A mystery story that involves the revolution in Portugal.
at is it, Arnold? The cheeses didn't smell so bad to-day? Or you've had a rise? Quick! I must hear all about it."
"You shall," Arnold replied. "It is a wonderful story. Listen. Have you ever heard the fable of Dick Whittington?"
"Married his employer's daughter, of course. What's she like, Arnold? Have you seen her? Did you save her life? When are you going to see her again?"
Chetwode was already on his knees, dragging out an old trunk from underneath the faded cupboard. Suddenly he paused with a gesture of despair.
"Alas!" he exclaimed. "My dream fades away. Old Weatherley was married only last year. Consequently, his daughter--"
"He can't have one," she interrupted, ruthlessly. "Tell me the news at once?"
"I am going to dine with old Weatherley," he announced.
The girl smiled, a little wistfully.
"How funny! But you will get a good dinner, won't you, Arnold? Eat ever so much, dear. Yesterday I fancied that you were getting thin. I do wish I could see what you have in the middle of th
Arnold Chetwode, a gently born young man in impecunious circumstances, toils as a lowly, ill-paid clerk in the prosperous London firm of Samuel Weatherley & Co., wholesale provision merchants and cheesemongers. At night, he goes home to a garret, where he and Ruth Lalonde, the equally poor, crippled young woman from across the hall, console each other by imagining their ships coming in.
One night a chance invitation from his employer draws Arnold into the tony circles of Weatherley's beautiful foreign wife, Fenella, and her brother, Count Sabatini. Ruth's uncle, Isaac, a fanatic, Hyde Park-lecturing, proselytizing Socialist, bitterly accuses Arnold of pandering to capitalists and aristocrats. But between them, Arnold becomes embroiled in mystery and intrigue. He interrupts a spy, witnesses a murder and finds a corpse.
The female characters are weak—Ruth is sappy and Mrs. Weatherley a quixotic femme fatale—and Isaac a stereotypical and cardboard revolutionary, but Sabatini is a unique and interesting character, while Weatherley and his chief clerk, Mr. Jarvis, are amusingly and sympathetically drawn on Dickensian lines. Arnold, of whose internal thought processes we are permitted to see very little, appears to be everything a piqued Mrs. Weatherly accuses him of: a stolid Englishman with an overweening respect for law and order and little daring. That he progresses as the story continues seems to be less due to his own enterprise than to his luck and gentlemanly bearing.
The interesting thing about this 1912 novel is the way that both the impoverished anarchist and the well-to-do aristocrats espouse very similar points of view, a perspective very relevant in today’s world. As expressed by Sabatini, "The capitalist stretches out his hand and swallows up the weaker man. He does it ten or fifty times a day and there is no one to stop him. It is the strong taking from the weak.... Some forms of plunder come under the law, some do not."
This is diametrically opposed to Weatherly and Jarvis's bourgeois idea that one should stick to "a quiet, honest life, doing your duty to yourself and others, and living according to the old-fashioned standards of honesty and upright living."
The writing is good, and the novel moves along well and kept me turning pages. The ending, though, is disappointingly trite and fails to tie up several loose ends, not least of which is whether the revolutionary plot that fomented the intrigue ultimately succeeded.
Pretty good. The whole Portuguese revolution idea doesn't show up till the end of the book, everything is pretty mysterious until then...The reader is kept in complete mystery until the whole story is explained.
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