Duty! That constituted the foundation of the plea of Clare for the delivery of his lecture before the Royal Geographical Society. Her eyes sparkled as she talked at lunch, urging Claude Westwood to abandon his resolution to keep a secret the story of his adventures, of his discoveries.

“My dear Agnes,” she cried at last, “will you not join with me in telling him all that is his duty?” Agnes shook her head.

“All? Did you say 'all'?” she said. “All his duty? Why, my dear, such a task would be akin to Mr. Westwood's description of his travels. The language does not contain sufficient words to tell a man all that is his duty. But so far as the lecture before the Geographical Society is concerned I don't think that he need say very much. Surely they are entitled at least to a paper in exchange for their gold medal. Anything less would be shabby.”

“That should settle the question,” said Clare, looking with a triumphant smile at Claude.

“I suppose—yes, I am sure that it should,” said he. “Only—well, I hardly know where to begin in giving an account of some of the things I saw during my years of captivity. You have heard of the devil-worship of some parts of Central Africa; but all that you have heard has been a faint, a far-off rumour of what that worship means. I have seen—oh, I tell you there are mysteries—magic—in the heart of that awful Continent that cannot be spoken of.”

“But there is much that you can talk about—there's the country, the climate, the products,” said Clare. “Don't you remember the hints that Mr. Paddleford used to give you aboard the Andalusian? Mr. Paddleford was a—a—gentleman—I suppose he would be called a gentleman in England.”

“Though he was not so called aboard the steamer?” said Agnes.

“Exactly. He was fond of opening up new countries.”

“Through the medium of the Limited Liability Companies Act—occasionally going a little further than the Act was ever meant to go,” said Claude.

“At any rate he used to say that the man who found a new market for Manchester or Birmingham was the true patriot. But still you did not rise to the bait—you did not make any attempt to prove the extent of your patriotism. But perhaps you might be able to show the geographical people that Manchester or Birmingham might have what Mr. Paddleford called a 'look in' so far as Central Africa is concerned.”

He glanced at Clare after she had spoken.

“Birmingham might certainly have a 'look in' at some of the tribes; it might contract for the constant supply of brass gods for them,” said Claude. “They worship brass out there with nearly as much devotion as people here worship gold. As for Manchester—well, I've been in a valley where Manchester could find a hint or two. The sides of the valley are covered with a plant—a weed which, it it became known, would make cotton valueless. It requires neither to be spun nor woven.”

“And you have discovered that miracle, for which the world has been wanting since the days of Adam?” cried Clare, laying down her life and fork, and staring at him. “You have discovered this, and yet you could send that poor publisher empty away, although he had come out from England to meet you and make arrangements for the publication of your book!”

“Manchester should be ruined in order that Mr.—Mr.—was his name—Paddleford?—yes, that Mr. Faddleford might float a company,” said Agnes.

“Not merely Manchester, but all the cotton-growing states of America would be brought to the verge of ruin,” said he. “The growth of that weed upon the sides of the valley I speak of far exceeds the growth of all the cotton in the world. We travelled for four months through that valley without once losing sight of that weed. Things are done on a large scale in Central Africa. The ground rents there are somewhat less than they are in Middlesex. Can you fancy a valley running from John o'Groat's to Land's End with its sides covered thickly with one weed—say with thistles only?”

“And you can tell the world of that valley—of that plant for which the world has been waiting for thousands of years, and yet there is still a doubt in your mind as to whether you should spend an hour talking about it or not!” cried Clare. “Look here, Mr. Westwood; you send a telegram to the President of the Geographical Society appointing a day to reveal to him and his friends—to all the world—the world that has been waiting for certainly six thousand years—some people say six million—for the discovery of that plant—telegraph that, or I shall do it; and when you are at the bureau of telegraphs, just send another message to the publisher who hunted for you, telling him that you accept his offer of twenty-five thousand pounds. He confided in me aboard the steamer with tears in his eyes, that this was the exact sum that he had offered to you for the making of two thick volumes on your adventures, to be ready in four months from to-day.”

“Heavens above! this is carrying things with a high hand!” cried Claude. “Perhaps you would not think it too much trouble to suggest a title for the book—that, I understand, is always a difficult business.”

“Ah, the representative of Messrs. Shekels & Shackles, the publishers, confided to me his designs in regard to that point also,” said Clare triumphantly. “The poor man had passed days and nights in the Mediterranean thinking over the best title for your book; but only when he got through the Red Sea did the inspiration come to him. I agreed with him that it would be too bad if all his trouble were to no purpose. I agree with him still.”

“He went a long way—so did you,” said Claude. “And the title—are you at liberty to divulge it to the author of the book yet unborn?”

“The name of the book is to be 'Homeless in Hades,'” laughed Clare. “So much the agent confided in me. He thought that by that title the readers would be prepared for the worst you had to tell them.”

“And so they would. I'm sure,” said he. “But I had no idea that the names of books were settled by the publishers.”

“Oh, they're not as a rule—he explained that to me; he said that only in your case Messrs. Shekels & Shackles were under the impression that you should know just what the public expected from you.”

“And their idea is that the writer of a book of travels should make it his business to provide the public with precisely what they expect? Well, I can't say that the notion is an extravagant one. Most of the volumes of travel which have been written, from the days of Sir John Mandeville, down, have shown a desire on the part of the authors to accommodate themselves to the views of the publishers and the public. I'm not so sure, however, about 'Homeless in Hades.'”

“Then you will write the book?” cried Clare, her eyes sparkling. “Oh yes; when you begin by quarrelling with the title you are bound to write the book.”

“I don't consider myself in the least compromised in the matter,” said he. “One may surely object to a title without being forced to write the book. The fact is that, since I started for the Zambesi, the public taste has been revolutionised by dry plates. An explorer without a camera is, In the eyes of the public, like—now, what is he like?—a mouse-trap without a bait—a bell without its hammer. Now I did not travel with a camera. My long journey alone through the forests was made with only the smallest amount of personal luggage. All I was able to carry with me will not make an imposing list. Item—one knife; item—one native bow and six poisoned arrows; item—six seeds of the linen plant.”

“What, you succeeded in bringing home the seeds of that wonderful plant?”

“I made up my mind to accomplish that at all hazards. The seeds are a good deal less interesting to look at than the native weapons. I have got a glass case made for the arrows. They are not the things that should be left lying about.”

“I have heard of poisoned arrows. Terrible, are they not? And the poison is still in those you have?”

“It is the deadliest poison on earth; and its effect remains even in the ashes of the iron-weed which forms the barb of the arrow. The slightest scratch with the point of the weapon is fatal.”

Clare listened breathlessly. It was in a low voice that she asked:

“How many of these arrows had you when you contrived to escape?”

“I had sixteen,” he replied. “I can account satisfactorily for the ten that are not forthcoming. I got to be a fairly good hand with the bow and arrows before I had been in captivity for more than a year. I saw that my only chance of successfully escaping lay in my acquiring a thorough knowledge of the native weapons. I made a collection of arrows which I secreted at intervals, but when I thought my chance had arrived. I only recovered the sixteen I have told you about. I saved my life ten times with arrows and nine times with my knife.”

“That will be your book,” said Clare; “how you used those ten arrows will be your book. It must be called 'The Arrows and the Knife.'”

“That title is certainly better than 'Homeless in Hades,' although I admit that I was homeless and that the country was the worst Hades that could be imagined.”

“But you will write the book—oh, you must promise us to write the book. If we get him to promise we shall be all right, Agnes; he is not the sort of man who would ever break his promise!”

“Oh, no, no; a promise with him would ever be held sacred,” said Agnes.

“Promise—promise,” cried Clare, going in front of him with clasped hands, in the prettiest possible attitude of humorous imploration.

“A book of travel would be of no value without illustrations—so much I clearly perceive,” said he. “I wonder if you can draw.'

“Oh yes; I can draw in a sort of way,” she replied. “I did nothing else but draw for some years.”

“That is a solution of the problem,” he said, putting out his hand to her. “I will write the book if you do the drawings for it.”

She shrank back for a moment and her face became rosy.

“Oh, I don't think that I could draw well enough to illustrate your book,” she cried.

“Ah, have you seen the illustrations to any book of travel recently published?” he asked. “No, I thought you had not or you wouldn't say that your capacity fell short of so humble a standard as is required for such a purpose. My dear Clare, cannot you see that the plan which I have suggested is the only one possible for such a work as mine? I must have an artist beside me who will be able to draw everything from my instructions. Nothing must be left to the imagination. An error in any point of detail would make the illustration worthless. Ah, now you see it is not on me but on you that the production of the great work depends, and yet you hold back. It is now my turn for bullying you as you bullied me. It rests with you to say whether the book will appear or not.”

“What am I to say, Agnes?” cried the girl. She had become quite excited at the new complexion that had been assumed by the question of publishing the book. “What am I to say? I am afraid of my own shortcomings.”

“If Mr. Westwood is not afraid of them, you certainly need not be,” said Agnes. “For my own part I quite see how much better it would be for him to have an artist working by his side and in accordance with his own instructions, than it would be to have the most accomplished of draughtsmen working at a distance.”

“I'm fearfully afraid, but I would do anything for the sake of seeing the book published,” said Clare.

“Then the compact is made,” cried Claude. “Give me your hand, Clare, Now, Agnes, you are witness to the compact.”

“Yes, I am a witness to this compact—the second one made in this room,” said Agnes quietly. They had by this time left the dining-room and were standing round the fire in the drawing-room.

“The second compact—the second?” said he, as though he were trying to recall the previous compact.

“Agnes alludes to the compact she and I made in this room yesterday,” said Clare. “We agreed that if we did not become friends we should part without ceremony before we got to hate each other—it was something like that, was it not, Agnes?”

“Yes, I think that is an excellent definition of the compact made between you and me—not in the presence of witnesses,” said Agnes.

“A very sensible compact, too, if I know anything about women,” said Claude.

“And you do know something about women, do you not?” said Agnes.

“I am learning something daily—I may say hourly,” he replied. “I have learned lately how generous, how noble, how sympathetic a woman may be.”

He looked at Agnes as he spoke, and sincerity was in every note of his voice.

Agnes smiled faintly. She wondered if he was thinking of the day when he had said good-bye to her in that room. Was his allusion made to her generosity in permitting him to assume that there was a statute of limitation in love—an unwritten law by which the validity of a lover's vows ceased?

At this point a fresh visitor was admitted—Sir Percival Hope. He said he was very glad to meet Mr. Westwood that afternoon, the fact being that he had just been at the Court to see Mr. Westwood in order to inquire about his gamekeeper, Ralph Dangan, who had applied to him, Sir Percival, for a situation. He wondered why the man was leaving the Court preserves.

“The man seems to me to be a very foolish fellow,” said Claude. “He came to me a couple of days ago to discharge himself, his plea being that he did not suppose that I meant to preserve as my poor brother had done. I asked him if he didn't think it possible that he might be mistaken in his supposition, and suggested that he would have done well to come to me in the first instance to learn what my intentions were in regard to the preserves. He seemed to decline to enter into any discussion WIth me on the subject, but quite respectfully gave me his notice to leave. I tried to bring him to a sense of his foolishness in throwing up a good place on so ridiculous a pretext, but all the reply he gave was, 'I have made up my mind to go, sir, and must go. I can't stay where I am any longer.'”

“The poor man has had trouble—great trouble, during the past few months,” said Agnes. “He should be pardoned if he finds it intolerable to continue living in the place where he was once so happy.”

“He did not say anything about that to me,” said Claude. “Only to-day my steward mentioned about the man's daughter. Poor girl! I recollect her years ago—a pretty little girl of nine or ten. And then his son enlisted. I daresay the view you take of the matter is the right one, Agnes. I suppose such men as Dangan have their own private feelings like the rest of us.”

“He did not seem inclined to explain to me anything of that,” said Sir Percival. “When I asked if he did not think he was behaving foolishly in leaving a situation in which he had been for over thirty years, he merely said he had made up his mind to leave it.”

“I would advise you to give him a trial,” said Claude. “He is a scrupulously honest man.”

“I feel greatly inclined to take your advice,” said Sir Percival.

He remained to drink tea with Agnes, and at the end of an hour both men left together.

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