Chapter One. A Lucky Meeting.
It was late afternoon, on a certain grey and dismal day, toward the latter part of February, that two men happened to encounter each other, after a long interval, upon the steps of the Migrants’ Club.
The one—a tall, well-built, and exceedingly handsome man, with blond curly hair, and beard and moustache to match—was entering the building; while the other—a much shorter and stouter figure, with a cast of features which rendered his German origin unmistakable—was standing upon the top step, puffing at a cigar, as he leisurely drew on his gloves preparatory to his emergence upon the street.
As the two men glanced at each other the light of mutual recognition leaped into their eyes, and in a moment the right hand of each was locked in the cordial grip of the other.
“Ach, mine vriendt,” exclaimed the shorter of the two, as he beamed up at the other through his gold-rimmed spectacles, “how are you? and how is her ladyship? Both quite well, I hope!”
“Thanks, Professor, yes; we are both as hale and hearty as we can possibly wish. But I am sorry to say that my little daughter—by the way, are you aware that I have a daughter?”
“Ach, yes; I heard of it; zomebody toldt me of it, but I vorget who it vas, now. Led me gongradulade you upon the zirgumstance, if it be nod doo lade.”
“Thanks very much, Professor; congratulations upon such an event are never too late, especially when they are sincere, as I know yours to be. But condolence is more appropriate than congratulation just now, for I am sorry to say that the poor child is far from well; indeed, Lady Olivia and I are exceedingly anxious about her; so much so that we have brought her up to town to secure the opinion of a medical specialist upon her case, and he advises complete change of air and scene for her. And that is what brings me to the Migrants’ to-day, where, by the greatest piece of good luck, I have found the very man—yourself, Professor—that I was most anxious to find.”
“Good!” exclaimed the professor; “you wanted to vind me, and here I am, quide at your service, my dear Sir Reginald. Whad gan I do vor you?”
“A very great deal, if you will,” answered the baronet,—“or rather, if you have nothing particular on your hands just now, I ought to say; for I feel sure that, if you are not otherwise engaged, I may depend upon your falling in with my scheme, now that I have happily found you.”
“Of gourse,” replied the professor. “That goes midoudt zaying. Well, I am not engaged at bresend upon anydings bardigular, excepd the elaboration of a rather Utopian scheme for the benefit of mangind generally, and esbecially those unfordunate beobles who, in gonsequence of the over-bobulation of the gread zentres of indusdry, vind themselves unable to brogure embloymend and earn a living. Bud this scheme is only in my brain as yed,”—energetically pointing to his expansive forehead as he spoke—“and gan be worked oudt anywhere widoud obstruction to other projecds; so, my dear Sir Reginald, if you require my aid in any way you may gommand me....