Chapter XII.
 

As Giovanni sat in solitude in his room he was not aware that his father had received a visit from no less a personage than Prince Montevarchi. The latter found Saracinesca very much preoccupied, and in no mood for conversation, and consequently did not stay very long. When he went away, however, he carried under his arm a bundle of deeds and documents which he had long desired to see and in the perusal of which he promised himself to spend a very interesting day. He had come with the avowed object of getting them, and he neither anticipated nor met with any difficulty in obtaining what he wanted. He spoke of his daughter's approaching marriage with San Giacinto, and after expressing his satisfaction at the alliance with the Saracinesca, remarked that his son-in-law had told him the story of the ancient deed, and begged permission to see it for himself. The request was natural, and Saracinesca was not suspicious at any time; at present, he was too much occupied with his own most unpleasant reflections to attach any importance to the incident. Montevarchi thought there was something wrong with his friend, but inasmuch as he had received the papers, he asked no questions and presently departed with them, hastening homewards in order to lose no time in satisfying his curiosity.

Two hours later he was still sitting in his dismal study with the manuscripts before him. He had ascertained what he wanted to know, namely, that the papers really existed and were drawn up in a legal form. He had hoped to find a rambling agreement, made out principally by the parties concerned, and copied with some improvements by the family notary of the time, for he had made up his mind that if any flaw could be discovered in the deed San Giacinto should become Prince Saracinesca, and should have possession of all the immense wealth that belonged to the family. San Giacinto was the heir in the direct line, and although his great-grand-father had relinquished his birthright in the firm expectation of having no children, the existence of his descendants might greatly modify the provisions of the agreement.

Montevarchi's face fell when he had finished deciphering the principal document. The provisions and conditions were short and concise, and were contained upon one large sheet of parchment, signed, witnessed and bearing the official seal and signature which proved that it had been ratified.

It was set forth therein that Don Leone Saracinesca, being the eldest son of Don Giovanni Saracinesca, deceased, Prince of Saracinesca, of Sant' Ilario and of Torleone, Duke of Barda, and possessor of many other titles, Grandee of Spain of the first class and Count of the Holy Roman Empire, did of his own free will, by his own motion and will, make over and convey to, and bestow upon, Don Orsino Saracinesca, his younger and only brother, the principalities of Saracinesca--here followed a complete list of the various titles and estates--including the titles, revenues, seigneurial rights, appanages, holdings, powers and sovereignty attached to and belonging to each and every one, to him, the aforesaid Don Orsino Saracinesca and to the heirs of his body in the male line direct for ever.

Here there was a stop, and the manuscript began again at the top of the other side of the sheet. The next clause contained the solitary provision to the effect that Don Leone reserved to himself the estate and title of San Giacinto in the kingdom of Naples, which at his death, he having no children, should revert to the aforesaid Don Orsino Saracinesca and his heirs for ever. It was further stated that the agreement was wholly of a friendly character, and that Don Leone bound himself to take no steps whatever to reinstate himself in the titles and possessions which, of his own free will, he relinquished, the said agreement being, in the opinion of both parties, for the advantage of the whole house of Saracinesca.

"He bound himself, not his descendants," remarked Montevarchi at last, as he again bent his head over the document and examined the last clause. "And he says 'having no children'--in Latin the words may mean in case he had none, being in the ablative absolute. Having no children, to Orsino and his heirs for ever--but since he had a son, the case is altered. Ay, but that clause in the first part says to Orsino and his heirs for ever, and says nothing about Leone having no children. It is more absolute than the ablative. That is bad."

For a long time he pondered over the writing. The remaining documents were merely transfers of the individual estates, in each of which it was briefly stated that the property in question was conveyed in accordance with the conditions of the main deed. There was no difficulty there. The Saracinesca inheritance depended solely on the existence of this one piece of parchment, and of the copy or registration of it in the government offices. Montevarchi glanced at the candle that stood before him in a battered brass candlestick, and his old heart beat a little faster than usual. To burn the sheet of parchment, and then deny on oath that he had ever seen it--it was very simple. Saracinesca would find it hard to prove the existence of the thing. Montevarchi hesitated, and then laughed at himself for his folly. It would be necessary first to ascertain what there was at the Chancery office, otherwise he would be ruining himself for nothing. That was certainly the most important step at present. He pondered over the matter for some time and then rose from his chair.

As he stood before the table he glanced once more at the sheet. As though the greater distance made it more clear to his old sight, he noticed that there was a blank space, capable of containing three lines of writing like what was above, while still leaving a reasonable margin at the bottom of the page. As the second clause was the shorter, the scribe had doubtless thought it better to begin afresh on the other side.

Montevarchi sat down again, and took a large sheet of paper and a pen. He rapidly copied the first clause to the end, but after the words "in the male line direct for ever" his pen still ran on. The deed then read as follows:--

"... In the male line direct for ever, provided that the aforesaid Don Leone Saracinesca shall have no son born to him in wedlock, in which case, and if such a son be born, this present deed is wholly null, void and ineffectual."

Montevarchi did not stop here. He carefully copied the remainder as it stood, to the last word. Then he put away the original and read what he had written very slowly and carefully. With the addition it was perfectly clear that San Giacinto must be considered to be the lawful and only Prince Saracinesca.

"How well those few words would look at the bottom of the page!" exclaimed the old man half aloud. He sat still and gloated in imagination over the immense wealth which would thus be brought into his family.

"They shall be there--they must be there!" he muttered at last. "Millions! millions! After all it is only common justice. The old reprobate would never have disinherited his son if he had expected to have one."

His long thin fingers crooked themselves and scratched the shabby green baize that covered the table, as though heaping together little piles of money, and then hiding them under the palm of his hand.

"Even if there is a copy," he said again under his breath, "the little work will look as prettily upon it as on this--if only the sheets are the same size and there is the same space," he added, his face falling again at the disagreeable reflection that the duplicate might differ in some respect from the original.

The plan was simple enough in appearance, and provided that the handwriting could be successfully forged, there was no reason why it should not succeed. The man who could do it, if he would, was in the house at that moment, and Montevarchi knew it. Arnoldo Meschini, the shrivelled little secretary and librarian, who had a profound knowledge of the law and spent his days as well as most of his nights in poring over crabbed manuscripts, was the very person for such a piece of work. He understood the smallest variations in handwriting which belonged to different periods, and the minutest details of old-fashioned penmanship were as familiar to him as the common alphabet. But would he do it? Would he undertake the responsibility of a forgery of which the success would produce such tremendous responsibilities, of which the failure would involve such awful disgrace? Montevarchi had reasons of his own for believing that Arnoldo Meschini would do anything he was ordered to do, and would moreover keep the secret faithfully. Indeed, as far as discretion was concerned, he would, in case of exposure, have to bear the penalty. Montevarchi would arrange that. If discovered it would be easy for him to pretend that being unable to read the manuscript he had employed his secretary to do so, and that the latter, in the hope of reward, had gratuitously imposed upon the prince and the courts of law before whom the case would be tried.

One thing was necessary. San Giacinto must never see the documents until they were produced as evidence. In the first place it was important that he, who was the person nearest concerned, should be in reality perfectly innocent, and should be himself as much deceived as any one. Nothing impresses judges like real and unaffected innocence. Secondly, if he were consulted, it was impossible to say what view he might take of the matter. Montevarchi suspected him of possessing some of the hereditary boldness of the Saracinesca. He might refuse to be a party in a deception, even though he himself was to benefit by it, a consideration which chilled the old man's blood and determined him at once to confide the secret to no one but Arnoldo Meschini, who was completely in his power.

The early history of this remarkable individual was uncertain. He had received an excellent education and it is no exaggeration to call him learned, for he possessed a surprising knowledge of ancient manuscripts and a great experience in everything connected with this branch of archaeology. It was generally believed that he had been bred to enter the church, but he himself never admitted that he had been anything more than a scholar in a religious seminary. He had subsequently studied law and had practised for some time, when he had suddenly abandoned his profession in order to accept the ill-paid post of librarian and secretary to the father of the present Prince Montevarchi. Probably his love of mediaeval lore had got the better of his desire for money, and during the five and twenty years he had spent in the palace he had never been heard to complain of his condition. He lived in a small chamber in the attic and passed his days in the library, winter and summer alike, perpetually poring over the manuscripts and making endless extracts in his odd, old-fashioned handwriting. The result of his labours was never published, and at first sight it would have been hard to account for his enormous industry and for the evident satisfaction he derived from his work. The nature of the man, however, was peculiar, and his occupation was undoubtedly congenial to him, and far more profitable than it appeared to be.

Arnoldo Meschini was a forger. He was one of that band of manufacturers of antiquities who have played such a part in the dealings of foreign collectors during the last century, and whose occupation, though slow and laborious, occasionally produces immense profits. He had not given up his calling with the deliberate intention of resorting to this method of earning a subsistence, but had drifted into his evil practices by degrees. In the first instance he had quitted the bar in consequence of having been connected with a scandalous case of extortion and blackmailing, in which he had been suspected of constructing forged documents for his client, though the crime had not been proved against him. His reputation, however, had been ruined, and he had been forced to seek his bread elsewhere. It chanced that the former librarian of the Montevarchi died at that time and that the prince was in search of a learned man ready to give his services for a stipend about equal to the wages of a footman. Meschini presented himself and got the place. The old prince was delighted with him and agreed to forget the aforesaid disgrace he had incurred, in consideration of his exceptional qualities. He set himself systematically to study the contents of the ancient library, with the intention of publishing the contents of the more precious manuscripts, and for two or three years he pursued his object with this laudable purpose, and with the full consent of his employer.

One day a foreign newspaper fell into his hands containing an account of a recent sale in which sundry old manuscripts had brought large prices. A new idea crossed his mind, and the prospect of unexpected wealth unfolded itself to his imagination. For several months he studied even more industriously than before, until, having made up his mind, he began to attempt the reproduction of a certain valuable writing dating from the fourteenth century. He worked in his own room during the evening and allowed no one to see what he was doing, for although it was rarely that the old prince honoured the library with a visit, yet Meschini was inclined to run no risks, and proceeded in his task with the utmost secrecy.

Nothing could exceed the care he showed in the preparation and use of his materials. One of his few acquaintances was a starving, but clever chemist, who kept a dingy shop in the neighbourhood of the Ponte Quattro Capi. To this poor man he applied in order to obtain a knowledge of the ink used in the old writings. He professed himself anxious to get all possible details on the subject for a work he was preparing upon mediaeval calligraphy, and his friend soon set his mind at rest by informing him that if the ink contained any metallic parts he would easily detect them, but that if it was composed of animal and vegetable matter it would be almost impossible to give a satisfactory analysis. At the end of a few days Meschini was in possession of a recipe for concocting what he wanted, and after numerous experiments, in the course of which he himself acquired great practical knowledge of the subject, he succeeded in producing an ink apparently in all respects similar to that used by the scribe whose work he proposed to copy. He had meanwhile busied himself with the preparation of parchment, which is by no means an easy matter when it is necessary to give it the colour and consistency of very ancient skin. He learned that the ligneous acids contained in the smoke of wood could be easily detected, and it was only through the assistance of the chemist that he finally hit upon the method of staining the sheets with a thin broth of untanned leather, of which the analysis would give a result closely approaching that of the parchment itself. Moreover, he made all sorts of trials of quill pens, until he had found a method of cutting which produced the exact thickness of stroke required, and during the whole time he exercised himself in copying and recopying many pages of the manuscript upon common paper, in order to familiarise himself with the method of forming the letters.

It was nearly two years before he felt himself able to begin his first imitation, but the time and study he had expended were not lost, and the result surpassed his expectations. So ingeniously perfect was the facsimile when finished that Meschini himself would have found it hard to swear to the identity of the original if he had not been allowed to see either of the two for some time. The minutest stains were reproduced with scrupulous fidelity. The slightest erasure was copied minutely. He examined every sheet to ascertain exactly how it had been worn by the fingers rubbing on the corners and spent days in turning a page thousands of times, till the oft-repeated touch of his thumb had deepened the colour to the exact tint.

When the work was finished he hesitated. It seemed to him very perfect, but he feared lest he should be deceiving himself from having seen the thing daily for so many months. He took his copy one day to a famous collector, and submitted it to him for examination, asking at the same time what it was worth. The specialist spent several hours in examining the writing, and pronounced it very valuable, naming a large sum, while admitting that he was unable to buy it himself.

Arnoldo Meschini took his work home with him, and spent a day in considering what he should do. Then he deliberately placed the facsimile in his employer's library, and sold the original to a learned man who was collecting for a great public institution in a foreign country. His train of reasoning was simple, for he said to himself that the forgery was less likely to be detected in the shelves of the Montevarchi's palace than if put into the hands of a body of famous scientists who naturally distrusted what was brought to them. Collectors do not ask questions as to whence a valuable thing has been taken; they only examine whether it be genuine and worth the money.

Emboldened by his success, the forger had continued to manufacture facsimiles and sell originals for nearly twenty years, during which he succeeded in producing nearly as many copies, and realised a sum which to him appeared enormous and which was certainly not to be despised by any one. Some of the works he sold were published and annotated by great scholars, some were jealously guarded in the libraries of rich amateurs, who treasured them with all the selfish vigilance of the bibliomaniac. In the meanwhile Meschini's learning and skill constantly increased, till he possessed an almost diabolical skill in the art of imitating ancient writings, and a familiarity with the subject which amazed the men of learning who occasionally obtained permission to enter the library and study there. Upon these, too, Meschini now and then experimented with his forgeries, not one of which was ever detected.

Prince Montevarchi saw in his librarian only a poor wretch whose passion for ancient literature seemed to dominate his life and whose untiring industry had made him master of the very secret necessary in the present instance. He knew that such things as he contemplated had been done before and he supposed that they had been done by just such men as Arnoldo Meschini. He knew the history of the man's early disgrace and calculated wisely enough that the fear of losing his situation on the one hand, and the hope of a large reward on the other, would induce him to undertake the job. To all appearances he was as poor as when he had entered the service of the prince's father five and twenty years earlier. The promise of a few hundred scudi, thought Montevarchi, would have immense weight with such a man. In his eagerness to accomplish his purpose, the nobleman never suspected that the offer would be refused by a fellow who had narrowly escaped being convicted of forgery in his youth, and whose poverty was a matter concerning which no doubt could exist.

Montevarchi scarcely hesitated before going to the library. If he paused at all, it was more to consider the words he intended to use than to weigh in his mind the propriety of using them. The library was a vast old hall, surrounded on all sides, and nearly to the ceiling, with carved bookcases of walnut blackened with age to the colour of old mahogany. There were a number of massive tables in the room, upon which the light fell agreeably from high clerestory windows at each end of the apartment. Meschini himself was shuffling along in a pair of ancient leather slippers with a large volume under his arm, clad in very threadbare black clothes and wearing a dingy skullcap on his head. He was a man somewhat under the middle size, badly made, though possessing considerable physical strength. His complexion was of a muddy yellow, disagreeable to see, but his features rendered him interesting if not sympathetic. The brow was heavy and the gray eyebrows irregular and bushy, but his gray eyes were singularly clear and bright, betraying a hidden vitality which would not have been suspected from the whole impression he made. A high forehead, very prominent in the upper and middle part, contracted below, so that there was very little breadth at the temples, but considerable expanse above. The eyes were near together and separated by the knifelike bridge of the nose, the latter descending in a fine curve of wonderfully delicate outline. The chin was pointed, and the compressed mouth showed little or nothing of the lips. On each side of his head the coarsely-shaped and prominent ears contrasted disagreeably with the fine keenness of the face. He stooped a little from the neck, and his shoulders sloped in a way that made them look narrower than they really were.

As the prince closed the door behind him and advanced, Meschini lifted his cap a little and laid down the book he was carrying, wondering inwardly what had brought his employer to see him at that hour of the morning.

"Sit down," said Montevarchi, with more than usual affability, and setting the example by seating himself upon one of the high-backed chairs which were ranged along the tables. "Sit down, Meschini, and let us have a little conversation."

"Willingly, Signor Principe," returned the librarian, obeying the command and placing himself opposite to the prince.

"I have been thinking about you this morning," continued the latter. "You have been with us a very long time. Let me see. How many years? Eighteen? Twenty?"

"Twenty-five years, Excellency, It is a long time, indeed!"

"Twenty-five years! Dear me! How the thought takes me back to my poor father! Heaven bless him, he was a good man. But, as I was saying, Meschini, you have been with us many years, and we have not done much for you. No. Do not protest! I know your modesty, but one must be just before all things. I think you draw fifteen scudi a month? Yes. I have a good memory, you see. I occupy myself with the cares of my household. But you are not so young as you were once, my friend, and your faithful services deserve to be rewarded. Shall we say thirty scudi a month in future? To continue all your life, even if--heaven avert it--you should ever become disabled from superintending the library--yes, all your life."

Meschini bowed as he sat in acknowledgment of so much generosity, and assumed a grateful expression suitable to the occasion. In reality, his salary was of very little importance to him, as compared with what he realised from his illicit traffic in manuscripts. But, like his employer, he was avaricious, and the prospect of three hundred and sixty scudi a year was pleasant to contemplate. He bowed and smiled.

"I do not deserve so much liberality, Signor Principe," he said. "My poor services--"

"Very far from poor, my dear friend, very far from poor," interrupted Montevarchi. "Moreover, if you will have confidence in me, you can do me a very great service indeed. But it is indeed a very private matter. You are a discreet man, however, and have few friends. You are not given to talking idly of what concerns no one but yourself."

"No, Excellency," replied Meschini, laughing inwardly as he thought of the deceptions he had been practising with success during a quarter of a century.

"Well, well, this is a matter between ourselves, and one which, as you will see, will bring its own reward. For although it might not pass muster in a court of law--the courts you know, Meschini, are very sensitive about little things--" he looked keenly at his companion, whose eyes were cast down.

"Foolishly sensitive," echoed the librarian.

"Yes. I may say that in the present instance, although the law might think differently of the matter, we shall be doing a good deed, redressing a great injustice, restoring to the fatherless his birthright, in a word fulfilling the will of Heaven, while perhaps paying little attention to the laws of man. Man, my friend, is often very unjust in his wisdom."

"Very. I can only applaud your Excellency's sentiments, which do justice to a man of heart."

"No, no, I want no praise," replied the prince in a tone of deprecation. "What I need in order to accomplish this good action is your assistance and friendly help. To whom should I turn, but to the old and confidential friend of the family? To a man whose knowledge of the matter on hand is only equalled by his fidelity to those who have so long employed him?"

"You are very good, Signor Principe. I will do my best to serve you, as I have served you and his departed Excellency, the Signor Principe, your father."

"Very well, Meschini. Now I need only repeat that the reward for your services will be great, as I trust that hereafter your recompense may be adequate for having had a share in so good a deed. But, to be short, the best way to acquaint you with the matter is to show you this document which I have brought for the purpose."

Montevarchi produced the famous deed and carefully unfolded it upon the table. Then, after glancing over it once more, he handed it to the librarian. The latter bent his keen eyes upon the page and rapidly deciphered the contents. Then he read it through a second time and at last laid it down upon the table and looked up at the prince with an air of inquiry.

"You see, my dear Meschini," said Montevarchi in suave tones, "this agreement was made by Don Leone Saracinesca because he expected to have no children. Had he foreseen what was to happen-- for he has legitimate descendants alive, he would have added a clause here, at the foot of the first page--do you see? The clause he would have added would have been very short--something like this, 'Provided that the aforesaid Don Leone Saracinesca shall have no son born to him in wedlock, in which case, and if such a son be born, this present deed is wholly null, void and ineffectual.' Do you follow me?"

"Perfectly," replied Meschini, with a strange look in his eyes. He again took the parchment and looked it over, mentally inserting the words suggested by his employer. "If those words were inserted, there could be no question about the view the tribunals would take. But there must be a duplicate of the deed at the Cancellaria."

"Perhaps. I leave that to your industry to discover. Meanwhile, I am sure you agree with me that a piece of horrible injustice has been caused by this document; a piece of injustice, I repeat, which it is our sacred duty to remedy and set right."

"You propose to me to introduce this clause, as I understand, in this document and in the original," said the librarian, as though he wished to be quite certain of the nature of the scheme.

Montevarchi turned his eyes away and slowly scratched the table with his long nails.

"I mean to say," he answered in a lower voice, "that if it could be made out in law that it was the intention of the person, of Don Leone--"

"Let us speak plainly," interrupted Meschini. "We are alone. It is of no use to mince matters here. The only away to accomplish what you desire is to forge the words in both parchments. The thing can be done, and I can do it. It will be successful, without a shadow of a doubt. But I must have my price. There must be no misunderstanding. I do not think much of your considerations of justice, but I will do what you require, for money."

"How much?" asked Montevarchi in a thick voice. His heart misgave him, for he had placed himself in the man's power, and Meschini's authoritative tone showed that the latter knew it, and meant to use his advantage.

"I will be moderate, for I am a poor man. You shall give me twenty thousand scudi in cash, on the day the verdict is given in favour of Don Giovanni Saracinesca, Marchese di San Giacinto. That is your friend's name, I believe."

Montevarchi started as the librarian named the sum, and he turned very pale, passing his bony hand upon the edge of the table.

"I would not have expected this of you!" he exclaimed.

"You have your choice," returned the other, bringing his yellow face nearer to his employer's and speaking very distinctly. "You know what it all means. Saracinesca, Sant' Ilario, and Barda to your son-in-law, besides all the rest, amounting perhaps to several millions. To me, who get you all this, a paltry twenty thousand. Or else--" he paused and his bright eyes seemed to penetrate into Montevarchi's soul. The latter's face exhibited a sudden terror, which Meschini understood.

"Or else?" said the prince. "Or else, I suppose you will try and intimidate me by threatening to expose what I have told you?"

"Not at all, Excellency," replied the old scholar with sudden humility. "If you do not care for the bargain let us leave it alone. I am only your faithful servant, Signor Principe. Do not suspect me of such ingratitude! I only say that if we undertake it, the plan will be successful. It is for you to decide. Millions or no millions, it is the same to me. I am but a poor student. But if I help to get them for you--or for your son-in-law--I must have what I asked. It is not one per cent--scarcely a broker's commission! And you will have so much. Not but what your Excellency deserves it all, and is the best judge."

"One per cent?" muttered Montevarchi. "Perhaps not more than half per cent. But is it safe?" he asked suddenly, his fears all at once asserting themselves with a force that bewildered him.

"Leave all that to me," answered Meschini confidently. "The insertion shall be made, unknown to any one, in this parchment and in the one in the Chancery. The documents shall be returned to their places with no observation, and a month or two later the Marchese di San Giacinto can institute proceedings for the recovery of his birthright. I would only advise you not to mention the matter to him. It is essential that he should be quite innocent in order that the tribunal may suspect nothing. You and I, Signor Principe, can stay at home while the case is proceeding. We shall not even see the Signor Marchese's lawyers, for what have we to do with it all? But the Signor Marchese himself must be really free from all blame, or he will show a weak point. Now, when all is ready, he should go to the Cancellaria and examine the papers there for himself. He himself will suspect nothing. He will be agreeably surprised."

"And how long will it take you to do the--the work?" asked Montevarchi in hesitating tones.

"Let me see," Meschini began to make a calculation under his breath. "Ink, two days--preparing parchment for experiments, a week--writing, twice over, two days--giving age, drying and rubbing, three days, at least. Two, nine, eleven, fourteen. A fortnight," he said aloud. "I cannot do it in less time than that. If the copy in the Chancery is by another hand it will take longer."

"But how can you work at the Chancery?" asked the prince, as though a new objection had presented itself.

"Have no fear, Excellency. I will manage it so that no one shall find it out. Two visits will suffice. Shall I begin at once? Is it agreed?"

Montevarchi was silent for several minutes, and his hands moved uneasily.

"Begin at once," he said at last, as though forcing himself to make a determination. He rose to go as he spoke.

"Twenty thousand scudi on the day the verdict is given in favour of the Signor Marchese. Is that it?"

"Yes, yes. That is it. I leave it all to you."

"I will serve your Excellency faithfully, never fear."

"Do, Meschini. Yes. Be faithful as you have always been. Remember, I am not avaricious. It is in the cause of sound justice that I stoop to assume the appearance of dishonesty. Can a man do more? Can one go farther than to lose one's self-esteem by appearing to transgress the laws of honour in order to accomplish a good object; for the sake of restoring the birthright to the fatherless and the portion to the widow, or indeed to the widower, in this case? No, my dear friend. The means are more than justified by the righteousness of our purpose. Believe me, my good Meschini--yes, you are good in the best sense of the word--believe me, the justice of this world is not always the same as the justice of Heaven. The dispensations of providence are mysterious."

"And must remain so, in this case," observed the librarian with an evil smile.

"Yes, unfortunately, in this case we shall not reap the worldly praise which so kind an action undoubtedly deserves. But we must have patience under these trials. Good-bye, Meschini, good-bye, my friend. I must busy myself with the affairs of my household. Every man must do his duty in this world, you know."

The scholar bowed his employer to the door, and then went back to the parchment, which he studied attentively for more than an hour, keeping a huge folio volume open before him, into which he might slip the precious deed in case he were interrupted in his occupation.