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HOME > Classical Novels > The Admirable Tinker > CHAPTER EIGHT THE BARON AND THE MONEY-LENDER
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 Sir Tancred would only stay four days in Paris with the grateful Blumenruth, because he wished Hildebrand Anne to have the sea air, for it seemed to him that he had not yet got back his full strength after the scarlet1 fever. They returned, therefore, to Brighton, and when the weather grew hotter, removed to the more bracing2 East Coast. Tinker was for sharing the three thousand pounds he had made out of his trip in the flying-machine equally with his father; but Sir Tancred would not hear of it. Chiefly to please him, however, he borrowed a thousand of it at five per cent., and invested the rest in Tinker's name. With this thousand-pound note and three notes of fifty pounds, he paid off the loan of a thousand pounds which he had borrowed from Mr. Robert Lambert, a money-lender, five years before, with the balance of the interest up to date, and found himself once more unencumbered save for a few small debts, and with plenty of money for his immediate3 needs.  
During August and September they stayed at different country houses; and Fortune being in a kindly4 mood, the money remained untouched. In the middle of October they came to London to their usual rooms in the Hotel Cecil; and Sir Tancred was one morning at breakfast disagreeably surprised to receive from Mr. Robert Lambert a demand for the immediate payment of 1450 pounds. At first he thought it was a mistake, then he remembered that he had paid Mr. Lambert in notes; and that Mr. Lambert had promised to get at once from his bank the promissory note on which the money had been borrowed, and send it to him. The promissory note had not come, and the matter had passed from Sir Tancred's mind. Now, he perceived that, if Mr. Lambert chose to deny that payment, he was in no little of a plight6.
After breakfast, therefore, he took a hansom, and drove to Mr. Lambert's office. The worthy7 money-lender received him at once, and with no less delay began to deny with every appearance of honest indignation that he had been paid the debt. Sir Tancred grew exceedingly disagreeable; he set forth8 with perfect frankness his opinion of Mr. Lambert's character, declared that he would rather go to that uncomfortable abode9 of contemptuous debtors10, Holloway, than be swindled in so barefaced11 a fashion; and exclaiming, "You may go to your native Jericho, before I pay you a farthing, you thieving rascal12!" went out of the office, and banged the door behind him.
The worthy money-lender smiled an uncomfortable and malignant13 smile at the banged door, and at once gave instructions to his manager to take proceedings14. Sir Tancred explained the transaction to Tinker; warned him against laxness in matters of business; prepared for immediate flight; and they caught the midnight mail from Euston. By the time an indefatigable15 bailiff had ascertained16 next day that they had left London, they were eating their dinner, in a secure peace, at Ardrochan Lodge17 in Ardrochan forest, which Sir Tancred had borrowed for the while from his friend Lord Crosland.
Hildebrand Anne was used to long periods unenlivened by companions of his own age; and he began forthwith to make the best of the forest. Some days he stalked the red deer with his father; some days were devoted18 to his education, fencing, boxing, and gymnastics; and on the others he explored the forest on a shaggy pony19. It was of a comfortable size, forty square miles or thereabouts, stretches of wild heath, broken by strips of wood, craggy hills, and swamps, full of streams, and abounding20 in many kinds of animals. It was an admirable place for Indians, outlaws21, brigands22, and robber barons23, and Tinker practised all these professions in turn, with the liveliest satisfaction.
At first it was something of a tax on his imagination to be a whole band of these engaging persons himself; with one companion it would have been easy enough, but his imagination presently compassed the task. And when he found his way to the Deil's Den5, a low stone tower on a hill some six miles from Ardrochan, his favourite occupation was that of robber baron24. It would have been more proper to put the tower to its old use of a lair25 of a Highland26 cateran; but, to his shame, Tinker funked the dialect with which such a person must necessarily be cursed.
The Deil's Den had earned its name in earlier centuries from the bloody27 deeds of its first owners. No gillie would go within a mile of it, even in bright sunshine. Tinker's carelessness of its ghosts, a headless woman and a redheaded man with his throat cut, had won him the deepest respect of the village, or rather hamlet, of Ardrochan. Twice he had constrained28 himself to wait in the tower till dusk, in the hope that his fearful, but inquiring, spirit would be gratified by the sight of one or other of these psychic29 curiosities.
It was a two-storied building, and its stone seemed likely to last as long as the hills from which it had been quarried30. In some thought that it might be used as a watch-tower by his keepers, Lord Crosland had repaired its inside, and fitted it with a stout31 door and two ladders, one running to the second story and another to the roof. From here the keen eyes of Hildebrand Anne, Baron of Ardrochan, scanned often the countryside, looking for travelling merchants or wandering knights32; while his gallant33 steed Black Rudolph, whose coat was drab and dingy34, waited saddled and bridled35 below, and Blazer the bloodhound sniffed36 about the burn hard by. Blazer had a weakness for rats quite uncommon37 in bloodhounds.
Tinker cherished but a faint hope that Fortune would ever send him a prisoner, even a braw, shock-headed lad, or sonsie, savage38 lassie of the country. But he did not do justice to that goddess's love of mischief39. It was she who inspired into Mr. Robert Lambert the desire to shine in the Great World; and it was she who gave him the idea of taking for the season Lord Hardacre's house and forest of Tullispaith, in lieu of the cash which he would never get. Thither40 he invited certain spirited young clients, who had practically only the choice of being Mr. Lambert's guests at Tullispaith or King Edward's at Holloway. Thither he came, a week beforehand, to make ready for them.
At once he set about becoming an accomplished41 deer-stalker. For three days he rode, or tramped, about the forest of Tullispaith, in search of red deer which, in quite foolish estimate of their peril42, insisted always on putting a hill between themselves and his rifle. On the fourth day he rested, for though his spirit was willing, his legs were weak. This inactivity irked him, for he knew the tireless energy of the English sportsman; and at noon Fortune inspired him with the most disastrous43 idea of all, the idea of taking a stroll by himself. He took his rifle and a packet of sandwiches, and set out. Now to the unpractised eye any one brae, or glen, or burn of bonnie Scotland is exactly like any other brae, or glen, or burn of that picturesque44 land. He had not gone two miles before he had lost his way.
He did not mind, for he was sure that he knew his direction. He was wrong; he may have been like his Oriental ancestors in some of his qualities, but he lacked their ingrained sense of orientation45; and he was walking steadily46 away from the house of Tullispaith. He rested often and he looked often at his watch. He passed over the border of Tullispaith into the forest of Ardrochan, and wandered wearily on and on. The autumn sun was moving down the western sky at a disquieting47 speed, when at last he caught sight of the Dell's Den, and with a new energy hurried towards it.
At about the same time Hildebrand Anne, the robber baron of Ardrochan, caught sight of him, mounted Black Rudolph, and rode down to meet him, ready to drag or lure48 him to his stronghold. The angel face of Tinker had never looked more angelic to human being than it looked to the weary money-lender. He had never seen him before; therefore, he had no reason to suppose that that face was not the index to an angelic nature. Unfortunately, Tinker knew by sight most of his father's friends and enemies, and at the first glance he recognised the squat49 figure, the thick, square nose, and muddy complexion50 of Mr. Robert Lambert.
"My lad," said the money-lender, failing to perceive that he was addressing one of the worst kind of man in all romance, "I've lost my way. I want to get to the house of Tullispaith. Which is the road?"
"There is no road; and it's eight miles away," said Tinker, knitting his brow into the gloomy and forbidding frown of a robber baron.
"Eight miles! What am I to do? Where is the nearest place I can get a conveyance51?"
"It would be a twenty-mile drive if you got a cart, and there's no cart nearer than Ardrochan, and that's six miles away."
"Well, then, a horse, or a pony, and a guide?"
"You could get a pony at Hamish Beg's; and one of his sons could guide you."
"Where does he live? How can I get there?"
"Three miles the other side of that tower."
"Will you show me the way? I'll give you—I'll give you half-a-crown."
"Hildebrand Anne of Ardrochan is not the hired varlet of every wandering chapster," said Tinker with a splendid air.
"I'm not a wandering chapster," said the money-lender. "I'm a gentleman of London. I'll give you five shillings—half a sovereign—a pound!"
"The offer of money to one in whose veins53 flows the proudest blood of the North is an insult!" said Tinker in a terrible voice.
"No offence! No offence!" said Mr. Lambert, cursing what he believed to be the penniless Highland pride under his breath.
Suddenly Tinker saw his way. "From the top of yon tower I can show you the path to Hamish Beg's. Follow me," he said, turned his pony, and led the way up the hill with a sinister54 air.
With a groan55, the money-lender, quite unobservant of the sinister air, breasted the ascent56. He set down his rifle by the door of the tower, and followed Tinker up the ladders.
"You see those two pine trees between those two far hills?" said Tinker.
Mr. Lambert drew round his field-glasses, and after long fumbling57, focussed them on the pines. "Well?" he said.
There was no answer; he turned to his angel guide, and found himself alone on the tower. He ran to the top of the ladder and looked down. At the bottom stood Tinker regarding him with an excellent sardonic58 smile: "Ha! ha!" he cried in a gruff, triumphant59 voice, "Trapped—trapped!" And he turned on his heel.
The money-lender heard the door slam and the key turn in the lock. He ran to the parapet, and saw Tinker mounting his pony with an easy grace and the air of one who has performed a meritorious60 action.
"Hi! Hullo! What are you up to?" cried Mr. Lambert.
"Foul61 extortioner! Your crimes have found you out! You have consigned62 many a poor soul to the dungeon64, it is your turn now," said Tinker with admirable grandiloquence65. Then, dropping to his ordinary voice, he added plaintively66: "Of course it's not really a dungeon; it ought to be underground—with rats. But we must make the best of it."
"Look here, my lad," said Mr. Lambert thickly. "I don't want any of your silly games! I shall be late enough home as it is. You unlock that door, and show me the way to this Beg's at once! D'ye hear?"
Tinker laughed a good scornful laugh. "Lambert of London," he said, returning to the romantic vein52, "to-night reflect on your misdeeds. To-morrow we will treat of your ransom67. Hans Breithelm and Jorgan Schwartz, ye answer for this caitiff's safe keeping with your heads! I charge ye watch him well. To horse, my brave men. We ride to Ardrochan!" And he turned his pony.
The money-lender broke into threats and abuse; then, as the pony drew further away, he passed to entreaties68. Tinker never turned his head; he rode on, brimming with joyous69 triumph; he had a real prisoner.
Mr. Lambert shouted after him till he was hoarse70, he shouted after him till his voice was a wheezy croak71. Tinker passed out of sight without a glance back, and, for a while, that iron-hearted, inexorable man of many loans, sobbed72 like a child with mingled73 rage and fear. Then he scrambled74 down the ladder, and tried the door. There was no chance of his bursting it open; that was a feat75 far beyond his strength; and though he might have worked the rusted76 bars out of the window, he could never have forced his rotundity through it. Then he bethought himself of passers-by, and hurried to the top of the tower. There was no one in sight. He shouted and shouted till he lost his voice again; the echoes died away among the empty hills. He leaned upon the parapet waiting, with the faintest hope that the
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