THE THREE IMPOSTORS.
The two stood at the hall door, grinning evilly at each other; and presently
a girl ran quickly down, the stairs, and joined them. She was quite young, with a quaint
rather than a beautiful face, and her eyes were of a shining hazel. She held a neat paper parcel
in one hand, and laughed with her friends.
"Leave the door open," said the smooth
man to the other, as they were going out. "Yes, by--," he went on with an ugly oath
. "We'll leave the front door on the jar
. He may like to see company, you know."
The other man looked doubtfully about him. "Is it quite prudent
do you think, Davies?" he said, pausing with his hand on the mouldering knocker. "I don't think Lipsius would like it. What do you say, Helen?"
with Davies. Davies is an artist, and you are commonplace
, Richmond, and a bit of a coward
. Let the door stand open, of course. But what a pity
Lipsius had to go away! He would have enjoyed himself."
"Yes," replied the smooth
Mr. Davies, "that summons
to the west was very hard on the doctor."
The three passed out, leaving the hall door, cracked and riven with frost and wet, half open, and they stood silent for a moment
under the ruinous shelter
of the porch.
"Well," said the girl, "it is done at last. I shall hurry no more on the track
of the young man with spectacles
"We owe a great deal to you," said Mr. Davies politely; "the doctor said so before he left. But have we not all three some farewells to make? I, for my part, propose
to say good-by, here, before this picturesque
but mouldy residence
, to my friend Mr. Burton, dealer in the antique
," and the man lifted his hat with an exaggerated
"And I," said Richmond, "bid adieu
to Mr. Wilkins, the private secretary
, whose company has, I confess
, become a little tedious
"Farewell to Miss Lally, and to Miss Leicester also," said the girl, making as she spoke
a delicious courtesy
. "Farewell to all occult adventure
; the farce
Mr. Davies and the lady seemed full of grim
enjoyment, but Richmond tugged at his whiskers nervously.
"I feel a bit shaken up," he said. "I've seen rougher things in the States, but that crying noise he made gave me a sickish feeling. And then the smell-But my stomach was never very strong."
The three friends moved away from the door, and began to walk slowly up and down what had been a gravel
path, but now lay green and pulpy with damp
mosses. It was a fine autumn
evening, and a faint
sunlight shone on the yellow walls of the old deserted
house, and showed the patches of gangrenous decay
, and all the stains, the black drift
of rain from the broken pipes, the scabrous
blots where the bare bricks were exposed
, the green weeping of a gaunt
laburnum that stood beside the porch, and ragged
marks near the ground where the reeking clay
was gaining on the worn foundations. It was a queer rambling
old place, the centre perhaps two hundred years old, with dormer
windows sloping from the tiled roof, and on each side there were Georgian wings; bow windows had been carried up to the first floor, and two dome-like cupolas that had once been painted a bright green were now gray and neutral
. Broken urns lay upon the path, and a heavy mist seemed to rise from the unctuous clay
; the neglected
shrubberies, grown all tangled
and unshapen, smelt dank
, and there was an atmosphere
all about the deserted mansion
that proposed thoughts of an opened grave
. The three friends looked dismally
at the rough grasses and the nettles that grew thick over lawn and flower-beds; and at the sad water-pool in the midst of the weeds. There, above green and oily scum instead of lilies, stood a rusting Triton on the rocks, sounding a dirge through
a shattered horn; and beyond, beyond the sunk fence
and the far meadows; the sun slid down and shone red through
the bars of the elm trees.
Richmond shivered and stamped his foot. "We had better be going soon," he said; "there is nothing else to be done here."
"No," said Davies, "it is finished at last. I thought
for some time we should never get hold of the gentleman with the spectacles
. He was a clever
fellow, but, Lord! he broke up badly at last. I can tell you he looked white at me when I touched him on the arm in the bar
. But where could he have hidden the thing? We can all swear
it was not on him."
The girl laughed, and they turned away, when Richmond gave a violent
start. "Ah!" he cried, turning to the girl, "what have you got there? Look, Davies, look! it's all oozing and dripping."
The young woman glanced down at the little parcel
she was carrying, and partially unfolded the paper.
"Yes, look both of you," she said; "it's my own idea. Don't you think it will do nicely for the doctor's museum
? It comes from the right
hand, the hand that took the gold Tiberius."
Mr. Davies nodded with a good deal of approbation
, and Richmond lifted his ugly high-crowned bowler, and wiped his forehead with a dingy handkerchief
"I'm going," he said; "you two can stay if you like."
"Look, Dyson," said the one as they drew nearer, "look at those upper windows; the sun is setting
, and though the panes are dusty
"The grimy sash
an oriel burns."
"Phillipps," replied the elder
and (it must be said) the more pompous
of the two, "I yield
, I cannot withstand
of the grotesque
. Here, where all is falling into dimness and dissolution
, and we walk in cedarn gloom
, and the very air of heaven goes mouldering to the lungs, I cannot remain commonplace
. I look at that deep glow
on the panes, and the house lies all enchanted
; that very room, I tell you, is within all blood and fire."