Part 8 out of 13
friendly duty one owes."
"I do not see Lord Mount Dunstan," Betty answered. "Is he here?"
She had never denied to herself her interest in Mount
Dunstan, and she had looked for him. Lord Dunholm hesitated
a second, as his son had done at Miss Vanderpoel's mention
of the tabooed name. But, being an older man, he felt
more at liberty to speak, and gave her a rather long kind look.
"My dear young lady," he said, "did you expect to see him here?"
"Yes, I think I did," Betty replied, with slow softness.
"I believe I rather hoped I should."
"Indeed! You are interested in him?"
"I know him very little. But I am interested. I will tell you
She paused by a seat beneath a tree, and they sat down
together. She gave, with a few swift vivid touches, a sketch
of the red-haired second-class passenger on the Meridiana, of
whom she had only thought that he was an unhappy, rough-
looking young man, until the brief moment in which they
had stood face to face, each comprehending that the other was
to be relied on if the worst should come to the worst. She
had understood his prompt disappearance from the scene, and
had liked it. When she related the incident of her meeting
with him when she thought him a mere keeper on his own
lands, Lord Dunholm listened with a changed and thoughtful
expression. The effect produced upon her imagination by
what she had seen, her silent wandering through the sad
beauty of the wronged place, led by the man who tried stiffly
to bear himself as a servant, his unintended self-revelations,
her clear, well-argued point of view charmed him. She had seen
the thing set apart from its county scandal, and so had read
possibilities others had been blind to. He was immensely
touched by certain things she said about the First Man.
"He is one of them," she said. "They find their way in
the end--they find their way. But just now he thinks there
is none. He is standing in the dark--where the roads meet."
"You think he will find his way?" Lord Dunholm said.
"Why do you think so? "
"Because I KNOW he will," she answered. "But I cannot
tell you WHY I know."
"What you have said has been interesting to me, because
of the light your own thought threw upon what you saw. It
has not been Mount Dunstan I have been caring for, but for
the light you saw him in. You met him without prejudice,
and you carried the light in your hand. You always carry
a light, my impression is," very quietly. "Some women do."
"The prejudice you speak of must be a bitter thing for a
proud man to bear. Is it a just prejudice? What has he done?"
Lord Dunholm was gravely silent for a few moments.
"It is an extraordinary thing to reflect,"--his words came
slowly--"that it may NOT be a just prejudice. _I_ do not
know that he has done anything--but seem rather sulky, and
be the son of his father, and the brother of his brother."
"And go to America," said Betty. "He could have avoided
doing that--but he cannot be called to account for his relations.
If that is all--the prejudice is NOT just."
"No, it is not," said Lord Dunholm, "and one feels rather
awkward at having shared it. You have set me thinking
again, Miss Vanderpoel."
THE THREAD OF G. SELDEN
The Shuttle having in its weaving caught up the thread
of G. Selden's rudimentary existence and drawn it, with the
young man himself, across the sea, used curiously the thread
in question, in the forming of the design of its huge web. As
wool and coarse linen are sometimes interwoven with rich
silk for decorative or utilitarian purposes, so perhaps was this
previously unvalued material employed.
It was, indeed, an interesting truth that the young man,
during his convalescence, without his own knowledge, acted
as a species of magnet which drew together persons who might
not easily otherwise have met. Mr. Penzance and Mount
Dunstan rode over to see him every few days, and their visits
naturally established relations with Stornham Court much more
intimate than could have formed themselves in the same length
of time under any of the ordinary circumstances of country
life. Conventionalities lost their prominence in friendly
intercourse with Selden. It was not, however, that he himself
desired to dispense with convention. His intense wish to "do
the right thing," and avoid giving offence was the most ingenuous
and touching feature of his broad cosmopolitan good nature.
"If I ever make a break, sir," he had once said, with
almost passionate fervour, in talking to Mr. Penzance, "please
tell me, and set me on the right track. No fellow likes to look
like a hoosier, but I don't mind that half as much as--as
seeming not to APPRECIATE."
He used the word "appreciate" frequently. It expressed
for him many degrees of thanks.
"I tell you that's fine," he said to Ughtred, who brought
him a flower from the garden. "I appreciate that."
To Betty he said more than once:
"You know how I appreciate all this, Miss Vanderpoel.
You DO know I appreciate it, don't you?"
He had an immense admiration for Mount Dunstan, and
talked to him a great deal about America, often about the
sheep ranch, and what it might have done and ought to have
done. But his admiration for Mr. Penzance became affection.
To him he talked oftener about England, and listened
to the vicar's scholarly stories of its history, its past glories
and its present ones, as he might have listened at fourteen to
stories from the Arabian Nights.
These two being frequently absorbed in conversation,
Mount Dunstan was rather thrown upon Betty's hands. When
they strolled together about the place or sat under the deep
shade of green trees, they talked not only of England and
America, but of divers things which increased their knowledge
of each other. It is points of view which reveal qualities,
tendencies, and innate differences, or accordances of thought,
and the points of view of each interested the other.
"Mr. Selden is asking Mr. Penzance questions about
English history," Betty said, on one of the afternoons in which
they sat in the shade. "I need not ask you questions. You
ARE English history."
"And you are American history," Mount Dunstan answered.
"I suppose I am."
At one of their chance meetings Miss Vanderpoel had told
Lord Dunholm and Lord Westholt something of the story
of G. Selden. The novelty of it had delighted and amused
them. Lord Dunholm had, at points, been touched as Penzance
had been. Westholt had felt that he must ride over to Stornham
to see the convalescent. He wanted to learn some New York slang.
He would take lessons from Selden, and he would also buy a
Delkoff--two Delkoffs, if that would be better. He knew a
hard-working fellow who ought to have a typewriter.
"Heath ought to have one," he had said to his father.
Heath was the house-steward. "Think of the letters the poor
chap has to write to trades-people to order things, and un-
order them, and blackguard the shopkeepers when they are
not satisfactory. Invest in one for Heath, father."
"It is by no means a bad idea," Lord Dunholm reflected.
"Time would be saved by the use of it, I have no doubt."
"It saves time in any department where it can be used,"
Betty had answered. "Three are now in use at Stornham,
and I am going to present one to Kedgers. This is a
testimonial I am offering. Three weeks ago I began to use the
Delkoff. Since then I have used no other. If YOU use them
you will introduce them to the county."
She understood the feeling of the junior assistant, when
he found himself in the presence of possible purchasers. Her
blood tingled slightly. She wished she had brought a catalogue.
"We will come to Stornham to see the catalogue," Lord
"Perhaps you will read it aloud to us," Westholt suggested
"G. Selden knows it by heart, and will repeat it to you
with running comments. Do you know I shall be very glad
if you decide to buy one--or two--or three," with an uplift
of the Irish blue eyes to Lord Dunholm. "The blood of the
first Reuben Vanderpoel stirs in my veins--also I have begun
to be fond of G. Selden."
Therefore it occurred that on the afternoon referred to
Lady Anstruthers appeared crossing the sward with two male
visitors in her wake.
"Lord Dunholm and Lord Westholt," said Betty, rising.
For this meeting between the men Selden was, without
doubt, responsible. While his father talked to Mount
Dunstan, Westholt explained that they had come athirst for the
catalogue. Presently Betty took him to the sheltered corner
of the lawn, where the convalescent sat with Mr. Penzance.
But, for a short time, Lord Dunholm remained to converse
with Mount Dunstan. In a way the situation was
delicate. To encounter by chance a neighbour whom one--
for reasons--has not seen since his childhood, and to be equal
to passing over and gracefully obliterating the intervening
years, makes demand even upon finished tact. Lord Dunholm's
world had been a large one, and he had acquired experience
tending to the development of the most perfect
methods. If G. Selden had chanced to be the magnet which
had decided his course this special afternoon, Miss Vanderpoel
it was who had stirred in him sufficient interest in Mount
Dunstan to cause him to use the best of these methods when
he found himself face to face with him.
He beautifully eliminated the years, he eliminated all but
the facts that the young man's father and himself had been
acquaintances in youth, that he remembered Mount Dunstan
himself as a child, that he had heard with interest of his visit
to America. Whatsoever the young man felt, he made no
sign which presented obstacles. He accepted the eliminations
with outward composure. He was a powerful-looking fellow,
with a fine way of carrying his shoulders, and an eye
which might be able to light savagely, but just now, at least,
he showed nothing of the sulkiness he was accused of.
Lord Dunholm progressed admirably with him. He soon
found that he need not be upon any strain with regard to the
eliminations. The man himself could eliminate, which was
They talked together when they turned to follow the others
to the retreat of G. Selden.
"Have you bought a Delkoff?" Lord Dunholm inquired.
"If I could have afforded it, I should have bought one."
"I think that we have come here with the intention of
buying three. We did not know we required them until
Miss Vanderpoel recited half a page of the catalogue to us."
"Three will mean a `rake off' of fifteen dollars to G.
Selden," said Mount Dunstan. It was, he saw, necessary that
he should explain the meaning of a "rake off," and he did so
to his companion's entertainment.
The afternoon was a satisfactory one. They were all kind
to G. Selden, and he on his part was an aid to them. In his
innocence he steered three of them, at least, through narrow
places into an open sea of easy intercourse. This was a good
beginning. The junior assistant was recovering rapidly, and
looked remarkably well. The doctor had told him that he
might try to use his leg. The inside cabin of the cheap
Liner and "little old New York" were looming up before
him. But what luck he had had, and what a holiday! It
had been enough to set a fellow up for ten years' work. It
would set up the boys merely to be told about it. He didn't
know what HE had ever done to deserve such luck as had
happened to him. For the rest of his life he would he waving
the Union Jack alongside of the Stars and Stripes.
Mr. Penzance it was who suggested that he should try the
strength of the leg now.
"Yes," Mount Dunstan said. "Let me help you."
As he rose to go to him, Westholt good-naturedly got up
also. They took their places at either side of his invalid chair
and assisted him to rise and stand on his feet.
"It's all right, gentlemen. It's all right," he called out
with a delighted flush, when he found himself upright. "I
believe I could stand alone. Thank you. Thank you."
He was able, leaning on Mount Dunstan's arm, to take a few
steps. Evidently, in a short time, he would find himself no
Mr. Penzance had invited him to spend a week at the
vicarage. He was to do this as soon as he could comfortably
drive from the one place to the other. After receiving
the invitation he had sent secretly to London for one of the
Delkoffs he had brought with him from America as a specimen.
He cherished in private a plan of gently entertaining his
host by teaching him to use the machine. The vicar would
thus be prepared for that future in which surely a Delkoff
must in some way fall into his hands. Indeed, Fortune having
at length cast an eye on himself, might chance to favour
him further, and in time he might be able to send a "high-
class machine" as a grateful gift to the vicarage. Perhaps
Mr. Penzance would accept it because he would understand
what it meant of feeling and appreciation.
During the afternoon Lord Dunholm managed to talk
a good deal with Mount Dunstan. There was no air of intention
in his manner, nevertheless intention was concealed
beneath its courteous amiability. He wanted to get at the
man. Before they parted he felt he had, perhaps, learned
things opening up new points of view.
. . . . .
In the smoking-room at Dunholm that night he and his
son talked of their chance encounter. It seemed possible that
mistakes had been made about Mount Dunstan. One did not
form a definite idea of a man's character in the course of an
afternoon, but he himself had been impressed by a conviction
that there had been mistakes.
"We are rather a stiff-necked lot--in the country--when
we allow ourselves to be taken possession of by an idea,"
"I am not at all proud of the way in which we have taken
things for granted," was his father's summing up. "It is,
perhaps, worth observing," taking his cigar from his mouth
and smiling at the end of it, as he removed the ash, "that, but
for Miss Vanderpoel and G. Selden, we might never have
had an opportunity of facing the fact that we may not have
been giving fair play. And one has prided one's self on one's
At the close of a long, warm afternoon Betty Vanderpoel
came out upon the square stone terrace overlooking the gardens,
and that part of the park which, enclosing them, caused
them, as they melted into its greenness, to lose all limitations
and appear to be only a more blooming bit of the landscape.
Upon the garden Betty's eyes dwelt, as she stood still for
some minutes taking in their effect thoughtfully.
Kedgers had certainly accomplished much. His close-
trimmed lawns did him credit, his flower beds were flushed
and azured, purpled and snowed with bloom. Sweet tall spires,
hung with blue or white or rosy flower bells, lifted their
heads above the colour of lower growths. Only the fervent
affection, the fasting and prayer of a Kedgers could have
done such wonders with new things and old. The old ones
he had cherished and allured into a renewal of existence--
the new ones he had so coaxed out of their earthen pots into
the soil, luxuriously prepared for their reception, and had
afterwards so nourished and bedewed with soft waterings, so
supported, watched over and adored that they had been almost
unconscious of their transplanting. Without assistants he
could have done nothing, but he had been given a sufficient
number of under gardeners, and had even managed to inspire
them with something of his own ambition and solicitude. The
result was before Betty's eyes in an aspect which, to such as
knew the gardens well,--the Dunholms, for instance,--was
astonishing in its success.
"I've had privileges, miss, and so have the flowers,"
Kedgers had said warmly, when Miss Vanderpoel had reported
to him, for his encouragement, Dunholm Castle's praise.
"Not one of 'em has ever had to wait for his food and drink,
nor to complain of his bed not being what he was accustomed
to. They've not had to wait for rain, for we've given it to
'em from watering cans, and, thank goodness, the season's
been kind to 'em."
Betty, descending the terrace steps, wandered down the
paths between the flower beds, glancing about her as she
went. The air of neglect and desolation had been swept
away. Buttle and Tim Soames had been given as many
privileges as Kedgers. The chief points impressed upon them
had been that the work must be done, not only thoroughly, but
quickly. As many additional workmen as they required, as
much solid material as they needed, but there must be a
despatch which at first it staggered them to contemplate. They
had not known such methods before. They had been
accustomed to work under money limitation throughout their
lives, and, when work must be done with insufficient aid, it
must be done slowly. Economy had been the chief factor in
all calculations, speed had not entered into them, so
leisureliness had become a fixed habit. But it seemed American
to sweep leisureliness away into space with a free gesture.
"It must be done QUICKLY," Miss Vanderpoel had said.
"If ten men cannot do it quickly enough, you must have
twenty--or as many more as are needed. It is time which
must be saved just now."
Time more than money, it appeared. Buttle's experience
had been that you might take time, if you did not charge for
it. When time began to mean money, that was a different
matter. If you did work by the job, you might drive in a
few nails, loiter, and return without haste; if you worked
by the hour, your absence would be inquired into. In the
present case no one could loiter. That was realised early.
The tall girl, with the deep straight look at you, made you
realise that without spoken words. She expected energy
something like her own. She was a new force and spurred them.
No man knew how it was done, but, when she appeared among
them--even in the afternoon--"lookin' that womany," holding
up her thin dress over lace petticoats, the like of which had
not been seen before, she looked on with just the same straight,
expecting eyes. They did not seem to doubt in the least that
she would find that great advance had been made.
So advance had been made, and work accomplished. As
Betty walked from one place to another she saw the signs
of it with gratification. The place was not the one she had
come to a few months ago. Hothouses, outbuildings, stables
were in repair. Work was still being done in different places.
In the house itself carpenters or decorators were enclosed
in some rooms, and at their business, but exterior order
prevailed. In the courtyard stablemen were at work, and her
own groom came forward touching his forehead. She paid a
visit to the horses. They were fine creatures, and, when she
entered their stalls, made room for her and whinnied gently,
in well-founded expectation of sugar and bread which were
kept in a cupboard awaiting her visits. She smoothed velvet
noses and patted satin sides, talking to Mason a little before
she went her way.
Then she strolled into the park. The park was always a
pleasure. She was in a thoughtful mood, and the soft green
shadowed silence lured her. The summer wind hus-s-shed
the branches as it lightly waved them, the brown earth of the
avenue was sun-dappled, there were bird notes and calls to be
heard here and there and everywhere, if one only arrested
one's attention a moment to listen. And she was in a listening
and dreaming mood--one of the moods in which bird, leaf,
and wind, sun, shade, and scent of growing things have part.
And yet her thoughts were of mundane things.
It was on this avenue that G. Selden had met with his
accident. He was still at Dunstan vicarage, and yesterday Mount
Dunstan, in calling, had told them that Mr. Penzance was
applying himself with delighted interest to a study of the
manipulation of the Delkoff.
The thought of Mount Dunstan brought with it the thought
of her father. This was because there was frequently in her
mind a connection between the two. How would the man
of schemes, of wealth, and power almost unbounded, regard
the man born with a load about his neck--chained to earth
by it, standing in the midst of his hungering and thirsting
possessions, his hands empty of what would feed them and
restore their strength? Would he see any solution of the
problem? She could imagine his looking at the situation
through his gaze at the man, and considering both in his
"Circumstances and the man," she had heard him say.
"But always the man first."
Being no visionary, he did not underestimate the power of
circumstance. This Betty had learned from him. And what
could practically be done with circumstance such as this? The
question had begun to recur to her. What could she herself
have done in the care of Rosy and Stornham, if chance had
not placed in her hand the strongest lever? What she had
accomplished had been easy--easy. All that had been required
had been the qualities which control of the lever might itself
tend to create in one. Given--by mere chance again--imagination
and initiative, the moving of the lever did the rest.
If chance had not been on one's side, what then? And
where was this man's chance? She had said to Rosy, in speaking
of the wealth of America, "Sometimes one is tired of
it." And Rosy had reminded her that there were those who
were not tired of it, who could bear some of the burden of it,
if it might be laid on their own shoulders. The great
beautiful, blind-faced house, awaiting its slow doom in the midst
of its lonely unfed lands--what could save it, and all it
represented of race and name, and the stately history of men,
but the power one professed to call base and sordid--mere
money? She felt a sudden impatience at herself for having
said she was tired of it. That was a folly which took upon
itself the aspect of an affectation.
And, if a man could not earn money--or go forth to rob
richer neighbours of it as in the good old marauding days--
or accept it if it were offered to him as a gift--what could
he do? Nothing. If he had been born a village labourer, he
could have earned by the work of his hands enough to keep
his cottage roof over him, and have held up his head among
his fellows. But for such as himself there was no mere labour
which would avail. He had not that rough honest resource.
Only the decent living and orderly management of the generations
behind him would have left to him fairly his own chance
to hold with dignity the place in the world into which Fate
had thrust him at the outset--a blind, newborn thing of
whom no permission had been asked.
"If I broke stones upon the highway for twelve hours
a day, I might earn two shillings," he had said to Betty, on
the previous day. "I could break stones well," holding out
a big arm, "but fourteen shillings a week will do no more
than buy bread and bacon for a stonebreaker."
He was ordinarily rather silent and stiff in his conversational
attitude towards his own affairs. Betty sometimes wondered
how she herself knew so much about them--how it happened
that her thoughts so often dwelt upon them. The explanation
she had once made to herself had been half irony, half serious
"It is a result of the first Reuben Vanderpoel. It is because I
am of the fighting commercial stock, and, when I see a business
problem, I cannot leave it alone, even when it is no affair of
As an exposition of the type of the commercial fighting-stock
she presented, as she paused beneath overshadowing trees, an
aspect beautifully suggesting a far different thing.
She stood--all white from slim shoe to tilted parasol,--and
either the result of her inspection of the work done by her
order, or a combination of her summer-day mood with her
feeling for the problem, had given her a special radiance.
It glowed on lip and cheek, and shone in her Irish eyes.
She had paused to look at a man approaching down the
avenue. He was not a labourer, and she did not know him.
Men who were not labourers usually rode or drove, and this
one was walking. He was neither young nor old, and, though
at a distance his aspect was not attracting, she found that she
regarded him curiously, and waited for him to draw nearer.
The man himself was glancing about him with a puzzled
look and knitted forehead. When he had passed through the
village he had seen things he had not expected to see; when
he had reached the entrance gate, and--for reasons of his own
--dismissed his station trap, he had looked at the lodge
scrutinisingly, because he was not prepared for its picturesque
trimness. The avenue was free from weeds and in order, the
two gates beyond him were new and substantial. As he went on his
way and reached the first, he saw at about a hundred yards
distance a tall girl in white standing watching him.
Things which were not easily explainable always irritated
him. That this place--which was his own affair--should present
an air of mystery, did not improve his humour, which
was bad to begin with. He had lately been passing through
unpleasant things, which had left him feeling himself tricked
and made ridiculous--as only women can trick a man and
make him ridiculous, he had said to himself. And there had
been an acrid consolation in looking forward to the relief of
venting one's self on a woman who dare not resent.
"What has happened, confound it!" he muttered, when
he caught sight of the girl. "Have we set up a house party?"
And then, as he saw more distinctly, "Damn! What a figure!"
By this time Betty herself had begun to see more clearly.
Surely this was a face she remembered--though the passing
of years and ugly living had thickened and blurred, somewhat,
its always heavy features. Suddenly she knew it, and the look
in its eyes--the look she had, as a child, unreasoningly hated.
Nigel Anstruthers had returned from his private holiday.
As she took a few quiet steps forward to meet him, their eyes
rested on each other. After a night or two in town his were
slightly bloodshot, and the light in them was not agreeable.
It was he who spoke first, and it is possible that he did
not quite intend to use the expletive which broke from him.
But he was remembering things also. Here were eyes he, too,
had seen before--twelve years ago in the face of an
objectionable, long-legged child in New York. And his own hatred
of them had been founded in his own opinion on the best of
reasons. And here they gazed at him from the face of a
young beauty--for a beauty she was.
"Damn it!" he exclaimed; "it is Betty."
"Yes," she answered, with a faint, but entirely courteous,
smile. "It is. I hope you are very well."
She held out her hand. "A delicious hand," was what he
said to himself, as he took it. And what eyes for a girl to
have in her head were those which looked out at him between
shadows. Was there a hint of the devil in them? He
thought so--he hoped so, since she had descended on the place
in this way. But WHAT the devil was the meaning of her
being on the spot at all? He was, however, far beyond the
lack of astuteness which might have permitted him to express
this last thought at this particular juncture. He was only
betrayed into stupid mistakes, afterwards to be regretted, when
rage caused him utterly to lose control of his wits. And,
though he was startled and not exactly pleased, he was not in
a rage now. The eyelashes and the figure gave an agreeable
fillip to his humour. Howsoever she had come, she was worth
"How could one expect such a delightful thing as this?"
he said, with a touch of ironic amiability. "It is more than
"It is very polite of you to say that," answered Betty.
He was thinking rapidly as he stood and gazed at her. There
were, in truth, many things to think of under circumstances
"May I ask you to excuse my staring at you?" he inquired
with what Rosy had called his "awful, agreeable smile."
"When I saw you last you were a fierce nine-year-old American
child. I use the word `fierce' because--if you'll pardon
my saying so--there was a certain ferocity about you."
"I have learned at various educational institutions to
conceal it," smiled Betty.
"May I ask when you arrived?"
"A short time after you went abroad."
"Rosalie did not inform me of your arrival."
"She did not know your address. You had forgotten to leave it."
He had made a mistake and realised it. But she presented
to him no air of having observed his slip. He paused a few
seconds, still regarding her and still thinking rapidly. He
recalled the mended windows and roofs and palings in the village,
the park gates and entrance. Who the devil had done all that?
How could a mere handsome girl be concerned in it? And
yet--here she was.
"When I drove through the village," he said next, "I saw
that some remarkable changes had taken place on my property.
I feel as if you can explain them to me."
"I hope they are changes which meet with your approval."
"Quite--quite," a little curtly. "Though I confess they
mystify me. Though I am the son-in-law of an American
multimillionaire, I could not afford to make such repairs
A certain small spitefulness which was his most frequent
undoing made it impossible for him to resist adding the innuendo
in his last sentence. And again he saw it was a folly. The
impersonal tone of her reply simply left him where he had placed
"We were sorry not to be able to reach you. As it seemed
well to begin the work at once, we consulted Messrs. Townlinson
"We?" he repeated. "Am I to have the pleasure," with a
slight wryness of the mouth, "of finding Mr. Vanderpoel also
"No--not yet. As I was on the spot, I saw your solicitors
and asked their advice and approval--for my father. If he
had known how necessary the work was, it would have been
done before, for Ughtred's sake."
Her voice was that of a person who, in stating obvious facts,
provides no approach to enlightening comment upon them.
And there was in her manner the merest gracious impersonality.
"Do I understand that Mr. Vanderpoel employed someone
to visit the place and direct the work?"
"It was really not difficult to direct. It was merely a
matter of engaging labour and competent foremen."
An odd expression rose in his eyes.
"You suggest a novel idea, upon my word," he said. "Is
it possible--you see I know something of America--is it possible
I must thank YOU for the working of this magic?"
"You need not thank me," she said, rather slowly, because
it was necessary that she also should think of many things at
once. "I could not have helped doing it."
She wished to make all clear to him before he met Rosy.
She knew it was not unnatural that the unexpectedness of his
appearance might deprive Lady Anstruthers of presence of
mind. Instinct told her that what was needed in intercourse
with him was, above all things, presence of mind.
"I will tell you about it," she said. "We will walk
slowly up and down here, if you do not object."
He did not object. He wanted to hear the story as he could
not hear it from his nervous little fool of a wife, who would
be frightened into forgetting things and their sequence. What
he meant to discover was where he stood in the matter--where
his father-in-law stood, and, rather specially, to have a chance
to sum up the weaknesses and strengths of the new arrival.
That would be to his interest. In talking this thing over
she would unconsciously reveal how much vanity or emotion
or inexperience he might count upon as factors safe to use
in one's dealings with her in the future.
As he listened he was supported by the fact that he did not
lose consciousness of the eyes and the figure. But for these it
is probable that he would have gone blind with fury at certain
points which forced themselves upon him. The first was that
there had been an absurd and immense expenditure which
would simply benefit his son and not himself. He could not
sell or borrow money on what had been given. Apparently
the place had been re-established on a footing such as it had not
rested upon during his own generation, or his father's. As
he loathed life in the country, it was not he who would enjoy
its luxury, but his wife and her child. The second point was
that these people--this girl--had somehow had the sharpness
to put themselves in the right, and to place him in a position
at which he could not complain without putting himself in the
wrong. Public opinion would say that benefits had been heaped
upon him, that the correct thing had been done correctly with
the knowledge and approval of the legal advisers of his family.
It had been a masterly thing, that visit to Townlinson &
Sheppard. He was obliged to aid his self-control by a glance at
the eyelashes. She was a new sort of girl, this Betty, whose
childhood he had loathed, and, to his jaded taste, novelty
appealed enormously. Her attraction for him was also added to
by the fact that he was not at all sure that there was not
combined with it a pungent spice of the old detestation. He was
repelled as well as allured. She represented things which he
hated. First, the mere material power, which no man can
bully, whatsoever his humour. It was the power he most longed
for and, as he could not hope to possess it, most sneered at and
raged against. Also, as she talked, it was plain that her habit
of self-control and her sense of resource would be difficult
to deal with. He was a survival of the type of man whose
simple creed was that women should not possess resources, as
when they possessed them they could rarely be made to behave
But while he thought these things, he walked by her side
and both listened and talked smiling the agreeable smile.
"You will pardon my dull bewilderment," he said. "It is
not unnatural, is it--in a mere outsider?"
And Betty, with the beautiful impersonal smile, said:
"We felt it so unfortunate that even your solicitors did not
know your address."
When, at length, they turned and strolled towards the house,
a carriage was drawing up before the door, and at the sight of
it, Betty saw her companion slightly lift his eyebrows. Lady
Anstruthers had been out and was returning. The groom got
down from the box, and two men-servants appeared upon the
steps. Lady Anstruthers descended, laughing a little as she
talked to Ughtred, who had been with her. She was dressed in
clear, pale grey, and the soft rose lining of her parasol warmed
the colour of her skin.
Sir Nigel paused a second and put up his glass.
"Is that my wife?" he said. "Really! She quite recalls New
The agreeable smile was on his lips as he hastened forward.
He always more or less enjoyed coming upon Rosalie suddenly.
The obvious result was a pleasing tribute to his power.
Betty, following him, saw what occurred.
Ughtred saw him first, and spoke quick and low.
"Mother!" he said.
The tone of his voice was evidently enough. Lady Anstruthers
turned with an unmistakable start. The rose lining of her
parasol ceased to warm her colour. In fact, the parasol itself
stepped aside, and she stood with a blank, stiff, white face.
"My dear Rosalie," said Sir Nigel, going towards her.
"You don't look very glad to see me."
He bent and kissed her quite with the air of a devoted
husband. Knowing what the caress meant, and seeing Rosy's
face as she submitted to it, Betty felt rather cold. After the
conjugal greeting he turned to Ughtred.
"You look remarkably well," he said.
Betty came forward.
"We met in the park, Rosy," she explained. "We have been
talking to each other for half an hour."
The atmosphere which had surrounded her during the last
three months had done much for Lady Anstruthers' nerves.
She had the power to recover herself. Sir Nigel himself saw
this when she spoke.
"I was startled because I was not expecting to see you," she
said. "I thought you were still on the Riviera. I hope you
had a pleasant journey home."
"I had an extraordinarily pleasant surprise in finding your
sister here," he answered. And they went into the house.
In descending the staircase on his way to the drawing-room
before dinner, Sir Nigel glanced about him with interested
curiosity. If the village had been put in order, something more
had been done here. Remembering the worn rugs and the bald-
headed tiger, he lifted his brows. To leave one's house in a
state of resigned dilapidation and return to find it filled with
all such things as comfort combined with excellent taste might
demand, was an enlivening experience--or would have been so
under some circumstances. As matters stood, perhaps, he might
have felt better pleased if things had been less well done. But
they were very well done. They had managed to put themselves
in the right in this also. The rich sobriety of colour and
form left no opening for supercilious comment--which was a
neat weapon it was annoying to be robbed of.
The drawing-room was fresh, brightly charming, and full of
flowers. Betty was standing before an open window with her
sister. His wife's shoulders, he observed at once, had
absolutely begun to suggest contours. At all events, her bones
no longer stuck out. But one did not look at one's wife's
shoulders when one could turn from them to a fairness of velvet
and ivory. "You know," he said, approaching them, "I find all
this very amazing. I have been looking out of my window on to
"It is Betty who has done it all," said Rosy.
"I did not suspect you of doing it, my dear Rosalie," smiling.
"When I saw Betty standing in the avenue, I knew at once
that it was she who had mended the chimney-pots in the village
and rehung the gates."
For the present, at least, it was evident that he meant to
be sufficiently amiable. At the dinner table he was
conversational and asked many questions, professing a natural
interest in what had been done. It was not difficult to talk to
a girl whose eyes and shoulders combined themselves with a quick
wit and a power to attract which he reluctantly owned he had
never seen equalled. His reluctance arose from the fact that
such a power complicated matters. He must be on the defensive
until he knew what she was going to do, what he must
do himself, and what results were probable or possible. He
had spent his life in intrigue of one order or another. He
enjoyed outwitting people and rather preferred to attain an end
by devious paths. He began every acquaintance on the defensive.
His argument was that you never knew how things would turn out,
consequently, it was as well to conduct one's self
at the outset with the discreet forethought of a man in the
presence of an enemy. He did not know how things would
turn out in Betty's case, and it was a little confusing to find
one's self watching her with a sense of excitement. He would
have preferred to be cool--to be cold--and he realised that he
could not keep his eyes off her.
"I remember, with regret," he said to her later in the
evening, "that when you were a child we were enemies."
"I am afraid we were," was Betty's impartial answer.
"I am sure it was my fault," he said. "Pray forget it.
Since you have accomplished such wonders, will you not, in
the morning, take me about the place and explain to me how
it has been done?"
When Betty went to her room she dismissed her maid as
soon as possible, and sat for some time alone and waiting. She
had had no opportunity to speak to Rosy in private, and she
was sure she would come to her. In the course of half an hour
she heard a knock at the door.
Yes, it was Rosy, and her newly-born colour had fled and left
her looking dragged again. She came forward and dropped into a
low chair near Betty, letting her face fall into her hands.
"I'm very sorry, Betty," she half whispered, "but it is no use."
"What is no use?" Betty asked.
"Nothing is any use. All these years have made me such
a coward. I suppose I always was a coward, but in the old days
there never was anything to be afraid of."
"What are you most afraid of now?"
"I don't know. That is the worst. I am afraid of HIM--
just of himself--of the look in his eyes--of what he may be
planning quietly. My strength dies away when he comes near me."
"What has he said to you?" she asked.
"He came into my dressing-room and sat and talked. He
looked about from one thing to another and pretended to admire
it all and congratulated me. But though he did not sneer at
what he saw, his eyes were sneering at me. He talked about
you. He said that you were a very clever woman. I don't
know how he manages to imply that a very clever woman is
something cunning and debased--but it means that when he says it.
It seems to insinuate things which make one grow hot all over."
She put out a hand and caught one of Betty's.
"Betty, Betty," she implored. "Don't make him angry. Don't."
"I am not going to begin by making him angry," Betty said. "And
I do not think he will try to make me angry-- at first."
"No, he will not," cried Rosalie. "And--and you
remember what I told you when first we talked about him?"
"And do you remember," was Betty's answer, "what I said to you
when I first met you in the park? If we were to cable to New
York this moment, we could receive an answer in a few hours."
"He would not let us do it," said Rosy. "He would stop us in
some way--as he stopped my letters to mother--as he stopped me
when I tried to run away. Oh, Betty, I know him and you do not."
"I shall know him better every day. That is what I must
do. I must learn to know him. He said something more to
you than you have told me, Rosy. What was it?"
"He waited until Detcham left me," Lady Anstruthers
confessed, more than half reluctantly. "And then he got up to
go away, and stood with his hands resting on the chairback, and
spoke to me in a low, queer voice. He said, `Don't try to
play any tricks on me, my good girl--and don't let your sister
try to play any. You would both have reason to regret it.' "
She was a half-hypnotised thing, and Betty, watching her
with curious but tender eyes, recognised the abnormality.
"Ah, if I am a clever woman," she said, "he is a clever
man. He is beginning to see that his power is slipping away.
That was what G. Selden would call `bluff.' "
NO, SHE WOULD NOT
Sir Nigel did not invite Rosalie to accompany them, when the
next morning, after breakfast, he reminded Betty of his
suggestion of the night before, that she should walk over the
place with him, and show him what had been done. He preferred
to make his study of his sister-in-law undisturbed.
There was no detail whose significance he missed as they went
about together. He had keen eyes and was a quite sufficiently
practical person on such matters as concerned his own
interests. In this case it was to his interest to make up his
mind as to what he might gain or lose by the appearance of his
wife's family. He did not mean to lose--if it could be helped--
anything either of personal importance or material benefit. And
it could only be helped by his comprehending clearly what he had
to deal with. Betty was, at present, the chief factor in the
situation, and he was sufficiently astute to see that she might
not be easy to read. His personal theories concerning women
presented to him two or three effective ways of managing them.
You made love to them, you flattered them either subtly or
grossly, you roughly or smoothly bullied them, or you harrowed
them with haughty indifference--if your love-making had produced
its proper effect--when it was necessary to lure or drive
or trick them into submission. Women should be made useful
in one way or another. Little fool as she was, Rosalie had been
useful. He had, after all was said and done, had some
comparatively easy years as the result of her existence. But she
had not been useful enough, and there had even been moments
when he had wondered if he had made a mistake in separating
her entirely from her family. There might have been more
to be gained if he had allowed them to visit her and had played
the part of a devoted husband in their presence. A great bore,
of course, but they could not have spent their entire lives at
Stornham. Twelve years ago, however, he had known very
little of Americans, and he had lost his temper. He was really
very fond of his temper, and rather enjoyed referring to it with
tolerant regret as being a bad one and beyond his control--with
a manner which suggested that the attribute was the inevitable
result of strength of character and masculine spirit. The luxury
of giving way to it was a great one, and it was exasperating
as he walked about with this handsome girl to find himself
beginning to suspect that, where she was concerned, some self-
control might be necessary. He was led to this thought because
the things he took in on all sides could only have been achieved
by a person whose mind was a steadily-balanced thing. In one's
treatment of such a creature, methods must be well chosen.
The crudest had sufficed to overwhelm Rosalie. He tried two
or three little things as experiments during their walk.
The first was to touch with dignified pathos on the subject of
Ughtred. Betty, he intimated gently, could imagine what a man's
grief and disappointment might be on finding his son and heir
deformed in such a manner. The delicate reserve with which he
managed to convey his fear that Rosalie's own uncontrolled
hysteric attacks had been the cause of the misfortune was very
well done. She had, of course, been very young and much spoiled,
and had not learned self-restraint, poor girl.
It was at this point that Betty first realised a certain hideous
thing. She must actually remain silent--there would be at
the outset many times when she could only protect her sister
by refraining from either denial or argument. If she turned
upon him now with refutation, it was Rosy who would be
called upon to bear the consequences. He would go at once to
Rosy, and she herself would have done what she had said she
would not do--she would have brought trouble upon the poor
girl before she was strong enough to bear it. She suspected
also that his intention was to discover how much she had heard,
and if she might be goaded into betraying her attitude in the
But she was not to be so goaded. He watched her closely
and her very colour itself seemed to be under her own control.
He had expected--if she had heard hysteric, garbled stories
from his wife--to see a flame of scarlet leap up on the cheek he
was admiring. There was no such leap, which was baffling in
itself. Could it be that experience had taught Rosalie the
discretion of keeping her mouth shut?
"I am very fond of Ughtred," was the sole comment he was
granted. "We made friends from the first. As he grows
older and stronger, his misfortune may be less apparent. He
will be a very clever man."
"He will be a very clever man if he is at all like----" He
checked himself with a slight movement of his shoulders. "I
was going to say a thing utterly banal. I beg your pardon. I
forgot for the moment that I was not talking to an English girl."
It was so stupid that she turned and looked at him,
smiling faintly. But her answer was quite mild and soft.
"Do not deprive me of compliments because I am a mere American,"
she said. "I am very fond of them, and respond at once."
"You are very daring," he said, looking straight into her
eyes--"deliciously so. American women always are, I think."
"The young devil," he was saying internally. "The
beautiful young devil! She throws one off the track."
He found himself more and more attracted and exasperated
as they made their rounds. It was his sense of being attracted
which was the cause of his exasperation. A girl who could stir
one like this would be a dangerous enemy. Even as a friend
she would not be safe, because one faced the absurd peril of
losing one's head a little and forgetting the precautions one
should never lose sight of where a woman was concerned--the
precautions which provided for one's holding a good taut rein
in one's own hands.
They went from gardens to greenhouses, from greenhouses
to stables, and he was on the watch for the moment when she
would reveal some little feminine pose or vanity, but, this
morning, at least, she laid none bare. She did not strike him
as a being of angelic perfections, but she was very modern and
not likely to show easily any openings in her armour.
"Of course, I continue to be amazed," he commented,
"though one ought not to be amazed at anything which evolves
from your extraordinary country. In spite of your impersonal
air, I shall persist in regarding you as my benefactor. But, to
be frank, I always told Rosalie that if she would write to your
father he would certainly put things in order."
"She did write once, you will remember," answered Betty.
"Did she?" with courteous vagueness. "Really, I am
afraid I did not hear of it. My poor wife has her own little
ideas about the disposal of her income."
And Betty knew that she was expected to believe that Rosy
had hoarded the money sent to restore the place, and from
sheer weak miserliness had allowed her son's heritage to fall
to ruin. And but for Rosy's sake, she might have stopped upon
the path and, looking at him squarely, have said, "You are
lying to me. And I know the truth."
He continued to converse amiably.
"Of course, it is you one must thank, not only for rousing
in the poor girl some interest in her personal appearance, but
also some interest in her neighbours. Some women, after they
marry and pass girlhood, seem to release their hold on all desire
to attract or retain friends. For years Rosalie has given
herself up to a chronic semi-invalidism. When the mistress of a
house is always depressed and languid and does not return visits,
neighbours become discouraged and drop off, as it were."
If his wife had told stories to gain her sympathy his companion
would be sure to lose her temper and show her hand. If he could
make her openly lose her temper, he would have made an advance.
"One can quite understand that," she said. "It is a great
happiness to me to see Rosy gaining ground every day. She
has taken me out with her a good many times, and people are
beginning to realise that she likes to see them at Stornham."
"You are very delightful," he said, "with your `She has
taken me out.' When I glanced at the magnificent array of
cards on the salver in the hall, I realised a number of things,
and quite vulgarly lost my breath. The Dunholms have been
very amiable in recalling our existence. But charming
Americans--of your order--arouse amiable emotions."
"I am very amiable myself," said Betty.
It was he who flushed now. He was losing patience at feeling
himself held with such lightness at arm's length, and at
being, in spite of himself, somehow compelled to continue to
assume a jocular courtesy.
"No, you are not," he answered.
"Not?" repeated Betty, with an incredulous lifting of her brows.
"You are charming and clever, but I rather suspect you of
being a vixen. At all events you are a spirited young woman
and quick-witted enough to understand the attraction you must
have for the sordid herd."
And then he became aware--if not of an opening in her
armour--at least of a joint in it. For he saw, near her ear, a
deepening warmth. That was it. She was quick-witted, and
she hid somewhere a hot pride.
"I confess, however," he proceeded cheerfully, "that
notwithstanding my own experience of the habits of the sordid
herd, I saw one card I was surprised to find, though really"
--shrugging his shoulders--"I ought to have been less surprised
to find it than to find any other. But it was bold. I
suppose the fellow is desperate."
"You are speaking of----?" suggested Betty.
"Of Mount Dunstan. Hang it all, it WAS bold!" As if
in half-amused disgust.
As she had walked through the garden paths, Betty had at
intervals bent and gathered a flower, until she held in one hand
a loose, fair sheaf. At this moment she stooped to break off a
spire of pale blue campanula. And she was--as with a shock
--struck with a consciousness that she bent because she must--
because to do so was a refuge--a concealment of something she
must hide. It had come upon her without a second's warning.
Sir Nigel was right. She was a vixen--a virago. She was in
such a rage that her heart sprang up and down and her cheek
and eyes were on fire. Her long-trained control of herself
was gone. And her shock was a lightning-swift awakening to
the fact that she felt all this--she must hide her face--because
it was this one man--just this one and no other--who was
being dragged into this thing with insult.
It was an awakening, and she broke off, rather slowly, one--
two--three--even four campanula stems before she stood upright
As for Nigel Anstruthers--he went on talking in his low-
pitched, disgusted voice.
"Surely he might count himself out of the running. There
will be a good deal of running, my dear Betty. You fair
Americans have learned that by this time. But that a man who
has not even a decent name to offer--who is blackballed by his
county--should coolly present himself as a pretendant is an
insolence he should be kicked for."
Betty arranged her campanulas carefully. There was no
exterior reason why she should draw sword in Lord Mount
Dunstan's defence. He had certainly not seemed to expect
anything intimately interested from her. His manner she had
generally felt to be rather restrained. But one could, in a
measure, express one's self.
"Whatsoever the `running,' " she remarked, "no pretendant
has complimented me by presenting himself, so far--and Lord
Mount Dunstan is physically an unusually strong man."
"You mean it would be difficult to kick him? Is this
partisanship? I hope not. Am I to understand," he added with
deliberation, "that Rosalie has received him here?"
"And that you have received him, also--as you have received
"Then I must discuss the matter with Rosalie. It is not to
be discussed with you."
"You mean that you will exercise your authority in the matter?"
"In England, my dear girl, the master of a house is still
sometimes guilty of exercising authority in matters which concern
the reputation of his female relatives. In the absence of
your father, I shall not allow you, while you are under my roof,
to endanger your name in any degree. I am, at least, your
brother by marriage. I intend to protect you."
"Thank you," said Betty.
"You are young and extremely handsome, you will have an
enormous fortune, and you have evidently had your own way
all your life. A girl, such as you are, may either make a
magnificent marriage or a ridiculous and humiliating one.
Neither American young women, nor English young men, are as
disinterested as they were some years ago. Each has begun to
learn what the other has to give."
"I think that is true," commented Betty.
"In some cases there is a good deal to be exchanged on both
sides. You have a great deal to give, and should get exchange
worth accepting. A beggared estate and a tainted title are not
"That is businesslike," Betty made comment again.
Sir Nigel laughed quietly.
"The fact is--I hope you won't misunderstand my saying
it--you do not strike me as being UN-businesslike, yourself."
"I am not," answered Betty.
"I thought not," rather narrowing his eyes as he watched
her, because he believed that she must involuntarily show her
hand if he irritated her sufficiently. "You do not impress me
as being one of the girls who make unsuccessful marriages.
You are a modern New York beauty--not an early Victorian
sentimentalist." He did not despair of results from his process
of irritation. To gently but steadily convey to a beautiful and
spirited young creature that no man could approach her without
ulterior motive was rather a good idea. If one could make
it clear--with a casual air of sensibly taking it for granted--
that the natural power of youth, wit, and beauty were rendered
impotent by a greatness of fortune whose proportions obliterated
all else; if one simply argued from the premise that young love
was no affair of hers, since she must always be regarded as a
gilded chattel, whose cost was writ large in plain figures,
what girl, with blood in her veins, could endure it long without
wincing? This girl had undue, and, as he regarded such
matters, unseemly control over her temper and her nerves,
but she had blood enough in her veins, and presently she would
say or do something which would give him a lead.
"When you marry----" he began.
She lifted her head delicately, but ended the sentence for
him with eyes which were actually not unsmiling.
"When I marry, I shall ask something in exchange for what I have
"If the exchange is to be equal, you must ask a great deal,"
he answered. "That is why you must be protected from such
fellows as Mount Dunstan."
"If it becomes necessary, perhaps I shall be able to protect
myself," she said.
"Ah!" regretfully, "I am afraid I have annoyed you--
and that you need protection more than you suspect." If
she were flesh and blood, she could scarcely resist resenting
the implication contained in this. But resist it she did, and
with a cool little smile which stirred him to sudden, if
She paused a second, and used the touch of gentle regret
"You have wounded my vanity by intimating that my
admirers do not love me for myself alone."
He paused, also, and, narrowing his eyes again, looked
straight between her lashes.
"They ought to love you for yourself alone," he said, in a
low voice. "You are a deucedly attractive girl."
"Oh, Betty," Rosy had pleaded, "don't make him angry
--don't make him angry."
So Betty lifted her shoulders slightly without comment.
"Shall we go back to the house now?" she said. "Rosalie
will naturally be anxious to hear that what has been done in
your absence has met with your approval."
In what manner his approval was expressed to Rosalie, Betty
did not hear this morning, at least. Externally cool though
she had appeared, the process had not been without its results,
and she felt that she would prefer to be alone.
"I must write some letters to catch the next steamer,"
she said, as she went upstairs.
When she entered her room, she went to her writing table
and sat down, with pen and paper before her. She drew the
paper towards her and took up the pen, but the next moment
she laid it down and gave a slight push to the paper. As she
did so she realised that her hand trembled.
"I must not let myself form the habit of falling into
rages--or I shall not be able to keep still some day, when
I ought to do it," she whispered. "I am in a fury--a fury."
And for a moment she covered her face.
She was a strong girl, but a girl, notwithstanding her
powers. What she suddenly saw was that, as if by one movement
of some powerful unseen hand, Rosy, who had been the centre
of all things, had been swept out of her thought. Her
anger at the injustice done to Rosy had been as nothing
before the fire which had flamed in her at the insult flung
at the other. And all that was undue and unbalanced. One
might as well look the thing straightly in the face. Her old
child hatred of Nigel Anstruthers had sprung up again in
ten-fold strength. There was, it was true, something
abominable about him, something which made his words more
abominable than they would have been if another man had
uttered them--but, though it was inevitable that his method
should rouse one, where those of one's own blood were
concerned, it was not enough to fill one with raging flame when
his malignity was dealing with those who were almost
strangers. Mount Dunstan was almost a stranger--she had met
Lord Westholt oftener. Would she have felt the same hot
beat of the blood, if Lord Westholt had been concerned?
No, she answered herself frankly, she would not.
A GREAT BALL
A certain great ball, given yearly at Dunholm Castle, was
one of the most notable social features of the county. It took
place when the house was full of its most interestingly
distinguished guests, and, though other balls might be given at
other times, this one was marked by a degree of greater state.
On several occasions the chief guests had been great personages
indeed, and to be bidden to meet them implied a selection
flattering in itself. One's invitation must convey by inference
that one was either brilliant, beautiful, or admirable, if not
Nigel Anstruthers had never appeared at what the uninvited
were wont, with derisive smiles, to call The Great Panjandrum
Function--which was an ironic designation not
employed by such persons as received cards bidding them to
the festivity. Stornham Court was not popular in the county;
no one had yearned for the society of the Dowager Lady
Anstruthers, even in her youth; and a not too well-favoured young
man with an ill-favoured temper, noticeably on the lookout
for grievances, is not an addition to one's circle. At nineteen
Nigel had discovered the older Lord Mount Dunstan and
his son Tenham to be congenial acquaintances, and had been
so often absent from home that his neighbours would have
found social intercourse with him difficult, even if desirable.
Accordingly, when the county paper recorded the splendours
of The Great Panjandrum Function--which it by no means
mentioned by that name--the list of "Among those present "
had not so far contained the name of Sir Nigel Anstruthers.
So, on a morning a few days after his return, the master
of Stornham turned over a card of invitation and read it
several times before speaking.
"I suppose you know what this means," he said at last to
Rosalie, who was alone with him.
"It means that we are invited to Dunholm Castle for the
ball, doesn't it?"
Her husband tossed the card aside on the table.
"It means that Betty will be invited to every house where
there is a son who must be disposed of profitably.
"She is invited because she is beautiful and clever. She
would be invited if she had no money at all," said Rosy
daringly. She was actually growing daring, she thought
sometimes. It would not have been possible to say anything like
this a few months ago.
"Don't make silly mistakes," said Nigel. "There are a
good many handsome girls who receive comparatively little
attention. But the hounds of war are let loose, when one of
your swollen American fortunes appears. The obviousness of
it `virtuously' makes me sick. It's as vulgar--as New York."
What befel next brought to Sir Nigel a shock of curious
enlightenment, but no one was more amazed than Rosy herself.
She felt, when she heard her own voice, as if she must be
"I would rather," she said quite distinctly, "that you did
not speak to me of New York in that way."
"What!" said Anstruthers, staring at her with contempt
which was derision.
"It is my home," she answered. "It is not proper that I
should hear it spoken of slightingly."
"Your home! It has not taken the slightest notice of you
for twelve years. Your people dropped you as if you were a
"They have taken me up again." Still in amazement at her own
boldness, but somehow learning something as she went on.
He walked over to her side, and stood before her.
"Look here, Rosalie," he said. "You have been taking
lessons from your sister. She is a beauty and young and you
are not. People will stand things from her they will not take
from you. I would stand some things myself, because it rather
amuses a man to see a fine girl peacocking. It's merely
ridiculous in you, and I won't stand it--not a bit of it."
It was not specially fortunate for him that the door opened
as he was speaking, and Betty came in with her own invitation
in her hand. He was quick enough, however, to turn to
greet her with a shrug of his shoulders.
"I am being favoured with a little scene by my wife," he
explained. "She is capable of getting up excellent little
scenes, but I daresay she does not show you that side of her
Betty took a comfortable chintz-covered, easy chair. Her
expression was evasively speculative.
"Was it a scene I interrupted?" she said. "Then I must
not go away and leave you to finish it. You were saying that
you would not `stand' something. What does a man do
when he will not `stand' a thing? It always sounds so final
and appalling--as if he were threatening horrible things such
as, perhaps, were a resource in feudal times. What IS the
resource in these dull days of law and order--and policemen?"
"Is this American chaff?" he was disagreeably conscious
that he was not wholly successful in his effort to be lofty.
The frankness of Betty's smile was quite without prejudice.
"Dear me, no," she said. "It is only the unpicturesque
result of an unfeminine knowledge of the law. And I was
thinking how one is limited--and yet how things are simplified
"Yes, really. You see, if Rosy were violent she could not
beat you--even if she were strong enough--because you could
ring the bell and give her into custody. And you could not
beat her because the same unpleasant thing would happen to
you. Policemen do rob things of colour, don't they? And
besides, when one remembers that mere vulgar law insists
that no one can be forced to live with another person who is
brutal or loathsome, that's simple, isn't it? You could go
away from Rosy," with sweet clearness, "at any moment
you wished--as far away as you liked."
"You seem to forget," still feeling that convincing loftiness was
not easy, "that when a man leaves his wife, or she deserts him,
it is she who is likely to be called upon to bear the onus of
"Would she be called upon to bear it under all circumstances?"
"Damned clever woman as you are, you know that she would,
as well as I know it." He made an abrupt gesture with his
hand. "You know that what I say is true. Women who take
to their heels are deucedly unpopular in England."
"I have not been long in England, but I have been struck
by the prevalence of a sort of constitutional British sense of
fair play among the people who really count. The Dunholms,
for instance, have it markedly. In America it is the men
who force women to take to their heels who are deucedly
unpopular. The Americans' sense of fair play is their most
English quality. It was brought over in ships by the first
colonists--like the pieces of fine solid old furniture, one even
now sees, here and there, in houses in Virginia."
"But the fact remains," said Nigel, with an unpleasant
laugh, "the fact remains, my dear girl."
"The fact that does remain," said Betty, not unpleasantly
at all, and still with her gentle air of mere unprejudiced
speculation, "is that, if a man or woman is properly ill-
treated--PROPERLY--not in any amateurish way--they reach
the point of not caring in the least--nothing matters, but that
they must get away from the horror of the unbearable thing
--never to see or hear of it again is heaven enough to make
anything else a thing to smile at. But one could settle the
other point by experimenting. Suppose you run away from
Rosy, and then we can see if she is cut by the county."
His laugh was unpleasant again.
"So long as you are with her, she will not be cut. There
are a number of penniless young men of family in this, as
well as the adjoining, counties. Do you think Mount Dunstan
would cut her?"
She looked down at the carpet thoughtfully a moment, and
then lifted her eyes.
"I do not think so," she answered. "But I will ask him."
He was startled by a sudden feeling that she might be
capable of it.
"Oh, come now," he said, "that goes beyond a joke. You
will not do any such absurd thing. One does not want one's
domestic difficulties discussed by one's neighbours."
Betty opened coolly surprised eyes.
"I did not understand it was a personal matter," she
remarked. "Where do the domestic difficulties come in?"
He stared at her a few seconds with the look she did not
like, which was less likeable at the moment, because it combined
itself with other things.
"Hang it," he muttered. "I wish I could keep my temper as you
can keep yours," and he turned on his heel and left the room.
Rosy had not spoken. She had sat with her hands in her
lap, looking out of the window. She had at first had a moment
of terror. She had, indeed, once uttered in her soul
the abject cry: "Don't make him angry, Betty--oh, don't,
don't!" And suddenly it had been stilled, and she had
listened. This was because she realised that Nigel himself was
listening. That made her see what she had not dared to allow
herself to see before. These trite things were true. There
were laws to protect one. If Betty had not been dealing with
mere truths, Nigel would have stopped her. He
had been supercilious, but he could not contradict her.
"Betty," she said, when her sister came to her, "you said
that to show ME things, as well as to show them to him. I
knew you did, and listened to every word. It was good for
me to hear you."
"Clear-cut, unadorned facts are like bullets," said Betty.
"They reach home, if one's aim is good. The shiftiest people
cannot evade them."
. . . . .
A certain thing became evident to Betty during the time
which elapsed between the arrival of the invitations and the
great ball. Despite an obvious intention to assume an amiable
pose for the time being, Sir Nigel could not conceal a not
quite unexplainable antipathy to one individual. This
individual was Mount Dunstan, whom it did not seem easy for
him to leave alone. He seemed to recur to him as a subject,
without any special reason, and this somewhat puzzled Betty
until she heard from Rosalie of his intimacy with Lord Tenham,
which, in a measure, explained it. The whole truth
was that "The Lout," as he had been called, had indulged
in frank speech in his rare intercourse with his brother and
his friends, and had once interfered with hot young fury in
a matter in which the pair had specially wished to avoid all
interference. His open scorn of their methods of entertaining
themselves they had felt to be disgusting impudence, which
would have been deservedly punished with a horsewhip, if the
youngster had not been a big-muscled, clumsy oaf, with a
dangerous eye. Upon this footing their acquaintance had stood
in past years, and to decide--as Sir Nigel had decided--that
the oaf in question had begun to make his bid for splendid
fortune under the roof of Stornham Court itself was a thing
not to be regarded calmly. It was more than he could stand,
and the folly of temper, which was forever his undoing,
betrayed him into mistakes more than once. This girl, with
her beauty and her wealth, he chose to regard as a sort of
property rightfully his own. She was his sister-in-law, at
she was living under his roof; he had more or less the power
to encourage or discourage such aspirants as appeared. Upon
the whole there was something soothing to one's vanity in
appearing before the world as the person at present responsible
for her. It gave a man a certain dignity of position, and his
chief girding at fate had always risen from the fact that he
had not had dignity of position. He would not be held cheap in
this matter, at least. But sometimes, as he looked at the girl
he turned hot and sick, as it was driven home to him that
he was no longer young, that he had never been good-looking,
and that he had cut the ground from under his feet twelve
years ago, when he had married Rosalie! If he could have
waited--if he could have done several other things--perhaps
the clever acting of a part, and his power of domination
might have given him a chance. Even that blackguard of a
Mount Dunstan had a better one now. He was young, at least,
and free--and a big strong beast. He was forced, with bitter
reluctance, to admit that he himself was not even particularly
strong--of late he had felt it hideously.
So he detested Mount Dunstan the more for increasing
reasons, as he thought the matter over. It would seem, perhaps,
but a subtle pleasure to the normal mind, but to him there was
pleasure--support--aggrandisement--in referring to the ill case
of the Mount Dunstan estate, in relating illustrative
anecdotes, in dwelling upon the hopelessness of the outlook,
and the notable unpopularity of the man himself. A
confiding young lady from the States was required, he said
on one occasion, but it would be necessary that she should be
a young person of much simplicity, who would not be alarmed
or chilled by the obvious. No one would realise this more
clearly than Mount Dunstan himself. He said it coldly and
casually, as if it were the simplest matter of fact. If the
fellow had been making himself agreeable to Betty, it was as
well that certain points should be--as it were inadvertently
--brought before her.
Miss Vanderpoel was really rather fine, people said to each
other afterwards, when she entered the ballroom at Dunholm
Castle with her brother-in-law. She bore herself as composedly
as if she had been escorted by the most admirable
and dignified of conservative relatives, instead of by a man who
was more definitely disliked and disapproved of than any other
man in the county whom decent people were likely to meet.
Yet, she was far too clever a girl not to realise the situation
clearly, they said to each other. She had arrived in England
to find her sister a neglected wreck, her fortune squandered,
and her existence stripped bare of even such things as one felt
to be the mere decencies. There was but one thing to be
deduced from the facts which had stared her in the face. But
of her deductions she had said nothing whatever, which was,
of course, remarkable in a young person. It may be mentioned
that, perhaps, there had been those who would not have been
reluctant to hear what she must have had to say, and who had
even possibly given her a delicate lead. But the lead had never
been taken. One lady had even remarked that, on her part,
she felt that a too great reserve verged upon secretiveness,
which was not a desirable girlish quality.
Of course the situation had been so much discussed that
people were naturally on the lookout for the arrival of the
Stornham party, as it was known that Sir Nigel had returned
home, and would be likely to present himself with his wife
and sister-in-law. There was not a dowager present who did
not know how and where he had reprehensibly spent the last
months. It served him quite right that the Spanish dancing
person had coolly left him in the lurch for a younger and
more attractive, as well as a richer man. If it were not for
Miss Vanderpoel, one need not pretend that one knew nothing
about the affair--in fact, if it had not been for Miss
Vanderpoel, he would not have received an invitation--and poor
Lady Anstruthers would be sitting at home, still the forlorn
little frump and invalid she had so wonderfully ceased to be
since her sister had taken her in hand. She was absolutely
growing even pretty and young, and her clothes were really
beautiful. The whole thing was amazing.
Betty, as well as Rosalie and Nigel--knew that many people
turned undisguisedly to look at them--even to watch them
as they came into the splendid ballroom. It was a splendid
ballroom and a stately one, and Lord Dunholm and Lord
Westholt shared a certain thought when they met her, which
was that hers was distinctly the proud young brilliance of
presence which figured most perfectly against its background.
Much as people wanted to look at Sir Nigel, their eyes were
drawn from him to Miss Vanderpoel. After all it was she
who made him an object of interest. One wanted to know
what she would do with him--how she would "carry him off."
How much did she know of the distaste people felt for him,
since she would not talk or encourage talk? The Dunholms
could not have invited her and her sister, and have ignored
him; but did she not guess that they would have ignored him, if
they could? and was there not natural embarrassment in feeling
forced to appear in pomp, as it were, under his escort?
But no embarrassment was perceptible. Her manner
committed her to no recognition of a shadow of a flaw in the
character of her companion. It even carried a certain conviction
with it, and the lookers-on felt the impossibility of
suggesting any such flaw by their own manner. For this evening,
at least, the man must actually be treated as if he were an
entirely unobjectionable person. It appeared as if that was
what the girl wanted, and intended should happen.
This was what Nigel himself had begun to perceive, but
he did not put it pleasantly. Deucedly clever girl as she was,
he said to himself, she saw that it would be more agreeable
to have no nonsense talked, and no ruffling of tempers. He
had always been able to convey to people that the ruffling of
his temper was a thing to be avoided, and perhaps she had
already been sharp enough to realise this was a fact to be
counted with. She was sharp enough, he said to himself, to
The function was a superb one. The house was superb,
the rooms of entertainment were in every proportion perfect,
and were quite renowned for the beauty of the space
they offered; the people themselves were, through centuries
of dignified living, so placed that intercourse with their
kind was an easy and delightful thing. They need never doubt
either their own effect, or the effect of their hospitalities.
Sir Nigel saw about him all the people who held enviable
place in the county. Some of them he had never known, some
of them had long ceased to recall his existence. There were
those among them who lifted lorgnettes or stuck monocles into
their eyes as he passed, asking each other in politely subdued
tones who the man was who seemed to be in attendance on
Miss Vanderpoel. Nigel knew this and girded at it internally,
while he made the most of his suave smile.
The distinguished personage who was the chief guest was
to be seen at the upper end of the room talking to a tall man
with broad shoulders, who was plainly interesting him for the
moment. As the Stornham party passed on, this person, making his
bow, retired, and, as he turned towards them, Sir Nigel
recognising him, the agreeable smile was for the moment lost.
"How in the name of Heaven did Mount Dunstan come
here?" broke from him with involuntary heat.
"Would it be rash to conclude," said Betty, as she
returned the bow of a very grand old lady in black velvet
and an imposing tiara, "that he came in response to invitation?"
The very grand old lady seemed pleased to see her, and, with
a royal little sign, called her to her side. As Betty Vanderpoel
was a great success with the Mrs. Weldens and old
Dobys of village life, she was also a success among grand old
ladies. When she stood before them there was a delicate
submission in her air which was suggestive of obedience to the
dignity of their years and state. Strongly conservative and
rather feudal old persons were much pleased by this. In
the present irreverent iconoclasm of modern times, it was most
agreeable to talk to a handsome creature who was as beautifully
attentive as if she had been a specially perfect young
This one even patted Betty's hand a little, when she took
it. She was a great county potentate, who was known as
Lady Alanby of Dole--her house being one of the most
ancient and interesting in England.
"I am glad to see you here to-night," she said. "You are
looking very nice. But you cannot help that."
Betty asked permission to present her sister and brother-in-
law. Lady Alanby was polite to both of them, but she gave
Nigel a rather sharp glance through her gold pince-nez as
she greeted him.
"Janey and Mary," she said to the two girls nearest her,
"I daresay you will kindly change your chairs and let Lady
Anstruthers and Miss Vanderpoel sit next to me."
The Ladies Jane and Mary Lithcom, who had been ordered
about by her from their infancy, obeyed with polite smiles.
They were not particularly pretty girls, and were of the
indigent noble. Jane, who had almost overlarge blue eyes,
sighed as she reseated herself a few chairs lower down.
"It does seem beastly unfair," she said in a low voice to
her sister, "that a girl such as that should be so awfully
good-looking. She ought to have a turned-up nose."
"Thank you," said Mary, "I have a turned-up nose myself,
and I've got nothing to balance it."
"Oh, I didn't mean a nice turned-up nose like yours," said
Jane; "I meant an ugly one. Of course Lady Alanby wants
her for Tommy." And her manner was not resigned.
"What she, or anyone else for that matter," disdainfully,
"could want with Tommy, I don't know," replied Mary.
"I do," answered Jane obstinately. "I played cricket with
him when I was eight, and I've liked him ever since. It is
AWFUL," in a smothered outburst, "what girls like us have to
Lady Mary turned to look at her curiously.
"Jane," she said, "are you SUFFERING about Tommy?"
"Yes, I am. Oh, what a question to ask in a ballroom!
Do you want me to burst out crying?"
"No," sharply, "look at the Prince. Stare at that fat
woman curtsying to him. Stare and then wink your eyes."
Lady Alanby was talking about Mount Dunstan.
"Lord Dunholm has given us a lead. He is an old friend
of mine, and he has been talking to me about it. It appears
that he has been looking into things seriously. Modern as he
is, he rather tilts at injustices, in a quiet way. He has
satisfactorily convinced himself that Lord Mount Dunstan has
been suffering for the sins of the fathers--which must be
"Is Lord Dunholm quite sure of that?" put in Sir Nigel,
with a suggestively civil air.
Old Lady Alanby gave him an unencouraging look.
"Quite," she said. "He would be likely to be before he
took any steps."
"Ah," remarked Nigel. "I knew Lord Tenham, you see."
Lady Alanby's look was more unencouraging still. She
quietly and openly put up her glass and stared. There were
times when she had not the remotest objection to being rude
to certain people.
"I am sorry to hear that," she observed. "There never was any
room for mistake about Tenham. He is not usually mentioned."
"I do not think this man would be usually mentioned, if
everything were known," said Nigel.
Then an appalling thing happened. Lady Alanby gazed
at him a few seconds, and made no reply whatever. She
dropped her glass, and turned again to talk to Betty. It was
as if she had turned her back on him, and Sir Nigel, still
wearing an amiable exterior, used internally some bad language.
"But I was a fool to speak of Tenham," he thought. "A great
A little later Miss Vanderpoel made her curtsy to the
exalted guest, and was commented upon again by those who
looked on. It was not at all unnatural that one should find
ones eyes following a girl who, representing a sort of royal
power, should have the good fortune of possessing such looks
Remembering his child bete noir of the long legs and square,
audacious little face, Nigel Anstruthers found himself
restraining a slight grin as he looked on at her dancing.
Partners flocked about her like bees, and Lady Alanby of Dole,
and other very grand old or middle-aged ladies all found the
evening more interesting because they could watch her.
"She is full of spirit," said Lady Alanby, "and she enjoys
herself as a girl should. It is a pleasure to look at her. I
like a girl who gets a magnificent colour and stars in her eyes
when she dances. It looks healthy and young."
It was Tommy Miss Vanderpoel was dancing with when her
ladyship said this. Tommy was her grandson and a young man
of greater rank than fortune. He was a nice, frank, heavy
youth, who loved a simple county life spent in tramping about
with guns, and in friendly hobnobbing with the neighbours, and
eating great afternoon teas with people whose jokes were easy
to understand, and who were ready to laugh if you tried a joke
yourself. He liked girls, and especially he liked Jane Lithcom,
but that was a weakness his grandmother did not at all
encourage, and, as he danced with Betty Vanderpoel, he looked
over her shoulder more than once at a pair of big, unhappy blue
eyes, whose owner sat against the wall.
Betty Vanderpoel herself was not thinking of Tommy. In
fact, during this brilliant evening she faced still further
developments of her own strange case. Certain new things were
happening to her. When she had entered the ballroom she had
known at once who the man was who stood before the royal
guest--she had known before he bowed low and withdrew. And
her recognition had brought with it a shock of joy. For a few
moments her throat felt hot and pulsing. It was true--the
things which concerned him concerned her. All that happened
to him suddenly became her affair, as if in some way they
were of the same blood. Nigel's slighting of him had
infuriated her; that Lord Dunholm had offered him friendship
and hospitality was a thing which seemed done to herself, and
filled her with gratitude and affection; that he should be at
this place, on this special occasion, swept away dark things from
his path. It was as if it were stated without words that a
conservative man of the world, who knew things as they were,
having means of reaching truths, vouched for him and placed
his dignity and firmness at his side.
And there was the gladness at the sight of him. It was an
overpoweringly strong thing. She had never known anything
like it. She had not seen him since Nigel's return, and here he
was, and she knew that her life quickened in her because they
were together in the same room. He had come to them and said
a few courteous words, but he had soon gone away. At first
she wondered if it was because of Nigel, who at the time was
making himself rather ostentatiously amiable to her. Afterwards
she saw him dancing, talking, being presented to people,
being, with a tactful easiness, taken care of by his host and
hostess, and Lord Westholt. She was struck by the graceful
magic with which this tactful ease surrounded him without any
obviousness. The Dunholms had given a lead, as Lady Alanby
had said, and the rest were following it and ignoring intervals
with reposeful readiness. It was wonderfully well done.
Apparently there had been no past at all. All began with this
large young man, who, despite his Viking type, really looked
particularly well in evening dress. Lady Alanby held him by her
chair for some time, openly enjoying her talk with him, and
calling up Tommy, that they might make friends.
After a while, Betty said to herself, he would come and ask
for a dance. But he did not come, and she danced with one
man after another. Westholt came to her several times and
had more dances than one. Why did the other not come? Several
times they whirled past each other, and when it occurred
they looked--both feeling it an accident--into each other's eyes.
The strong and strange thing--that which moves on its way
as do birth and death, and the rising and setting of the sun--
had begun to move in them. It was no new and rare thing, but
an ancient and common one--as common and ancient as death
and birth themselves; and part of the law as they are. As it
comes to royal persons to whom one makes obeisance at their
mere passing by, as it comes to scullery maids in royal kitchens,
and grooms in royal stables, as it comes to ladies-in-waiting
and the women who serve them, so it had come to these two
who had been drawn near to each other from the opposite sides
of the earth, and each started at the touch of it, and withdrew
a pace in bewilderment, and some fear.
"I wish," Mount Dunstan was feeling throughout the evening,
"that her eyes had some fault in their expression--that they drew
one less--that they drew ME less. I am losing my head."
"It would be better," Betty thought, "if I did not wish
so much that he would come and ask me to dance with him--
that he would not keep away so. He is keeping away for a
reason. Why is he doing it?"
The music swung on in lovely measures, and the dancers
swung with it. Sir Nigel walked dutifully through the Lancers
once with his wife, and once with his beautiful sister-in-law.
Lady Anstruthers, in her new bloom, had not lacked partners,
who discovered that she was a childishly light creature who
danced extremely well. Everyone was kind to her, and the very
grand old ladies, who admired Betty, were absolutely benign in
their manner. Betty's partners paid ingenuous court to her, and
Sir Nigel found he had not been mistaken in his estimate of the
dignity his position of escort and male relation gave to him.
Rosy, standing for a moment looking out on the brilliancy
and state about her, meeting Betty's eyes, laughed quiveringly.
"I am in a dream," she said.
"You have awakened from a dream," Betty answered.
From the opposite side of the room someone was coming
towards them, and, seeing him, Rosy smiled in welcome.
"I am sure Lord Mount Dunstan is coming to ask you to dance with
him," she said. "Why have you not danced with him before,
"He has not asked me," Betty answered. "That is the only
"Lord Dunholm and Lord Westholt called at the Mount a
few days after they met him at Stornham," Rosalie explained
in an undertone. "They wanted to know him. Then it seems
they found they liked each other. Lady Dunholm has been
telling me about it. She says Lord Dunholm thanks you,
because you said something illuminating. That was the word
she used--`illuminating.' I believe you are always illuminating,
Mount Dunstan was certainly coming to them. How broad
his shoulders looked in his close-fitting black coat, how well
built his whole strong body was, and how steadily he held his
eyes! Here and there one sees a man or woman who is, through
some trick of fate, by nature a compelling thing unconsciously
demanding that one should submit to some domineering attraction.
One does not call it domineering, but it is so. This
special creature is charged unfairly with more than his or her
single share of force. Betty Vanderpoel thought this out as
this "other one" came to her. He did not use the ballroom
formula when he spoke to her. He said in rather a low voice:
"Will you dance with me?"
"Yes," she answered.