The Dynamiter

Page 95

And yet,' he added, looking on the boxes with a lingering regret, 'I should have liked to make quite certain. I cannot but suspect my underlings of some mismanagement; it may be fond, but yet I cherish that idea: it may be the weakness of a man of science, but yet,' he cried, rising into some energy, 'I will never, I cannot if I try, believe that my poor dynamite has had fair usage!'

'Five minutes!' said Somerset, glancing with horror at the timepiece. 'If you do not instantly buckle to your bag, I leave you.'

'A few necessaries,' returned Zero, 'only a few necessaries, dear Somerset, and you behold me ready.'

He passed into the bedroom, and after an interval which seemed to draw out into eternity for his unfortunate companion, he returned, bearing in his hand an open Gladstone bag. His movements were still horribly deliberate, and his eyes lingered gloatingly on his dear boxes, as he moved to and fro about the drawing-room, gathering a few small trifles. Last of all, he lifted one of the squares of dynamite.

'Put that down!' cried Somerset. 'If what you say be true, you have no call to load yourself with that ungodly contraband.'

'Merely a curiosity, dear boy,' he said persuasively, and slipped the brick into his bag; 'merely a memento of the past--ah, happy past, bright past! You will not take a touch of spirits? no? I find you very abstemious. Well,' he added, 'if you have really no curiosity to await the event--'

'I!' cried Somerset. 'My blood boils to get away.'

'Well, then,' said Zero, 'I am ready; I would I could say, willing; but thus to leave the scene of my sublime endeavours--'

Without further parley, Somerset seized him by the arm, and dragged him downstairs; the hall-door shut with a clang on the deserted mansion; and still towing his laggardly companion, the young man sped across the square in the Oxford Street direction. They had not yet passed the corner of the garden, when they were arrested by a dull thud of an extraordinary amplitude of sound, accompanied and followed by a shattering fracas. Somerset turned in time to see the mansion rend in twain, vomit forth flames and smoke, and instantly collapse into its cellars. At the same moment, he was thrown violently to the ground. His first glance was towards Zero. The plotter had but reeled against the garden rail; he stood there, the Gladstone bag clasped tight upon his heart, his whole face radiant with relief and gratitude; and the young man heard him murmur to himself: 'Nunc dimittis, nunc dimittis!'

The consternation of the populace was indescribable; the whole of Golden Square was alive with men, women, and children, running wildly to and fro, and like rabbits in a warren, dashing in and out of the house doors. And under favour of this confusion, Somerset dragged away the lingering plotter.

'It was grand,' he continued to murmur: 'it was indescribably grand. Ah, green Erin, green Erin, what a day of glory! and oh, my calumniated dynamite, how triumphantly hast thou prevailed!'

Suddenly a shade crossed his face; and pausing in the middle of the footway, he consulted the dial of his watch.

'Good God!' he cried, 'how mortifying! seven minutes too early! The dynamite surpassed my hopes; but the clockwork, fickle clockwork, has once more betrayed me. Alas, can there be no success unmixed with failure? and must even this red-letter day be chequered by a shadow?'

'Incomparable ass!' said Somerset, 'what have you done? Blown up the house of an unoffending old lady, and the whole earthly property of the only person who is fool enough to befriend you!'

'You do not understand these matters,' replied Zero, with an air of great dignity. 'This will shake England to the heart. Gladstone, the truculent old man, will quail before the pointing finger of revenge. And now that my dynamite is proved effective--'

'Heavens, you remind me!' ejaculated Somerset. 'That brick in your bag must be instantly disposed of. But how? If we could throw it in the river--'

'A torpedo,' cried Zero, brightening, 'a torpedo in the Thames! Superb, dear fellow! I recognise in you the marks of an accomplished anarch.'

'True!' returned Somerset.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book