Part 10 out of 13
attracted his attention. Its unusualness consisted in its air of
exceeding bustling cheerfulness. It was a domestic group of
the most luckless type, and ragged, dirty, and worn by an
evidently long tramp, might well have been expected to look
forlorn, discouraged, and out of spirits. A slouching father of
five children, one plainly but a few weeks old, and slung in a
dirty shawl at its mother's breast, an unhealthy looking slattern
mother, two ancient perambulators, one piled with dingy bundles
and cooking utensils, the seven-year-old eldest girl unpacking
things and keeping an eye at the same time on the two
youngest, who were neither of them old enough to be steady
on their feet, the six-year-old gleefully aiding the slouching
father to build the wayside fire. The mother sat upon the
grass nursing her baby and staring about her with an expression
at once stupefied and illuminated by some temporary bliss.
Even the slouching father was grinning, as if good luck had
befallen him, and the two youngest were tumbling about with
squeals of good cheer. This was not the humour in which such
a group usually dropped wearily on the grass at the wayside
to eat its meagre and uninviting meal and rest its dragging
limbs. As he drew near, Mount Dunstan saw that at the woman's
side there stood a basket full of food and a can full of milk.
Ordinarily he would have passed on, but, perhaps because of
the human glow the morning had brought him, he stopped and spoke.
"Have you come for the hopping?" he asked.
The man touched his forehead, apparently not conscious that
the grin was yet on his face.
"Yes, sir," he answered.
"How far have you walked?"
"A good fifty miles since we started, sir. It took us a good
bit. We was pretty done up when we stopped here. But
we've 'ad a wonderful piece of good luck." And his grin
"I am glad to hear that," said Mount Dunstan. The good
luck was plainly of a nature to have excited them greatly.
Chance good luck did not happen to people like themselves.
They were in the state of mind which in their class can only
be relieved by talk. The woman broke in, her weak mouth
and chin quite unsteady.
"Seems like it can't be true, sir," she said. "I'd only just
come out of the Union--after this one," signifying the new
baby at her breast. "I wasn't fit to drag along day after
day. We 'ad to stop 'ere 'cos I was near fainting away."
"She looked fair white when she sat down," put in the man.
"Like she was goin' off."
"And that very minute," said the woman, "a young lady
came by on 'orseback, an' the minute she sees me she stops her
'orse an' gets down."
"I never seen nothing like the quick way she done it," said
the husband. "Sharp, like she was a soldier under order.
Down an' give the bridle to the groom an' comes over"
"And kneels down," the woman took him up, "right by me an' says,
`What's the matter? What can I do?' an' finds out in two minutes
an' sends to the farm for some brandy an' all this basketful of
stuff," jerking her head towards the treasure at her side. "An'
gives 'IM," with another jerk towards her mate, "money enough to
'elp us along till I'm fair on my feet. That quick it was--that
quick," passing her hand over her forehead, "as if it wasn't for
the basket," with a nervous, half-hysteric giggle, "I wouldn't
believe but what it was a dream--I wouldn't."
"She was a very kind young lady," said Mount Dunstan,
"and you were in luck."
He gave a few coppers to the children and strode on his way. The
glow was hot in his heart, and he held his head high.
"She has gone by," he said. "She has gone by."
He knew he should find her at West Ways Farm, and he
did so. Slim and straight as a young birch tree, and elate with
her ride in the morning air, she stood silhouetted in her black
habit against the ancient whitewashed brick porch as she talked
"I have been drinking a glass of milk and asking questions
about hops," she said, giving him her hand bare of glove.
"Until this year I have never seen a hop garden or a hop picker."
After the exchange of a few words Bolter respectfully melted
away and left them together.
"It was such a wonderful day that I wanted to be out
under the sky for a long time--to ride a long way," she
explained. "I have been looking at hop gardens as I rode. I
have watched them all the summer--from the time when there
was only a little thing with two or three pale green leaves
looking imploringly all the way up to the top of each immensely
tall hop pole, from its place in the earth at the bottom of it--
as if it was saying over and over again, under its breath, `Can
I get up there? Can I get up? Can I do it in time? Can
I do it in time?' Yes, that was what they were saying, the
little bold things. I have watched them ever since, putting out
tendrils and taking hold of the poles and pulling and climbing
like little acrobats. And curling round and unfolding leaves
and more leaves, until at last they threw them out as if they
were beginning to boast that they could climb up into the blue
of the sky if the summer were long enough. And now, look
at them!" her hand waved towards the great gardens. "Forests
of them, cool green pathways and avenues with leaf canopies
"You have seen it all," he said. "You do see things, don't
you? A few hundred yards down the road I passed something
you had seen. I knew it was you who had seen it, though the
poor wretches had not heard your name."
She hesitated a moment, then stooped down and took up in
her hand a bit of pebbled earth from the pathway. There was
storm in the blue of her eyes as she held it out for him to
look at as it lay on the bare rose-flesh of her palm.
"See," she said, "see, it is like that--what we give. It is
like that." And she tossed the earth away.
"It does not seem like that to those others."
"No, thank God, it does not. But to one's self it is the mere
luxury of self-indulgence, and the realisation of it sometimes
tempts one to be even a trifle morbid. Don't you see," a
sudden thrill in her voice startled him, "they are on the
roadside everywhere all over the world."
"Yes. All over the world."
"Once when I was a child of ten I read a magazine article
about the suffering millions and the monstrously rich, who were
obviously to blame for every starved sob and cry. It almost
drove me out of my childish senses. I went to my father and
threw myself into his arms in a violent fit of crying. I clung
to him and sobbed out, `Let us give it all away; let us give
it all away and be like other people!' "
"What did he say?"
"He said we could never be quite like other people. We
had a certain load to carry along the highway. It was the
thing the whole world wanted and which we ourselves wanted
as much as the rest, and we could not sanely throw it away. It
was my first lesson in political economy and I abhorred it. I
was a passionate child and beat furiously against the stone walls
enclosing present suffering. It was horrible to know that they
could not be torn down. I cried out, `When I see anyone who
is miserable by the roadside I shall stop and give him everything
he wants--everything!' I was ten years old, and thought
it could be done."
"But you stop by the roadside even now."
"Yes. That one can do."
"You are two strong creatures and you draw each other,"
Penzance had said. "Perhaps you drew each other across seas.
Coming to West Ways on a chance errand he had, as it
were, found her awaiting him on the threshold. On her part
she had certainly not anticipated seeing him there, but--when
one rides far afield in the sun there are roads towards which
one turns as if answering a summoning call, and as her horse
had obeyed a certain touch of the rein at a certain point her
cheek had felt momentarily hot.
Until later, when the "picking" had fairly begun, the kilns
would not be at work; but there was some interest even now
in going over the ground for the first time.
"I have never been inside an oast house," she said; "Bolter
is going to show me his, and explain technicalities."
"May I come with you?" he asked.
There was a change in him. Something had lighted in his
eyes since the day before, when he had told her his story of
Red Godwyn. She wondered what it was. They went together
over the place, escorted by Bolter. They looked into
the great circular ovens, on whose floors the hops would be
laid for drying, they mounted ladder-like steps to the upper
room where, when dried, the same hops would lie in soft, light
piles, until pushed with wooden shovels into the long "pokes"
to be pressed and packed into a solid marketable mass. Bolter
was allowed to explain the technicalities, but it was plain that
Mount Dunstan was familiar with all of them, and it was he
who, with a sentence here and there, gave her the colour of
"When it is being done there is nearly always outside a
touch of the sharp sweetness of early autumn," he said "The
sun slanting through the little window falls on the pale yellow
heaps, and there is a pungent scent of hops in the air which is
"I am coming later to see the entire process," she answered.
It was a mere matter of seeing common things together and
exchanging common speech concerning them, but each was so
strongly conscious of the other that no sentence could seem
wholly impersonal. There are times when the whole world is
personal to a mood whose intensity seems a reason for all
things. Words are of small moment when the mere sound
of a voice makes an unreasonable joy
"There was that touch of sharp autumn sweetness in the
air yesterday morning," she said. "And the chaplets of briony
berries that look as if they had been thrown over the hedges
are beginning to change to scarlet here and there. The wild
rose-haws are reddening, and so are the clusters of berries on
the thorn trees and bushes."
"There are millions of them," Mount Dunstan said, "and
in a few weeks' time they will look like bunches of crimson
coral. When the sun shines on them they will be wonderful
What was there in such speeches as these to draw any two
nearer and nearer to each other as they walked side by side--
to fill the morning air with an intensity of life, to seem to
cause the world to drop away and become as nothing? As
they had been isolated during their waltz in the crowded
ballroom at Dunholm Castle, so they were isolated now. When
they stood in the narrow green groves of the hop garden, talking
simply of the placing of the bins and the stripping and
measuring of the vines, there might have been no human thing
within a hundred miles--within a thousand. For the first
time his height and strength conveyed to her an impression of
physical beauty. His walk and bearing gave her pleasure.
When he turned his red-brown eyes upon her suddenly she
was conscious that she liked their colour, their shape, the power
of the look in them. On his part, he--for the twentieth time--
found himself newly moved by the dower nature had bestowed
on her. Had the world ever held before a woman creature so
much to be longed for?--abnormal wealth, New York and Fifth
Avenue notwithstanding, a man could only think of folding
arms round her and whispering in her lovely ear--follies, oaths,
And yet as they went about together there was growing in
Betty Vanderpoel's mind a certain realisation. It grew in
spite of the recognition of the change in him--the new thing
lighted in his eyes. Whatsoever he felt--if he felt anything--
he would never allow himself speech. How could he? In
his place she could not speak herself. Because he was the
strong thing which drew her thoughts, he would not come to
any woman only to cast at her feet a burden which, in the
nature of things, she must take up. And suddenly she
comprehended that the mere obstinate Briton in him--even apart
from greater things--had an immense attraction for her. As
she liked now the red-brown colour of his eyes and saw beauty
in his rugged features, so she liked his British stubbornness and
the pride which would not be beaten.
"It is the unconquerable thing, which leads them in their
battles and makes them bear any horror rather than give in.
They have taken half the world with it; they are like bulldogs
and lions," she thought. "And--and I am glorying in it."
"Do you know," said Mount Dunstan, "that sometimes you
suddenly fling out the most magnificent flag of colour--as if
some splendid flame of thought had sent up a blaze?"
"I hope it is not a habit," she answered. "When one has a
splendid flare of thought one should be modest about it."
What was there worth recording in the whole hour they spent
together? Outwardly there had only been a chance meeting and a
mere passing by. But each left something with the other and each
learned something; and the record made was deep.
At last she was on her horse again, on the road outside the
"This morning has been so much to the good," he said. "I
had thought that perhaps we might scarcely meet again this
year. I shall become absorbed in hops and you will no doubt
go away. You will make visits or go to the Riviera--or to
New York for the winter?"
"I do not know yet. But at least I shall stay to watch the
thorn trees load themselves with coral." To herself she was
saying: "He means to keep away. I shall not see him."
As she rode off Mount Dunstan stood for a few moments,
not moving from his place. At a short distance from the
farmhouse gate a side lane opened upon the highway, and as
she cantered in its direction a horseman turned in from it--
a man who was young and well dressed and who sat well a
spirited animal. He came out upon the road almost face to
face with Miss Vanderpoel, and from where he stood Mount
Dunstan could see his delighted smile as he lifted his hat in
salute. It was Lord Westholt, and what more natural than
that after an exchange of greetings the two should ride
together on their way! For nearly three miles their homeward
road would be the same.
But in a breath's space Mount Dunstan realised a certain
truth--a simple, elemental thing. All the exaltation of the
morning swooped and fell as a bird seems to swoop and fall
through space. It was all over and done with, and he understood
it. His normal awakening in the morning, the physical
and mental elation of the first clear hours, the spring of his
foot as he had trod the road, had all had but one meaning.
In some occult way the hypnotic talk of the night before had
formed itself into a reality, fantastic and unreasoning as it had
been. Some insistent inner consciousness had seized upon and
believed it in spite of him and had set all his waking being in
tune to it. That was the explanation of his undue spirits and
hope. If Penzance had spoken a truth he would have had a
natural, sane right to feel all this and more. But the truth
was that he, in his guise--was one of those who are "on the
roadside everywhere--all over the world." Poetically figurative
as the thing sounded, it was prosaic fact.
So, still hearing the distant sounds of the hoofs beating in
cheerful diminuendo on the roadway, he turned about and went
back to talk to Bolter.
To spend one's days perforce in an enormous house alone is a
thing likely to play unholy tricks with a man's mind and lead
it to gloomy workings. To know the existence of a hundred
or so of closed doors shut on the darkness of unoccupied rooms;
to be conscious of flights of unmounted stairs, of stretches of
untrodden corridors, of unending walls, from which the
pictured eyes of long dead men and women stare, as if seeing
things which human eyes behold not--is an eerie and unwholesome
thing. Mount Dunstan slept in a large four-post bed in
a chamber in which he might have died or been murdered a
score of times without being able to communicate with the
remote servants' quarters below stairs, where lay the one man
and one woman who attended him. When he came late to his
room and prepared for sleep by the light of two flickering
candles the silence of the dead in tombs was about him; but it
was only a more profound and insistent thing than the silence
of the day, because it was the silence of the night, which is a
presence. He used to tell himself with secret smiles at the fact
that at certain times the fantasy was half believable--that there
were things which walked about softly at night--things which
did not want to be dead. He himself had picked them out
from among the pictures in the gallery--pretty, light, petulant
women; adventurous-eyed, full-blooded, eager men. His theory
was that they hated their stone coffins, and fought their way
back through the grey mists to try to talk and make love and
to be seen of warm things which were alive. But it was not
to be done, because they had no bodies and no voices, and when
they beat upon closed doors they would not open. Still they
came back--came back. And sometimes there was a rustle and
a sweep through the air in a passage, or a creak, or a sense of
waiting which was almost a sound.
"Perhaps some of them have gone when they have been
as I am," he had said one black night, when he had sat in
his room staring at the floor. "If a man was dragged out when
he had not LIVED a day, he would come back I should come
back if--God! A man COULD not be dragged away--like THIS!"
And to sit alone and think of it was an awful and a lonely
thing--a lonely thing.
But loneliness was nothing new, only that in these months
his had strangely intensified itself. This, though he was not
aware of it, was because the soul and body which were the
completing parts of him were within reach--and without it.
When he went down to breakfast he sat singly at his table,
round which twenty people might have laughed and talked.
Between the dining-room and the library he spent his days
when he was not out of doors. Since he could not afford
servants, the many other rooms must be kept closed. It was a
ghastly and melancholy thing to make, as he must sometimes,
a sort of precautionary visit to the state apartments. He was
the last Mount Dunstan, and he would never see them opened
again for use, but so long as he lived under the roof he might
by prevision check, in a measure, the too rapid encroachments
of decay. To have a leak stopped here, a nail driven or a
support put there, seemed decent things to do.
"Whom am I doing it for?" he said to Mr. Penzance. "I
am doing it for myself--because I cannot help it. The place
seems to me like some gorgeous old warrior come to the end of
his days It has stood the war of things for century after
century--the war of things. It is going now I am all that is
left to it. It is all I have. So I patch it up when I can
afford it, with a crutch or a splint and a bandage."
Late in the afternoon of the day on which Miss Vanderpoel
rode away from West Ways with Lord Westholt, a stealthy
and darkly purple cloud rose, lifting its ominous bulk against
a chrysoprase and pink horizon. It was the kind of cloud
which speaks of but one thing to those who watch clouds, or
even casually consider them. So Lady Anstruthers felt some
surprise when she saw Sir Nigel mount his horse before the
stone steps and ride away, as it were, into the very heart of
the coming storm.
"Nigel will be caught in the rain," she said to her sister.
"I wonder why he goes out now. It would be better to wait
But Sir Nigel did not think so. He had calculated matters
with some nicety. He was not exactly on such terms with
Mount Dunstan as would make a casual call seem an entirely
natural thing, and he wished to drop in upon him for a casual
call and in an unpremeditated manner. He meant to reach
the Mount about the time the storm broke, under which
circumstance nothing could bear more lightly an air of being
unpremeditated than to take refuge in a chance passing.
Mount Dunstan was in the library. He had sat smoking
his pipe while he watched the purple cloud roll up and spread
itself, blotting out the chrysoprase and pink and blue, and when
the branches of the trees began to toss about he had looked on
with pleasure as the rush of big rain drops came down and
pelted things. It was a fine storm, and there were some imposing
claps of thunder and jagged flashes of lightning. As one
splendid rattle shook the air he was surprised to hear a
summons at the great hall door. Who on earth could be turning
up at this time? His man Reeve announced the arrival a few
moments later, and it was Sir Nigel Anstruthers. He had, he
explained, been riding through the village when the deluge
descended, and it had occurred to him to turn in at the park
gates and ask a temporary shelter. Mount Dunstan received
him with sufficient courtesy. His appearance was not a thing
to rejoice over, but it could be endured. Whisky and soda and
a smoke would serve to pass the hour, if the storm lasted so
Conversation was not the easiest thing in the world under
the circumstances, but Sir Nigel led the way steadily after
he had taken his seat and accepted the hospitalities offered.
What a place it was--this! He had been struck for the hundredth
time with the impressiveness of the mass of it, the sweep
of the park and the splendid grouping of the timber, as he had
ridden up the avenue. There was no other place like it in the
county. Was there another like it in England?
"Not in its case, I hope," Mount Dunstan said.
There were a few seconds of silence. The rain poured down
in splashing sheets and was swept in rattling gusts against the
"What the place needs is--an heiress," Anstruthers observed
in the tone of a practical man. "I believe I have heard that
your views of things are such that she should preferably NOT
be an American."
Mount Dunstan did not smile, though he slightly showed his
"When I am driven to the wall," he answered, "I may not
be fastidious as to nationality."
Nigel Anstruthers' manner was not a bad one. He chose
that tone of casual openness which, while it does not wholly
commit itself, may be regarded as suggestive of the amiable half
confidence of speeches made as "man to man."
"My own opportunity of studying the genus American heiress
within my own gates is a first-class one. I find that it knows
what it wants and that its intention is to get it." A short
laugh broke from him as he flicked the ash from his cigar on
to the small bronze receptacle at his elbow. "It is not many
years since it would have been difficult for a girl to be frank
enough to say, `When I marry I shall ask something in exchange
for what I have to give.' "
"There are not many who have as much to give," said
Mount Dunstan coolly.
"True," with a slight shrug. "You are thinking that men
are glad enough to take a girl like that--even one who has not
a shape like Diana's and eyes like the sea. Yes, by George,"
softly, and narrowing his lids, "she IS a handsome creature."
Mount Dunstan did not attempt to refute the statement, and
Anstruthers laughed low again.
"It is an asset she knows the value of quite clearly. That
is the interesting part of it. She has inherited the far-seeing
commercial mind. She does not object to admitting it. She
educated herself in delightful cold blood that she might be
prepared for the largest prize appearing upon the horizon. She
held things in view when she was a child at school, and obviously
attacked her French, German, and Italian conjugations
with a twelve-year-old eye on the future."
Mount Dunstan leaning back carelessly in his chair, laughed--
as it seemed--with him. Internally he was saying that the man
was a liar who might always be trusted to lie, but he knew with
shamed fury that the lies were doing something to his
soul--rolling dark vapours over it--stinging him, dragging away
props, and making him feel they had been foolish things to lean
on. This can always be done with a man in love who has slight
foundation for hope. For some mysterious and occult reason
civilisation has elected to treat the strange and great passion
as if it were an unholy and indecent thing, whose dominion over
him proper social training prevents any man from admitting
openly. In passing through its cruelest phases he must bear
himself as if he were immune, and this being the custom, he may
be called upon to endure much without the relief of striking out
with manly blows. An enemy guessing his case and possessing the
infernal gift whose joy is to dishearten and do hurt with
courteous despitefulness, may plant a poisoned arrow here and
there with neatness and fine touch, while his bound victim can,
with decency, neither start, nor utter brave howls, nor guard
himself, but must sit still and listen, hospitably supplying
smoke and drink and being careful not to make an ass of himself.
Therefore Mount Dunstan pushed the cigars nearer to his
visitor and waved his hand hospitably towards the whisky and
soda. There was no reason, in fact, why Anstruthers--or any
one indeed, but Penzance, should suspect that he had become
somewhat mad in secret. The man's talk was marked merely
by the lightly disparaging malice which was rarely to be missed
from any speech of his which touched on others. Yet it might
have been a thing arranged beforehand, to suggest adroitly
either lies or truth which would make a man see every
sickeningly good reason for feeling that in this contest he did
not count for a man at all.
"It has all been pretty obvious," said Sir Nigel. "There
is a sort of cynicism in the openness of the siege. My
impression is that almost every youngster who has met her has
taken a shot. Tommy Alanby scrambling up from his knees in one
of the rose-gardens was a satisfying sight. His much-talked-of-
passion for Jane Lithcom was temporarily in abeyance."
The rain swirled in a torrent against the window, and
casually glancing outside at the tossing gardens he went on.
"She is enjoying herself. Why not? She has the spirit of
the huntress. I don't think she talks nonsense about friendship
to the captives of her bow and spear. She knows she can
always get what she wants. A girl like that MUST have an
arrogance of mind. And she is not a young saint. She is one
of the women born with THE LOOK in her eyes. I own I should
not like to be in the place of any primeval poor brute who
really went mad over her--and counted her millions as so much
Mount Dunstan answered with a shrug of his big shoulders:
"Apparently he would seem as remote from the reason of
to-day as the men who lived on the land when Hengist and
Horsa came--or when Caesar landed at Deal."
"He would seem as remote to her," with a shrug also.
"I should not like to contend that his point of view would not
interest her or that she would particularly discourage him. Her
eyes would call him--without malice or intention, no doubt, but
your early Briton ceorl or earl would be as well understood
by her. Your New York beauty who has lived in the market
place knows principally the prices of things."
He was not ill pleased with himself. He was putting it
well and getting rather even with her. If this fellow with his
shut mouth had a sore spot hidden anywhere he was giving him
"to think." And he would find himself thinking, while,
whatsoever he thought, he would be obliged to continue to keep
his ugly mouth shut. The great idea was to say things WITHOUT
saying them, to set your hearer's mind to saying them for you.
"What strikes one most is a sort of commercial brilliance
in her," taking up his thread again after a smilingly reflective
pause. "It quite exhilarates one by its novelty. There's spice
in it. We English have not a look-in when we are dealing
with Americans, and yet France calls us a nation of shop-
keepers. My impression is that their women take little
inventories of every house they enter, of every man they meet. I
heard her once speaking to my wife about this place, as if she
had lived in it. She spoke of the closed windows and the state
of the gardens--of broken fountains and fallen arches. She
evidently deplored the deterioration of things which represented
capital. She has inventoried Dunholm, no doubt. That will
give Westholt a chance. But she will do nothing until after
her next year's season in London--that I'd swear. I look forward
to next year. It will be worth watching. She has been
training my wife. A sister who has married an Englishman
and has at least spent some years of her life in England has a
certain established air. When she is presented one knows she
will be a sensation. After that----" he hesitated a moment,
smiling not too pleasantly.
"After that," said Mount Dunstan, "the Deluge."
"Exactly. The Deluge which usually sweeps girls off their
feet--but it will not sweep her off hers. She will stand quite
firm in the flood and lose sight of nothing of importance which
Mount Dunstan took him up. He was sick of hearing the
"There will be a good many things," he said; "there will be
great personages and small ones, pomps and vanities, glittering
things and heavy ones."
"When she sees what she wants," said Anstruthers, "she
will hold out her hand, knowing it will come to her. The
things which drown will not disturb her. I once made the
blunder of suggesting that she might need protection against
the importunate--as if she had been an English girl. It was
an idiotic thing to do."
"Because?" Mount Dunstan for the moment had lost his
head. Anstruthers had maddeningly paused.
"She answered that if it became necessary she might
perhaps be able to protect herself. She was as cool and frank as
a boy. No air pince about it--merely consciousness of being
able to put things in their right places. Made a mere male
relative feel like a fool."
"When ARE things in their right places?" To his credit be
it spoken, Mount Dunstan managed to say it as if in the mere
putting together of idle words. What man likes to be reminded
of his right place! No man wants to be put in his right place.
There is always another place which seems more desirable.
"She knows--if we others do not. I suppose my right place
is at Stornham, conducting myself as the brother-in-law of a
fair American should. I suppose yours is here--shut up among
your closed corridors and locked doors. There must be a lot
of them in a house like this. Don't you sometimes feel it too
large for you?"
"Always," answered Mount Dunstan.
The fact that he added nothing else and met a rapid side
glance with unmoving red-brown eyes gazing out from under
rugged brows, perhaps irritated Anstruthers. He had been
rather enjoying himself, but he had not enjoyed himself enough.
There was no denying that his plaything had not openly
flinched. Plainly he was not good at flinching. Anstruthers
wondered how far a man might go. He tried again.
"She likes the place, though she has a natural disdain for
its condition. That is practical American. Things which are
going to pieces because money is not spent upon them--mere
money, of which all the people who count for anything have
so much--are inevitably rather disdained. They are `out of
it.' But she likes the estate." As he watched Mount Dunstan
he felt sure he had got it at last--the right thing. "If
you were a duke with fifty thousand a year," with a distinctly
nasty, amicably humorous, faint laugh, "she would--by the
Lord, I believe, she would take it over--and you with it."
Mount Dunstan got up. In his rough walking tweeds he
looked over-big--and heavy--and perilous. For two seconds
Nigel Anstruthers would not have been surprised if he had
without warning slapped his face, or knocked him over, or
whirled him out of his chair and kicked him. He would not
have liked it, but--for two seconds--it would have been no
surprise. In fact, he instinctively braced his not too firm
muscles. But nothing of the sort occurred. During the two
seconds--perhaps three--Mount Dunstan stood still and looked
down at him. The brief space at an end, he walked over to the
hearth and stood with his back to the big fireplace.
"You don't like her," he said, and his manner was that of a man
dealing with a matter of fact. "Why do you talk about her?"
He had got away again--quite away.
An ugly flush shot over Anstruthers' face. There was one
more thing to say--whether it was idiotic to say it or not.
Things can always be denied afterwards, should denial appear
necessary--and for the moment his special devil possessed him.
"I do not like her!" And his mouth twisted. "Do I not?
I am not an old woman. I am a man--like others. I chance to
like her--too much."
There was a short silence. Mount Dunstan broke it.
"Then," he remarked, "you had better emigrate to some
country with a climate which suits you. I should say that
England--for the present--does not."
"I shall stay where I am," answered Anstruthers, with a
slight hoarseness of voice, which made it necessary for him
to clear his throat. "I shall stay where she is. I will have
that satisfaction, at least. She does not mind. I am only a
racketty, middle-aged brother-in-law, and she can take care
of herself. As I told you, she has the spirit of the huntress."
"Look here," said Mount Dunstan, quite without haste,
and with an iron civility. "I am going to take the liberty
of suggesting something. If this thing is true, it would be as
well not to talk about it."
"As well for me--or for her?" and there was a serene
significance in the query.
Mount Dunstan thought a few seconds.
"I confess," he said slowly, and he planted his fine blow
between the eyes well and with directness. "I confess that
it would not have occurred to me to ask you to do anything
or refrain from doing it for her sake."
"Thank you. Perhaps you are right. One learns that one
must protect one's self. I shall not talk--neither will you. I
know that. I was a fool to let it out. The storm is over.
I must ride home." He rose from his seat and stood smiling.
"It would smash up things nicely if the new beauty's appearance
in the great world were preceded by chatter of the unseemly
affection of some adorer of ill repute. Unfairly enough
it is always the woman who is hurt."
"Unless," said Mount Dunstan civilly, "there should arise
the poor, primeval brute, in his neolithic wrath, to seize on the
man to blame, and break every bone and sinew in his damned body."
"The newspapers would enjoy that more than she would,"
answered Sir Nigel. "She does not like the newspapers.
They are too ready to disparage the multi-millionaire, and
cackle about members of his family."
The unhidden hatred which still professed to hide itself in
the depths of their pupils, as they regarded each other, had its
birth in a passion as elemental as the quakings of the earth,
or the rage of two lions in a desert, lashing their flanks in the
blazing sun. It was well that at this moment they should
Sir Nigel's horse being brought, he went on the way which
"It was a mistake to say what I did," he said before going.
"I ought to have held my tongue. But I am under the same
roof with her. At any rate, that is a privilege no other man
shares with me."
He rode off smartly, his horse's hoofs splashing in the rain
pools left in the avenue after the storm. He was not so sure
after all that he had made a mistake, and for the moment
he was not in the mood to care whether he had made one or not.
His agreeable smile showed itself as he thought of the obstinate,
proud brute he had left behind, sitting alone among his
shut doors and closed corridors. They had not shaken hands
either at meeting or parting. Queer thing it was--the kind
of enmity a man could feel for another when he was upset
by a woman. It was amusing enough that it should be
she who was upsetting him after all these years--impudent little
Betty, with the ferocious manner.
On a late-summer evening in New York the atmosphere
surrounding a certain corner table at Shandy's cheap restaurant
in Fourteenth Street was stirred by a sense of excitement.
The corner table in question was the favourite meeting place
of a group of young men of the G. Selden type, who usually
took possession of it at dinner time--having decided that
Shandy's supplied more decent food for fifty cents, or even for
twenty-five, than was to be found at other places of its order.
Shandy's was "about all right," they said to each other, and
patronised it accordingly, three or four of them generally dining
together, with a friendly and adroit manipulation of "portions"
and "half portions" which enabled them to add variety
to their bill of fare.
The street outside was lighted, the tide of passers-by was
less full and more leisurely in its movements than it was
during the seething, working hours of daylight, but the electric
cars swung past each other with whiz and clang of bell almost
unceasingly, their sound being swelled, at short intervals,
by the roar and rumbling rattle of the trains dashing by on
the elevated railroad. This, however, to the frequenters of
Shandy's, was the usual accompaniment of every-day New
York life and was regarded as a rather cheerful sort of thing.
This evening the four claimants of the favourite corner
table had met together earlier than usual. Jem Belter, who
"hammered" a typewriter at Schwab's Brewery, Tom Wetherbee,
who was "in a downtown office," Bert Johnson, who
was "out for the Delkoff," and Nick Baumgarten, who having
for some time "beaten" certain streets as assistant salesman
for the same illustrious machine, had been recently elevated to
a "territory" of his own, and was therefore in high spirits.
"Say!" he said. "Let's give him a fine dinner. We can
make it between us. Beefsteak and mushrooms, and potatoes
hashed brown. He likes them. Good old G. S. I shall be
right glad to see him. Hope foreign travel has not given him
the swell head."
"Don't believe it's hurt him a bit. His letter didn't sound
like it. Little Georgie ain't a fool," said Jem Belter.
Tom Wetherbee was looking over the letter referred to.
It had been written to the four conjointly, towards the
termination of Selden's visit to Mr. Penzance. The young man
was not an ardent or fluent correspondent; but Tom Wetherbee
was chuckling as he read the epistle.
"Say, boys," he said, "this big thing he's keeping back
to tell us when he sees us is all right, but what takes me is
old George paying a visit to a parson. He ain't no Young
Men's Christian Association."
Bert Johnson leaned forward, and looked at the address
on the letter paper.
"Mount Dunstan Vicarage," he read aloud. "That looks
pretty swell, doesn't it?" with a laugh. "Say, fellows, you
know Jepson at the office, the chap that prides himself on
reading such a lot? He said it reminded him of the names
of places in English novels. That Johnny's the biggest snob
you ever set your tooth into. When I told him about the
lord fellow that owns the castle, and that George seemed to
have seen him, he nearly fell over himself. Never had any use
for George before, but just you watch him make up to him
when he sees him next."
People were dropping in and taking seats at the tables.
They were all of one class. Young men who lived in hall
bedrooms. Young women who worked in shops or offices, a
couple here and there, who, living far uptown, had come to
Shandy's to dinner, that they might go to cheap seats in some
theatre afterwards. In the latter case, the girls wore their
best hats, had bright eyes, and cheeks lightly flushed by their
sense of festivity. Two or three were very pretty in their
thin summer dresses and flowered or feathered head gear,
tilted at picturesque angles over their thick hair. When each
one entered the eyes of the young men at the corner table
followed her with curiosity and interest, but the glances at
her escort were always of a disparaging nature.
"There's a beaut!" said Nick Baumgarten. "Get onto
that pink stuff on her hat, will you. She done it because it's
just the colour of her cheeks."
They all looked, and the girl was aware of it, and began to
laugh and talk coquettishly to the young man who was her
"I wonder where she got Clarence?" said Jem Belter in
sarcastic allusion to her escort. "The things those lookers
have fastened on to them gets ME."
"If it was one of US, now," said Bert Johnson. Upon which
they broke into simultaneous good-natured laughter.
"It's queer, isn't it," young Baumgarten put in, "how a
fellow always feels sore when he sees another fellow with
a peach like that? It's just straight human nature, I guess."
The door swung open to admit a newcomer, at the sight
of whom Jem Belter exclaimed joyously: "Good old Georgie!
Here he is, fellows! Get on to his glad rags."
"Glad rags" is supposed to buoyantly describe such attire
as, by its freshness or elegance of style, is rendered a suitable
adornment for festive occasions or loftier leisure moments.
"Glad rags" may mean evening dress, when a young gentleman's
wardrobe can aspire to splendour so marked, but it also
applies to one's best and latest-purchased garb, in
contradistinction to the less ornamental habiliments worn every
day, and designated as "office clothes."
G. Selden's economies had not enabled him to give himself
into the hands of a Bond Street tailor, but a careful study of
cut and material, as spread before the eye in elegant coloured
illustrations in the windows of respectable shops in less
ambitious quarters, had resulted in the purchase of a well-made
suit of smart English cut. He had a nice young figure, and
looked extremely neat and tremendously new and clean, so
much so, indeed, that several persons glanced at him a little
admiringly as he was met half way to the corner table by his
"Hello, old chap! Glad to see you. What sort of a voyage? How
did you leave the royal family? Glad to get back?"
They all greeted him at once, shaking hands and slapping
him on the back, as they hustled him gleefully back to the
corner table and made him sit down.
"Say, garsong," said Nick Baumgarten to their favourite
waiter, who came at once in answer to his summons, "let's
have a porterhouse steak, half the size of this table, and with
plenty of mushrooms and potatoes hashed brown. Here's Mr.
Selden just returned from visiting at Windsor Castle, and if
we don't treat him well, he'll look down on us."
G. Selden grinned. "How have you been getting on,
Sam?" he said, nodding cheerfully to the man. They were
old and tried friends. Sam knew all about the days when
a fellow could not come into Shandy's at all, or must satisfy
his strong young hunger with a bowl of soup, or coffee and a
roll. Sam did his best for them in the matter of the size
of portions, and they did their good-natured utmost for him in
the affair of the pooled tip.
"Been getting on as well as can be expected," Sam grinned
back. "Hope you had a fine time, Mr. Selden?"
"Fine! I should smile! Fine wasn't in it," answered
Selden. "But I'm looking forward to a Shandy porterhouse
steak, all the same."
"Did they give you a better one in the Strawnd?" asked
Baumgarten, in what he believed to be a correct Cockney
"You bet they didn't," said Selden. "Shandy's takes a lot
of beating." That last is English.
The people at the other tables cast involuntary glances at
them. Their eager, hearty young pleasure in the festivity of
the occasion was a healthy thing to see. As they sat round
the corner table, they produced the effect of gathering close
about G. Selden. They concentrated their combined attention
upon him, Belter and Johnson leaning forward on their folded
arms, to watch him as he talked.
"Billy Page came back in August, looking pretty bum,"
Nick Baumgarten began. "He'd been painting gay Paree
brick red, and he'd spent more money than he'd meant to, and
that wasn't half enough. Landed dead broke. He said he'd
had a great time, but he'd come home with rather a dark brown
taste in his mouth, that he'd like to get rid of."
"He thought you were a fool to go off cycling into the
country," put in Wetherbee, "but I told him I guessed that
was where he was 'way off. I believed you'd had the best time
of the two of you."
"Boys," said Selden, "I had the time of my life." He
said it almost solemnly, and laid his hand on the table. "It
was like one of those yarns Bert tells us. Half the time I
didn't believe it, and half the time I was ashamed of myself
to think it was all happening to me and none of your fellows
were in it."
"Oh, well," said Jem Belter, "luck chases some fellows,
anyhow. Look at Nick, there."
"Well," Selden summed the whole thing up, "I just FELL
into it where it was so deep that I had to strike out all I knew
how to keep from drowning."
"Tell us the whole thing," Nick Baumgarten put in; "from
beginning to end. Your letter didn't give anything away."
"A letter would have spoiled it. I can't write letters
anyhow. I wanted to wait till I got right here with you fellows
round where I could answer questions. First off," with the
deliberation befitting such an opening, "I've sold machines
enough to pay my expenses, and leave some over."
"You have? Gee whiz! Say, give us your prescription.
Glad I know you, Georgy!"
"And who do you suppose bought the first three?" At
this point, it was he who leaned forward upon the table--his
climax being a thing to concentrate upon. "Reuben S.
Vanderpoel's daughter--Miss Bettina! And, boys, she gave me a
letter to Reuben S., himself, and here it is."
He produced a flat leather pocketbook and took an envelope
from an inner flap, laying it before them on the tablecloth.
His knowledge that they would not have believed him if he
had not brought his proof was founded on everyday facts.
They would not have doubted his veracity, but the possibility
of such delirious good fortune. What they would have
believed would have been that he was playing a hilarious joke
on them. Jokes of this kind, but not of this proportion, were
Their first impulse had been towards an outburst of laughter, but
even before he produced his letter a certain truthful
seriousness in his look had startled them. When he laid the
envelope down each man caught his breath. It could not be
denied that Jem Belter turned pale with emotion. Jem had
never been one of the lucky ones.
"She let me read it," said G. Selden, taking the letter from
its envelope with great care. "And I said to her: `Miss
Vanderpoel, would you let me just show that to the boys the first
night I go to Shandy's?' I knew she'd tell me if it wasn't
all right to do it. She'd know I'd want to be told. And she
just laughed and said: `I don't mind at all. I like "the
boys." Here is a message to them. `Good luck to you all.' "
"She said that?" from Nick Baumgarten.
"Yes, she did, and she meant it. Look at this."
This was the letter. It was quite short, and written in a
clear, definite hand.
"DEAR FATHER: This will be brought to you by Mr. G.
Selden, of whom I have written to you. Please be good to
Each young man read it in turn. None of them said
anything just at first. A kind of awe had descended upon them--
not in the least awe of Vanderpoel, who, with other multi-
millionaires, were served up each week with cheerful
neighbourly comment or equally neighbourly disrespect, in huge
Sunday papers read throughout the land--but awe of the
unearthly luck which had fallen without warning to good old
G. S., who lived like the rest of them in a hall bedroom on
ten per, earned by tramping the streets for the Delkoff.
"That girl," said G. Selden gravely, "that girl is a
winner from Winnersville. I take off my hat to her. If it's the
scheme that some people's got to have millions, and others
have got to sell Delkoffs, that girl's one of those that's
entitled to the millions. It's all right she should have 'em.
There's no kick coming from me."
Nick Baumgarten was the first to resume wholly normal
condition of mind.
"Well, I guess after you've told us about her there'll be
no kick coming from any of us. Of course there's something
about you that royal families cry for, and they won't be
happy till they get. All of us boys knows that. But what
we want to find out is how you worked it so that they saw
the kind of pearl-studded hairpin you were."
"Worked it!" Selden answered. "I didn't work it. I've
got a good bit of nerve, but I never should have had enough
to invent what happened--just HAPPENED. I broke my leg
falling off my bike, and fell right into a whole bunch of them
--earls and countesses and viscounts and Vanderpoels. And
it was Miss Vanderpoel who saw me first lying on the ground.
And I was in Stornham Court where Lady Anstruthers lives
--and she used to be Miss Rosalie Vanderpoel."
"Boys," said Bert Johnson, with friendly disgust, "he's
been up to his neck in 'em."
"Cheer up. The worst is yet to come," chaffed Tom Wetherbee.
Never had such a dinner taken place at the corner table, or,
in fact, at any other table at Shandy's. Sam brought beefsteaks,
which were princely, mushrooms, and hashed brown
potatoes in portions whose generosity reached the heart. Sam
was on good terms with Shandy's carver, and had worked
upon his nobler feelings. Steins of lager beer were ventured
upon. There was hearty satisfying of fine hungers. Two of
the party had eaten nothing but one "Quick Lunch" throughout
the day, one of them because he was short of time, the
other for economy's sake, because he was short of money.
The meal was a splendid thing. The telling of the story
could not be wholly checked by the eating of food. It
advanced between mouthfuls, questions being asked and details
given in answers. Shandy's became more crowded, as the
hour advanced. People all over the room cast interested looks
at the party at the corner table, enjoying itself so hugely.
Groups sitting at the tables nearest to it found themselves
excited by the things they heard.
"That young fellow in the new suit has just come back
from Europe," said a man to his wife and daughter. "He
seems to have had a good time."
"Papa," the daughter leaned forward, and spoke in a low
voice, "I heard him say `Lord Mount Dunstan said Lady
Anstruthers and Miss Vanderpoel were at the garden party.'
Who do you suppose he is? "
"Well, he's a nice young fellow, and he has English clothes
on, but he doesn't look like one of the Four Hundred. Will
you have pie or vanilla ice cream, Bessy?"
Bessy--who chose vanilla ice cream--lost all knowledge of
its flavour in her absorption in the conversation at the next
table, which she could not have avoided hearing, even if she
"She bent over the bed and laughed--just like any other
nice girl--and she said, `You are at Stornham Court, which
belongs to Sir Nigel Anstruthers. Lady Anstruthers is my
sister. I am Miss Vanderpoel.' And, boys, she used to come
and talk to me every day."
"George," said Nick Baumgarten, "you take about seventy-
five bottles of Warner's Safe Cure, and rub yourself all over
with St. Jacob's Oil. Luck like that ain't HEALTHY!"
. . . . .
Mr. Vanderpoel, sitting in his study, wore the interestedly
grave look of a man thinking of absorbing things. He had
just given orders that a young man who would call in the
course of the evening should be brought to him at once, and he
was incidentally considering this young man, as he reflected
upon matters recalled to his mind by his impending arrival.
They were matters he had thought of with gradually increasing
seriousness for some months, and they had, at first, been
the result of the letters from Stornham, which each "steamer
day" brought. They had been of immense interest to him--
these letters. He would have found them absorbing as a
study, even if he had not deeply loved Betty. He read in
them things she did not state in words, and they set him
He was not suspected by men like himself of concealing
an imagination beneath the trained steadiness of his
exterior, but he possessed more than the world knew, and it
singularly combined itself with powers of logical deduction.
If he had been with his daughter, he would have seen, day
by day, where her thoughts were leading her, and in what
direction she was developing, but, at a distance of three
thousand miles, he found himself asking questions, and
endeavouring to reach conclusions. His affection for Betty was
the central emotion of his existence. He had never told himself
that he had outgrown the kind and pretty creature he had
married in his early youth, and certainly his tender care for
her and pleasure in her simple goodness had never wavered,
but Betty had given him a companionship which had counted
greatly in the sum of his happiness. Because imagination
was not suspected in him, no one knew what she stood for
in his life. He had no son; he stood at the head of a great
house, so to speak--the American parallel of what a great
house is in non-republican countries. The power of it counted
for great things, not in America alone, but throughout the
world. As international intimacies increased, the influence
of such houses might end in aiding in the making of history.
Enormous constantly increasing wealth and huge financial
schemes could not confine their influence, but must reach far.
The man whose hand held the lever controlling them was
doing well when he thought of them gravely. Such a man
had to do with more than his own mere life and living.
This man had confronted many problems as the years had
passed. He had seen men like himself die, leaving behind them
the force they had controlled, and he had seen this force--
controlled no longer--let loose upon the world, sometimes a power
of evil, sometimes scattering itself aimlessly into nothingness
and folly, which wrought harm. He was not an ambitious
man, but--perhaps because he was not only a man of thought,
but a Vanderpoel of the blood of the first Reuben--these were
things he did not contemplate without restlessness. When
Rosy had gone away and seemed lost to them, he had been
glad when he had seen Betty growing, day by day, into a strong
thing. Feminine though she was, she sometimes suggested
to him the son who might have been his, but was not. As
the closeness of their companionship increased with her years,
his admiration for her grew with his love. Power left in
her hands must work for the advancement of things, and would
not be idly disseminated--if no antagonistic influence wrought
against her. He had found himself reflecting that, after all
was said, the marriage of such a girl had a sort of parallel in
that of some young royal creature, whose union might make
or mar things, which must be considered. The man who must
inevitably strongly colour her whole being, and vitally mark
her life, would, in a sense, lay his hand upon the lever also.
If he brought sorrow and disorder with him, the lever would
not move steadily. Fortunes such as his grow rapidly, and
he was a richer man by millions than he had been when
Rosalie had married Nigel Anstruthers. The memory of
that marriage had been a painful thing to him, even before
he had known the whole truth of its results. The man had
been a common adventurer and scoundrel, despite the facts
of good birth and the air of decent breeding. If a man who
was as much a scoundrel, but cleverer--it would be necessary
that he should be much cleverer--made the best of himself to
Betty----! It was folly to think one could guess what a
woman--or a man, either, for that matter--would love. He
knew Betty, but no man knows the thing which comes, as it
were, in the dark and claims its own--whether for good or
evil. He had lived long enough to see beautiful, strong-
spirited creatures do strange things, follow strange gods, swept
away into seas of pain by strange waves.
"Even Betty," he had said to himself, now and then. "Even
my Betty. Good God--who knows! "
Because of this, he had read each letter with keen eyes.
They were long letters, full of detail and colour, because she
knew he enjoyed them. She had a delightful touch. He
sometimes felt as if they walked the English lanes together.
His intimacy with her neighbours, and her neighbourhood, was
one of his relaxations. He found himself thinking of old
Doby and Mrs. Welden, as a sort of soporific measure, when
he lay awake at night. She had sent photographs of Stornham,
of Dunholm Castle, and of Dole, and had even found an
old engraving of Lady Alanby in her youth. Her evident
liking for the Dunholms had pleased him. They were people
whose dignity and admirableness were part of general
knowledge. Lord Westholt was plainly a young man of many
attractions. If the two were drawn to each other--and what
more natural--all would be well. He wondered if it would
be Westholt. But his love quickened a sagacity which needed
no stimulus. He said to himself in time that, though she liked
and admired Westholt, she went no farther. That others
paid court to her he could guess without being told. He had
seen the effect she had produced when she had been at home,
and also an unexpected letter to his wife from Milly Bowen
had revealed many things. Milly, having noted Mrs. Vanderpoel's
eager anxiety to hear direct news of Lady Anstruthers,
was not the person to let fall from her hand a useful
thread of connection. She had written quite at length, managing
adroitly to convey all that she had seen, and all that she
had heard. She had been making a visit within driving
distance of Stornham, and had had the pleasure of meeting
both Lady Anstruthers and Miss Vanderpoel at various parties.
She was so sure that Mrs. Vanderpoel would like to hear
how well Lady Anstruthers was looking, that she ventured
to write. Betty's effect upon the county was made quite
clear, as also was the interested expectation of her appearance
in town next season. Mr. Vanderpoel, perhaps, gathered more
from the letter than his wife did. In her mind, relieved
happiness and consternation were mingled.
"Do you think, Reuben, that Betty will marry that Lord
Westholt?" she rather faltered. "He seems very nice, but
I would rather she married an American. I should feel as
if I had no girls at all, if they both lived in England."
"Lady Bowen gives him a good character," her husband
said, smiling. "But if anything untoward happens, Annie,
you shall have a house of your own half way between Dunholm
Castle and Stornham Court."
When he had begun to decide that Lord Westholt did not
seem to be the man Fate was veering towards, he not
unnaturally cast a mental eye over such other persons as the
letters mentioned. At exactly what period his thought first
dwelt a shade anxiously on Mount Dunstan he could not
have told, but he at length became conscious that it so dwelt.
He had begun by feeling an interest in his story, and had asked
questions about him, because a situation such as his suggested
query to a man of affairs. Thus, it had been natural that the
letters should speak of him. What she had written had
recalled to him certain rumours of the disgraceful old scandal.
Yes, they had been a bad lot. He arranged to put a casual-
sounding question or so to certain persons who knew English
society well. What he gathered was not encouraging. The
present Lord Mount Dunstan was considered rather a surly
brute, and lived a mysterious sort of life which might cover
many things. It was bad blood, and people were naturally
shy of it. Of course, the man was a pauper, and his place a
barrack falling to ruin. There had been something rather
shady in his going to America or Australia a few years ago.
Good looking? Well, so few people had seen him. The lady,
who was speaking, had heard that he was one of those big,
rather lumpy men, and had an ill-tempered expression. She
always gave a wide berth to a man who looked nasty-tempered.
One or two other persons who had spoken of him had conveyed
to Mr. Vanderpoel about the same amount of vaguely
unpromising information. The episode of G. Selden had been
interesting enough, with its suggestions of picturesque
contrasts and combinations. Betty's touch had made the junior
salesman attracting. It was a good type this, of a young
fellow who, battling with the discouragements of a hard life,
still did not lose his amazing good cheer and patience, and
found healthy sleep and honest waking, even in the hall
bedroom. He had consented to Betty's request that he would
see him, partly because he was inclined to like what he had
heard, and partly for a reason which Betty did not suspect.
By extraordinary chance G. Selden had seen Mount Dunstan
and his surroundings at close range. Mr. Vanderpoel had liked
what he had gathered of Mount Dunstan's attitude towards a
personality so singularly exotic to himself. Crude, uneducated,
and slangy, the junior salesman was not in any degree a fool.
To an American father with a daughter like Betty, the summing-
up of a normal, nice-natured, common young denizen of the
United States, fresh from contact with the effete, might be
subtly instructive, and well worth hearing, if it was
unconsciously expressed. Mr. Vanderpoel thought he knew how,
after he had overcome his visitor's first awkwardness--if he
chanced to be self-conscious--he could lead him to talk. What
he hoped to do was to make him forget himself and begin
to talk to him as he had talked to Betty, to ingenuously reveal
impressions and points of view. Young men of his clean,
rudimentary type were very definite about the things they liked
and disliked, and could be trusted to reveal admiration, or
lack of it, without absolute intention or actual statement.
Being elemental and undismayed, they saw things cleared of
the mists of social prejudice and modification. Yes, he felt
he should be glad to hear of Lord Mount Dunstan and the
Mount Dunstan estate from G. Selden in a happy moment of
Why was it that it happened to be Mount Dunstan he was
desirous to hear of? Well, the absolute reason for that he
could not have explained, either. He had asked himself
questions on the subject more than once. There was no well-
founded reason, perhaps. If Betty's letters had spoken of Mount
Dunstan and his home, they had also described Lord Westholt
and Dunholm Castle. Of these two men she had certainly
spoken more fully than of others. Of Mount Dunstan she
had had more to relate through the incident of G. Selden. He
smiled as he realised the importance of the figure of G. Selden.
It was Selden and his broken leg the two men had ridden over
from Mount Dunstan to visit. But for Selden, Betty might
not have met Mount Dunstan again. He was reason enough
for all she had said. And yet----! Perhaps, between Betty
and himself there existed the thing which impresses and
communicates without words. Perhaps, because their affection was
unusual, they realised each other's emotions. The half-defined
anxiety he felt now was not a new thing, but he confessed to
himself that it had been spurred a little by the letter the last
steamer had brought him. It was NOT Lord Westholt, it
definitely appeared. He had asked her to be his wife, and she
had declined his proposal.
"I could not have LIKED a man any more without being in
love with him," she wrote. "I LIKE him more than I can say
--so much, indeed, that I feel a little depressed by my certainty
that I do not love him."
If she had loved him, the whole matter would have been
simplified. If the other man had drawn her, the thing would
not be simple. Her father foresaw all the complications--and
he did not want complications for Betty. Yet emotions were
perverse and irresistible things, and the stronger the creature
swayed by them, the more enormous their power. But, as he
sat in his easy chair and thought over it all, the one feeling
predominant in his mind was that nothing mattered but
Betty--nothing really mattered but Betty.
In the meantime G. Selden was walking up Fifth Avenue, at
once touched and exhilarated by the stir about him and his
sense of home-coming. It was pretty good to be in little old
New York again. The hurried pace of the life about him
stimulated his young blood. There were no street cars in Fifth
Avenue, but there were carriages, waggons, carts, motors, all
pantingly hurried, and fretting and struggling when the
crowded state of the thoroughfare held them back. The
beautifully dressed women in the carriages wore no light air of
being at leisure. It was evident that they were going to keep
engagements, to do things, to achieve objects.
"Something doing. Something doing," was his cheerful
self-congratulatory thought. He had spent his life in the
midst of it, he liked it, and it welcomed him back.
The appointment he was on his way to keep thrilled him
into an uplifted mood. Once or twice a half-nervous chuckle
broke from him as he tried to realise that he had been given
the chance which a year ago had seemed so impossible that
its mere incredibleness had made it a natural subject for jokes.
He was going to call on Reuben S. Vanderpoel, and he was
going because Reuben S. had made an appointment with him.
He wore his London suit of clothes and he felt that he
looked pretty decent. He could only do his best in the matter
of bearing. He always thought that, so long as a fellow
didn't get "chesty" and kept his head from swelling, he was
all right. Of course he had never been in one of these swell
Fifth Avenue houses, and he felt a bit nervous--but Miss
Vanderpoel would have told her father what sort of fellow
he was, and her father was likely to be something like herself.
The house, which had been built since Lady Anstruthers'
marriage, was well "up-town," and was big and imposing.
When a manservant opened the front door, the square hall
looked very splendid to Selden. It was full of light, and of
rich furniture, which was like the stuff he had seen in one
or two special shop windows in Fifth Avenue--places where
they sold magnificent gilded or carven coffers and vases, pieces
of tapestry and marvellous embroideries, antiquities from
foreign palaces. Though it was quite different, it was as swell
in its way as the house at Mount Dunstan, and there were
gleams of pictures on the walls that looked fine, and no mistake.
He was expected. The man led him across the hall to Mr.
Vanderpoel's room. After he had announced his name
he closed the door quietly and went away. Mr. Vanderpoel
rose from an armchair to come forward to meet his visitor.
He was tall and straight--Betty had inherited her slender
height from him. His well-balanced face suggested the
relationship between them. He had a steady mouth, and eyes
which looked as if they saw much and far.
"I am glad to see you, Mr. Selden," he said, shaking hands
with him. "You have seen my daughters, and can tell me
how they are. Miss Vanderpoel has written to me of you
He asked him to sit down, and as he took his chair Selden
felt that he had been right in telling himself that Reuben
S. Vanderpoel would be somehow like his girl. She was a
girl, and he was an elderly man of business, but they were like
each other. There was the same kind of straight way of doing
things, and the same straight-seeing look in both of them.
It was queer how natural things seemed, when they really
happened to a fellow. Here he was sitting in a big leather
chair and opposite to him in its fellow sat Reuben S.
Vanderpoel, looking at him with friendly eyes. And it seemed
all right, too--not as if he had managed to "butt in," and
would find himself politely fired out directly. He might have
been one of the Four Hundred making a call. Reuben S.
knew how to make a man feel easy, and no mistake. This
G. Selden observed at once, though he had, in fact, no knowledge
of the practical tact which dealt with him. He found
himself answering questions about Lady Anstruthers and her
sister, which led to the opening up of other subjects. He
did not realise that he began to express ingenuous opinions
and describe things. His listener's interest led him on, a
question here, a rather pleased laugh there, were encouraging.
He had enjoyed himself so much during his stay in England, and
had felt his experiences so greatly to be rejoiced over, that
they were easy to talk of at any time--in fact, it was even a
trifle difficult not to talk of them--but, stimulated by the
look which rested on him, by the deft word and ready smile,
words flowed readily and without the restraint of
"When you think that all of it sort of began with a robin,
it's queer enough," he said. "But for that robin I shouldn't
be here, sir," with a boyish laugh. "And he was an English
robin--a little fellow not half the size of the kind that hops
about Central Park."
"Let me hear about that," said Mr. Vanderpoel.
It was a good story, and he told it well, though in his own
junior salesman phrasing. He began with his bicycle ride into
the green country, his spin over the fine roads, his rest under
the hedge during the shower, and then the song of the robin
perched among the fresh wet leafage, his feathers puffed out,
his red young satin-glossed breast pulsating and swelling. His
words were colloquial enough, but they called up the picture.
"Everything sort of glittering with the sunshine on the
wet drops, and things smelling good, like they do after rain--
leaves, and grass, and good earth. I tell you it made a fellow
feel as if the whole world was his brother. And when Mr.
Rob. lit on that twig and swelled his red breast as if he knew
the whole thing was his, and began to let them notes out, calling
for his lady friend to come and go halves with him, I
just had to laugh and speak to him, and that was when Lord
Mount Dunstan heard me and jumped over the hedge. He'd
been listening, too."
The expression Reuben S. Vanderpoel wore made it an
agreeable thing to talk--to go on. He evidently cared to
hear. So Selden did his best, and enjoyed himself in doing
it. His style made for realism and brought things clearly
before one. The big-built man in the rough and shabby shooting
clothes, his way when he dropped into the grass to sit
beside the stranger and talk, certain meanings in his words
which conveyed to Vanderpoel what had not been conveyed
to G. Selden. Yes, the man carried a heaviness about with
him and hated the burden. Selden quite unconsciously brought
him out strongly.
"I don't know whether I'm the kind of fellow who is
always making breaks," he said, with his boy's laugh again,
"but if I am, I never made a worse one than when I asked
him straight if he was out of a job, and on the tramp. It
showed what a nice fellow he was that he didn't get hot about
it. Some fellows would. He only laughed--sort of short--
and said his job had been more than he could handle, and
he was afraid he was down and out."
Mr. Vanderpoel was conscious that so far he was somewhat
attracted by this central figure. G. Selden was also proving
satisfactory in the matter of revealing his excellently simple
views of persons and things.
"The only time he got mad was when I wouldn't believe
him when he told me who he was. I was a bit hot in the
collar myself. I'd felt sorry for him, because I thought he
was a chap like myself, and he was up against it. I know what
that is, and I'd wanted to jolly him along a bit. When he
said his name was Mount Dunstan, and the place belonged
to him, I guessed he thought he was making a joke. So I
got on my wheel and started off, and then he got mad for
keeps. He said he wasn't such a damned fool as he looked,
and what he'd said was true, and I could go and be hanged."
Reuben S. Vanderpoel laughed. He liked that. It sounded
like decent British hot temper, which he had often found
accompanied honest British decencies.
He liked other things, as the story proceeded. The
picture of the huge house with the shut windows, made him
slightly restless. The concealed imagination, combined with
the financier's resentment of dormant interests, disturbed him.
That which had attracted Selden in the Reverend Lewis
Penzance strongly attracted himself. Also, a man was a good deal
to be judged by his friends. The man who lived alone in
the midst of stately desolateness and held as his chief intimate
a high-bred and gentle-minded scholar of ripe years, gave, in
doing this, certain evidence which did not tell against him.
The whole situation meant something a splendid, vivid-minded
young creature might be moved by--might be allured by, even
There was something fantastic in the odd linking of
incidents--Selden's chance view of Betty as she rode by, his
next day's sudden resolve to turn back and go to Stornham,
his accident, all that followed seemed, if one were fanciful
--part of a scheme prearranged
"When I came to myself," G. Selden said, "I felt like
that fellow in the Shakespeare play that they dress up and put
to bed in the palace when he's drunk. I thought I'd gone off
my head. And then Miss Vanderpoel came." He paused
a moment and looked down on the carpet, thinking. "Gee
whiz! It WAS queer," he said.
Betty Vanderpoel's father could almost hear her voice as
the rest was told. He knew how her laugh had sounded, and
what her presence must have been to the young fellow. His
delightful, human, always satisfying Betty!
Through this odd trick of fortune, Mount Dunstan had
begun to see her. Since, through the unfair endowment of
Nature--that it was not wholly fair he had often told himself--
she was all the things that desire could yearn for, there
were many chances that when a man saw her he must long to
see her again, and there were the same chances that such an
one as Mount Dunstan might long also, and, if Fate was
against him, long with a bitter strength. Selden was not
aware that he had spoken more fully of Mount Dunstan
and his place than of other things. That this had been the
case, had been because Mr. Vanderpoel had intended it should
be so. He had subtly drawn out and encouraged a detailed
account of the time spent at Mount Dunstan vicarage. It was
easily encouraged. Selden's affectionate admiration for the
vicar led him on to enthusiasm. The quiet house and garden,
the old books, the afternoon tea under the copper beech, and
the long talks of old things, which had been so new to the
young New Yorker, had plainly made a mark upon his life,
not likely to be erased even by the rush of after years.
"The way he knew history was what got me," he said.
"And the way you got interested in it, when he talked. It
wasn't just HISTORY, like you learn at school, and forget, and
never see the use of, anyhow. It was things about men, just
like yourself--hustling for a living in their way, just as we're
hustling in Broadway. Most of it was fighting, and there are
mounds scattered about that are the remains of their forts and
camps. Roman camps, some of them. He took me to see
them. He had a little old pony chaise we trundled about in,
and he'd draw up and we'd sit and talk. `There were men
here on this very spot,' he'd say, `looking out for attack,
eating, drinking, cooking their food, polishing their weapons,
laughing, and shouting--MEN--Selden, fifty-five years before
Christ was born--and sometimes the New Testament times
seem to us so far away that they are half a dream.' That was
the kind of thing he'd say, and I'd sometimes feel as if I
heard the Romans shouting. The country about there was full
of queer places, and both he and Lord Dunstan knew more
about them than I know about Twenty-third Street."
"You saw Lord Mount Dunstan often?" Mr. Vanderpoel suggested.
"Every day, sir. And the more I saw him, the more I got
to like him. He's all right. But it's hard luck to be fixed
as he is--that's stone-cold truth. What's a man to do? The
money he ought to have to keep up his place was spent before
he was born. His father and his eldest brother were a bum
lot, and his grandfather and great-grandfather were fools.
He can't sell the place, and he wouldn't if he could. Mr.
Penzance was so fond of him that sometimes he'd say things.
But," hastily, "perhaps I'm talking too much."
"You happen to be talking about questions I have been
greatly interested in. I have thought a good deal at times
of the position of the holders of large estates they cannot
afford to keep up. This special instance is a case in point."
G. Selden felt himself in luck again. Reuben S., quite
evidently, found his subject worthy of undivided attention.
Selden had not heartily liked Lord Mount Dunstan, and lived
in the atmosphere surrounding him, looking about him with
sharp young New York eyes, without learning a good deal.
He had seen the practical hardship of the situation, and laid
"What Mr. Penzance says is that he's like the men that
built things in the beginning--fought for them--fought
Romans and Saxons and Normans--perhaps the whole lot at
different times. I used to like to get Mr. Penzance to tell
stories about the Mount Dunstans. They were splendid. It
must be pretty fine to look back about a thousand years and
know your folks have been something. All the same its
pretty fierce to have to stand alone at the end of it, not able
to help yourself, because some of your relations were crazy
fools. I don't wonder he feels mad."
"Does he?" Mr. Vanderpoel inquired.
"He's straight," said G. Selden sympathetically. "He's all
right. But only money can help him, and he's got none, so he
has to stand and stare at things falling to pieces. And--well,
I tell you, Mr. Vanderpoel, he LOVES that place--he's crazy
about it. And he's proud--I don't mean he's got the swell-
head, because he hasn't--but he's just proud. Now, for
instance, he hasn't any use for men like himself that marry
just for money. He's seen a lot of it, and it's made him sick.
He's not that kind."
He had been asked and had answered a good many questions
before he went away, but each had dropped into the
talk so incidentally that he had not recognised them as queries.
He did not know that Lord Mount Dunstan stood out a
clearly defined figure in Mr. Vanderpoel's mind, a figure to
be reflected upon, and one not without its attraction.
"Miss Vanderpoel tells me," Mr. Vanderpoel said, when
the interview was drawing to a close, "that you are an agent
for the Delkoff typewriter."
G. Selden flushed slightly.
"Yes, sir," he answered, "but I didn't----"
"I hear that three machines are in use on the Stornham
estate, and that they have proved satisfactory."
"It's a good machine," said G. Selden, his flush a little
Mr. Vanderpoel smiled.
"You are a business-like young man," he said, "and I
have no doubt you have a catalogue in your pocket."
G. Selden was a business-like young man. He gave Mr.
Vanderpoel one serious look, and the catalogue was drawn forth.
"It wouldn't be business, sir, for me to be caught out
without it," he said. "I shouldn't leave it behind if I went to
a funeral. A man's got to run no risks."
"I should like to look at it."
The thing had happened. It was not a dream. Reuben S.
Vanderpoel, clothed and in his right mind, had, without pressure
being exerted upon him, expressed his desire to look at the
catalogue--to examine it--to have it explained to him at length.
He listened attentively, while G. Selden did his best. He
asked a question now and then, or made a comment. His
manner was that of a thoroughly composed man of business,
but he was remembering what Betty had told him of the
"ten per," and a number of other things. He saw the flush
come and go under the still boyish skin, he observed that G.
Selden's hand was not wholly steady, though he was making
an effort not to seem excited. But he was excited. This
actually meant--this thing so unimportant to multi-millionaires
--that he was having his "chance," and his young fortunes
were, perhaps, in the balance.
"Yes," said Reuben S., when he had finished, "it seems
a good, up-to-date machine."
"It's the best on the market," said G. Selden, "out and out,
"I understand you are only junior salesman?"
"Yes, sir. Ten per and five dollars on every machine I
sell. If I had a territory, I should get ten."
"Then," reflectively, "the first thing is to get a territory."
"Perhaps I shall get one in time, if I keep at it," said Selden
"It is a good machine. I like it," said Mr. Vanderpoel.
"I can see a good many places where it could be used. Perhaps,
if you make it known at your office that when you
are given a good territory, I shall give preference to the
Delkoff over other typewriting machines, it might--eh?"
A light broke out upon G. Selden's countenance--a light
radiant and magnificent. He caught his breath. A desire
to shout--to yell--to whoop, as when in the society of "the
boys," was barely conquered in time.
"Mr. Vanderpoel," he said, standing up, "I--Mr.
Vanderpoel--sir--I feel as if I was having a pipe dream. I'm
not, am I?"
"No," answered Mr. Vanderpoel, "you are not. I like
you, Mr. Selden. My daughter liked you. I do not mean
to lose sight of you. We will begin, however, with the
territory, and the Delkoff. I don't think there will be any
difficulty about it."
. . . . .
Ten minutes later G. Selden was walking down Fifth
Avenue, wondering if there was any chance of his being
arrested by a policeman upon the charge that he was reeling,
instead of walking steadily. He hoped he should get back to
the hall bedroom safely. Nick Baumgarten and Jem Bolter
both "roomed" in the house with him. He could tell them
both. It was Jem who had made up the yarn about one of
them saving Reuben S. Vanderpoel's life. There had been
no life-saving, but the thing had come true.
"But, if it hadn't been for Lord Mount Dunstan," he
said, thinking it over excitedly, "I should never have seen
Miss Vanderpoel, and, if it hadn't been for Miss Vanderpoel,
I should never have got next to Reuben S. in my life. Both
sides of the Atlantic Ocean got busy to do a good turn to
Little Willie. Hully gee!"
In his study Mr. Vanderpoel was rereading Betty's letters.
He felt that he had gained a certain knowledge of Lord Mount
ON THE MARSHES
THE marshes stretched mellow in the autumn sun, sheep wandered
about, nibbling contentedly, or lay down to rest in groups,
the sky reflecting itself in the narrow dykes gave a blue colour
to the water, a scent of the sea was in the air as one breathed
it, flocks of plover rose, now and then, crying softly. Betty,
walking with her dog, had passed a heron standing at the edge
of a pool.
From her first discovery of them, she had been attracted by
the marshes with their English suggestion of the Roman
Campagna, their broad expanse of level land spread out to the
sun and wind, the thousands of white sheep dotted or clustered
as far as eye could reach, the hues of the marsh grass and the
plants growing thick at the borders of the strips of water. Its
beauty was all its own and curiously aloof from the softly-
wooded, undulating world about it. Driving or walking along
the high road--the road the Romans had built to London town
long centuries ago--on either side of one were meadows, farms,
scattered cottages, and hop gardens, but beyond and below
stretched the marsh land, golden and grey, and always alluring
one by its silence.
"I never pass it without wanting to go to it--to take solitary
walks over it, to be one of the spots on it as the sheep are. It
seems as if, lying there under the blue sky or the low grey
clouds with all the world held at bay by mere space and
stillness, they must feel something we know nothing of. I want
to go and find out what it is."
This she had once said to Mount Dunstan.
So she had fallen into the habit of walking there with her
dog at her side as her sole companion, for having need for time
and space for thought, she had found them in the silence and
Life had been a vivid and pleasurable thing to her, as far
as she could look back upon it. She began to realise that she
must have been very happy, because she had never found herself
desiring existence other than such as had come to her day
by day. Except for her passionate childish regret at Rosy's
marriage, she had experienced no painful feeling. In fact,
she had faced no hurt in her life, and certainly had been
confronted by no limitations. Arguing that girls in their teens
usually fall in love, her father had occasionally wondered that
she passed through no little episodes of sentiment, but the fact
was that her interests had been larger and more numerous than
the interests of girls generally are, and her affectionate
intimacy with himself had left no such small vacant spaces as are
frequently filled by unimportant young emotions. Because she
was a logical creature, and had watched life and those living
it with clear and interested eyes, she had not been blind to the
path which had marked itself before her during the summer's
growth and waning. She had not, at first, perhaps, known
exactly when things began to change for her--when the clarity
of her mind began to be disturbed. She had thought in the
beginning--as people have a habit of doing--that an instance
--a problem--a situation had attracted her attention because
it was absorbing enough to think over. Her view of the matter
had been that as the same thing would have interested her
father, it had interested herself. But from the morning when
she had been conscious of the sudden fury roused in her by
Nigel Anstruthers' ugly sneer at Mount Dunstan, she had
better understood the thing which had come upon her. Day
by day it had increased and gathered power, and she realised
with a certain sense of impatience that she had not in any
degree understood it when she had seen and wondered at its
effect on other women. Each day had been like a wave
encroaching farther upon the shore she stood upon. At the outset
a certain ignoble pride--she knew it ignoble--filled her with
rebellion. She had seen so much of this kind of situation, and
had heard so much of the general comment. People had learned
how to sneer because experience had taught them. If she gave
them cause, why should they not sneer at her as at things? She
recalled what she had herself thought of such things--the folly
of them, the obviousness--the almost deserved disaster. She
had arrogated to herself judgment of women--and men--who
might, yes, who might have stood upon their strip of sand, as
she stood, with the waves creeping in, each one higher, stronger,
and more engulfing than the last. There might have been those
among them who also had knowledge of that sudden deadly
joy at the sight of one face, at the drop of one voice. When
that wave submerged one's pulsing being, what had the world
to do with one--how could one hear and think of what its
speech might be? Its voice clamoured too far off.
As she walked across the marsh she was thinking this first
phase over. She had reached a new one, and at first she looked
back with a faint, even rather hard, smile. She walked straight
ahead, her mastiff, Roland, padding along heavily close at her
side. How still and wide and golden it was; how the cry of
plover and lifting trill of skylark assured one that one was
wholly encircled by solitude and space which were more
enclosing than any walls! She was going to the mounds to which
Mr. Penzance had trundled G. Selden in the pony chaise, when
he had given him the marvellous hour which had brought
Roman camp and Roman legions to life again. Up on the
largest hillock one could sit enthroned, resting chin in hand and
looking out under level lids at the unstirring, softly-living
loveliness of the marsh-land world. So she was presently seated,
with her heavy-limbed Roland at her feet. She had come here to
try to put things clearly to herself, to plan with such reason as
she could control. She had begun to be unhappy, she had begun
--with some unfairness--to look back upon the Betty Vanderpoel
of the past as an unwittingly self-sufficient young woman,
to find herself suddenly entangled by things, even to know a
touch of desperateness.
"Not to take a remnant from the ducal bargain counter,"
she was saying mentally. That was why her smile was a little
hard. What if the remnant from the ducal bargain counter
had prejudices of his own?
"If he were passionately--passionately in love with me," she
said, with red staining her cheeks, "he would not come--he
would not come--he would not come. And, because of that,
he is more to me--MORE! And more he will become every day
--and the more strongly he will hold me. And there we stand."
Roland lifted his fine head from his paws, and, holding it
erect on a stiff, strong neck, stared at her in obvious inquiry.
She put out her hand and tenderly patted him.
"He will have none of me," she said. "He will have none
of me." And she faintly smiled, but the next instant shook her
head a little haughtily, and, having done so, looked down with
an altered expression upon the cloth of her skirt, because she
had shaken upon it, from the extravagant lashes, two clear
It was not the result of chance that she had seen nothing of
him for weeks. She had not attempted to persuade herself of
that. Twice he had declined an invitation to Stornham, and
once he had ridden past her on the road when he might have
stopped to exchange greetings, or have ridden on by her side.
He did not mean to seem to desire, ever so lightly, to be counted
as in the lists. Whether he was drawn by any liking for her
or not, it was plain he had determined on this.
If she were to go away now, they would never meet again.
Their ways in this world would part forever. She would not
know how long it took to break him utterly--if such a man
could be broken. If no magic change took place in his fortunes
--and what change could come?--the decay about him would
spread day by day. Stone walls last a long time, so the house
would stand while every beauty and stateliness within it fell
into ruin. Gardens would become wildernesses, terraces and
fountains crumble and be overgrown, walls that were to-day
leaning would fall with time. The years would pass, and his
youth with them; he would gradually change into an old man
while he watched the things he loved with passion die slowly
and hard. How strange it was that lives should touch and pass
on the ocean of Time, and nothing should result--nothing at
all! When she went on her way, it would be as if a ship loaded
with every aid of food and treasure had passed a boat in
which a strong man tossed, starving to death, and had not even
run up a flag.
"But one cannot run up a flag," she said, stroking Roland.
"One cannot. There we stand."
To her recognition of this deadlock of Fate, there had been
adding the growing disturbance caused by yet another thing
which was increasingly troubling, increasingly difficult to face.
Gradually, and at first with wonderful naturalness of bearing,
Nigel Anstruthers had managed to create for himself a singular
place in her everyday life. It had begun with a certain
personalness in his attitude, a personalness which was a thing to
dislike, but almost impossible openly to resent. Certainly, as
a self-invited guest in his house, she could scarcely protest
against the amiability of his demeanour and his exterior
courtesy and attentiveness of manner in his conduct towards
her. She had tried to sweep away the objectionable quality in
his bearing, by frankness, by indifference, by entire lack of
response, but she had remained conscious of its increasing as a
spider's web might increase as the spider spun it quietly over
one, throwing out threads so impalpable that one could not
brush them away because they were too slight to be seen. She
was aware that in the first years of his married life he had
alternately resented the scarcity of the invitations sent them
and rudely refused such as were received. Since he had
returned to find her at Stornham, he had insisted that no
invitations should be declined, and had escorted his wife and
herself wherever they went. What could have been conventionally
more proper--what more improper than that he should have
persistently have remained at home? And yet there came a
time when, as they three drove together at night in the closed
carriage, Betty was conscious that, as he sat opposite to her in
the dark, when he spoke, when he touched her in arranging the
robe over her, or opening or shutting the window, he subtly,
but persistently, conveyed that the personalness of his voice,
look, and physical nearness was a sort of hideous confidence
between them which they were cleverly concealing from
Rosalie and the outside world.
When she rode about the country, he had a way of appearing
at some turning and making himself her companion, riding too
closely at her side, and assuming a noticeable air of being
engaged in meaningly confidential talk. Once, when he had been
leaning towards her with an audaciously tender manner, they
had been passed by the Dunholm carriage, and Lady Dunholm
and the friend driving with her had evidently tried not to look
surprised. Lady Alanby, meeting them in the same way at
another time, had put up her glasses and stared in open
disapproval. She might admire a strikingly handsome American
girl, but her favour would not last through any such vulgar
silliness as flirtations with disgraceful brothers-in-law. When
Betty strolled about the park or the lanes, she much too often
encountered Sir Nigel strolling also, and knew that he did not
mean to allow her to rid herself of him. In public, he made
a point of keeping observably close to her, of hovering in her
vicinity and looking on at all she did with eyes she rebelled
against finding fixed on her each time she was obliged to turn in
his direction. He had a fashion of coming to her side and
speaking in a dropped voice, which excluded others, as a favoured
lover might. She had seen both men and women glance at her
in half-embarrassment at their sudden sense of finding
themselves slightly de trop. She had said aloud to him on one
such occasion--and she had said it with smiling casualness for
the benefit of Lady Alanby, to whom she had been talking:
"Don't alarm me by dropping your voice, Nigel. I am easily
frightened--and Lady Alanby will think we are conspirators."
For an instant he was taken by surprise. He had been pleased
to believe that there was no way in which she could defend
herself, unless she would condescend to something stupidly like a
scene. He flushed and drew himself up.
"I beg your pardon, my dear Betty," he said, and walked
away with the manner of an offended adorer, leaving her to
realise an odiously unpleasant truth--which is that there are
incidents only made more inexplicable by an effort to explain.
She saw also that he was quite aware of this, and that his
offended departure was a brilliant inspiration, and had left her,
as it were, in the lurch. To have said to Lady Alanby: "My
brother-in-law, in whose house I am merely staying for my
sister's sake, is trying to lead you to believe that I allow him
to make love to me," would have suggested either folly or
insanity on her own part. As it was--after a glance at Sir
Nigel's stiffly retreating back--Lady Alanby merely looked away
with a wholly uninviting expression.
When Betty spoke to him afterwards, haughtily and with
determination, he laughed.
"My dearest girl," he said, "if I watch you with interest
and drop my voice when I get a chance to speak to you, I only
do what every other man does, and I do it because you are an
alluring young woman--which no one is more perfectly aware
of than yourself. Your pretence that you do not know you
are alluring is the most captivating thing about you. And what
do you think of doing if I continue to offend you? Do you
propose to desert us--to leave poor Rosalie to sink back again
into the bundle of old clothes she was when you came? For
Heaven's sake, don't do that!"