Part 2 out of 4
'With proper _what?_' asked Edith.
'Deference. I admit I like deference. I need it--I require it; and at my
people's--well, frankly, I don't get it.'
'If you need it,' said Edith, 'I hope you will get it. But remember they
are your father and mother.'
'What do you mean by that?'
'Well, I mean they know you very well, of course ... and all that.'
'Do you imply...?'
'Oh, no, Bruce dear,' she answered hastily; 'of course I don't. But
really I think your people are charming'
'To _you_ I know they are,' said he. 'It's all very well for you. They are
awfully fond of _you_. You and my mother can talk about Archie and his
nurse and housekeeping and fashions, and it's very jolly for you, but
where's the fun for a man of the world?'
'Your father--' began Edith.
'My father!' Bruce took a turn round the room. 'I don't mind telling
you, Edith, I don't consider my father a man of the world. Why, good
heavens! when we are alone together, what do you suppose he talks about?
He complains! Finds fault, if you please! Says I don't work--makes out
I'm extravagant! Have _you_ ever found me extravagant?'
'No, indeed. I'm sure you've never been extravagant--to _me_.'
'He's not on my level intellectually in any way. I doubt very much if
he's capable of understanding me at all. Still, I suppose we might as
well go and get it over. My people's dinners are a most awful bore
'How would you like it,' said Edith gently, 'if some day Archie were to
call us my people, and talk about us as you do of yours?'
'Archie!' shouted Bruce. 'Good heavens! Archie!' Bruce held out his arm
with a magnificent gesture. 'If Archie ever treats me with any want of
proper deference, I shall cut him off with a shilling!'
'Do give me the shilling for him now,' said Edith laughing.
The elder Mrs Ottley was a sweet woman, with a resigned smile and a
sense of humour. She had a great admiration for Edith, who was very fond
of her. No-one else was there on this occasion. Bruce always complained
equally, regarding it as a slight if they were asked alone, and a bore
if it was a dinner party. The elder Mr Ottley was considerably older
than his wife, and was a handsome, clean-shaven elderly man with a
hooked nose and a dry manner. The conversation at dinner consisted of
vague attempts on Bruce's part to talk airy generalities, which were
always brought back by his father to personalities more or less
unflattering to Bruce.
Edith and Mrs Ottley, fearing an explosion, which happened rather
frequently when Bruce and his father were together, combined their
united energy to ward it off.
'And what do you intend the boy to be when he grows up?' asked old Mr
Ottley. 'Are you going to make him a useful member of society, or a
Foreign Office clerk?'
'I intend my son,' said Bruce--'(a little port, please. Thanks.)--I
intend my son to be a Man of the World.'
His father gave a slight snort.
'Be very careful,' said Mrs Ottley to Edith, 'not to let the darling
catch cold in his perambulator this weather. Spring is so treacherous!'
'Does he seem to show any particular bent for anything? I suppose
'Well, he's very fond of soldiers,' said Edith.
'Ah!' said Mr Ottley approvingly; 'what we want for empire-building is
conscription. Every fellow ought to be a soldier some time in his life.
It makes men of them '--he glanced round rather contemptuously--'it
teaches them discipline.'
'I don't mean,' said Edith hastily, 'that he wants to _be_ a soldier.
But he likes playing with them. He takes them to bed with him. It is as
much as I can do to keep him from eating them.'
'The angel!' said Mrs Ottley.
'You must be careful about that, Edith,' said Bruce solemnly. 'I
understand red paint is poisonous.'
'It won't hurt him,' said old Mr Ottley, purely from a spirit of
'But he's just as fond of animals,' said Edith quickly, to avert a
storm. 'That Noah's Ark you gave him is his greatest pleasure. He's
always putting the animals in and taking them out again.'
'Oh, the clever darling!' cried Mrs Ottley. 'You'd hardly believe it,
Edith, but Bruce was like that when he was a little boy too. He
'Oh mother, do shut up!' said Bruce shame-facedly.
'Well, he was very clever,' said Mrs Ottley defiantly. 'You'd hardly
think so now perhaps, but the things that child used to say!'
'Don't spoil Archie as his mother spoilt Bruce,' said Mr. Ottley.
'Have you seen the new play at His Majesty's?' asked Bruce.
'No, I haven't. I went to the theatre _last_ year,' said old Mr Ottley.
'_I_ haven't heaps of money to spend on superfluous amusements.'
'Bruce, you're not eating anything,' said Mrs Ottley anxiously. 'Do try
some of these almonds and raisins. They're so good! I always get almonds
and raisins at Harrod's now.'
Edith seemed much interested, and warmly assented to the simple
proposition that they were the best almonds and raisins in the world.
The ladies retired.
'Most trying Mr Ottley's been lately,' said Mrs Ottley. 'Extremely
worrying. Do you suppose I have had a single instant to go and order a
new bonnet? Not a second! Has Bruce been tiresome at all?'
'Oh, no, he doesn't mean to be,' said Edith.
Mrs Ottley pressed her hand. 'Darling I _know_ what it is. What a sweet
dress! You have the most perfect taste. I don't care what people say,
those Empire dresses are most trying. I think you're so right not to
give in to it as so many young women are doing. Fashion indeed! Hiding
your waist under a bushel instead of being humbly thankful that you've
got one! Archie is the sweetest darling. I see very little likeness to
Bruce, or his father. I think he takes after _my_ family, with a great
look of you, dear. Most unfortunately, his father thinks Bruce is a
little selfish ... too fond of pleasure. But he's a great deal at home,
isn't he, dear?'
'Yes, indeed,' said Edith, with a slight sigh. 'I think it's only that
he's always been a little bit spoilt. No wonder, the only son! But he's
a great dear, really.'
His mother shook her head. 'Dear loyal girl! I used to be like that too.
May I give you a slight hint? Never contradict. Never oppose him. Agree
with him, then he'll change his mind; or if he doesn't, say you'll do as
he wishes, and act afterwards in the matter as your own judgement
dictates. He'll never find it out. What's that?'
A door banged, hasty steps were heard. Bruce came into the drawing-room
alone, looking slightly flushed and agitated.
'Where's your father?' asked Mrs Ottley.
'Gone to his study.... We'd better be getting home, Edith.'
Edith and Mrs Ottley exchanged glances. They had not been able to
prevent the explosion after all.
At the National Gallery
It was with considerable difficulty and self-restraint that Cecil
succeeded in waiting till the next day to see Mrs Raymond after his
uncle's party. He was of an age and of a temperament that made his love
affairs seem to him supremely urgent and of more importance than
anything else in his life.
He called on Mrs Raymond at eleven in the morning on the pretext of
having something important to tell her. He found her sitting at her
writing-table in a kind of red kimono. Her hair was brushed straight off
her forehead, her eyes were sly and bright, and she looked more Japanese
Cecil told her what Hyacinth had said to him.
'Now, you see, I _can't_ go on making up to her any more. She doesn't
care a straw about me, and she sees through it, of course. I've done
what you asked me. Won't you be nice to me now?'
'Certainly not! She's quite devoted to you. Telling you not to go and
see her again! I never heard of anything so encouraging in my life. Now,
Cecil,' she spoke seriously, 'that girl is a rare treasure. It's not
only that she's a perfect beauty, but I read her soul yesterday. She has
a beautiful nature, and she's in love with you. You don't appreciate
her. If you take what she said literally, you're much stupider than I
gave you credit for being. I--I simply shan't see you again till you've
made it up. When you know her better you _must_ care for her. Besides, I
insist upon it. If you don't--well, you'll have to turn your attention
somewhere else. For I seriously mean it. I won't see you.'
He looked obstinate.
'It's a fad of yours, Eugenia.'
'It's not a fad of mine. It's an opportunity of yours--one that you're
throwing away in the most foolish way, that you might regret all your
life. At any rate, _I'm_ not going to be the cause of giving that poor
darling another moment's annoyance or uneasiness. The idea of the
angelic creature being worried about me! Why, it's preposterous! I'm
sure she heard what I said to you when she came in behind the screen. I
can't bear it, and I won't have it. Now go and see her, and you're not
to come back till you have. I mean it.'
'I don't suppose for a moment--'
'Rubbish! A woman knows. She went home and cried; I know she did, and
she's counting the minutes till you see her again. Now, I've lots to do,
and you're frightfully in the way. Good-bye.' She held out her hand.
'You send me away definitely?'
'Definitely, Your liking for me is pure perverseness.'
'It's pure adoration,' said Cecil.
'I don't think so. It's imagination. However, whatever it is I don't
'Good-bye, then,' said Cecil.
He went to the door.
'You can let me know when you've seen her.'
'I don't suppose she'll see me.'
'Yes, she will now. It's the psychological moment.'
'You shan't be bothered with me any more, anyhow,' said Cecil in a low
'Good. And do what I tell you.'
He shut the shabby door of the little house with a loud bang, and went
out with a great longing to do something vaguely desperate.
Lunch produced a different mood. He said to himself that he wouldn't
think of Mrs Raymond any more, and went to call on Hyacinth.
The servant told him she was out.
He was just turning away when Anne Yeo came out. She glanced at him with
'Hyacinth's gone to the National Gallery,' she volunteered. 'Did you
want to see her? You will find her there.'
Cecil walked a few steps with her.
'I'm going to the greengrocer's,' continued Anne, 'to complain.' She
held a little book in her hand, and he noticed that she wore a golf cap,
thick boots, and a mackintosh, although it was a beautiful day.
'I always dress like this,' she said, 'when I'm going to complain of
prices. Isn't it a glorious day? The sort of day when everyone feels
happy and hopeful.'
'I don't feel either,' said Cecil candidly.
'No, you don't look it. Why not go and see some pictures?'
He smiled. They parted at the corner.
Then Cecil, without leaving any message for Hyacinth, jumped into a
hansom, giving the man the address of his club in Pall Mall. On the way
he changed his mind, and drove to the National Gallery. As he went up
the steps his spirits rose. He thought he recognised Miss Verney's motor
waiting outside. There was something of an adventure in following her
here. He would pretend it was an accident, and not let her know yet that
he had called.
He wandered through the rooms, which were very empty, and came upon
Hyacinth seated on a red velvet seat opposite a Botticelli.
She looked more dejected than he could have thought possible, her type
being specially formed to express the joy of life. It was impossible to
help feeling a thrill of flattered vanity when he saw the sudden change
in her expression and her deep blush when she recognised him.
'I didn't know you ever came here,' she said, as they shook hands.
'It's a curious coincidence I should meet you when, for once in my life,
I come to study the Primitives,' said Cecil.
He then seated himself beside her.
'Don't you think all that '--he waved his hand towards the pictures--'is
rather a superstition?'
'Perhaps; but it's glorious, I think. These are the only pictures that
give me perfect satisfaction. All others, however good they are, have
the effect of making me restless,' said Hyacinth.
'I haven't had a moment's rest,' said Cecil, 'since I saw you yesterday
afternoon. Why were you so unkind?'
'Was it unkind?' she asked. Her face was illuminated.
They spent an hour together; had horrible tea in the dismal
refreshment-room, and having agreed that it seemed a shame to spend a
lovely day within these walls, he said--
'I don't think I've ever met you out of doors--in the open air, I mean.'
'It would be nice,' said Hyacinth.
He proposed that they should do something unconventional and delightful,
and meet the next day in Kensington Gardens, which he assured her was
just as good as the country just now. She agreed, and they made an
'How is Mrs Raymond?' she then asked abruptly.
'I don't know. Mrs Raymond--she's charming, and a great friend of mine,
of course; but we've quarrelled. At least I'm not going to see
'Poor Mrs Raymond!' exclaimed Hyacinth. 'Or perhaps I ought to be sorry
'No, not if you let me sec you sometimes.' He looked at her radiant face
and felt the soothing, rather intoxicating, effect of her admiration
after Eugenia's coldness.... He took her hand and held it for a minute,
and then they parted with the prospect of meeting the next day.
Hyacinth went home too happy even to speak to Anne about it. She was
filled with hope. He _must_ care for her.
And Cecil felt as if he were a strange, newly-invented kind of criminal.
Either, he said to himself, he was playing with the feelings of this
dear, beautiful creature, or he was drifting into a _mariage de
convenance_, a vulgar and mercenary speculation, while all the time he
was madly devoted to someone else. He felt guilty, anxious, and furious
with Eugenia. But she had really meant what she said that morning; she
wouldn't see him again. But the thought of seeing Hyacinth under the
trees the next morning--a secret appointment, too!--was certainly
With a sudden sensation of being utterly sick of himself and his
feelings, tired of both Hyacinth and Eugenia, and bored to death at the
idea of all women, Cecil went to see Lord Selsey.
More of the Little Ottleys
'Fancy!' said Edith.
'Somehow I never should have thought it,' said Edith thoughtfully.
'Never should have thought what? You have a way of assuming I know the
end of your story before I've heard the beginning. It's an annoying
method,' said Bruce.
'I shouldn't have been so surprised if they had been anywhere else. But
just _there_,' continued Edith.
'Who? and where?'
'Perhaps I'd better not tell you,' Edith said.
They had just finished dinner, and she got up as if to ring the bell for
He stopped her.
'No! Don't ring; I don't wish Bennett to be present at a painful scene.'
Edith looked at him. 'I didn't know there was going to be a painful
scene. What's the matter?'
'Naturally, I'm distressed and hurt at your conduct.'
'Don't echo my words, Edith.'
She saw he looked really distressed.
'Naturally,' he continued, 'I'm hurt at your keeping things from me.
Your own husband! I may have my faults--'
'But I've not deserved this from you.'
'Oh dear, Bruce, I was only thinking. I'm sorry if I was irritating. I
will tell you.'
'When Nurse and Archie were out in the Gardens this morning, who do you
think they met?'
'This is not a game. I'm not going to guess. You seem to take me for a
'Well, you won't tell anybody, will you?'
'That depends. I'm not going to make any promises beforehand. I shall
act on my own judgement.'
'Oh, you might promise. Well, I'll trust you.'
'Thanks! I should think so!'
'They met Hyacinth, walking with Cecil Reeve alone in a quiet part of
the Gardens. They weren't walking.'
'Then why did you say they were?' asked Bruce severely.
'It's the same thing. They were sitting down.'
'How _can_ it be the same thing?'
'Oh, don't worry, Bruce! They were sitting down under a tree and Nurse
saw them holding hands.'
Bruce looked horrified.
'Holding hands,' continued Edith; 'and I can't help thinking they must
be engaged. Isn't it extraordinary Hyacinth hasn't told me? What do
Bruce got up from the table, lighted a cigarette, and walked round the
'I don't know. I must consider. I must think it over.' He paused a
minute. 'I am pained. Pained and surprised. A girl like Hyacinth, a
friend of yours, behaving like a housemaid out with a soldier in the
'It wasn't the street, Bruce.'
'It's the same idea.'
'Quite a quiet part of the Gardens.'
'That makes their conduct worse. I scarcely think, after what you have
told me, that I can allow you to go out with Hyacinth tomorrow.'
'How can you be so absurd? I must go; I want to hear about it.'
'Have I ever made any objection till now at your great intimacy with
Hyacinth Verney? Of course not. Because I was deceived in her.'
'Don't repeat my words, Edith. I won't have it! Certainly I was
deceived. I thought she was a fitting companion for you--I
'Oh, Bruce, really! Where's the harm? Perhaps they're engaged; and if
they are I think it is charming. Cecil is such a nice, amusing,
good-looking boy, and--'
'I formed my opinion of Reeve some time ago.'
'You only met him once.'
'Once is more than enough for me to form a judgement of anyone. He is
absolutely unworthy of her. But her conduct I regard as infinitely
worse. I always imagined she was respectably brought up--a lady!'
'Good gracious! Anyone can see that! She's the most charming girl in the
'_Outwardly_, no doubt, she seems all right. But now you see what she
He paused to relight his cigarette, which had gone out, and continued:
'Such behaviour would be dreadful enough in private, but in public! Do
you think of the example?'
'The example to Archie, do you mean?'
'Don't laugh, Edith. This is no matter for laughing. Certainly to
Archie--to anyone. Now I've only one thing to say.'
'Do say it.'
'That I never wish to hear Hyacinth Verney's name mentioned again. You
are never to speak of her to me. Do you hear?'
'It is such a disillusion. I'm so shocked, so horrified, finding her a
snake in the grass.'
'Oh, I'm sure she didn't look a bit like a snake, Bruce. She wore that
lovely grey dress and a hat with roses.'
'How do you know? Did _Archie_ tell you? No; you lowered yourself to
question Nurse. A nice opinion Nurse must have of your friends now! No;
_that's_ over. I won't blame _you_, dear, but I must never hear anything
more about Hyacinth.'
Edith sat down and took up a book.
'Why is there no coffee?' asked Bruce rather loudly.
'Oh, you said I wasn't to ring.'
While the parlourmaid was bringing in the coffee, Bruce said in a high,
'Have you seen that interesting article in the evening paper, dear,
about the Solicitor-General?'
'Which do you mean? "Silk and Stuff"?'
'Yes. Read it--read it and improve your mind. Far better for a woman to
occupy her mind with general subjects, and make herself intellectually a
companion for her husband--are you listening?--than to be always
gossiping and thinking about people and their paltry private affairs. Do
He took his coffee and then said--
'In what direction did you say they were going?'
'Oh, I thought you didn't want me to speak of her again. They were going
in the opposite direction.'
'Opposite to what? Now that's the curious difference between a woman's
intellect and a man's. You can't be logical! What do you mean by
'Why, Bruce, I mean just opposite. The other way.'
'Do you mean they walked off separately?'
'Oh, no! They were going away together, and looking so happy. But
really, Bruce, I'm sorry I bothered you, telling you about it. I had no
idea you would feel it so much.'
'What do you mean? Feel it? Of course, I'm terribly distressed to find
that a wife of mine is intimate with such people--where are you going?'
'I was going to write to Hyacinth and tell her I can't go out with her
'Why can't you go out with her?'
'You said I was never to see her again.'
'Yes; but don't be in a hurry. Never be impulsive.' He waited a minute;
she stood by the door. 'On the whole, since you wish it so much, I will
permit you to go out with her this once--for the last time, of
course--so that you can find out if she really is engaged to be married
to that young ass. What a mercenary scoundrel he must be!'
'I don't think that. Anyone would admire her, and he is very well off
'Well off! Do you consider that to his credit. So should I be well off
if I had relations that died and left me a lot of money. Don't defend
him, Edith; his conduct is simply disgraceful. What right has he to
expect to marry a beautiful girl in Hyacinth's position? Good gracious,
does he want everything?'
'I suppose--he likes her.'
'That's not particularly clever of him. So would any man. What I object
to so much about that empty-headed cad, is that he's never satisfied. He
wants the earth, it seems to me!'
'Really, Bruce, one would think you were quite--'
'Well, quite jealous of him, to hear you talk. If one didn't know
that--of course you can't be,' she added quickly.
'This incident is now closed,' said Bruce. 'We will never discuss the
'Very well, dear.'
She then went into the little drawing-room and looked longingly at the
telephone. She feared there would be no chance of communicating with her
friend that evening.
Five minutes later Bruce came in and said--
'And what can old Cannon be about to allow his ward to be tearing about
all over London with a man of Reeve's antecedents?'
'What's the matter with his antecedents? I didn't know he had any.'
'Don't interrupt. And Miss Yeo? Where was Miss Yeo, I should like to
'I can't _think_.'
'A nice way she does her duty as chaperone!'
'Dear, Hyacinth's twenty-three, not a child. Miss Yeo's her companion;
but she can't insist, even if she wants to, on following Hyacinth about
if she doesn't wish it.'
'She should wish it. Seriously, do you think Sir Charles knows of these
goings-on--I mean of this conduct?'
'I shouldn't think he knew the details.'
'Then isn't it my duty as a married man and father of a family--'
Edith concealed a smile by moving the screen.
'To communicate with him on the subject?'
Edith had a moment's terror. It struck her that if she opposed him,
Bruce was capable of doing it. He often wrote letters beginning, 'Sir, I
feel it my duty,' to people on subjects that were no earthly concern of
his. If he really did anything of this sort, Hyacinth would never
After a second's concentration of mind, she said mildly--
'Perhaps you had better, if you really feel it your duty. Of course, I'd
rather you didn't, personally. But if that's how you feel about it--'
Bruce wheeled round at once.
'Indeed! Well, I shall not do anything of the sort. Is it my business to
open her guardian's eyes? Why should I? No; I won't interfere in the
matter at all. Let them go their own way. Do you hear, Edith? Let them
do just whatever they like.'
'Yes; I was going to.'
'Mind you, they'll be wretched,' he added rather vindictively. 'If I
only saw a chance of happiness for them I shouldn't mind so much.'
'Why do you think they will be miserable if they are married?'
'Of course they will. People who behave in that unprincipled way
'Why, we used to sit in the garden,' said Edith timidly.
'Oh, yes, of course; after your father had given his consent.'
'And once or twice before.'
Bruce smiled rather fatuously. 'Don't compare the two cases. I was a man
of the world.... I was very firm, wasn't I Edith? Somehow at first your
father didn't seem to like me, but I reasoned with him. I always reason
calmly with people. And then he came round. Do you remember how pleased
you were that day?' He patted Edith's hair.
'Then why be so severe?'
'Perhaps I am a little bit too severe,' he acknowledged. 'But you don't
quite understand how it jars on me to think of any friend of yours
behaving in a manner that's--are you sure they're engaged?'
'No; I don't know anything about it.'
'Well, of course, if they don't marry after what Archie has seen, it
will be a public scandal, that's all I can say. On the other hand, of
course, it would be far better not.'
'What do you propose?' said Edith.
'I don't quite know; I'll think it over. Look here, Edith, if you don't
mind, I think I'll go for a little stroll. The flat seems so hot and
Edith glanced at the telephone.
'Oh, don't go,' she said.
He went into the hall and put on his coat. 'I must go, dear. I feel the
need of air. I shan't be long.'
'You will only go for a little walk, won't you?'
'I might go to the club for half an hour. I shall see. Good night,
He came back to say, in a rather mysterious voice--
'What were Nurse's exact words?'
'Oh, she said, "Miss Verney seemed to be carrying on anyhow with a young
gentleman in Kensington Gardens," and then she said it was Mr Reeve,
He went out and banged the door.
Edith went to the telephone.
Lady Cannon's Visit
Lady Cannon got up one morning earlier than usual and tried on a dress
of last season, which she found was a little too tight. For this,
naturally, she blamed her maid with some severity. She then dressed
rather hurriedly and went all over the house, touching little ornaments
with the tip of her finger, saying that the pictures in the drawing-room
were crooked, and that nothing had been properly dusted. Having sent for
the housemaid and scolded her, and given the second footman notice, she
felt better, but was still sufficiently in what is expressively called a
bad temper to feel an inclination to do disagreeable duties, so she made
up her mind to call and see her husband's ward, and tell her something
she would not like to hear. For Hyacinth she always felt a curious
mixture of chronic anger, family pride, and admiring disapproval, which
combination she had never yet discovered to be a common form of
Lady Cannon arrived about three o'clock, pompously dressed in tight
purple velvet and furs. She thought she saw two heads appear at the
studio window and then vanish, but was told that Miss Verney was out.
Prompted by a determination not to be baffled, she said she would get
out and write a note, and was shown to the drawing-room.
Anne, in a peculiarly hideous and unnecessary apron of black alpaca,
came in, bringing a little writing-case.
'Oh! Miss Yeo, as you're there, I needn't write the letter. You can give
Hyacinth a message for me.'
'Certainly, Lady Cannon.'
'How is it that she is out at this extraordinary hour?'
'Is there anything extraordinary about the hour?' asked Anne, looking at
the clock. 'It's three; somehow I always regard three as a particularly
'I differ from you, Miss Yeo.'
'Anyhow, it happens every day,' murmured Anne.
'Was Hyacinth out to lunch?' said Lady Cannon.
'No--no. She lunched at home.'
'Do you think she'll be long?'
'Oh, no; I shouldn't think she would be many minutes.'
'Then I think I'll wait.'
'_Do_,' said Anne cordially.
'I wanted to speak to her. Considering she's my husband's ward, I see
very, very little of Hyacinth, Miss Yeo.'
'Yes, she was saying the other day that you hardly ever called now,'
Anne said conciliatingly.
'Has she been quite well lately?'
'Oh, do you know, she's been so well,' said Anne, in a high, affected
voice, which she knew was intensely irritating. 'So very, very well!'
Anne then stood up.
'Would you like a cup of tea, or coffee, while you're waiting?'
'_Tea_? At three o'clock in the afternoon! I never heard of such a
thing. You seem to have strangely Bohemian ideas in this house,
'Do you think tea Bohemian? Well, coffee then?'
Lady Cannon hesitated, but wishing for an excuse to wait, she said--
'Thank you, if it isn't giving any trouble; perhaps I'll take a cup of
coffee. I didn't have any after lunch.'
'Oh, yes, do. I'll go and order it at once.'
Anne walked with slow, languid dignity to the door, and when she had
shut it, flew like a hunted hare to the studio, where Cecil Reeve and
Hyacinth were sitting together.
'Hyacinth,' she said sharply, 'run upstairs at once, put on your hat, go
to the hall door and bang it, and come into the drawing-room. Lady
Cannon's going to stop the whole afternoon. She's in an
'She won't wait long,' exclaimed Hyacinth, 'surely?'
'Won't she? She's ordered coffee. She'll be smoking a cigarette before
you know where you are.'
'Oh, I'll go,' said Cecil. 'Let me go.'
'Of course you must go,' said Anne. 'You can come back in an hour.'
'But, good heavens, Anne,' said Hyacinth, 'why on earth should we make a
secret of Mr Reeve being here?'
'Why, because I said you were out.'
'Well, I'll go and explain,' said Hyacinth.
'Indeed you won't. You're not to go and give me away. Besides, I won't
be baffled by that old cat. She's suspicious already. Out you go!'
Cecil took his hat and stick, and went out of the front door.
Anne ran upstairs, brought down Hyacinth's hat, veil, and gloves, and
pushed her towards the drawing-room.
'Don't you see?--she'll think you've just come in,' said Anne.
'What about the coachman and footman?'
'Oh, good heavens, do you think they're going to call on her and tell
her all about it?'
Just as Hyacinth, laughing, was going into the drawing-room, Anne
clutched her, and said--
'I don't know that you'd better be at home after all! Charles will be
calling directly. Oh, I forgot, he won't come in when he sees the
Anne relaxed her clasp and went to order coffee.
Lady Cannon was looking angrily in the glass when Hyacinth came in.
'Oh, here you are, my dear. I'm glad I didn't miss you. I wanted to
speak to you about something.'
Lady Cannon coughed, and said rather portentously, 'You must not be
offended with me, dear. You know, in a sense I'm, as it were, in the
place of your mother--or, at any rate, your stepmother.'
'Of course you're perfectly free to do exactly as you like, but I heard
in a roundabout way something that rather surprised me about you.'
'What is it?'
'We were dining with some friends last night' (it was characteristic of
Lady Cannon not to mention their names), 'where we happened to meet that
young couple, the Ottleys. You know Mrs Ottley very well, I believe?'
'Edith is my greatest friend,' said Hyacinth.
'Quite so; she seems a very nice young woman. Very devoted to her
husband. And I think him a most superior man! He sat next to me at
dinner, and I had quite a long talk with him. We spoke of you. He told
me something that surprised me so much. He said that you had been seen
very frequently lately about alone with a young man. Is this a fact?'
'What did he say about it?'
'Well, he seemed to regret it--he seemed to think it was a pity. Living
alone as you do, it certainly is not the right thing for you to be seen
anywhere without Miss Yeo.'
Hyacinth became crimson. 'On what grounds did Mr Ottley find fault with
anything I do?'
'Merely general grounds, my dear. A very proper dislike to the flighty
behaviour of the girls of the present day. As he tells me, he feels it
as a father--'
'Father! He has only a little boy of two. I think it's very impertinent
of him to talk of me like that at all.'
'On the contrary, I thought it exceedingly nice of him. He sincerely
wishes you well, Hyacinth. Oh, _how_ well that young man wishes you!
Make no mistake about it. By the way, I promised him not to mention his
name in the matter. So of course you won't repeat it. But I was really
rather upset at what he said. I haven't said anything to Sir Charles
yet, as I thought you might give me some explanation.'
'I have no explanation to give. I suppose you know who it is I was
'I gathered that it was a Mr Reeve. Now, Hyacinth dear, you know how
much I wish you well; if you're engaged, I think your guardian and I
ought to know it, and in any case you should be more discreet in your
Hyacinth's eyes flashed.
'Are you engaged?' asked Lady Cannon.
'I must decline to answer. I recognise no right that you or anyone else
has to ask me such a question.'
Lady Cannon rose indignantly, leaving her coffee untouched.
'Very well, Hyacinth; if this is the way you take my kind advice and
well-meant interest, there's nothing more to be said. Of course, I shall
tell Sir Charles what I've heard. From what I can gather from that
excellent young man Mr Ottley, Mr Reeve is by no means a person that Sir
Charles and I would be glad to welcome with open arms, as one of
'Cecil Reeve is a friend of mine. There's nothing in the world to be
said against him, and you must really allow me the privilege of choosing
my own friends.'
'Good-bye then,' said Lady Cannon, going to the door. 'I'm pained,
grieved, and shocked at your attitude. I can only presume, however, that
you are not engaged to be married, for surely your first thought would
have been to ask your guardian's consent; and once more let me tell you,
in being reckless as you have, you're simply ruining your future.'
With this Lady Cannon swept from the room.
She returned, however, and said, 'I regard all this as not your own
fault, Hyacinth, but the fault of _that Miss Yeo_. From the first I saw
she had an evil influence, and I've been proved, as, perhaps
unfortunately, I always am, to be perfectly right.'
'The worst of it was,' Hyacinth said, when relating the conversation to
Anne a little later,' that I _can't_ tell Auntie that I'm engaged. Isn't
'You soon will be,' said Anne consolingly.
'Do you really think so?'
'Yes, and I'm glad Lady Cannon was scored off, anyhow.'
'Edith told me about her having mentioned to Bruce about our meeting the
nurse and baby. She was very sorry, but I thought it didn't matter a
bit. Why do you think Bruce tried to make mischief in this horrid way?'
'Only because he's a fool. Like so many of us, he's in love with you,'
Hyacinth laughed, thinking Anne was in fun.
Raggett in Love
'If you please, ma'am a gentleman called and left some flowers.'
'Who was it?' said Edith.
'He wouldn't give his name. There's a note for you.'
Edith went into the drawing-room, where she found a large bundle of
lilies, violets, and daffodils, and the following letter, written in a
cramped, untidy handwriting:--
'DEAR MRS OTTLEY,
'I went for a bicycle ride yesterday and plucked these flowers for you,
hoping you wouldn't mind accepting them. If you have a moment's time to
give me, I wonder if you would let me call and see you one day?
'F. J. RAGGETT
'P.S.--I'm extremely busy, but am free at any time. Perhaps tomorrow
might suit you? Or if you're engaged tomorrow, perhaps today? I would
ask you to ring me up and kindly let me know, but I'm not on the
Edith was amused, but also a little bored. Ever since the dinner at the
Savoy, now a fortnight ago, Raggett had been showing furtive signs of a
wild admiration for her, at the same time hedging absurdly by asking her
to tell him when he might call and giving no address, and by (for
instance) pretending he had plucked the flowers himself, evidently not
knowing that they had been sent with her address written on a card
printed with the name of Cooper's Stores in the Edgware Road.
She never knew how Bruce would take things, so she had not said anything
about it to him yet. He seemed to have forgotten the existence of
Raggett, and never mentioned him now.
She arranged the flowers in some blue and white china vases, and sat
down by the window in the little drawing-room. She had before her, until
Bruce would come home to dinner, two of those empty hours which all
young married women in her position have known. There was nothing to do.
Archie was still out, and she was tired of reading, and disliked
She had just come back from seeing Hyacinth. How full and interesting
_her_ life seemed! At any rate, _she_ had everything before her. Edith
felt as if she herself were locked up in a box. Even her endless
patience with Bruce was beginning to pall a little.
As she was thinking these things she heard a ring, and the maid came in
'It's the gentleman that left the flowers, and could you see him for a
Raggett came in. He looked just as extraordinary as he had at the Savoy
and as difficult to place. His manner could not be said to express
anything, for he had no manner, but his voice was the voice of a shy
undergraduate, while his clothes, Edith thought, suggested a combination
of a bushranger and a conjuror. His tie, evidently new, was a marvel, a
sort of true-lover's knot of red patterned with green, strange beyond
description. He seemed terrified.
'How very kind of you to come and see me,' she said in her sweetest
voice, 'and these lovely flowers! They quite brighten one up.'
'I'm glad you think they're all right,' said Raggett in a low voice.
'They're beautiful. Fancy your plucking them all yourself! Where did you
find these lovely lilies growing? I always fancied they were
'Oh, I was bicycling,' Raggett said. 'I just saw them, you know. I
thought you might like them. How is Ottley?'
'Bruce is very well. Haven't you seen him lately?'
'Not very. I've been working so fearfully hard,' he said; 'at the
British Museum chiefly. One doesn't run up against Bruce there much.'
'No. I suppose he hardly ever goes.'
There was a pause.
'Won't you have some tea?' asked Edith.
'No, thank you. I never take it.'
And there was another silence.
Just as Edith was rather at a loss, and was beginning a sentence with--
'Have you been--' he at the same time said--
'Do you know--?'
'I beg your pardon,' said Edith.
'Oh, I beg yours.'
'Do say what you were going to say.'
'Oh, please finish your sentence.'
'I wasn't going to say anything.'
'Nor was I.'
'I was going to ask you if you'd been to the Savoy again lately?'
'No; I've only been there once in my life. It was a great event for me,
He spoke with more confidence, but in a still lower voice.
'Yes. I met my ideal there.'
He fixed on her an ardent but respectful glare.
'I'm afraid,' continued Raggett, 'that I'm not amusing you much. I
suppose you're very fond of wit and gaiety? I wasn't brought up in a
very humorous atmosphere. I don't think I ever heard a joke till quite
'My father,' he went on, 'used sometimes to say at night. "Now it's time
for Bedfordshire," but I wasn't amused at that after ten years old. My
family are really very serious as a whole. I should never dream of
asking them even a riddle, because I'm sure they would give it up
'Did you say you heard one joke recently? What was it?' asked Edith.
Raggett blushed and looked down.
'I'm very sorry, but I'm afraid I can't tell you, Mrs Ottley. Not that I
forget it, but it isn't suited to your--well, to your atmosphere'--he
looked round the room.
'Oh! Can't you _arrange_ it?'
'Impossible,' he said firmly. 'Quite impossible.'
'Oh well, of course--'
'Impossible,' he repeated, shaking his head.
'Do you go much to the theatre?' she asked conversationally.
'Never. It would interfere with my work.'
'What is your work, exactly?' she asked, with polite interest.
'It's difficult to explain, Mrs Ottley. It takes a great many forms.'
'Just at this moment I'm a Legitimist--you understand, don't you? We
drink to Queen Mary over the water--and put violets on the statue of
King Charles the Martyr in February, and so forth.'
'Ah. That must be very hard work.'
'Oh, it isn't only that--I'm a kind of Secretary, you see, to the
'Really? Really? What fun it must be; I mean how interesting. Can I
'Oh, dear yes, of course, Mrs Ottley. If you liked.'
'What should I have to do?'
'Well, first of all you would have to pay a shilling.'
'And then you would be eligible for a year's probation.'
'And what should we do after that?'
'Well, after that, you see, we shall have to bide our time.'
'That doesn't sound very hard,' said Edith thoughtfully. 'Just to pay a
shilling and bide your time.'
'I'll send you some papers about it, if you really take any interest.'
'Thanks. Thanks, very much. Yes, do send them.'
'Do you really think you would care to become a member, Mrs Ottley?'
'Oh, yes; yes, I should think so. I always hated Oliver Cromwell.'
He looked doubtful.
'Yes, of course--but that alone, I'm afraid, would hardly be ... you see
there might be a revolution at any moment.'
'I see. But--excuse my asking you, what has that to do with the British
'I can hardly tell you off-hand like this, Mrs Ottley; but if you let me
come again one day--'
'Oh, certainly, do--do come again.'
'Then I'll say good-bye for today,' said Raggett, with an admiring look.
'I--I hope I haven't trespassed on your valuable--'
'Oh, no; not in the least.'
'I've enjoyed our talk so much,' said Raggett, lingering.
'So have I, Mr Raggett. It has been most interesting.'
'I--I felt,' said Raggett, now standing up and looking very shy, 'I
somehow felt at once that there was a kind of--may I say, sympathy?'
'Yes? Well, give my kind regards to Ottley, and thank you so much.'
They shook hands, she rang the bell, and he rushed out as if he was in a
violent hurry, leaving Edith rather bewildered.
At dinner that evening Edith said--
'Fancy, Bruce, Raggett called today!'
Bruce dropped his spoon in the soup and looked up.
'_Raggett_? He--do you mean to say he came here?'
'Yes. He paid a visit. Why shouldn't he?'
'I don't know, but it seems a very odd thing. He never pays visits. What
did he seem to think of the flat?'
'He didn't say. He talked about his work.'
'What did you think of him?' asked Bruce.
'He seemed very vague. He's very good-natured; fancy his sending me all
'He sent you flowers?' said Bruce slowly. '_Raggett_!'
'Surely you don't mind?'
Bruce waited a minute and said, 'We'll talk it over after dinner.'
There was an uneasy pause; then Edith said--
'I saw Hyacinth today. She had just had a visit from Lady Cannon.'
Bruce looked rather guilty and uncomfortable.
'I like Lady Cannon,' he said presently. 'She's a woman of sound sense.
She has a very strong feeling of responsibility about Hyacinth.'
'Yes.' Edith and Hyacinth had arranged not to say any more, as it would
'A very discreet woman, too,' continued Bruce. 'And what news about
'None, I think. She seems very happy.'
'Happy! _That_ can't last.'
After dinner Bruce followed Edith into the drawing-room, looked angrily
at the flowers and said--
'Now what's the meaning of all this? Mind, I'm not jealous. It isn't my
nature to be. What I dislike is being made a fool of. If I thought that
Raggett, after all I've done for him--'
'Oh, Bruce! How can you be so absurd? A poor harmless creature--'
'Harmless creature, indeed! I think it extremely marked, calling on you
when I was out.'
'He didn't know you were out. It's the usual time to pay a visit, and he
really came just to ask me to belong to the Society.'
'I don't call Raggett a society man.'
'He's a secret-society man,' said Edith. 'He wants me to be a
'Now I won't have any nonsense of that sort here,' said Bruce, striking
the table with his fist. 'Goodness knows where it will end. That sort of
thing takes women away from the natural home duties, and I disapprove of
it strongly. Why, he'll soon be asking you to be a Suffragette! I think
I shall write to Raggett.'
'Oh, would you, really?'
'I shall write to him,' repeated Bruce, 'and tell him that I won't have
these constant visits and marked attentions. I shall say you complained
to me. Yes, that's the dignified way, and I shall request him to keep
his secret societies to himself, and not to try to interfere with the
peace and harmony of a happy English home.'
He drew some writing-paper towards him.
'I'm sure he didn't mean the slightest harm. He thought it was the
proper thing, after dining with us.'
'But it isn't like the man, Edith! It isn't Raggett! He's no slave to
convention; don't think it. I can't help fancying that there must have
been some ulterior motive. It seems to me sinister--that's the
'Would you think it sinister if he never came, again?'
'Well, perhaps not, but in allowing this to pass--isn't it the thin end
of the wedge?'
'Give him a chance and see,' she said. 'Don't be in a hurry. After all,
he's your great friend. You're always talking to me about him; and
what's he done?--sent a few flowers and called here once. I'm sure he
thought you would like it.'
'But don't you see, Edith, the attention should have been paid to me,
not to you.'
'He could hardly send you flowers, Bruce. I'm sure he thought it was the
Bruce walked up and down the room greatly agitated.
'I admit that this is a matter that requires consideration. I shouldn't
like to make a mountain out of a mole-hill. We'll see; we'll give him a
chance. But if he comes here again, or takes any step to persuade you to
have anything to do with his Society or whatever it is, I shall know
how to act.'
'Of course you will, dear.'
Edith hoped she wouldn't receive a large envelope full of papers about
the Legitimists by the first post.
'I hope you know, Bruce, _I_ shouldn't care if I never saw him again.'
'Why not? Because he's my friend, I suppose? You look down on him just
because he's a hard worker, and of some use in the world--not a
dandified, conventional, wasp-waisted idiot like Cecil Reeve! Perhaps
you prefer Cecil Reeve?'
'Much,' replied Edith firmly.
'Why? Let's hear your reasons.'
'Why, he's a real person. I know where I am when I'm talking to
him--we're on the same platform.'
'Yes. When I talk to Mr Raggett I feel as if he had arrived at Victoria,
and I had gone to meet him at Charing Cross. Do you see? We don't get
near enough to understand each other.'
'Quite near enough,' replied Bruce suspiciously. Then he said, 'I feel
the want of air. If you don't mind, dear, I think I shall go for
He went to the hall and put on his coat.
'Just a stroll; or I may look in at the club. You don't understand; a
man feels rather cramped in these surroundings, Edith.'
'I quite understand your feeling.'
'I shan't be long,' said Bruce. 'Try and make up your mind to give up
Raggett's society altogether. You don't mind making this sacrifice for
me, do you?'
'Not in the least,' she answered. 'I prefer it.'
He went out.
It was Sunday afternoon, and Bruce, lunch still pervading his
consciousness, found himself reading over and over again and taking a
kind of stupefied interest in the 'Answers to Correspondents' in a
certain Sunday paper, and marvelling at the mine of extraordinary
miscellaneous information possessed by the person who answered them.
'To _Miserable Alfred_ (Baldness).--If you comply with the rules, will
send private advice.
'_Knutford_ (For knee trouble).--My advice is against.' (Bruce vaguely
thought this rather harsh. If Knutford liked knee trouble, why shouldn't
he have it?)
'_Alter Ego_ (Tomato culture).--There's no need to soak the seeds for
days. The man who sows in wet soil and then treads down flat foredooms
himself to complete failure. This is, however, nothing to go by. If seed
be purchased let it be from a trustworthy firm. Personally, I think in
the case of outdoor tomatoes the middle course is best.
'_Worried_ (Photography).--To avoid curling. The chief trouble with reel
films is their tendency to curl. In any case the film should be allowed
to soak for five minutes, and I need not dwell upon other methods of
treating the latter kind. All my remarks on plate development, etc.,
apply equally to cut films, as I should almost have thought 'Worried'
would have gathered by now.
'_True Blue_ (Egg-preserving).--We quite understand your desire to make
more headway than you can in a south-coast watering-place....'
At this moment Edith came in. Bruce looked up a little annoyed at the
interruption. He was becoming quite absorbed in the egg-preserving case
on the south coast, and morbidly anxious to know what would happen next.
'Bruce, I wonder if you'd do me a very great favour? It really isn't
difficult. I've allowed nurse to go out and Bennett is busy, and I
wanted to fly over just for a minute or two to see Hyacinth. She
telephoned to me. I shouldn't be gone more than twenty minutes.'
'Of course, go. Do go. I don't want you. I'm very busy.'
He took up the paper again.
'It isn't that; but _would_ you very much mind looking after Archie
while I'm gone? He'll be perfectly good. I'll give him his box of toys,
and he'll sit in the corner over there and you'll never notice he's
there till I'm back again.'
'Of course, of course. Surely I'm capable of looking after my own son.
'Yes, Bruce dear. And if he asks for anything just nod and smile and
don't give it to him, and he'll be all right.'
'Oh, don't worry.'
As she was going out he called out--
'And I say, Edith, just give him a hint that I've got some rather
important work to do, and he mustn't interrupt me by asking foolish
'Yes, oh yes. I'm so glad to think you're so sensible, and not
ridiculously nervous of having to look after the child.'
'Nervous? What rot! I never heard such nonsense. I say, Edith, what's
the doctor's address? In case he has a fit, or anything.'
'Oh, Bruce! As if he would _dream_ of having a fit! I shan't give you
the address. You'd be telephoning to him on the chance. Good gracious,
don't make such a fuss! I shall only be gone a few minutes.'
'I'm not making a fuss. It's you. Fancy thinking it necessary to tell me
not to give him what he asks for! As if I should.'
He returned to his paper, and Edith brought in the little boy.
He gave his father a keen glance from under his smooth, fair fringe and
sat down in front of the box of toys.
As soon as Edith had gone he held out a card to his father, and said--
'E for efalunt.'
Bruce frowned, nodded, waved his hand, and went on reading.
He had lost the thread of the Egg Question, but became equally absorbed
in the following problem.
'_Disheartened_.--You must make a quiet but determined stand against
such imposition. It does not follow because you walked out with a young
man two or three times, and he now walks out with your friend
instead, that ...'
'X for swordfish,' said Archie, holding out another card.
'Don't talk, Archie.'
'I've got my best suit on,' said Archie.
'What I was photographed in.'
'Don't talk, old chap. I want to read.'
'This is my bear. It's the same bear.'
'The same bear as what?'
'Why, the same bear! This is a soldier.'
He put the wooden soldier in his mouth, then put it carefully back in
'This is my bear,' said Archie again. 'Just the same bear. That's all.'
Bruce threw away the paper.
'You want to have a talk, eh?' he said.
'This is my best suit,' said Archie. 'Have you any sugar in your
'Sugar in my pockets? Who put that into your head?'
'Nobody didn't put it in my head. Don't you put any in your pocket?'
'No. Sugar, indeed! I'm not a parrot.'
Archie roared with laughter.
'You're not a parrot!' he said, laughing loudly. 'Wouldn't it be fun if
you was a parrot. I wish you was a parrot.'
'Don't be foolish, Archie.'
'Do parrots keep sugar in their pockets?'
'Don't be silly.'
'Have parrots got pockets?'
'Play with your soldiers, dear.'
'Do parrots have pockets?'
'Don't be a nuisance.'
'Why did you say parrots had sugar in their pockets, then?'
'I never said anything of the kind.'
'What do parrots have pockets for?'
'Do you think your mother will be long?'
'Will mother know about parrots and pockets?'
'You're talking nonsense, Archie. Now be good. Your mother said you
would be good.'
'Is it naughty to talk about parrots--with pockets?'
'Then you're very naughty. You talk about them.'
'Will you stop talking about them if I get you some sugar?' said Bruce,
feeling frightfully ashamed of himself, but fearing for his reason if
Archie said any more on the subject.
'I'm a good boy. I'll stop talking about parrots if you get me some
He put his hand in his father's with a most winning smile.
'I'll show you where it is. It's in the kitchen. It's in the nursery,
too, but it's nicer sugar in the kitchen.'
'I oughtn't to give it you. Your mother will be angry.'
'Do parrots have pockets?'
Bruce jumped up and went with the child, and told the cook to give him
six lumps of sugar.
She seemed surprised, amused, and doubtful.
'Do as I tell you at once,' Bruce said sternly.
They came back, and Archie was silent and happy until Edith returned.
When she saw traces of sugar on his face and dress she said--
'Oh, Archie! What on earth did your father give you sugar for?'
'For talking about parrots,' said Archie.
'Edith,' said Bruce, 'come in here. I want to speak to you. Shut the
She shut it, and stood waiting.
'Don't stand there. Come and sit down.... Now listen to me very
seriously. I want to ask you a question.'
'How would you like me to be making about £5,000 a year--at least?'
'Need you ask?'
'And all by my own talent--not by anybody else's help.'
'It would be jolly,' she said, trying not to look doubtful.
'Jolly! I should think it would. Now I'll tell you my scheme--what I've
made up my mind to do.'
'I'm going to write a play.'
Edith controlled her expression, and said it was a very good idea.
'_Such_ a play,' said Bruce. 'A really strong, powerful piece--all wit
and cynicism like Bernard Shaw--_but_, full of heart and feeling and
sentiment, and that sort of rot. It'll have all sorts of jolly fantastic
ideas--like _Peter Pan_ and _The Beloved Vagabond_, but without the
faults of Locke and Barrie--and it's going to be absolutely realistic
and natural in parts--like the Sicilians, you know. However, I don't
mind telling you that my model--you must have a model, more or less--is
going to be Bernard Shaw. I like his style.'
'It's the most lovely idea I ever heard of. What theatre are you going
to produce it at?'
'That depends. For some things I should prefer His Majesty's, but I'm
rather fond of the Haymarket, too. However, if the terms were better, I
might give it to Charlie Hawtrey, or even Alexander, if he offered me
exceptionally good royalties.'
'Oh! Are you going to have it put up to auction?'
'Don't talk nonsense. What do you mean? No, I shall simply send a copy
round to all the principal people and see what they say.'
He walked up and down the room once or twice.
'The reason I'm so determined not to let Bourchier have it is simply
this: he doesn't realise my idea--he never could. Mind you, I believe he
would do his best, but his Personality is against him. Do you
'I see your point. But--'
'There's no reason why it shouldn't be quite as great a success as _The
'Oh, is it going to be a comic opera?'
'Why, of course not. Don't I tell you it's to be a powerful play of real
'Will you tell me the plot?'
He smiled rather fatuously. 'I'll tell you some of the plot, certainly,
if you like--at least, I'll tell you how it's going to begin.'
'Do go on!'--
'Well, I must tell you it begins in a rather unconventional
way--entirely different from most plays; but that'll make it all the
more striking, and I _won't_ alter it--mind that--not for anybody. Well,
the curtain goes up, and you find two servants--do you see?--talking
over their master and mistress. The maid--her name's Parker--is dusting
the photographs and things, and she says to the manservant something
about "The mistress does seem in a tantrum, doesn't she, Parker?" So
'But are they both called Parker?' asked Edith.
'Yes--no--of course not. I forgot; it's the man that's called Parker.
But that isn't the point. Well, they talk, and gradually let out a
little of the plot. Then two friends of the hero come in, and--oh, I
can't bother to tell you any more now; but isn't it rather a good idea,
eh? So new!'
'Capital! Splendid! Such a lovely original idea. I do wish you'd be
quick and do it, Bruce.'
'I am being quick; but you mustn't be in too great a hurry; you must
give me time.'
'Will it be ready in time for the season--I mean after Easter?'
'What! in a fortnight? How could they be ready to produce it in a
fortnight, especially with the Easter holidays between? It won't be
long, that I can promise you. I'm a quick worker.'
He waited a minute, and then said--
'You mustn't be depressed, Edith dear, if I get a little slating from
some of the critics, you know. You can't expect them all to appreciate a
new writer at once. And it really won't make any difference to the
success if my play pleases the public, which I don't mind telling you I
know it's sure to do; because, you see, it'll have all the good points
and none of the bad ones of all the successful plays of the last six
years. That's my dodge. That's how I do it.'
'Won't it be a joke when the governor and the mater are there on the
first night? They'll be frightfully pleased. You must try and prevent
the mater swaggering about it too much, you know. She's such a dear,
she's sure to be absurdly proud of it. And it'll be a bit of a score off
the governor in a way, too. He never would have thought I could do it,
would he? And Raggett will be surprised, too. You must have a ripping
new dress for the first night, Edith, old girl.'
'I think I shall have Liberty satin, dear--that new shade of blue--it
wears better than Nattier. But I won't order it just yet. You haven't
written the first scene, have you?'
'The first scene? No! Plays aren't done like that. The chief thing about
a play like this is to get a scenario.'
'Oh! Isn't that where the people sit?'
'Don't be ridiculous! You're thinking of the auditorium. I mean the
skeleton of the play. That's what I shall send round to the managers.
They can see what it's going to be like at once.'
'How many acts will it be?'
'And have you settled on the name?'
'Yes, as a matter of fact I have settled on a name; but don't you go
giving it away. It's rather an original name. It would do if I developed
the comedy interest just the same and just as well as if I made the
chief point the tragic part. It's going to be called _You Never Know_.
Good name, isn't it?'
'It's a splendid name. But isn't it a tiny bit like something else?'
'How unsympathetic you are! The fact is you don't understand. That's
what it is.'
'Oh, I do sympathise immensely, Bruce, and I'm sure you'll have a great
success. What fun it will be! Are you going to work at it this
'Why, no! not _this_ afternoon. I'm rather tired out with thinking. I
think I shall go and look in at the club.'
'He's coming this afternoon, Anne,' Hyacinth said. 'See that I'm really
alone today--I mean that I'm out to everyone.'
'You think, then, that he really will propose today?'
'Don't be so horribly explicit. Don't you think his having to go the
other day--because of Lady Cannon--would lead to a sort of crisis? I
mean, either he wouldn't come here again, or else--'
'I suppose it would,' said Anne. 'At least, it would if he had some
glimmering of his own intentions. But he's in such a very
'Well, don't let's worry about his intentions. At any rate, he's coming
to see me. The question is, what shall I wear?'
'It doesn't matter in the least. You attach a ridiculous amount of
importance to dress.'
'Perhaps; but I must wear something. So what shall it be?'
'Well, if you want to look prepared for a proposal--so as to give him a
sort of hint--you'd better wear your pale mauve dress. It's becoming,
and it looks festive and spring-like.'
'Oh, Anne! Why, it's ever so much too smart! It would be quite
ridiculous. Just like you, advising pale mauve _crÍpe de Chine_ and
Irish lace for a quiet visit in the afternoon from a friend!'
'Oh! all right. Then wear your blue tailor-made dress--and the little
boots with the cloth tops.'
'Oh, good heavens, Anne! I'm not going for a bicycle ride. Because I'm
not got up for a garden-party, it doesn't follow I must be dressed for
mountain-climbing. Cecil hates sensible-looking clothes.'
'Then I should think anything you've got would do. Or do you want to get
a new dress?'
'Of course I want to get a new dress, but not for this afternoon. It
wouldn't be possible. Besides, I don't think it's a good plan to wear
something different every time you see a person. It looks so
'Wear your black and white, then.'
'No, it isn't _intime_ enough, and the material's too rough--it's a hard
'Oh! Funny, I had the impression you had more clothes than you knew what
to do with, and you don't seem to have anything fit to wear.'
'Why, of course, I shall wear my blue voile. How on earth could I wear
anything else? How silly you are, Anne!'
'Well, if you knew that all the time, why did you ask me?'
'Are there plenty of flowers in the studio?'
'Yes; but I'll get some more if you like.'
'No, no; don't have too many. It looks too _arranged_.'
She looked at the clock.
'It won't be five just yet,' said Anne. 'It's only eleven.'
'Yes; that's the awful part. What on earth shall I do till then?'
'Whatever I suggested you would do the reverse.'
'Shall I go for a long drive in the motor?'
'That's a good idea.'
'But it's a very windy day, and I might get neuralgia--not feel up to
'So you might. I think, perhaps, the best thing for you would be to have
your hair waved.'
'How can I sit still to have my hair waved? Besides, it makes it look
too stiff--like a hairdresser's dummy.'
'Ah! there is that. Then why not do something useful--go and be
'I'm afraid I shouldn't have the patience today.'
'I suppose what you'd really like,' said Anne, 'would be to see Edith
'No, I shouldn't. Not till tomorrow. I don't want to see anybody,' said
'Well, all right. I'm going out.'
'Oh, but I can't bear to be alone.'
'Then I scarcely see ...'
'This afternoon especially, Anne. You must stay with me till about a
quarter of an hour before I expect him. The horrible agony of waiting is
so frightful! It makes me feel so ill. But I don't want you to stay
beyond the time I expect him, in case he's late. Because then I suffer
so much that I couldn't bear you to see it.'
'I see. How jolly it must be to be in love! You _do_ seem to have a good
'When one has the slightest hope, Anne, it's simply too awful. Of
course, if one hasn't, one bears it.'
'And if one has no encouragement, I suppose one gets over it?'
'I have a presentiment that everything will be all right today,' said
Hyacinth. 'Is that a bad sign?'
'There are no good signs, in your present state,' answered Anne.
It was about half-past four, and Hyacinth in the blue dress, was sitting
in the studio, where she could see both the window and the clock. Anne,
by the fire, was watching her.
'You seem very fairly calm, Hyacinth.'
'I am calm,' she said. 'I am; quite calm. Except that my heart is
beating so fast that I can hardly breathe, that I have horrible kinds of
shivers and a peculiar feeling in my throat, I'm quite all right. Now,
just fancy if I had to pretend I wasn't in suspense! If I had no-one to
confide in!... Do you think he's mistaken the day? Do you think he
thinks it's Thursday instead of Tuesday?'
'That's not likely.'
'I'm glad I feel so cool and calm. How ashamed I should be if he ever
knew that I was so agitated!'
'Who knows, perhaps he's feeling as uncomfortable as you are?'
'Oh, no, no! There's no hope of that.... Will he telephone and put it
off, do you think, at the last minute?'
'I shouldn't think so.'
'Are there any little pink cakes?'
'Heaps. Far more than will ever be eaten.'
'Now, don't talk to me, Anne. I'm going to read for a quarter of an
She took up a novel and read two pages, then looked up at the clock and
'It's five. Is that clock fast?'
'No; listen, the church clock's striking. Good-bye.'
Anne went, and Hyacinth kissed her hand to her and arranged her hair in
the mirror. She then sat down and resolved to be perfectly quiet.
Ten minutes slowly ticked away, then Hyacinth went to the window, saying
to herself that it was an unlucky thing to do. She did not remain there
long, then walked round and round the room. Several cabs passed, each of
which she thought was going to stop. Then she sat down again, looking
cool and smiling, carelessly holding a book.... Each time the cab
passed. It was half-past five, rather late under the circumstances. She
was angry. She resolved to be very cold to him when he first came in,
or--no, she wouldn't be cold, she would pretend she didn't know he was
late--hadn't noticed it; or she would chaff him about it, and say she
would never wait again. She took the letter from her pocket and read it
again. It said:--
'DEAR MISS VERNEY, 'May I come and see you at five o'clock tomorrow
Its very brevity had shown it was something urgent, but perhaps he would
come to break off their friendship; since the awkwardness of Lady
Cannon's visit, he must have been thinking that things couldn't go on
like this. Then she began to recapitulate details, arguing to herself
with all the cold, hard logic of passion.
At Lord Selsey's afternoon she had given herself away by her anger, by
the jealousy she showed, and had told him never to come and see her
again. Immediately after that had been their meeting at the National
Gallery, where Cecil had followed her and sought her out. Then they had
those two delightful walks in Kensington Gardens, in which he had really
seemed to 'like' her so much. Then the pleasant intimate little lunch,
after which Lady Cannon had called.... In the course of these meetings
he had told her that he and Mrs Raymond had quarrelled, that she would
never see him again. She had felt that he was drifting to her.... How
strangely unlike love affairs in books hers had been! In all respectable
novels it was the man who fell in love first. No-one knew by experience
better than Hyacinth how easily that might happen, how very often it
did. But she, who was proud, reserved, and a little shy with all her
expansiveness, had simply fallen hopelessly in love with him at first
sight. It was at that party at the Burlingtons. She realised now that
she had practically thought of nothing else since. Probably she was
spoilt, for she had not foreseen any difficulty; she had had always far
more admirers than she cared for, and her difficulties had usually been
in trying to get rid of them. He seemed to like her, but that was all.
Mrs Raymond was, of course, the reason, but Mrs Raymond was over. She
looked up at the clock again.
Ten minutes to six. Perhaps he had made it up with Mrs Raymond?... For
the next ten minutes she suffered extraordinary mental tortures, then
her anger consoled her a little. He had treated her too rudely! It was
amazing--extraordinary! He was not worth caring for. At any rate, it
showed he didn't care for her.... If it was some unavoidable accident,
couldn't he have telephoned or telegraphed?... No; it was one of those
serious things that one can only write about. He was with Mrs Raymond,
she felt sure of that. But Mrs Raymond didn't like him.... Perhaps,
after all, he had only been detained in some extraordinary way, she
might hear directly....
She went up to her room, and was slightly consoled for the moment to
find the clock there five minutes slower than the one in the
drawing-room. She again arranged her hair and went into the hall, where
she found two or three cards of people who had called, and been told she
was out--an irritating detail--for nothing! Then she went back to
Even to be in the place where she had been waiting for him was
something, it gave her a little illusion that he would be here again....
Could he really be an hour and a quarter late? It was just possible.
She heard a ring. Every sign of anxiety disappeared from her face. She
was beaming, and got back into the old attitude, holding the book. She
could hear her heart beating while there was some parley in the hall.
Unable to bear it any more, she opened the door. It was someone with