Part 2 out of 6
"A bicycle," said Jean, "and a motor and an aeroplane and a Shetland
pony and a Newfoundland pup. I'll make a story for you in bed to-night
all about what you would have if I were rich."
"And Jock, too?"
Being assured that Jock would not be overlooked Mhor grabbed Peter round
the neck and proceeded to babble to him about bicycles and aeroplanes,
motors and Newfoundland pups.
Jean looked apologetically at her guests.
"When you're poor you've got to dream," she said. "Oh, must you go, Mr.
Reid? But you'll come back to-morrow, won't you? We would honestly like
you to come and stay with us."
"Thank you," said Peter Reid, "but I am going back to London in a day or
two. I am obliged to you for your hospitality, especially for singing me
'Strathairlie.' I never thought to hear it again. I wonder if I might
trouble you to write me out the words."
"But take the book," said Jean, running to get it and pressing it into
his hands. "Perhaps you'll find other songs in it you used to know and
like. Take it to keep."
Pamela dropped her embroidery-frame and watched the scene.
Mhor and Peter stood looking on. Jock lifted his head from his books to
listen. It was no new thing for the boys to see Jean give away her most
treasured possessions: she was a born "Madam Liberality."
"But," Peter Reid objected, "it is rather a rare book. You value it
"Of course I do," said Jean, "and that is why I am giving it to _you_. I
know you will appreciate it."
Peter Reid took the book as if it was something fragile and very
precious. Pamela was puzzled by the expression on his face. He did not
seem so much touched by the gift as amused--sardonically amused.
"Thank you," he said. And again, "Thank you!"
"Jock will go down with you to the hotel," Jean said, explaining, when
the visitor demurred, that the road was steep and not very well lighted.
"I'll go too," said Mhor, "me and Peter."
"Well, come straight back. Good-bye, Mr. Reid. I'm so glad you came to
see The Rigs, but I wish you could have stayed...."
"Is he an old friend?" Pamela asked, when the cavalcade had departed.
"I never saw him before to-day. He once lived in this house and he came
back to see it, and he looks ill and I think he is poor, so I asked him
to come and stay with us for a week."
"My dear child, do you invite every stranger to stay with you if you
think he is poor?"
"Of course not. But he looked so lonely and lost somehow, and he doesn't
seem to have anyone belonging to him, and I was sorry for him."
"And so you gave him that song-book you value so much?"
"Yes," said Jean, looking rather ashamed. "But," she brightened, "he
seemed pleased, don't you think? It's a pretty song, 'Strathairlie,' but
it's not a _pukka_ old one--it's early Victorian."
"Miss Jean, it's a marvel to me that you have anything left belonging to
"Don't call me Miss Jean!"
"Jean, then; but you must call me Pamela."
"Oh, but wouldn't that be rather familiar? You see, you are so--so--"
"Stricken in years," Pamela supplied.
"No--but--well, you are rather impressive, you know. It would be like
calling Miss Bathgate 'Bella' to her face. However--Pamela--"
"For 'tis a chronicle of day by day."
About this time Jean wrote a letter to David at Oxford. It is wonderful
how much news there is when people write every other day; if they wait
for a month there is nothing that seems worth telling.
" ... You have been away now for four days, and we still miss you badly.
Nobody sits in your place at the table, and it gives us such a horrid
bereaved feeling when we look at it. Mhor was waiting at the gate for
the post yesterday and brought your letter in in triumph. He was
particularly interested in hearing about your scout, and has added his
name to the list he prays for. You will be glad to hear that he has got
over his prejudice against going to heaven. It seems it was because
someone told him that dogs couldn't go there, and he wouldn't desert
Micawber--Peter, in other words. Jock has put it right by telling him
that the translators of the Bible probably made a slip, and Mhor now
prays earnestly every night: 'Let everyone in The Rigs go to heaven,'
hoping thus to smuggle in his dear companion.
"It is an extraordinary thing, but almost the very minute you left
Priorsford things began to happen.
"I told you in the note I wrote the day you left that Bella Bathgate's
lodger had arrived and that I had seen her, but I didn't realise then
what a difference her coming would make to us. I never knew such a
friendly person; she comes in at any sort of time--after breakfast, a
few minutes before luncheon, for tea, between nine and ten at night. Did
I tell you her name is Pamela Reston, and her brother, who seems to be
ranging about India somewhere, is Lord Bidborough ('A lord-no-less,' as
Mrs. M'Cosh would say). She calls him Biddy, and seems devoted to him.
"Although she is horribly rich and an 'honourable,' and all that sort of
thing, she isn't in the least grand. She never impresses one with her
opulence as, for instance, Mrs. Duff-Whalley does. Her clothes are
beautiful, but so much a part of her personality that you never think of
them. Her pearls don't hit you in the face as most other people's do.
Because she is so unconscious of them, I suppose. I think she is lovely.
Jock says she is like a greyhound, and I know what he means--it is the
long, swift, graceful way she has of moving. She says she is forty. I
always thought forty was quite old, but now it seems to me the very
prettiest age. Age doesn't really matter at all to people who have got
faces and figures and manners like Pamela Reston. They will always make
whatever age they are seem the perfect age.
"I do wonder what brings her to Priorsford! I rather think that having
been all her life so very 'twopence coloured' she wants the 'penny
plain' for a change. Perhaps that is why she likes The Rigs and us.
There is no mistake about our 'penny-plainness'--it jumps to the eye!
"I am just afraid she won't stay very long. There are so many pretty
little houses in Priorsford, and so many kind and forthcoming
landladies, it was bad luck that she should choose Hillview and Bella
Bathgate. Bella is almost like a stage-caricature of a Scotswoman, so
dour she is and uncompromising and she positively glories in the drab
ugliness of her rooms. Ugliness means to Bella respectability; any
attempt at adornment is 'daft-like.'
"Pamela (she has asked me to call her that) trembles before her, and
that makes Bella worse. She wants someone to stand up to her, to laugh
at her grimness; she simply thinks when Pamela is charming to her that
she is a poor creature.
"She is charming to everyone, this lodger of Bella's. Jock and Mhor and
Mrs. M'Cosh are all at her feet. She brings us books and papers and
chocolates and fruit, and makes us feel we are conferring the favour by
accepting them. She is a real charmer, for when she speaks to you she
makes you feel that no one matters to her but just you yourself.
And she is simple (or at least appears to be); she hasn't that
Now-I-am-going-to-be-charming manner that is so difficult to bear. It is
such fun talking to her, for she is very--pliable I think is the word I
want. Accustomed to converse with people who constantly pull one up
short with an 'Ah, now I don't agree,' or 'There, I think you are quite
wrong,' it is wonderfully soothing to discuss things with someone who
has the air of being convinced by one's arguments. It is weak, I know,
but I'm afraid I agree with Mrs. M'Cosh, who described a friend as 'a
rale nice buddy. She clinks wi' every word ye say.'
"I am thinking to myself how Great-aunt Alison would have dreaded
Pamela's influence. She would have seen in her the personification of
the World, the Flesh, and the Devil--albeit she would have been much
impressed by her long descent: dear Aunt Alison.
"All the same, Davie, it is odd what an effect one's early training has.
D'you remember how discouraged G.-A. Alison was about our
levity--especially mine? She once said bitterly that I was like the
ell-woman--hollow--because I laughed in the middle of the Bible lesson.
And how antiquated and stuffy we thought her views, and took pleasure in
assuring ourselves that we had got far beyond them, and you spent an
evening tea-less in your room because you said you would rather be a
Buddhist than a Disruption Worthy--do you remember that?
"Yes, but Great-aunt Alison had builded better than she knew. When
Pamela laughs 'How Biblical!' or says in her pretty, soft voice that
our great-aunt's religion must have been a hard and ugly thing, I get
hot with anger and feel I must stick unswervingly to the antiquated
views. Is it because poor Great-aunt isn't here to make me? I don't
"Mhor is really surprisingly naughty. Yesterday I heard angry shouts
from the road, and then I met Mhor sauntering in, on his face the
seraphic expression he wears when some nefarious scheme has prospered,
and in his hand the brass breakfast kettle. He had been pouring water on
the passers-by from the top of the wall. 'Only,' he explained to me, 'on
the men who wore hard black hats, who could swear.'
"I told him the police would probably visit us in the course of the
afternoon, and pointed out to him how ungentleman-like was his
behaviour, and he said he was sorry; but I'm afraid he will soon think
of some other wickedness.
"He thinks he can do anything he hasn't been told not to do, but how
could I foresee that he would want to pour water on men with hard black
hats, capable of swearing?
"I had almost forgotten to tell you, an old man came yesterday and
wanted to see over the house. You can imagine what a scare I got--I made
sure he wanted to buy it; but it turned out that he had lived at The
Rigs as a boy, and had come back for old sake's sake. He looked ill and
rather shabby, and I don't believe life had been very good to him. I did
want to try and make up a little, but he was difficult. He was staying
at the Temperance, and it seemed so forlorn that he should have no one
of his own to come home to. He didn't look as if anybody had ever made a
fuss of him. I asked him to stay with us for a week, but he wouldn't. I
think he thought I was rather mad to ask him, and Pamela laughed at me
about it.... She laughs at me a good deal and calls me a
"There is the luncheon bell.
"We are longing for your letter to-morrow to hear how you are settling
down. Mrs. M'Cosh has baked some shortbread for you, which I shall post
"Love from each of us, and Peter.--Your
"Is this a world to hide virtues in?"
"You should never wear a short string of beads when you are wearing big
earrings," Pamela said.
"But why?" asked Jean.
"Well, see for yourself. I am wearing big round earrings--right. I put
on the beads that match--quite wrong. It's a question of line."
"I see," said Jean thoughtfully. "But how do you learn those things?"
"You don't learn them. You either know them, or you don't. A sort of
instinct for dress, I suppose."
Jean was sitting in Pamela's bedroom. Pamela's bedroom it was now,
certainly not Bella Bathgate's.
The swinging looking-glass had been replaced by one which, according to
Pamela, was at least truthful. "The other one," she complained, "made me
look pale green and drowned."
A cloth of fine linen and lace covered the toilet-table which was spread
with brushes and boxes in tortoiseshell and gold, quaint-shaped bottles
for scent, and roses in a tall glass.
A jewel-box stood open and Pamela was pulling out earrings and
necklaces, rings and brooches for Jean's amusement.
"Most of my things are at the bank," Pamela was saying as she held up a
pair of Spanish earrings made of rows of pearls. "They generally are
there, for I don't care a bit about ordinary jewels. These are what I
like--odd things, old things, things picked up in odd corners of the
world, things that have a story and a meaning. Biddy got me these
turquoises in Tibet: that is a devil charm: isn't that jade delicious? I
think I like Chinese things best of all."
She threw a string of cloudy amber round Jean's neck and cried, "My
dear, how it becomes you. It brings out all the golden lights in your
hair and eyes."
Jean sat forward in her chair and looked at her reflection in the glass
with a pleased smile.
"I do like dressing-up," she confessed. "Pretty things are a great
temptation to me. I'm afraid if I had money I would spend a lot in
adorning my vile body."
"I simply don't know," said Pamela, "how people who don't care for
clothes get through their lives. Clothes are a joy to the prosperous, a
solace to the unhappy, and an interest always--even to old age. I knew a
dear old lady of ninety-four whose chief diversion was to buy a new
bonnet. She would sit before the mirror discarding model after model
because they were 'too old' for her. One would have thought it difficult
to find anything too old for ninety-four."
Jean laughed, but shook her head.
"Doesn't it seem to you rather awful to care about bonnets at
"Not a bit," said Pamela. She was powdering her face as she spoke. "I
like to see old people holding on, not losing interest in their
appearance, making a brave show to the end.... Did you never see anyone
use powder before, Jean? Your eyes in the glass look so surprised."
"Oh, I beg your pardon," said Jean, in great confusion, "I didn't mean
to stare--" She hastily averted her eyes.
Pamela looked at her with an amused smile.
"There's nothing actively immoral about powdering one's nose, you know,
Jean. Did Great-aunt Alison tell you it was wrong?"
"Great-aunt Alison never talked about such things," Jean said, flushing
hotly. "I don't think it's wrong, but I don't see that it's an
improvement. I couldn't take any pleasure in myself if my face were made
Pamela swung round on her chair and laid her hands on Jean's shoulders.
"Jean," she said, "you're within an ace of being a prig. It's only the
freckles on your little unpowdered nose, and the yellow lights in your
eyes, and the way your hair curls up at the ends that save you.
Remember, please, that three-and-twenty with a perfect complexion has no
call to reprove her elders. Just wait till you come to forty years."
"Oh," said Jean, "it's absurd of you to talk like that. As if you didn't
know that you are infinitely more attractive than any young girl. I
never know why people talk so much about _youth_. What does being young
matter if you're awkward and dull and shy as well? I'd far rather be
middle-aged and interesting."
"That," said Pamela, as she laid her treasures back in the box, "is one
of the minor tragedies of life. One begins by being bored with being
young, and as we begin to realise what an asset youth is, it flies.
Rejoice in your youth, little Jean-girl, for it's a stuff will not
endure.... Now we'll go downstairs. It's too bad of me keeping you up
"How you have changed this room," said Jean. "It smells so nice."
"It is slightly less forbidding. I am quite attached to both my rooms,
though when Mawson and I are both here together I sometimes feel I must
poke my arms out of the window or thrust my head up the chimney like
Bill the Lizard, in order to get room. It is a great disadvantage to be
too large for one's surroundings."
The parlour was as much changed as the bedroom.
The round table with the red-and-green cover that filled up the middle
of the room had been banished and a small card-table stood against the
wall ready to be brought out for meals. A Persian carpet covered the
linoleum and two comfortable wicker-chairs filled with cushions stood by
the fireside. The sideboard had been converted into a stand for books
and flowers. The blue vases had gone from the mantelshelf and two tall
candlesticks and a strip of embroidery took their place. A writing-table
stood in the window, from which the hard muslin curtains had been
removed; there were flowers wherever a place could be found for them,
and new books and papers lay about.
Jean sank into a chair with a book, but Pamela produced some
visiting-cards and read aloud:
"Who are they, please? and why do they come to see me?"
Jean shut her book, but kept her finger in as if hoping to get back to
it soon, and smiled broadly.
"Mrs. Duff-Whalley is a wonderful woman," she said. "She knows
everything about everybody and simply scents out social opportunities.
Your name would draw her like a magnet."
"Why is she called Duff-Whalley? and where does she live? I'm
"As to the first," said Jean, "there was no thought of pleasing either
you or me when she was christened--or rather when the late Mr.
Duff-Whalley was christened. And I pointed out the house to you the
other day. You asked what the monstrosity was, and I told you it was
called The Towers."
"I remember. A staring red-and-white house with about thirty
bow-windows and twenty turrets. It denies the landscape."
"Wait," said Jean, "till you see it close at hand. It's the most naked,
newest thing you ever saw. Not a creeper, not an ivy leaf is allowed to
crawl on it; weather seems to have no effect on it: it never gets to
look any less new. And in summer it is worse, for then round about it
blaze the reddest geraniums and the yellowest calceolarias and the
bluest lobelias that it's possible to imagine."
"Ghastly! What is the owner like?"
"Small, with yellowish hair turning grey. She has a sharp nose, and her
eyes seem to dart out at you, take you all in, and then look away. She
is rather like a ferret, and she has small, sharp teeth like a ferret.
I'm never a bit sure she won't bite. She really is rather a wonderful
woman. She hasn't been here very many years, but she dominates everyone.
At whatever house you meet her she has the air of being hostess. She
welcomes you and advises you where to sit, makes suitable conversation
and finally bids you good-bye, and you feel yourself murmuring to her
the grateful 'Such a pleasant afternoon,' that was due to the real
hostess. She is in constant conflict with the other prominent matrons in
Priorsford, but she always gets her own way. At a meeting she is quite
insupportable. She just calmly tells us what we are to do. It's no good
saying we are busy; it's no good saying anything. We walk away with a
great district to collect and a pile of pamphlets under one arm.... Her
nose is a little on one side, and when I sit and look at her presiding
at a meeting I toy with the thought that someone goaded to madness by
her calm persistence had once heaved something at her, and wish I had
been there to see. Really, though, she is rather a blessing in the
place; she keeps us from stagnation. I read somewhere that when they
bring tanks of cod to this country from wherever cod abound, they put a
cat-fish in beside them, and it chases the cod round all the time, so
that they arrive in good condition. Mrs. Duff-Whalley is our cat-fish."
"I see. Has she children?"
"Three. A daughter, married in London--Mrs. Egerton-Thomson--a son at
Cambridge, and a daughter, Muriel, at home. I think it must be very bad
for the Duff-Whalleys living in such a vulgar, restless-looking house."
Pamela laughed. "Do you think all the little pepper-pot towers must have
an effect on the soul? I doubt it, my dear."
"Still," said Jean, "I think more will be expected at the end from the
people who have all their lives lived in and looked at lovely places. It
always worries me, the thought of people who live in the dark places of
big cities--children especially, growing up like 'plants in mines that
never saw the sun.' It is so dreadful that sometimes I feel I _must_ go
"What could you do?"
"That's what common sense always asks. I could do nothing alone, but if
all the decent people tried their hardest it would make a difference....
It's the thought of the cruelty in the world that makes me sick. It's
the hardest thing for me to keep from being happy. Great-aunt Alison
said I had a light nature. Even when I ought to be sad my heart jumps up
in the most unreasonable way, and I am happy. But sometimes it feels as
if we comfortable people are walking on a flowery meadow that is really
a great quaking morass, and underneath there is black slime full of
unimagined horrors. A paragraph in the newspaper makes a crack and you
see down: women who take money for keeping little babies and allow them
to die, men who torture: tales of horror and terror. The War made a
tremendous crack. It seemed then as if we were all to be drawn into the
slime, as if cruelty had got its fangs into the heart of the world. When
you knelt to pray at nights you could only cry and cry. The courage of
the men who grappled in the slime with the horrors was the one thing
that kept one from despair. And the fact that they could _laugh_. You
know about the dying man who told his nurse some joke and finished,
'This is _the_ War for laughs.'"
Pamela nodded. "It hardly bears thinking of yet--the War and the
fighters. Later on it will become the greatest of all sagas. But I want
to hear about Priorsford people. That's a clean, cheerful subject. Who
lives in the pretty house with the long ivy-covered front?"
"The Knowe it is called. The Jowetts live there--retired Anglo-Indians.
Mr. Jowett is a funny, kind little man with a red face and rather a
nautical air. He is so busy that often it is afternoon before he reads
his morning's letters."
"What does he do?"
"I don't think he does anything much: taps the barometer, advises the
gardener, fusses with fowls, potters in the garden, teaches the dog
tricks. It makes him happy to feel himself rushed, and to go carrying
unopened letters at tea-time. They have no children. Mrs. Jowett is a
dear. She collects servants as other people collect prints or old china
or Sheffield plate. They are her hobby, and she has the most wonderful
knack of managing them. Even now, when good servants seem to have become
extinct, and people who need five or six are grubbing away miserably
with one and a charwoman, she has four pearls with soft voices and
gentle ways, experts at their job. She thinks about them all the time,
and considers their comfort, and dresses them in pale grey with the
daintiest spotted muslin aprons and mob caps. It is a pleasure to go to
the Jowetts for a meal, everything is so perfect. The only drawback is
if anyone makes the slightest mark on the cloth one of the silver-grey
maids brings a saucer of water and wipes it off, and it is apt to make
one nervous. I shall never forget going there to a children's party with
David and Jock. Great-aunt Alison warned us most solemnly before we left
home about marking the cloth, so we went rather tremblingly. There was a
splendid tea in the dining-room with silver candlesticks and pink
shades, and lovely china, and a glittering cloth, and heaps of good
things to eat--grown-up things like sandwiches and rich cakes, such as
we hardly ever saw. Jock was quite small and loved his food even more
than he does now, dear lamb. A maid handed round the egg-shell china--if
only they had given us mugs--and as she was putting down Jock's cup he
turned round suddenly and his elbow simply shot it out of her hand, and
sent it flying across the table. As it went it spattered everything with
weak tea and then smashed itself against one of the candlesticks.
"I wished at that moment that the world would come to an end. There
seemed no other way of clearing up the mess. I was so ashamed, and so
sorry for my poor Jock, I couldn't lift my eyes, but Mr. Jowett rose to
the occasion and earned my affection and unending gratitude. He
pretended to find it a very funny episode, and made so many jokes about
it that stiffness vanished from the party, and we all became riotously
happy. And Mrs. Jowett, whose heart must have been wrung to see the
beautiful table ruined at the outset, so mastered her emotion as to be
able to smile and say no harm had been done.... You must go with me and
see Mrs. Jowett, only don't tell her anything in the very least sad: she
weeps at the slightest provocation."
"Tell me more," said Pamela--"tell me about all the people who live in
those houses on the hill. It's like reading a nice _Cranfordy_ book."
"But," Jean objected, "we're not in the least like people in a book. I
often wonder why Priorsford is so unlike a story-book little town. We're
not nearly interested enough in each other for one thing. We don't
gossip to excess. Everyone goes his or her own way. In books people do
things or are suspected of doing things, and are immediately cut by a
feverishly interested neighbourhood. I can't imagine that happening in
Priorsford. No one ever does anything very striking, but if they did I'm
sure they wouldn't be ostracised. Nobody would care much, except perhaps
Mrs. Hope, and she would only be amused."
"Have you noticed a whitewashed house standing among trees about half a
mile down Tweed from the bridge? That is Hopetoun, and Mrs. Hope and her
daughter live there."
Jean nodded her head like a wise mandarin. "You must meet Mrs. Hope. To
describe her is far beyond my powers."
"I see. Well, go on with the houses on the hill. Who lives in the one at
the corner with the well-kept garden?"
"The Prestons. Mr. Preston is a lawyer, but he isn't much like a lawyer
in appearance--not yellow and parchmenty, you know. He's a good shot and
an ardent fisher, what Sir Walter would have called 'a just leevin' man
for a country writer.' There are several daughters, all musical, and it
is a very hospitable, cheerful house. Next the Prestons live the
Williamsons. Ordinary nice people. There is really nothing to say about
them.... The house after that is Woodside, the home of the two Miss
Speirs. They are not ordinary. Miss Althea is a spiritualist. She sees
visions and spends much of her time with spooks. Miss Clarice is a
Buddhist. Their father, when he lived, was an elder in the U.F. Church.
I sometimes wonder what he would say to his daughters now. When he died
they left the U.F. Church and became Episcopalians, then Miss Clarice
found that she couldn't believe in vicarious sacrifice and went over to
Buddhism. She took me into her bedroom once. There was a thick yellow
carpet, and a bed with a tapestry cover, and almost no furniture,
except--is it impious to call Buddha furniture?--a large figure of
Buddha with a lamp burning before it. It all seemed to me horribly
unfresh. Both ladies provide much simple amusement to the townsfolk with
their clothes and their antics."
"I know the Speirs type," said Pamela. "Foolish virgins."
"Next to Woodside is Craigton," went on Jean, "and there live three
spinsters--the very best brand of spinsters--the Duncans, Miss Mary,
Miss Janet, and Miss Phemie. I don't know what Priorsford would do
without these good women. Spinsters they are, but they are also real
mothers in Israel. They have time to help everyone. Benign Miss Mary is
the housekeeper--and such a housekeeper! Miss Janet is the public one,
sits on all the Committees. Miss Phemie does the flowers and embroiders
beautiful things and is like a tea-cosy, so soft and warm and
comfortable. Somehow they always seem to be there when you want them.
You never go to their door and get a dusty answer. There is the same
welcome for everyone, gentle and simple, and always the bright fire, and
the kind, smiling faces, and tea with thick cream and cake of the
richest and freshest.... You know how some people beg you to visit them,
and when you go they seem to wear a surprised look, and you feel
unexpected and awkward? The Duncans make you feel so pleased with
yourself. They are so unselfishly interested in other people's concerns;
and they are grand laughers. Even the dullest warm to something
approaching wit when surrounded by that appreciative audience of three.
They don't talk much themselves, but they have made of listening a fine
"Jean," said Pamela, "do you actually mean to tell me that everybody in
Priorsford is nice? Or are you merely being charitable? I don't know
anything duller than your charitable person who always says the kind
Jean laughed. "I'm sorry, but I'm afraid the Priorsford people are all
more or less nice. At least, they seem so to me, but perhaps I'm not
very discriminating. You will tell me what you think of them when you
meet them. All these people I've been telling you about are rich people,
'in a large way,' as Priorsford calls it. They have all large motor-cars
and hothouses and rich things like that. Mrs. M'Cosh says Priorsford is
a 'real tone-y wee place,' and we do fancy ourselves a good deal. It's a
community largely made up of women and middle-aged retired men. You see,
there is nothing for the young men to do; we haven't even mills like so
many of the Tweedside towns."
"Will people call on me?" Pamela asked. "Is Priorsford sociable?"
Jean pursed up her mouth in an effort to look worldly wise. "I think
_you_ will find it sociable, but if you had come here obscure and
unknown, your existence would never have been heard of, even if you had
taken a house and settled down. Priorsford hardly looks over its
shoulder at a newcomer. Some of the 'little' people might call and ask
you to tea--the kind 'little' people--but--"
"Who do you call the 'little' people?"
"All the people who aren't 'in a large way,' all the dwellers in the
snug little villas--most of Priorsford in fact." Jean got up to go.
"Dear me, look at the time! The boys will be home from school. May I
have the book you spoke of? Priorsford would be enraged if it heard me
calmly discussing its faults and foibles." She laughed softly. "Lewis
Elliot says Priorsford is made up of three classes--the dull, the daft,
and the devout."
Pamela, looking for the book she wanted to lend to Jean, stopped and
stood still as if arrested by the name.
"Yes, of Laverlaw. D'you know him, by any chance?"
"I used to know a Lewis Elliot who had some connection with Priorsford,
but I thought he had left it years ago."
"Our Lewis Elliot inherited Laverlaw rather unexpectedly some years
ago. Before that he was quite poor. Perhaps that is what makes him so
understanding. He is a sort of distant cousin of ours. Great-aunt Alison
was his aunt too--at least, he called her aunt. It will be fun if he
turns out to be the man you used to know."
"Yes," said Pamela. "Here is the book, Jean. It's been so nice having
you this afternoon. No, dear, I won't go back with you to tea. I'm going
to write letters. Good-bye. My love to the boys."
But Pamela wrote no letters that evening. She sat with a book on her
knee and looked into the fire; sometimes she sighed.
"I have, as you know, a general prejudice against all persons who do
not succeed in the world."--JOWETT OF BALLIOL.
Mrs. Duff-Whalley was giving a dinner-party. This was no uncommon
occurrence, for she loved to entertain. It gave her real pleasure to
provide a good meal and to see her guests enjoy it. "Besides," as she
often said, "what's the use of having everything solid for the table,
and a fine house and a cook at sixty pounds a year, if nobody's any the
It will be seen from this remark that Mrs. Duff-Whalley had not always
been in a position to give dinner-parties; indeed, Mrs. Hope, that
terror to the newly risen, who traced everyone back to their first rude
beginnings (generally "a wee shop"), had it that the late Mr.
Duff-Whalley had begun life as a "Johnnie-a'-things" in Leith, and that
his wife had been his landlady's daughter.
But the "wee shop" was in the dim past, if, indeed, it had ever existed
except in Mrs. Hope's wicked, wise old head, and for many years Mrs.
Duff-Whalley had ruffled it in a world that asked no questions about
the origin of money so obviously there.
Most people are weak when they come in contact with a really
strong-willed woman. No one liked Mrs. Duff-Whalley, but few, if any,
withstood her advances. It was easier to give in and be on calling and
dining terms than to repulse a woman who never noticed a snub, and who
would never admit the possibility that she might not be wanted. So Mrs.
Duff-Whalley could boast with some degree of truth that she knew
"everybody," and entertained at The Towers "very nearly the highest in
The dinner-party I write of was not one of her more ambitious efforts.
It was a small and (with the exception of one guest) what she called "a
purely local affair." That is to say, the people who were to grace the
feast were culled from the big villas on the Hill, and were not
Mrs. Duff-Whalley was an excellent manager, and left nothing to chance.
She saw to all the details herself. Dressed and ready quite half an hour
before the time fixed for dinner, she had cast her eagle glance over the
dinner-table, and now sailed into the drawing-room to see that the fire
was at its best, the chairs comfortably disposed, and everything as it
should be. Certainly no one could have found fault with the comfort of
the room this evening. A huge fire blazed in the most approved style of
grate, the electric light (in the latest fittings) also blazed, lighting
up the handsome oil-paintings that adorned the walls, the many
photographs, the china in the cabinets, the tables with their silver
treasures. Everywhere stood vases of heavy-scented hothouse flowers.
Mrs. Duff-Whalley approved of hothouse flowers; she said they gave a
tone to a room.
The whole room glittered, and its mistress glittered with it as she
moved about in a dress largely composed of sequins, a diamond necklace,
and a startling ornament in her hair.
She turned as the door opened and her daughter came into the room, and
looked her carefully up and down. She was a pretty girl dressed in the
extreme of fashion, and under each arm she carried a tiny barking dog.
Muriel was a good daughter to her mother, and an exemplary character in
every way, but the odd thing was that few people liked her. This was the
more tragic as it was the desire of her heart to be popular. Her
appearance was attractive, and strangers usually began acquaintance with
enthusiasm, but the attraction rarely survived the first hour's talk.
She was like a very well-coloured and delightful-looking apple that is
without flavour. She was never natural--always aping someone. Her
enthusiasms did not ring true, her interest was obviously feigned, and
she had that most destroying of social faults, she could not listen with
patience, but let her attention wander to the conversation of her
neighbours. It seemed as if she could never talk at peace with anyone
for fear of missing something more interesting in another quarter.
"You look very nice, Muriel! I'm glad I told you to put on that dress,
and that new way of doing your hair is very becoming." One lovable thing
about Mrs. Duff-Whalley was the way she sincerely and openly admired
everything that was hers. "Now, see and do your best to make the evening
go. Mr. Elliot takes a lot of amusing, and the Jowetts aren't very
"Is that all that's coming?" Muriel asked.
"I asked the new Episcopalian parson--what's his name?--yes--Jackson--to
"You don't often descend to the clergy, mother."
"No, but Episcopalians are slightly better fitted for society than
Presbyterians, and this young man seems quite a gentleman--such a
blessing, too, when they haven't got wives. Dear, dear, I told Dickie
not to send in any more of that plant--what d'you call it?" (It was a
peculiarity of Mrs. Duff-Whalley that she never could remember the names
of any but the simplest flowers.) "I don't like its perfume. What was I
saying? Of course, I only got up this dinner on the spur of the moment,
so to speak, when I met Mr. Elliot in the Highgate. He comes and goes so
much you never know when he's at Laverlaw; if you write or telephone
he's always got another engagement. But when I met him face to face I
just said, 'Now, when will you dine with us, Mr. Elliot?' and he hummed
and hawed a bit and then fixed to-night."
"Perhaps he didn't want to come," Muriel suggested as she snuggled one
of the small dogs against her face. "And did it love its own mummy,
then, darling snub-nose pet?"
Her mother scouted the idea.
"Why should he not want to come? Do put down those dogs, Muriel. I never
get used to see you kissing them. A good dinner and everything
comfortable, and you to play the piano to him taught by the best
masters--he's ill to please. And he's not very well off, though he does
own Laverlaw. It's the time the family has been there that gives him the
standing. I must say, he isn't in the least genial, but he gets that
from his mother. A starchier old woman I never met. I remember your
father and I were staying at the Hydro when old Elliot died, and his son
was killed before that, shooting lions or something in Africa, so this
Lewis Elliot, who was a nephew, inherited. We thought we would go and
ask if by any chance they wanted to sell the place, so we called in a
friendly way, though we didn't know them, of course. It was old Mrs.
Elliot we saw, and my word, she was cold. As polite as you like, but as
icy as the North Pole. Your father had some vulgar sayings I couldn't
break him off, and he said as we drove out of the lodge gates, 'Well,
that old wife gave us our heads in our laps and our lugs to play wi'.'"
"Why, mother!" Muriel cried, astonished. Her mother was never heard to
use a Scots expression and thought even a Scots song slightly vulgar.
"I know--I know," said Mrs. Duff-Whalley hastily. "It just came over me
for a minute how your father said it. He was a very amusing man, your
father, very bright to live with, though he was too fond of low Scots
expressions for my taste; and he _would_ eat cheese to his tea. It kept
us down, you know. I've risen a lot in the world since your father left
us, though I miss him, of course. He used to laugh at Minnie's ideas. It
was Minnie got us to send Gordon to an English school and then to
Cambridge, and take the hyphen. Your father had many a laugh at the
hyphen, and before the servants too! You see, Minnie went to a
high-class school and made friends with the right people, and learned
how things should be done. She had always assurance, had Minnie. The way
she could order the waiters about in those grand London hotels! And then
she married Egerton-Thomson. But you're better-looking, Muriel."
Muriel brushed aside the subject of her looks.
"What made you settle in Priorsford?" she asked.
"Well, we came out first to stay at the Hydro--you were away at school
then--and your father took a great fancy to the place. He was making
money fast, and we always had a thought of buying a place. But there was
nothing that just suited us. We thought it would be too dull to be right
out in the country, at the end of a long drive--exclusive you know, but
terribly dreary, and then your father said, 'Build a house to suit
ourselves in Priorsford, and we'll have shops and a station and
everything quite near.' His idea was to have a house as like a
hydropathic as possible, and to call it The Towers. 'A fine big red
house, Aggie,' he often said to me, 'with plenty of bow-windows and
turrets and a hothouse off the drawing-room and a sweep of gravel in
front and a lot of geraniums and those yellow flowers--what d'you call
'em?--and good lawns, and a flower garden and a kitchen garden and a
garage, and what more d'you want?' Well, well, he got them all, but he
didn't live long to enjoy them. I think myself that having nothing to do
but take his meals killed him. I hear wheels! That'll be the Jowetts.
They're always so punctual. Am I all right?"
Muriel assured her that nothing was wrong or lacking, and they waited
for the guests.
The door opened and a servant announced, "Mr. and Mrs. Jowett."
Mrs. Jowett walked very slowly and delicately, and her husband pranced
behind her. It might have been expected that in their long walk together
through life Mr. Jowett would have got accustomed to his wife's
deliberate entrances, but no--it always seemed as if he were just on the
point of giving her an impatient push from behind.
She was a gentle-looking woman with soft, white hair and a
pink-and-white complexion--the sort of woman one always associates with
old lace. In her youth it was said that she had played the harp, and one
felt that the "grave, sweet melody" would have well become her. She was
dressed in pale shades of mauve, and had a finely finished look. The
Indian climate and curries had affected Mr. Jowett's liver, and made his
temper fiery, but his heart remained the sound, childlike thing it had
always been. He quarrelled with everybody (though never for long), but
people in trouble gravitated to him naturally, and no one had ever
asked him anything in reason and been refused; children loved him.
Mr. Jackson, the Episcopalian clergyman, followed hard behind the
Jowetts, and was immediately engaged in an argument with Mr. Jowett as
to whether or not choral communion, which had recently been started and
which Mr. Jowett resented, as he resented all new things, should be
"Ridiculous!" he shouted--"utterly ridiculous! You will drive the people
from the church, sir."
Then Mr. Elliot arrived. Mrs. Duff-Whalley greeted him impressively, and
dinner was announced.
Lewis Elliot was a man of forty-five, tall and thin and inclined to
stoop. He had shortsighted blue eyes and a shy, kind smile. He was not a
sociable man, and resented being dragged from his books to attend a
dinner-party. Like most people he was quite incapable of saying No to
Mrs. Duff-Whalley when that lady desired an answer in the affirmative,
but he had condemned himself roundly to himself as a fool as he drove
down the glen from Laverlaw.
Mrs. Duff-Whalley always gave a long and pretentious meal, and expected
everyone to pay for their invitation by being excessively bright and
chatty. It was not in the power of the present guests to be either the
one thing or the other. Mrs. Jowett was pensive and sweet, and inclined
to be silent; her husband gave loud barks of disagreement at intervals;
Mr. Jackson enjoyed his dinner and answered when spoken to, while Lewis
Elliot was rendered almost speechless by the flood of talk his hostess
poured over him.
"I'm very sorry, Mr. Elliot," she remarked in a pause, "that the people
I wanted to meet you couldn't come. I asked Sir John and Lady Tweedie,
but they were engaged--so unfortunate, for they are such an acquisition.
Then I asked the Olivers, and they couldn't come. You would really
wonder where the engagements come from in this quiet neighbourhood." She
gave a little unbelieving laugh. "I had evidently chosen an unfortunate
evening for the County."
It was trying for everyone: for Mr. Elliot, who was left with the
impression that people were apt to be engaged when asked to meet him;
for the Jowetts, who now knew that they had received a "fiddler's
bidding," and for Mr. Jackson, who felt that he was only there because
nobody else could be got.
There was a blank silence, which Lewis Elliot broke by laughing
cheerfully. "That absurd rhyme came into my head," he explained. "You
"'Miss Smarty gave a party,
No one came.
Her brother gave another,
Just the same.'"
Then, feeling suddenly that he had not improved matters, he fell silent.
"Oh," said Mrs. Duff-Whalley, rearing her head like an affronted hen,
"the difficulty, I assure you, is not to find guests but to decide which
"Quite so, quite so, naturally," murmured Mr. Jackson soothingly; he
had laughed at the rhyme and felt apologetic. Then, losing his head
completely under the cold glance his hostess turned on him, he added,
"Go ye into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in."
Mrs. Jowett took a bit of toast and broke it nervously. She was never
quite at ease in Mrs. Duff-Whalley's company. Incapable of an unkind
thought or a bitter word, so refined as to be almost inaudible, she felt
jarred and bumped in her mind after a talk with that lady, even as her
body would have felt after bathing in a rough sea among rocks. Realising
that the conversation had taken an unfortunate turn, she tried to divert
it into more pleasing channels.
Turning to Mr. Jackson, she said: "Such a sad thing happened to-day. Our
dear old dog, Rover, had to be put away. He was sixteen, very deaf and
rather cross, and the Vet. said it wasn't _kind_ to keep him; and of
course after that we felt there was nothing to be said. The Vet. said he
would come this morning at ten o'clock, and it quite spoilt my
breakfast, for dear Rover sat beside me and begged, and I felt like an
executioner; and then he went out for a walk by himself--a thing he
hadn't done since he had become frail--and when the Vet. came there was
"Dear, dear!" said Mr. Jackson, helping himself to an entree.
"The really dreadful thing about it," continued Mrs. Jowett, refusing
the entree, "was that Johnston--the gardener, you know--had dug the
grave where I had chosen he should lie, dear Rover, and--you have heard
the expression, Mr. Jackson--a yawning grave? Well, the grave _yawned_.
It was too heartrending. I simply went to my room and cried, and Tim
went in one direction and Johnston in another, and the maids looked too,
and they found the dear doggie, and the Vet.--a most obliging man called
Davidson--came back ... and dear Rover is _at rest_."
Mrs. Jowett looked sadly round and found that the whole table had been
listening to the recital.
Few people have not loved a dog and known the small tragedy of parting
with it when its all too short day was over, and even the "lamentable
comedy" of Mrs. Jowett's telling of the tale made no one smile.
Muriel leant forward, genuinely distressed. "I'm so frightfully sorry,
Mrs. Jowett; you'll miss dear old Rover dreadfully."
"It's a beastly business putting away a dog," said Lewis Elliot. "I
always wish they had the same lease of life as we have. 'Threescore and
ten years do sum up' ... and it's none too long for such faithful
"You must get another, Mrs. Jowett," her hostess told her bracingly.
"Get a dear little toy Pekinese or one of those Japanese
what-do-you-call-'ems that you can carry in your arms: they are so
"If you do, Janetta," her husband warned her, "you must choose between
the brute and me. I refuse to live in the same house with one of those
pampered, trifling little beasts. If we decide to fill old Rover's
place I suggest that we get a rough-haired Irish terrier." He rolled the
"r's" round his tongue. "Something robust that can bark and chase cats,
and not lie all day on a cushion, like one of those dashed Chinese ..."
His voice died away in muttered thunder.
Again Mrs. Duff-Whalley reared her head, but Muriel interposed,
laughing. "You mustn't really be so severe, Mr. Jowett. I happen to
possess two of the 'trifling beasts,' and you must come and apologise to
them after dinner. You can't imagine more perfect darlings, and of
_course_ they are called Bing and Toutou. You won't be able to resist
their little sweet faces--too utterly darling!"
"Shan't I?" said Mr. Jowett doubtfully. "Well, I apologise. Nobody likes
to hear their dog miscalled.... By the way, Jackson, that's an
abominable brute of yours. Bit three milk-girls and devastated the
Scotts' hen-house last week, I hear."
"Yes," said Mr. Jackson. "Four murdered fowls they brought to me, and I
had to pay for them; and they didn't give me the corpses, which I felt
was too bad."
"What?" said Mrs. Duff-Whalley, deeply interested. "Did you actually pay
for the damage done and let them keep the fowls?"
"I did," Mr. Jackson owned gloomily, and the topic lasted until the
fruit was handed round.
"I wonder," said Mrs. Jowett to her hostess, as she peeled a pear, "if
you have met a newcomer in Priorsford--Miss Reston? She has taken Miss
"You mean the Honourable Pamela Reston? She is a daughter of the late
Lord Bidborough of Bidborough Manor, Surrey, and Mintern Abbas,
Oxfordshire, and sister of the present peer: I looked her up in Debrett.
I called on her, feeling it my duty to be civil to a stranger, but it
seems to me a very odd thing that a peer's daughter would care to live
in such a humble way. Mark my words, there's something shady about it.
As likely as not, she's an absconding lady's-maid--but a call commits
one to nothing. She was out anyway, so I didn't see her."
"Oh, indeed," said Mrs. Jowett, blushing pink, "Miss Reston is no
impostor. When you have seen her you will realise that. I met her
yesterday at the Jardines'. She is the most delightful creature, _so_
charming to look at, so wonderfully graceful--"
"I think," said Lewis Elliot, "that that must be the Pamela Reston I
used to know. Did you say she was living in Priorsford?"
"Yes, in a cottage called Hillview, next to The Rigs, you know," Mrs.
Jowett explained. "Mhor made friends with her whenever she arrived, and
took her in to see Jean. You can imagine how attractive she found the
"The Jardines are very unconventional," said Mrs. Duff-Whalley, "if you
call that attractive. Jean doesn't know how to keep her place with
people at all. I saw her walking beside a tinker woman the other day,
helping her with her bundle; and I'm sure I've simply had to give up
calling at The Rigs, for you never knew who you would have to shake
hands with. I'm sorry for Jean, poor little soul. It seems a pity that
there is no one to dress her and give her a chance. She's a plain little
thing at best, but clothes might do wonders for her."
"There I totally disagree," shouted Mr. Jowett. "Jean, to my mind, is
the best-looking girl in Priorsford. She walks so well and has such an
honest, jolly look. I'm glad there's no one to dress her and make an
affected doll of her.... She's the kind of girl a man would like to have
for a daughter."
"But what," asked Mrs. Duff-Whalley, "can Miss Reston have in common
with people like the Jardines? I don't believe they have more than L300
a year, and such a plain little house, and one queer old servant. Miss
Reston must be accustomed to things so very different. We must ask her
here to meet some of the County."
"The County!" growled Mr. Jowett. "Except for Elliot here, and the Hopes
and the Tweedies and the Olivers, there are practically none of the old
families left. I tell you what it is--"
But Mrs. Duff-Whalley had had enough for the moment of Mr. Jowett's
conversation, so she nodded to Mrs. Jowett, and with an arch admonition
to the men not to stay too long, she swept the ladies before her to the
"I will the country see
Where old simplicity,
Though hid in grey,
Doth look more gay
Than foppery in plush and scarlet clad."
THOMAS RANDOLPH, 1605-35.
A letter from Pamela Reston to her brother.
" ... It was a tremendous treat to get your budget this morning after
three mails of silence. I got your cable saying you were back before I
knew you contemplated going, so I never had to worry. I think the War
has shaken my nerves in a way I hadn't realised. I never used to worry
about you very much, knowing your faculty of falling on your feet, but
now I tremble.
"Sikkim must be marvellous, and to try an utterly untried route was
thrilling, but what uncomfortable times men do give themselves! To lie
in a tiny tent in the soaking rain with your bedding crawling with
leeches, 'great, cold, well-nourished fellows.' Ugh! And yet, I suppose
you counted the discomforts as nothing when you gazed at Everest while
yet the dawn 'walked tiptoe on the mountains' (will it ever be climbed,
I wonder!), and even more wonderful, as you describe it, must have been
the vision from below the Alukthang glacier, when the mists slowly
unveiled the face of Pandim to the moon....
"And I shall soon hear of it all by word of mouth. It is the best of
news that you are coming home. I don't think you must go away again
without me. I have missed you dreadfully these last six months.
"Besides, you ought to settle at home for a bit now, don't you think?
First, your long exploring expedition and then the War: haven't you been
across the world, away long enough to make you want to stay at home? You
are one of the very worst specimens of an absentee landlord.... After
profound calculations I have come to the conclusion that you will get
two letters from me from Priorsford before you leave India. I am sending
this to Port Said to make sure of not missing you. You will have lots of
time to read it on board ship if it is rather long.
"Shall I meet you in London? Send me a wire when you get this. What I
should like to do would be to conduct you personally to Priorsford. I
think you would like it. The countryside is lovely, and after a week or
two we could go somewhere for Christmas. The Champertouns have asked me
to go to them, and of course their invitation would include you. They
are second or third cousins, and we've never seen them, but they are our
mother's people, and I have always wanted to see where she was brought
up. However, we can settle all that later on....
"I feel myself quite an old resident in Priorsford now, and have become
acquainted with some of the people--well-to-do, hospitable, not at all
interesting (with a few exceptions), but kind.
"The Jardines remain my great interest. What a blessing it is when
people improve by knowing--so few do. I see the Jardines once every day,
sometimes oftener, and I like them more every time I see them.
"I've been thinking, Biddy, you and I haven't had a vast number of
people to be fond of. There was Aunt Eleanor, but I defy anyone to be
fond of her. Respect her one might, fear her we did, but love her--it
would have been as discouraging as petting a steam road-roller. We
hadn't even a motherly old nurse, for Aunt Eleanor liked machine-made
people like herself to serve her. I don't think it did you much harm,
you were such a sunny-tempered, affectionate little boy, but it made me
"As we grew up we acquired crowds of friends and acquaintances, but they
were never like real home-people to whom you show both your best and
your worst side, and who love you simply because you are you. The
Jardines give me that homey feeling.
"The funny thing is I thought I was going to broaden Jean, to show her
what a narrow little Puritan she is, bound in the Old Testament thrall
of her Great-aunt Alison--but not a bit of it. She is very receptive,
delighted to be told about people and clothes, cities, theatres,
pictures, but on what she calls 'serious things' she is an absolute
rock. It is like finding a Roundhead delighting in Royalist sports and
plays, or a Royalist chanting Roundhead psalms--if you can imagine an
evangelical Royalist. Anyway, it is rather a fine combination.
"I only wish I could help to make things easier for Jean. I have far
more money than I want; she has so little. I'm afraid she has to plan
and worry a good deal how to clothe and feed and educate those boys. I
know that she is very anxious that David should not be too scrimped for
money at Oxford, and consequently spends almost nothing on herself. A
warm coat for Jock; no evening gown for Jean. David finds that he must
buy certain books and writes home in distress. 'That can easily be
managed,' says Jean, and goes without a new winter hat. She and Mrs.
M'Cosh are wonders of economy in housekeeping, and there is always
abundance of plain, well-cooked food.
"I told you about Mrs. M'Cosh? She is the Jardines' one servant--an
elderly woman, a widow from Glasgow. I like her way of showing in
visitors. She was a pew-opener in a church at one time, which may
account for it. When you ask if Jean is in, she puts her head on one
side in a considering way and says, 'I'm no' juist sure,' and ambles
away, leaving the visitor quite undecided whether she is intended to
remain on the doorstep or follow her in. I know now that she means you
to remain meekly on the doorstep, for she lately recounted to me with
glee of another caller, 'I'd went awa' up the stair to see if Miss Jean
wis in, an' whit d'ye think? When I lukit roond the wumman wis at ma
heels.' The other day workmen were in the house doing something, and
when Mrs. M'Cosh opened the door to me she said, 'Ye see the mess we're
in. D'ye think ye should come in?' leaving it to my better nature to
"She is always serene, always smiling. The great love of her life is
Peter, the fox-terrier, one of the wickedest and nicest of dogs. He is
always in trouble, and she is sorely put to it sometimes to find excuses
for him. 'He's a great wee case, is Peter,' she generally finishes up.
'He means no ill' (this after it has been proved that he has chased
sheep, killed hens, and bitten message-boys); 'he's juist a wee thing
"Peter attends every function in Priorsford--funerals, marriages,
circuses. He meets all the trains and escorts strangers to the objects
of interest in the neighbourhood. He sees people off, and wags his tail
in farewell as the train moves out of the station.
"He and Mhor are fast friends, and it is an inspiring sight to see them
of a morning, standing together in the middle of the road with the whole
wide world before them, wondering which would be the best way to take
for adventures. Mhor has had much liberty lately as he has been
infectious after whooping-cough, but now he has gone back to the little
school he attends with some twenty other children. I'm afraid he is a
very unwilling scholar.
"You will be glad to hear that Bella Bathgate (I'm taking a liberty
with her name I don't dare take in speaking to her) is thawing to me
slightly. It seems that part of the reason for her distaste to me was
that she thought I would probably demand a savoury for dinner! If I did
ask such a thing--which Heaven forbid!--she would probably send me in a
huge pudding dish of macaroni and cheese. Her cooking is not the best of
"She and Mawson have become fast friends. Mawson has asked Bella to call
her Winifred, and she calls Miss Bathgate 'Beller.'
"Miss Bathgate spends any leisure moments she has in doing long strips
of crochet, which eventually become a bedspread, and considers it a
waste of time to read anything but the Bible, the _Scotsman_ and the
_Missionary Magazine_ (she is very keen on Foreign Missions), but she
doesn't object to listening to Mawson's garbled accounts of the books
she reads. I sometimes overhear their conversations as they sit together
by the kitchen fire in the long evenings.
"'And,' says Mawson, describing some lurid work of fiction, 'Evangeline
was left shut up in the picture-gallery of the 'ouse.'
"'D'ye mean to tell me hooses hev picture-galleries?' says Bella.
"'Course they 'ave--all big 'ouses.'
"'Juist like the Campbell Institution--sic a bother it must be to dust!'
"'Well,' Mawson goes on, 'Evangeline finds 'er h'eyes attracted--'
"Again Bella interrupts. 'Wha was Evangeline? I forget aboot her.'
"'Oh, don't you remember? The golden-'aired 'eroine with vilet eyes.'
"'I mind her noo. The yin wi' the black hair was the bad yin.'
"'Yes, she was called 'Ermione. Well, Evangeline finds 'er h'eyes
attracted to the picture of a man dressed like a cavalier.'
"'I don't rightly know,' Mawson confesses. 'Kind of a fancy dress, I
believe, but anyway 'er h'eyes were attracted to the picture, and as she
fixed 'er h'eyes on it the _h'eyes in the picture_ moved.'
"'Oh, murder!' says Bella, much thrilled.
"'You may say it. Murder it was, h'attempted murder, I should say, for
of course it would never do to murder the vilet-h'eyed 'eroine. As it
'appened ...' and so on ...
"One of the three months gone! Perhaps at the beginning of the year I
shall have had more than enough of it, and go gladly back to the
fleshpots of Egypt and the Politician.
"It is a dear thing a little town, 'a lovesome thing, God wot,' and
Priorsford is the pick of all little towns. I love the shops and the
kind, interested way the shopkeepers serve one: I have shopped in most
European cities, but I never realised the full delight of shopping till
I came to Priorsford. You can't think what fun it is to order in all
your own meals, to decide whether you will have a 'finnan-haddie' or a
'kipper' for breakfast--much more exciting than ordering a ball gown.
"I love the river, and the wide bridge, and the old castle keeping watch
and ward, and the _pends_ through which you catch sudden glimpses of the
solemn round-backed hills. And most of all I love the lights that
twinkle out in the early darkness, every light meaning a little home,
and a warm fireside and kindly people round it.
"To live, as you and I have done all our lives, in houses where all the
difficulties of life are kept in oblivion, and existence runs on
well-oiled wheels is very pleasant, doubtless, but one misses a lot. I
love the _nearness_ of Hillview, to hear Mawson and B.B. converse in the
kitchen, to smell (this is the most comfortable and homely smell) the
ironing of clean clothes, and to know (also by the sense of smell) what
I am going to have for dinner hours before it comes.
"Of course you will say, and probably with truth, that what I enjoy is
the _newness_ of it, that if I knew that my life would be spent in such
surroundings I would be profoundly dissatisfied.
"I dare say. But in the meantime I am happy--happy in a contented, quiet
way that I never knew before.
"It is strange that our old friend Lewis Elliot is living near
Priorsford, at a place called Laverlaw, about five miles up Tweed from
here. Do you remember what good times we used to have with him when he
came to stay with the Greys? That must be more than twenty years
ago--you were a little boy and I was a wild colt of a girl. I don't
think you have ever seen much of him since, but I saw a lot of him in
London when I first came out. Then he vanished. Some years ago his uncle
died and he inherited Laverlaw. He came to see me the other day, not a
bit changed, the same dreamy, unambitious creature--rather an angel. I
sometimes wonder if little Jean will one day go to Laverlaw. It would be
very nice and fairy-tale-ish!"
"You that are old," Falstaff reminds the Chief Justice, "consider
not the capacities of us that are young."
One afternoon Jean called for Pamela to take her to see Mrs. Hope.
It was a clear, blue-and-white day, with clouds scudding across the sky,
and a cold, whistling wind that blew the fallen leaves along the dry
roads--a day that made people walk smartly and gave the children
apple-red cheeks and tangled curls.
Mhor and Peter were seated on The Rigs garden wall as Pamela and Jean
came out of Hillview gate. Peter wagged his tail in recognition, but
Mhor made no sign of having seen his sister and her friend.
"Aren't you cold up there?" Pamela asked him.
"Very cold," said Mhor, "but we can't come down. We're on sentry duty on
the city wall till sundown," and he shaded his eyes with his hand and
pretended to peer into space for lurking foes.
Peter looked wistfully up at him and hunched himself against the
scratched bare knees now blue with cold.
"When the sun touches the top of West Law," said Jean, pointing to a
distant blue peak, "it has set. See--there.... Now run in, sonny, and
tell Mrs. M'Cosh to let you have some currant-loaf for tea. Pamela and I
are going to tea at Hopetoun."
"Aw," said Mhor, "I hate when you go out to tea. So does Jock. So does
Peter. Look out! I'm going to jump."
He jumped and fell prostrate, barking his chin, but no howl came from
him, and he picked himself up with dignity, merely asking for the loan
of a handkerchief, his own "useful little hanky," as he explained,
having been used to mop up a spilt ink-bottle.
Fortunately Jean had a spare handkerchief, and Pamela promised that on
her return he should have a reel of sticking-plaster for his own use,
so, battered but content, he returned to the house, Peter remaining
behind to investigate a mole-heap.
"What a cheery day for November," Pamela remarked as they took the road
by Tweedside. "Look at that beech tree against the blue sky, every black
twig silhouetted. Trees are wonderful in winter."
"Trees are wonderful always," said Jean. "'Solomon spake of trees'--I do
wonder what he said. I suppose it would be the cedars of Lebanon he
'spake' of, and the hyssop that grows in the walls, and sycamores, but
he would have been worth hearing on a rowan tree flaming red against a
blue September sky. Look at that newly ploughed field so softly brown,
and the faded gold of the beech hedge. November _is_ a cheery time. The
only depressing time of the year to me is when the swallows go away. I
can't bear to see them wheeling round and preparing to depart. I want so
badly to go with them. It always brings back to me the feeling I had as
a child when people read Hans Andersen to me--the storks in _The Marsh
King's Daughter_, talking about the mud in Egypt. Imagine Priorsford
swallows in Egypt!... As the song says:
"'It's dowie at the hint o' hair'st
At the way-gaun o' the swallow.'"
"What a lovely sound Lowland Scots has," said Pamela. "I like to hear
you speak it. Tell me about Mrs. Hope, Jean. I do hope we shall see her
alone. I don't like Priorsford tea-parties; they are rather like a
foretaste of eternal punishment. With no choice you are dumped down
beside the most irrelevant sort of person, and there you remain. I went
to return Mrs. Duff-Whalley's call the other day, and fell into one.
Before I could retreat I was wedged into a chair beside a woman whom I
hope I shall never see again. She was one of those bleak people who make
the thought of getting up in the morning and dressing quite
insupportable. I don't think there was a detail in her domestic life
that she didn't touch on. She told me all her husband could eat and
couldn't eat; she called her children 'little tots,' and said she
couldn't get so much as a 'serviette' washed in the house. I thought
nobody talked of serviettes outside Wells and Arnold Bennett. Mrs.
Duff-Whalley rescued me in the nick of time before I could do anything
desperate, and then _she_ cross-examined me as to my reasons for coming
Jean laughed. "What a cheery afternoon! But it will be all right to-day.
Mrs. Hope never sees more than one or two people at a time. She is
pretty old, you see, and frail, though she has such an extraordinary
gift of being young. I do hope you will like each other. She has an edge
to her tongue, but she is an incomparable friend. The poor people go to
her in flocks, and she scolds them roundly, but always knows how to help
them in the only wise way. Her people have been in Priorsford for ages;
she knows every soul in the place, and is vastly amused at all the
little snobberies that abound in a small town. But she laughs kindly.
Pretentious people are afraid of her; simple people love her."
"Am I simple, Jean?"
Jean laughed and refused to give an opinion on the subject, beyond
quoting the words of Autolycus--"How blessed are we that are not simple
They were in the Hopetoun Woods now, and at the end of the avenue could
see the house standing on a knoll by the river, whitewashed, dignified,
"Talk to Mrs. Hope about the view," Jean advised "She is as proud of the
Hopetoun Woods as if she had made them. Isn't it a nice place? Old and
proud and honourable--like Mrs. Hope herself."
"Are there sons to inherit?"
Jean shook her head. "There were three sons. Mrs. Hope hardly ever
talks about them, but I've seen their photographs, and of course I have
often been told about them--by Great-aunt Alison, and others--and heard
how they died. They were very clever and good-looking and
well-liked--the kind of sons mothers are very proud of, and they all
died imperially, if that is an expression to use. Two died in India,
one--a soldier--in one of the Frontier skirmishes: the other--an I.C.S.
man--from over-working in a famine-stricken district. The youngest fell
in the Boer War ... so you see Mrs. Hope has the right to be proud. Aunt
Alison used to tell me that she made no moan over her wonderful sons.
She shut herself up for a short time, and then faced the world again,
her kindly, sharp-tongued self. She is one of those splendid people who
take the slings and arrows thrown at them by outrageous fortune and bury
them deep in their hearts and go on, still able to laugh, still able to
take an interest. Only, you mustn't speak to her of what she has lost.
That would be too much."
"Yes," said Pamela. "I can understand that."
She stopped for a minute and stood looking at the river full of "wan
water from the Border hills," at the stretches of lawn ornamented here
and there by stone figures, at the trees _thrawn_ with winter and rough
weather, and she thought of the three boys who had played here, who had
lived in the whitewashed house (she could see the barred nursery
windows), bathed and fished in the Tweed, thrown stones at the grey
stone figures on the lawn, climbed the trees in the Hopetoun Woods, and
who had gone out with their happy young lives to lay them down in a far
Mrs. Hope was sitting by the fire in the drawing-room, a room full of
flowers and books, and lit by four long windows. Two of the windows
looked on to the lawns, and the stone figures chipped by generations of
catapult-owning boys; the other two looked across the river into the
Hopetoun Woods. The curtains were not drawn though the lamps were lit,
for Mrs. Hope liked to keep the river and the woods with her as long as
light lasted, so the warm bright room looked warmer and brighter in
contrast with the cold, ruffled water and the wind-shaken trees outside.
Mrs. Hope had been a beautiful woman in her day, and was still an
attractive figure, her white hair dressed high and crowned with a square
of lace tied in quaint fashion under her chin. Her black dress was soft
and becoming to her spare figure. There was nothing unsightly about her
years; she made age seem a lovely, desirable thing. Not that her years
were so very many, but she had lived every minute of them; also she had
given lavishly and unsparingly of her store of sympathy and energy to
others: and she had suffered grievously.
She kissed Jean affectionately, upbraiding her for being long in coming,
and turned eagerly to Pamela. New people still interested her vividly.
Here was a newcomer who promised well.
"Ah, my dear," she said in greeting, "I have wanted to know you. I'm
told you are the most interesting person who ever came to this little
Pamela laughed. "There I am sure you have been misled. Priorsford is
full of exciting people. I expected to be dull, and I have rarely been
so well amused."
Mrs. Hope studied the charming face bent to her own. Her blue eyes were
shrewd, and though she stood so near the end of the way she had lost
none of her interest in the comings and goings of Vanity Fair.
"Is Priorsford amusing?" she said. "Well" (complacently), "we have our
points. As Jane Austen wrote of the Misses Bingley, 'Our powers of
conversation are considerable--we can describe an entertainment with
accuracy, relate an anecdote with humour, and laugh at our acquaintances
"Laugh!" Jean groaned. "Pamela, I must warn you that Mrs. Hope's
laughter scares Priorsford to death. We speak her fair in order that she
won't give us away to our neighbours, but we have no real hope that she
doesn't see through us. Have we, Miss Augusta?" addressing the daughter
of the house, who had just come into the room.
"Ah," said Mrs. Hope, "if everyone was as transparent as you, Jean."
"Oh, don't," Jean pleaded. "You remind me that I am quite uninteresting
when I am trying to make believe that I am subtle, or 'subtile,' as the
Psalmist says of the fowler's snare."
"Absurd child! Augusta, my dear, this is Miss Reston."
Miss Hope shook hands in her gentle, shy way, and busied herself putting
small tables beside her mother and the two guests as the servant brought
in tea. Her life was spent in doing small services.
Once, when Augusta was a child, someone asked her what she would like to
be, and she had replied, "A lady like mamma." She had never lost the
ambition, though very soon she had known that it could not be realised.
It was difficult to believe that she was Mrs. Hope's daughter, for she
had no trace of the beauty and sparkle with which her mother had been
endowed. Augusta had a long, kind, patient face--a drab-coloured
face--but her voice was beautiful. She had never been young; she was
born an anxious pilgrim, and now, at fifty, she seemed infinitely older
than her ageless mother.
Pamela, watching her as she made the tea, saw all Augusta's heart in her
eyes as she looked at her mother, and saw, too, the dread that lay in
them--the dread of the days that she must live after the light had gone
out for her.
During tea Mrs. Hope had many questions to ask about David at Oxford,
and Jean was only too delighted to tell every single detail.
"And how is my dear Jock? He is my favourite."
"Not the Mhor?" asked Pamela.
"No. Mhor is 'a'body's body.' He will never lack for admirers. But Jock
is my own boy. We've been friends since he came home from India, a
white-headed baby with the same surprised blue eyes that he has now. He
was never out of scrapes at home, but he was always good with me. I
suppose I was flattered by that."
"Jock," said Jean, "is very nearly the nicest thing in the world, and
the funniest. This morning Mrs. M'Cosh caught a mouse alive in a trap,
and Jock, while dressing, heard her say she would drown it. Down he
went, like an avalanche in pyjamas, drove Mrs. M'Cosh into the scullery,
and let the mouse away in the garden. He would fight any number of boys
of any size for an ill-treated animal. In fact, all his tenderness is
given to dumb animals. He has no real liking for mortals. They affront
him with their love-making and their marriages. He has to leave the room
when anything bordering on sentiment is read aloud. 'Tripe,' he calls it
in his low way. _Do_ you remember his scorn of knight-errants who
rescued distressed damsels? They seemed to him so little worth
"I never cared much for sentiment myself," said Mrs. Hope. "I wouldn't
give a good adventure yarn for all the love-stories ever written."
"Mother remains very boyish," said Augusta. "She likes something vivid
in the way of crime."
"And now," said her mother, "you are laughing at an old done woman,
which is very unseemly. Come and sit beside me, Miss Reston, and tell me
what you think of Priorsford."
"Oh," said Pamela, drawing a low chair to the side of her hostess,
"it's not for me to talk about Priorsford. They tell me you know more
about it than anyone."
"Do I? Well, perhaps; anyway, I love it more than most. I've lived here
practically all my life, and my forbears have been in the countryside
for generations, and that all counts. Priorsford ... I sometimes stand
on the bridge and look and look, and tell myself that I feel like a
mother to it."
"I know," said Pamela. "There is something very appealing about a little
town: I never lived in one before."
"But," said Mrs. Hope, jealous as a mother for her own, "I think there
is something very special about Priorsford. There are few towns as
beautiful. The way the hills cradle it, and Peel Tower stands guard over
it, and the links of Tweed water it, and even the streets aren't
ordinary, they have such lovely glimpses. From the East Gate you look up
to the East Law, pine trees, grey walls, green terraces; in the Highgate
you don't go many yards without coming to a _pend_ with a view of blue
distances that takes your breath, just as in Edinburgh when you look
down an alley and see ships tacking for the Baltic.... But I wish I had
known Priorsford as it was in my mother's young days, when the French
prisoners were here. The genteel supper-parties and assemblies must have
been vastly entertaining. It has changed even in my day. I don't want to
repeat the old folks' litany, 'No times like the old times,' but it does
seem to me--or is it only distance lending enchantment?--that the
people I used to know were more human, more interesting; there was less
worship of money, less running after the great ones of the earth,
certainly less vulgarity. We were content with less, and happier."
"But, Mrs. Hope," said Pamela, laying down her cup, "this is most
depressing hearing. I came here to find simplicity."
"You needn't expect to find it in Priorsford. We aren't so provincial as
all that. I just wish Mrs. Duff-Whalley could hear you. Simplicity
indeed! I'm not able to go out much now, but I sit here and watch
people, and I am astonished at the number of restless eyes. So many
people spend their lives striving to keep in the swim. They are
miserable in case anyone gets before them, in case a neighbour's car is
a better make, in case a neighbour's entertainments are more
elaborate.... Two girls came to see me this morning, nice girls, pretty
girls, but even my old eyes could see the powder on their faces and
their touched-up eyes. And their whole talk was of daft-like dances, and
bridge, and absurdities. If they had been my daughters I would have
whipped them for their affected manners. And when I think of their
grandmother! A decent woman was Mirren Somerville. She lived with her
father in that ivy-covered cottage at our gates, and she did sewing for
me before she married Banks. She wasn't young when she married. I
remember she came to ask my advice. 'D'you care for him, Mirren?' I
asked. 'Well, mem, it's no' as if I were a young lassie. I'm forty, and
near bye caring. But he's a dacent man, and it's lonely now ma faither's
awa, an' I'm a guid cook, an' he would aye come in to a clean fireside.'
So she married him and made a good wife to him, and they had one son.
And Mirren's son is now Sir John Banks, a baronet and an M.P. Tuts, the
thing's ridiculous.... Not that there's anything wrong with the man.
He's a soft-tongued, stuffed-looking butler-like creature, with a lot of
that low cunning that is known as business instinct, but he was good to
his mother. He didn't marry till she died, and she kept house for him in
his grand new house--the dear soul with her caps and her broad
south-country accent. She managed wonderfully, for she had great natural
dignity, and aped nothing. It was the butler killed her. She could cope
with the women servants, but when Sir John felt that his dignity
required a butler she gave it up. I dare say she was glad enough to
go.... 'Eh, mem, I am effrontit,' she used to say to me if I went in and
found her spotless kitchen disarranged, and I thought of her to-day when
I saw those silly little painted faces, and was glad she had been spared
the sight of her descendants.... But what am I raging about? What does
it matter to me, when all's said? Let the lassies dress up as long as
they have the heart; they'll have long years to learn sense if they're
spared.... Miss Reston, did you ever see anything bonnier than Tweed and
Hopetoun Woods? Jean, my dear, Lewis Elliot brought me a book last night
which really delighted me. Poems by Violet Jacob. If anyone could do for
Tweeddale what she has done for Angus I would be glad...."
"You care for poetry, Miss Reston? In Priorsford it's considered rather
a slur on your character to care for poetry. Novels we may discuss,
sensible people read novels, even now and again essays or biography, but
poetry--there we have to dissemble. We pretend, don't we, Jean?--that
poetry is nothing to us. Never a quotation or an allusion escapes us. We
listen to tales of servants' misdeeds, we talk of clothes and the
ongoings of our neighbours, and we never let on that we would rather
talk of poetry. No. No. A daft-like thing for either an old woman or a
young one to speak of. Only when we are alone--Jean and Augusta and
Lewis Elliot and I--we 'tire the sun with talking and send it down the
sky.' ... Miss Reston, Lewis Elliot tells me he knew you very well at
"Yes, away at the beginning of things. I adored him when I was fifteen
and he was twenty. He was wonderfully good to me and Biddy--my brother.
It is delightful to find an old friend in a new place."
"I'm very fond of Lewis," said Mrs. Hope, "but I wish to goodness he had
never inherited Laverlaw. He might have done a lot in the world with his
brain and his heart and his courage, but there he is contentedly settled
in that green glen of his, and greatly absorbed in sheep. Sheep! The
country is run by the Sir John Bankses, and the Lewis Elliots think
about sheep. It's all wrong. It's all wrong. The War wakened him up,
and he was in the thick of it both in the East and in France, but never
in the limelight, you understand, just doggedly doing his best in the
background. If he would marry a sensible wife with some ambition, but
he's about as much sentiment in him as Jock. It would take an earthquake
to shake him into matrimony."
"Perhaps," said Pamela, "he is like your friend Mirren--'bye caring.'"
"Nonsense," said Mrs. Hope briskly. "He's 'bye' the fervent stage, if he
ever was a prisoner in that cage of rushes, which I doubt, but there are
long years before him, I hope, and if there isn't a fire of affection on
the hearth, and someone always about to listen and understand, it's a
dowie business when the days draw in and the nights get longer and
colder, and the light departs."
"But if it's dreary for a man," said Pamela, "what of us? What of the
'left ladies,' as I heard a child describe spinsters?"
Mrs. Hope's blue eyes, callously calm, surveyed the three spinsters
"You will get no pity from me," she said. "It's practically always the
woman's own fault if she remains unmarried. Besides, a woman can do fine
without a man. A woman has so much within herself she is a constant
entertainment to herself. But men are helpless souls. Some of them are
born bachelors and they do very well, but the majority are lost without
a woman. And angry they would be to hear me say it!... Are you going,
"Mhor's lessons," said Jean. "I'm frightfully sorry to take Pamela
"May I come again?" Pamela asked.
"Surely. Augusta and I will look forward to your next visit. Don't tire
of Priorsford yet awhile. Stay among us and learn to love the place."
Mrs. Hope smiled very kindly at her guest, and Pamela, stooping down,
kissed the hand that held her own.
"Lord Clinchum waved a careless hand. A small portion of blood royal
flows in my veins, he said, but it does not worry me at all and
after all, he added piously, at the Day of Judgment what will be the
"Mr. Salteena heaved a sigh. I was thinking of this world, he
said."--_The Young Visiters_.
"I would like," said Pamela, "to get to know my neighbours. There are
six little houses, each exactly like Hillview, and I would like to be
able to nod to the owners as I pass. It would be more friendly."
Pamela and Jean, with Mhor and Peter, were walking along the road that
contained Hillview and The Rigs.
"Every house in this road is a twin," said Mhor, "except The Rigs. It's
different from every other house."
They were coming home from a long walk, laden with spoils from the
woods: moss for the bowls of bulbs, beautiful bare branches such as Jean
loved to stand in blue jars against the creamy walls. Mhor and Peter had
been coursing about like two puppies, covering at least four times the
ground their elders covered, and were now lagging, weary-footed, much
desiring their midday meal.
"I don't know," said Jean, pondering on the subject of neighbours, "how
you could manage to be friends with them. You see, they are busy people
and--it sounds very rude--they haven't time to be bothered with you.
Just smile tentatively when you see them and pass the time of day
casual-like; you would soon get friendly. There is one house, the one
called 'Balmoral,' with the very much decorated windows and the basket
of ferns hanging in the front door, where the people are at leisure, and
I know would deeply value a little friendliness. Two sisters live in
it--Watson is the name--most kindly and hospitable creatures with enough
to live on comfortably and keep a small servant, and ample leisure after
they have, what Mrs. M'Cosh calls, 'dockit up the hoose,' to entertain
and be entertained. They are West country--Glasgow, I think, or
Greenock--and they find Priorsford just a little stiff. They've been
here about three years, and I'm afraid are rather disappointed that they
haven't made more progress socially. I love them personally. They are so
genteel, as a rule, but every little while the raciness natural to the
West country breaks out."
"You are nice to them, Jean, I am sure."
"Oh yes, but the penalty of being more or less nice to everyone is that
nobody values your niceness: they take it for granted. Whereas the
haughty and exclusive, if they do condescend to stoop, are hailed as
gods among mortals."
"Poor Jean!" laughed Pamela. "That is rather hard. It's a poor thing
"It is," Jean agreed. "I went to the dancing-class the other day to see
a most unwilling Mhor trip fantastically, and I saw a tiny girl take the
hand of an older girl and look admiringly up at her. The older child,
with the awful heartlessness of childhood wriggled her hand away and
turned her back on her small admirer. The poor mite stood trying not to
cry, and presently a still tinier mite came snuggling up to her and took
her hand. 'Now,' I thought, 'having learned how cruel a thing a snub is,
will she be kind?' Not a bit of it. With the selfsame gesture the older
girl had used she wriggled away her hand and turned her back."
"Cruel little wretches," said Pamela, "but it's the same with us older
children. Apart from sin altogether, it must be hard for God to pardon
our childishness ... But about the Miss Watsons--d'you think I might
call on them?"
"Well, they wouldn't call on you, I'm sure of that. Suppose I ask them
to meet you, and then you could fix a day for them to have tea with you?
It would be a tremendous treat for them, and pleasant for you too--they
are very entertaining."
So it was arranged. The Miss Watsons were asked to The Rigs, and to
their unbounded satisfaction spent a most genial hour in the company of
Miss Reston, whose comings and goings they had watched with breathless
interest from behind the elegant sash curtain of Balmoral. On their way
home they borrowed a copy of Debrett and studied it all evening.
It was very confusing at first, but at last they ran their quarry to
earth. "Here she is ... She's the daughter (dau. must mean daughter) of
Quintin John, 10th Baron Bidborough. And this'll be her brother, Quintin
Reginald Feurbras--what names! _Teenie_, her mother was an earl's
"Oh, mercy!" wailed Miss Teenie, quite over-come.
"Yes, see here. 6th Earl of Champertoun--a Scotch earl too! Lady Ann was
her name. Fancy that now!"
"And her so pleasant!" said Miss Teenie.
"It just lets you see," said Miss Watson, "the higher up you get in the
social scale, the pleasanter and freer people are. You see, they've been
there so long they're accustomed to it; their position never gives them
a thought: it's the people who have climbed up who keep on wondering if
you're noticing how grand they are."
"Well, Agnes," said Miss Teenie, "it's a great rise in the world for you
and me to be asked to tea with an earl's granddaughter. There's no
getting over that. I'm thinking we'll need to polish up our manners.
I've an awful habit of drinking my tea with my mouth full. It seems more
natural somehow to give it a _synd_ down than to wait to drink till your
"Of course it's more natural," said her sister, "but what's natural's
never refined. That's a queer thing when you think of it."
The Miss Watsons called on all their friends in the next few days, and
did not fail to mention in each house, accidentally, as it were, that on
Wednesday they expected to take tea with Miss Reston, and led on from
that fact to glowing details of Miss Reston's ancestry.
The height of their satisfaction was reached when they happened to meet
Mrs. Duff-Whalley, who, remembering yeoman service rendered by the
sisters at a recent bazaar, stopped them and, greatly condescending,
said, "Ah, er--Miss Watson--I'm asking a few local ladies to The Towers
on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the subject of a sale of work for the
G.F.S. A cup of tea, you understand, and a friendly chat in my own
drawing-room You will both join us, I hope?" Her tone held no doubt of
their delighted acceptance, but Miss Watson, who had suffered much from
Mrs. Duff-Whalley, who had been made use of and then passed unnoticed,
taken up when needed and dropped, replied with great deliberation, "Oh,
thank you, but we are going to tea with Miss Reston that afternoon. I
dare say we shall hear from someone what is decided about the sale of
The epoch-making Wednesday dawned at last.
Great consultations had gone on between The Rigs and Hillview how best
to make it an enjoyable occasion. Pamela wanted Jean to be present, but
Jean thought it better not to be. "It would take away from the glory of
the occasion. I'm only a _chota Miss_, and they are too accustomed to
me. Ask Mrs. Jowett. She wouldn't call on the Watsons--the line must
be drawn somewhere even by the gentle Mrs. Jowett--but she will be very
sweet and nice to them. And Miss Mary Dawson. She is such a kind,
comfortable presence in a room--I think that would be a nice little
Pamela obediently promised to do as Jean suggested.
"I've sent to Fullers' for some cakes, though I don't myself consider
them a patch on the Priorsford cakes, but they will be a change and make
it more of an occasion. Mawson can make delicious sandwiches and Bella
Bathgate has actually offered to bake some scones. I'll make the room
look as smart as possible with flowers."
"You've no photographs of relations? They would like photographs better
"People they never heard of before," cried Pamela. "What an odd taste!
However, I'll do what I can."
By 11 a.m. the ladies in Balmoral had laid out all they meant to
wear--skirts spread neatly on beds, jackets over chair-backs, even to
the very best handkerchiefs on the dressing-table waiting for a sprinkle
At two o'clock they began to dress.
Miss Teenie protested against this disturbance of their afternoon rest,
but her sister was firm.
"It'll take me every minute of the time, Teenie, for I've all my
underclothing to change."
"But, mercy me, Miss Reston'll not see your underclothes!"
"I know that, but when you've on your very best things underneath you
feel a sort of respect for yourself, and you're better able to hold your
own in whatever company you're in. I don't know what you mean to do, but
I'm going to change _to the skin_."
Miss Teenie nearly always followed the lead of her elder sister, so she
meekly went off to look out and air her most self-respecting under
garments, though she protested, "Not half aired they'll be, and as
likely as not I'll catch my death," and added bitterly, "It's not all
pleasure knowing the aristocracy."
They were ready to the last glove-button half an hour before the time
appointed, and sat stiffly on two high chairs in their little
dining-room. "I think," said Miss Watson, "we'd be as well to think on
some subjects to talk on. We must try to choose something that'll
interest Miss Reston. I wish I knew more about the Upper Ten."
"I'd better not speak at all," said Miss Teenie, who by this time was in
a very bad temper. "I never could mind the names of the Royal Family,
let alone the aristocracy. I always thought there was a weakness about
the people who liked to read in the papers and talk about those kind of
folk. I'm sure when I do read about them they're always doing something
kind of indecent, like getting divorced. It seems to me they never even
make an attempt to be respectable."
She looked round the cosy room and thought how pleasant it would have
been if she and her sister had been sitting down to tea as usual, with
no need to think of topics. It had been all very well to tell their
obviously surprised friends where they were going for tea, but when it
came to the point she would infinitely have preferred to stay at home.
"She'll not likely have any notion of a proper tea," Miss Watson said.
"Scraps of thin bread and butter, mebbe, and a cake, so don't you look
disappointed Teenie, though I know you like your tea. Just toy with it,
"No, I don't know," said Miss Teenie crossly. "I never 'toyed' with my
tea yet, and I'm not going to begin. It'll likely be China tea anyway,
and I'd as soon drink dish-water."
Miss Watson looked bitterly at her sister.
"You'll never rise in the world, Teenie, if you can't _give_ up a little
comfort for the sake of refinement Fancy making a fuss about China tea
when it's handed to you by an earl's granddaughter."
Miss Teenie made no reply to this except to burst--as was a habit of
hers--into a series of violent sneezes, at which her sister's wrath
"That's the most uncivilised sneeze I ever heard. If you do that before
Miss Reston, Teenie, I'll be tempted to do you an injury."
Miss Teenie blew her nose pensively. "I doubt I've got a chill changing
my underclothes in the middle of the day, but 'a little pride and a
little pain,' as my mother used to say when she screwed my hair with
curl-papers.... I suppose it'll do if we stay an hour?"
Things are rarely as bad as we anticipate, and, as it turned out, not
only Miss Watson, but the rebellious Miss Teenie, looked back on that
tea-party as one of the pleasantest they had ever taken part in, and
only Heaven knows how many tea-parties the good ladies had attended in
They were judges of china and fine linen, and they looked appreciatively
at the table. There were the neatest of tea-knives, the daintiest of
spoons, jam glowed crimson through crystal, butter was there in a lordly
dish, cakes from London, delicate sandwiches, Miss Bathgate's best and
lightest in the way of scones, shortbread crisp from the oven of Mrs.
And here was Miss Reston looking lovely and exotic in a wonderful
tea-frock, a class of garment hitherto unknown to the Miss Watsons, who
thrilled at the sight. Her welcome was so warm that it seemed to the
guests, accustomed to the thus-far-and-no-further manner of the
Priorsford great ladies, almost exuberant. She led Miss Teenie to the
most comfortable chair, she gave Miss Watson a footstool and put a
cushion at her back, and talked so simply, and laughed so naturally,
that the Miss Watsons forgot entirely to choose their topics and began
on what was uppermost in their minds, the fact that Robina (the little
maid) had actually managed that morning to break the gazogene.
Pamela, who had not a notion what a gazogene was, gasped the required
surprise and horror and said, "But how did she do it?" which was the
safest remark she could think of.
"Banged it in the sink," said Miss Watson, with a dramatic gesture, "and
the bottom came out. I never thought it was possible to break a
gazogene with all that wire-netting about it."
"Robina," said Miss Teenie gloomily, "could break a steam-roller let
alone a gazogene."
"It'll be an awful miss," said her sister. "We've had it so long, and it
always stood on the sideboard with a bottle of lemon-syrup beside it."
Pamela was puzzling to think what this could be that stood on a
sideboard companioned by lemon-syrup and compassed with wire-netting
when Mawson showed in Mrs. Jowett, and with her Miss Mary Dawson, and
the party was complete.
The Miss Watsons greeted the newcomers brightly, having met them on
bazaar committees and at Red Cross work parties, and having always been
treated courteously by both ladies. They were quite willing to sink at
once into a lower place now that two denizens of the Hill had come, but
Pamela would have none of it.
They were the reason of the party; she made that evident at once.
Miss Teenie did not attempt the impossible and "toy" with her tea. There
was no need to. The tea was delicious, and she drank three cups. She
tried everything on the table and pronounced everything excellent. Never
had she felt herself so entertaining such a capital talker as now, with
Pamela smiling and applauding every effort. Mrs. Jowett too, gentle
lady, listened with most gratifying interest, and Miss Mary Dawson threw
in kind, sensible remarks at intervals. There was no arguing, no
disagreeing, everybody "clinked" with everybody else--a most pleasant
"And isn't it awful," said Miss Watson in a pause, "about our minister
Pamela waited for further information before she spoke, while Mrs.
Jowett said, "Don't you consider it a suitable match?"
"Oh, well," said Miss Watson, "I just meant that it was awful
unexpected. He's been a bachelor so long, and then to marry a girl
twenty years younger than himself and a 'Piscipalian into the bargain."
"But how sporting of him," Pamela said.
"Sporting?" said Miss Watson doubtfully, vague thoughts of guns and
rabbits floating through her mind. "Of course you're a 'Piscipalian too,
Miss Reston, so is Mrs. Jowett: I shouldn't have mentioned it."
"I'm afraid I'm not much of anything," Pamela confessed, "but Jean
Jardine has great hopes of making me a Presbyterian. I have been going
with her to hear her own most delightful parson--Mr. Macdonald."
"A dear old man," said Mrs. Jowett; "he does preach so beautifully."
"Mr. Macdonald's church is the old Free Kirk, now U.F., you know," said
Miss Watson in an instructive tone. "The Jardines are great Free Kirk
people, like the Hopes of Hopetoun--but the Parish is far more class,
you know what I mean? You've more society there."
"What a delightful reason for worshipping in a church!" Pamela said.
"But please tell me more about your minister's bride--does she belong to
"English," said Miss Teenie, "and smokes, and plays golf, and wears
skirts near to her knees. What in the world she'll look like at the
missionary work party or attending the prayer meeting--I cannot think.
Poor Mr. Morrison must be demented, and he is such a good preacher."
"She will settle down," said Miss Dawson in her slow, sensible way.
"She's really a very likeable girl; and if she puts all the energy she
uses to play games into church-work she will be a great success. And it
will be an interest having a young wife at the manse."
"I don't know," said Miss Watson doubtfully. "I always think a
minister's wife should have a little money and a strong constitution and
be able to play the harmonium."
Miss Watson had not intended to be funny, and was rather surprised at
the laughter of her hostess.
"It seems to me," she said, "that the poor woman _would_ need a strong
"Well, anyway," said Miss Teenie, "she would need the money; ministers
have so many claims on them. And they've a position to keep up. Here, of
course, they have manses, but in Glasgow they sometimes live in flats. I
don't think that's right. ... A minister should always live in a villa,
or at least in a 'front door.'"
"Is your minister's bride pretty?" Pamela asked.
Miss Watson got in her word first. "Pretty," she said, "but not in a
ministerial way, if you know what I mean. I wouldn't call her ladylike."
"What would you call 'ladylike'?" Pamela asked.