Chapter XIV. Music Hath Power.
 

For Mr. Montague Nevitt was a cautious, cool, and calculating person. He knew, better than most of us that knowledge is power. So when the manager mentioned to him casually in the way of business the names of Guy and Cyril Waring, Mr. Montague Nevitt didn't respond at once, "Oh, dear yes; one of them's my most intimate personal friend, and the other's his brother," as a man of less discretion might have been tempted to do. For, in the first place, by finding out, or seeming to find out, the facts about the Warings that very afternoon, he could increase his character with his employers for zeal and ability. And, in the second place, if he had let out too soon that he knew the Warings personally, he might most likely on that very account have been no further employed in carrying into execution this delicate little piece of family business.

So Nevitt held his peace discreetly, like a wise man that he was, and answered merely, in a most submissive voice, "I'll do my, best to ascertain where they bank, at once," as if he had never before in his life heard the name of Waring.

For the self-same reason, Mr. Montague Nevitt didn't hint that evening to Guy that he had become possessed during the course of the day of a secret of the first importance to Guy's fortune and future. Of course, a man so astute as Montague Nevitt jumped at once at the correct conclusion, that Colonel Kelmscott must be the two Warings' father. But he wasn't going to be fool enough to chuck his chance away by sharing that information with any second person. A secret is far too valuable a lever in life to be carelessly flung aside by a man of ambition. And Montague Nevitt saw this secret in particular was doubly valuable to him. He could use it, wedge-wise, with both the Warings in all his future dealings, by promising to reveal to one or other of them a matter of importance and probable money-value, and he could use it also as a perpetual threat to hold over Colonel Kelmscott, if ever it should be needful to extort blackmail from the possessor of Tilgate, or to thwart his schemes by some active interference.

So when Nevitt strolled round about nine o'clock that night to Staple Inn, violin-case in hand, and cigarette in mouth, he gave not a sign of the curious information he had that day acquired, to the person most interested in learning the truth as to the precise genealogy of the Waring family.

There was no great underlying community of interests between the clever young journalist and his banking companion. A common love for music was the main bond of union between the two men. Yet Montague Nevitt exercised over Guy a strange and fatal fascination which Cyril always found positively unaccountable. And on this particular evening, as Nevitt stood swaying himself to and fro upon the hearth-rug before the empty grate, with his eyes half closed, drawing low, weird music with his enchanted bow from those submissive strings, Guy leaned back on the sofa and listened, entranced, with a hopeless feeling of utter inability ever to approach the wizard-like and supreme execution of that masterly hand and those superhuman fingers. How he twisted and turned them as though his bones were india-rubber. His palms were all joints, and his eyes all ecstasy. He seemed able to do what he liked with his violin. He played on his instrument, indeed, as he played on Guy--with the consummate art of a skilful executant.

"That's marvellous, Nevitt," Guy broke out at last; "never heard even Sarasate himself do anything quite so wild and weird as that. What's the piece called? It seems to have something almost impish or sprite-like in its wailing music. It's Hungarian, of course, or Polish or Greek; I detect at once the Oriental tinge in it."

"Wrong for once, my dear boy," Nevitt answered, smiling, "it's English, pure English, and by a lady what's more--one of the Eweses of Kenilworth. She's a distant relation of Cyril's Miss Clifford, I believe. An Elma, too; name runs in the family. But she composes wonderfully. Everything she writes is in that mystic key. It sounds like a reminiscence of some dim and lamp-lit eastern temple. The sort of thing a nautch-girl might bo supposed to compose, to sing to the clash and clang of cymbals, while she was performing the snake-dance before some Juggernaut idol!"

"Exactly," Guy answered, shutting his eyes dreamily. "That's just the very picture it brings up before my mind's eye--as you render it, Nevitt. I seem to see vague visions of some vast and dimly-lighted rock-hewn cavern, with long vistas of pillars cut from the solid stone, while dark-limbed priestesses, clad in white muslin robes, swing censers in the foreground to solemn music. Upon my word, the power of sound is something simply wonderful. There's almost nothing, I believe, good music wouldn't drive me to--or rather lead me to; for it sways one and guides even more than it impels one."

"And yet," Nevitt mused, in slow tones to himself, taking up his violin again, and drawing his bow over the chords, with half-closed eyes, in a seemingly listless, aimless manner, "I don't believe music's your real first love, Guy. You took it up only to be different from Cyril. The artistic impulse in both of you is the same at bottom. If you'd let it have it's own way, you'd have taken, not to this, I'm sure, but to painting. But Cyril painted, so, to make yourself different, you went in for music. That's you all over! You always have such a hankering after being what you are not!"

"Well, hang it all, a man wants to have some individuality," Guy answered apologetically. "He doesn't like to be a mere copy or repetition of his brother."

Nevitt reflected quietly to himself that Cyril never wanted to be different from Guy, his was by far the stronger nature of the two: he was content to be himself without regard to his brother. But Nevitt didn't say so. Indeed, why should he? He merely went on playing a few disconnected bars of a very lively, hopeful utopian sort of a tune--a tune all youth and health, and go and gaiety--as he interjected from time to time some brief financial remarks on the numerous good strokes he'd pulled off of late in his transactions in the City.

"Can't do them in my own name, you know," he observed lightly, at last laying down his bow, and replacing the dainty white rose in his left top buttonhole. "Not official for a bank employe to operate on the Stock Exchange. The chiefs object to it. So I do my little ventures in Tom's name instead, my brother-in-law, Tom Whitley's. Those Cedulas went up another eighth yesterday. Well hit again: I'm always lucky. And that was a good thing I put you on last week, too, wasn't it? Did you sell out to-day? They're up at 96, and you bought in at 80."

"No, I didn't sell to-day," Guy answered, with a yawn. "I'm holding on still for a further rise. I thought I'd sell out when they reached the even hundred."

"My dear fellow, you're wrong," Nevitt put in eagerly. "You ought to have sold to-day. It's the top of the market. They'll begin to decline soon, and when once they begin they'll come down with a crash, as P.L.'s did on Saturday. You take my advice and sell out first thing to-morrow morning. You'll clear sixteen pounds on each of your shares. That's enough for any man. You bought ten shares, I think, didn't you? Well, there you are, you see; a hundred and sixty off-hand for you on your bargain."

Guy paused and reflected a doubtful moment. "Yes, I'll sell out to-morrow, Nevitt," he said, after a struggle, "or what comes to the same thing, you can sell out for me. But, do you know, my dear fellow, I sometimes fancy I'm a fool for my pains, going in for all this silly speculation. Better stick to my guinea a column in the Morning Mail. The risks are so great, and the gains so small. I don't believe outsiders ought to back their luck at all like this on the Stock Exchange."

Montague Nevitt acquiesced with cheerful promptitude. "I agree with you down to the ground," he said, lighting a cigarette, and puffing away at it vigorously. "Outsiders ought not to back their luck on the Stock Exchange. That, I take it, is a self-evident proposition. But the point is, here, that you're not an outsider; and you don't back your luck, which alters the case, you'll admit, somewhat. You embark on speculations on my advice only, and I'm in a position to judge, as well as any other expert in the City of London, what things are genuine and what things are not worth a wise man's attention."

He stretched himself on the sofa with a lazy, luxurious air, and continued to puff away in silence at his cigarette for another ten minutes. Then he drew unostentatiously from his pocket a folded sheet of foolscap paper, printed after the fashion of the common company prospectus. For a second or two he read it over to himself in silence, till Guy's curiosity was sufficiently roused by his mute proceeding.

"What have you got there?" the journalist asked at last, eyeing it inquiringly, as the fly eyes the cobweb.

"Oh, nothing," Nevitfc answered, folding the paper up neatly and returning it to his pocket. "You've sworn off now, so it does not concern you. Just the prospectus of a little fresh thing coming out next week--a very exceptional chance--but you don't want to go in for it. I mean to apply for three hundred shares myself, I'm so certain of its success; and I had thought of advising you to take a hundred and fifty on your own account as well, with that hundred and fifty you cleared over the Cordova Cattle bonds. They're ten-pound shares, at a merely nominal price--ten bob on application and ten on allotment--you could take a hundred and fifty as easy as look at it. No further calls will ever be made. It's really a most remarkable investment."

"Let me see the prospectus," Guy murmured, faltering, the fever of speculation once more getting the better of him.

Nevitt pretended to hang back like a man with fine scruples. "It's the Rio Negro Diamond and Sapphire Mine, Limited," he said, with a deprecatory air. "But you'd better not go in for it. I expect to make a pot out of the thing myself. It's a unique occasion. Still, no doubt you're right, and I don't like the responsibility of advising any other fellow. Though you can see for yourself what the promoters say. Very first-class names. And Klink thinks most highly of it."

He handed Guy the paper, and took up his violin as if by pure accident, while Guy scanned it closely.

The journalist bent over the prospectus with eager eyes, and Nevitt poured forth strange music as he read, music like the murmur of the stream of Pactolus. It was an inspiring strain; the violin seemed to possess the true Midas touch; gold flowed like water in liquid rills from its catgut. Guy finished, and rose, and dipped a pen in the ink-pot. "All right," he said low, half hesitating still. "I'll give you an order to sell out at once, and I'll fill up this application for three hundred shares--why not three hundred? I may as well go as many as you do. If it's really such a good thing as you say, why shouldn't I profit by it? Send this to Klink to-morrow early; strike while the iron's hot, and get the thing finished."

Nevitt looked at the paper with an attentive eye. "How curious it is," he said, regarding the signature narrowly, "that you and Cyril, who are so much alike in everything else, should write so differently. I should have expected your hands to be almost identical."

"Oh, don't you know why that is?" Guy answered, with an innocent smile. "I do it on purpose. Cyril writes sloping forward, the ordinary way, so I slope backward just to prevent confusion. And I form all my letters as unlike his as I can, though if I follow my own bent they turn out the same; his way is more natural to me, in fact, than the way I write myself. But I must do something to keep our letters apart. That's why we always bank at a different banker's. If I liked I could write exactly like Cyril. See, here's his own signature to his letter this morning, and here's my imitation of it, written off-hand, in my own natural manner. No forger on earth could ever need anything more absolutely identical."

Montague Nevitt took it up, and examined it with interest. "Well, this is wonderful," he said, comparing the two, stroke for stroke, with the practised eye of an expert. "The signatures are as if written by the self-same hand. Any cashier in England would accept your cheque at sight for Cyril's."

He didn't add aloud that such similarity was very convenient. But, none the less, in his own mind he thought so.