Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? You do surely bar the door upon your own liberty if you deny your griefs to your friend.

... tempt him with speed aboard;

Delay it not; I'll have him hence to-night.

Indeed this counsellor

Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,

Who was in life a foolish prating knave.

This sudden sending him away must seem


IN the room where he had assumed the dress of the part he had just played, Oswin Markham was now standing idle, and without making any attempt to remove the colour from his face or the streaks from his eyebrows. He was still in the dress of the Prince when the door was opened and a man entered the room eagerly.

“By Jingo! yes, I thought you'd see me,” he cried before he had closed the door. All the people outside—and there were a good many—who chanced to hear the tone of the voice knew that the speaker was the man who had shouted those friendly words when Oswin was leaving the stage. “Yes, old fellow,” he continued, slapping Markham on the back and grasping him by the hand, “I thought I might venture to intrude upon you. Right glad I was to see you, though, by heavens! I thought I should have shouted out when I saw you—you, of all people, here. Tell us how it comes, Oswin. How the deuce do you appear at this place? Why, what's the matter with you? Have you talked so much in that tall way on the boards that you haven't a word left to say here? You weren't used to be dumb in the good old days—-good old nights, my boy.”

“You won't give me a chance,” said Oswin; and he did not even smile in response to the other's laughter.

“There then, I've dried up,” said the stranger. “But, by my soul, I tell you I'm glad to see you. It seems to me, do you know, that I'm drunk now, and that when I sleep off the fit you'll be gone. I've fancied queer things when I've been drunk, as you well know. But it's you yourself, isn't it?”

“One need have no doubt about your identity,” said Oswin. “You talk in the same infernally muddled way that ever Harry Despard used to talk.”

“That's like yourself, my boy,” cried the man, with a loud laugh. “I'm beginning to feel that it's you indeed, though you are dressed up like a Prince—by heavens! you played the part well. I couldn't help shouting out what I did for a lark. I wondered what you'd think when you heard my voice. But how did you manage to turn up at Natal? tell me that. You left us to go up country, didn't you?”

“It's a long story,” replied Oswin. “Very long, and I am bound to change this dress. I can't go about in this fashion for ever.”

“No more you can,” said the other. “And the sooner you get rid of those togs the better, for by God, it strikes me that they give you a wrong impression about yourself. You're not so hearty by a long way as you used to be. I'll tell you what I'll do; I'll go on to the hotel and wait there until you are in decent rig. I'll only be in this town until to-morrow evening, and we must have a night together.”

For the first time since the man had entered the room Oswin brightened up.

“Only till to-morrow night, Hal?” he cried. “Then we must have a few jolly hours together before we part. I won't let you even go to the hotel now. Stay here while I change, like a decent fellow.”

“Now that sounds like your old form, my boy; hang me if I don't stay with you. Is that a flask in the portmanteau? It is, by Jingo, and if it's not old Irish may I be—and cigars too. Yes, I will stay, old fellow, for auld langsyne. This is like auld langsyne, isn't it? Why, where are you off to?”

“I have to give a message to some one in another room,” said Oswin, leaving the man alone. He was a tall man, apparently about the same age as Markham. So much of his face as remained unconcealed by a shaggy, tawny beard and whiskers was bronzed to a copper colour. His hair was short and tawny, and his mouth was very coarse. His dress was not shabby, but the largeness of the check on the pattern scarcely argued the possession of a subdued taste on the part of the wearer.

He had seated himself upon a table in the room though there were plenty of chairs, and when Oswin went out he filled the flask cup and emptied it with a single jerk of his head; then he snatched up the hat which had been worn by Oswin on the stage; he threw it into the air and caught it on one of his feet, then with a laugh he kicked it across the floor.

But Oswin had gone to the room where Captain Howard, who had acted as stage manager, was smoking after the labours of the evening. “Howard,” Said Markham, “I must be excused from your supper to-night.”

“Nonsense,” said Howard. “It would be too ridiculous for us to have a supper if you who have done the most work to-night should be away. What's the matter? Have you a doctor's certificate?”

“The fact is a—a—sort of friend of mine—a man I knew pretty intimately some time ago, has turned up here most unexpectedly.”

“Then bring your sort of friend with you.”

“Quite impossible,” said Markham quickly. “He is not the kind of man who would make the supper agreeable either to himself or to any one else. You will explain to the other fellows how I am compelled to be away.”

“But you'll turn up some time in the course of the night, won't you?”

“I am afraid to say I shall. The fact is, my friend requires a good deal of attention to be given to him in the course of a friendly night. If I can manage to clear myself of him in decent time I'll be with you.”

“You must manage it,” said Howard as Oswin went back to the room, where he found his friend struggling to pull on the green doublet in which the Prince had appeared in the opening scene of the play.

“Hang me if I couldn't do the part like one o'clock,” he cried; “the half of it is in the togs. You weren't loud enough, Oswin, when you came on; you wouldn't have brought down the gods even at Ballarat. This is how you should have done it: 'I'll save you or——'”

“For Heaven's sake don't make a fool of yourself, Hal.”

“I was only going to show you how it should be done to rouse the people; and as for making a fool of myself——”

“You have done that so often you think it not worth the caution. Come now, stuff those things into the portmanteau, and I'll have on my mufti in five minutes.”

“And then off to the hotel, and you bet your pile, as we used to say at Chokeneck Gulch, we'll have more than a pint bottle of Bass. By the way, how about your bronze; does the good old governor still stump up?”

“My allowance goes regularly to Australia,” said Os win, with a stern look coming to his face.

“And where else should it go, my boy? By the way, that's a tidy female that showed what neat ankles she had as Marie. By my soul, I envied you squeezing her. 'What right has he to squeeze her?' I said to myself, and then I thought if——”

“But you haven't told me how you came here,” said Oswin, interrupting him.

“No more I did. It's easily told, my lad. It was getting too warm for me in Melbourne, and as I had still got some cash I thought I'd take a run to New York city—at least that's what I made up my mind to do when I awoke one fine morning in the cabin of the Virginia brig a couple of hundred miles from Cape Howe. I remembered going into a saloon one evening and finding a lot of men giving general shouts, but beyond that I had no idea of anything.”

“That's your usual form,” said Oswin. “So you are bound for New York?”

“Yes, the skipper of the Virginia had made Natal one of his ports, and there we put in yesterday, so I ran up to this town, under what you would call an inspiration, or I wouldn't be here now ready to slip the tinsel from as many bottles of genuine Moët as you choose to order. But you—what about yourself?”

“I am here, my Hal, to order as many bottles as you can slip the tinsel off,” cried Oswin, his face flushed more deeply than when it had been rouged before the footlights.

“Spoken in your old form, by heavens!” cried the other, leaping from the table. “You always were a gentleman amongst us, and you never failed us in the matter of drink. Hang me if I don't let the Virginia brig—go—to—to New York without me; I'll stay here in company of my best friend.”

“Come along,” said Oswin, leaving the room. “Whether you go or stay we'll have a night of it at the hotel.”

They passed out together and walked up to the hotel, hearing all the white population discussing the dramatic performance of the evening, for it had created a considerable stir in the town. There was no moon, but the stars were sparkling over the dark blue of the hills that almost encircle the town. Tall Zulus stood, as they usually do after dark, talking at the corners in their emphatic language, while here and there smaller white men speaking Cape Dutch passed through the streets smoking their native cigars.

“Just what you would find in Melbourne or in the direction of Geelong, isn't it, Oswin?” said the stranger, who had his arm inside Markham's.

“Yes, with a few modifications,” said Oswin.

“Why, hang it all, man,” cried the other. “You aren't getting sentimental, are you? A fellow would think from the way you've been talking in that low, hollow, parson's tone that you weren't glad I turned up. If you're not, just say so. You won't need to give Harry Despard a nod after you've given him a wink.”

“What an infernal fool you do make of yourself,” said Oswin. “You know that I'm glad to have you beside me again, old fellow,—yes, devilish glad. Confound it, man, do you fancy I've no feeling—no recollection? Haven't we stood by each other in the past, and won't we do it in the future?”

“We will, by heavens, my lad! and hang me if I don't smash anything that comes on the table tonight except the sparkling. And look here, the Virginia brig may slip her cable and be off to New York. I'll stand by you while you stay here, my boy. Yes, say no more, my mind is made up.”

“Spoken like a man!” cried Oswin, with a sudden start. “Spoken like a man! and here we are at the hotel. We'll have one of our old suppers together, Hal——”

“Or perish in the attempt,” shouted the other.

The stranger went upstairs, while Oswin remained below to talk to the landlord about some matters that occupied a little time.

Markham and Harwood had a sitting-room for their exclusive use in the hotel, but it was not into this room that Oswin brought his guest, it was into another apartment at a different quarter of the house. The stranger threw his hat into a corner and himself down upon a sofa with his legs upon a chair that he had tilted back.

“Now we'll have a general shout,” he said. “Ask all the people in the house what they'll drink. If you acted the Prince on the stage to-night, I'll act the part here now. I've got the change of a hundred samples of the Sydney mint, and I want to ease myself of them. Yes, we'll have a general shout.”

“A general shout in a Dutchman's house? My boy, this isn't a Ballarat saloon,” said Oswin. “If we hinted such a thing we'd be turned into the street. Here is a bottle of the sparkling by way of opening the campaign.”

“I'll open the champagne and you open the campaign, good! The sight of you, Oswin, old fellow—well, it makes me feel that life is a joke. Fill up your glass and we'll drink to the old times. And now tell me all about yourself. How did you light here, and what do you mean to do? Have you had another row in the old quarter?”

Oswin had drained his glass of champagne and had stretched himself upon the second sofa. His face seemed pale almost to ghastliness, as persons' faces do after the use of rouge. He gave a short laugh when the other had spoken.

“Wait till after supper,” he cried. “I haven't a word to throw to a dog until after supper.”

“Curse that Prince and his bluster on the stage; you're as hoarse as a rook now, Oswin,” remarked the stranger.

In a brief space the curried crayfish and penguins' eggs, which form the opening dishes of a Cape supper, appeared; and though Oswin's friend seemed to have an excellent appetite, Markham himself scarcely ate anything. It did not, however, appear that the stranger's comfort was wholly dependent upon companionship. He ate and drank and talked loudly whether Oswin fasted or remained mute; but when the supper was removed and he lighted a cigar, he poured out half a bottle of champagne into a tumbler, and cried:

“Now, my gallant Prince, give us all your eventful history since you left Melbourne five months ago, saying you were going up country. Tell us how you came to this place, whatever its infernal Dutch name is.”

And Oswin Markham, sitting at the table, told him.

But while this tète-à-tète supper was taking place at the hotel, the messroom of the Bayonetteers was alight, and the regimental cook had excelled himself in providing dishes that were wholly English, without the least colonial flavour, for the officers and their guests, among whom was Harwood.

Captain Howard's apology for Markham was not freely accepted, more especially as Markham did not put in an appearance during the entire of the supper. Harwood was greatly surprised at his absence, and the story of a friend having suddenly turned up he rejected as a thing devised as an excuse. He did not return to the hotel until late—more than an hour past midnight. He paused outside the hotel door for some moments, hearing the sound of loud laughter and a hoarse voice singing snatches of different songs.

“What is the noisy party upstairs?” he asked of the man who opened the door.

“That is Mr. Markham and his friend, sir. They have taken supper together,” said the servant.

Harwood did not express the surprise he felt. He took his candle, and went to his own room, and, as he smoked a cigar before going to bed, he heard the intermittent sounds of the laughter and the singing.

“I shall have a talk with this old friend of Mr. Markham's in the morning,” he said, after he had stated another of his problems to sleep over.

Markham and he had been accustomed to breakfast together in their sitting-room since they had come up from Durban; but when Harwood awoke the next morning, and came in to breakfast, he found only one cup upon the table.

“Why is there not a cup for Mr. Markham?” he asked of the servant.

“Mr. Markham, sir, left with his friend for Durban at four o'clock this morning,” said the man.

“What, for Durban?”

“Yes, sir. Mr. Markham had ordered a Cape cart and team to be here at that time. I thought you might have awakened as they were leaving.”

“No, I did not,” said Mr. Harwood quietly; and the servant left the room.

Here was something additional for the special correspondent of the Dominant Trumpeter to ponder over and reduce to the terms of a problem. He reflected upon his early suspicions of Oswin Markham. Had he not even suggested that Markham's name was probably something very different from what he had called himself? Mr. Harwood knew well that men have a curious tendency to call themselves by the names of the persons to whom bank orders are made payable, and he believed that such a subtle sympathy might exist between the man who had been picked up at sea and the document that was found in his possession. Yes, Mr. Harwood felt that his instincts were not perhaps wholly in error regarding Mr. Oswin Markham, cleverly though he had acted the part of the Prince in that stirring drama on the previous evening.

On the afternoon of the following day, however, Oswin Markham entered the hotel at Pietermaritzburg and walked into the room where Harwood was working up a letter for his newspaper, descriptive of life among the Zulus.

“Good heavens!” cried the “special,” starting up; “I did not expect you back so soon. Why, you could only have stayed a few hours at the port.”

“It was enough for me,” said Oswin, a smile lighting up his pale face; “quite enough for me. I only waited to see the vessel with my friend aboard safely over the bar. Then I returned.”

“You went away from here in something of a hurry, did you not, Markham?”

Oswin laughed as he threw himself into a chair.

“Yes, something of a hurry. My friend is—let us say, eccentric. We left without going to bed the night before last. Never mind, Harwood, old fellow; he is gone, and here I am now, ready for anything you propose—an excursion across the Tugela or up to the Transvaal—anywhere—anywhere—I'm free now and myself again.”

“Free?” said Harwood curiously. “What do you mean by free?”

Oswin looked at him mutely for a moment, then he laughed, saying:

“Free—yes, free from that wretched dramatic affair. Thank Heaven, it's off my mind!”

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