The Vanishing Man by R. Austin Freeman
Chapter VII. John Bellingham's Will
The task upon which I had embarked so lightheartedly, when considered in cold blood, did certainly appear, as Miss Bellingham had said, rather appalling. The result of two and a half hours' pretty steady work at an average speed of nearly a hundred words a minute, would take some time to transcribe into longhand; and if the notes were to be delivered punctually on the morrow, the sooner I got to work the better.
Recognising this truth, I lost no time, but, within five minutes of my arrival at the surgery, was seated at the writing-table with my copy before me busily converting the sprawling, inexpressive characters into good, legible round-hand.
The occupation was by no means unpleasant, apart from the fact that it was a labour of love; for the sentences, as I picked them up, were fragrant with reminiscences of the gracious whisper in which they had first come to me. And then the matter itself was full of interest. I was gaining a fresh outlook on life, was crossing the threshold of a new world (which was her world); and so the occasional interruptions from patients, while they gave me intervals of enforced rest, were far from welcome.
The evening wore on without any sign from Nevill's Court, and I began to fear that Mr. Bellingham's scruples had proved insurmountable. Not, I am afraid, that I was so much concerned for the copy of the will as for the possibility of a visit, no matter howsoever brief, from my fair employer; and when, on the stroke of half-past seven, the surgery door flew open with startling abruptness, my fears were allayed and my hopes shattered simultaneously. For it was Miss Oman who stalked in, holding out a blue foolscap envelope with a warlike air as if it were an ultimatum.
"I've brought you this from Mr. Bellingham," she said. "There's a note inside."
"May I read the note, Miss Oman?" I asked.
"Bless the man!" she exclaimed. "What else would you do with it? Isn't that what I brought it for?"
I supposed it was; and, thanking her for her gracious permission, I glanced through the note--a few lines authorising me to show the copy of the will to Dr. Thorndyke. When I looked up from the paper I found her eyes fixed on me with an expression critical and rather disapproving.
"You seem to be making yourself mighty agreeable in a certain quarter," she remarked.
"I make myself universally agreeable. It is my nature to."
"Ha!" she snorted.
"Don't you find me rather agreeable?" I asked.
"Oily," said Miss Oman. And then, with a sour smile at the open note-books, she remarked:
"You've got some work to do now; quite a change for you."
"A delightful change, Miss Oman. 'For Satan findeth'--but no doubt you are acquainted with the philosophical works of Doctor Watts?"
"If you are referring to 'idle hands,'" she replied, "I'll give you a bit of advice, Don't you keep that hand idle any longer than is really necessary. I have my suspicions about that splint--oh, you know what I mean," and before I had time to reply, she had taken advantage of the entrance of a couple of patients to whisk out of the surgery with the abruptness that had distinguished her arrival.
The evening consultations were considered to be over by half-past eight; at which time Adolphus was wont, with exemplary punctuality, to close the outer door of the surgery. To-night he was not less prompt than usual; and having performed this, his last daily office, and turned down the surgery gas, he reported the fact and took his departure.
As his retreating footsteps died away and the slamming of the outer door announced his final disappearance, I sat up and stretched myself. The envelope containing the copy of the will lay on the table, and I considered it thoughtfully. It ought to be conveyed to Thorndyke with as little delay as possible, and, as it certainly could not be trusted out of my hands, it ought to be conveyed by me.
I looked at the note-books. Nearly two hours' work had made a considerable impression on the matter that I had to transcribe, but still, a great deal of the task yet remained to be done. However, I reflected, I could put in a couple of hours more before going to bed and there would be an hour or two to spare in the morning. Finally I locked the note-books, open as they were, in the writing-table drawer, and slipping the envelope into my pocket, set out for the Temple.
The soft chime of the Treasury clock was telling out, in confidential tones, the third quarter as I wrapped with my stick on the forbidding "oak" of my friends' chambers. There was no response, nor had I perceived any gleam of light from the windows as I approached, and I was considering the advisability of trying the laboratory on the next floor, when footsteps on the stone stairs and familiar voices gladdened my ear.
"Hallo, Berkeley!" said Thorndyke, "do we find you waiting like a Peri at the gates of Paradise? Polton is upstairs, you know, tinkering at one of his inventions. If you ever find the nest empty, you had better go up and bang at the laboratory door. He's always there in the evenings."
"I haven't been waiting long," said I, "and I was just thinking of rousing him up when you came."
"That was right," said Thorndyke, turning up the gas. "And what news do you bring? Do I see a blue envelope sticking out of your pocket?"
"Is it a copy of the will?" he asked.
I answered "yes," and added that I had full permission to show it to him.
"What did I tell you?" exclaimed Jervis. "Didn't I say that he would get the copy for us if it existed?"
"We admit the excellence of your prognosis," said Thorndyke, "but there is no need to be boastful. Have you read through the document, Berkeley?"
"No, I haven't taken it out of the envelope."
"Then it will be equally new to us all, and we shall see if it tallies with your description."
He placed three easy chairs at a convenient distance from the light, and Jervis, watching him with a smile, remarked:
"Now Thorndyke is going to enjoy himself. To him, a perfectly unintelligible will is a thing of beauty and a joy for ever; especially if associated with some kind of recondite knavery."
"I don't know," said I, "that this will is particularly unintelligible. The mischief seems to be that it is rather too intelligible. However, here it is," and I handed the envelope to Thorndyke.
"I suppose that we can depend on this copy," said the latter, as he drew out the document and glanced at it. "Oh, yes," he added, "I see it is copied by Godfrey Bellingham, compared with the original and certified correct. In that case I will get you to read it out slowly, Jervis, and I will make a rough copy to keep for reference. Let us make ourselves comfortable and light our pipes before we begin."
He provided himself with a writing-pad, and, when we had seated ourselves and got our pipes well alight, Jervis opened the document, and with a premonitory "hem!" commenced the reading.
"In the name of God Amen. This is the last will and testament of me John Bellingham of number 141 Queen Square in the parish of St. George Bloomsbury London in the county of Middlesex Gentleman made this twenty first day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and ninety-two.
"1. I give and bequeath unto Arthur Jellicoe of number 184 New Square Lincoln's Inn London in the county of Middlesex Attorney-at-law the whole of my collection of seals and scarabs and those my cabinets marked B, C, and D together with the contents thereof and the sum of two thousand pounds sterling free of legacy duty.
"Unto the Trustees of the British Museum the residue of my collection of antiquities.
"Unto my cousin George Hurst of The Poplars Eltham in the county of Kent the sum of five thousand pounds free of legacy duty and unto my brother Godfrey Bellingham or if he should die before the occurrence of my death unto his daughter Ruth Bellingham the residue of my estate and effects real and personal subject to the conditions set forth hereinafter namely:
"2. That my body shall be deposited with those of my ancestors in the churchyard appertaining to the church and parish of St. George the Martyr or if that shall not be possible, in some other churchyard, cemetery, burial ground, church, chapel or other authorised place for the reception of the bodies of the dead situate within or appertaining to the parishes of St. Andrew above the Bars and St. George the Martyr or St. George Bloomsbury and St. Giles in the Fields. But if the conditions in this clause be not carried out then
"3. I give and devise the said residue of my estate and effects unto my cousin George Hurst aforesaid and I hereby revoke all wills and codicils made by me at any time heretofore and I appoint Arthur Jellicoe aforesaid to be the executor of this my will jointly with the principal beneficiary and residuary legatee that is to say with the aforesaid Godfrey Bellingham if the conditions set forth hereinbefore in clause 2 shall be duly carried out but with the aforesaid George Hurst if the said conditions in the said clause 2 be not carried out.
"Signed by the said testator John Bellingham in the presence of us present at the same time who at his request and in his presence and in the presence of each other have subscribed our names as witnesses.
"Frederick Wilton, 16 Medford Road, London, N., clerk.
"James Barker, 32 Wadbury Crescent, London, S.W., clerk."
"Well," said Jervis, laying down the document as Thorndyke detached the last sheet from his writing-pad, "I have met with a good many idiotic wills, but this one can give them all points. I don't see how it is ever going to be administered. One of the two executors is a mere abstraction--a sort of algebraical problem with no answer."
"I think that difficulty could be overcome," said Thorndyke.
"I don't see how," retorted Jervis. "If the body is deposited in a certain place, A is the executor; if it is somewhere else, B is the executor. But, as you cannot produce the body, and no one has the least idea where it is, it is impossible to prove either that it is or that it is not in any specified place."
"You are magnifying the difficulty, Jervis," said Thorndyke. "The body may, of course, be anywhere in the entire world, but the place where it is lying is either inside or outside the general boundary of these two parishes. If it has been deposited within the boundary of those two parishes, the fact must be ascertainable by examining the burial certificates issued since the date when the missing man was last seen alive and by consulting the registers of those specified places of burial. I think that if no record can be found of any such interment within the boundary of those two parishes, that fact will be taken by the Court as proof that no such interment has taken place, and that therefore the body must have been deposited elsewhere. Such a decision would constitute George Hurst the co-executor and residuary legatee."
"That is cheerful for your friends, Berkeley," Jervis remarked, "for we may take it as pretty certain that the body has not been deposited in any of the places named."
"Yes," I agreed gloomily, "I'm afraid there is very little doubt of that. But what an ass the fellow must have been to make such a to-do about his beastly carcass? What the deuce could it have mattered to him where it was dumped, when he had done with it?"
Thorndyke chuckled softly. "Thus the irreverent youth of to-day," said he. "But yours is hardly a fair comment, Berkeley. Our training makes us materialists, and puts us a little out of sympathy with those in whom primitive beliefs and emotions survive. A worthy priest who came to look at our dissecting-room expressed surprise to me that students, thus constantly in the presence of relics of mortality, should be able to think of anything but the resurrection and the life hereafter. He was a bad psychologist. There is nothing so dead as a dissecting-room 'subject'; and the contemplation of the human body in the process of being quietly taken to pieces--being resolved into its structural units like a worn-out clock or an old engine in the Mr. Rapper's yard--is certainly not conducive to a vivid realisation of the doctrine of the resurrection."
"No; but this absurd anxiety to be buried in some particular place has nothing to do with religious belief; it is mere silly sentiment."
"It is sentiment, I admit," said Thorndyke, "but I wouldn't call it silly. The feeling is so widespread in time and space that we must look on it with respect as something inherent in human nature. Think--as doubtless John Bellingham did--of the ancient Egyptians, whose chief aspiration was that of everlasting repose for the dead. See the trouble they took to achieve it. Think of the Great Pyramid, or that of Amenemhat the Fourth with its labyrinth of false passages and its sealed and hidden sepulchral chamber. Think of Jacob, borne after death all those hundreds of weary miles in order that he might sleep with his fathers, and then remember Shakespeare and his solemn adjuration to posterity to let him rest undisturbed in his grave. No, Berkeley, it is not a silly sentiment. I am as indifferent as you as to what becomes of my body 'when I have done with it,' to use your irreverent phrase; but I recognise the solicitude that some other men display on the subject as a natural feeling that has to be taken seriously."
"But even so," I said, "if this man had a hankering for a freehold residence in some particular bone-yard, he might have gone about the business in a more reasonable way."
"There I am entirely with you," Thorndyke replied. "It is the absurd way in which this provision is worded that not only creates all the trouble but also makes the whole document so curiously significant in view of the testator's disappearance."
"How significant?" Jervis demanded eagerly.
"Let us consider the provisions of the will point by point," said Thorndyke; "and first note that the testator commanded the services of a very capable lawyer."
"But Mr. Jellicoe disapproved of the will," said I; "in fact, he protested strongly against the form of it."
"We will bear that in mind, too," Thorndyke replied. "And now with reference to what we may call the contentious clauses: the first thing that strikes us is their preposterous injustice. Godfrey's inheritance is made conditional on a particular disposal of the testator's body. But this is a matter not necessarily under Godfrey's control. The testator might have been lost at sea, or killed in a fire or explosion, or have died abroad and been buried where his grave could not be identified. There are numerous probable contingencies besides the improbable one that has happened, that might prevent the body from being recovered.
"But even if the body had been recovered, there is another difficulty. The places of burial in the parishes named have all been closed for many years. It would be impossible to reopen any of them without a special faculty, and I doubt whether such a faculty would be granted. Possibly cremation might meet the difficulty, but even that is doubtful; and, in any case, the matter would not be in the control of Godfrey Bellingham. Yet, if the required interment should prove impossible, he is to be deprived of his legacy."
"It is a monstrous and absurd injustice," I exclaimed.
"It is," Thorndyke agreed; "but this is nothing to the absurdity that comes to light when we consider clauses two and three in detail. Observe that the testator presumably wished to be buried in a certain place; also he wished that his brother should benefit under the will. Let us take the first point and see how he has set about securing the accomplishment of what he desired. Now, if we read clauses two and three carefully, we shall see that he has rendered it virtually impossible that his wishes can be carried out. He desires to be buried in a certain place and makes Godfrey responsible for his being so buried. But he gives Godfrey no power or authority to carry out the provision, and places insuperable obstacles in his way. For until Godfrey is an executor, he has no power or authority to carry out the provisions: and until the provisions are carried out, he does not become an executor."
"It is a preposterous muddle," exclaimed Jervis.
"Yes, but that is not the worst of it," Thorndyke continued. "The moment John Bellingham dies, his dead body has come into existence; and it is 'deposited' for the time being, wherever he happens to have died. But unless he should happen to have died in one of the places of burial mentioned--which is in the highest degree unlikely--his body will be, for the time being, 'deposited' in some place other than those specified. In that case clause two is--for the time being--not complied with, and consequently George Hurst becomes, automatically, the co-executor.
"But will George Hurst carry out the provisions of clause two? Probably not. Why should he? The will contains no instructions to that effect. It throws the whole duty on Godfrey. On the other hand, if he should carry out clause two, what happens? He ceases to be an executor and he loses a legacy of some seventy thousand pounds. We may be pretty certain that he will do nothing of the kind. So that, on considering the two clauses, we see that the wishes of the testator could only be carried out in the unlikely event of his dying in one of the burial-places mentioned, or his body being conveyed immediately after death to a public mortuary in one of the said parishes. In any other event, it is virtually certain that he will be buried in some place other than that which he desired, and that his brother will be left absolutely without provision or recognition."
"John Bellingham could never have intended that," I said.
"Clearly not," agreed Thorndyke; "the provisions of the will furnish internal evidence that he did not. You note that he bequeathed five thousand pounds to George Hurst, in the event of clause two being carried out; but he has made no bequest to his brother in the event of its not being carried out. Obviously, he had not entertained the possibility of this contingency at all. He assumed, as a matter of course, that the conditions of clause two would be fulfilled, and regarded the conditions themselves as a mere formality."
"But," Jervis objected, "Jellicoe must have seen the danger of a miscarriage and pointed it out to his client."
"Exactly," said Thorndyke. "There is the mystery. We understand that he objected strenuously, and that John Bellingham was obdurate. Now it is perfectly understandable that a man should adhere obstinately to the most stupid and perverse disposition of his property; but that a man should persist in retaining a particular form of words after it has been proved to him that the use of such form will almost certainly result in the defeat of his own wishes; that, I say, is a mystery that calls for very careful consideration."
"If Jellicoe had been an interested party," said Jervis, "one would have suspected him of lying low. But the form of clause two doesn't affect him at all."
"No," said Thorndyke; "the person who stands to profit by the muddle is George Hurst. But we understand that he was unacquainted with the terms of the will, and there is certainly nothing to suggest that he is in any way responsible for it."
"The practical question is," said I, "what is going to happen? and what can be done for the Bellinghams?"
"The probability is," Thorndyke replied, "that the next move will be made by Hurst. He is the party immediately interested. He will probably apply to the Court for permission to presume death and administer the will."
"And what will the Court do?"
Thorndyke smiled drily. "Now you are asking a very pretty conundrum. The decisions of Courts depend on idiosyncrasies of temperament that no one can foresee. But one may say that a Court does not lightly grant permission to presume death. There will be a rigorous inquiry--and a decidedly unpleasant one, I suspect--and the evidence will be reviewed by the judge with a strong predisposition to regard the testator as being still alive. On the other hand, the known facts point very distinctly to the probability that he is dead; and, if the will were less complicated and all the interested parties were unanimous in supporting the application, I don't see why it might not be granted. But it will clearly be to the interest of Godfrey to oppose the application, unless he can show that the conditions of clause two have been complied with--which it is virtually certain that he can not; and he may be able to bring forward reasons for believing John to be still alive. But even if he is unable to do this, inasmuch as it is pretty clear that he was intended to be the chief beneficiary, his opposition is likely to have considerable weight with the Court."
"Oh, is it?" I exclaimed eagerly. "Then that accounts for a very peculiar proceeding on the part of Hurst. I have stupidly forgotten to tell you about it. He has been trying to come to a private agreement with Godfrey Bellingham."
"Indeed!" said Thorndyke. "What sort of agreement?"
"His proposal was this: that Godfrey should support him and Jellicoe in an application to the Court for permission to presume death and to administer the will, and that, if it was successful, Hurst should pay him four hundred pounds a year for life: the arrangement to hold good in all eventualities."
"By which he means?"
"That if the body should be discovered at any future time, so that the conditions of clause two could be carried out, Hurst should still retain the property and continue to pay Godfrey the four hundred a year for life."
"Hey ho!" exclaimed Thorndyke; "that is a queer proposal; a very queer proposal indeed."
"Not to say fishy," added Jervis. "I don't fancy the Court would look with approval on that little arrangement."
"The law does not look with much favour on any little arrangements that aim at getting behind the provisions of a will," Thorndyke replied; "though there would be nothing to complain of in this proposal if it were not for the reference to 'all eventualities.' If a will is hopelessly impracticable, it is not unreasonable or improper for the various beneficiaries to make such private arrangements among themselves as may seem necessary to avoid useless litigation and delay in administering the will. If, for instance, Hurst had proposed to pay four hundred a year to Godfrey so long as the body remained undiscovered on condition that, in the event of its discovery, Godfrey should pay him a like sum for life, there would have been nothing to comment upon. It would have been an ordinary sporting chance. But the reference to 'all eventualities' is an entirely different matter. Of course, it may be mere greediness, but all the same, it suggests some very curious reflections."
"Yes, it does," said Jervis. "I wonder if he has any reason to expect that the body will be found? Of course it doesn't follow that he has. He may be merely taking the opportunity offered by the other man's poverty to make sure of the bulk of the property whatever happens. But it is uncommonly sharp practice, to say the least."
"Do I understand that Godfrey declined the proposal?" Thorndyke asked.
"Yes, he did, very emphatically; and I fancy that the two gentlemen proceeded to exchange opinions on the circumstances of the disappearance with more frankness than delicacy."
"Ah," said Thorndyke, "that is a pity. If the case comes into Court, there is bound to be a good deal of unpleasant discussion and still more unpleasant comment in the newspapers. But if the parties themselves begin to express suspicions of one another there is no telling where the matter will end."
"No, by Jove!" said Jervis. "If they begin flinging accusations of murder about, the fat will be in the fire with a vengeance. That way lies the Old Bailey."
"We must try to prevent them from making an unnecessary scandal," said Thorndyke. "It may be that an exposure will be unavoidable, and that must be ascertained in advance. But to return to your question, Berkeley, as to what is to be done. Hurst will probably make some move pretty soon. Do you know if Jellicoe will act with him?"
"No, he won't. He declines to take any steps without Godfrey's assent--at least, that is what he says at present. His attitude is one of correct neutrality."
"That is satisfactory, so far," said Thorndyke, "though he may alter his tone when the case comes into Court. From what you said just now I gathered that Jellicoe would prefer to have the will administered and be quit of the whole business; which is natural enough, especially as he benefits under the will to the extent of two thousand pounds and a valuable collection. Consequently, we may fairly assume that, even if he maintains an apparent neutrality, his influence will be exerted in favour of Hurst rather than of Bellingham; from which it follows that Bellingham ought certainly to be properly advised, and, when the case goes into Court, properly represented."
"He can't afford either the one or the other," said I. "He's as poor as an insolvent church mouse and as proud as the devil. He wouldn't accept professional aid that he couldn't pay for."
"H'm," grunted Thorndyke, "that's awkward. But we can't allow the case to go 'by default,' so to speak--to fail for the mere lack of technical assistance. Besides, it is one of the most interesting cases that I have ever met with, and I am not going to see it bungled. He couldn't object to a little general advice in a friendly, informal way--amicus curiae, as old Brodribb is so fond of saying; and there is nothing to prevent us from pushing forward the preliminary inquiries."
"Of what nature would they be?"
"Well, to begin with, we have to satisfy ourselves that the conditions of clause two have not been complied with: that John Bellingham has not been buried within the parish boundaries mentioned. Of course he has not, but we must not take anything for granted. Then we have to satisfy ourselves that he is not still alive and accessible. It is perfectly possible that he is, after all, and it is our business to trace him, if he is still in the land of the living. Jervis and I can carry out these investigations without saying anything to Bellingham; my learned brother will look through the register of burials--not forgetting the cremations--in the metropolitan area, and I will take the other matter in hand."
"You really think that John Bellingham may still be alive?" said I.
"Since his body has not been found, it is obviously a possibility. I think it in the highest degree improbable, but the improbable has to be investigated before it can be excluded."
"It sounds like a rather hopeless quest," I remarked. "How do you propose to begin?"
"I think of beginning at the British Museum. The people there may be able to throw some light on his movements. I know that there are some important excavations in progress at Heliopolis--in fact, the Director of the Egyptian Department is out there at the present moment; and Doctor Norbury, who is taking his place temporarily, is an old friend of John Bellingham's. I shall call on him and try to discover if there is anything that might have induced Bellingham suddenly to go abroad--to Heliopolis, for instance. Also, he may be able to tell me what it was that took the missing man to Paris on that last, rather mysterious journey. That might turn out to be an important clue. And meanwhile, Berkeley, you must endeavour tactfully to reconcile your friend to the idea of letting us give an eye to the case. Make it clear to him that I am doing this entirely for the enlargement of my own knowledge."
"But won't you have to be instructed by a solicitor?" I asked.
"Yes, of course, nominally; but only as a matter of etiquette. We shall do all the actual work. Why do you ask?"
"I was thinking of the solicitor's costs, and I was going to mention that I have a little money of my own--"
"Then keep it, my dear fellow. You'll want it when you go into practice. There will be no difficulty about the solicitor; I shall ask one of my friends to act nominally as a personal favour to me--Marchmont would take the case for us, Jervis, I am sure."
"Yes," said Jervis. "Or old Brodribb, if we put it to him amicus curiae."
"It is excessively kind of both of you to take this benevolent interest in the case of my friends," I said; "and it is to be hoped that they won't be foolishly proud and stiff-necked about it. It's rather the way with poor gentlefolk."
"I'll tell you what!" exclaimed Jervis. "I have a most brilliant idea. You shall give us a little supper at your rooms and invite the Bellinghams to meet us. Then you and I will attack the old gentleman, and Thorndyke shall exercise his persuasive powers on the lady. These chronic and incurable old bachelors, you know, are quite irresistible."
"You observe that my respected junior condemns me to lifelong celibacy," Thorndyke remarked. "But," he added, "his suggestion is quite a good one. Of course, we mustn't put any sort of pressure on Bellingham to employ us--for that is what it amounts to, even if we accept no payment--but a friendly talk over the supper-table would enable us to put the matter delicately and yet convincingly."
"Yes," said I, "I see that, and I like the idea immensely. But it won't be possible for several days, because I've got a job that takes up all my spare time--and that I ought to be at work on now," I added, with a sudden qualm at the way in which I had forgotten the passage of time in the interest of Thorndyke's analysis.
My two friends looked at me inquiringly, and I felt it necessary to explain about the injured hand and the Tell el Amarna tablets; which I accordingly did, rather shyly and with a nervous eye upon Jervis. The slow grin, however, for which I was watching, never came; on the contrary, he not only heard me through quite gravely, but when I had finished said with some warmth, and using my old hospital pet name:
"I'll say one thing for you, Polly; you're a good chum, and you always were. I hope your Nevill's Court friends appreciate the fact."
"They are far more appreciative than the occasion warrants," I answered. "But to return to this supper question: how will this day week suit you?"
"It will suit me," Thorndyke answered, with a glance at his junior.
"And me too," said the latter; "so, if it will do for the Bellinghams, we will consider it settled; but if they can't come you must fix another night."
"Very well," I said, rising and knocking out my pipe, "I will issue the invitation to-morrow. And now I must be off to have another slog at those notes."
As I walked homewards I speculated cheerfully on the prospect of entertaining my friends under my own (or rather Barnard's) roof, if they could be lured out of their eremitical retirement. The idea had, in fact, occurred to me already, but I had been deterred by the peculiarities of Barnard's housekeeper. For Mrs. Gummer was one of those housewives who make up for an archaic simplicity of production by preparations on the most portentous and alarming scale. But this time I would not be deterred. If only the guests could be enticed into my humble lair, it would be easy to furnish the raw materials of the feast from outside; and the consideration of ways and means occupied me pleasantly until I found myself once more at my writing-table, confronted by my voluminous notes on the incident of the North Syrian War.