Part 1 out of 4
First Published London, 1908.
(Book One of THE LITTLE OTTLEYS)
[Illustration: Love's Shadow]
Love like a shadow flies
When substance love pursues;
Pursuing that that flies,
And flying what pursues.
'There's only one thing I must really implore you, Edith,' said Bruce
anxiously. '_Don't_ make me late at the office!'
'Certainly not, Bruce,' answered Edith sedately. She was seated opposite
her husband at breakfast in a very new, very small, very white flat in
Knightsbridge--exactly like thousands of other new, small, white flats.
She was young and pretty, but not obvious. One might suppose that she
was more subtle than was shown by her usual expression, which was merely
cheerful and intelligent.
'Now I have to write that letter before I go,' Bruce exclaimed, starting
up and looking at her reproachfully. 'Why didn't I write it last night?'
Edith hadn't the slightest idea, as she had heard nothing of the letter
before, but, in the course of three years, she had learnt that it saved
time to accept trifling injustices. So she looked guilty and a little
remorseful. He magnanimously forgave her, and began to write the letter
at a neat white writing-table.
'How many g's are there in "Raggett"?' he asked suspiciously.
She didn't answer, apparently overtaken by a sudden fit of absence of
'Only one, of course. How absurd you are!' said her husband, laughing,
as he finished the letter and came back to the table.
She poured out more coffee.
'It's a curious thing,' he went on in a tone of impartial regret, 'that,
with all the fuss about modern culture and higher education nowadays,
girls are not even taught to spell!'
'Yes, isn't it? But even if I had been taught, it might not have been
much use. I might just not have been taught to spell "Raggett". It's a
name, isn't it?'
'It's a very well-known name,' said Bruce.
'I daresay it is, but I don't know it. Would you like to see the boy
before you go?'
'What a question! I always like to see the boy. But you know perfectly
well I haven't time this morning.'
'Very well, dear. You can see him this afternoon.'
'Why do you say that? You know I'm going golfing with Goldthorpe! It
really is hard, Edith, when a man has to work so much that he has
scarcely any time for his wife and child.'
She looked sympathetic.
'What are you doing today?' he asked.
'Hyacinth's coming to fetch me for a drive in the motor.'
His face brightened. He said kindly, 'I _am_ so glad, darling, that you
have such a delightful friend--when I can't be with you. I admire
Hyacinth very much, in every way. She seems devoted to you, too, which
is really very nice of her. What I mean to say is, that in her position
she might know anybody. You see my point?'
'How did you meet her originally?'
'We were school-friends.'
'She's such a lovely creature; I wonder she doesn't marry.'
'Yes, but she has to find someone else whom _she_ thinks a lovely
'I wish you wouldn't snap me up like that. Oh, I know you don't mean it,
but it's growing on you, rather.'
She tried to look serious, and said gently, 'Is it, really? I am sorry.'
'You don't mind me telling you of it, do you?'
'Not at all. I'm afraid you will be late, Bruce.'
He started up and hurried away, reminding Edith that dinner was to be at
eight. They parted with affectionate smiles.
When he had gone down in the lift, Edith took an inextensive walk
through the entire flat, going into each room, and looking at herself in
every looking-glass. She appeared to like herself best in the
dining-room mirror, for she returned, stared into it rather gravely for
some little time, and then said to herself: 'Yes, I'm beginning to
Then she rang the bell, and the nurse brought in a pretty little boy of
nearly two, Huffily dressed in white, who was excited at the prospect of
his great morning treat--going down in the lift. Speaking of him with
some formality as Master Archie, she asked the nurse a few questions,
which she mistakenly supposed gave that personage the impression that
she knew all that there was to be known about children. When she was
alone with him for a minute she rushed at him impulsively, saying,
privately, 'Heavenly pet! Divine angel! Duck!' in return for which he
pulled her hair down and scratched her face with a small empty Noah's
Ark that he was taking out with him for purposes of his own.
When he had gone she did her hair up again in a different way--parted in
the middle. It was very pretty, wavy, fair hair, and she had small,
regular features, so the new way suited her very well. Then she
'Yes, if it were not for Hyacinth I should soon look bored to death!'
Hyacinth Verney was the romance of Edith's life. She also provided a
good deal of romance in the lives of several other people. Her position
was unusual, and her personality fascinating. She had no parents, was an
heiress, and lived alone with a companion in a quaint little house just
out of Berkeley Square, with a large studio, that was never used for
painting. She had such an extraordinary natural gift for making people
of both sexes fond of her, that it would have been difficult to say
which, of all the persons who loved her, showed the most intense
devotion in the most immoderate way. Probably her cousin and guardian,
Sir Charles Cannon, and her companion, Anne Yeo, spent more thought and
time in her service than did anybody else. Edith's imagination had been
fired in their school-days by her friend's beauty and cleverness, and by
the fact that she had a guardian, like a book. Then Hyacinth had come
out and gone in for music, for painting, and for various other arts and
pursuits of an absorbing character. She had hardly any acquaintances
except her relations, but possessed an enormously large number of
extremely intimate friends--a characteristic that had remained to her
from her childhood.
Hyacinth's ideal of society was to have no padding, so that most of the
members of her circle were types. Still, as she had a perfect passion
for entertaining, there remained, of course, a residue; distant elderly
connections with well-sounding names (as ballast), and a few vague
hangers-on; several rather dull celebrities, some merely pretty and
well-dressed women, and a steadily increasing number of good-looking
young men. Hyacinth was fond of decoration.
As she frankly admitted, she had rather fallen back on Edith, finding
her, after many experiments, the most agreeable of friends, chiefly
because in their intercourses everything was always taken for granted.
Like sisters, they understood one another without explanation--_à
While Edith waited impatiently in the hall of the flat, Anne Yeo, her
unacknowledged rival in Hyacinth's affections, was doing needlework in
the window-seat of the studio, and watching Hyacinth, who, dressed to go
out, was walking up and down the room. With a rather wooden face, high
cheek-bones, a tall, thin figure, and no expression, Anne might have
been any age; but she was not. She made every effort to look quite forty
so as to appear more suitable as a chaperone, but was in reality barely
thirty. She was thinking, as she often thought, that Hyacinth looked too
romantic for everyday life. When they had travelled together this fact
had been rather a nuisance.
'Why, when you call at the Stores to order groceries, must you look as
if you were going to elope?' she asked dryly. 'In an ordinary motorveil
you have the air of hastening to some mysterious appointment.'
'But I'm only going to fetch Edith Ottley for a drive,' said Hyacinth.
'How bored she must get with her little Foreign Office clerk! The way he
takes his authority as a husband seriously is pathetic. He hasn't the
faintest idea the girl is cleverer than he is.'
'You'd far better leave her alone, and not point it out,' said Anne.
'You're always bothering about these little Ottleys now. But you've been
very restless lately. Whenever you try to do people good, and especially
when you motor so much and so fast, I recognise the symptoms. It's
coming on again, and you're trying to get away from it.'
'Don't say that. I'm never going to care about anyone again,' said
'You don't know it, but when you're not in love you're not yourself,'
Anne continued. 'It's all you live for.'
'It's quite true. It's nearly three months since you--had an attack.
Blair was the last. Now you're beginning to take the same sort of
interest in Cecil Reeve.'
'How mistaken you are, Anne! I don't take at all the same interest in
him. It's a totally different thing. I don't really even like him.'
'You wouldn't go out today if you were expecting him.'
'Yes, but I'm not ... and he doesn't care two straws about me. Once he
said he never worshipped in a crowded temple!'
'It's a curious coincidence that ever since then you've been out to
everyone else,' said Anne.
'I don't really like him--so very much. When he _does_ smile, of course
it's rather nice. Why does he hate me?'
'I can't think,' said Anne.
'He doesn't hate me! How can you say so?' cried Hyacinth.
'Perhaps it's because he thinks I look Spanish. He may disapprove of
looking Spanish,' suggested Hyacinth.
Hyacinth laughed, kissed her, and went out. Anne followed her graceful
figure with disapproving, admiring eyes.
The Anxieties of Sir Charles
Like all really uncommon beauties, Hyacinth could only be adequately
described by the most hackneyed phrases. Her eyes were authentically
sapphire-coloured; brilliant, frank eyes, with a subtle mischief in
them, softened by the most conciliating long eyelashes. Then, her mouth
was really shaped like a Cupid's bow, and her teeth _were_ dazzling;
also she had a wealth of dense, soft, brown hair and a tall, sylphlike,
slimly-rounded figure. Her features were delicately regular, and her
hands and feet perfection. Her complexion was extremely fair, so she was
not a brunette; some remote Spanish ancestor on her mother's side was,
however, occasionally mentioned as an apology for a type and a supple
grace sometimes complained of by people with white eyelashes as rather
un-English. So many artistic young men had told her she was like La
Gioconda, that when she first saw the original in the Louvre she was so
disappointed that she thought she would never smile again.
About ten minutes after the pretty creature had gone out, Anne, who had
kept her eyes steadily on the clock, looked out of the window, from
which she could see a small brougham driving up. She called out into
'If that's Sir Charles Cannon, tell him Miss Verney is out, but I have a
message for him.'
A minute later there entered a thin and distinguished-looking,
grey-haired man of about forty-five, wearing a smile of such excessive
cordiality that one felt it could only have been brought to his
well-bred lips by acute disappointment. Anne did not take the smile
literally, but began to explain away the blow.
'I'm so sorry,' she said apologetically. 'I'm afraid it's partly my
fault. When she suddenly decided to go out with that little Mrs Ottley,
she told me vaguely to telephone to you. But how on earth could I know
where you were?'
'How indeed? It doesn't matter in the least, my dear Miss Yeo. I mean,
it's most unfortunate, as I've just a little free time. Lady Cannon's
gone to a matinée at the St James's. We had tickets for the first night,
but of course she wouldn't use them then. She preferred to go alone in
the afternoon, because she detests the theatre, anyhow, and afternoon
performances give her a headache. And if she does a thing that's
disagreeable to her, she likes to do it in the most painful possible
way. She has a beautiful nature.'
Anne smiled, and passed him a little gold box.
'Have a cigarette?' she suggested.
'Thanks--I'm not really in a bad temper. But why this relapse of
devotion to little Mrs Ottley? And why are you and I suddenly treated
with marked neglect?'
'Mrs Ottley,' said Anne, 'is one of those young women, rather bored with
their husbands, who are the worst possible companions for Hyacinth. They
put her off marrying.'
'Bored, is she? She didn't strike me so. A pleasant, bright girl. I
suppose she amuses Hyacinth?'
'Yes; of course, she's not a dull old maid over forty, like me,' said
'No-one would believe that description of you,' said Sir Charles, with a
bow that was courtly but absent. As a matter of fact, he did believe it,
but it wasn't true.
'If dear little Mrs Ottley,' he continued, 'married in too great a
hurry, far be it from me to reproach her. I married in a hurry
myself--when Hyacinth was ten.'
'And when she was eighteen you were very sorry,' said Anne in her
'Don't let us go into that, Miss Yeo. Of course, Hyacinth is a
beautiful--responsibility. People seem to think she ought to have gone
on living with us when she left school. But how was it possible?
Hyacinth said she intended to live for her art, and Lady Cannon couldn't
stand the scent of oils.' He glanced round the large panelled-oak room
in which not a picture was to be seen. The only indication of its having
ever been meant for a studio was the north light, carefully obstructed
(on the grounds of unbecomingness) by gently-tinted draperies of some
fabric suggesting Liberty's. 'Life wasn't worth living, trying to keep
'But you must have missed her?'
'Still, I prefer coming to see her here. And knowing she has you with
her is, after all, everything.'
He looked a question.
'Yes, she has. I mean, she seems rather--absorbed again lately,' said
'Who is it?' he asked. 'I always feel so indiscreet and treacherous
talking over her private affairs like this with you, though she tells me
everything herself. I'm not sure it's the act of a simple, loyal,
Christian English gentleman; in fact, I'm pretty certain it's not. I
suppose that's why I enjoy it so much.'
'I daresay,' said Anne; 'but she wouldn't mind it.'
'What has been happening?'
'Nothing interesting. Hazel Kerr came here the other day and brought
with him a poem in bronze lacquer, as he called it. He read it
aloud--the whole of it.'
'Good heavens! Poetry! Do people still do that sort of thing? I thought
it had gone out years ago--when I was a young man.'
'Of course, so it has. But Hazel Kerr is out of date. Hyacinth says he's
almost a classic.'
'Oh no! His method. She says he's an interesting survival--he's walked
straight out of another age--the nineties, you know. There were poets in
'Method! He was much too young then to have a style at all, surely!'
'That _was_ the style. It was the right thing to be very young in the
nineties. It isn't now.'
'It's not so easy now, for some of us,' murmured Sir Charles.
'But Hazel keeps it up,' Anne answered.
Sir Charles laughed irritably. 'He keeps it up, does he? But he sits
people out openly, that shows he's not really dangerous. One doesn't
worry about Hazel. It's that young man who arrives when everybody's
going, or goes before anyone else arrives, that's what I'm a little
'If you mean Cecil Reeve, Hyacinth says he doesn't like her.'
'I'm sorry to hear that. If anything will interest her, that will. Yet I
don't know why I should mind. At any rate, he certainly isn't trying to
marry her for interested reasons, as he's very well off--or perhaps for
any reasons. I'm told he's clever, too.'
'His appearance is not against him either,' said Anne dryly; 'so what's
the matter with him?'
'I don't know exactly. I think he's capable of playing with her.'
'Perhaps he doesn't really appreciate her,' suggested Anne.
'Oh, yes, he does. He's a connoisseur--confound him! He appreciates her
all right. But it's all for himself--not for her. By the way, I've heard
his name mentioned with another woman's name. But I happen to know
there's nothing in it.'
'Would you really like her to marry soon?' Anne asked.
'In her position it would be better, I suppose,' said her guardian, with
obvious distaste to the idea.
'Has there ever been anyone that you thoroughly approved of?' asked
He shook his head.
'I rather doubt if there ever will be,' Anne said.
'She's so clever, so impulsive! She lives so much on her emotions. If
she were disappointed--in that way--it would mean so much to her,' Sir
'She does change rather often,' said Anne.
'Of course, she's never really known her own mind.' He took a letter out
of his pocket. 'I came partly to show her a letter from Ella--my girl at
school in Paris, you know. Hyacinth is so kind to her. She writes to me
very confidentially. I hope she's being properly brought up!'
'Let me read it.'
'I'm having heavenly fun at school. Last night there was a ball for
Madame's birthday. A proper grown-up ball, and we all danced. The men
weren't bad. I had a lovely Easter egg, a chocolate egg, and inside that
another egg with chocolate in it, and inside that another egg with a
dear little turquoise charm in it. One man said I was a blonde anglaise,
and had a keepsake face; and another has taken the Prix de Rome, and is
going to be a schoolmaster. There were no real ices. Come over and see
me soon. It's such a long time to the holidays. Love to mother.
'A curious letter--for her age,' said Ella's father, replacing it. 'I
wish she were here. It seems a pity Lady Cannon can't stand the noise of
practising--and so on. Well, perhaps it's for the best.' He got up.
'Miss Yeo, I must go and fetch Lady Cannon now, but I'll come back at
half-past six for a few minutes--on my way to the club.'
'She's sure to be here then,' replied Anne consolingly; 'and do persuade
her not to waste all her time being kind to Edith Ottley. It can't do
any good. She'd better leave them alone.'
'Really, it's a very innocent amusement. I think you're overanxious.'
'It's only that I'm afraid she might get mixed up in--well, some
'Surely it can't be as bad as that! Why--is Mr Ottley in love with her?'
he asked, smiling.
'Very much indeed,' said Anne.
'Oh, really, Miss Yeo!--and does Mrs Ottley know it?'
'No, nor Hyacinth either. He doesn't know it himself.'
'Then if nobody knows it, it can't matter very much,' said Sir Charles,
feeling vaguely uncomfortable all the same. Before he went he took up a
portrait of Hyacinth in an Empire dress with laurel leaves in her hair.
It was a beautiful portrait. Anne thought that from the way he looked at
it, anyone could have guessed Lady Cannon had tight lips and wore a
royal fringe.... They parted with great friendliness.
Anne's wooden, inexpressive countenance was a great comfort to Sir
Charles, in some moods. Though she was clever enough, she did not have
that superfluity of sympathy and responsiveness that makes one go away
regretting one has said so much, and disliking the other person for
one's expansion. One never felt that she had understood too accurately,
nor that one had given oneself away, nor been indiscreetly curious....
It was like talking to a chair. What a good sort Anne was!
'Would you like me to play to you a little?' Anne asked, when Hyacinth
had returned and was sitting in the carved-oak chimney-corner, looking
thoughtful and picturesque.
'Oh no, please don't! Besides, I know you can't'
'No, thank goodness!' exclaimed Anne. 'I know I'm useful and practical,
and I don't mind that; but anyhow, I'm not cheerful, musical, and a
perfect lady, in exchange for a comfortable home, am I?'
'No, indeed,' said Hyacinth fervently.
'No-one can speak of me as "that pleasant, cultivated creature who lives
with Miss Verney," can they?'
'Not, at any rate, if they have any regard for truth,' said Hyacinth.
'I wish you wouldn't make me laugh. Why should I have a sense of humour?
I sometimes think that all your friends imagine it's part of my duty to
shriek with laughter at their wretched jokes. It wasn't in the contract.
If I were pretty, my ambition would have been to be an adventuress; but
an adventuress with no adventures would be a little flat. I might have
the worst intentions, but I should never have the chance of carrying
them out. So I try to be as much as possible like Thackeray's shabby
companion in a dyed silk.'
'Is that why you wear a sackcloth blouse trimmed with ashes?' said
Hyacinth, with curiosity.
'No, that's merely stinginess. It's my nature to be morbidly economical,
though I know I needn't be. If I hadn't had £500 a year left me, I
should never have been able to come and live here, and drop all my
horrid relations. I enjoy appearing dependent and being a spectator, and
I've absolutely given up all interest in my own affairs. In fact, I
haven't got any. And I take the keenest interest in other
people's--romances. Principally, of course, in yours.'
'I'm sure I don't want you to be so vicarious as all that--thanks
awfully,' said Hyacinth. 'At any rate, don't dress like a skeleton at
the feast tomorrow, if you don't mind. I've asked the little Ottleys to
dinner--and, I want Charles to come.'
'Oh, of course, if you expect Cecil Reeve!--I suppose you do, as you
haven't mentioned it--I'll put on my real clothes to do you credit.' She
looked out of the window. 'Here's poor old Charles again. How he does
dislike Lady Cannon!'
'What a shame, Anne! He's angelic to her.'
'That's what I meant,' said Anne, going out quickly.
'Charles, how nice of you to call and return your own visit the same
day! It's like Royalty, isn't it? It reminds me of the young man who was
asked to call again, and came back in half an hour,' said Hyacinth.
'I didn't quite see my way to waiting till Monday,' he answered. 'We're
going away the end of the week. Janet says she needs a change.'
'It would be more of a change if you remained in town alone; at least,
From the age of ten Hyacinth had resented having to call Lady Cannon by
this endearing name. How a perfect stranger, by marrying her cousin,
could become her aunt, was a mystery that she refused even to try to
solve. It was well meant, no doubt; it was supposed to make her feel
more at home--less of an orphan. But though she was obedient on this
point, nothing would ever induce her to call her cousin by anything but
his Christian name, with no qualification. Instinctively she felt that
to call them 'Charles and Aunty', while annoying the intruder, kept her
guardian in his proper place. What that was she did not specify.
'Well, can't you stay in London and come here, and be confided in and
consulted? You know you like that better than boring yourself to death
'Never mind that. How did you enjoy your drive?'
'Immensely, and I've asked both the little Ottleys to come to dinner
tomorrow--one of those impulsive, unconsidered invitations that one
regrets the second after. I must make up a little party. Will you come?'
'Perhaps, if I arranged to follow Janet to Redlands the next day, I
might. Who did you say was the other man?'
'I expect Cecil Reeve,' she said. 'Don't put on that air of marble
archness, Charles. It doesn't suit you at all. Tell me something
'I can't stand him. That's all I know about him,' said Sir Charles.
'Oh, is that all? That's just jealousy, Charles.'
'Absurd! How can a married man, in your father's place, a hundred years
older than you, be jealous?'
'It is wonderful, isn't it?' she said. 'But you must know something
about him. You know everyone.'
'He's Lord Selsey's nephew--and his heir--if Selsey doesn't marry again.
He's only a young man about town--the sort of good-looking ass that your
'Charles, what a brute you are! He's very clever.'
'My dear child, yes--as a matter of fact, I believe he is. Isn't he ever
going to _do_ something?'
'I don't know,' she said. 'I wish he would. Oh, _why_ don't you like
'What can it matter about me?' he answered. 'Why are you never satisfied
unless I'm in love with the same people that you are?'
'Charles!' she exclaimed, standing up. 'Don't you understand that not a
word, not a look has passed to suggest such a thing? I never met
'No, so listless, and so respectful; and yet so amusing.... But I'm
pretty certain that he hates me. I wish I knew why.'
'And you hate him just as much, of course?'
'No, sometimes I don't. And then I want you to agree with me. No-one
sympathises really so well as you, Charles.'
'Not even Miss Yeo?'
'No, I get on so well with Anne because she doesn't She's always
interested, but I prefer her never to agree with me, as she lives here.
It would be enervating to have someone always there and perpetually
sympathetic. Anne is a tonic.'
'You need a little opposition to keep you up,' said Sir Charles.
'Didn't I once hear something about his being devoted to someone? Wasn't
there a report that he was going to be married to a Mrs. Raymond?'
'I believe it was once contradicted in the _Morning Post_ that he was
engaged to her,' said Sir Charles. 'But I'm sure there's no truth in it.
I know her.'
'No truth in the report? Or the contradiction?'
'In either. In anything.'
'So you know her. What's she like?' Hyacinth asked anxiously.
'Oh, a dear, charming creature--you'd like her; but not pretty, nor
young. About my age,' he said.
'Oh, I see! _That's_ all right, then!' She clapped her hands.
'Well, I must go. I'll arrange to turn up to dinner tomorrow.' He took
his hat, looking rather depressed.
'And try to make him like me!' she commanded, as Sir Charles took leave.
The Sound Sense of Lady Cannon
Lady Cannon had never been seen after half-past seven except in evening
dress, generally a velvet dress of some dark crimson or bottle-green, so
tightly-fitting as to give her an appearance of being rather upholstered
than clothed. Her cloaks were always like well-hung curtains, her trains
like heavy carpets; one might fancy that she got her gowns from Gillows.
Her pearl dog-collar, her diamond ear-rings, her dark red fringe and the
other details of her toilette were put on with the same precision when
she dined alone with Sir Charles as if she were going to a ceremonious
reception. She was a very tall, fine-looking woman. In Paris, where she
sometimes went to see Ella at school, she attracted much public
attention as _une femme superbe_. Frenchmen were heard to remark to one
another that her husband _ne devrait pas s'embêter_ (which, as a matter
of fact, was precisely what he did--to extinction); and even in the
streets when she walked out the gamins used to exclaim, '_Voilà l'Arc de
Triomphe qui se promène!_'--to her intense fury and gratification. She
was still handsome, with hard, wide-open blue eyes, and straight
features. She always held her head as if she were being photographed in
a tiara _en profil perdu_. It was in this attitude that she had often
been photographed and was now most usually seen; and it seemed so
characteristic that even her husband, if he accidentally caught a
glimpse of her full-face, hastily altered his position to one whence he
could behold her at right angles.
As she grew older, the profile in the photographs had become more and
more _perdu_; the last one showed chiefly the back of her head, besides
a basket of flowers, and a double staircase, leading (one hoped) at
least to one of the upper rooms in Buckingham Palace.
Lady Cannon had a very exalted opinion of her own charms, virtues,
brilliant gifts, and, above all, of her sound sense. Fortunately for
her, she had married a man of extraordinary amiability, who had always
taken every possible precaution to prevent her discovering that in this
opinion she was practically alone in the world.
Having become engaged to her through a slight misunderstanding in a
country house, Sir Charles had not had the courage to explain away the
mistake. He decided to make the best of it, and did so the more easily
as it was one of those so-called suitable matches that the friends and
acquaintances of both parties approve of and desire far more than the
parties concerned. A sensible woman was surely required at Redlands and
in the London house, especially as Sir Charles had been left guardian
and trustee to a pretty little heiress.
It had taken him a very short time to find out that the reputation for
sound sense was, like most traditions, founded on a myth, and that if
his wife's vanity was only equalled by her egotism, her most remarkable
characteristic was her excessive silliness. But she loved him, and he
kept his discovery to himself.
'Twenty-five minutes to eight!' she exclaimed, holding out a little
jewelled watch, as Sir Charles came in after his visit to Hyacinth. 'And
we have a new cook, and I specially, _most_ specially told her to have
dinner ready punctually at half-past seven! This world is indeed a place
Sir Charles's natural air of command seemed to disappear in the presence
of Lady Cannon. He murmured a graceful apology, saying he would not
dress. Nothing annoyed, even shocked her more than to see her husband
dining opposite her in a frock-coat. However, of two evils she chose the
less. They went in to dinner.
'I haven't had the opportunity yet of telling you my opinion of the play
this afternoon,' she said. 'I found it interesting, and I wonder I
hadn't seen it before.'
'You sent back our stalls for the first night,' remarked Sir Charles.
'Certainly I did. I dislike seeing a play until I have seen in the
papers whether it is a success or not.'
'Those newspaper fellows aren't always right,' said Sir Charles.
'Perhaps not, but at least they can tell you whether the thing is a
success. I should be very sorry to be seen at a failure. Very
She paused, and then went on--
'_James Wade's Trouble_ has been performed three hundred times, so it
must be clever. In my opinion, it must have done an immense amount of
harm--good, I mean. A play like that, so full of noble sentiments and
high principles, is--to me--as good as a sermon!'
'Oh, is it? I'm sorry I couldn't go,' said Sir Charles, feeling very
'I suppose it was the club, as usual, that made you late. Do you know, I
have a great objection to clubs.'
He nodded sympathetically.
'That is to say, I thoroughly approve of your belonging to several. I'm
quite aware that in your position it's the right thing to do, but I
can't understand why you should ever go to them, having two houses of
your own. And that reminds me, we are going down to Redlands tomorrow,
are we not? I've had a little' (she lowered her voice) 'lumbago; a mere
passing touch, that's all--and the change will cure me. I think you
neglect Redlands, Charles. You seem to me to regard your
responsibilities as a landowner with indifference bordering on aversion.
You never seem amused down there--unless we have friends.'
'We'll go tomorrow if you like,' said he.
'I can easily put off the Duke,' he said thoughtfully, as he poured out
She sprang up like a startled hare.
'Put off the ... what are you talking about?'
'Oh, nothing. The Duke of St Leonard's is giving a dinner at the club
tomorrow, and I was going. But I can arrange to get out of it.'
'Charles! I never heard of anything so absurd! You must certainly go to
the dinner. How like you! How casual of you! For a mere trifle to offend
the man who might be of the greatest use to you--politically.'
'Politically! What do you mean? And it isn't a trifle when you've set
your mind on going away tomorrow. I know you hate to change your
plans, my dear.'
'Certainly I do, but I shall not change my plans. I shall go down
tomorrow, and you can join me on Friday.'
'Oh, I don't think I'll do that,' said Sir Charles, rather
half-heartedly. 'Why should you take the journey alone?'
'But I shall not be alone. I shall have Danvers with me. You need have
no anxiety. I beg of you, I _insist_, that you stay, and go to
'Well, of course, if you make a point of it--'
She smiled, well pleased at having got her own way, as she supposed.
'That's right, Charles. Then you'll come down on Friday.'
'By the early train,' said Sir Charles.
'No, I should suggest your coming by the later train. It's more
convenient to meet you at the station.'
'Very well--as you like,' said he, inwardly a little astonished, as
always, at the easy working of the simple old plan, suggesting what one
does not wish to do in order to be persuaded into what one does.
'And, by the way, I haven't heard you speak of Hyacinth lately. You had
better go and see her. A little while ago you were always wasting your
time about her, and I spoke to you about it, Charles--I think?'
'I think you did,' said he.
'But, though at one time I was growing simply tired of her name, I
didn't mean that you need not look after her at _all_. Go and see her,
and explain to her I can't possibly accompany you. Tell her I've got
chronic lumbago very badly indeed, and I'm obliged to go to the country,
but I shall certainly make a point of calling on her when I return. You
won't forget, Charles?'
'I should go oftener,' she continued apologetically, 'but I have such a
great dislike to that companion of hers. I think Miss Yeo a most
'She isn't really,' said Sir Charles.
'I do wish we could get Hyacinth married,' said Lady Cannon. 'I know
what a relief it would be to you, and it seems to me such an unheard-of
thing for a young girl like that to be living practically alone!'
'We've been through that before, Janet. Remember, there was nothing else
to do unless she continued to live with us. And as your nerves can't
even stand Ella--'
Lady Cannon dropped the point.
'Well, we must get her married,' she said again. 'What a good thing Ella
is still so young! Girls are a dreadful responsibility,' and she swept
graciously from the dining-room.
Sir Charles took out an irritating little notebook of red leather, the
sort of thing that is advertised when lost as 'of no value to anyone but
the owner.' It was full of mysterious little marks and unintelligible
little notes. He put down, in cabalistic signs, '_Hyacinth's dinner,
eight o'clock._' He enjoyed writing her name, even in hieroglyphics.
'I say, Eugenia.'
'Look here, Eugenia.'
'What is it, Cecil?'
'Will you marry me?'
'I beg your pardon?'
'Will you many me, Eugenia?'
'You heard what I said. I asked you to marry me. Will you?'
'_Certainly_ not! Most decidedly not! How can you ask such a ridiculous
The lady who thus scornfully rejected a proposal was no longer young,
and had never been beautiful. In what exactly her attraction consisted
was perhaps a mystery to many of those who found themselves under the
charm. Her voice and smile were very agreeable, and she had a graceful
figure. If she looked nearly ten years younger than her age (which was
forty-four), this was in no way owing to any artificial aid, but to a
kind of brilliant vitality, not a bouncing mature liveliness, but a
vivid, intense, humorous interest in life that was and would always
remain absolutely fresh. She was naturalness itself, and seemed
unconscious or careless of her appearance. Nor did she have that
well-preserved air of so many modern women who seem younger than their
years, but seemed merely clever, amiable, very unaffected, and rather
ill. She had long, veiled-looking brown eyes, turned up at the corners,
which gave to her glance an amusing slyness. It was a very misleading
physiognomical effect, for she was really unusually frank. She wore a
dull grey dress that was neither artistic, becoming, nor smart. In fact,
she was too charming to be dowdy, and too careless to be chic; she might
have been a great celebrity.
The young man who made the suggestion above recorded was fair and
clean-shaven, tall and well-made, with clear-cut feature; in fact, he
was very good-looking--good-looking as almost only an Englishman can be.
Under a reserved, dandified manner, he tried unsuccessfully to conceal
the fact that he was too intelligent for his type. He did not, however,
quite attain his standard of entire expressionlessness; and his bright,
light-blue eyes and fully-curved lips showed the generous and emotional
nature of their owner. At this moment he seemed very much out of temper.
They were sitting in a dismal little drawing-room in one of the smallest
houses in a dreary street in Belgravia. The room was crowded with
dateless, unmeaning furniture, and disfigured by muddled, mistaken
decoration. Its designer, probably, had meant well, but had been very
far from carrying out his meaning. There were too many things in the
room, and most of them were wrong. It would be unjust, however, to
suppose Mrs Raymond did not know this. Want of means, and indifference,
or perhaps perverseness, had caused her to leave the house unchanged
since his death as a sort of monument to poor Colonel Raymond's
'You might just as well marry me as not,' said Cecil, in his level
voice, but with pleading eyes. He made the gesture of trying to take her
hand, but she took hers away.
'You are very pressing, Cecil, but I think not. You know perfectly
well--I'm sure I make no secret of it--that I'm ten years older than
you. Old enough to be your mother! Am I the sort of person who would
take advantage of the fancy of a gilded youth? And, now I come to think
of it, your proposal's quite insulting. It's treating me like an
adventuress! It's implying that you think I _would_ marry you!
Apologise, and withdraw it at once, or I'll never speak to you again.'
'This is nonsense. To begin with,' said Cecil, 'I may be a little
gilded--not so very--but I'm far from being a youth. I'm thirty-four.'
'Yes, I know! That's just the absurd part,' she answered inconsequently.
'It's not as if you were a mere boy and didn't know better! And you know
how I _hate_ this sort of thing.'
'I know you do, and very likely I wouldn't have worried about marrying
at all if you had been nicer to me--in other ways. You see, you brought
it on yourself!'
'What _do_ you mean? I _am_ nice. Don't you come here whenever you
like--or nearly? Didn't I dine with you once--a year or two ago? I
forget, but I think I did.'
'You never did,' he answered sharply.
'Then it must have been with somebody else. Of course I didn't. I
shouldn't dream of such a thing.'
'Someone else! Yes, of course; that's it. Well, I want you to marry me,
Eugenia, because I want to get you away from everyone else. You see
She laughed. 'Oh, jealousy! That's the last straw. Do you know that
you're a nuisance, Cecil?'
'Because I love you?' he said, trying to look into her sly Japanese
She avoided his glance.
'Because you keep on bothering. Always writing, always telephoning,
always calling! As soon as I've disposed of _one_ invitation or excuse
to meet, you invent another. But this last idea is quite too
exasperating.' She spoke more gently. 'Don't you know, Cecil, that I've
been a widow for years? Would I be so ridiculous as to marry again? Why,
the one thing I can't stand is being interfered with! I prefer, far
prefer, being poor and alone to that. Now what I want you to do is to
marry someone else. I have an idea who I should like it to be, but I
won't talk about it now. It's the most charming girl in the world. I
shan't tell you her name, that would be tactless. It's that lovely Miss
Verney, of course. She's much too good for you--an heiress, a beauty,
and an orphan! But she's wonderful; and she really deserves you.'
He stopped her.
'How heartless you are!' he said admiringly.
'Really not, Cecil. I'm very fond of you. I'd be your best friend if
you'd let me, but I shan't speak to you again or receive you at all
unless you promise not to repeat that nonsense about marrying. I know
how horridly obstinate you are! Please remember it's out of the
At this moment the servant brought in a letter to Mrs Raymond. As she
read it, Cecil thought she changed colour.
'It's only a line from Sir Charles Cannon,' she said.
'What's he writing about?'
'Really, Cecil! What right have you to ask? I certainly shan't say. It's
about his ward, if you must know. And now I think you'd better go, if
you will make these violent scenes.'
He stood up.
'You must let me come soon again,' he said rather dejectedly. 'I'll try
not to come tomorrow. Shall I?'
'Yes, do try--not to come, I mean. And will you do everything I tell
'I suppose it will please you if I dine with Hyacinth Verney this
evening? She asked me yesterday. I said I was half-engaged, but would
let her know.'
'Yes, it _would_ please me very much indeed,' said Mrs Raymond. 'Please
do it, and try to know her better. She's sweet. I don't know her, but--'
'All right. If you'll be nice to me. Will you?'
She was reading the letter again, and did not answer when he said
good-bye and left the room.
The Little Ottleys
'Edith, I want you to look nice tonight, dear; what are you going to
'My Other Dress,' said Edith.
'Is it all right?'
'It ought to be. Would you like to know what I've done to it? I've cut
the point into a square, and taken four yards out of the skirt; the
chiffon off my wedding-dress has been made into kimono sleeves; then I'm
going to wear my wedding-veil as a sort of scarf thrown carelessly over
the shoulders; and I've turned the pointed waist-band round, so that
it's quite _right_ and short-waisted at the back now, and--'
'Oh, don't tell me the horrible details! I think you might take a little
interest in _me_. I thought of wearing a buttonhole. Though you may have
forgotten it now, before I was a dull old married man, I was supposed to
dress rather well, Edith.'
'I know you were.'
'I thought I'd wear a white carnation.'
'I should wear two--one each side. It would be more striking.'
'That's right! Make fun of me! I hope you'll be ready in time. They dine
at eight, you know.'
'Bruce, you're not going to begin to dress yet, are you? It's only just
He pretended not to hear, and said peevishly--
'I suppose they don't expect _us_ to ask _them_? I daresay it's well
known we can't return all the hospitality we receive.'
'I daresay it is.'
'It's awful not having a valet,' said Bruce.
'But it would be more awful if we had,' said Edith. 'Where on earth
could we put him--except in the bathroom?'
'I don't think you'll look you're best tonight,' he answered rather
'Give me a chancel Wait till I've waved my hair!'
He read the paper for a little while, occasionally reading aloud
portions of it that she had already read, then complained that she took
no interest in public events.
'What do you think Archie brought home today,' she said to change the
subject, 'in his Noah's Ark? Two snails!' She laughed.
'Revolting! _I_ don't know where he gets his tastes from. Not from _my_
family, that I'm quite sure.' He yawned ostentatiously.
'I think I shall have a rest,' Bruce said presently. 'I had a very bad
night last night. I scarcely slept at all.'
'Poor boy!' Edith said kindly. She was accustomed to the convention of
Bruce's insomnia, and it would never have occurred to her to appear
surprised when he said he hadn't closed his eyes, though she happened to
know there was no cause for anxiety. If he woke up ten minutes before he
was called, he thought he had been awake all night; if he didn't he saw
symptoms of the sleeping sickness.
She arranged cushions on the sofa and pulled the blinds down. A minute
later he turned on the electric light and began to read again. Then he
turned it out, pulled up the blinds, and called her back.
'I want to speak to you about my friend Raggett,' he said seriously.
'I've asked him to dinner here tomorrow. What shall we have?'
'Oh, Bruce! Let's wait and settle tomorrow.'
'You don't know Raggett, but I think you'll like him. I _think_ you
will. In any case, there's no doubt Raggett's been remarkably decent to
me. In fact, he's a very good sort.'
'Fancy!' said Edith.
'Why do you say fancy?' he asked irritably.
'I don't exactly know. I must say something. I'm sure he's nice if he's
a friend of yours, dear.'
'He's a clever chap in his way. At least, when I say clever, I don't
mean clever in the ordinary sense.'
'Oh, I see,' said Edith.
'He's very amusing,' continued Bruce. 'He said a very funny thing to me
the other day. Very funny indeed. It's no use repeating it, because
unless you knew all the circumstances and the _characters_ of the people
that he told the story of, you wouldn't see the point. Perhaps, after
all, I'd better ask him to dine at the club.'
'Oh no! Let him come here. Don't you think I'm worthy to see Raggett?'
'Oh nonsense, dear, I'm very proud of you,' said Bruce kindly. 'It isn't
exactly that.... Mind you, Raggett's quite a man of the world--and yet
he _isn't_ a man of the world, if you know what I mean.'
'I see,' said Edith again.
'I can't decide whether to ask him here or not,' said Bruce, walking up
and down the room in agitation.
'Well, suppose we leave it till tomorrow. You can make up your mind
then,' she said good-naturedly.
Edith was dressed, when she found Bruce still in the throes of an
agitated toilet. Having lost his collar-stud, he sat down and gave
himself up to cold despair.
'You go without me,' he said in a resigned voice. 'Explain the
reason--no, don't explain it. Say I've got influenza--but then perhaps
they'll think you ought to look after me, and--'
'Here it is!' said Edith.
In the cab he recovered suddenly, and told her she looked awfully
pretty, which cheered her very much. She was feeling rather tired. She
had spent several hours in the nursery that day, pretending to be a baby
giraffe with so much success that Archie had insisted upon countless
encores, until, like all artists who have to repeat the same part too
often, she felt the performance was becoming mechanical.
Hyacinth's Little Dinner
'The little Ottleys,' as they were called (they were a tall,
fine-looking couple), found themselves in a small circle of people who
were all most pleasing to the eye, with the single exception of Miss
Yeo. And even she, in a markedly elegant dress of a peculiarly vicious
shade of green, had her value in the picture. A little shocked by the
harshness of the colour, one's glance turned with relief to Hyacinth, in
satin of a blue so pale that it looked like the reflection of the sky in
water. A broad, pale blue ribbon was wound in and out of her brown hair
in the Romney fashion. Of course she looked her best. Women always do if
they wish to please one man when others are there, and she was in the
slightly exalted frame of mind that her reflection in the mirror had
naturally given her.
The faint atmosphere of chaperonage that always hung about Sir Charles
in Hyacinth's house did not interfere with his personal air of enjoying
an escapade, nor with his looking distinguished to the very verge of
absurdity. As to Cecil, the reaction from his disappointment of the
afternoon had made him look more vivid than usual. He was flushed
He talked rather irresponsibly, and looked at Hyacinth, his neighbour at
dinner, with such obvious appreciation, that her gaiety became
infectious. In the little panelled dining-room which, like all the
house, was neither commonplace nor bizarre, but simple and
distinguished, floated an atmosphere of delightful ease and intimacy.
Sir Charles admired the red roses, which Anne declared she had bought
'Very ingenious,' said Sir Charles.
'I _am_ ingenious and clever,' said Anne. 'I get my cleverness from my
father, and my economy from my mother. My father's a clergyman, but his
wife was a little country girl--a sort of Merry Peasant; like Schumann's
piece, you know. Peasants are always merry.'
'I fancy that's a myth,' said Cecil. 'If not, I've been singularly
unfortunate, for all the peasants _I_ ever ran across seemed most
'Of course, if you ran over them!' said Hyacinth.
'But I didn't exactly run over them; I only asked them the way to
somewhere. They _were_ angry! Now I come to think of it, though, they
weren't peasants at all. It was only one man. He was a shepherd. I got
to know him better afterwards, and he was rather a good chap. Shepherds
don't have a bad time; they just wear ribbons and crooks and dance with
shepherdesses, you know.'
'Oh, then _can_ you tell me why a red sky at night is a shepherd's
delight?' asked Hyacinth. 'Is it because it's a sign of rain, and he
needn't look after the sheep, but can go fast asleep like little
Bo-peep--or was it little Boy Blue--if he likes?'
'For you, I'll try to find out; but I'm ashamed to say I know very
little of natural history--or machinery, or lots of other interesting
things. And, what's far worse, I don't even want to know any more. I
like to think there are some mysteries left in life.'
'I quite agree with you that it would be rather horrid to know exactly
how electricity works, and how trains go, and all that sort of thing. I
like some things just to _happen_. I never broke my dolls to see what
they were made of. I had them taken away the _moment_ any sawdust began
to come out,' said Hyacinth.
'You were perfectly right, Miss Verney. You're an Idealist; at least,
you don't like practical details. But still you take a great interest in
other people psychologically. You want to know, I'm sure, just how a
shepherd really feels, and why he feels it. I don't even care for that,
and I'm not very keen on scenery, or places either, or even things. My
Uncle Ted's so frightfully fond of Things. He's a collector, you know,
and I don't sympathise a bit. In fact, I hate things.'
'You seem rather difficult to please, Mr Reeve. What do you like?'
'People; at least, some people. Don't you?'
'Do you like people who talk nonsense?'
'Yes, and still more people who listen to it charmingly,' he answered.
'I didn't know before tonight that you ever listened to nonsense or
talked it. I always thought you were the person who solves all the Hard
Cases in _Vanity Fair_--under different names.'
'I wonder you didn't think I won all the prizes in the Limericks,' said
'I have my faults, Miss Verney, but I'm not blasphemous. Will you have
She accepted it. He lowered his voice to say--
'How wonderful you're looking tonight!'
'What am I to say to that? I don't think people should make unanswerable
remarks at dinner,' she said, trying to look reproving, but turning pink
'If people will look adorable at dinner--or anywhere--they must take the
consequences,' said Cecil, under cover of a very animated discussion
between Bruce and Miss Yeo on sixpenny cab-fares.
Then for a second he felt a remorseful twinge of disloyalty. But that
was nonsense; wasn't he obeying Mrs Raymond's distinct commands? Nothing
would please her so much....
And to flirt with Hyacinth was not at all a disagreeable task. He
reflected that Eugenia might have asked him to do something a good
Under the combined influence, then, of duty, pique, and a little
champagne, he gave way to the curious fascination that Hyacinth had
always had for him, and she was only too ready to be happy.
He remembered how he had first met her. He had been dragged to the
Burlingtons' dance--he loathed all large parties--and, looking drearily
round, he'd been struck by, and asked to be introduced to, Miss Verney.
She wasn't Eugenia, of course, and could never, he was sure, be part of
his life. He thought that Eugenia appealed to his better nature and to
He felt even a little ashamed of the purely sensuous attraction Hyacinth
possessed for him, while he was secretly very proud of being in love
with Mrs Raymond. Not everyone would appreciate Eugenia! Cecil was still
young enough to wish to be different from other people, while desiring
still more, like all Englishmen, to _appear_ as much as possible like
He did not thoroughly understand Hyacinth; he couldn't quite place her.
She was certainly not the colourless _jeune fille_ idealised by the
French, but she had even less of the hard abruptness of the ordinary
young unmarried Englishwoman. She called herself a bachelor girl, but
hadn't the touch of the Bohemian that phrase usually seems to imply. She
was too plastic, too finished. He admired her social dexterity, her
perfect harmony with the charming background she had so well arranged
for herself. Yet, he thought, for such a young girl, only twenty-two,
she was too complex, too civilised. Mrs Raymond, for instance, seemed
much more downright and careless. He was growing somewhat bewildered
between his analysis of her character and his admiration for her mouth,
an admiration that was rather difficult to keep entirely cool and
theoretical, and that he felt a strong inclination to show in some more
practical manner.... With a sigh he turned to Edith Ottley, his other
As soon as Anne had locked up she removed with the greatest care her
emerald dress, which she grudged wearing a second longer than was
necessary, and put on an extraordinary dressing-gown, of which it was
hardly too much to say that there was probably not another one exactly
like it in Europe. Hyacinth always said it had been made out of an old
curtain from the Rev Mr Yeo's library in the Devonshire Rectory, and
Anne did not deny it.
She then screwed up her hair into a tight knot, put one small piece of
it into a curling pin, which she then pinned far back on her head (as if
afraid that the effect on the forehead would be too becoming), took off
her dainty green shoes, put on an enormous pair of grotesque slippers,
carpet slippers (also a relic), and went into Hyacinth's room. Anne made
it a rule every evening to go in for a few minutes to see Hyacinth and
talk against everyone they had seen during the day. She seemed to regard
it as a sacred duty, almost like saying her prayers. Hyacinth sometimes
professed to find this custom a nuisance, but she would certainly have
missed it. Tonight she was smiling happily to herself, and took no
notice of Anne's entrance.
'I suppose you think it went off well,' said Anne aggressively.
'I thought the dinner was ridiculous. A young girl like you asking two
or three friends needn't have a banquet fit for a Colonial Conference.
Besides, the cook lost her head. She sent up the same dish twice.'
'Did she? How funny! How was that?'
'Of course, _you_ wouldn't know. She and the kitchenmaid were playing
Diabolo till the last minute in the housekeeper's room. However, you
needn't worry; nobody noticed it.'
'That's all right. Didn't Edith look pretty?'
Anne poked the fire spitefully.
'Like the outside of a cheap chocolate-box.'
'Oh, Anne, what nonsense! Bruce seemed irritable, and fatuous. I didn't
envy Edith going back with him.'
'Bruce was jealous of Cecil Reeve, of course. You hardly looked at
'Anne, really tonight there were one or two little things that made me
think he is beginning to like me. I don't say he's perfect; I daresay he
has his faults. But there's something I like about his face. I wonder
what it is.'
'I know what it is, he's very good-looking,' said Anne.
'Do you think he cares for me?'
'No, I don't.'
'I think, perhaps, he will, in time--in a way.'
'Do you think if I were very careful not to show I liked him it would be
'No, there's only one chance for you.'
'What is it?'
'Keep on hammering.'
'_Indeed_ I shan't! I never heard of such a thing. I suppose you think
there's somebody else?' said Hyacinth, sitting up angrily.
'Oh, I daresay he's just finishing off with someone or other, and you
may catch him on the rebound.'
'What horrid things you say!'
'I only say what I think,' said Anne. 'Anyhow, you had a success
tonight, I could see, because poor Charles seemed so depressed. Why do
you have all these electric lights burning when one lamp would
'Oh, go away, Anne, and don't bother,' said Hyacinth, laughing.
On his return home, Cecil suddenly felt a violent reaction in favour of
Mrs Raymond. Certainly he had enjoyed his evening with Hyacinth, but it
was very bitter to him to think what pleasure that enjoyment would have
given to Eugenia.... He began to think he couldn't live without her.
Something must be done. Further efforts must be made. The idea struck
him that he would go and see his uncle, Lord Selsey, about it. He knew
Uncle Ted was really fond of him, and wouldn't like to see his life
ruined (so he put it to himself), and his heart broken, though he also
probably would disapprove from the worldly point of view. Decidedly
unhappy, yet to a certain extent enjoying his misery, Cecil went
The mere thought of confiding in Lord Selsey was at once soothing and
bracing. He was a widower with no children, and Cecil was by way of
being his heir. Since the death of his wife he lived in a kind of
cultured retirement in a large old house standing a little by itself in
Cambridge Gate. He used to declare that this situation combined all the
advantages of London and the country, also that the Park that was good
enough for the Regent was good enough for him. He had a decided cult for
George IV; and there was even more than a hint of Beau Brummel in his
dress. The only ugly thing in the house was a large coloured print of
the pavilion at Brighton.
In many ways Lord Selsey was Cecil's model; and unconsciously, in his
uncle's suave presence, the young man's manner always became more
expressive and his face more inscrutable.
Lord Selsey was remarkably handsome; the even profile, well-shaped head,
and blond colouring were much the same in uncle and nephew, the uncle's
face having, perhaps, a more idealistic cast. The twenty years'
difference in age had only given the elder man a finer, fairer, more
faded look, and the smooth light hair, still thick, was growing grey.
Cecil was not surprised to find his uncle sitting in his smoking-room,
smoking, and not reading the morning paper. He was looking over his
collection of old coins. At a glance he saw by Cecil's excessive
quietness that the boy, as he called him, was perturbed, so he talked
about the coins for some minutes.
Cecil made little attempt to conceal that fact that Things bored him.
'Well, what is it?' said Lord Selsey abruptly.
Cecil couldn't think of anything better by way of introducing the
trouble than the vaguely pessimistic statement that everything was
'You don't gamble, you're not even very hard up.... It's a woman, of
course,' said Lord Selsey, 'and you want to marry, I suppose, or you
wouldn't come to me about it.... Who is she?'
Cecil gave a rough yet iridescent sketch of Mrs Raymond.
'Of course she's older than I am, but it doesn't make the slightest
difference. She's been a widow ever since she was twenty. She's very
hard up, and she doesn't care. She's refused me, but I want to make her
come round.... No, she isn't _pretty_, not very.'
Lord Selsey put his old coins away, and leant back in his chair.
'I should like to see her,' he said thoughtfully.
'I'm sure of one thing, uncle you could never have any vulgar,
commonplace ideas about her--I mean, she's so _peculiarly_
disinterested, and all that sort of thing. You mustn't fancy she's a
dangerous syren, don't you know, or.... For instance, she doesn't care
much for dress; she just sticks up her hair anyhow, and parts it in
'Then it would certainly be difficult to believe anything against her,'
said Lord Selsey.
'Besides, she really wants me to marry someone else.'
'She's always trying to persuade me to propose to Hyacinth Verney ...
you know, that pretty girl, old Cannon's ward.... She is awfully pretty,
of course, I know.'
'I should like to see her,' said Lord Selsey.
Cecil smiled. It was well known that Lord Selsey was a collector. Though
no-one could have less of the pompous, fatuous vanity of the Don Juan,
beauty had always played, and always would play, a very prominent part
in his life. It was, in fact, without exception, his greatest pleasure,
and interest--even passion. The temperament that gave to beauty and
charm a rather inordinate value had, no doubt, descended to his nephew.
But Cecil was, in that as in everything else, much less of a dilettante.
'You actually want me to advise you to persuade Mrs Raymond to marry
you? My dear boy, how can I?'
'How is it you don't say she's quite right not to?' asked Cecil
'From her point of view I think she's quite wrong. As you're both
practically free and you would marry her tomorrow--or this afternoon for
choice--if she cared for you she would probably do it. Where I think
she's wrong is in not caring for you.... Who is it?'
'I don't believe it's anyone. Eugenia's peculiar; she's very
independent, very fantastic. She likes to do whatever comes into her
head. She's very fascinating ... but I shouldn't be at all surprised if
she's absolutely cold; I mean, really never could care for any man
'I _should_ like to see her,' repeated Lord Selsey, his eyes
'It's most awfully good of you, Uncle, the way you take it. I mean to
say, I'm afraid I'm not at all asking your consent, you know, or
anything of that sort, as I ought.'
'You're asking my advice, and it's about the only thing most men of my
age enjoy giving. Well, really, Cecil, and frankly, I think it's a
dismal little story. It would be humbug if I pretended I was sorry about
Mrs Raymond's--a--attitude, and I quite see its absolute genuineness
But, if you'll excuse my saying so, what price the other girl?'
'What price? No price.'
'_She_ likes you,' said Lord Selsey acutely.
'What makes you think that?'
'Because otherwise you wouldn't be so cool about her. You're a little
too frightened of being obvious, Cecil. I was like that, too. But don't
give way to it. Hyacinth Verney--what a charming name! ... What would
old Cannon say?'
'I don't think he seems particularly keen on _me_,' said Cecil frankly.
'That's odd. Then he must be very ambitious for her, or else be in love
with her himself ... probably both.'
'Oh, I say, Uncle Ted! Why, there's Lady Cannon! She's a very handsome,
gigantic woman, and they have a daughter of their own, a girl called
Ella, at school in Paris. She's pretty, too, only a flapper, you know,
with a fair plait and a black bow.'
'I should like to see her; what delightful families you get yourself
mixed up with, Cecil! If I were you I should certainly cultivate the
Verney girl. I know it's no use telling you to do the contrary, as I
should if you weren't in your present frame of mind.'
'I should _very_ much like you to meet Eugenia,' said Cecil.
'Yes. How shall we arrange it? A dinner at the Savoy or something?'
'No. Somehow that isn't the kind of thing she'd like,' said Cecil.
'I thought not. But if I suddenly go and call on her, even with you,
wouldn't it make it too much of a family affair? And I should be so
afraid of having the air of trying to persuade her to give you up. I
don't want to make a fool of myself, you know.'
Cecil seemed a little stung, though he smiled.
'If she knew you, perhaps it would make her more interested in me!'
'Do you think she'd come and hear some music here,' said Lord Selsey,
'if I wrote and asked her?'
'Yes, I think she might. There's no nonsense about her--about etiquette
and things of that sort, I mean.'
'Then that's settled. You tell her about it, and I'll write. On Thursday
afternoon. The two young pianists, George Ranger and Nevil Butt, are
coming, and the little girl, the new Russian singer.'
'A juvenile party?' asked Cecil, laughing.
'No, only two or three people.'
'Two or three hundred, I suppose. Well, I'll get Mrs Raymond to come.
Thanks so much.'
They shook hands with more than cordiality. As Cecil went out his uncle
'You've been most interesting this morning. But the other girl's the
one, you know. Don't neglect her.'
He laughed, for he saw the young man was rather flattered at the notion.
Evidently, Mrs Raymond was worth knowing.
The Peculiarities of Raggett
'Oh, Bruce,' said Edith, as she looked up from a Sale Catalogue, 'I _do_
wish you would be an angel and let me have a little cash to go to Naylor
and Rope's. There are some marvellous bargains--spring novelties--there,
and Archie absolutely _needs_ one or two things.'
Bruce frowned and sat down to breakfast, rather heavily.
'I object,' he said as he took his coffee, 'on principle--purely on
principle--to spring sales. Women buy a lot of things they don't want,
and ruin their husbands under the ridiculous impression they're buying
'I won't ruin you, dear. I want to get Archie a coat--and a hat. I only
want'--she watched his expression--' a sovereign--or two.' She smiled
brightly, and passed him the toast.
His manner softened.
'Well, dear, you know I'm not a rich man, don't you?'
'But I should much prefer that you should get Archie's things at a
first-rate place like Wears and Swells, where we have an account, and
send me the bill. Will you do that?'
'Of course I will, if you like; but it'll cost more.'
She had often marvelled at a comparative lavishness about cheques that
Bruce combined with a curious loathing to parting from any coin,
'Then that's settled. And now I want to speak to you about Raggett.'
He paused, and then said seriously, 'I've absolutely decided and very
nearly made up my mind to have Raggett to dinner tonight at the Savoy.'
'Yes, yes; no doubt this little flat is very comfortable'--he looked
round the room with marked disdain--'and cook, thanks to you, isn't half
_bad_ ... but one can't give _dinners_ here! And after all I've said to
Raggett--oh, one thing and another--I fancy I've given him the
impression of a rather luxurious home. It won't matter if he calls here
in the afternoon some day, but for a man like that, I'd rather--yes--the
Savoy. You look as if you objected. Do you?'
'Not at all. It'll be rather fun. But I'm so glad you can afford it. We
haven't an _account_ there, you know.'
'I propose to make a slight sacrifice for once.... I will engage a table
and telephone to Raggett. Women never understand that to do things well,
once in a way, is sometimes a--a very good thing,' he finished
'All right. I _am_ getting curious to see Raggett!'
'My dear Edith, he's nothing particular to _see_, but he's a man who
might be--very useful.'
'Oh, shall you take a private room?'
'I don't think so. Why? You can wear what you wore last night.... You
looked quite nice in it, and you can take it from me, once for all'--he
got up, looked in the glass, and said--'that _Raggett's all right_. Now,
tell cook we're dining out. She might have a holiday tonight. A change
may do her good; and I shall hope to find the omelette less leathery
Edith did not point out that Bruce, after specially ordering breakfast
punctually at nine, had come down at half-past ten.
'And now I must go.... The dinner was charming last night. It was only
spoilt by that empty-headed fool--what's his name--Reeve, who was
obviously making up to Hyacinth. Anyone can see she only endures his
attentions from politeness, of course. He knows nothing about anything.
I found _that_ out when we were smoking after dinner; and one can't get
a word out of old Cannon.'
Edith was putting Bruce's writing-table in order when she found an open
letter in the blotting-book, glanced at the signature, and saw that it
was from Raggett. So she eagerly read it, hoping to get some further
light on the mysterious man in whose honour Bruce was prepared to offer
so extravagant a festivity.
It was written on a rough sheet of paper, with no address. The
handwriting was small, compressed, and very untidy. It ran.--
'Y'rs to hand. I shall be glad to dine with you, as I have told you
several times, and I would accept your invitation with pleasure if I
knew when and where the dinner was to be. These two points you have
always avoided mentioning.
It struck Edith that it was quite extraordinary, after so many
descriptions from Bruce--some vivid, some sketchy, others subtly
suggestive--how little she could imagine Raggett.
Notwithstanding quantities of words, nothing, somehow, had ever come out
to throw the least glimmer of light either on his character,
personality, or walk of life. Not bad, all right, useful, rather
wonderful, but quite ordinary and nothing particular, were some of the
phrases she recalled. She had never been told anything about his age,
nor his appearance, nor how long Bruce had known him. She had only
gathered that he wasn't athletic like Goldthorpe (Bruce's golf
companion), and that he wasn't in the Foreign Office, and didn't belong
to Bruce's club. Where, how, and when could he be useful?
If she seemed bored when Bruce was enthusiastic about him, he was
offended; but if she seemed interested and asked leading questions, he
became touchy and cautious, almost jealous. Sometimes she had begun to
think that Raggett was a Mrs Harris--that there was no such person.
There, evidently, she had been wrong.
At eight o'clock that evening, on arriving at the Savoy, Edith decided
not to take off her cloak (on the ground of chilliness, but really
because it was smarter and more becoming than her dress). Therefore she
waited in the outer room while Bruce, who seemed greatly excited, and
had given her various contradictory tips about how to behave to their
guest, was taking off his coat. Several other people were waiting there.
She saw herself in the glass--a pretty, fair, typically English-looking
woman, with neatly-chiselled features, well-arranged _blond-cendré_
hair, a tall, slight figure, and a very thin neck. She noticed, among
the other people waiting, a shabby-looking man of about thirty-five, who
looked so intensely uncomfortable that she pitied him. He had a vague,
rough, drab beard, colourless hair, which was very thick in front and
very thin at the back, quite indefinite features, an undecided
expression, and the most extraordinary clothes she had ever seen. The
shirt-front was soft, and was in large bulging pleats. He wore an
abnormal-looking big black tie, and the rest of the costume suggested a
conjurer who had arrived at a children's party in the country and had
forgotten his dress-suit, and borrowed various portions of it from
different people staying in the house, who were either taller or shorter
than himself. The waistcoat ended too soon, and the coat began too late;
the collar reminded one of Gladstone; while the buttonhole of orchids
(placed, rather eccentrically, very low down on the coat) completed the
general effect of political broadmindedness, combined with acute
He looked several times at Edith with a furtive but undisguised
admiration. Then Bruce appeared, held out his hand cordially, and said,
'Ah, Raggett, here you are!'
A Musical Afternoon
Lord Selsey often said he disapproved of the ordinary subdivisions of a
house, and, especially as he lived alone, he did not see why one should
breakfast in a breakfast-room, dine in a dining-room, draw in a
drawing-room, and so on. Nevertheless, he had one special room for
music. There was a little platform at the end of it, and no curtains or
draperies of any kind to obscure or stifle sound. A frieze of Greek
figures playing various instruments ran round the walls, which were
perfectly plain so that nothing should distract the eye from the
pleasures of the ear; but he was careful to avoid that look of a
concert-room given by rows of chairs (suggesting restraint and reserved
guinea seats), and the music-room was furnished with comfortable lounges
and led into a hall containing small Empire sofas, in which not more
than two persons could be seated. Therefore the audience at his
entertainments often enjoyed themselves almost as much as the
performers, which is rare.
This afternoon there was the usual number of very tall women in large
highly-decorated hats, smooth-haired young men in coats that went in at
the waist, a very few serious amateurs with longish hair, whose
appearance did not quite come up to the standard of the _Tailor and
Cutter_, and a small number of wistful professional feminine artists in
no collars and pince-nez--in fact, the average fashionable, artistic
crowd. The two young geniuses, George Ranger and Nevil Butt, had just
given their rather electrifying performance, one playing the
compositions of the other, and then both singing Fauré together, and a
small band of Green Bulgarians were now playing strenuously a symphony
of Richard Strauss, when Cecil and Mrs Raymond appeared together. Lord
Selsey received her as if she had been an old friend. When they shook
hands they felt at once, after one glance at Cecil and then at each
other, that they were more than friends--they were almost accomplices.
By one of those fortunate social accidents that are always occurring in
London, Lord Selsey had met Hyacinth and Anne Yeo at a party the day
before, had been introduced to them, and invited them to hear Ranger and
Butt. Hyacinth, aware she was to meet Mrs Raymond, wore her loveliest
clothes and sweetest expression, though she could not keep out of her
eyes a certain anxiety, especially when she saw that Cecil greeted her
with a slight, cold embarrassment that was very different from his usual
manner. He had not expected to meet Hyacinth, and resolved to avoid the
introduction he knew she desired. But no man is a match for a woman in a
detail of this sort. In the refreshment-room, where Cecil was pressing
coffee on Mrs Raymond, Hyacinth walked in, accompanied by Anne, and
stood not very far from him. He came up to her, as Hyacinth saw, at Mrs
'Can I get you anything, Miss Vemey? Some tea?'
'Thanks, yes. Isn't that Mrs Raymond? I do wish you would introduce me
Mrs Raymond came forward. Cecil murmured their names. They shook hands.
Mrs Raymond looked at her with such impulsive admiration that she
dropped a piece of cake. They spoke a few words about the music, and
Cecil moved aside.
Anne called him back, not wishing to see him spared anything.
'You mustn't,' said Cecil, 'on any account miss the next thing. It is
the wonderful new singer, don't you know--the little girl, Vera
'Oh, very well,' said Hyacinth. 'I'll go,' and she went on with Anne.
But when they had returned to the music-room she said to Anne, 'I left
my handkerchief,' and went back to the refreshment-room.
A screen was by the door. Just before she had passed it she heard Mrs
'What an angel! How can you not be at her feet? Go and talk to her at
once, or I'll never speak to you again!'
'I just shan't!' said Cecil doggedly. 'You make me simply ridiculous. If
you won't be nice to me yourself, you needn't throw me at the head of
Hyacinth turned back and went to the music-room again.
Some time afterwards Cecil joined her, Mrs Raymond having apparently
disappeared. The new tenor was singing an old song. Cecil sat down next
to Hyacinth on a little Empire sofa.
'Let me look at the programme,' he said. And as he took it from her he
pressed her fingers. She snatched her hand angrily away.
'Pray don't do that,' she said in a contemptuous tone. 'Even to obey Mrs
Raymond, you needn't do violence to your feelings!'
'Miss Verney! I beg your pardon! But what _do_ you mean?'
'Surely you understand. And don't trouble to come and see me any more.'
He looked at her. Her suave social dexterity had vanished. Her eyes were
dark with purely human instinctive jealousy. They looked at each other a
moment, then Lord Selsey came up and said--
'I'm afraid my attempt at originality hasn't been quite a success. The
concert's not as harmonious as I hoped. Come and have tea, Miss Verney.'
Hyacinth did not speak a word to Anne on their way home, nor did she
refer to the afternoon, nor answer any remark of Anne's on the subject
till that evening, when Anne came into her room to complain of the
electric light and make fun of Lord Selsey's guests. Then she found
Hyacinth sobbing, and saying--
'I shall get over it. I shall be all right tomorrow. I'm going to cut
him out of my life!'
'He'll soon cut in again,' said Anne.
'Indeed he won't! I'm not going to be played with. Preferring an old
Japanese who doesn't even _like_ him, and then making a fool of me!'
'If she ran after him, and you begged him to stick to her, it would be
the other way,' said Anne.
'What do you mean? Hasn't he any real preference?'
'Yes. He's attached to her, fond of her. She's utterly indifferent about
him, so he's piqued. So he thinks that's being in love.'
'Then why does he try to deceive me and flirt with me at all?'
'He doesn't. You really attract him; you're suited to him physically and
socially, perhaps mentally too. The suitability is so obvious that he
doesn't like it. It's his feeling for you that he fights against, and
especially because he sees you care for him.'
'I was horrid enough to him today! I told him never to call here again.'
'To show your indifference?'
'I made him understand that I wanted no more of his silly flirtation,'
said Hyacinth, still tearful.
'If you _really_ made him think that, everything will be all right.'
'Really, Anne, you're clever. I think I shall take your advice.'
Anne gave a queer laugh.
'I didn't know I'd given any, but I will. Whatever he does now, leave
'I should think so! Then why did you tell me the other day to keep on
'I was quite right the other day.'
'Didn't I look nicer than Mrs Raymond?'
'That's not the point. You talk as if you were rivals on the same
platform. She's on a different plane. But he'll get tired in the end of
her indifference and remember _you_,' added Anne sardonically.
'Then he'll find I've forgotten _him_. Oh, why am I so unhappy?'
'You're too emotional, but you'll be happy through that too. Please
don't make your eyes red. There are other people in the world.
'And yet there's something so fascinating about him. He's so unlike
'Bosh!' said Anne. 'He's exactly like thousands of other young men. But
it just happens you've taken a fancy to him; that's the only thing that
makes him different.'
'I hate him,' said Hyacinth. 'Do you dislike him, Anne?'
'Dislike him?' said Anne, turning out one of the lights. 'No, indeed! I
Anne went to the door.
'Because you're a fool about him,' she said somewhat cryptically.
Hyacinth felt somewhat soothed, and resolved to think no more of Cecil
Reeve. She then turned up the light again, took her writing materials,
and wrote him three long letters, each of which she tore up. She then
wrote once more, saying--
'DEAR MR REEVE,
'I shall be at home today at four. Do come round and see me.'
She put it under her pillow, resolving to send it by a messenger the
first thing in the morning, and went to sleep.
But this letter, like the others, was never sent. By the morning light
she marvelled at having written it, and threw it into the fire.
The Troubles of the Ottleys
'Bruce', said Edith, 'you won't forget we're dining with your people
'It's a great nuisance.'
'It's such an infernally long way.'
'It's only to Kensington.'
'West Kensington. It's off the map. I'm not an explorer--I don't pretend
to be.' He paused a moment, then went on, 'And it's not only the
frightful distance and the expense of getting there, but when I do get
there.... Do you consider that my people treat me with proper