Part 3 out of 8
well be of descending from a line of such men. The thought
struck him that very likely at this identical doorway,
two generations back, a poor, out-at-the-elbows, young
law-student named Plowden had stood and turned over pages
of books he could not dream of buying. Perhaps, even, he had
ventured inside, and deferentially picked acquaintance
with the Thorpe of the period, and got bookish advice
and friendly counsel for nothing. It was of no real
significance that the law-student grew to be Lord Chancellor,
and the bookseller remained a book-seller; in the realm
of actual values, the Thorpes were as good as the Plowdens.
A customer came out of the shop, and Thorpe went in,
squeezing his way along the narrow passage between the
tall rows of books, to the small open space at the end.
His sister stood here, momentarily occupied at a high desk.
She did not look up.
"Well--I visited his Lordship all right." He announced
his presence thus genially.
"I hope you're the better for it," she remarked,
turning to him, after a pause, her emotionless, plain face.
"Oh, immensely," he affirmed, with robust jocularity.
"You should have seen the way they took to me.
It was 'Mr. Thorpe' here and 'Mr. Thorpe' there, all over
the place. Ladies of title, mind you--all to myself
at breakfast two days running. And such ladies--finer
than silk. Oh, it's clear as daylight--I was intended
for a fashionable career."
She smiled in a faint, passive way. "Well--they say
'better late than never,' you know." "And after all,
IS it so very late?" he said, adopting her phrase as an
expression of his thought. "I'm just turned forty, and I
feel like a boy. I was looking at that 'Peerage' there,
the other day--and do you know, I'm sixteen years younger
than the first Lord Plowden was when they made him a peer?
Why he didn't even get into the House of Commons until
he was seven-and-forty."
"You seem to have the Plowden family on the brain,"
"I might have worse things. You've no idea, Lou, how nice
it all is. The mother, Lady Plowden--why she made me
feel as if I was at the very least a nephew of hers.
And so simple and natural! She smiled at me, and listened
to me, and said friendly things to me--why, just as anybody
might have done. You'll just love her, when you know her."
Louisa laughed in his face. "Don't be a fool, Joel,"
she adjured him, with a flash of scornful mirth.
He mingled a certain frowning impatience with the buoyancy
of his smile. "Why, of course, you'll know her,"
he protested. "What nonsense you're thinking of! Do
you suppose I'm going to allow you to mess about here
with second-hand almanacs, and a sign in your window
of 'threepence in the shilling discount for cash,'
while I'm a millionaire? It's too foolish, Lou. You annoy
me by supposing such a thing!"
"There's no good talking about it at all," she observed,
after a little pause. "It hasn't come off yet,
for one thing. And as I said the other night, if you want
to do things for the children, that's another matter.
They're of an age when they can learn whatever anybody
chooses to teach them."
"Where are they now?" he asked. Upon the instant another
plan began to unfold itself in the background of his mind.
"They're both at Cheltenham, though they're at
different places, of course. I was recommended to send
Julia there--one of our old customers is a Governor,
or whatever it's called--and he got special terms for her.
She was rather old, you know, to go to school, but he arranged
it very nicely for her--and there is such a good boys'
college there, it seemed the wisest thing to send Alfred too.
Julia is to finish at Christmas-time--and what I'm
going to do with her afterward is more than I know."
"Is she pretty?" the uncle of Julia enquired.
"She's very nice," the mother answered, with vague extenuation
in her tone. "I don't know about her looks--she varies
so much. Sometimes I think she's pretty--and then again
I can't think it. She's got good features, and she holds
herself well, and she's very much the lady--rather too much,
I think, sometimes--but it all depends upon what you
call pretty. She's not tall, you know. She takes after
her father's family. The Dabneys are all little people."
Thorpe seemed not to care about the Dabneys. "And what's
Alfred like?" he asked.
"He wants to be an artist!" There was a perceptible note
of apprehension in the mother's confession.
"Well--why shouldn't he--if he's got a bent that way?"
demanded Thorpe, with reproof in his tone. "Did you want
him to be a shop-keeper?"
"I should like to see him a doctor," she replied with dignity.
"It was always my idea for him."
"Well, it's no good--even as an idea," he told her.
"Doctors are like parsons--they can't keep up with the times.
The age is outgrowing them. Only the fakirs in either
profession get anything out of it, nowadays. It's all mystery
and sleight-of-hand and the confidence trick--medicine
is--and if you haven't got just the right twist of the wrist,
you're not in it. But an artist stands on his merits.
There is his work--done by his own hands. It speaks
for itself. There's no deception--it's easy enough to tell
whether it's good or bad. If the pictures are good,
people buy them. If they're bad, people don't buy them.
Of course, it won't matter to Alfred, financially speaking,
whether his pictures sell well or not. But probably he'd
give it up, if he didn't make a hit of it.
"I don't know that there's any crying need that he should
do anything. My own idea for him, perhaps, would be the Army,
but I wouldn't dream of forcing it on him against his will.
I had a bitter enough dose of that, myself, with father.
I'd try to guide a youngster, yes, and perhaps argue
with him, if I thought he was making a jack of
himself--but I wouldn't dictate. If Alfred thinks he
wants to be an artist, in God's name let him go ahead.
It can be made a gentlemanly trade--and the main thing
is that he should be a gentleman."
Louisa had listened to this discourse with apathetic
patience. "If you don't mind, I don't know that I do,"
she said when it was finished. "Perhaps he wouldn't
have made a good doctor; he's got a very quick temper.
He reminds me of father--oh, ever so much more than you do.
He contradicts everything everybody says. He quite knows
"But he's a good fellow, isn't he?" urged Thorpe. "I mean,
he's got his likable points? I'm going to be able to get
along with him?"
"I didn't get along with him very well," the mother
admitted, reluctantly, "but I daresay with a man it would
be different. You see, his father was ill all those
four years, and Alfred hated the shop as bad as you did,
and perhaps in my worry I blamed him more than was fair.
I want to be fair to him, you know."
"But is he a gentleman? That puts it in a word,"
"Oh, mercy yes," Louisa made ready answer. "My only fear
is--whether you won't find him too much of a gentleman."
Thorpe knitted his brows. "I only hope we're talking
about the same thing," he said, in a doubtful tone.
Before she could speak, he lifted his hand.
"Never mind--I can see for myself in ten minutes more
than you could tell me in a lifetime. I've got a plan.
I'm going on the Continent in a few days' time, to stay
for three or four months. I've got nothing special
to do--just to travel about and see things and kill
time--I shall probably go to Italy and Switzerland
and Paris and the Rhine and all sorts of places--and it
occurred to me that I'd take the two youngsters with me.
I could get acquainted with them, that way, and they'd
be company for me. I've been lonesome so long, it would
feel good to have some of my own flesh and blood about
me--and I suppose they'd be tickled to death to go."
"Their schooling and board are paid for up to Christmas,"
Mrs. Dabney objected, blankly.
"Bah!" Thorpe prolonged the emphatic exclamation into
something good-natured, and ended it with an abrupt laugh.
"What on earth difference does that make? I could go
and buy their damned colleges, and let the kids wear them
for breastpins if I wanted to. You said the girl was
going to quit at Christmas in any case. Won't she learn
more in four months travelling about on the Continent,
than she would trotting around in her own tracks there
"And it's even more important for the boy. He's of an age
when he ought to see something of the world, and I ought
to see something of him. Whatever he's going to do,
it's time that he began getting his special start for it."
He added, upon a luminous afterthought: " Perhaps his seeing
the old Italian picture galleries and so on will cure him
of wanting to be an artist."
The mother's air displayed resigned acquiescence rather
than conviction. "Well--if you really think it's best,"
she began, "I don't know that I ought to object.
Goodness knows, I don't want to stand in their way.
Ever since you sent that four hundred pounds,
it hasn't seemed as if they were my children at all.
They've scarcely listened to me. And now you come,
and propose to take them out of my hands altogether--and
all I can say is--I hope you feel entirely justified.
And so, shall I write them to come home? When do you think
of starting? Julia ought to have some travelling clothes."
"I can wait till you get her ready--only you must hurry
up about it."
Remembering something, he took out his cheque-book,
and spread it on the desk. "I will give you back
that thirty," he said, as he wrote, "and here's a hundred
to get the youngsters ready. You won't waste any time,
will you? and if you want more tell me."
A customer had entered the shop, and Thorpe made it
the occasion for leaving.
His sister, looking after her brother with the cheque in
her hand, was conscious of a thought which seemed to spell
itself out in visible letters before her mental vision.
"Even now I don't believe in him," the impalpable legend ran.
GENERAL KERVICK was by habit a punctual man, and Thorpe
found him hovering, carefully gloved and fur-coated, in
the neighbourhood of the luncheon-room when he arrived.
It indeed still lacked a few minutes of the appointed
hour when they thus met and went in together. They were
fortunate enough to find a small table out on the balcony,
sufficiently removed from any other to give privacy to
By tacit agreement, the General ordered the luncheon,
speaking French to the waiter throughout. Divested of his
imposing great-coat, he was seen to be a gentleman of meagre
flesh as well as of small stature. He had the Roman nose,
narrow forehead, bushing brows, and sharply-cut mouth and chin
of a soldier grown old in the contemplation of portraits
of the Duke of Wellington. His face and neck were of a
dull reddish tint, which seemed at first sight uniformly
distributed: one saw afterward that it approached pallor
at the veined temples, and ripened into purple in minute
patches on the cheeks and the tip of the pointed nose.
Against this flushed skin, the closely-cropped hair
and small, neatly-waxed moustache were very white indeed.
It was a thin, lined, care-worn face, withal, which in repose,
and particularly in profile, produced an effect of dignified
and philosophical melancholy. The General's over-prominent
light blue eyes upon occasion marred this effect, however,
by glances of a bold, harsh character, which seemed
to disclose unpleasant depths below the correct surface.
His manner with the waiters was abrupt and sharp,
but undoubtedly they served him very well--much better,
in truth, than Thorpe had ever seen them serve anybody before.
Thorpe observed his guest a good deal during the repast,
and formed numerous conclusions about him. He ate with
palpable relish of every dish, and he emptied his glass
as promptly as his host could fill it. There was hardly
a word of explanation as to the purpose of their meeting,
until the coffee was brought, and they pushed back
their chairs, crossed their legs, and lighted cigars.
"I was lucky to catch you with my wire, at such short notice,"
Thorpe said then. "I sent two, you know--to your chambers
and your club. Which of them found you?"
"Chambers," said the General. "I rarely dress till
luncheon time. I read in bed. There's really nothing
else to do. Idleness is the curse of my life."
"I've been wondering if you'd like a little occupation--
of a well-paid sort," said Thorpe slowly. He realized
that it was high time to invent some pretext for his
hurried summons of the General.
"My dear sir," responded the other, "I should like anything
that had money in it. And I should very much like occupation,
too--if it were, of course, something that was--was suitable to me."
"Yes," said Thorpe, meditatively. "I've something in my
mind--not at all definite yet--in fact, I don't think I
can even outline it to you yet. But I'm sure it will suit
you--that is, if I decide to go on with it--and there ought
to be seven or eight hundred a year for you in it--for life, mind you."
The General's gaze, fastened strenuously upon Thorpe,
shook a little. "That will suit me very well," he declared,
with feeling. "Whatever I can do for it"--he let the
sentence end itself with a significant gesture.
"I thought so, "commented the other, trifling with the
spoon in his cup. "But I want you to be open with me.
I'm interested in you, and I want to be of use to you.
All that I've said, I can do for you. But first,
I'm curious to know everything that you can tell me about
your circumstances. I'm right in assuming, I suppose,
that you're--that you're not any too well-fixed."
The General helped himself to another little glass of brandy.
His mood seemed to absorb the spirit of the liqueur.
"Fixed!" he repeated with a peevish snap in his tone.
"I'm not 'fixed' at all, as you call it. Good God, sir! They
no more care what becomes of me than they do about their
old gloves. I gave them name and breeding and position--and
everything--and they round on me like--like cuckoos."
His pale, bulging eyes lifted their passionless veil
for an instant as he spoke, and flashed with the predatory
fierceness of a hawk.
Intuition helped Thorpe to guess whom "they" might mean.
The temper visibly rising in the old man's mind was what he
had hoped for. He proceeded with an informed caution.
"Don't be annoyed if I touch upon family matters," he said.
"It's a part of what I must know, in order to help you.
I believe you're a widower, aren't you, General?"
The other, after a quick upward glance, shook his
head resentfully. "Mrs. Kervick lives in Italy with HER
son-in-law--and her daughter. He is a man of property--
and also, apparently, a man of remarkable credulity
and patience." He paused, to scan his companion's face.
"They divide him between them," he said then, from clenched
teeth--"and I--mind you--I made the match! He was
a young fellow that I found--and I brought him home
and introduced him--and I haven't so much as an Italian
postage-stamp to show for it. But what interest can
you possibly take in all this?" The unamiable glance
of his eyes was on the instant surcharged with suspicion.
"How many daughters have you?" Thorpe ventured the enquiry
with inward doubts as to its sagacity.
"Three," answered the General, briefly. It was evident
that he was also busy thinking.
"I ask because I met one of them in the country over Sunday,"
Thorpe decided to explain.
The old soldier's eyes asked many questions in the moment
of silence. "Which one--Edith?--that is, Lady Cressage?"
he enquired. "Of course--it would have been her."
Thorpe nodded. "She made a tremendous impression upon me,"
he observed, watching the father with intentness as he let
the slow words fall.
"Well she might, "the other replied, simply. "She's supposed
to be the most beautiful woman in England."
"Well--I guess she is," Thorpe assented, while the two
men eyed each other.
"Is the third sister unmarried?" it occurred to him to ask.
The tone of the question revealed its perfunctory character.
"Oh--Beatrice--she's of no importance," the father replied.
"She goes in for writing, and all that--she's not a beauty,
you know--she lives with an old lady in Scotland.
The oldest daughter--Blanche--she has some good looks of
her own, but she's a cat. And so you met Edith! May I ask
where it was?"
"At Hadlow House--Lord Plowden's place, you know."
The General's surprise at the announcement was undoubted.
"At Plowden's!" he repeated, and added, as if half to himself,
"I thought that was all over with, long ago."
"I wish you'd tell me about it," said Thorpe, daringly.
"I've made it plain to you, haven't I? I'm going
to look out for you. And I want you to post me up,
here, on some of the things that I don't understand.
You remember that it was Plowden who introduced you to me,
don't you? It was through him that you got on the Board.
Well, certain things that I've seen lead me to suppose
that he did that in order to please your daughter.
Did you understand it that way?"
"It's quite likely, in one sense," returned the General.
He spoke with much deliberation now, weighing all his words.
"He may have thought it would please her; he may not have
known how little my poor affairs concerned her."
"Well, then," pursued Thorpe, argumentatively, "he had
an object in pleasing her. Let me ask the question--
did he want to marry her?"
"Most men want to marry her," was the father's non-
committal response. His moustache lifted itself in the
semblance of a smile, but the blue eyes above remained
"Well--I guess that's so too," Thorpe remarked.
He made a fleeting mental note that there was something
about the General which impelled him to think and talk
more like an American than ever. "But was HE specially
affected that way?"
"I think," said Kervick, judicially, "I think it was
understood that if he had been free to marry a penniless wife,
he would have wished to marry her."
"Do you know," Thorpe began again, with a kind of diffident
hesitation--"do you happen to have formed an idea--supposing
that had been the case--would she have accepted him?"
"Ah, there you have me," replied the other. "Who can tell
what women will accept, and what they will refuse? My daughter
refused Lord Lingfield--and he is an Under-Secretary,
and will be Earl Chobham, and a Cabinet Minister,
and a rich man. After that, what are you to say?"
"You speak of her as penniless," Thorpe remarked,
with a casual air.
"Six hundred a year," the father answered.
"We could have rubbed along after a fashion on it,
if she had had any notions at all of taking my advice.
I'm a man of the world, and I could have managed her
affairs for her to her advantage, but she insisted upon
going off by herself. She showed not the slightest
consideration for me--but then I am accustomed to that."
Thorpe smiled reflectively, and the old gentleman read
in this an encouragement to expand his grievances.
"In my position," he continued, helping himself to still
another tiny glass, "I naturally say very little.
It is not my form to make complaints and advertise
my misfortunes. I daresay it's a fault. I know it kept
me back in India--while ever so many whipper-snappers
were promoted over my head--because I was of the proud
and silent sort. It was a mistake, but it was my nature.
I might have put by a comfortable provision for my old age,
in those days, if I had been willing to push my claims,
and worry the Staff into giving me what was my due.
But that I declined to do--and when I was retired, there was
nothing for me but the ration of bread and salt which they
serve out to the old soldier who has been too modest.
I served my Queen, sir, for forty years--and I should
be ashamed to tell you the allowance she makes me in my
old age. But I do not complain. My mouth is closed.
I am an English gentleman and one of Her Majesty's soldiers.
That's enough said, eh? Do you follow me? And about my
family affairs, I'm not likely to talk to the first comer,
eh? But to you I say it frankly--they've behaved badly,
damned badly, sir.
"Mrs. Kervick lives in Italy, at the cost of HER
son-in-law. He has large estates in one of the healthiest
and most beautiful parts; he has a palace, and more money
than he knows what to do with--but it seems that he's
not my son-in-law. I could do with Italy very well--but
that doesn't enter into anyone's calculations. No! let
the worn-out old soldier sell boot-laces on the kerb!
That's the spirit of woman-kind. And my daughter
Edith--does she care what becomes of me? Listen to me--I
secured for her the very greatest marriage in England.
She would have been Duchess of Glastonbury today
if her husband had not played the fool and drowned himself."
"What's that you say?" put in Thorpe, swiftly.
"It was as good as suicide," insisted the General,
with doggedness. His face had become a deeper red.
"They didn't hit it off together, and he left in a huff,
and went yachting with his father, who was his own sailing-
master--and, as might be expected, they were both drowned.
The title would have gone to her son--but no, of course,
she had no son--and so it passed to a stranger--an
outsider that had been an usher in a school, or something
of that sort. You can fancy what a blow this was to me.
Instead of being the grandfather of a Duke, I have a childless
widow thrust back upon my hands! Fine luck, eh? And then,
to cap all, she takes her six hundred a year and goes off
by herself, and gives me the cold shoulder completely.
What is it Shakespeare says? 'How sharper than a serpent's
Thorpe brought his fist down upon the table with an
emphasis which abruptly broke the quotation in half.
He had been frowning moodily at his guest for some minutes,
relighting his cigar more than once meanwhile. He had
made a mental calculation of what the old man had had
to drink, and had reassured himself as to his condition.
His garrulity might have an alcoholic basis, but his
wits were clear enough. It was time to take a new line
"I don't want to hear you abuse your daughter," he admonished
him now, with a purpose glowing steadily in his firm glance.
"Damn it all, why shouldn't she go off by herself, and take
care of her own money her own way? It's little enough,
God knows, for such a lady as she is. Why should you
expect her to support you out of it? No--sit still!
Listen to me!"--he stretched out his hand, and laid it
with restraining heaviness upon the General's arm--"you
don't want to have any row with me. You can't afford it.
Just think that over to yourself--you--can't--afford--it."
Major-General Kervick's prominent blue eyes had bulged
forth in rage till their appearance had disconcerted the
other's gaze. They remained still too much in the foreground,
as it were, and the angry scarlets and violets of the cheeks
beneath them carried an unabated threat of apoplexy--but
their owner, after a moment's silence, made a sign
with his stiff white brows that the crisis was over.
"You must remember that--that I have a father's feelings,"
he gasped then, huskily.
Thorpe nodded, with a nonchalance which was not wholly affected.
He had learned what he wanted to know about this veteran.
If he had the fierce meannesses of a famished old dog,
he had also a dog's awe of a stick. It was almost too
easy to terrorize him.
"Oh, I make allowances for all that," Thorpe began, vaguely.
"But it's important that you should understand me.
I'm this sort of a man: whatever I set out to do, and put
my strength into it, that I do! I kill every pheasant I
fire at; Plowden will tell you that! It's a way I have.
To those that help me, and are loyal to me, I'm the best
friend in the world. To those that get in my way,
or try to trip me up, I'm the devil--just plain devil.
Now then--you're getting three hundred a year from
my Company, that is to say from me, simply to oblige my
friend Plowden. You don't do anything to earn this money;
you're of no earthly use on the Board. If I chose,
I could put you off at the end of the year as easily as I
can blow out this match. But I propose not only to keep
you on, but to make you independent. Why do I do that?
You should ask yourself that question. It can't be on
account of anything you can do for the Company. What else
then? Why, first and foremost, because you are the father
of your daughter."
"Let me tell you the kind of man I am," said the General,
inflating his chest, and speaking with solemnity.
"Oh, I know the kind of man you are," Thorpe interrupted
him, coolly. "I want to talk now."
"It was merely," Kervick ventured, in an injured tone,
"that I can be as loyal as any man alive to a true friend."
"Well, I'll be the true friend, then," said Thorpe,
with impatient finality. "And now this is what I want to say.
I'm going to be a very rich man. You're not to say so
to anybody, mind you, until the thing speaks for itself.
We're keeping dark for a few months, d'ye see?--lying low.
Then, as I say, I shall be a very rich man. Well now,
I wouldn't give a damn to be rich, unless I did with my
money the things that I wanted to do, and got the things
with it that I wanted to get. Whatever takes my fancy,
that's what I'll do."
He paused for a moment, mentally to scrutinize a brand-
new project which seemed, by some surreptitious agency,
to have already taken his fancy. It was a curious project;
there were attractive things about it, and objections to it
suggested themselves as well.
"I may decide," he began speaking again, still revolving
this hypothetical scheme in his thoughts--"I may want
to--well, here's what occurs to me as an off-chance.
I take an interest in your daughter, d'ye see? and it
seems a low-down sort of thing to me that she should be
so poor. Well, then--I might say to you, here's two
thousand a year, say, made over to you in your name, on the
understanding that you turn over half of it, say, to her.
She could take it from you, of course, as her father.
You could say you made it out of the Company. Of course
it might happen, later on, that I might like to have
a gentle hint dropped to her, d'ye see, as to where it
really came from. Mind, I don't say this is what is going
to be done. It merely occurred to me."
After waiting for a moment for some comment, he added
a second thought: "You'd have to set about making friends
with her, you know. In any case, you'd better begin
at that at once."
The General remained buried in reflection. He lighted
a cigarette, and poured out for himself still another
petit verre. His pursed lips and knitted brows were
eloquent of intense mental activity.
"Well, do you see any objections to it?" demanded Thorpe,
"I do not quite see the reasons for it,"
answered the other, slowly. "What would you gain by it?"
"How do you mean--gain?" put in the other, with peremptory
intolerance of tone.
General Kervick spread his hands in a quick little gesture.
These hands were withered, but remarkably well-kept. "I
suppose one doesn't do something for nothing," he said.
"I see what I would gain, and what she would gain,
but I confess I don't see what advantage you would get out
"No-o, I daresay you don't," assented Thorpe,
with sneering serenity. "But what does that matter? You
admit that you see what you would gain. That's enough,
The older man's veined temples twitched for an instant.
He straightened himself in his chair, and looked hard at
his companion. There was a glistening of moisture about
his staring eyes.
"It surely isn't necessary--among gentlemen"--he began,
cautiously picking his phrases--"to have quite so much
that's unpleasant, is it?"
"No--you're right--I didn't mean to be so rough,"
Thorpe declared, with spontaneous contrition.
Upon the instant, however, he perceived the danger
that advantage might be taken of his softness. "I'm a
plain-spoken man," he went on, with a hardening voice,
"and people must take me as they find me. All I said was,
in substance, that I intended to be of service to you--and
that that ought to interest you."
The General seemed to have digested his pique.
"And what I was trying to say," he commented deferentially,
"was that I thought I saw ways of being of service to you.
But that did not seem to interest you at all."
"How--service?" Thorpe, upon consideration, consented to ask.
"I know my daughter so much better than you do,"
explained the other; "I know Plowden so much better; I am
so much more familiar with the whole situation than you can
possibly be--I wonder that you won't listen to my opinion.
I don't suggest that you should be guided by it, but I
think you should hear it."
"I think so, too," Thorpe declared, readily enough.
"What IS your opinion?"
General Kervick sipped daintily at his glass, and then gave
an embarrassed little laugh. "But I can't form what you
might call an opinion," he protested, apologetically,
"till I understand a bit more clearly what it is you
propose to yourself. You mustn't be annoyed if I return
to that--'still harping on my daughter,' you know.
If I MUST ask the question--is it your wish to marry her?"
Thorpe looked blankly at his companion, as if he were thinking
of something else. When he spoke, it was with no trace
of consciousness that the question had been unduly intimate.
"I can't in the least be sure that I shall ever marry,"
he replied, thoughtfully. "I may, and I may not.
But--starting with that proviso--I suppose I haven't
seen any other woman that I'd rather think about marrying
than--than the lady we're speaking of. However, you see
it's all in the air, so far as my plans go."
"In the air be it," the soldier acquiesced, plausibly.
"Let us consider it as if it were in the air--a
possible contingency. This is what I would say--My--
'the lady we are speaking of' is by way of being
a difficult lady--'uncertain, coy, and hard to please'
as Scott says, you know--and it must be a very skilfully-
dressed fly indeed which brings her to the surface.
She's been hooked once, mind, and she has a horror of it.
Her husband was the most frightful brute and ruffian,
you know. I was strongly opposed to the marriage, but her
mother carried it through. But--yes--about her--I think
she is afraid to marry again. If she does ever consent,
it will be because poverty has broken her nerve.
If she is kept on six hundred a year, she may be starved,
so to speak, into taking a husband. If she had sixteen
hundred--either she would never marry at all, or she would
be free to marry some handsome young pauper who caught
her fancy. That would be particularly like her. You would
be simply endowing some needy fellow, beside losing her
for yourself. D'ye follow me? If you'll leave it to me,
I can find a much better way than that--better for all
"Hm!" said Thorpe, and pondered the paternal statement.
"I see what you mean," he remarked at last. "Yes--I see."
The General preserved silence for what seemed a long time,
deferring to the reverie of his host. When finally he
offered a diversion, in the form of a remark about the hour,
Thorpe shook himself, and then ponderously rose to his feet.
He took his hat and coat from the waiter, and made his way
out without a word.
At the street door, confronting the waning foliage of the
Embankment garden, Kervick was emboldened to recall to him
the fact of his presence. "Which way are you going?"
"I don't know," Thorpe answered absently. "I think--I
think I'll take a walk on the Embankment--by myself."
The General could not repress all symptoms of uneasiness.
"But when am I to see you again?" he enquired, with an
effect of solicitude that defied control.
"See me?" Thorpe spoke as if the suggestion took him
"There are things to be settled, are there not?"
the other faltered, in distressed doubt as to the judicious
tone to take. "You spoke, you know, of--of some employment
that--that would suit me."
Thorpe shook himself again, and seemed by an effort
to recall his wandering attention. "Oh yes," he said,
with lethargic vagueness--"I haven't thought it out yet.
I'll let you know--within the week, probably."
With the briefest of nods, he turned and crossed the road.
Walking heavily, with rounded shoulders and hands
plunged deep in his overcoat pockets, he went through
the gateway, and chose a path at random. To the idlers
on the garden benches who took note of him as he passed,
he gave the impression of one struggling with nausea.
To his own blurred consciousness, he could not say
which stirred most vehemently within him, his loathing
for the creature he had fed and bought, or his bitter
The General, standing with exaggerated exactness upon the doorstep,
had followed with his bulging eyes the receding figure.
He stood still regarding the gateway, mentally summarizing
the events of the day, after the other had vanished.
At last, nestling his chin comfortably into the fur of
his collar, he smiled with self-satisfaction. "After all,"
he said to himself, "there are always ways of making a cad
feel that he is a cad, in the presence of a gentleman."
ON a Sunday afternoon, early in February, Thorpe journeyed
with his niece and nephew from Bern to Montreux.
The young people, with maps and a guide-book open,
sat close together at the left side of the compartment.
The girl from time to time rubbed the steam from the window
with a napkin out of the lunch-basket. They both stared
a good deal through this window, with frequent exclamations
"Isn't it too provoking!" cried the girl, turning to her
uncle at last. "This is where we are now--according
to Baedeker: 'As the train proceeds we enjoy a view
of the Simmen-Thal and Freiburg mountains to the left,
the Moleson being conspicuous.' And look at it! For
all one can see, we might as well be at Redhill."
"It is pretty hard luck," Thorpe assented, passively glancing
past her at the pale, neutral-tinted wall of mist which obscured
the view. "But hang it all--it must clear up some time.
Just you have patience, and you'll see some Alps yet."
"Where we're going," the young man interposed, "the head-porter
told me it was always cloudier than anywhere else."
"I don't think that can be so," Thorpe reasoned, languidly,
from his corner. "It's a great winter resort, I'm told,
and it rather stands to reason, doesn't it? that people
wouldn't flock there if it was so bad as all that."
"The kind of people we've seen travelling in Switzerland,"
said the girl--"they would do anything."
Thorpe smiled, with tolerant good humour. "Well, you can
comfort yourself with the notion that you'll be coming again.
The mountains'll stay here, all right," he assured her.
The young people smiled back at him, and with this he
rearranged his feet in a new posture on the opposite seat,
lighted another cigar, and pillowed his head once more
against the hard, red-plush cushion. Personally, he did
not in the least resent the failure of the scenery.
For something more than three months, this purposeless
pleasure-tour had been dragging him about from point
to point, sleeping in strange beds, eating extraordinarily
strange food, transacting the affairs of a sight-seer among
people who spoke strange languages, until he was surfeited
with the unusual. It had all been extremely interesting,
of course, and deeply improving--but he was getting
tired of talking to nobody but waiters, and still more
so of having nothing to do which he could not as well
leave undone if he chose. After a few days more of
Switzerland--for they had already gazed with blank faces
at this universal curtain of mist from such different points
of view as Lucerne, Interlaken, and Thun--it was clear
to him that they would, as he phrased it, to himself,
make a break for home. Unless, indeed, something happened
at Montreux. Ah, would anything happen at Montreux?
For four days his mind had been automatically reverting
to that question; it lurked continually in the background
of his thoughts, now, as he smoked and idly ruminated,
on his way southward through the fog.
All the rest of the prolonged trip had been without
any specific motive, so far as he was concerned.
The youngsters had planned all its routes and halts and
details of time and connections, and he had gone along,
with cheerful placidity, to look at the things they bade
him observe, and to pay the bills. Perhaps in all things
their tastes had not been his tastes. He would have liked
more of Paris, he fancied, and less of the small Dutch
and North German towns which they seemed to fancy so much.
Still, the beer was good--and really their happiness,
as a spectacle, had given him more satisfaction than
a thousand miles of boulevards could have done.
He liked this niece and nephew of his more than he could
ever have imagined himself liking any young people.
They had been shy with him at the outset--and for the first
week his experiment had been darkened by the belief that,
between themselves, they did not deem him quite good enough.
He had been wise enough, then, to have it out with the
girl--she was the one to whom he felt it easiest to talk
frankly--and had discovered, to his immense relief,
that they conceived him to be regarding them as encumbrances.
At breakfast next morning, with tactful geniality, he set
everything right, and thereafter they were all extremely
So far as he could judge, they were very superior
young people, both intellectually and spiritually.
The girl spoke French, and her brother German,
with what seemed to him remarkable proficiency.
Their young minds were the repositories of an astounding
amount of information: they knew who Charles the Bold was;
they pointed out to their uncle the distinction between
Gothic and Romanesque arches; they explained what was the
matter with the Anabaptists; they told him that the story
of the Bishop and the rats at Bingen was a baseless myth,
and that probably there had never been any such man
as William Tell. Nor did they get all this out of the
guide-books which they pored over with such zest.
It was impossible not to see that they were familiar with
large numbers of the subjects that these books discussed,
and that the itinerary which they marked out had reference
to desires and interests that they had cultivated for themselves.
Julia, upon even first sight, made a much pleasanter
impression than her mother's hesitating description
had prepared him for. As he came to know her well,
he ceased to remember that there was a question in any mind
as to her being a pretty girl. There was less colour
in her face than he could have wished. Her smooth,
pallid skin, almost waxen in texture, had a suggestion
of delicate health which sometimes troubled him a little,
but which appealed to the tenderness in his nature all
the time. The face was unduly thin, perhaps, but this,
and the wistful glance of the large grey eyes in repose,
made up an effect that Thorpe found touched him a good deal.
Even when she was in visibly high spirits, the look in these
eyes seemed to him to be laying claim to his protection.
She could be merry upon occasion, in a gentle and tranquil way,
and as her self-confidence expanded under the shelter
of their growing intimacy, she disclosed to her uncle
plenty of initiative and individuality--but what he felt
in her most was a peculiarly sweet and girlish trustfulness,
which made him like himself more than he had ever
done before. He could feel that he was at his very
best--a hitherto unsuspected best--when Julia was about.
He wanted to buy for her everything in the windows upon
which she bestowed the most casual approving glance.
It was a delight merely to look at her, and to meditate upon
the felicity of being able to do things for so charming
Alfred made a less direct demand upon his uncle's admiration,
but he was a very good fellow all round. He was big and fair
and muscular, and nothing about him but his spectacles
seemed in Thorpe's mind to be related to his choice of art
as a profession. That so robust and hearty a young fellow
should wish to put paint on a canvas with small brushes,
was to the uncle an unaccountable thing. It was almost as
if he had wanted to knit, or do embroidery. Of the idleness
and impatience of discipline which his mother had seemed
to allege against him, Thorpe failed to detect any signs.
The young man was never very late in the morning, and,
beside his tireless devotion to the task of hunting up old
pictures in out-of-the-way places, did most of the steward's
work of the party with intelligence and precision.
He studied the time-tables, audited the hotel-bills, looked
after the luggage, got up the street-maps of towns and
the like, to such good purpose that they never lost a train,
or a bag, or themselves. Truly, an excellent young man.
Thorpe noted with especial satisfaction his fine,
kindly big-brother attitude toward his sister Julia--and
it was impossible for him to avoid the conviction that
Louisa was a simpleton not to appreciate such children.
They did not often allude to their mother; when they did,
it was in language the terms of which seemed more
affectionate than the tone--and Thorpe said often to
himself that he did not blame them. It was not so much
that they had outgrown their mother's point of view.
They had never occupied it.
The journey, so far as Thorpe comprehended its character,
had been shaped with about equal regard for Julia's interest
in the romance of history, and Alfred's more technical
and practical interest in art. Each had sufficient
sympathy with the tastes of the other, however, to prevent
any tendency to separation. They took their uncle one
day to see where William the Silent was assassinated,
and the next to observe how Rembrandt's theory of guild
portrait-painting differed from Van der Helst's, with a
common enthusiasm. He scrutinized with patient loyalty
everything that they indicated to him, and not infrequently
they appeared to like very much the comments he offered.
These were chiefly of a sprightly nature, and when Julia
laughed over them he felt that she was very near to him indeed.
Thus they saw Paris together--where Thorpe did relinquish
some of the multiplied glories of the Louvre to sit
in front of a cafe by the Opera House and see the funny
people go past--and thence, by Bruges and Antwerp,
to Holland, where nobody could have imagined there were
as many pictures as Thorpe saw with his own weary eyes.
There were wonderful old buildings at Lubeck for Julia's
eyes to glisten over, and pictures at Berlin, Dresden,
and Dusseldorf for Alfred.
The assumption existed that the excursion into the
Thuringenwald to see the memorials of Luther was especially
for the uncle's benefit, and he tried solicitously
to say or look nothing which might invalidate it.
There were other places in Germany, from Mainz to Munich,
which he remembered best by their different beers.
They spent Christmas at Vienna, where Julia had heard
that its observance was peculiarly insisted upon, and then
they saw the Tyrol in its heaviest vesture of winter snows,
and beautiful old Basle, where Alfred was crazier
about Holbein than he had been at Munich over Brouwer.
Thorpe looked very carefully at the paintings of both men,
and felt strengthened in his hopes that when Alfred got
a little older he would see that this picture business
was not the thing for a young gentleman with prospects
to go into.
It was at Basle that Thorpe received a letter from London
which directly altered the plans of the party. He had
had several other letters from London which had produced
no such effect. Through Semple, he had followed in outline
the unobtrusive campaign to secure a Special Settlement,
and had learned that the Stock Exchange Committee,
apparently without opposition, had granted one for the
first week in February.
Even this news, tremendously important as it was, did not
prompt Thorpe to interfere with the children's projects.
There was no longer any point in remaining away from London;
there were, indeed, numerous reasons for a prompt return.
But he was loth to deprive the youngsters of that descent
into smiling, sunlit Italy upon which they had so fondly
dwelt in fancy, and after all Semple could do all that was
needful to be done for another month.
So they went to Basle, and here it was that another kind
of letter came. It was in a strange hand, at once cramped
and fluttering, which puzzled the recipient a good deal;
it was a long time before even the signature unravelled itself.
Then he forced himself to decipher it, sentence by sentence,
with a fierce avidity. It was from General Kervick.
The next morning Thorpe astonished his young companions
by suggesting an alteration in their route. In a roundabout
and tentative fashion--in which more suspicious observers
must have detected something shamefaced--he mentioned
that he had always heard a great deal about Montreux as a
winter-resort. The fact that he called it Montroox raised
in Julia's mind a fleeting wonder from whom it could be that
he had heard so much about it, but it occurred to neither
her nor her brother to question his entire good faith.
Their uncle had displayed, hitherto, a most comforting
freedom from discrimination among European towns;
he had, indeed, assured them many times that they were
all one to him. That he should suddenly turn up now with
a favourite winter-resort of his own selection surprised
them considerably, but, upon reflection, it also pleased them.
He had humoured all their wishes with such unfailing and
bountiful kindness, that it was a delight to learn that
there was something he wanted to do. They could not finish
their breakfast till the guide-book had been brought to the table.
"Oh! How splendid!" Julia had cried then. "The Castle
of Chillon is there!"
"Why of course!" said Thorpe, complacently.
They laughed gayly at him for pretending that he had known this,
and he as good-humouredly accepted their banter. He drew
a serious long breath of relief, however, when their backs
were turned. It had gone off much better than he had feared.
Now, on this Sunday afternoon, as the train made its sure-footed
way across the mountains, the thought that he was actually
to alight at Montreux at once fascinated and depressed him.
He was annoyed with himself for suffering it to get such
a hold upon his mind. What was there in it, anyway? There
was a big hotel there, and he and his youngsters were to stop
at it, and if he accidentally encountered a certain lady
who was also stopping there--and of course the meeting
would bear upon its face the stamp of pure chance--what of it?
And if he did meet her, thus fortuitously--what would
happen then? No doubt a lady of her social position met
abroad great numbers of people that she had met at home.
It would not in any way surprise her--this chance encounter
of which he thought so much. Were there sufficient grounds
for imagining that it would even interest her? He forced
his mind up to this question, as it were, many times,
and invariably it shied and evaded the leap.
There had been times, at Hadlow House, when Lady Cressage
had seemed supremely indifferent to the fact of his existence,
and there had been other times when it had appeared
manifest that he pleased her--or better, perhaps, that she
was willing to take note of how much she pleased him.
It must have been apparent to her--this fact that she
produced such an impression upon him. He reasoned this
out satisfactorily to himself. These beautiful women,
trained from childhood for the conquest of a rich husband,
must have cultivated an extraordinary delicacy of consciousness,
in such matters. They must have developed for themselves
what might be called a sixth sense--a power of feeling
in the air what the men about were thinking of them.
More than once he had caught a glimmer of what he felt to be
the operation of this sense, in the company of Lady Cressage.
He could not say that it had been discernible in her glance,
or her voice, or her manner, precisely, but he was sure
that he had seen it, somehow.
But even assuming all this--admitting that in October,
on a wet Sunday, in the tedium of a small country-house party,
she had shown some momentary satisfaction in the idea that
he was profoundly impressed by her--did it at all follow
that in February, amid the distractions of a fashionable
winter-resort, and probably surrounded by hosts of friends,
she would pay any attention to him whatever? The abject
fear that she might not even remember him--might not
know him from Adam when he stood before her--skulked
about in the labyrinths of his mind, but he drove it back
whenever it showed itself. That would be too ignominious.
The young people at the other side of the compartment,
forever wiping the window with the napkin, and straining their
eyes to see the invisible, diverted his unsettled attention.
A new perception of how much he liked them and enjoyed
having them with him, took hold of his thoughts.
It had not occurred to him before, with any definiteness,
that he would be insupportably lonely when the time came
to part with them.
Now, when he dwelt upon it, it made him feel sad and old.
He said to himself at once, with decision, that there
need be no parting at all. He would take a house
without delay, and they should live with him.
He could not doubt that this would be agreeable to them;
it would solve every problem for him.
His fancy sketched out the natural and legitimate
extensions of this project. There would be, first of all,
a house in town--a furnished house of a modest sort,
having no pretension save to provide a cheerful temporary
shelter for three people who liked one another.
Here the new household would take shape, and get its
right note of character. Apparently Louisa would not be
urged to form part of this household. He said to himself
with frankness that he didn't want her, and there had been
nothing to indicate that her children would pine for her.
She showed good sense when she said that her place was
in the shop, and in her ancestral home over the shop.
No doubt there would be a certain awkwardness,
visible to others if not to themselves, about her living
in one part of London and her children in another.
But here also her good sense would come on;--and, besides,
this furnished house in town would be a mere brief
overture to the real thing--the noble country mansion
he was going to have, with gardens and horses and hounds
and artificial lakes and deer parks and everything.
Quite within the year he would be able to realize this
consummation of his dreams.
How these nice young people would revel in such a place--and
how they would worship him for having given it to them for
a home! His heart warmed within him as he thought of this.
He smiled affectionately at the picture Julia made,
polishing the glass with vehement circular movements
of her slight arm, and then grimacing in comic vexation
at the deadly absence of landscape outside. Was there
ever a sweeter or more lovable girl in this world? Would
there have to be some older woman to manage the house,
at the beginning? he wondered. He should like it immensely
if that could be avoided. Julia looked fragile and
inexperienced--but she would be twenty-one next month.
Surely that was a mature enough age for the slight
responsibility of presiding over servants who should be
the best that money could buy. Many girls were married,
and given households of their own to manage, when they
were even younger.
This reflection raised an obstacle against the smooth-
flowing current of his thoughts. Supposing that Julia
got the notion of marrying--how miserable that would
make everything. Very likely she would never do any
such thing; he had observed in her no shadow of a sign
that a thought of matrimony had ever crossed her brain.
Yet that was a subject upon which, of course, she could
not be asked to give pledges, even to herself.
Thorpe tried to take a liberal view of this matter.
He argued to himself that there would be no objection at
all to incorporating Julia's husband into the household,
assuming that she went to the length of taking one,
and that he was a good fellow. On this latter point,
it was only the barest justice to Julia's tastes and judgment
to take it for granted that he would be a good fellow.
Yet the uncle felt uneasily that this would alter things
for the worse. The family party, with that hypothetical
young man in it, could never be quite so innocently
and completely happy as--for instance--the family party
in this compartment had been during these wonderful
Mechanically he rubbed the window beside him, and turned
to look out with a certain fixedness--as if he might
chance to catch a glimpse of the bridegroom with whom
Julia would have it in her power to disturb the serenity
of their prospective home. A steep white cliff,
receding sullenly against the dim grey skyline; a farmhouse
grotesquely low for its size, crouching under big
shelving galleries heaped with snow; an opening in front,
to the right, where vaguely there seemed to be a valley
into which they would descend--he saw these things.
They remained in his mind afterward as a part of something
else that he saw, with his mental vision, at the same
moment--a strikingly real and vivid presentment of
Lady Cressage, attired as he had seen her in the saddle,
her light hair blown about a little under her hat,
a spot of colour in the exquisite cheek, the cold,
impersonal dignity of a queen in the beautiful profile.
The picture was so actual for the instant that he uttered
an involuntary exclamation--and then looked hastily round
to see whether his companions had heard it. Seemingly they
had not; he lolled again upon the comfortless cushion,
and strove to conjure up once more the apparition.
Nothing satisfactory came of the effort. Upon consideration,
he grew uncertain as to whether he had seen anything at all.
At the most it was a kind of half-dream which had visited him.
He yawned at the thought, and lighted a fresh cigar.
All at once, his mind had become too indolent to do any
more thinking. A shapeless impression that there would be
a good many things to think over later on flitted into his
brain and out again.
"Well, how are the mountains using you, now?" he called
out to his niece.
"Oh, I could shake them!" she declared. "Listen to this:
'A view of singular beauty, embracing the greater part
of the Lake of Geneva, and the surrounding mountains,
is suddenly disclosed.' That's where we are now--or
were a minute ago. You can see that there is some sort
of valley in front of us--but that is all. If I could
only see one mountain with snow on it----"
"Why, it's all mountains and all snow, when you come
to that," Thorpe insisted, with jocose perversity.
"You're on mountains yourself, all the time."
"You know what I mean," she retorted. "I want to see
something like the coloured pictures in the hotels."
"Oh, probably it will be bright sunlight tomorrow,"
he said, for perhaps the twentieth time that day.
"There--that looks like water!" said Alfred.
"See? just beyond the village. Yes, it is water.
There's your Lake of Geneva, at all events."
"But it isn't the right colour," protested Julia,
peering through the glass. "It's precisely like everything
else: it's of no colour at all. And they always paint it
such a lovely blue! Really, uncle, the Swiss Government
ought to return you your money."
"You wait till you see it tomorrow--or next day,"
said the uncle, vaguely. He closed his eyes, and welcomed
a drowsy mood. As he went off to sleep, the jolting racket
of the train mellowed itself into a murmur of "tomorrow
or next day, tomorrow or next day," in his ears.
FROM their windows, high up and at the front of the
big hotel, Julia looked down upon the Lake of Geneva.
She was in such haste to behold it that she had not so
much as unbuttoned her gloves; she held her muff still
in her hand. After one brief glance, she groaned aloud
Beyond the roadway, and the deserted miniature pier of Territet,
both dishevelled under melting and mud-stained snow,
there lay a patch of water--motionless, inconspicuous,
of a faded drab colour--which at some small distance
out vaguely ceased to look like water and, yet a little
further out, became part and parcel of the dull grey mist.
Save for the forlorn masts of a couple of fishing boats,
beached under the shelter of the pier, there was no proof
in sight that this was a lake at all. It was as uninspiring
to the eye as a pool of drippings from umbrellas in a porch.
While her uncle and brother occupied themselves with
the luggage being brought up by the porters, she opened
a window and stepped out upon the tiny balcony.
A flaring sign on the inner framework of this balcony
besought her in Swiss-French, in the interests of order,
not to feed the birds. The injunction seemed meaningless
to her until she perceived, over by the water, several gulls
lazily wheeling about. They were almost as grey as the
fog they circled in. Suddenly they seemed to perceive
her in turn, and, swerving sharply, came floating
toward the hotel, with harsh, almost menacing cries.
She hurried in, and shut the window with decision.
It seemed to her that the smile with which, as she turned,
she was able to meet her uncle's look, was a product
of true heroism.
Apparently this smile did not altogether delude him.
"Oh, now, you mustn't get down on your luck,"
he adjured her. "We're going to be awfully cozy here.
Have you seen your room? It's just there, in a little alley
to the right of the door. They say it has an even finer
view than these windows. Oh, you needn't laugh--this is
the best view in the world, I'm told by those who know.
And as a winter-resort, why----"
"I say, look here!" The interruption came from Alfred,
who, having gone out on one of the balconies, put in
his head now to summon them. "Come here! Here's some fun."
He pointed out to Thorpe the meaning of the inscription
on the sign, and then pulled him forward to observe its
practical defiance. A score of big gulls were flapping
and dodging in excited confusion close before them,
filling their ears with a painful clamour. Every now
and again, one of the birds, recovering its senses
in the hurly-burly, would make a curving swoop downward
past the rows of windows below, and triumphantly catch
in its beak something that had been thrown into the air.
Thorpe, leaning over his railing, saw that a lady on
a balcony one floor below, and some yards to the left,
was feeding the birds. She laughed aloud as she did so,
and said something over her shoulder to a companion who was
"Well, that's pretty cool," he remarked to his niece,
who had come to stand beside him. "She's got the same
sign down there that we've got. I can see it from here.
Or perhaps she can't read French."
"Or perhaps she isn't frightened of the hotel people,"
suggested the girl. She added, after a little, "I think
I'll feed them myself in the morning. I certainly shall
if the sun comes out--as a sort of Thanksgiving festival,
Her uncle seemed not to hear her. He had been struck by
the exceptional grace of the gestures with which the pieces
of bread were flung forth. The hands and wrists of this
lady were very white and shapely. The movements which she
made with them, all unaware of observation as she was,
and viewed as he viewed them from above, were singularly
beautiful in their unconstraint. It was in its way
like watching some remarkable fine dancing, he thought.
He could not see much of her face, from his perch,
but she was tall and fashionably clad. There was a loose
covering of black lace thrown over her head, but once,
as she turned, he could see that her hair was red.
Even in this fleeting glimpse, the unusual tint attracted
his attention: there was a brilliancy as of fire in it.
Somehow it seemed to make a claim upon his memory.
He continued to stare down at the stranger with an indefinable
sense that he knew something about her.
Suddenly another figure appeared upon the balcony--and
in a flash he comprehended everything. These idiotic,
fighting gluttons of gulls had actually pointed out to him
the object of his search. It was Lady Cressage who stood
in the doorway, there just below him--and her companion,
the red-haired lady who laughed hotel-rules to scorn,
was the American heiress who had crossed the ocean
in his ship, and whom he had met later on at Hadlow.
What was her name--Martin? No--Madden. He confronted the swift
impression that there was something odd about these two
women being together. At Hadlow he had imagined that they
did not like each other. Then he reflected as swiftly
that women probably had their own rules about such matters.
He seemed to have heard, or read, perhaps, that females
liked and disliked each other with the most capricious
alternations and on the least tangible of grounds.
At all events, here they were together now. That was
The two ladies had gone in, and closed their window.
The sophisticated birds, with a few ungrateful croaks
of remonstrance, had drifted away again to the water.
His niece had disappeared from his elbow. Still Thorpe
remained with his arms folded on the railing, his eyes fixed
on the vacant balcony, below to the left.
When at last he went inside, the young people were waiting
for him with the project of a stroll before dinner.
The light was failing, but there was plenty of time.
They had ascertained the direction in which Chillon lay;
a servant had assured them that it was only a few minutes'
walk, and Alfred was almost certain that he had seen it from
Thorpe assented with a certain listlessness, which they
had never noted in his manner before, but when Julia begged
him not to stir if he were in the slightest degree tired,
he replied honestly enough that he would do anything
rather than be left alone. Then, of course, they said,
there should be no walk, but to this he would not listen.
The party trooped downstairs, accordingly, and out into
the street. The walking was vile, but, as Julia had long
ago said, if they were to be deterred by slush they would
never get anywhere or see anything.
It proved to be too late and too dark to either enter
the castle or get much of an idea of its exterior.
Returning, they paused again to look into the lighted window
of the nice little book-shop. The numerous photographs
of what they were entitled to behold from the windows
of their hotel seemed more convincing than photographs
usually were. As the young people inspected them,
they became reassured. It was not credible that such a noble
vista would forever deny itself to such earnest pilgrims.
When their uncle introduced this time his ancient formula
about the certainty of brilliant sunshine in the morning,
they somehow felt like believing him.
"Yes--I really think it must change," Julia declared,
with her fascinated glance upon the photographs.
Alfred looked at his watch. "We'd better get along
to the hotel, hadn't we?" he suggested.
"By the way"--Thorpe began, with a certain uneasiness
of manner--"speaking of dinner, wouldn't you like to dine
at the big table d'hote, instead of up in our sitting-room?"
"If you're tired of our dining alone--by all means,"
answered Julia, readily. There was obvious surprise,
however, in both her look and tone.
"Tired nothing!" he assured her. "I like it better
than anything else in the world. But what I mean is--I
was thinking, seeing that this is such a great winter-
resort, and all the swagger people of Europe come here--
that probably you youngsters would enjoy seeing the crowd."
Julia's glance, full of affectionate appreciation,
showed how wholly she divined his spirit of self-sacrifice.
"We wouldn't care in the least for it," she declared.
"We enjoy being a little party by ourselves every whit
as much as you do--and we both hate the people you get
at table d'hotes--and besides, for that matter, if there
are any real swells here, you may be sure they dine in their
"Why, of course!" Thorpe exclaimed swiftly, in palpable
self-rebuke. "I don't know what I could have been thinking of.
Of course they would dine in their rooms."
Next morning, Thorpe rose earlier than ever--with the
impression of a peculiarly restless and uncomfortable night
behind him. It was not until he had shaved and dressed
that he noted the altered character of the air outside.
Although it was not fully daylight yet, he could see
the outlines of the trees and vinerows on the big,
snow-clad hill, which monopolized the prospect from his window,
all sharp and clear cut, as if he were looking at them
through an opera-glass. He went at once to the sitting-room,
and thrust the curtains aside from one of the windows.
A miracle had been wrought in the night. The sky
overhead was serenely cloudless; the lake beneath,
stirring softly under some faint passing breeze,
revealed its full breadth with crystalline distinctness.
Between sky and water there stretched across the picture
a broad, looming, dimly-defined band of shadow, marked here
and there at the top by little slanting patches of an
intensely glowing white. He looked at this darkling middle
distance for a moment or two without comprehension.
Then he turned and hurriedly moved to the door of Julia's
room and beat upon it.
"Get up!" he called through the panels. "Here's your
sunrise--here's your Alpine view. Go to your window
and see it!"
A clear voice, not unmirthful, replied: "I've been watching
it for half an hour, thanks. Isn't it glorious?"
He was more fortunate at the opposite door, for Alfred
was still asleep. The young man, upon hearing the news,
however, made a toilet of unexampled brevity, and came
breathlessly forth. Thorpe followed him to the balcony,
where he stood collarless and uncombed, with the fresh
morning breeze blowing his hair awry, his lips parted,
his eyes staring with what the uncle felt to be a painful
fixedness before him.
Thorpe had seen many mountains in many lands. They did
not interest him very much. He thought, however, that he
could see now why people who had no mountains of their
own should get excited about Switzerland. He understood
a number of these sentimental things now, for that matter,
which had been Greek to him three months before.
Unreceptive as his philistinism may have seemed to these
delightful youngsters, it was apparent enough to him that
they had taught him a great deal. If he could not hope
to share their ever-bubbling raptures and enthusiasms,
at least he had come to comprehend them after a fashion,
and even to discern sometimes what it was that stirred them.
He watched his nephew now--having first assured himself
by a comprehensive downward glance that no other
windows of the hotel-front were open. The young man
seemed tremendously moved, far too much so to talk.
Thorpe ventured once some remarks about the Mexican mountains,
which were ever so much bigger, as he remembered them,
but Alfred paid no heed. He continued to gaze across
the lake, watching in rapt silence one facet after another
catch the light, and stand out from the murky gloom,
radiantly white, till at last the whole horizon was a mass
of shining minarets and domes, and the sun fell full
on his face. Then, with a long-drawn sigh, he turned,
re-entered the room, and threw himself into a chair.
"It's too good!" he declared, with a half-groan. "I
didn't know it would be like that."
"Why nothing's too good for us, man," his uncle told him.
"THAT is," said the boy, simply, and Thorpe, after staring
for a moment, smiled and rang the bell for breakfast.
When Julia made her appearance, a few minutes later,
the table was already laid, and the waiter was coming
in with the coffee.
"I thought we'd hurry up breakfast," her uncle explained,
after she had kissed him and thanked him for the sunrise
he had so successfully predicted--"because I knew you'd
both be crazy to get out."
He had not over-estimated their eagerness, which was so great,
indeed, that they failed to note the excessive tranquility
of his own demeanour. He ate with such unusual deliberation,
on this exciting morning, that they found themselves at
the end of their repast when, apparently, he had but made a beginning.
"Now you mustn't wait for me at all," he announced
to them then. "I'm a little tired this morning--and I
think I'd just like to lie around and smoke, and perhaps
read one of your novels. But you two must get your
things on and lose no time in getting out. This is the
very best time of day, you know--for Alpine scenery.
I'd hate to have you miss any of it."
Under his kindly if somewhat strenuous insistence, they went
to their rooms to prepare for an immediate excursion.
He was so anxious to have them see all there was to be
seen that, when Julia returned, properly cloaked and befurred,
and stood waiting at the window, he scolded a little.
"What on earth is that boy doing?" he exclaimed, with a
latent snarl in his tone which was novel to her ear.
"He'll keep you here till noon!"
"He's shaving, I think. He won't be long," she replied,
with great gentleness. After a moment's pause, she turned
from the window and came gayly forward.
"Oh, I forgot: I was going to feed the birds.
There are several of them out there now." As she spoke,
she busily broke up some of the rolls on the table.
Her face was bright with the pleasure of the thought.
"If you don't much mind, Julia," her uncle began,
with almost pleading intonations, "I rather think I wouldn't
feed those birds. The rule is there before our eyes,
you know--and it's always been my idea that if you're
at a hotel it's the correct thing to abide by its rules.
It's just an idea of mine--and I daresay, if you think
about it, you'll feel the same way."
The girl freed the last remaining bread-crumb from her gloves.
"Why, of course, uncle," she said, with promptitude.
Although there was no hint of protest in her tone
or manner, he felt impelled to soften still further
this solitary demonstration of his authority.
"You see I've been all round the world, my little girl,"
he explained, haltingly, "and when a man's done that,
and knocked about everywhere, he's apt to get finicking
and notional about trifles every once in a while."
"You're less so than anybody I ever knew," she generously interposed.
"Oh, no I'm not. You don't know me well enough yet;
that's what's the matter. And you see, Julia--another thing
just because you saw that lady throwing out bread,
that aint a very good reason why you should do it.
You don't know what kind of a person she may be.
Girls have got to be so frightfully careful about all that
sort of thing."
Julia offered a constrained little laugh in comment.
"Oh, you don't know how careful I can be," she said.
"But you're not annoyed?" he entreated her--and for answer
she came behind him, and rested an arm on his shoulder,
and patted it. He stroked her hand with his own.
"That's something like the nicest niece in the world!"
he exclaimed, with fervour.
When at last she and her brother had gone, he made short
work of his breakfast, and drank his coffee at a gulp.
A restless activity suddenly informed his movements.
He lit a cigar, and began pacing up and down the room,
biting his lips in preoccupation as he went. After a little,
he opened a window, and ventured cautiously as far
out on the balcony as was necessary to obtain a view
of the street below. Eventually, he identified his nephew
and niece among the pedestrians beneath him, and he kept
them in sight till, after more than one tiresome halt at
a shop window, they disappeared round a bend in the road.
Then he turned and came back into the room with the buoyant
air of a man whose affairs are prospering.
He smiled genially to himself as he gathered from the table
in one capacious hand all the pieces of bread his beloved
niece had broken up, and advanced again to the open window.
Waiting here till one of the dingy gulls moving aimlessly
about was headed toward him, he tossed out a fragment.
The bird dashed at it with a scream, and on the instant
the whole squawking flock were on wing. He suffered
the hubbub to proceed unappeased for a little while he
kept a watchful though furtive eye on that balcony
to the left, below. Unhappily he could not get out far
enough to see whether the inner curtains of its window
were drawn. He threw another bit of bread, and then
looked at his watch. It was a few minutes past nine.
Surely people travelling to see scenery would be up by
The strategy of issuing just enough bread to keep the
feathered concourse in motion commended itself to his mind.
As a precautionary measure, he took all the rolls remaining on
the table, and put them in the drawer of a desk by the window.
It even occurred to him to ring for more bread, but upon
consideration that seemed too daring. The waiter would
be sufficiently surprised at the party's appetites as it was.
Half an hour later, his plan of campaign suddenly yielded
a victory. Lady Cressage appeared on her balcony,
clad in some charming sort of morning gown, and bareheaded.
She had nothing in her hands, and seemed indifferent
to the birds, but when Thorpe flung forth a handful
of fragments into the centre of their whirling flock,
she looked up at him. It was the anxious instant, and he
ventured upon what he hoped was a decorous compromise
between a bow and a look of recognition.
She was in no haste to answer either. He could see
rather than hear that she said something to her invisible
companion within, the while she glanced serenely
in the general direction of his balcony. It seemed
to him that the answer to her remark, whatever it was,
must have exerted a direct influence upon his destiny,
for Lady Cressage all at once focussed her vague regard
upon him, and nodded with a reasonably gracious smile.
"It's wonderful luck to find you here," he called
down to her. Having played their part, he wished now
that the birds were at Jericho. Their obstreperous
racket made conversation very difficult. Apparently she
made him an answer, but he could catch nothing of it.
"I'm here with my niece and nephew," he shouted down.
"I don't hear what you say. May I come down and pay
my respects--later on? What is your number, and when may
These questions, as he flashed them in review through his mind,
seemed to be all right from the most exacting social
point of view. Doubtless it was equally all right that,
before replying, she should consult her companion,
as she did at some length. Then she replied--and he had
no difficulty now in hearing her above the birds--that it
would be very nice of him to come, say, in an hour's time.
She told him the number--and then almost abruptly went in.
Thorpe, during this hour that ensued, smoked with
volcanic energy. He tried to interest himself in one
after another of half a dozen Tauchnitz novels his niece
carried about, with a preposterous absence of success.
He strove to arrange in some kind of sequence the things
that he should say, when this momentous interview
should begin, but he could think of nothing which did
not sound silly. It would be all right, he argued to
himself in the face of this present mental barrenness;
he always talked well enough on the spur of the moment,
when the time came--and still was not reassured.
He wondered if both ladies would be there to receive him,
and decided that they would probably regard that as indispensable
to the proprieties. In that case, their conversation would
necessarily be of the most casual and general character.
He would tell them a good deal about his niece, he foresaw.
A man travelling about with a niece--and such a delightfully
lady-like and engaging little niece--would take on some
added interest and dignity, he perceived, in the eyes
of ladies travelling alone. He essayed to estimate just
how much they would probably like Julia. Of course he would
say nothing about her mother and the book-shop; a vague
allusion to a widowed sister would be ample on that head.
But there could be confident references to Cheltenham;
he knew from what Julia had said that it suggested the
most satisfactory social guarantees, if taken strictly
by itself. And then so much would depend upon Julia
herself! If she succeeded in striking up a friendship
with them--ah, then everything would be all right.
Perhaps they would take a fancy to Alfred too! He was
a boy, of course, but conceivably the fact that he wanted
to paint, and knew about pictures, would appeal to them.
He seemed to have heard somewhere that artists were
the very devil among women.
At last the weary time of waiting had worn itself out,
somehow, and, after a final polishing before his glass,
he went down, and found his right corridor, and knocked
at the door. A pleasant voice bade him enter, and,
hat and gloves in hand, he went in.
As he had imagined, both ladies were present.
He had not been prepared, however, for the fact that it
was the American who played the part of hostess.
It was she who received him, and invited him to sit down,
and generally made him free of the apartment. When he
shook hands with Lady Cressage, there was somehow an effect
of the incidental in the ceremony, as if she were also a guest.
Nothing could have been simpler or more pleasing
than the little visit turned out to be. Miss Madden
had suddenly grown tired of the snowless and dripping
English winter, and had as promptly decided to come
to Switzerland, where the drifts ought to be high enough,
and the frosts searching enough, in all conscience.
They had selected Territet, because it was familiar to her,
and because it was on the way to Martigny and Brieg,
and she had had a notion of crossing either the Simplon
or the St. Bernard in winter. As she found now,
the St. Bernard was quite impracticable, but admittedly
a post road was kept open over the Simplon. It was said
now that she would not be allowed to proceed by this,
but it often happened that she did the things that she
was not allowed to do. The hotel-people at both Brieg
and Berisal had written refusing to let their horses attempt
the Simplon journey, and they were of course quite within
their rights, but there were other horses in Switzerland.
One surely could buy horses--and so on.
Thorpe also had his turn at autobiography. He told
rather whimsically of his three months' experiences at
the tail of the juvenile whirligigs, and his auditors
listened to them with mild smiles. He ventured upon
numerous glowing parentheses about Julia, and they at
least did not say that they did not want to know her.
They heard with politeness, too, what he could contrive
to drag in about his artist-nephew, and said it must be
very pleasant for him to have such nice company. At least
Miss Madden said this: her companion, as he thought it
over afterward, seemed hardly to have said anything at all.
She answered the few remarks which he found it possible
to direct to her, but the responses took no hold upon
his memory. He fancied that she was bored, or unhappy,
Finally, in the midst of commonplaces which, to his apprehension,
were verging upon flatness, a bold inspiration disclosed
itself--as splendid as the Dent du Midi revealing
its glaciers above the mounting sunrise--in his brain.
"We should all be charmed if you would come up and dine
with us tonight," he said, under the abrupt impulsion
of this idea. "It's been such an age since we wanderers
have had the privilege of company at our table!"
The felicity of these phrases from his lips attracted
his admiring attention, even while he waited in suspense
for an answer to them.
The ladies exchanged a look. "Yes," said Miss Madden,
after the slightest of pauses, "we shall be very happy."
Shortly thereafter Thorpe took his leave, and went
downstairs and out. He wandered about till luncheon
time, observing the mountains across the lake from
various standpoints, and, as it were, with new eyes.
He was interested in them in a curious new fashion;
they seemed to say things to him. His lip curled
once at the conceit that he was one of the Alps himself.
IT did not happen until three days later that Thorpe's
opportunity to speak alone with Lady Cressage came.
In this brief period, the two parties seemed to have
become fused in a remarkable intimacy. This was
clearly due to the presence of the young people,
and Thorpe congratulated himself many times each day
upon the striking prescience he had shown in bringing them.
Both the ladies unaffectedly liked Julia; so much so
that they seemed unwilling to make any plans which did
not include her. Then it was only a matter of course
that where she went her brother should go--and a further
logical step quite naturally brought in their willing uncle.
If he had planned everything, and now was ordering everything,
it could not have gone more to his liking.
Certain side speculations lent a savour to the satisfaction
with which he viewed this state of affairs. He found many
little signs to confirm the suspicion that the two ladies
had been the readier to make much of Julia because they
were not overkeen about each other's society. The bright,
sweet-natured girl had come as a welcome diversion
to a couple who in seclusion did battle with tendencies
to yawn. He was not quite convinced, for that matter,
that the American lady always went to that trouble.
She seemed to his observation a wilful sort of person,
who would not be restrained by small ordinary considerations
from doing the things she wanted to do. Her relations
with her companion afforded him food for much thought.
Without any overt demonstrations, she produced the
effect of ordering Lady Cressage about. This, so far
as it went, tended to prejudice him against her.
On the other hand, however, she was so good to Julia,
in a peculiarly frank and buoyant way which fascinated
the girl, that he could not but like her. And she was
very good to Alfred too.
There was, indeed, he perceived, a great deal of
individuality about the friendship which had sprung up
between Miss Madden and his nephew. She was years his
senior--he settled it with himself that the American
could not be less than seven-and-twenty,--yet Alfred
stole covert glances of admiration at her, and seemed
to think of nothing but opportunities for being in her
company as if--as if--Thorpe hardly liked to complete
the comparison in his own thoughts. Alfred, of course,
said it was all on account of her wonderful hair; he rather
went out of his way to dilate upon the enthusiasm her
"colour scheme"--whatever that might mean--excited in him
as an artist. The uncle had moments of profound skepticism
about this--moments when he uneasily wondered whether it
was not going to be his duty to speak to the young man.
For the most part, however, he extracted reassurance
from Miss Madden's demeanour toward the lad. She knew,
it seemed, a vast deal about pictures; at least she was able
to talk a vast deal about them, and she did it in such
a calmly dogmatic fashion, laying down the law always,
that she put Alfred in the position of listening as a pupil
might listen to a master. The humility with which his
nephew accepted this position annoyed Thorpe upon occasion,
but he reasoned that it was a fault on the right side.
Very likely it would help to keep the fact of the lady's
seniority more clearly before the youngster's mind,
and that would be so much gained.
And these apprehensions, after all, were scarcely to be
counted in the balance against the sense of achieved
happiness with which these halcyon days kept Thorpe filled.
The initiatory dinner had gone off perfectly. He could
have wished, indeed, that Julia had a smarter frock,
and more rings, when he saw the imposing costumes and jewelled
throats and hands of his guests--but she was a young girl,
by comparison, he reflected, and there could be no doubt
that they found her charming. As for Alfred, he was notably
fine-looking in his evening-clothes--infinitely more like
the son of a nobleman, the gratified uncle kept saying
to himself, than that big dullard, the Honourable Balder.
It filled him with a new pleasure to remember that Alfred
had visiting cards presenting his name as D'Aubigny,
which everybody of education knew was what the degenerate
Dabney really stood for. The lad and his sister had
united upon this excellent change long ago at Cheltenham,
and oddly enough they had confessed it to their uncle,
at the beginning of the trip, with a show of trepidation,
as if they feared his anger. With radiant gayety he had
relieved their minds by showing them his card, with "Mr.
Stormont Thorpe" alone upon it. At the dinner table,
in the proudest moment of his life, he had made himself
prouder still by thinking how distinguished an appearance
his and Alfred's cards would make together in the apartment
below next day.
But next day, the relations between the two parties had
already become too informal for cards. Julia went down
to see them; they came up to see Julia. Then they all went
for a long walk, with luncheon at Vevey, and before evening
Alfred was talking confidently of painting Miss Madden.
Next day they went by train to St. Maurice, and,
returning after dark, dined without ceremony together.
This third day--the weather still remaining bright--they had
ascended by the funicular road to Glion, and walked on among
the swarming luegers, up to Caux. Here, after luncheon,
they had wandered about for a time, regarding the panorama
of lake and mountains. Now, as the homeward descent began,
chance led the two young people and Miss Madden on ahead.
Thorpe found himself walking beside Lady Cressage.
He had upon his arm her outer wrap, which she said she
would put on presently. To look at the view he must glance
past her face: the profile, under the graceful fur cap,
was so enriched by glowing colour that it was, to his thought,
as if she were blushing.
"How little I thought, a few months ago," he said,
"that we should be mountaineering together!"
"Oh, no one knows a day ahead," she responded, vaguely.
"I had probably less notion of coming to Switzerland
then than you had."
"Then you don't come regularly?"
"I have never seen either Germany or Switzerland before.
I have scarcely been out of England before."
"Why now"--he paused, to think briefly upon his words--"I
took it for granted you were showing Miss Madden around."
"It 's quite the other way about," she answered, with a
cold little laugh. "It is she who is showing me around.
It is her tour. I am the chaperone." Thorpe dwelt upon
the word in his mind. He understood what it meant only
in a way, but he was luminously clear as to the bitterness
of the tone in which it had been uttered.
"No--it didn't seem as if it were altogether--what I
might call--YOUR tour," he ventured. They had seen much
of each other these past few days, but it was still hard
for him to make sure whether their freedom of intercourse
had been enlarged.
The slight shrug of the shoulders with which, in silence,
she commented upon his remark, embarrassed him. For a
moment he said nothing. He went on then with a renewed
consciousness of risk.
"You mustn't be annoyed with me," he urged. "I've been
travelling with that dear little niece of mine and her brother,
so long, that I've got into a habit of watching to notice
if the faces I see round me are happy. And when they're not,
then I have a kind of fatherly notion of interfering,
and seeing what's wrong."
She smiled faintly at this, but when he added, upon
doubtful inspiration--"By the way, speaking of fathers,
I didn't know at Hadlow that you were the daughter
of one of my Directors"--this smile froze upon the instant.
"The Dent du Midi is more impressive from the hotel,
don't you think?" she remarked, "than it is from here."
Upon consideration, he resolved to go forward.
"I have taken a great interest in General Kervick,"
he said, almost defiantly. "I am seeing to it that he has
a comfortable income--an income suitable to a gentleman
of his position--for the rest of his life."
"He will be very glad of it," she remarked.
"But I hoped that you would be glad of it too,"
he told her, bluntly. A curious sense of reliance upon
his superiority in years had come to him. If he could
make his air elderly and paternal enough, it seemed
likely that she would defer to it. "I'm talking to you
as I would to my niece, you know," he added, plausibly.
She turned her head to make a fleeting survey of his face,
as if the point of view took her by surprise.
"I don't understand," she said. "You are providing
an income for my father, because you wish to speak
to me like an uncle. Is that it?"
He laughed, somewhat disconsolately. "No--that isn't it,"
he said, and laughed again. "I couldn't tell, you know,
that you wouldn't want to talk about your father."
"Why, there's no reason in the world for not talking of him,"
she made haste to declare. "And if he's got something
good in the City, I'm sure I'm as glad as anyone. He is
the sort that ought always to have a good deal of money.
I mean, it will bring out his more amiable qualities.
He does not shine much in adversity--any more than I do."
Thorpe felt keenly that there were fine things to be said
here--but he had confidence in nothing that came to
his tongue. "I've been a poor man all my life--till now,"
was his eventual remark.
"Please don't tell me that you have been very happy
in your poverty," she adjured him, with the dim flicker
of a returning smile. "Very likely there are people
who are so constituted, but they are not my kind.
I don't want to hear them tell about it. To me poverty
is the horror--the unmentionable horror!"
"There never was a day that I didn't feel THAT!"
Thorpe put fervour into his voice. "I was never
reconciled to it for a minute. I never ceased swearing
to myself that I'd pull myself out of it. And that's
what makes me sort of soft-hearted now toward those--
toward those who haven't pulled themselves out of it."
"Your niece says you are soft-hearted beyond example,"
remarked Lady Cressage.
"Who could help being, to such a sweet little girl as she is?"
demanded the uncle, fondly.
"She is very nice," said the other. "If one may say
such a thing, I fancy these three months with her have
had an appreciable effect upon you. I'm sure I note
"That's just what I've been saying to myself!" he told her.
He was visibly delighted with this corroboration.
"I've been alone practically all my life. I had no
friends to speak of--I had no fit company--I hadn't
anything but the determination to climb out of the hole.
Well, I've done that--and I've got among the kind of people
that I naturally like. But then there came the question
of whether they would like me. I tell you frankly,
that was what was worrying the heart out of me when I
first met you. I like to be confessing it to you now--but
you frightened me within an inch of my life. Well now,
you see, I'm not scared of you at all. And of course
it's because Julia's been putting me through a course
The figure was lost upon Lady Cressage, but the spirit
of the remarks seemed not unpleasant to her. "I'm sure
you're full of kindness," she said. "You must forget that I
snapped at you--about papa." "All I remember about that is,"
he began, his eye lighting up with the thought that this time
the opportunity should not pass unimproved, "that you said
he didn't shine much in adversity---any more than you did.
Now on that last point I disagree with you, straight.
There wouldn't be any place in which you wouldn't shine."
"Is that the way one talks to one's niece?" she asked him,
almost listlessly. "Such flattery must surely be bad
for the young." Her words were sprightly enough, but her
face had clouded over. She had no heart for the banter.