At this moment our conversation was interrupted by Lady Longden, who came to bid her future son-in-law good night. She said that she must go to bed, and put her feet in mustard and water as her cold was so bad, which left me wondering whether she meant to carry out this operation in bed. I recommended her to take quinine, a suggestion she acknowledged rather inconsequently by remarking in somewhat icy tones that she supposed I sat up to all hours of the night in Africa. I replied that frequently I did, waiting for the sun to rise next day, for that member of the British aristocracy irritated me.
Thus we parted, and I never saw her again. She died many years ago, poor soul, and I suppose is now freezing her former acquaintances in the Shades, for I cannot imagine that she ever had a friend. They talk a great deal about the influences of heredity nowadays, but I don’t believe very much in them myself. Who, for instance, could conceive that persons so utterly different in every way as Lady Longden and her daughter, Miss Holmes, could be mother and child? Our bodies, no doubt, we do inherit from our ancestors, but not our individualities. These come from far away.
A good many of the guests went at the same time, having long distances to drive on that cold frosty night, although it was only just ten o’clock. For as was usual at that period even in fashionable houses, we had dined at seven.
HARUT AND MARUT
After Lord Ragnall had seen his guests to the door in the old-fashioned manner, he returned and asked me if I played cards, or whether I preferred music. I was assuring him that I hated the sight of a card when Mr. Savage appeared in his silent way and respectfully inquired of his lordship whether any gentleman was staying in the house whose Christian name was Here-come-a-zany. Lord Ragnall looked at him with a searching eye as though he suspected him of being drunk, and then asked what he meant by such a ridiculous question.
“I mean, my lord,” replied Mr. Savage with a touch of offence in his tone, “that two foreign individuals in white clothes have arrived at the castle, stating that they wish to speak at once with a Mr. Here-come-a-zany who is staying here. I told them to go away as the butler said he could make nothing of their talk, but they only sat down in the snow and said they would wait for Here-come-a-zany.”
“Then you had better put them in the old guardroom, lock them up with something to eat, and send the stable-boy for the policeman, who is a zany if ever anybody was. I expect they are after the pheasants.”
“Stop a bit,” I said, for an idea had occurred to me. “The message may be meant for me, though I can’t conceive who sent it. My native name is Macumazana, which possibly Mr. Savage has not caught quite correctly. Shall I go to see these men?”