Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

PAGE 3

The Painful Fall Of A Great Reputation
by [?]

Basil sprang up straight and swayed with the swaying car.

“Let us get off and follow him,” he said. “I bet you five pounds it will turn out as I say.”

And with a scuttle, a jump, and a run, we were off the car.

The man with the curved silver hair and the curved Eastern face walked along for some time, his long splendid frock-coat flying behind him. Then he swung sharply out of the great glaring road and disappeared down an ill-lit alley. We swung silently after him.

“This is an odd turning for a man of that kind to take,” I said.

“A man of what kind?” asked my friend.

“Well,” I said, “a man with that kind of expression and those boots. I thought it rather odd, to tell the truth, that he should be in this part of the world at all.”

“Ah, yes,” said Basil, and said no more.

We tramped on, looking steadily in front of us. The elegant figure, like the figure of a black swan, was silhouetted suddenly against the glare of intermittent gaslight and then swallowed again in night. The intervals between the lights were long, and a fog was thickening the whole city. Our pace, therefore, had become swift and mechanical between the lamp-posts; but Basil came to a standstill suddenly like a reined horse; I stopped also. We had almost run into the man. A great part of the solid darkness in front of us was the darkness of his body.

At first I thought he had turned to face us. But though we were hardly a yard off he did not realize that we were there. He tapped four times on a very low and dirty door in the dark, crabbed street. A gleam of gas cut the darkness as it opened slowly. We listened intently, but the interview was short and simple and inexplicable as an interview could be. Our exquisite friend handed in what looked like a paper or a card and said:

“At once. Take a cab.”

A heavy, deep voice from inside said:

“Right you are.”

And with a click we were in the blackness again, and striding after the striding stranger through a labyrinth of London lanes, the lights just helping us. It was only five o’clock, but winter and the fog had made it like midnight.

“This is really an extraordinary walk for the patent-leather boots,” I repeated.

“I don’t know,” said Basil humbly. “It leads to Berkeley Square.”

As I tramped on I strained my eyes through the dusky atmosphere and tried to make out the direction described. For some ten minutes I wondered and doubted; at the end of that I saw that my friend was right. We were coming to the great dreary spaces of fashionable London–more dreary, one must admit, even than the dreary plebeian spaces.

“This is very extraordinary!” said Basil Grant, as we turned into Berkeley Square.

“What is extraordinary?” I asked. “I thought you said it was quite natural.”

“I do not wonder,” answered Basil, “at his walking through nasty streets; I do not wonder at his going to Berkeley Square. But I do wonder at his going to the house of a very good man.”

“What very good man?” I asked with exasperation.

“The operation of time is a singular one,” he said with his imperturbable irrelevancy. “It is not a true statement of the case to say that I have forgotten my career when I was a judge and a public man. I remember it all vividly, but it is like remembering some novel. But fifteen years ago I knew this square as well as Lord Rosebery does, and a confounded long sight better than that man who is going up the steps of old Beaumont’s house.”

“Who is old Beaumont?” I asked irritably.

“A perfectly good fellow. Lord Beaumont of Foxwood–don’t you know his name? He is a man of transparent sincerity, a nobleman who does more work than a navvy, a socialist, an anarchist, I don’t know what; anyhow, he’s a philosopher and philanthropist. I admit he has the slight disadvantage of being, beyond all question, off his head. He has that real disadvantage which has arisen out of the modern worship of progress and novelty; and he thinks anything odd and new must be an advance. If you went to him and proposed to eat your grandmother, he would agree with you, so long as you put it on hygienic and public grounds, as a cheap alternative to cremation. So long as you progress fast enough it seems a matter of indifference to him whether you are progressing to the stars or the devil. So his house is filled with an endless succession of literary and political fashions; men who wear long hair because it is romantic; men who wear short hair because it is medical; men who walk on their feet only to exercise their hands; and men who walk on their hands for fear of tiring their feet. But though the inhabitants of his salons are generally fools, like himself, they are almost always, like himself, good men. I am really surprised to see a criminal enter there.”