“Commercial traveller in the only commerce of the country. We have no business here, you know, except statesmanship, the trade in voters, le metier de ministre. You see a man;—tell me how much he owns:—I can tell you his election price. The schedule is simply: How much taxes does he pay?—Pay my taxes; I vote your side. There lies the only shame of my Scotch blood that they have never devised a commerce so obvious. It’s like a bailiff we used to tease; he had no money, poor devil, so when he came into the bar he used to say to us, ’Make me drunk and have some fun with me.’ ‘Pay my taxes and have some fun with me:’ the same thing, you see. All men are merchandise. Ross de Bleury alone has no price—but for a regular good guzzler, I could embezzle a Returning Officer.”
A rap sounded on the door of the stairs.
“I resemble my ancestor, the Chevalier Jean Ross, who, when he was storming a castle in Flanders, exclaimed: ’Victory, companions! we command the door of the wine cellar!’”
The words of a Persian proverb: “You are a liar, but you delight me,” passed through Chrysler’s mind.
The rap sounded again, and louder, on the door below.
De Bleury’s manner changed. He looked at his companion as if revolving some plan; then moving rapidly to the ticket-office-like-closet, he opened a door, and beckoned him in, signing to sit down and keep quiet. The closet was darker than the darkest part of the surrounding garret, for the dormer window in it, similar to the one near the table, was boarded up, all but a single irregular aperture, admitting light enough only to reveal the surroundings after lapse of some time.
De Bleury, however, by holding his purse up to the chink of light, managed to assure himself of the denomination of a bank-note, and then, turning hastily, lifted the sliding door of the ticket-hole a trifle and pushing out the money, left it partly under the slide, letting in a grey beam on their darkness. He then silently applied his eye to an augur-hole above the slide, and waited. Meantime the knock sounded once more and pair of heavy steps came up the stairs, and tramped towards them; and some indefinable recognition of the heavy tread came vaguely to Chrysler. The steps stopped, the note was withdrawn, the tread sank away down the stairs, and De Bleury, rollicking with suppressed laughter, opened the door.
“You have overseen a ceremony of the Freemasons,” he said. “Truly. You don’t believe it? I am a Freemason, I am, Chrysler,” he said, sententiously, with a trace of the champagne, “I have observed a square and compass among the charms at your watch-chain. You know, therefore, your duties towards a brother, not, perhaps, not to see; but having seen, not to divulge. You understand?”
“Perfectly, my dear De Bleury. Excuse me, I have an engagement at the Manoir.”