Page images

alone for the present,” he said. “Your head has not been right, as it is, for the last four months."

“My head will last my time,” said Sir Francis, carelessly. “I can bring my wits together when there's need for it. Four months, is it? Should have thought it was four days--or a century! Tom is dead ... did you know that? You don't know what killed him, though! Well, give me something to eat, then : I'm hungry.”

Fillmore opened the door, and ordered the clerk to bring some bread and meat from the neighbouring tavern. Sir Francis sat heavily down at the table, and supported his head between his hands. He was greatly changed from the courtly and fastidious baronet of last summer. There was something coarse and reckless about him. The germ of it had always been there, perhaps ; but it had been kept out of sight till now. Fillmore leaned in thought against the mantelpiece with his arms folded. After a while the clerk came in, with the bread and meat. He put it down before Sir Francis, who roused himself, and began to eat ravenously. When he had finished, he leaned back in his chair, and fixed his eyes upon the solicitor.

“You're a good fellow, after all, Fillmore,” he said. “I'll tell you all about it: 'twill be known soon enough, without my telling. Ever hear of Rackett's ?”

“ The gambling house in Jermyn Street?”

“That's it. Well, that was Bendibow Brothers—that was the real place. It brought me in hundreds per cent., where the bank brought me in tens. We should have gone down long ago if it hadn't been for Rackett's. But the devil was in it all."

“I knew you had something of the sort going on; but you never chose to explain, and I didn't care to make inquiries. But I never thought of Rackett's. 'Tis the most scandalous place in London.”

“'Tis nothing now, but four walls and a bailiff. Scandalous, eh? Well, so it was! I've had there, in one night, the Prince of Wales, Brummel, Fox, Rivers, Aubrey, and Denis O'Kelly. Dick England -do you remember him ? He was a great pal of mine a score of years ago. Tippoo Smith-he was another. Egad, I had 'em all! They never knew where their money went to-except those who were in the secret : never suspected Frank Bendibow of having any connection with such scandalous doings! We had Lady Kendall of Ross there once; and we made his lordship pay one hundred thousand pounds down to save my lady's reputation. Dear at the price, wasn't it?"

Ay, you were a clever man, Bendibow. And in nothing more clever than in the way you kept your connection with this business

for me.

concealed. Something was always suspected, but nothing was known." “No, nothing was known. Do


know the reason ? 'Twas because I knew how to choose men, and how to make them work

Frank Bendibow was a Napoleon, in his own way ; but he's had his Waterloo ! The only one who ever found me out was that jade Perdita ; and she forced me to pay her ten thousand pounds for it, when I could easier have spared her as many drops of my heart's blood. I was a fool not to have taken her into partnership ten years ago, instead of marrying her to that French imbecile. She is worth more than the best dozen men I ever came across, begad !”

“She is worth too much ever to have mixed herself up in any such thievish business," said Fillmore sternly.

“Maybe she is : 'tis all over now," returned the other carelessly. “I'm glad to be at the end of it. They've been bothering me for weeks past, curse 'em! bringing me their fears and complaints, and asking me what they should do. I bade them go to the devil ; I had other things to think about. If Tom had been alive well, no matter! I believe that scoundrel, Catnip, that I took out of the street, damme, and had in my own office, and made a prosperous man of—I believe he was the one who betrayed us. You call me a swindler, Merton Fillmore ; but if every man had been as square as I've been, I wouldn't be here now."

“ You are what I would have been under the same conditions,” said Fillmore. “I neither condemn nor praise any man. warning of the crash yesterday?"

“At ten o'clock last night, at Vauxhall.”
“At Vauxhall ?"

“That surprises you, ch? 'Twas our trysting-place, where we met to concoct our nefarious schemes, as they say in the play; and the safest one we could have chosen. Well, I thought I was ready for anything ; but when they told me that, I called out, and struck the fellow down, and I don't know what happened for a while after that. Here's a queer thing : I had a notion I saw that Lockhart girl—the one that married Lancaster-just before I dropped ; and again, at the inn, I thought I heard her voice. At the inn I awoke this morning, and that's all I know about it. Faces and voices sometimes come before a man that way, when he's a bit beside himself. But what made me think of her, eh?” He aluse as he spoke and began to button up his cloak.

“Is that all you have to tell me?" asked Fillmore.
“ All? No. That's all at present. The words in which I tell

Had you

you all--you, or any one else—will be the last words that Frank Bendibow speaks. What do you care? What does anybody care ? Let 'em find out, if they can. I shall be there; I am not going to run away, as Grantley did.”

“You must come home and spend the night with me."

“No; my board and lodging will be at the expense of the Government from this day on, Say what you like of Rackett's, there was virtue enough in it to secure me that, at any rate. Thank you all the same, Fillmore ; you're the last man I shall ever give thanks to. Well, I'm off. Good day to you."

“Where are you going?”

Bendibow named the station at which he proposed to surrender himself.

“If you are resolved to go, I will drive you there," said Fillmore. "But

you had better accept my invitation, for one night at least." The baronet shook his head. “My liabilities are heavy enough already; I am not going to risk being the cause of your house being used as mine has been. I'm poison; but I can prevent your taking me.”

And with this jest he led the way out of the office.

(To be continued.)




IGHT years ago the astronomical world was excited over the

prospect of an approaching transit of Venus, and of what might be discovered during its progress; now a transit is approaching from which at one time even more was expected, yet astronomers take the matter very calmly, and the outside world hears little either of the notes of preparation or of anticipations which astronomers have formed from the observations to be made. Yet the transit is one in which we might be expected to take at least as much interest. It will be visible under favourable conditions in countries more readily accessible-over the whole of the United States, for instance. It will be partially visible throughout the British Isles, since it begins at about two o'clock in the afternoon of December 6. Throughout France and Spain, Italy and Germany, also it will be partially visible. Yet the fact remains, that comparatively little interest is taken in the phenomenon, and astronomers—at any rate European astronomersexpect very little gain to knowledge from the observation of this particular transit.

It is not difficult to explain why the interest taken in the transit of 1882 is so much less than that which was taken eight years ago in the transit then approaching, although but five years before astronomers had been assured, by the then Astronomer-Royal, that the transit of 1882 was the one to which chief attention should be directed

Let us, in the first place, briefly consider the history of past transits.

Venus travels round the sun almost exactly thirteen times while the earth travels round him eight times, thirteen periods of Venus differing from eight years only by about a couple of days. Hence Venus, making five more circuits than the earth does in eight years, passes necessarily five times in eight years between the earth and the

If she travelled in the same plane she would on each of these occasions pass across the sun's face, and be visible during the passage or transit as a black spot on his glowing disc. But she travels on a path slightly inclined to the earth's, and so generally passes


a little above or a little below the sun. Only at or near the two points where the path crosses the level of the earth's motion, or the plane of the ecliptic, as it is called, does Venus, when crossing between the earth and sun, seem to pass across the face of the latter orb. If, however, she crosses his face at any such passage, she will pass very near his face, if she does not actually transit it, at the fifth passage thereafter, occurring eight years later. Then no transit will occur till the passage between the earth and sun occurs at the opposite point where Venus crosses the plane of the earth's orbit. On this side also there will generally be two transits separated by eight years within a day or two, and so on continually: the actual intervals between transits run, then, generally thus-8 years, 121} years, 8 years, 105) years, 8 years, 121} years, though it can readily happen that only one transit may occur at the time where the place of passage is near those two points of Venus's path where she crosses the plane in which the earth travels. These points of Venus's path lie in those directions from the sun in which the earth lies on or about June 7 and December 7, consequently no transit of Venus can ever be seen except at or near these two dates.

The first transit ever observed was one in which Mercury, Venus's fellow inferior planet, passed across the sun's face, in November 1631. It was observed by Gassendi. He looked for a transit of Venus on December 6, 1631 ; but failed to see it, d'abord,says Dubois, “parce qu'il fut empêché par la pluie," but chiefly for the almost sufficient reason that (like the Spanish Fleet) it was not in sight—the transit occurring during the night-time for Europe.

The first transit of Venus was observed in 1639 by our countryman Jeremiah Horrocks, a young clergyman of twenty, living at Hoole. This excellent young astronomer had found that Lansberg's Tables of Venus were not accurate, and that the path of the planet being a little north of the positions assigned in the more accurate Tables by Kepler, the planet would pass over the southern part of the sun's disc. He told his friend Crabtree of this, and they both watched for and witnessed the transit, Horrocks at Hoole near Liverpool, Crabtree at his home near Manchester. On Sunday, November 24, old style (corresponding to December 4, new style), these young but skilful observers witnessed the transit, Crabtree only for a very short time, but Horrocks during the thirty-five minutes preceding sunset. It is singular to consider that here in England hundreds of observers on December 6 will be watching during the hours preceding sunset

The details are all fully considered in my book on the Transits of Venus ; they are somewhat too recondite to be discussed here.

« PreviousContinue »