Part 4 out of 4
themselves and buy fancy dresses just to make one in a crowd and not be
noticed--not even recognised. Says the large fancy ball for the coming
of age of the hero in his ancestral halls would have consisted of one
mandarin, one Queen of the Night, and a chap in a powdered wig. He
thinks it wouldn't have been worth it.'
'Well, I am sorry! Still, couldn't you say your part just the same in an
'What! _"Ah, Miss Vavasour, how charming you look--a true Queen of
Night!"_ Why, do you remember the lines, Edith? Don't you recollect how
they refer to our costumes? How could I say them if we weren't in
'Still, if the whole plot hinges on your scene--'
'Well! all I know is, out it goes--and out I go. The second act will be
an utter frost now. They're making a terrible mistake, mind you. But
that's Mitchell's business, not mine. It's no kind of deprivation to
_me_--you know that. What possible gratification can it be for a man
like me--a man of the world--to paint my face and put on a ridiculous
dress and make a general ass of myself, just to help Mitchell's rotten
performance to go off all right!'
'I don't know. I daresay it would have amused you. I'm sorry, anyhow.'
'I'm sorry enough, too--sorry for them. But if you really want to know
the root of the matter, I shrewdly suspect it's really jealousy! Yes,
jealousy! It's very odd, when people get keen on this sort of thing, how
vain they begin to get! Perfectly childish! Yes, he didn't want me to
make a hit. Old Mitchell didn't want to be cut out! Natural enough, in a
way, when one comes to think it over; but a bit thick when one remembers
the hours I've worked for that man--isn't it?'
'What did you say to him, Bruce, when he first told you?'
'Say? Oh, nothing. I took it very coolly--as a man of the world. I
merely said, "Well, upon my word, Mitchell, this is pretty rough," or
something of that sort. I didn't show I was hurt or offended in any way.
I said, of course, it was like his beastly ingratitude--or words to
'Oh! Was he angry?'
'Yes. He was very angry--furious.'
'Then you've had a quarrel with Mitchell?'
'Not a quarrel, Edith, because I wouldn't quarrel. I merely rubbed in
his ingratitude, and he didn't like it. He said, "Well, let's hope if
you're no longer wasting your valuable life on my theatricals you'll now
be able to arrive at the office in fairly decent time," or something
nasty like that. Disgusting--wasn't it?'
Edith looked at the clock.
'Too bad,' she said. 'Well, you must tell me all about it--a long
account of the whole thing--this afternoon. I won't go out. I'll be at
home when you come--to hear all about it. And now--'
'But that wasn't nearly all,' continued Bruce, without moving; 'you'd
hardly believe it, but Mitchell actually said that he didn't think I had
the smallest talent for the stage! He said I made much too much of my
part--over-acted--exaggerated! When I made a point of keeping my
rendering of the little scene _particularly_ restrained! The fact is,
Mitchell's a conceited ass. He knows no more of acting than that chair,
and he thinks he knows everything.'
'It's fortunate you hadn't ordered your costume.'
'Yes, indeed. As I told him, the whole thing might have cost me a
tremendous lot--far more than I could afford--put me to tremendous
expense; and all for nothing! But he said no doubt the costumier would
take it back. Take it back, indeed! And that if he wouldn't I could send
the costume to him--Mitchell--_and_ the bill--it would be sure to come
in useful some time or other--the costume, I mean. As though I'd dream
of letting him pay for it! I told him at once there could be no question
of such a thing.'
'Well, there won't, as you haven't ordered it.'
'Now, Edith, let me beg you not to argue. Isn't it bad enough that I'm
slighted by my so-called friends, and treated with the basest
ingratitude, without being argued with and nagged at in my own home?'
'I didn't know I was arguing. I beg your pardon. You mustn't worry about
this, dear. After all, I suppose if they found at the rehearsals that
they didn't really _need_ a mandarin--I mean, that the fancy-ball scene
wasn't necessary--perhaps from their point of view they were right to
cut it out. Don't have a lasting feud with Mitchell--isn't he rather an
important friend for you--at the office?'
'Edith, Mitchell shall never set foot under my roof--never darken these
'I wonder why, when people are angry, they talk about their roofs and
doors? If you were pleased with Mitchell again, you wouldn't _ask_ him
to set foot under your roof--nor to darken the door. You'd ask him to
come and see us. Anyhow, he won't feel it so very much--because he'll
not notice it. He's never been here yet.'
'I know; but Mrs Mitchell was going to call. You will be out to her now,
'I can safely promise, I think, never to receive her, Bruce.'
'Good heavens!' cried Bruce, looking at the clock. 'Do you know what the
time is? I told you so! I knew it! You've made me late at the office!'
Mitchell Behaves Decently
For the last few days Bruce had been greatly depressed, his temper more
variable than ever, and he had managed to collect a quite extraordinary
number of entirely new imaginary illnesses. He was very capricious about
them and never carried one completely through, but abandoned it almost
as soon as he had proved to Edith that he really had the symptoms. Until
she was convinced he never gave it up; but the moment she appeared
suitably anxious about one disease he adopted another. She had no doubt
that he would continue to ring the changes on varieties of ill-health
until he had to some extent recovered from the black ingratitude, as he
considered it, of Mitchell, in (what he called) hounding him out of the
amateur theatricals, and not letting him play the part of one line at
which he had slaved night and day.
One evening he came home in quite a different mood, bright and cheerful.
He played with Archie, and looked in the glass a good deal; both of
which signs Edith recognised as hopeful.
'How is your temperature tonight, do you think?' she asked tentatively.
'Oh, I don't know. I can't worry about that. A rather gratifying thing
has happened today, in fact, very gratifying.' He smiled.
'Really? You must tell me about it.'
'However badly a chap behaves--still, when he's really sorry--I mean to
say when he climbs down and begs your pardon, positively crawls at your
feet, you can't hold out, Edith!'
'Of course not. Then did Mitchell--'
'And when you have known a fellow a good many years, and he has always
been fairly decent to you except in the one instance--and when he is in
a real difficulty--Oh, hang it! One is glad to do what one can.'
'Do I gather that there has been a touching scene between you and
Mitchell at the office?'
He glanced at her suspiciously. 'May I ask if you are laughing?'
'Oh, no, no! I was smiling with pleasure, hoping you had made it up.'
'Well, yes, it may be weak of me, but I couldn't see the poor fellow's
scheme absolutely ruined without lending a helping hand. I have got my
share of proper pride, as you know, Edith, but, after all, one has
'What did he do?'
'Do!' exclaimed Bruce triumphantly. 'Do! Only apologised--only begged
me to act with them again--only said that the piece was nothing without
me, that's all! So I forgave him, and he was jolly grateful, I can
'Fancy! Is it the same part?'
'Of course not. Didn't I tell you that the fancy ball in the second act
has been cut out, so of course they don't want a mandarin. No; but Frank
Luscombe has given up his part--chucked it, and they have asked me
to take it.'
'Is it as long as the other one?'
'Longer! I appear twice. Mind you, in a way it's not such an important
part as the other would have been; but the play wouldn't hold together
without it, and, as Mitchell said, Frank Luscombe is such a conceited
chap he thought himself too grand to play a footman. He didn't have the
proper artistic feeling for the whole effect; it appears that he was
grumbling all the time and at last gave it up. Then it occurred to
Mitchell that perhaps I would help him out, and I said I would. It is a
bit of a triumph, isn't it, Edith?'
'A great triumph. Then you will be going back to the rehearsals again?'
'Of course I shall; they begin tomorrow. Mitchell thinks that I shall
make the hit of the evening. Some of these comparatively unimportant
parts, when they are really well played, are more effective than the
chief characters. Mitchell says he saw before, by the rehearsals, what a
tremendous lot of talent I had. But it isn't merely talent, as he said;
what they all noticed was my Personal Magnetism--and I expect that's it.
Fancy a man like Mitchell coming cringing to me, after all that has
passed between us! Mind you, it's a distinct score, Edith!'
'It is, indeed. If you have not got your part with you, you won't want
to work at it tonight. I wonder, as you seem better, whether you would
feel up to listening while I tell you something about the accounts?'
'There you are! How like a woman! The very moment I am a bit cheered up
and hopeful and feeling a little stronger, you begin worrying me again.'
'Dear Bruce, I wasn't going to worry you. I don't want you to do
anything--anything at all but listen, and it really will take hardly any
time at all. You remember you said you weren't strong enough to go
through them, and suggested I should show them to your mother? Well, I
went today, and I only want to tell you what happened.'
'Awfully good of you. What did she say?'
'She didn't say much, and she thought she could arrange it, but not
without speaking to your father.'
'Oh, I say, really? Well, that's all right then. The girl who plays Miss
Vavasour is quite as good as any professional actress, you know; in
fact, she would have made a fortune on the stage. She's a Miss
Flummerfelt. Her father was German by birth. If she weren't a little bit
inclined to be fat, she would be wonderfully handsome. I shall have a
little scene with her in the third act, at least, not really a scene
exactly, but I have to announce her. I open the door and say, "Miss
Vavasour!" and then she rushes up to Lady Jenkins, who is sitting on the
sofa, and tells her the bracelet has been found, and I shut the door.
But there's a great deal, you know, in the tone in which I announce her.
I have to do it in an apparently supercilious but really admiring tone,
to show that all the servants think Miss Vavasour had taken the
bracelet, but that _I_ am certain it isn't true. Frank Luscombe, it
seems, used to say the words without any expression at all, just "Miss
Vavasour!" like that, in an unmeaning sort of way.'
'I see. Your father was at home at the time, so your mother most kindly
said she would go in to him at once, and try to get it settled, just to
spare you the suspense of waiting for a letter about it. Isn't it sweet
and considerate of her?'
'Awfully. In the second act, Lady Jenkins says to me, "Parker, has an
emerald snake bracelet with a ruby head been found in any of the rooms?"
and I have to say, "I will inquire, my lady." And then I move about the
room, putting things in order. She says, "That will do, Parker; you
'You seem to make yourself rather a nuisance, then; but do listen,
Bruce. I waited, feeling most frightfully uncomfortable, and I am afraid
there was a fearful row--I felt so sorry for your mother, but you know
the way she has of going straight to the point. She really wasn't long,
though it _seemed_ long. She came back and said--'
'Of course there's one thing Mitchell asked me to do, but I was obliged
to refuse. I can't shave off my moustache.'
'Heavens! You aren't going to play the part of a powdered footman with a
'Yes, I shall; Mitchell doesn't know it yet, but I mean to. I can carry
it off. I can carry off anything.'
'Well, your mother came back and said that your father had given an
'Is that all he's given?'
'He will put the thing straight on one condition--it seems it is quite
an easy condition; he's going to write and tell it you. Your mother says
you must agree at once, not argue, and then everything will be
'Oh, I am glad. It's all through you, Edith. Thanks, awfully. It's
really very good of you. You should have seen how pleased Mitchell was
when I said I'd do this for him. Simply delighted. Oh, and Mrs Mitchell
is going to call on you. I'll find out which day.'
'I suppose I am to be at home to her now? You told me before not to
receive her, you know.'
'Well, no; if you could manage it without being rude, I would rather she
only left a card. The Mansions look all right from outside, and they are
in a decent neighbourhood and all that, but the flat is so _very_ small.
I hardly like her to see it.'
'Really, Bruce, you are absurd. Does Mitchell suppose that you live in a
'Not a _palace_, exactly; but I expect I have given him an impression
that it is--well--all right.'
'Well, so it is. If you think the flat unworthy to be seen by Mrs
Mitchell, why be on visiting terms with her at all? I don't want to be.'
'But, Edith, you can't refuse the advances of a woman like that, the
wife of such a friend of mine as Mitchell. He's a most valuable
friend--a splendid fellow--a thoroughly good sort. You've no idea how
upset he was about our little quarrel the other day. He said he couldn't
sleep at night thinking about it; and his wife, too, was fretting
dreadfully, making herself quite ill. But now, of course, it is
'I am not so sure that it is all right; perhaps you will quarrel again
on the moustache question.'
'Oh, no, we shan't! There can't be any more choppings and changings.
After telling the whole company that we buried the hatchet and that I am
going to take Luscombe's part, he wouldn't care to disappoint them all
again. They are very keen, too, on pleasing Miss Flummerfelt, and it
seems Mitchell thought she would be particularly glad I was going to act
with her instead of Luscombe, because, as I say, Luscombe put so little
meaning into the words. It never would have got over the footlights. Old
Mitchell will be too pleased to get me back to worry about a trifle
'Well, that's all right. But do you mind writing to your mother tonight,
just a line to thank her for being so kind? It was awfully nice of her,
you know--she stuck up for you like anything, and put all the little
extravagances on to your ill-health; and, you see, she has spared you
having a scene with your father--he is just going to write you a
'Yes, I understand, you told me before; but I have got to write a letter
tonight, a rather important one. I'll write to the mater tomorrow.'
'My dear girl, business first, pleasure after. To write to one's mother
is a pleasure. I wonder what the blessed ultimatum is. Look here, Edith,
don't take any engagements for the next two or three weeks, will you? I
shall want you every evening for rehearsing. I mean to make a good piece
of work of this. I think I shall rather surprise Miss Flummerfelt and
Mitchell.' 'Very well; but still I think you might write to your mother.
Who is the very important business letter to?'
'Why, it's to Clarkson.'
'I have made up my mind, Charles, never to go and see Hyacinth again!'
'Indeed! What's the matter? What has happened?' Sir Charles looked up
rather wearily from his book and took off his gold-rimmed spectacles.
'Why should I wear myself out giving advice that is never followed?'
indignantly said the lady.
Lady Cannon looked more than ever like a part of her own furniture,
being tightly upholstered in velvet and buttons, with a touch of gold
round the neck. She was distinctly put out. Her husband glanced at her
and then at the door, as she poured out tea with an ominous air.
'You know how gratified I was, how thankful to see no more of that
odious Miss Yeo. I always disapproved of her. I felt she had a bad
influence--at any rate not a good one--in the household. I was simply
delighted to hear that Hyacinth never saw her now. Well, today I called
in to give Hyacinth a suggestion about her under-housemaid--I knew she
wanted a new one; and Jane has a sister out of a situation who, I felt
certain, would be the very person for her; when, who do I find sitting
chatting with Hyacinth, and taking the lead in the conversation in the
same odious way she always did, but Miss Yeo!'
'Oh, she has come back, has she? Well, I'm glad she's all right. Poor
old Anne! How is she looking?'
'Looking!' almost screamed Lady Cannon. 'As if it mattered how she
looked! What did she ever look like? She looked the same as ever.
Although it's a lovely day, she had on a mackintosh and a golf-cap and
dogskin riding-gloves. She was dressed for a country walk in the rain,
but hardly suitable for a visit to Hyacinth. How ever, that is not the
point. The point is her extraordinary impertinence and disrespect to
_me_. I naturally took scarcely any notice of her presence beyond a
slight bow. I made no reference whatever to her sudden disappearance,
which, though exceedingly ill-bred and abrupt, I personally happened to
be very glad of. I merely said what I had come to say to Hyacinth: that
Jane's sister was looking for a situation, and that Hyacinth's was the
very one to suit her. Instead of allowing Hyacinth to speak, what does
Miss Yeo do but most impertinently snap me up by saying--what do you
suppose she asked me, Charles?'
'How on earth could I possibly guess?'
'She asked me, in a hectoring tone, mind, what I knew about Jane's
sister! Daring to ask _me a thing like that_!'
'What did you say?'
'I answered, in a very proper and dignified way, of course, that I
personally knew nothing whatever about her, but that I was always glad
to get a good place for a relative of any domestic of mine; so Miss Yeo
answered that she thought her sister--I mean Jane--having been with me
five years was a circumstance not in her favour at all, quite the
contrary, and she would strongly advise Hyacinth not to take Jane's
sister on so flimsy recommendation. I was thunderstruck. But this is not
all. Before I left Miss Yeo dared to invite me to go to see her and her
friends, and even went so far as to say she could get me an invitation
to a musical party they are giving in a boarding-house in Bloomsbury!
She says they have charming musical evenings every Sunday, and sometimes
play dumb crambo! It was really almost pathetic. To ask _me_ to play
dumb crambo! The woman can have no sense of humour!'
'I'm not so sure of that,' murmured Sir Charles.
'I merely replied that I had a great deal to do, and could make no
engagements at present. I did not like to hurt her feelings by pointing
out the glaring incongruity of her suggestion, but really I was
astonished; and when I said this about the engagements, she answered,
"Oh well, never mind; no doubt we shall often meet here," almost as if
she guessed my strong aversion to seeing her at Hyacinth's house. Then
she went away; and I took the opportunity to advise Hyacinth against
encouraging her. Hyacinth seemed extremely vexed and did not take my
suggestion at all well. So now, if I know I am to run the risk of
meeting that person there and, as I say, am to give advice to no
purpose, I prefer to keep away altogether.'
'Did you ask Hyacinth how it was Miss Yeo turned up again?'
'I did; and she answered that Anne could not live without her I Did you
ever hear of anything so ridiculous in your life?'
'One can understand it,' said Sir Charles.
'I can't. What use can she possibly be to Hyacinth?'
'It isn't only a question of use, I suppose. They've been great friends
for years, but as far as that goes, there's not the slightest doubt Anne
could be of great use if she chose. Hyacinth isn't practical, and has
never learnt to be, and Anne is.'
'Then you approve?' said Lady Cannon in a low voice of anger; 'you
defend my being insulted, contradicted, and--and--asked to play dumb
crambo by such a person as Miss Yeo!'
'Oh, no, my dear; of course I don't. But I daresay she didn't mean to be
rude; she was always rather eccentric, and she can be very tactful when
she likes. She never was in the slightest degree in the way when she was
Hyacinth's companion and actually lived with her, so I don't see how she
possibly can be now by going to see her occasionally. Really, I rather
like Anne Yeo.'
'Oh, you do,' said his wife furiously; 'then I regret to say we differ
very radically. It is _most_ unnecessary that you should like her
'No doubt it is unnecessary, but how can it possibly hurt you? When I
say I like her, I mean that I have a friendly sort of feeling for her. I
think she's a very good sort, that's all.'
'Then perhaps if _you_ were Cecil Reeve you would like her to live in
the house altogether?'
'Oh, I don't go so far as that,' said Sir Charles.
'What I _can't_ get over,' continued Lady Cannon, who could never
forgive the slightest opposition, and was intensely annoyed and
surprised at her husband for once being of a different opinion, 'what I
_can't_ forgive is her astonishing interference on the question of
Jane's sister! When I know that it is the very situation to suit the
girl! Now, in future, whatever difficulty Hyacinth may be in, I shall
never come forward again with _my_ help and experience. I wash my hands
of it. It was bad enough before; Hyacinth forgot every single thing I
told her, but she never contradicted me and seemed grateful for my
advice. But now--now that she has that creature to make her believe that
my opinions are not worth considering, of course it is all over. I am
sorry for Hyacinth, very sorry. By this, by her own folly, she loses a
chance that very few young married women have--a chance of getting an
under-housemaid, whose sister has been with me for five years! I have no
doubt whatever in my own mind that it would have been arranged today,
and that I should have brought the good news back to Jane, if it hadn't
been for that unpleasant and unnecessary Miss Yeo. Poor thing! It is
very hard on her.'
'What extraordinary creatures women are!' said Sir Charles.
'May I ask whom you are pitying now, Anne or Hyacinth?'
'Neither,' said Lady Cannon, with dignity as she left the room.
'I was pitying Jane's sister.'
From time to time invitations had been received from the Selseys, all of
which Cecil had asked Hyacinth to refuse on various pretexts. As she was
convinced that he intended never to see Lady Selsey again if he could
possibly help it, she made no objection, and did not even remark to him
that it would look odd.
One afternoon Cecil was in St James's Street when he remembered that
there was an exhibition at Carfax's. He strolled in, and was for the
moment quite taken by surprise at the evident gaiety of the crowd. It
seemed so incongruous to hear laughter at a private view, where it is
now usual to behave with the embarrassed and respectful gloom
appropriate to a visit of condolence (with the corpse in the next room).
Then he remembered that it was an exhibition of Max Beerbohm's
caricatures, and that people's spirits were naturally raised at the
sight of the cruel distortions, ridiculous situations, and fantastic
misrepresentations of their friends and acquaintances on the walls.
Cecil was smiling to himself at a charming picture of the Archbishop of
Canterbury, when someone touched him on the shoulder.
He turned round. It was Lord Selsey with his wife. He looked suave and
debonair as ever, with his touch of attenuated Georgian dandyism. She
had not changed, nor had her long brown eyes lost their sly and
fascinating twinkle. Evidently Lord Selsey had not been able--if indeed
he had tried--to persuade her to take much trouble about her appearance,
but he had somehow succeeded in making her carelessness seem
picturesque. The long, rather vague cloak that she wore might pass--at
any rate, in a picture-gallery--as artistic, and the flat hat with its
long brown feather suggested a Rembrandt, and must have been chosen for
her against her will, no doubt by her husband. She really looked
particularly plain this afternoon, but at the first glance Cecil admired
her as much as ever.
'It's most fortunate we've met you. I have to go on somewhere, and you
must drive Eugenia home. You must have a lot to talk about,' Lord
Cecil began to make an excuse.
'Oh, you can't refuse! Are you afraid of me? Don't you want to have a
talk with your aunt?' said Eugenia.
He had no choice, and ten minutes later found himself driving in a
hansom with his old love.
'Well, tell me, Cecil, aren't you happy? Weren't we quite right?'
'Of course,' said he.
'What an absurd boy you are. It's nice to see you again. I feel just
like a mother to you. When am I going to see Hyacinth? Why won't you let
me be friends with her? I fell in love with her at first sight. I
suppose she worships you, eh? And you take it as a matter of course, and
give yourself airs. Oh, I know you! I like Ted very much. He's a
wonderful man. He knows everything. He's--what's the word--volatile?
No, versatile. He's a walking encyclopaedia of knowledge. He can write
Persian poetry as soon as look at you, and everything he hasn't learnt
he knows by instinct. He has the disposition of an angel and the voice
of a gazelle. No, wait a minute; do I mean gazelles? Gazelles don't
sing, do they? I must mean nightingales. He sings and plays really
beautifully. Why didn't you tell me what a rare creature your uncle is?
He has the artistic temperament, as they call it--without any of the
nasty temper and horrid unpunctuality that goes with it. I really do
admire Ted, Cecil. I think he's perfect.'
'That is most satisfactory,' said Cecil.
She burst out laughing.
'Oh, Cecil, you haven't changed a bit! But marvellous and angelic as Ted
is, it's a sort of relief in a way to meet an ordinary man. _You_ don't
know all about everything, do you? If I asked you the most difficult
question about art or science or history or metaphysics, or even dress,
you wouldn't be able to answer it, would you? Do you always keep your
temper? Is your judgement thoroughly sound? Can you talk modern Greek,
and Arabian? I think not. You're full of faults, and delightfully
ignorant and commonplace. And it's jolly to see you again.'
'Eugenia, you're the same as ever. Don't go home yet. Let's go for a
'But oughtn't you to go back to your wife? I daresay she's counting the
minutes. Nothing could ever grow prosaic to her, not even being
married to you.'
'She's gone out somewhere, with Anne Yeo, I think. Do, Eugenia; I shall
never ask you again. Just for once, like old times. I couldn't stand the
idea of going to see you at Selsey House; it depressed and irritated me.
This is different.'
'All right,' said Eugenia. 'Then make the most of it. I shan't do it
'Where shall we drive?'
'I've always wondered what happened at the very end of the Cromwell
Road. Let's drive there, and then you can leave me at home. That will be
quite a long way. It's rather a mad idea, Cecil, but it's fun. Isn't it
just like Ted to ask you to take me home? You see what a darling, clever
creature he is. He guessed--he knew we should be a little excited at
meeting again. He wanted to get it over by leaving us quite free
'I must say I shouldn't have done that in his place,' said Cecil.
'Oh, you! You might have had some cause of jealousy. He never could. But
don't think I shall allow any more freaks like this. In a way I'm rather
pleased you haven't forgotten me, Cecil.'
'Who could ever forget you? Who could ever get tired of you?'
'You could; and you would have by now, if I had been foolish enough to
She seemed to Cecil, as ever, a delightful medley of impulses, whims,
and fancies. For him there was always some magic about her; in her pale
radiance he still found the old dazzling, unaccountable charm....
'Hyacinth, do let us score off Lady Cannon, and get the housemaid
without her help.'
'Why, I have, Anne, I advertised all by myself. Several came to see me
'Well, what did you do about it?'
'Nothing particular. Oh yes; I did. I wrote down the address of one or
two. Emma Sinfield, Maude Frick, Annie Crutcher, and Mary Garstin. Which
shall I have, Anne--which name do you like best?'
'Emma Sinfield, I think, or if she doesn't do, I rather fancy Garstin.
Where does Emma live?'
'In the Cromwell Road. We ought to go and ask for her character today.'
'You go, then, and I'll go with you. You won't know what to ask. I'll do
it for you.'
'All right. We may as well drive there as anywhere.'
Anne declared the character quite satisfactory, for Emma Sinfield's late
employer, although displaying the most acute conscientiousness, could
find no fault with her except a vaulting ambition and wild desire to
better herself, which is not unknown in other walks of life, and they
were driving away in the motor when they came face to face with Cecil
and Eugenia in a hansom. He was talking with so much animation that he
did not see them. She was looking straight before her.
Hyacinth turned pale as death and seized Anne's hand. Anne said nothing.
'So that's why he wouldn't take me to see her! He's been meeting her in
secret. My instinct was right, but I didn't think he would do that now.
Oh, to think he's been deceiving me!'
'But you mustn't be in such a hurry to judge.' protested Anne; 'it may
be just some accidental thing. Hyacinth, do take my advice. Don't say
anything about it to him, and see if he mentions it. If he doesn't, then
you'll have some reason for suspecting him, and we'll see what can
'He won't mention it--I know he won't. What accident could make them
meet in a hansom in the Cromwell Road? It's too cruel! And I thought she
was good. I didn't know she'd be so wicked as this. Why, they've only
been married a few months. He never loved me; I told you so, Anne. He
ought not to have married me. He only did it out of pique. He never
cared for anyone but that woman.'
'Is it hopeless to ask you to listen to reason? So far you have no proof
of anything of the kind. Certainly not that he cares for her now.'
'Didn't I see his face? I don't think he's ever looked like that at me.'
If Anne had had a momentary feeling of triumph, of that resignation to
the troubles of other people that we are all apt to feel when the
trouble is caused by one of whom we are jealous, the unworthy sentiment
could not last at the sight of her friend's grief.
'This is serious, Hyacinth. And everything depends on your being clever
now. I don't believe that she can possibly mean any harm. She never did.
Why on earth should she now? And if you remember, she didn't look a bit
interested. There must be some simple explanation.'
'And if there isn't?'
'Then a strong line must be taken. He must be got away from her.'
"To think of having to say that! And he says he loves me! On our
honeymoon I began to believe it. Since we have been home I told you I
had vague fears, but nothing like this. It's an outrage."
"It isn't necessarily an outrage for your husband to drive his aunt in a
"Don't make fun of me, Anne, when you know she was formerly--"
"But she wasn't, my dear. That's just the point. I'm perfectly sure, I
_really_ believe, that she never regarded him in that way at all. She
looks on him as a boy, and quite an ordinary boy."
"Ah, but he isn't ordinary!"
"What ever you do, Hyacinth, don't meet him by making a scene. At
present he associates you with nothing but gentleness, affection, and
pleasure. That is your power over him. It's a power that grows. Don't
let him have any painful recollections of you."
"But the other woman, according to you, never gave him pleasure and
gentleness and all that--yet you see he turns to her."
"That's a different thing. She didn't love him."
There was a pause.
"And if I find he doesn't mention the meeting, deceives me about it,
don't you even advise me to charge him with it then?"
"It is what I should advise, if I wanted you to have a frightful
quarrel--perhaps a complete rupture. If you found out he had deceived
you, what would you really do?"
Hyacinth stood up.
"I should--no, I couldn't live without him!"
She broke down.
"I give you two minutes by the clock to cry," said Anne dryly, "not a
second more. If you spoil your eyes and give yourself a frightful
headache, what thanks do you suppose you'll get?"
Hyacinth dried her eyes.
"Nothing he says, nothing he tells me, even if he's perfectly open about
the drive this afternoon, will ever convince me that he's not in love
with her, and that's the awful thing."
"Even if that were true, it's not incurable. You're his wife. A thousand
times prettier--and twenty years younger! The longer he lives with you
the more fond he'll grow of you. You are his life--and a very charming
life--not exactly a dull duty. She is merely--at the worst--a whim."
'Horrid creature! I believe she's a witch,' Hyacinth cried.
'Don't let us talk it over any more. Just as if your own instinct won't
tell you what to do far better than I ever could! Besides, you
understand men; you know how to deal with them by nature--I never could.
I see through them too well. I merely wanted to warn you--being myself a
cool looker-on--to be prudent, not to say or do anything irrevocable. If
you find you can't help making a scene, well, make one. It can't do much
harm. It's only that making oneself unpleasant is apt to destroy one's
influence. Naturally, people won't stand being bullied and interfered
with if they can help it. It isn't human nature.'
'No; and it isn't human nature to share the person one loves with anyone
else. That I could never do. I shall show him that.'
'The question doesn't arise. I feel certain you're making a mountain out
of a mole-hill, dear. Well--cheer up!'
Anne took her departure.
As Cecil came in, looking, Hyacinth thought, particularly and
irritatingly handsome, she felt a fresh attack of acute jealousy. And
yet, in spite of her anger, her first sensation was a sort of
relenting--a wish to let him off, not to entrap him into deceiving her
by pretending not to know, not to act a part, but to throw herself into
his arms, violently abusing Eugenia, forgiving him, and imploring him
vaguely to take her away.
She did not, however, give way to this wild impulse, but behaved
precisely as usual; and he, also, showed no difference. He told her
about the pictures, and said she must come and see them with him, but he
said nothing whatever of having seen Lady Selsey. He was deceiving her,
then! How heartless, treacherous, faithless--and horribly handsome and
attractive he was! She was wondering how much longer she could keep her
anger to herself, when by the last post she received a note. It was from
the Selseys, asking her and Cecil to dine with them on an evening
near at hand.
Her hand trembled as she passed the letter to Cecil.
'Am I to refuse?' she asked.
He answered carelessly--
'Oh, no! I suppose we may as well accept.'
The words 'Have you seen her yet?' were on her lips, but she dared not
say them. She was afraid he would tell her the truth.
'Have you any objection?' he asked.
She didn't answer, but walked to the door and then turned round and
'None whatever--to _your_ going. You can go where you please, and do as
you like. But I shall certainly not go with you!'
'You've been deceiving me, Cecil. Don't speak--please don't--because you
would lie to me, and I couldn't bear it. I saw you driving with that
woman today. I quite understand that you're beginning to think it would
be better I should go to her house. No doubt you arranged it with her.
But I'm not going to make it so convenient for you as all that!'
'My dear child, stop, listen!--let me explain. We met accidentally at
the picture-gallery, and her husband himself asked me to drive her home.
I couldn't get out of it.'
'Oh! He asked you to drive her home! You went a long way round, Cecil.
The Cromwell Road is scarcely on the way to Regent's Park from St
James's Street. Anyhow, you need not have done it. I have felt for some
time that you don't really care for me, and I'm not going to play the
part of the deceived and ridiculous wife, nor to live an existence of
continual wrangling. I'm disappointed, and I must accept the
'My dearest girl, what do you mean?'
'Let us separate!' she answered. 'I will go abroad somewhere with Anne,
and you can stay here and go on with your intrigue. I doubt if it will
make you very happy in the end--it is too base, under the circumstances.
At any rate, you're perfectly free.'
'You are absolutely wrong, Hyacinth. Terribly wrong--utterly mistaken! I
swear to you that today is the first time I've seen her since she
married. She wants to know you better--to be your friend. That is why
she asked us again. She's devoted to her husband. It was a mere chance,
our drive today--there's nothing in it. But still, though I'm absolutely
innocent, if you _wish_ to leave me, I shall not stand in your way. You
want to go abroad with Anne Yeo, do you? Upon my word, I believe you
prefer her to me!'
'You are grotesque, Cecil. But, at least, I can believe what she says. I
know she would not be treacherous to me.'
'I suppose it was she who put this pretty fancy in your head--this
nonsense about my imaginary flirtation with--Lady Selsey?'
'Was it Anne who made you drive with Lady Selsey, and not tell me about
it? No, I can't believe you--I wish I could. This is all I've seen, so
it's all you acknowledge. For a long time I've known that it was she who
was between us. You have always cared for her. I suppose you always
will. Well, I am not going to fight with her.'
She threw the note on the table.
'You can answer it! Say you'll go, but that I am going away. I shall
probably go tomorrow.'
The door closed behind her. Cecil was left alone.
'By Jove!' he said to himself; and then more slowly, 'By--Jove!'
He lighted a cigarette and immediately threw it away. He rang the bell,
and when the servant came, said he didn't want anything. He went into
the dining-room, poured out some brandy-and-soda. He looked at it and
left it untouched. Then, suddenly, he went upstairs. There was an
expression on his face of mingled anxiety, slight amusement, and
surprise. He went to her room. The door was locked.
'Hyacinth,' he said in a low voice, 'Hyacinth, darling, do open the
door.... I want to speak to you. Do answer. You are quite mistaken, you
know.... You know I don't care for anyone but you, dear. It's too
absurd. Open the door!'
'Please go away, Cecil.'
'But, I say, I _insist_ on your opening the door! I _will_ come in;
you're treating me shamefully, and I won't stand it. Do you hear?'
She came close to the door and said in a low, distinct voice--
'I don't wish to see you, and you must please leave me alone. I'm busy.'
'Busy! Good Lord! What are you doing?'
'I'm packing,' she answered.
He waited a second, and then went downstairs again and sat down in the
'By Jove!' he exclaimed again. 'By--Jove!'
His thoughts were more eloquent. But a baffled Englishman is rarely very
Anne and Eugenia
'If you please, my lady, there's someone called to see you.'
Eugenia looked up in surprise. She was in the library, occupied in
cataloguing Lord Selsey's books.
'It's a--well--it's not exactly a young person, my lady. She says she's
sure you will see her. The name is Miss Yeo.'
'Miss Yeo?' Eugenia looked puzzled. 'Show her in at once.'
Anne came in, coolly.
'I'm afraid you hardly remember me, Lady Selsey,' she said. 'We met last
summer. I was Miss Verney's companion.'
Eugenia held out her hand cordially.
'Of course, I remember you very well. Why, it was here we met! At that
musical party! Do sit down, Miss Yeo. Won't you take off your
'No, thanks. I must apologise for intruding. The fact is I've come about
something important. It's about Mrs Reeve.'
'Mrs Reeve?' Eugenia leant eagerly forward. 'Do, do tell me! Anything
about her interests me so much.'
'You'll think me very impertinent, Lady Selsey. But I can't help it.
I'll come straight to the point.'
'Mrs Reeve has had a terrible quarrel with her husband. She would have
left him this morning, but that I persuaded her to wait. I came to tell
you because I felt sure you would be sorry. It's about you,
'Yes. She saw you driving with her husband, and he didn't mention it.
She's jealous of you. Of course he explained it, but she doesn't believe
him. I thought he probably would not say anything about it to you. I
know, of course, it's a sort of misunderstanding. But I thought perhaps
you could do something about it to make it all right.'
'I _am_ grieved,' said Eugenia, clasping her hands. 'You know Cecil was
an old friend of mine, don't you? I met him again after many months, and
in a foolish impulse we went for a drive. That is all, of course. Miss
Yeo, I'm sure you're her true friend. This quarrel must be made up. What
can I do? What do you advise?'
'Even if this particular quarrel is patched up, she would always be
suspicious and jealous of you. It makes her miserable.'
'Poor darling, how ridiculous! I'm sure I'd be only too pleased never to
see the silly boy again.'
'I quite understand all that, but, you see, she's very proud. That sort
of rupture--all being connected as you are--would be noticeable to other
people, and she's very sensitive--she couldn't stand it.'
Eugenia thought a moment.
'Suppose we went away somewhere for a year? That would give her time to
forget this nonsense. My husband has been trying to persuade me to go to
the Ionian Islands with him--yachting. He'll be only too pleased if I
say I will. I'm a wretched sailor, but if it would do any good--'
'It would be perfect. It would all come right.'
'Then I'll do it. I had asked them to dinner for next week. I haven't
had an answer yet. I'll telegraph, putting them off, and
'That would be splendid,' said Anne.
'Then it's settled,' answered Eugenia briefly.
Anne got up.
'Of course it must be understood that you know nothing about it--I mean
about the quarrel,' she said.
'Of course not. Not a soul, not my husband, nor Cecil, nor his wife
shall ever know a word about your visit, Miss Yeo.'
'That is very kind of you, Lady Selsey. I--well, you know I'm devoted to
Hyacinth. At first I was almost selfishly glad about this. I could have
got her back. We could have gone away together. But I can't see her
miserable. She has such a mania for Cecil Reeve! Isn't it
'Most extraordinary,' replied Eugenia emphatically.
'And since she's got him, she may as well be happy with him,' Anne
'Of course. And she will. This misunderstanding won't do any harm in the
long run,' said Eugenia. 'If he had any real fear of losing her, it
would do him a great deal of good. He's devoted to her really, more than
either of them knows.'
'I daresay,' said Anne dryly. 'It's sure to be fixed up soon, and then
I'm going away too.'
'You are! Why, Miss Yeo?'
'Oh, I don't know. I feel I'm not in the picture. I hate the sight of
turtle-doves. If I've been able to do her a good turn in this little
trouble, it will be a great consolation where I'm going.'
'I'm afraid you're not happy, Miss Yeo?' said Eugenia impulsively.
'I don't know that I am, particularly. But does it matter? We can't all
'I'm sorry. I want everyone to be happy.'
'I suppose it's always a mistake to make an idol of anyone,' said Anne.
'I'm afraid Hyacinth thinks that is what her husband has done
'_That_ would indeed be inexcusable!'
'She thought that the hopelessness of it had made him idealise you, and
even that worried her; but when she saw you together, and it
seemed--well, concrete treachery--she was furious.'
'It will bring them nearer than they have ever been before,' assured
'Good-bye,' said Anne. 'I'll write to you--once--and tell you what has
'Do, and be quick; I shall be busy buying yachting dresses. By the way,
you might take the telegram.'
Anne waited while she wrote--
'Frightfully sorry, dinner next week unavoidably postponed as
unexpectedly leaving town for season. Writing. Eugenia Selsey.'
'I will write to her when I've arranged it with my husband.'
Anne took the telegram.
By the end of their drive Eugenia had quite come to the conclusion that
Cecil was as foolish as ever, and that she would not be alone with him
again. At first it had amused her to see him once more, but when she saw
the infatuation revive, she was bored and sorry--and particularly sorry
she had given him the opportunity of expressing it. She had told him,
definitely, that she would not see him again except with Hyacinth. He
had declared it was merely the excitement of having met her, and
implored forgiveness, undertaking in future to regard her as a
This reconciliation--for they had had quite a quarrel in the cab coming
back--and the solemn compact and promise on Cecil's part to ignore the
old terms, had led to the invitation that Hyacinth regarded as an insult
added to injury.
Cecil's conscience, then, as he sat by the fire that night pricked him
not at all, for had he not made the best of resolutions? Indeed,
privately, he rather plumed himself on his honourable conduct,
forgetting perhaps that it was inspired more by Eugenia's attitude than
by his own inclination.
Probably he hardly realised that, had Eugenia used her influence
differently, there was hardly anything he would not have done. To him
facts were everything--and he believed he had meant no harm.
He was still, he knew, to a great extent under the charm of his old
friend. Still, that did not seem to have anything to do with his love
for Hyacinth. He did not believe her threat of leaving him, but the mere
picture of such a thing gave him great pain. He thought that if he had
not been exactly in love with her when they married he was now; and
could not at all imagine himself living without her. What, then, did he
really want? He did not formulate it.
_Au fond_, he was more flattered than annoyed at the position Hyacinth
took up. He was amused, positively impressed, at her spirit. Had she not
been so excessively pretty, it would have made him more angry and more
anxious to rebel at the idea of her dictation. Perhaps his happiness
with Hyacinth had gone almost too smoothly. He had become quite spoilt
by her exquisite responsiveness, too much accustomed to the delightful
homage of her being so much in love with him, to her charm in every way.
He didn't at all fancy the idea of the smallest amount of this tribute
being diminished. Suppose he offered never to see Eugenia again? After
all, he had avoided her until today. He could continue to do so. But he
had just arranged with her that they should all be friends. It would
seem ridiculous. Besides, he _wanted_ to see her!
Oh! what an infernal nuisance the whole thing was! It was such an
awkward situation. As the thought developed, gradually, that he really
would have to choose, there could be no sort of doubt that he would
choose Hyacinth.... Yes, his fancy for Eugenia was the shadow, a
will-o'-the-wisp; Hyacinth was the reality--a very lovely and loving
reality. Hers was the insidious charm that grows rather than dazzles,
the attraction that increases with time. He could not imagine, however
long they might be married, her becoming ever a comrade merely. Mentally
and physically, she held him far more since their marriage than before;
he had found in her a thousand delightful qualities of which he had
Then that mad, capricious creature, Eugenia, meeting him, must make him
take her for a drive and spoil it all! He began to get rather angry with
her. Certainly since this row about her, he felt he liked her less. Why
couldn't she stick to Uncle Ted--as she thought him so marvellous--and
leave _him_ alone?
With this unjust and inconsistent movement of irritation, he again
attempted speaking to Hyacinth through the door, assuring her that if
she would only open it, he would convince her. But as he received no
answer, he was too proud to say any more, and retired sulkily to his
To his great surprise, he fell asleep almost immediately.
The next morning he went out without seeing Hyacinth, but left a message
that he would be in at one, and wished to speak to her. He thought this
would give her time to recover, or even perhaps to speak to Anne. At
heart he did not believe Anne would give her any but sensible advice,
though he now began to feel a little jealous of her influence.
When he came back he found Hyacinth in the boudoir. She looked pale, but
particularly pretty, with a little air of tragic composure.
'May I ask if you still think seriously of leaving me?' he asked
'I haven't settled anything yet.'
'Why is that? Won't Anne go with you?'
She avoided answering, but said, 'I've been thinking things over, Cecil,
and assuming that what you told me yesterday was true--that you met
_that woman_ for the first time again yesterday--I will not--go away. We
will remain outwardly as we have been. But as long as I believe, as I
do, that you are in love with her, I intend to be merely a friend
'A friend? What utter nonsense! I refuse to consent to anything so
absurd. I won't stand it!'
'I shall not,' continued Hyacinth, taking no notice, 'interfere with
your freedom at all. I don't ask you not to see her. You can go there
when you like. I couldn't bear the idea that I was putting a restraint
on your liberty, so that even if you offered--which you haven't--to give
up seeing her at all--I wouldn't accept such a _sacrifice_!'
Cecil laughed impatiently.
'Considering I've avoided her till yesterday--'
'Ah, you admit it! That shows--that proves you care for her.'
'Don't you own yourself you were probably wrong--that you misunderstood
about the drive?' he asked.
'I assume that I can believe your word--that is why I'm not leaving you.
Do you accept my terms?'
His eyes flashed; he walked towards her violently, overturning a little
'No, I don't,' he said, 'and I never shall! It's infernal, unjust,
ridiculous. You are my wife!'
She seemed not offended at his violence, but she said--
'Think it over till tomorrow. You understand that unless you agree to
our each going our own way I shall not remain here.'
He came a step nearer. At this moment the door opened and the servant
Cecil, without saying another word, went out of the house. The door
At the sound Hyacinth burst into tears. 'Oh, why am I so miserable?' she
Raggett's Sense of Humour
'Edith,' said Bruce, 'I'm rather worried about Raggett.'
'Are you? Why?'
'Well, the last time I met him, he came up and asked me if I knew the
difference between a sardine and a hedgehog. Of course I said no,
thinking it was some riddle, but he only answered, "Then you _must_ be
'Is that all?'
'No, it is _not_ all. It will give you a shock, what I'm going to tell
you now. At the office--at the _office_, mind--I received a letter from
Raggett, written on a crumpet.'
'On a what?'
'On a crumpet. The letter was gummed on; the thing had a stamp, and was
properly addressed to me, and it came through the post. The note itself
was quite rational, but the postscript--what do you suppose the
'I can't think.'
'It said, "PS--Please excuse my writing to you on a crumpet, as I
haven't a muffin!"'
'It's all very well to laugh, but it's a very sad thing. The poor chap
is going off his head. I don't know what to do about it.'
'He isn't really, Bruce. I know what it is. I can explain the whole
thing. Last time I saw him--he called the day you were rehearsing--he
said he had given up being a Legitimist, and was going to try, if
possible, to develop a sense of humour. He thinks for one thing it will
please _me_. I'm sure he hopes you will tell me the story about the
crumpet, and that I shall admire him for it.'
'Do you seriously mean that he's trying to be funny on your account?'
'That's the idea.'
'But what have you to do with his career? What is it to you? I mean,
what is it to him--whether you like people to be funny or serious?'
'You admit openly, Edith, that you know he has such a liking for you
that he is becoming a clown in the hope that you will think him witty?'
'That is it. He's afraid he's a bore--too dull. He wants to amuse me.
'What right has he to wish anything of the kind? Have you not got me, if
you wish to be amused? If I thought that you were right--but, mind you,
I don't; all women have their little vanities, and I believe it's a
delusion of yours about Raggett--I think he's simply been getting a
little queer in the head lately. However, if I did think it, I should
consider it an outrage. To write me a letter on a crumpet, as a _joke_!
Joke, indeed! Men have been called out for less, Edith.'
Bruce thought a little while, then he said--
'I'll take no notice of it this time. But if I have any more nonsense
from Raggett, I shall ask for an explanation. I shall say to him, "My
wife tells me that your tone, which I consider greatly wanting in
deference to me, is meant as homage to her! What do you mean?" I shall
say to Raggett, just like this, "What the--"'
Edith already regretted her candour. 'No, no; you mustn't bully poor
Raggett. Perhaps I was wrong. I daresay he wanted to amuse us both.'
'That is more likely,' said Bruce, relenting. 'But he's going the wrong
way to work if he wishes to retain my good opinion of him. And so I
shall tell him if he gives me any more of this sort of thing.'
'Instead of bothering about Raggett, I do wish you would answer your
father's letter, Bruce.'
'Good gracious; surely I need not answer it at once!'
'I think you should.'
'Well, what does he say?'
Bruce had such a dislike to plain facts that he never, if he could avoid
it, would read a letter to himself containing any business details.
Edith took out the letter.
'Why I've told you already, but you wouldn't listen. On condition that
you are not late at the office or absent from it except on holidays, for
any reason, either pleasure or illness, for the next two years, your
father will pay the debt and help you to start fresh.'
'But how can I be sure I shan't be ill? A man in my delicate state.'
'Oh, assume that you won't. Try not to be--promise to be well. Surely
it's worth it?'
'Very well, perhaps it is. What a curious, eccentric man the governor
is! No other man would make such extraordinary conditions. Look here,
you can write for me, Edith dear, and say I accept the arrangement, and
I'm awfully obliged and grateful and all that. You'll know how to put
it. It's a great nuisance though, for I was thinking of giving up the
whole of tomorrow to rehearsing--and chucking the office. And now I
can't. It's very awkward.'
'Well, I'll write for you, though you certainly ought to do it yourself,
but I shall say you are going to see them, and you will--next Sunday,
'Sunday would be rather an awkward day. I've made a sort of vague
engagement. However, if you insist, very well.'
'I can't quite understand,' said Edith, after a pause, 'how it is that
the rehearsals take so long now. Yesterday you said you had to begin at
eleven and it wasn't over till half-past four. And yet you have only two
or three words to say in the second act and to announce someone in
'Ah, you don't understand, my dear. One has to be there the whole time
so as to get into the spirit of the thing. Rehearsals sometimes take
half the night; especially when you're getting to the end. You just stop
for a minute or two for a little food, and then start again. Yesterday,
for instance, it was just like that.'
'Where did you lunch?'
'Oh, I and one or two of the other men looked in at the Carlton.'
'It can't have taken a minute or two. It's a good distance from Victoria
'I know, but we went in the Mitchells' motor. It took no time. And then
we rushed back, and went on rehearsing. _How_ we work!'
'And what were you going to do tomorrow?'
He hesitated. 'Oh, tomorrow? Well, now, after this promise to the
governor, I shan't be able to get there till half-past four. I should
have liked to get there by twelve. And it's very awkward indeed, because
Miss Flummerfelt asked me to take her out to lunch, and I half promised.
In fact, I could hardly get out of it.'
'She asked you to take her alone?'
'Oh, in a thing like this you all become such pals and comrades; you
don't stop to think about chaperones and things. Besides, of course, I
meant to ask you to join us.'
'Very sweet of you.'
'There's the post,' remarked Bruce.
He went out into the little hall. Edith went with him.
'Who is your letter from?' asked Edith, as they went back.
Bruce blushed a little.
'It _looks_ something like Miss Flummerfelt's handwriting.'
'Oh, do show me the letter!' said Edith, as he seemed about, having read
it, to put it in the fire. He was obliged to allow her to take it, and
'Dear Mr Ottley,
'It's very kind of you to ask me to lunch tomorrow, but I can't possibly
manage it. I'm engaged tomorrow, besides which I never go out anywhere
without my mother.
Edith smiled. 'That's fortunate,' she said. 'After all, you won't have
the awkwardness of putting her off. What a good thing.'
'I assure you, Edith,' said Bruce, looking very uncomfortable, 'that I
had forgotten which way it was. But, of course, I felt I ought--as a
matter of decent civility to Mitchell, don't you know--to ask her once.
I suppose now that you won't like me going to the rehearsals any more?'
'Oh, no! not at all,' said Edith serenely. 'I see, on the contrary, that
there is nothing at all to be alarmed at. What a nice girl Miss
Flummerfelt must be! I like her handwriting.'
'I see nothing particularly nice about her.'
'But she's wonderfully handsome, isn't she?'
'Why no; she has a clumsy figure, drab hair, and a colourless
complexion. Not at all the type that I admire.'
'You told me the other day that she was an ideal blonde. But, of course,
that,' said Edith, 'was before she refused to lunch with you!'
Early that afternoon Hyacinth was sitting in the library in the depths
of depression when Sir Charles Cannon was announced. She had forgotten
to say she was not at home, or she would not have received him; but it
was now too late.
He came in, and affecting not to see there was anything the matter, he
'I've come for some consolation, Hyacinth,'
'Consolation? Is Aunt Janet in a bad temper? I saw her pass yesterday in
a green bonnet. I was afraid there was something wrong.'
'Is that so? This is interesting. Can you actually tell the shade of her
temper from the shade of her clothes?'
'Yes. Can't you?'
'I don't know that I ever thought of it.'
'When Auntie is amiable she wears crimson or violet. When she's cross
she always introduces green or brown into the scheme. You watch her and
you'll find I'm right.'
'I have observed,' said Sir Charles slowly, 'that when we're going out
somewhere that she isn't very keen about she always wears a good deal of
shiny jet, and when we're at home alone and something has happened to
vex her I seem to remember that she puts on a certain shaded silk dress
that I particularly hate--because you never know where you are with it,
sometimes it's brown and sometimes it's yellow. It depends on the light,
and anyhow it's hideous; it's very stiff, and rustles.'
'I know. Shot taffeta! Oh, that's a very bad sign. Has she worn it
'Yes, she has, a good deal.'
'What's been the matter?'
'Oh, she has--may I smoke? Thanks--some mysterious grievance against
you. She's simply furious. It seems it has something to do with somebody
called Jane's sister.'
'Oh! Tell me about it.'
'Well, it appears Jane's sister wants to come and be your housemaid, and
you won't let her, and she's very disappointed. You've no idea how badly
you've behaved to Jane's sister.'
'Fancy! How horrid of me! Tell me some more.'
'And it's all through Miss Yeo. In fact, Anne's enmity to Jane's sister
is quite extraordinary--unheard of. By some deep and malicious plot it
seems she prevented you yielding to your better nature--or
something--and there it is. Oh, Hyacinth, I wish she hadn't! It makes
your aunt so nasty to me. Yes, _I_ get the worst of it, I can tell you.'
'Poor Charles! I am sorry. If I'd known that you were going to suffer
for it, I should have insisted on engaging her. Is it too late now? I
believe we've got another housemaid, but can't she come too?'
'I fear it is too late. And when Janet has got accustomed to a grievance
she doesn't like having it taken away either. No, nothing can be done.
And I _am_ having a time of it! However, it's a great comfort to see
you. You're never worried are you?'
'Never worried! Why, Charles, if you only knew--of course I've _been_
divinely happy, but just now I'm in real trouble.'
He looked at her.
'But I can't bear anyone to know it.'
'Then don't tell me,' he said.
'Oh, I must tell you! Besides, very likely you'll hear it soon.' Then
she added,' It's not impossible that Cecil and I may separate.'
'My dear child!'
'I believe he likes someone else better.'
'This is nonsense, Hyacinth. A mere lovers' quarrel. Of course, you must
make it up at once. He's devoted to you. Who could help it?'
She broke down.
'Oh, Charles, I'm so unhappy.'
Sir Charles felt furious indignation at the idea that any man could
cause those tears to flow. He put his arm round her as if she had been
'My dear Hyacinth, don't be foolish. This is not serious; it can't be.'
He had known her intimately since she was ten and had never seen her
The old tenderness surged up in his heart.
'Can I do anything, dear?'
'No, no, Charles. I should _die_ if he knew I had told you!'
'Surely it must be your imagination.'
'I think he deceives me, and I know he prefers that horrid woman.'
'Don't cry, Hyacinth.'
She cried more, with her face buried in a cushion.
He kissed the top of her head pityingly, as if in absence of mind. He
remembered it was the first time for eight years. Then he got up and
looked out of the window.
'Cecil can't be such a blackguard. He's a very good fellow. Who is this
new friend that you're making yourself miserable about?'
'It isn't a new friend; it's Lady Selsey.'
Sir Charles stared in amazement.
'Eugenia! Why she's the best creature in the world--utterly incapable
of--I'm perfectly certain she cares for nobody in the world but Selsey.
Besides, to regard her as a rival of yours at all is grotesque, child.'
'Ah, yes; you say that because you regard me almost as your daughter,
and you think I'm pretty and younger, and so on. But that's not
everything. There are no standards, no rules in these things. And even
if there were, the point is not what she is, but what he thinks her. He
thinks her wonderful.'
'Well, what has happened?'
'Never mind the details. I know his _feelings_--and that is everything.'
'You've had a quarrel, I suppose, and he's gone out of the house in a
temper. Is that it?'
'I told him that I should leave him and go away somewhere with Anne.'
'Anne wouldn't go, of course.'
'You're right. She wouldn't when I asked her this morning, or I should
be on my way to Paris by now.'
'If he treated you really badly,' said Sir Charles, 'she would have
gone. It must be that she knows there's nothing in it.'
'I've offered to remain, on condition that we are merely friends. And he
won't hear of it.'
'No wonder,' said Sir Charles. 'Now Hyacinth you know you've always been
a spoilt child and had everything on earth you wanted. You must remember
in life sometimes little things won't go right.'
'Anything might have gone wrong--anything in the world, and I would have
borne it and not cared--but _that_!'
'I would do anything to see you happy again,' he said. 'You know that.'
She looked up. There is a tone in the accents of genuine love that
nothing can simulate. She was touched.
'Look here, Hyacinth, promise me to do nothing without letting me know.'
'I promise, Charles.'
'And I assure you that everything will come right. I know--I've had a
little experience of the world. Won't you trust my judgement?'
'I'll try. You are a comfort, Charles.'
'And to think that I came to you for consolation!' he said. 'Well,
Hyacinth, I shall bury this--forget all about it. Next time I see you
you'll be beaming again. It's a passing cloud. Now, what do you think
I've got to do? I've got to go home and fetch Janet to go to a meeting
of the Dante Society at Broadwater House.'
'Good gracious! What on earth does Aunt Janet know about Dante?'
'Nothing, indeed. I believe she thinks he wrote a poem called "Petrarch
and Laura." But someone told her it's the right thing to do; and when
Janet thinks anything is the right thing--!' He took his hat and stick.
'Try and forgive Cecil. I'm sure he adores you. We all do.'
'Thanks, Charles. And I do hope Aunt Janet won't be wearing her green
bonnet this afternoon.'
'Thank you, dear, I trust not. Good-bye.'
'How did you get on at the rehearsal today?' Edith asked.
Bruce was looking rather depressed.
'Not very well. You can't think how much jealousy there is in these
things! When you rehearse with people day after day you begin to find
out what their real characters are. And Mitchell always had a very nasty
temper. Of course, _he_ says it's quick and soon over. He thinks that's
the best kind to have. I think he's rather proud of it. The fact is he
has it so often that it's as bad as if it were slow and not soon over.
First of all, you know, there was a kind of scene about whether or not I
should shave for the part of the footman. _He_ said I ought. _I_
declared I wouldn't ruin my appearance just for the sake of a miserable
little part like that; in fact, I might say for a few minutes in a
couple of hours during one evening in my life! At last we compromised.
I'm to wear a kind of thing invented by Clarkson, or somebody like that,
which gums down the moustache, so that you don't notice it'
'But you don't notice it, anyhow, much.'
'What do you mean by that?'
'I don't mean anything. But I never heard of anybody noticing it. No-one
has ever made any remark to me about it.'
'They wouldn't take the liberty. It can't have passed unnoticed,
because, if it had, why should Mitchell ask me to shave?'
'There is something in that, I must admit,' she answered.
'Well, I consented to this suggestion of Mitchell's, though I don't like
it at all, and I daresay it will spoil my appearance altogether. It was
about something else we had a bit of a tiff this afternoon. We were
going through the whole play, and one or two people were to be allowed
to see us. Mitchell said he expected a certain manager, who is a pal of
his, to criticise us--give us some hints, and so on. I saw a man who
hadn't been there before, and I spotted him at once. He looked like a
celebrity. Without waiting for an introduction, I went up and asked him
what he thought of our performance. He said it seemed all right. Then I
asked him if he considered my reading of my part what he would have done
himself, and he laughed and said, "Yes, very much the same." We were
criticising the other actors and having a long talk--at least _I_ was
having a long talk,--_he_ didn't say much--when he suddenly said, "I'm
afraid you must excuse me," and went away. Then Mitchell came up to me
and said, "How on earth is it you had so much to say to that chap?" I
said (still believing he was the manager) that he was an old
acquaintance of mine, at least, I had known him a long time--on and
off--and that he seemed very pleased to see me again. Mitchell said,
"Oh, you met him before today, did you?" I answered, "Yes, rather," and
I said, "He was very friendly, I must say. He's very pleased with my
performance. I shouldn't be surprised if he sends me a box for his First
Night. If he does you must come, you and Mrs Mitchell." As a matter of
fact, I _had_ hinted that I should like a box for the First Night at the
Haymarket, and he had laughed good-naturedly, and said, "Oh, yes." So it
was really no wonder that I regarded that as a promise. Well, when I
told him that, Mitchell said, "He offered you a box, did he? Very nice
of him. You know who he is, don't you? He's a man who has come to see
about the electric lighting for the footlights. I've never seen him
before." Now, you know, Edith, it was a most infernal shame of Mitchell
to let me make the mistake with his eyes open. Here was I talking about
acting and plays, deferentially consulting him, asking for artistic
hints and boxes from an electrical engineer! Oh, it's too bad, it
'So you quarrelled with Mitchell again?'
'We had a few words.'
'Then the manager was not there?'
'No; he'd promised, but didn't turn up. I told Mitchell what I thought
of him in very plain terms. I went so far even as to threaten to throw
up my part, and he said, "Well, all right, if you don't like it you can
give it up at any time," I said, "Who else could you get at the last
minute to play a footman's part?" and he said, "Our footman!"'
'That would be realism, wouldn't it?'
'I was awfully hurt, but it was settled I was to stick to it. Then there
are other things. That horrid Miss Flummerfelt--how I do dislike that
girl--had been silly enough to go boasting to Mrs Mitchell of my
invitation to lunch the other day.'
'Boasting!' said Edith.
'Yes, it was a shame, because of course I only asked her simply and
solely as a way of returning some of the Mitchells' hospitality--'
'Then why did you mind their knowing?' Edith inquired.
'I _didn't_ mind their knowing. How stupid you are, Edith. But I
objected strongly to the tone in which Miss Flummerfelt had evidently
spoken of it--to the light in which she had represented the whole thing.
Mrs Mitchell came up to me in her soft purring way--what a horrid little
woman she is!'
'Why, you told me she was so sweet and charming!'
'I didn't know her so well then. She came up to me and said, "Oh, Mr
Ottley, will you think it rude of me if I suggest that you don't ask
dear Elsa out to lunch any more? She said it's so awkward always
refusing, but she's not allowed to go out like that without her mother.
In fact, though her father is German by birth, she's been brought up
quite in the French style. And though, of course, we know you meant no
harm, she's positively shocked. You really mustn't flirt with her, Mr
Ottley. She doesn't like it. In fact, she asked me to speak to you about
it." There was a nice position for me, Edith! Isn't Miss Flummerfelt a
treacherous little beast?'
'I thought you said she was so enormously tall. A regal-looking creature
was what you called her the first time you met her. Anyhow, you must
have been trying to flirt with her, Bruce. I think it rather serves you
right. Well, what happened?'
'I said that I was very much astonished at Miss Flummerfelt's
misunderstanding me so completely. I even said that some girls have a
way of taking everything as if it was meant--in that sort of way, and
that I had only asked her to lunch to meet my wife. But, of course, I
promised not to do it again. And now it will be rather awful at the
rehearsals, because Mrs Mitchell, of course, told her back, and Miss
Flummerfelt and I don't speak.'
'Well, after all, it doesn't matter so very much. You only have to
announce her. It's with the woman who plays Lady Jenkins you have your
longer scene, isn't it? What is she like?'
'Mrs Abbot, do you mean? Oh, I don't think much of her. She's acted
before and thinks herself quite as good as a professional, and
frightfully smart. She's the most absurd snob you ever saw. She had the
cheek to criticise me and say that I don't move about the room
naturally, like a real footman. I told her, rather ironically, that I
was afraid I'd never been one. So she answered, "Still, you might have
seen one." Oh, I have a good deal to go through, one way and another!'
'You'll be glad when it's over, won't you?'
'Very glad. The strain's telling on my health. But I've been better on
the whole, I think, don't you?'
'Yes, indeed. You know you have to be,' Edith said.
'Of course--I know. Try not to make me late again tomorrow.'
As Sir Charles was walking back from the Reeves' house, he met Anne Yeo
in Piccadilly. She had just taken the telegram from Eugenia. He greeted
her warmly and asked her to walk a little way with him, to which she
agreed, silently giving him credit for so heroically concealing his
consciousness of her odd appearance. She herself was well aware that in
her mackintosh, driving-gloves, and eternal golf-cap she presented a
sufficiently singular effect, and that there were not many people in
London at three o'clock on a sunny afternoon who would care to be found
dead with her.
'I've just seen Hyacinth,' he said.
'Then you know about the trouble?'
'As if she could help telling you! However, it's going to be all right.'
'Do you think so?'
'I never thought him good enough for her,' Sir Charles said.
'Who is?' she asked.
'Has he really been--philandering?'
'Probably. Don't all men?'
'You're as great a cynic as ever, I see,' he laughingly said.
'And you're as noble as ever. But I won't tax your chivalry too far.
Good-bye,' and she abruptly left him.
She was on her way to Cook's. She had suddenly decided to emigrate.
Sir Charles wondered why Anne was so sure, but her words had comforted
him. He believed her. He not only thought that she must be right, but he
instinctively felt certain that she had taken some steps in the matter
which would result in success. Some people liked Anne, many detested
her, but she inspired in both friends and enemies a species of trust.
At half-past seven that evening Cecil turned the key in the door and
went into the house. It was the first time he had ever come home with a
feeling of uneasiness and dread; a sensation at once of fear and of
boredom. Until now he had always known that he would receive a delighted
welcome, all sweetness and affection. He had always had the delicious
incense of worshipping admiration swung before him in the perfumed
atmosphere of love and peace. Had he held all this too cheaply? Had he
accepted the devotion a little pontifically and condescendingly? Had he
been behaving like a pompous ass? He had really enjoyed his wife's
homage the more because he had liked to think that he still yearned for
the impossible, that he had been deprived by Fate of his ideal, that
absence and distance had only raised higher in his thoughts the one
romantic passion of his life. What a fool he had been! All he felt at
this moment about Eugenia was impatient annoyance. There is a great deal
of the schoolboy in an Englishman of thirty. Cecil just now regarded her
simply as the person who had got him into a row. Why had she taken him
for that imprudent drive?
As he went into the little boudoir it happened that Hyacinth was turning
her back to him. It was usually a part of their ritual that she came to
meet him. So this seemed to him an evil omen.
She stood looking out of the window, very tall, very slender, her brown
hair piled in its dense mass on her small head. When she turned round he
saw she held a telegram in her hand.
'What is the meaning of this?' she said, as she held it out to him.
He took it from her and sat down to read it, feeling as he did so
unpleasantly heavy, stupid, and stolid in contrast to the flash of her
blue eyes and the pale tragedy in her face. It was the first time he had
ever felt her inferior. As a rule the person found out in a betrayal of
love holds, all the same, the superior position of the two. It is the
betrayed one who is humiliated.
'What does it mean?' he said. 'Why it means that they have to put us
off. They are evidently going away. What it means is fairly obvious.'
'Ah, _why_ have they put us off? You have been to see her! You must have
arranged this. Yes, you have given me away to her, Cecil; you have let
her know I was jealous! It is worse than anything else! I shall never
forgive you for this.'
He gave her back the telegram with an air of dazed resignation.
'My dear girl, I give you my solemn word of honour that I know nothing
whatever about it.'
'Really? Well, it is very strange. It is most extraordinary! She says
she is writing. I suppose we shall hear.'
'Are we going to have dinner?'
'You agree to what I suggested this morning, Cecil?'
'No, I don't.'
'Very well, then; I shan't dine with you.'
'Oh, confound it! I don't want to go out again.'
'Pray don't. I shall dine in my room,' and she walked to the door. As
she left the room she turned round and said--
'Oh, to think how that creature must be enjoying it!' and went upstairs.
'If she isn't enjoying it any more than I am, she isn't having much of a
time,' said Cecil aloud to himself. He then dined in solemn silence,
Hyacinth (with a headache) being served in her own room.
When dinner was over he was glancing through the paper, wondering how he
should spend the evening, when a note arrived by a messenger. He saw it
was for Hyacinth, and in Eugenia's handwriting.
A few minutes later she came down, holding it in her hand.
'Cecil, she has written to me. She says they're going for a long
yachting cruise, that they won't be back in their house for a year.'
'Well, have you any objection?'
'Have you?' she asked, looking at him narrowly.
'No, I'm only too glad!'
'Did you ask her to do this?'
'Don't be idiotic. How could I ask her? I've neither seen nor
communicated with her.'
'Then how do you account for it, Cecil?'
'I don't account for it. Why should I? It isn't the first time Uncle
Ted's gone yachting. Though he hasn't done it for some years. He was
always saying he wanted to go to Crete, Samos, and the Ionian Islands.
He used to talk a good deal about wanting to see the Leucadian Rock.'
'What's that?' She spoke suspiciously.
'A place that some woman threw herself into the sea from.'
'Lately, do you mean?'
'Oh, no--some time ago. Anyhow, he wanted to see it I'm sure _I_ don't
know why. But that was his idea.'
'Well, she _says_ they're going to Greece, so perhaps you're right. And
are you really, really not sorry that she's going?'
'Not at all, if I'm going to have a little peace now.'
'Oh, Cecil,' she implored, 'have I been unfair to you?'
'I'm very, very sorry. I see I was wrong. Oh, how could I be so horrid?'
'You _were_ down on me! Why, you wanted to go away! You did make me
'Oh, poor boy! Then you don't care a bit for that woman, really?'
'Do you mean Eugenia? Not a straw!'
'And, oh, Cecil, if I'm _never_ so horrid and bad-tempered again, will
you forgive me?'
'Well, I'll try,' said Cecil.