fire, and these pauses of yours may spoil
"Not a bit," he replied. "There I differ from you. The rests come in, like roadside pubs, at convenient points of the journey, and give one better breath to go on again."
And then, after some further desultory patter, he got under weigh once more.
"Of course," resumed Macalister, "there was great talk in the village of Dr. Wentworth's heroism, and all the rest of it. Polly's father, who adored the girl, was profuse in his thanks.