Part 9 out of 13
Lord Dunholm and his wife agreed afterwards that so noticeable
a pair had never before danced together in their ballroom.
Certainly no pair had ever been watched with quite the same
interested curiosity. Some onlookers thought it singular that
they should dance together at all, some pleased themselves by
reflecting on the fact that no other two could have represented
with such picturesqueness the opposite poles of fate and
circumstance. No one attempted to deny that they were an
extraordinarily striking-looking couple, and that one's eyes
followed them in spite of one's self.
"Taken together they produce an effect that is somehow
rather amazing," old Lady Alanby commented. "He is a
magnificently built man, you know, and she is a magnificently
built girl. Everybody should look like that. My impression
would be that Adam and Eve did, but for the fact that neither of
them had any particular character. That affair of the apple was
so silly. Eve has always struck me as being the kind of woman
who, if she lived to-day, would run up stupid bills at her
dressmakers and be afraid to tell her husband. That wonderful
black head of Miss Vanderpoel's looks very nice poised near
Mount Dunstan's dark red one."
"I am glad to be dancing with him," Betty was thinking.
"I am glad to be near him."
"Will you dance this with me to the very end," asked Mount
Dunstan--"to the very late note?"
"Yes," answered Betty.
He had spoken in a low but level voice--the kind of voice
whose tone places a man and woman alone together, and wholly
apart from all others by whomsoever they are surrounded.
There had been no preliminary speech and no explanation of
the request followed. The music was a perfect thing, the
brilliant, lofty ballroom, the beauty of colour and sound about
them, the jewels and fair faces, the warm breath of flowers
in the air, the very sense of royal presence and its accompanying
state and ceremony, seemed merely a naturally arranged
background for the strange consciousness each held close and
silently--knowing nothing of the mind of the other.
This was what was passing through the man's mind.
"This is the thing which most men experience several times during
their lives. It would be reason enough for all the great deeds
and all the crimes one hears of. It is an enormous kind of
anguish and a fearful kind of joy. It is scarcely to be borne,
and yet, at this moment, I could kill myself and her, at the
thought of losing it. If I had begun earlier, would it have
been easier? No, it would not. With me it is bound to go
hard. At twenty I should probably not have been able to keep
myself from shouting it aloud, and I should not have known that
it was only the working of the Law. `Only!' Good God,
what a fool I am! It is because it is only the Law that I cannot
escape, and must go on to the end, grinding my teeth together
because I cannot speak. Oh, her smooth young cheek!
Oh, the deep shadows of her lashes! And while we sway
round and round together, I hold her slim strong body in the
hollow of my arm."
It was, quite possibly, as he thought this that Nigel
Anstruthers, following him with his eyes as he passed, began to
frown. He had been watching the pair as others had, he had
seen what others saw, and now he had an idea that he saw
something more, and it was something which did not please him.
The instinct of the male bestirred itself--the curious instinct
of resentment against another man--any other man. And, in
this case, Mount Dunstan was not any other man, but one for
whom his antipathy was personal.
"I won't have that," he said to himself. "I won't have it."
. . . . .
The music rose and swelled, and then sank into soft breathing,
as they moved in harmony together, gliding and swirling
as they threaded their way among other couples who swirled and
glided also, some of them light and smiling, some exchanging
low-toned speech--perhaps saying words which, unheard by
others, touched on deep things. The exalted guest fell into
momentary silence as he looked on, being a man much attracted
by physical fineness and temperamental power and charm. A
girl like that would bring a great deal to a man and to the
country he belonged to. A great race might be founded on such
superbness of physique and health and beauty. Combined
with abnormal resources, certainly no more could be asked.
He expressed something of the kind to Lord Dunholm, who
stood near him in attendance.
To herself Betty was saying: "That was a strange thing
he asked me. It is curious that we say so little. I should
never know much about him. I have no intelligence where
he is concerned--only a strong, stupid feeling, which is not
like a feeling of my own. I am no longer Betty Vanderpoel--
and I wish to go on dancing with him--on and on--to the
last note, as he said."
She felt a little hot wave run over her cheek uncomfortably,
and the next instant the big arm tightened its clasp of her--
for just one second--not more than one. She did not know
that he, himself, had seen the sudden ripple of red colour,
and that the equally sudden contraction of the arm had been
as unexpected to him and as involuntary as the quick wave
itself. It had horrified and made him angry. He looked the
next instant entirely stiff and cold.
"He did not know it happened," Betty resolved.
"The music is going to stop," said Mount Dunstan. "I
know the waltz. We can get once round the room again before
the final chord. It was to be the last note--the very last,"
but he said it quite rigidly, and Betty laughed.
"Quite the last," she answered.
The music hastened a little, and their gliding whirl became
more rapid--a little faster--a little faster still--a running
sweep of notes, a big, terminating harmony, and the thing was
"Thank you," said Mount Dunstan. "One will have it to
remember." And his tone was slightly sardonic.
"Yes," Betty acquiesced politely.
"Oh, not you. Only I. I have never waltzed before."
Betty turned to look at him curiously.
"Under circumstances such as these," he explained. "I
learned to dance at a particularly hideous boys' school in
France. I abhorred it. And the trend of my life has made it
quite easy for me to keep my twelve-year-old vow that I would
never dance after I left the place, unless I WANTED to do it, and
that, especially, nothing should make me waltz until certain
agreeable conditions were fulfilled. Waltzing I approved of
--out of hideous schools. I was a pig-headed, objectionable
child. I detested myself even, then."
Betty's composure returned to her.
"I am trusting," she remarked, "that I may secretly regard
myself as one of the agreeable conditions to be fulfilled. Do
not dispel my hopes roughly."
"I will not," he answered. "You are, in fact, several of them."
"One breathes with much greater freedom," she responded.
This sort of cool nonsense was safe. It dispelled feelings
of tenseness, and carried them to the place where Sir Nigel
and Lady Anstruthers awaited them. A slight stir was
beginning to be felt throughout the ballroom. The royal guest
was retiring, and soon the rest began to melt away. The
Anstruthers, who had a long return drive before them, were
among those who went first.
When Lady Anstruthers and her sister returned from the
cloak room, they found Sir Nigel standing near Mount Dunstan,
who was going also, and talking to him in an amiably
detached manner. Mount Dunstan, himself, did not look
amiable, or seem to be saying much, but Sir Nigel showed
no signs of being disturbed.
"Now that you have ceased to forswear the world," he said as his
wife approached, "I hope we shall see you at Stornham. Your
visits must not cease because we cannot offer you G. Selden any
He had his own reasons for giving the invitation--several
of them. And there was a satisfaction in letting the fellow
know, casually, that he was not in the ridiculous position of
being unaware of what had occurred during his absence--that
there had been visits--and also the objectionable episode of
the American bounder. That the episode had been objectionable,
he knew he had adroitly conveyed by mere tone and manner.
Mount Dunstan thanked him in the usual formula, and
then spoke to Betty.
"G. Selden left us tremulous and fevered with ecstatic
anticipation. He carried your kind letter to Mr. Vanderpoel,
next to his heart. His brain seemed to whirl at the thought
of what `the boys' would say, when he arrived with it in
New York. You have materialised the dream of his life!"
"I have interested my father," Betty answered, with a
brilliant smile. "He liked the romance of the Reuben S.
Vanderpoel who rewarded the saver of his life by unbounded
orders for the Delkoff."
. . . . .
As their carriage drove away, Sir Nigel bent forward to
look out of the window, and having done it, laughed a little.
"Mount Dunstan does not play the game well," he remarked.
It was annoying that neither Betty nor his wife inquired
what the game in question might be, and that his temperament
forced him into explaining without encouragement.
"He should have `stood motionless with folded arms,' or
something of the sort, and `watched her equipage until it
was out of sight.' "
"And he did not?" said Betty
"He turned on his heel as soon as the door was shut."
"People ought not to do such things," was her simple
comment. To which it seemed useless to reply.
FOR LADY JANE
There is no one thing on earth of such interest as the study
of the laws of temperament, which impel, support, or entrap
into folly and danger the being they rule. As a child, not
old enough to give a definite name to the thing she watched
and pondered on, in child fashion, Bettina Vanderpoel had
thought much on this subject. As she had grown older, she
had never been ignorant of the workings of her own temperament,
and she had looked on for years at the laws which had wrought in
her father's being--the laws of strength, executive capacity,
and that pleasure in great schemes, which is roused less
by a desire for gain than for a strongly-felt necessity
for action, resulting in success. She mentally followed
other people on their way, sometimes asking herself how far
the individual was to be praised or blamed for his treading
of the path he seemed to choose. And now there was given
her the opportunity to study the workings of the nature of
Nigel Anstruthers, which was a curious thing.
He was not an individual to be envied. Never was man
more tormented by lack of power to control his special devil,
at the right moment of time, and therefore, never was there
one so inevitably his own frustration. This Betty saw after
the passing of but a few days, and wondered how far he was
conscious or unconscious of the thing. At times it appeared
to her that he was in a state of unrest--that he was as a man
wavering between lines of action, swayed at one moment by
one thought, at another by an idea quite different, and that
he was harried because he could not hold his own with himself.
This was true. The ball at Dunholm Castle had been
enlightening, and had wrought some changes in his points of
view. Also other factors had influenced him. In the first
place, the changed atmosphere of Stornham, the fitness and
luxury of his surroundings, the new dignity given to his
position by the altered aspect of things, rendered external
amiability more easy. To ride about the country on a good
horse, or drive in a smart phaeton, or suitable carriage, and to
find that people who a year ago had passed him with the
merest recognition, saluted him with polite intention, was, to
a certain degree, stimulating to a vanity which had been long
ill-fed. The power which produced these results should, of
course, have been in his own hands--his money-making father-
in-law should have seen that it was his affair to provide for
that--but since he had not done so, it was rather entertaining
that it should be, for the present, in the hands of this
extraordinarily good-looking girl.
He had begun by merely thinking of her in this manner--
as "this extraordinarily good-looking girl," and had not, for a
moment, hesitated before the edifying idea of its not being
impossible to arrange a lively flirtation with her. She was at
an age when, in his opinion, girlhood was poised for flight
with adventure, and his tastes had not led him in the direction
of youth which was fastidious. His Riviera episode had left his
vanity blistered and requiring some soothing application.
His life had worked evil with him, and he had fallen
ill on the hands of a woman who had treated him as a shattered,
useless thing whose day was done and with whom
strength and bloom could not be burdened. He had kept
his illness a hidden secret, on his return to Stornham, his one
desire having been to forget--even to disbelieve in it, but
dreams of its suggestion sometimes awakened him at night with
shudders and cold sweat. He was hideously afraid of death and
pain, and he had had monstrous pain--and while he had lain
battling with it, upon his bed in the villa on the Mediterranean,
he had been able to hear, in the garden outside, the low voices
and laughter of the Spanish dancer and the healthy, strong
young fool who was her new adorer.
When he had found himself face to face with Betty in
the avenue, after the first leap of annoyance, which had suddenly
died down into perversely interested curiosity, he could
have laughed outright at the novelty and odd unexpectedness
of the situation. The ill-mannered, impudently-staring, little
New York beast had developed into THIS! Hang it! No man
could guess what the embryo female creature might result in.
His mere shakiness of physical condition added strength to
her attraction. She was like a young goddess of health and
life and fire; the very spring of her firm foot upon the moss
beneath it was a stimulating thing to a man whose nerves
sprung secret fears upon him. There were sparks between the
sweep of her lashes, but she managed to carry herself with
the air of being as cool as a cucumber, which gave spice to
the effort to "upset" her. If she did not prove suitably
amenable, there would be piquancy in getting the better of her
--in stirring up unpleasant little things, which would make it
easier for her to go away than remain on the spot--if one
should end by choosing to get rid of her. But, for the moment,
he had no desire to get rid of her. He wanted to see what
she intended to do--to see the thing out, in fact. It amused
him to hear that Mount Dunstan was on her track. There
exists for persons of a certain type a pleasure full-fed by the
mere sense of having "got even" with an opponent. Throughout
his life he had made a point of "getting even" with
those who had irritatingly crossed his path, or much disliked
him. The working out of small or large plans to achieve this
end had formed one of his most agreeable recreations. He
had long owed Mount Dunstan a debt, which he had always
meant to pay. He had not intended to forget the episode of
the nice little village girl with whom Tenham and himself
had been getting along so enormously well, when the raging
young ass had found them out, and made an absurdly exaggerated
scene, even going so far as threatening to smash the pair of
them, marching off to the father and mother, and
setting the vicar on, and then scratching together--God knows
how--money enough to pack the lot off to America, where
they had since done well. Why should a man forgive another
who had made him look like a schoolboy and a fool? So, to
find Mount Dunstan rushing down a steep hill into this
thing, was edifying. You cannot take much out of a man
if you never encounter him. If you meet him, you are provided
by Heaven with opportunities. You can find out what
he feels most sharply, and what he will suffer most by being
deprived of. His impression was that there was a good deal
to be got out of Mount Dunstan. He was an obstinate,
haughty devil, and just the fellow to conceal with a fury of
pride a score of tender places in his hide.
At the ball he had seen that the girl's effect had been of
a kind which even money and good looks uncombined with
another thing might not have produced. And she had the
other thing--whatsoever it might be. He observed the way
in which the Dunholms met and greeted her, he marked the
glance of the royal personage, and his manner, when after
her presentation he conversed with and detained her, he saw
the turning of heads and exchange of remarks as she moved
through the rooms. Most especially, he took in the bearing
of the very grand old ladies, led by Lady Alanby of Dole.
Barriers had thrown themselves down, these portentous,
rigorous old pussycats admired her, even liked her.
"Upon my word," he said to himself. "She has a way with
her, you know. She is a combination of Ethel Newcome and
Becky Sharp. But she is more level-headed than either of them,
There's a touch of Trix Esmond, too."
The sense of the success which followed her, and the gradually-
growing excitement of looking on at her light whirls of
dance, the carnation of her cheek, and the laughter and pleasure
she drew about her, had affected him in a way by which
he was secretly a little exhilarated. He was conscious of a
rash desire to force his way through these laughing, vaunting
young idiots, juggle or snatch their dances away from them,
and seize on the girl himself. He had not for so long a time
been impelled by such agreeable folly that he had sometimes
felt the stab of the thought that he was past it. That it
should rise in him again made him feel young. There was
nothing which so irritated him against Mount Dunstan as
his own rebelling recognition of the man's youth, the strength
of his fine body, his high-held head and clear eye.
These things and others it was which swayed him, as was plain to
Betty in the time which followed, to many changes of mood.
"Are you sorry for a man who is ill and depressed," he
asked one day, "or do you despise him?"
"I am sorry."
"Then be sorry for me."
He had come out of the house to her as she sat on the lawn,
under a broad, level-branched tree, and had thrown himself
upon a rug with his hands clasped behind his head.
"Are you ill?"
"When I was on the Riviera I had a fall." He lied simply.
"I strained some muscle or other, and it has left me
rather lame. Sometimes I have a good deal of pain."
"I am very sorry," said Betty. "Very."
A woman who can be made sorry it is rarely impossible to
manage. To dwell with pathetic patience on your grievances,
if she is weak and unintelligent, to deplore, with honest regret,
your faults and blunders, if she is strong, are not bad ideas.
He looked at her reflectively.
"Yes, you are capable of being sorry," he decided. For
a few moments of silence his eyes rested upon the view spread
before him. To give the expression of dignified reflection
was not a bad idea either.
"Do you know," he said at length, "that you produce an
extraordinary effect upon me, Betty?"
She was occupying herself by adding a few stitches to one
of Rosy's ancient strips of embroidery, and as she answered,
she laid it flat upon her knee to consider its effect
"Good or bad?" she inquired, with delicate abstraction.
He turned his face towards her again--this time quickly.
"Both," he answered. "Both."
His tone held the flash of a heat which he felt should have
startled her slightly. But apparently it did not.
"I do not like `both,' " with composed lightness. "If you
had said that you felt yourself develop angelic qualities when
you were near me, I should feel flattered, and swell with
pride. But `both' leaves me unsatisfied. It interferes with
the happy little conceit that one is an all-pervading, beneficent
power. One likes to contemplate a large picture of one's self--
not plain, but coloured--as a wholesale reformer."
"I see. Thank you," stiffly and flushing. "You do not
Her effect upon him was such that, for the moment, he
found himself choosing to believe that he was in earnest. His
desire to impress her with his mood had actually led to this
result. She ought to have been rather moved--a little fluttered,
perhaps, at hearing that she disturbed his equilibrium.
"You set yourself against me, as a child, Betty," he said.
"And you set yourself against me now. You will not give
me fair play. You might give me fair play." He dropped his
voice at the last sentence, and knew it was well done. A
touch of hopelessness is not often lost on a woman.
"What would you consider fair play?" she inquired.
"It would be fair to listen to me without prejudice--to let
me explain how it has happened that I have appeared to you
a--a blackguard--I have no doubt you would call it--and a
fool." He threw out his hand in an impatient gesture--impatient
of himself--his fate--the tricks of bad fortune which it
implied had made of him a more erring mortal than he would
have been if left to himself, and treated decently.
"Do not put it so strongly," with conservative politeness.
"I don't refuse to admit that I am handicapped by a
devil of a temperament. That is an inherited thing."
"Ah!" said Betty. "One of the temperaments one reads
about--for which no one is to be blamed but one's deceased
relatives. After all, that is comparatively easy to deal with.
One can just go on doing what one wants to do--and then
condemn one's grandparents severely."
A repellent quality in her--which had also the trick of
transforming itself into an exasperating attraction--was that
she deprived him of the luxury he had been most tenacious
of throughout his existence. If the injustice of fate has failed
to bestow upon a man fortune, good looks or brilliance, his
exercise of the power to disturb, to enrage those who dare not
resent, to wound and take the nonsense out of those about him,
will, at all events, preclude the possibility of his being passed
over as a factor not to be considered. If to charm and bestow
gives the sense of power, to thwart and humiliate may be
found not wholly unsatisfying.
But in her case the inadequacy of the usual methods had
forced itself upon him. It was as if the dart being aimed
at her, she caught it in her hand in its flight, broke off its
point and threw it lightly aside without comment. Most
women cannot resist the temptation to answer a speech containing
a sting or a reproach. It was part of her abnormality that
she could let such things go by in a detached silence, which
did not express even the germ of comment or opinion upon
them. This, he said, was the result of her beastly sense of
security, which, in its turn, was the result of the atmosphere
of wealth she had breathed since her birth. There had been
no obstacle which could not be removed for her, no law of
limitation had laid its rein on her neck. She had not been
taught by her existence the importance of propitiating opinion.
Under such conditions, how was fear to be learned? She had
not learned it. But for the devil in the blue between her
lashes, he realised that he should have broken loose long ago.
"I suppose I deserved that for making a stupid appeal to
sympathy," he remarked. "I will not do it again."
If she had been the woman who can be gently goaded into
reply, she would have made answer to this. But she allowed
the observation to pass, giving it free flight into space, where
it lost itself after the annoying manner of its kind.
"Have you any objection to telling me why you decided
to come to England this year?" he inquired, with a casual
air, after the pause which she did not fill in.
The bluntness of the question did not seem to disturb her.
She was not sorry, in fact, that he had asked it. She let her
work lie upon her knee, and leaned back in her low garden
chair, her hands resting upon its wicker arms. She turned on
him a clear unprejudiced gaze.
"I came to see Rosy. I have always been very fond of
her. I did not believe that she had forgotten how much we
had loved her, or how much she had loved us. I knew that
if I could see her again I should understand why she had
seemed to forget us."
"And when you saw her, you, of course, decided that I had
behaved, to quote my own words--like a blackguard and a
"It is, of course, very rude to say you have behaved like
a fool, but--if you'll excuse my saying so--that is what has
impressed me very much. Don't you know," with a moderation,
which singularly drove itself home, "that if you had
been kind to her, and had made her happy, you could have
had anything you wished for--without trouble?"
This was one of the unadorned facts which are like bullets.
Disgustedly, he found himself veering towards an outlook
which forced him to admit that there was probably truth in
what she said, and he knew he heard more truth as she went on.
"She would have wanted only what you wanted, and she
would not have asked much in return. She would not have
asked as much as I should. What you did was not business-
like." She paused a moment to give thought to it. "You paid
too high a price for the luxury of indulging the inherited
temperament. Your luxury was not to control it. But it was a
"The figure of speech is rather commercial," coldly.
"It is curious that most things are, as a rule. There is
always the parallel of profit and loss whether one sees it or
not. The profits are happiness and friendship--enjoyment of
life and approbation. If the inherited temperament supplies
one with all one wants of such things, it cannot be called a
loss, of course."
"You think, however, that mine has not brought me much?"
"I do not know. It is you who know."
"Well," viciously, "there HAS been a sort of luxury in it
in lashing out with one's heels, and smashing things--and in
knowing that people prefer to keep clear."
She lifted her shoulders a little.
"Then perhaps it has paid."
"No," suddenly and fiercely, "damn it, it has not!"
And she actually made no reply to that.
"What do you mean to do?" he questioned as bluntly as
before. He knew she would understand what he meant.
"Not much. To see that Rosy is not unhappy any more.
We can prevent that. She was out of repair--as the house
was. She is being rebuilt and decorated. She knows that she
will be taken care of."
"I know her better than you do," with a laugh. "She will
not go away. She is too frightened of the row it would make--
of what I should say. I should have plenty to say. I can make
her shake in her shoes."
Betty let her eyes rest full upon him, and he saw that she
was softly summing him up--quite without prejudice, merely
in interested speculation upon the workings of type.
"You are letting the inherited temperament run away with
you at this moment," she reflected aloud--her quiet scrutiny
almost abstracted. "It was foolish to say that."
He had known it was foolish two seconds after the words
had left his lips. But a temper which has been allowed to
leap hedges, unchecked throughout life, is in peril of forming
a habit of taking them even at such times as a leap may land
its owner in a ditch. This last was what her interested eyes
were obviously saying. It suited him best at the moment to
try to laugh.
"Don't look at me like that," he threw off. "As if you
were calculating that two and two make four."
"No prejudice of mine can induce them to make five or
six--or three and a half," she said. "No prejudice of mine--
or of yours."
The two and two she was calculating with were the
likelihoods and unlikelihoods of the inherited temperament, and
the practical powers she could absolutely count on if difficulty
arose with regard to Rosy.
He guessed at this, and began to make calculations himself.
But there was no further conversation for them, as they
were obliged to rise to their feet to receive visitors. Lady
Alanby of Dole and Sir Thomas, her grandson, were being
brought out of the house to them by Rosalie.
He went forward to meet them--his manner that of the
graceful host. Lady Alanby, having been welcomed by him,
and led to the most comfortable, tree-shaded chair, found his
bearing so elegantly chastened that she gazed at him with
private curiosity. To her far-seeing and highly experienced
old mind it seemed the bearing of a man who was "up to
something." What special thing did he chance to be "up
to"? His glance certainly lurked after Miss Vanderpoel oddly.
Was he falling in unholy love with the girl, under his stupid
little wife's very nose?
She could not, however, give her undivided attention to him,
as she wished to keep her eye on her grandson and--outrageously
enough fit happened that just as tea was brought out
and Tommy was beginning to cheer up and quite come out
a little under the spur of the activities of handing bread and
butter and cress sandwiches, who should appear but the two
Lithcom girls, escorted by their aunt, Mrs. Manners, with
whom they lived. As they were orphans without money, if
the Manners, who were rather well off, had not taken them
in, they would have had to go to the workhouse, or into genteel
amateur shops, as they were not clever enough for governesses.
Mary, with her turned-up nose, looked just about as usual,
but Jane had a new frock on which was exactly the colour
of the big, appealing eyes, with their trick of following people
about. She looked a little pale and pathetic, which somehow
gave her a specious air of being pretty, which she really was
not at all. The swaying young thinness of those very slight
girls whose soft summer muslins make them look like delicate
bags tied in the middle with fluttering ribbons, has almost
invariably a foolish attraction for burly young men whose
characters are chiefly marked by lack of forethought, and Lady
Alanby saw Tommy's robust young body give a sort of jerk
as the party of three was brought across the grass. After
it he pulled himself together hastily, and looked stiff and
pink, shaking hands as if his elbow joint was out of order,
being at once too loose and too rigid. He began to be clumsy
with the bread and butter, and, ceasing his talk with Miss
Vanderpoel, fell into silence. Why should he go on talking?
he thought. Miss Vanderpoel was a cracking handsome girl,
but she was too clever for him, and he had to think of all
sorts of new things to say when he talked to her. And--
well, a fellow could never imagine himself stretched out on
the grass, puffing happily away at a pipe, with a girl like
that sitting near him, smiling--the hot turf smelling almost
like hay, the hot blue sky curving overhead, and both the girl
and himself perfectly happy--chock full of joy--though neither
of them were saying anything at all. You could imagine it
with some girls--you DID imagine it when you wakened early
on a summer morning, and lay in luxurious stillness listening
to the birds singing like mad.
Lady Jane was a nicely-behaved girl, and she tried to keep
her following blue eyes fixed on the grass, or on Lady
Anstruthers, or Miss Vanderpoel, but there was something like
a string, which sometimes pulled them in another direction,
and once when this had happened--quite against her will--she
was terrified to find Lady Alanby's glass lifted and fixed upon
As Lady Alanby's opinion of Mrs. Manners was but a poor
one, and as Mrs. Manners was stricken dumb by her combined
dislike and awe of Lady Alanby, a slight stiffness might
have settled upon the gathering if Betty had not made an
effort. She applied herself to Lady Alanby and Mrs. Manners
at once, and ended by making them talk to each other.
When they left the tea table under the trees to look at the
gardens, she walked between them, playing upon the primeval
horticultural passions which dominate the existence of all
respectable and normal country ladies, until the gulf between
them was temporarily bridged. This being achieved, she adroitly
passed them over to Lady Anstruthers, who, Nigel observed
with some curiosity, accepted the casual responsibility without
To the aching Tommy the manner in which, a few minutes
later, he found himself standing alone with Jane Lithcom in
a path of clipped laurels was almost bewilderingly simple.
At the end of the laurel walk was a pretty peep of the country,
and Miss Vanderpoel had brought him to see it. Nigel
Anstruthers had been loitering behind with Jane and Mary. As
Miss Vanderpoel turned with him into the path, she stooped
and picked a blossom from a clump of speedwell growing
at the foot of a bit of wall.
"Lady Jane's eyes are just the colour of this flower," she
"Yes, they are," he answered, glancing down at the lovely
little blue thing as she held it in her hand. And then, with
a thump of the heart, "Most people do not think she is
pretty, but I--" quite desperately--"I DO." His mood had
"So do I," Betty Vanderpoel answered.
Then the others joined them, and Miss Vanderpoel paused
to talk a little--and when they went on she was with Mary
and Nigel Anstruthers, and he was with Jane, walking slowly,
and somehow the others melted away, turning in a perfectly
natural manner into a side path. Their own slow pace became
slower. In fact, in a few moments, they were standing quite
still between the green walls. Jane turned a little aside, and
picked off some small leaves, nervously. He saw the muslin
on her chest lift quiveringly.
"Oh, little Jane!" he said in a big, shaky whisper. The
following eyes incontinently brimmed over. Some shining
drops fell on the softness of the blue muslin.
"Oh, Tommy," giving up, "it's no use--talking at all."
"You mustn't think--you mustn't think--ANYTHING," he falteringly
commanded, drawing nearer, because it was impossible not to do
What he really meant, though he did not know how
decorously to say it, was that she must not think that he could
be moved by any tall beauty, towards the splendour of whose
possessions his revered grandmother might be driving him.
"I am not thinking anything," cried Jane in answer. "But
she is everything, and I am nothing. Just look at her--and
then look at me, Tommy."
"I'll look at you as long as you'll let me," gulped Tommy,
and he was boy enough and man enough to put a hand on each of her
shoulders, and drown his longing in her brimming eyes.
. . . . .
Mary and Miss Vanderpoel were talking with a curious
intimacy, in another part of the garden, where they were
together alone, Sir Nigel having been reattached to Lady Alanby.
"You have known Sir Thomas a long time?" Betty had just said.
"Since we were children. Jane reminded me at the Dunholms' ball
that she had played cricket with him when she was eight."
"They have always liked each other?" Miss Vanderpoel suggested.
Mary looked up at her, and the meeting of their eyes was
frank to revelation. But for the clear girlish liking for
herself she saw in Betty Vanderpoel's, Mary would have known
her next speech to be of imbecile bluntness. She had heard
that Americans often had a queer, delightful understanding of
unconventional things. This splendid girl was understanding her.
"Oh! You SEE!" she broke out. "You left them together on
"Yes, I did." And there was a comprehension so deep in
her look that Mary knew it was deeper than her own, and
somehow founded on some subtler feeling than her own.
"When two people want so much--care so much to be
together," Miss Vanderpoel added quite slowly--even as if the
words rather forced themselves from her, "it seems as if the
whole world ought to help them--everything in the world--
the very wind, and rain, and sun, and stars--oh, things have
no RIGHT to keep them apart."
Mary stared at her, moved and fascinated. She scarcely
knew that she caught at her hand.
"I have never been in the state that Jane is," she poured
forth. "And I can't understand how she can be such a fool,
but--but we care about each other more than most girls do--
perhaps because we have had no people. And it's the kind
of thing there is no use talking against, it seems. It's killing
the youngness in her. If it ends miserably, it will be as if
she had had an illness, and got up from it a faded, done-for
spinster with a stretch of hideous years to live. Her blue
eyes will look like boiled gooseberries, because she will have
cried all the colour out of them. Oh! You UNDERSTAND! I
see you do."
Before she had finished both Miss Vanderpoel's hands were
"I do! I do," she said. And she did, as a year ago she
had not known she could. "Is it Lady Alanby?" she ventured.
"Yes. Tommy will be helplessly poor if she does not leave
him her money. And she won't if he makes her angry. She
is very determined. She will leave it to an awful cousin if
she gets in a rage. And Tommy is not clever. He could never
earn his living. Neither could Jane. They could NEVER marry.
You CAN'T defy relatives, and marry on nothing, unless you are
a character in a book."
"Has she liked Lady Jane in the past?" Miss Vanderpoel
asked, as if she was, mentally, rapidly going over the ground,
that she might quite comprehend everything.
"Yes. She used to make rather a pet of her. She didn't
like me. She was taken by Jane's meek, attentive, obedient
ways. Jane was born a sweet little affectionate worm. Lady
Alanby can't hate her, even now. She just pushes her out of
"Because?" said Betty Vanderpoel.
Mary prefaced her answer with a brief, half-embarrassed laugh.
"Because of YOU."
"Because she thinks----?"
"I don't see how she can believe he has much of a chance.
I don't think she does--but she will never forgive him if
he doesn't make a try at finding out whether he has one or not."
"It is very businesslike," Betty made observation.
"We talk of American business outlook," she said, "but
very few of us English people are dreamy idealists. We are
of a coolness and a daring--when we are dealing with questions
of this sort. I don't think you can know the thing you
have brought here. You descend on a dull country place,
with your money and your looks, and you simply STAY and
amuse yourself by doing extraordinary things, as if there was
no London waiting for you. Everyone knows this won't last.
Next season you will be presented, and have a huge success.
You will be whirled about in a vortex, and people will sit
on the edge, and cast big strong lines, baited with the most
glittering things they can get together. You won't be able
to get away. Lady Alanby knows there would be no chance
for Tommy then. It would be too idiotic to expect it. He
must make his try now."
Their eyes met again, and Miss Vanderpoel looked neither shocked
nor angry, but an odd small shadow swept across her face. Mary,
of course, did not know that she was thinking of the thing she
had realised so often--that it was not easy to detach one's self
from the fact that one was Reuben S. Vanderpoel's daughter. As a
result of it here one was indecently and unwillingly disturbing
the lives of innocent, unassuming lovers.
"And so long as Sir Thomas has not tried--and found out--
Lady Jane will be made unhappy?"
"If he were to let you escape without trying, he would not
be forgiven. His grandmother has had her own way all her
"But suppose after I went away someone else came?"
Mary shook her head.
"People like you don't HAPPEN in one neighbourhood twice in a
lifetime. I am twenty-six and you are the first I have seen."
"And he will only be safe if?"
Mary Lithcom nodded.
"Yes--IF," she answered. "It's silly--and frightful--but
it is true."
Miss Vanderpoel looked down on the grass a few moments,
and then seemed to arrive at a decision.
"He likes you? You can make him understand things?" she
"Then go and tell him that if he will come here and ask
me a direct question, I will give him a direct answer--which
will satisfy Lady Alanby."
Lady Mary caught her breath.
"Do you know, you are the most wonderful girl I ever
saw!" she exclaimed. "But if you only knew what I feel about
Janie!" And tears rushed into her eyes.
"I feel just the same thing about my sister," said Miss
Vanderpoel. "I think Rosy and Lady Jane are rather alike."
. . . . .
When Tommy tramped across the grass towards her he was
turning red and white by turns, and looking somewhat like
a young man who was being marched up to a cannon's mouth.
It struck him that it was an American kind of thing he was
called upon to do, and he was not an American, but British
from the top of his closely-cropped head to the rather thick
soles of his boots. He was, in truth, overwhelmed by his
sense of his inadequacy to the demands of the brilliantly
conceived, but unheard-of situation. Joy and terror swept over
his being in waves.
The tall, proud, wood-nymph look of her as she stood under
a tree, waiting for him, would have struck his courage dead
on the spot and caused him to turn and flee in anguish, if she
had not made a little move towards him, with a heavenly,
every-day humanness in her eyes. The way she managed it was an
amazing thing. He could never have managed it at all himself.
She came forward and gave him her hand, and really it was
HER hand which held his own comparatively steady.
"It is for Lady Jane," she said. "That prevents it from being
ridiculous or improper. It is for Lady Jane. Her eyes," with a
soft-touched laugh, "are the colour of the blue speedwell I
showed you. It is the colour of babies' eyes. And hers look as
theirs do--as if they asked everybody not to hurt them."
He actually fell upon his knee, and bending his head over
her hand, kissed it half a dozen times with adoration. Good
Lord, how she SAW and KNEW!
"If Jane were not Jane, and you were not YOU," the words
rushed from him, "it would be the most outrageous--the most
impudent thing a man ever had the cheek to do."
"But it is not." She did not draw her hand away, and
oh, the girlish kindness of her smiling, supporting look. "You
came to ask me if----"
"If you would marry me, Miss Vanderpoel," his head bending
over her hand again. "I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon.
Oh Lord, I do.'
"I thank you for the compliment you pay me," she answered. "I
like you very much, Sir Thomas--and I like you just now more than
ever--but I could not marry you. I should not make you happy,
and I should not be happy myself. The truth is----" thinking a
moment, "each of us really belongs to a different kind of person.
And each of knows the fact."
"God bless you," he said. "I think you know everything
in the world a woman can know--and remain an angel."
It was an outburst of eloquence, and she took it in the
prettiest way--with the prettiest laugh, which had in it no touch
of mockery or disbelief in him.
"What I have said is quite final--if Lady Alanby should
inquire," she said--adding rather quickly, "Someone is coming."
It pleased her to see that he did not hurry to his feet clumsily,
but even stood upright, with a shade of boyish dignity, and did
not release her hand before he had bent his head low over it
Sir Nigel was bringing with him Lady Alanby, Mrs. Manners,
and his wife, and when Betty met his eyes, she knew
at once that he had not made his way to this particular
garden without intention. He had discovered that she was
with Tommy, and it had entertained him to break in upon them.
"I did not intend to interrupt Sir Thomas at his devotions,"
he remarked to her after dinner. "Accept my apologies."
"It did not matter in the least, thank you," said Betty.
. . . . .
"I am glad to be able to say, Thomas, that you did not look
an entire fool when you got up from your knees, as we came
into the rose garden." Thus Lady Alanby, as their carriage
turned out of Stornham village.
"I'm glad myself," Tommy answered.
"What were you doing there? Even if you were asking
her to marry you, it was not necessary to go that far. We
are not in the seventeenth century.
Then Tommy flushed.
"I did not intend to do it. I could not help it. She was
so--so nice about everything. That girl is an angel. I told
"Very right and proper spirit to approach her in," answered
the old woman, watching him keenly. "Was she angel enough
to say she would marry you?"
Tommy, for some occult reason, had the courage to stare
back into his grandmother's eyes, quite as if he were a man,
and not a hobbledehoy, expecting to be bullied.
"She does not want me," he answered. "And I knew she
wouldn't. Why should she? I did what you ordered me to
do, and she answered me as I knew she would. She might
have snubbed me, but she has such a way with her--such a
way of saying things and understanding, that--that--well, I
found myself on one knee, kissing her hand--as if I was being
presented at court."
Old Lady Alanby looked out on the passing landscape.
"Well, you did your best," she summed the matter up at
last, "if you went down on your knees involuntarily. If you
had done it on purpose, it would have been unpardonable."
Stornham Court had taken its proper position in the county
as a place which was equal to social exchange in the matter
of entertainment. Sir Nigel and Lady Anstruthers had given
a garden party, according to the decrees of the law obtaining
in country neighbourhoods. The curiosity to behold Miss
Vanderpoel, and the change which had been worked in the well-
known desolation and disrepair, precluded the possibility of the
refusal of any invitations sent, the recipient being in his or
her right mind, and sound in wind and limb. That astonishing
things had been accomplished, and that the party was a
successful affair, could not but be accepted as truths. Garden
parties had been heard of, were a trifle repetitional, and
even dull, but at this one there was real music and real dancing,
and clever entertainments were given at intervals in a
green-embowered little theatre, erected for the occasion. These
were agreeable additions to mere food and conversation, which
were capable of palling.
To the garden party the Anstruthers did not confine
themselves. There were dinner parties at Stornham, and they also
were successful functions. The guests were of those who
make for the success of such entertainments.
"I called upon Mount Dunstan this afternoon," Sir Nigel
said one evening, before the first of these dinners. "He might
expect it, as one is asking him to dine. I wish him to be asked.
The Dunholms have taken him up so tremendously that no
festivity seems complete without him."
He had been invited to the garden party, and had appeared, but
Betty had seen little of him. It is easy to see little of a
guest at an out-of-door festivity. In assisting Rosalie to
attend to her visitors she had been much occupied, but she had
known that she might have seen more of him, if he had intended
that it should be so. He did not--for reasons of his own--intend
that it should be so, and this she became aware of. So she
walked, played in the bowling green, danced and talked with
Westholt, Tommy Alanby and others.
"He does not want to talk to me. He will not, if he can
avoid it," was what she said to herself.
She saw that he rather sought out Mary Lithcom, who was not
accustomed to receiving special attention. The two walked
together, danced together, and in adjoining chairs watched the
performance in the embowered theatre. Lady Mary enjoyed her
companion very much, but she wondered why he had
attached himself to her.
Betty Vanderpoel asked herself what they talked to each
other about, and did not suspect the truth, which was that
they talked a good deal of herself.
"Have you seen much of Miss Vanderpoel?" Lady Mary had begun by
"I have SEEN her a good deal, as no doubt you have."
Lady Mary's plain face expressed a somewhat touched
"Do you know," she said, "that the garden parties have
been a different thing this whole summer, just because one
always knew one would see her at them?"
A short laugh from Mount Dunstan.
"Jane and I have gone to every garden party within twenty
miles, ever since we left the schoolroom. And we are very
tired of them. But this year we have quite cheered up. When
we are dressing to go to something dull, we say to each other,
`Well, at any rate, Miss Vanderpoel will be there, and we
shall see what she has on, and how her things are made,' and
that's something--besides the fun of watching people make
up to her, and hearing them talk about the men who want to
marry her, and wonder which one she will take. She will not
take anyone in this place," the nice turned-up nose slightly
suggesting a derisive sniff. "Who is there who is suitable?"
Mount Dunstan laughed shortly again.
"How do you know I am not an aspirant myself?" he said.
He had a mirthless sense of enjoyment in his own brazenness.
Only he himself knew how brazen the speech was.
Lady Mary looked at him with entire composure.
"I am quite sure you are not an aspirant for anybody. And I
happen to know that you dislike moneyed international marriages.
You are so obviously British that, even if I had not been
told that, I should know it was true. Miss Vanderpoel herself
knows it is true."
"Lady Alanby spoke of it to Sir Nigel, and I heard Sir Nigel
"Exactly the kind of unnecessary thing he would be likely
to repeat." He cast the subject aside as if it were a worthless
superfluity and went on: "When you say there is no one suitable,
you surely forget Lord Westholt."
"Yes, it's true I forgot him for the moment. But--" with
a laugh--"one rather feels as if she would require a royal duke
or something of that sort."
"You think she expects that kind of thing?" rather indifferently.
"She? She doesn't think of the subject. She simply thinks
of other things--of Lady Anstruthers and Ughtred, of the work
at Stornham and the village life, which gives her new emotions
and interest. She also thinks about being nice to people. She
is nicer than any girl I know."
"You feel, however, she has a right to expect it?" still
without more than a casual air of interest.
"Well, what do you feel yourself?" said Lady Mary. "Women who
look like that--even when they are not millionairesses--
usually marry whom they choose. I do not believe
that the two beautiful Miss Gunnings rolled into one would
have made anything as undeniable as she is. One has seen
portraits of them. Look at her as she stands there talking to
Tommy and Lord Dunholm!"
Internally Mount Dunstan was saying: "I am looking at
her, thank you," and setting his teeth a little.
But Lady Mary was launched upon a subject which swept
her along with it, and she--so to speak--ground the thing in.
"Look at the turn of her head! Look at her mouth and chin, and
her eyes with the lashes sweeping over them when she looks down!
You must have noticed the effect when she lifts them suddenly to
look at you. It's so odd and lovely that it--it almost----"
"Almost makes you jump," ended Mount Dunstan drily.
She did not laugh and, in fact, her expression became rather
"Ah," she said, "I believe you feel a sort of rebellion
against the unfairness of the way things are dealt out. It does
seem unfair, of course. It would be perfectly disgraceful--if
she were different. I had moments of almost hating her until
one day not long ago she did something so bewitchingly kind
and understanding of other people's feelings that I gave up. It
was clever, too," with a laugh, "clever and daring. If she
were a young man she would make a dashing soldier."
She did not give him the details of the story, but went on
to say in effect what she had said to Betty herself of the
inevitable incidentalness of her stay in the country. If she had
not evidently come to Stornham this year with a purpose, she
would have spent the season in London and done the usual thing.
Americans were generally presented promptly, if they had any
position--sometimes when they had not. Lady Alanby had
heard that the fact that she was with her sister had awakened
curiosity and people were talking about her.
"Lady Alanby said in that dry way of hers that the arrival
of an unmarried American fortune in England was becoming
rather like the visit of an unmarried royalty. People ask each
other what it means and begin to arrange for it. So far, only
the women have come, but Lady Alanby says that is because the
men have had no time to do anything but stay at home and
make the fortunes. She believes that in another generation
there will be a male leisure class, and then it will swoop down
too, and marry people. She was very sharp and amusing about
it. She said it would help them to rid themselves of a plethora
of wealth and keep them from bursting."
She was an amiable, if unsentimental person, Mary Lithcom
--and was, quite without ill nature, expressing the consensus
of public opinion. These young women came to the country
with something practical to exchange in these days, and as
there were men who had certain equivalents to offer, so also
there were men who had none, and whom decency should cause
to stand aside. Mount Dunstan knew that when she had said,
"Who is there who is suitable?" any shadow of a thought of
himself as being in the running had not crossed her mind.
And this was not only for the reasons she had had the ready
composure to name, but for one less conquerable.
Later, having left Mary Lithcom, he decided to take a turn
by himself. He had done his duty as a masculine guest. He
had conversed with young women and old ones, had danced, visited
gardens and greenhouses, and taken his part in all things.
Also he had, in fact, reached a point when a few minutes of
solitude seemed a good thing. He found himself turning into
the clipped laurel walk, where Tommy Alanby had stood with
Jane Lithcom, and he went to the end of it and stood looking
out on the view.
"Look at the turn of her head," Lady Mary had said.
"Look at her mouth and chin." And he had been looking at
them the whole afternoon, not because he had intended to do
so, but because it was not possible to prevent himself from
This was one of the ironies of fate. Orthodox doctrine might
suggest that it was to teach him that his past rebellion had
been undue. Orthodox doctrine was ever ready with these
soothing little explanations. He had raged and sulked at
Destiny, and now he had been given something to rage for.
"No one knows anything about it until it takes him by
the throat," he was thinking, "and until it happens to a man
he has no right to complain. I was not starving before. I was
not hungering and thirsting--in sight of food and water. I
suppose one of the most awful things in the world is to feel this
and know it is no use."
He was not in the condition to reason calmly enough to see
that there might be one chance in a thousand that it was of
use. At such times the most intelligent of men and women lose
balance and mental perspicacity. A certain degree of unreasoning
madness possesses them. They see too much and too little.
There were, it was true, a thousand chances against him, but
there was one for him--the chance that selection might be on
his side. He had not that balance of thought left which might
have suggested to him that he was a man young and powerful,
and filled with an immense passion which might count for
something. All he saw was that he was notably in the position
of the men whom he had privately disdained when they helped
themselves by marriage. Such marriages he had held were
insults to the manhood of any man and the womanhood of any
woman. In such unions neither party could respect himself or
his companion. They must always in secret doubt each other,
fret at themselves, feel distaste for the whole thing. Even if a
man loved such a woman, and the feeling was mutual, to whom
would it occur to believe it--to see that they were not gross
and contemptible? To no one. Would it have occurred to
himself that such an extenuating circumstance was possible?
Certainly it would not. Pig-headed pride and obstinacy it
might be, but he could not yet face even the mere thought of
it--even if his whole position had not been grotesque. Because,
after all, it was grotesque that he should even argue with
himself. She--before his eyes and the eyes of all others--the
most desirable of women; people dinning it in one's ears that she
was surrounded by besiegers who waited for her to hold out
her sceptre, and he--well, what was he! Not that his mental
attitude was that of a meek and humble lover who felt himself
unworthy and prostrated himself before her shrine with prayers
--he was, on the contrary, a stout and obstinate Briton finding
his stubbornly-held beliefs made as naught by a certain obsession
--an intolerable longing which wakened with him in the morning,
which sank into troubled sleep with him at night--the longing to
see her, to speak to her, to stand near her, to breathe
the air of her. And possessed by this--full of the overpowering
strength of it--was a man likely to go to a woman and say,
"Give your life and desirableness to me; and incidentally support
me, feed me, clothe me, keep the roof over my head, as if
I were an impotent beggar"?
"No, by God!" he said. "If she thinks of me at all it
shall be as a man. No, by God, I will not sink to that!"
. . . . .
A moving touch of colour caught his eye. It was the rose of
a parasol seen above the laurel hedge, as someone turned into
the walk. He knew the colour of it and expected to see other
parasols and hear voices. But there was no sound, and
unaccompanied, the wonderful rose-thing moved towards him.
"The usual things are happening to me," was his thought
as it advanced. "I am hot and cold, and just now my heart
leaped like a rabbit. It would be wise to walk off, but I shall
not do it. I shall stay here, because I am no longer a reasoning
being. I suppose that a horse who refuses to back out of his
stall when his stable is on fire feels something of the same
When she saw him she made an involuntary-looking pause,
and then recovering herself, came forward.
"I seem to have come in search of you," she said. "You
ought to be showing someone the view really--and so ought I."
"Shall we show it to each other?" was his reply.
"Yes." And she sat down on the stone seat which had been
placed for the comfort of view lovers. "I am a little tired--
just enough to feel that to slink away for a moment alone
would be agreeable. It IS slinking to leave Rosalie to battle
with half the county. But I shall only stay a few minutes."
She sat still and gazed at the beautiful lands spread before
her, but there was no stillness in her mind, neither was there
stillness in his. He did not look at the view, but at her, and
he was asking himself what he should be saying to her if he
were such a man as Westholt. Though he had boldness enough,
he knew that no man--even though he is free to speak the best
and most passionate thoughts of his soul--could be sure that
he would gain what he desired. The good fortune of Westholt,
or of any other, could but give him one man's fair chance.
But having that chance, he knew he should not relinquish it
soon. There swept back into his mind the story of the marriage
of his ancestor, Red Godwyn, and he laughed low in spite
Miss Vanderpoel looked up at him quickly.
"Please tell me about it, if it is very amusing," she said.
"I wonder if it will amuse you," was his answer. "Do you
like savage romance?"
It might seem a propos de rien, but he did not care in the
least. He wanted to hear what she would say.
"An ancestor of mine--a certain Red Godwyn--was a barbarian
immensely to my taste. He became enamoured of rumours of the
beauty of the daughter and heiress of his bitterest
enemy. In his day, when one wanted a thing, one rode forth
with axe and spear to fight for it."
"A simple and alluring method," commented Betty. "What
was her name?"
She leaned in light ease against the stone back of her seat,
the rose light cast by her parasol faintly flushed her. The
silence of their retreat seemed accentuated by its background
of music from the gardens. They smiled a second bravely into
each other's eyes, then their glances became entangled, as they
had done for a moment when they had stood together in Mount
Dunstan park. For one moment each had been held prisoner
then--now it was for longer.
"Alys of the Sea-Blue Eyes."
Betty tried to release herself, but could not.
"Sometimes the sea is grey," she said.
His own eyes were still in hers.
"Hers were the colour of the sea on a day when the sun shines on
it, and there are large fleece-white clouds floating in the blue
above. They sparkled and were often like bluebells under water."
"Bluebells under water sounds entrancing," said Betty.
He caught his breath slightly.
"They were--entrancing," he said. "That was evidently
the devil of it--saving your presence."
"I have never objected to the devil," said Betty. "He is
an energetic, hard-working creature and paints himself an
honest black. Please tell me the rest."
"Red Godwyn went forth, and after a bloody fight took his
enemy's castle. If we still lived in like simple, honest times,
I should take Dunholm Castle in the same way. He also took
Alys of the Eyes and bore her away captive."
"From such incidents developed the germs of the desire for
female suffrage," Miss Vanderpoel observed gently.
"The interest of the story lies in the fact that apparently
the savage was either epicure or sentimentalist, or both. He
did not treat the lady ill. He shut her in a tower chamber
overlooking his courtyard, and after allowing her three days to
weep, he began his barbarian wooing. Arraying himself in
splendour he ordered her to appear before him. He sat upon
the dais in his banquet hall, his retainers gathered about him--
a great feast spread. In archaic English we are told that the
board groaned beneath the weight of golden trenchers and
flagons. Minstrels played and sang, while he displayed all
"They do it yet," said Miss Vanderpoel, "in London and
New York and other places."
"The next day, attended by his followers, he took her with
him to ride over his lands. When she returned to her tower
chamber she had learned how powerful and great a chieftain
he was. She `laye softely' and was attended by many maidens,
but she had no entertainment but to look out upon the great
green court. There he arranged games and trials of strength
and skill, and she saw him bigger, stronger, and more splendid
than any other man. He did not even lift his eyes to her
window. He also sent her daily a rich gift."
"How long did this go on?"
"Three months. At the end of that time he commanded
her presence again in his banquet hall. He told her the gates
were opened, the drawbridge down and an escort waiting to take
her back to her father's lands, if she would."
"What did she do?"
"She looked at him long--and long. She turned proudly away--in
the sea-blue eyes were heavy and stormy tears, which seeing----"
"Ah, he saw them?" from Miss Vanderpoel.
"Yes. And seizing her in his arms caught her to his breast,
calling for a priest to make them one within the hour. I am
quoting the chronicle. I was fifteen when I read it first."
"It is spirited," said Betty, "and Red Godwyn was almost
modern in his methods."
While professing composure and lightness of mood, the spell
which works between two creatures of opposite sex when in
such case wrought in them and made them feel awkward and
stiff. When each is held apart from the other by fate, or will,
or circumstance, the spell is a stupefying thing, deadening even
the clearness of sight and wit.
"I must slink back now," Betty said, rising. "Will you
slink back with me to give me countenance? I have greatly
liked Red Godwyn."
So it occurred that when Nigel Anstruthers saw them again
it was as they crossed the lawn together, and people looked up
from ices and cups of tea to follow their slow progress with
questioning or approving eyes.
THE TIDAL WAVE
There was only one man to speak to, and it being the nature
of the beast--so he harshly put it to himself--to be absolutely
impelled to speech at such times, Mount Dunstan laid bare his
breast to him, tearing aside all the coverings pride would have
folded about him. The man was, of course, Penzance, and the
laying bare was done the evening after the story of Red Godwyn
had been told in the laurel walk.
They had driven home together in a profound silence, the
elder man as deep in thought as the younger one. Penzance
was thinking that there was a calmness in having reached sixty
and in knowing that the pain and hunger of earlier years would
not tear one again. And yet, he himself was not untorn by
that which shook the man for whom his affection had grown
year by year. It was evidently very bad--very bad, indeed.
He wondered if he would speak of it, and wished he would, not
because he himself had much to say in answer, but because he
knew that speech would be better than hard silence.
"Stay with me to-night," Mount Dunstan said, as they
drove through the avenue to the house. "I want you to dine
with me and sit and talk late. I am not sleeping well."
They often dined together, and the vicar not infrequently
slept at the Mount for mere companionship's sake. Sometimes
they read, sometimes went over accounts, planned economies,
and balanced expenditures. A chamber still called the Chaplain's
room was always kept in readiness. It had been used
in long past days, when a household chaplain had sat below
the salt and left his patron's table before the sweets were
served. They dined together this night almost as silently as
they had driven homeward, and after the meal they went and sat
alone in the library.
The huge room was never more than dimly lighted, and the
far-off corners seemed more darkling than usual in the
insufficient illumination of the far from brilliant lamps. Mount
Dunstan, after standing upon the hearth for a few minutes
smoking a pipe, which would have compared ill with old Doby's
Sunday splendour, left his coffee cup upon the mantel and
began to tramp up and down--out of the dim light into the
shadows, back out of the shadows into the poor light.
"You know," he said, "what I think about most things-- you know
what I feel."
"I think I do."
"You know what I feel about Englishmen who brand themselves
as half men and marked merchandise by selling themselves
and their houses and their blood to foreign women who
can buy them. You know how savage I have been at the mere
thought of it. And how I have sworn----"
"Yes, I know what you have sworn," said Mr. Penzance.
It struck him that Mount Dunstan shook and tossed his
head rather like a bull about to charge an enemy.
"You know how I have felt myself perfectly within my rights when
I blackguarded such men and sneered at such women--taking it for
granted that each was merchandise of his or her kind and beneath
contempt. I am not a foul-mouthed man, but I have used gross
words and rough ones to describe them."
"I have heard you."
Mount Dunstan threw back his head with a big, harsh
laugh. He came out of the shadow and stood still.
"Well," he said, "I am in love--as much in love as any
lunatic ever was--with the daughter of Reuben S. Vanderpoel.
There you are--and there _I_ am!"
"It has seemed to me," Penzance answered, "that it was
"My condition is such that it seems to ME that it would
be inevitable in the case of any man. When I see another man
look at her my blood races through my veins with an awful
fear and a wicked heat. That will show you the point I have
reached." He walked over to the mantelpiece and laid his
pipe down with a hand Penzance saw was unsteady. "In
turning over the pages of the volume of Life," he said, "I
have come upon the Book of Revelations."
"That is true," Penzance said.
"Until one has come upon it one is an inchoate fool," Mount
Dunstan went on. "And afterwards one is--for a time at
least--a sort of madman raving to one's self, either in or out of
a straitjacket--as the case may be. I am wearing the jacket
--worse luck! Do you know anything of the state of a man
who cannot utter the most ordinary words to a woman without
being conscious that he is making mad love to her? This
afternoon I found myself telling Miss Vanderpoel the story of Red
Godwyn and Alys of the Sea-Blue Eyes. I did not make a
single statement having any connection with myself, but
throughout I was calling on her to think of herself and of me
as of those two. I saw her in my own arms, with the tears
of Alys on her lashes. I was making mad love, though she
was unconscious of my doing it."
"How do you know she was unconscious?" remarked Mr.
Penzance. "You are a very strong man."
Mount Dunstan's short laugh was even a little awful,
because it meant so much. He let his forehead drop a moment
on to his arms as they rested on the mantelpiece.
"Oh, my God!" he said. But the next instant his head lifted
itself. "It is the mystery of the world--this thing. A tidal
wave gathering itself mountain high and crashing down upon one's
helplessness might be as easily defied. It is supposed
to disperse, I believe. That has been said so often that there
must be truth in it. In twenty or thirty or forty years one is
told one will have got over it. But one must live through the
years--one must LIVE through them--and the chief feature of
one's madness is that one is convinced that they will last
"Go on," said Mr. Penzance, because he had paused and
stood biting his lip. "Say all that you feel inclined to say.
It is the best thing you can do. I have never gone through this
myself, but I have seen and known the amazingness of it for
many years. I have seen it come and go."
"Can you imagine," Mount Dunstan said, "that the most
damnable thought of all--when a man is passing through it--
is the possibility of its GOING? Anything else rather than the
knowledge that years could change or death could end it!
Eternity seems only to offer space for it. One knows--but one
does not believe. It does something to one's brain."
"No scientist, howsoever profound, has ever discovered
what," the vicar mused aloud.
"The Book of Revelations has shown to me how--how
MAGNIFICENT life might be!" Mount Dunstan clenched and
unclenched his hands, his eyes flashing. "Magnificent--that is
the word. To go to her on equal ground to take her hands
and speak one's passion as one would--as her eyes answered.
Oh, one would know! To bring her home to this place--having
made it as it once was--to live with her here--to be WITH
her as the sun rose and set and the seasons changed--with the
joy of life filling each of them. SHE is the joy of Life--the
very heart of it. You see where I am--you see!"
"Yes," Penzance answered. He saw, and bowed his head,
and Mount Dunstan knew he wished him to continue.
"Sometimes--of late--it has been too much for me and I
have given free rein to my fancy--knowing that there could
never be more than fancy. I was doing it this afternoon as I
watched her move about among the people. And Mary Lithcom
began to talk about her." He smiled a grim smile.
"Perhaps it was an intervention of the gods to drag me down
from my impious heights. She was quite unconscious that she
was driving home facts like nails--the facts that every man who
wanted money wanted Reuben S. Vanderpoel's daughter--and
that the young lady, not being dull, was not unaware of the
obvious truth! And that men with prizes to offer were ready
to offer them in a proper manner. Also that she was only a
brilliant bird of passage, who, in a few months, would be
caught in the dazzling net of the great world. And that even
Lord Westholt and Dunholm Castle were not quite what she
might expect. Lady Mary was sincerely interested. She drove
it home in her ardour. She told me to LOOK at her--to LOOK
at her mouth and chin and eyelashes--and to make note of
what she stood for in a crowd of ordinary people. I could
have laughed aloud with rage and self-mockery."
Mr. Penzance was resting his forehead on his hand, his elbow
on his chair's arm.
"This is profound unhappiness," he said. "It is profound
Mount Dunstan answered by a brusque gesture.
"But it will pass away," went on Penzance, "and not as you fear
it must," in answer to another gesture, fiercely impatient. "Not
that way. Some day--or night--you will stand heretogether, and
you will tell her all you have told me. I KNOW it will be so."
"What!" Mount Dunstan cried out. But the words had been spoken
with such absolute conviction that he felt himself become pale.
It was with the same conviction that Penzance went on.
"I have spent my quiet life in thinking of the forces for
which we find no explanation--of the causes of which we only
see the effects. Long ago in looking at you in one of my
pondering moments I said to myself that YOU were of the Primeval
Force which cannot lose its way--which sweeps a clear pathway
for itself as it moves--and which cannot be held back. I said
to you just now that because you are a strong man you cannot
be sure that a woman you are--even in spite of yourself--
making mad love to, is unconscious that you are doing it. You
do not know what your strength lies in. I do not, the woman
does not, but we must all feel it, whether we comprehend it or
no. You said of this fine creature, some time since, that she
was Life, and you have just said again something of the same
kind. It is quite true. She is Life, and the joy of it. You are
two strong forces, and you are drawing together."
He rose from his chair, and going to Mount Dunstan put hishand on
his shoulder, his fine old face singularly rapt and glowing.
"She is drawing you and you are drawing her, and each is too
strong to release the other. I believe that to be true.
Both bodies and souls do it. They are not separate things. They
move on their way as the stars do--they move on their way."
As he spoke, Mount Dunstan's eyes looked into his fixedly.
Then they turned aside and looked down upon the mantel
against which he was leaning. He aimlessly picked up his pipe
and laid it down again. He was paler than before, but he
said no single word.
"You think your reasons for holding aloof from her are the
reasons of a man." Mr. Penzance's voice sounded to him
remote. "They are the reasons of a man's pride--but that is not
the strongest thing in the world. It only imagines it is. You
think that you cannot go to her as a luckier man could. You
think nothing shall force you to speak. Ask yourself why. It
is because you believe that to show your heart would be to
place yourself in the humiliating position of a man who might
seem to her and to the world to be a base fellow."
"An impudent, pushing, base fellow," thrust in Mount Dunstan
fiercely. "One of a vulgar lot. A thing fancying even
its beggary worth buying. What has a man--whose very name
is hung with tattered ugliness--to offer?"
Penzance's hand was still on his shoulder and his look at
him was long.
"His very pride," he said at last, "his very obstinacy and
haughty, stubborn determination. Those broken because the
other feeling is the stronger and overcomes him utterly."
A flush leaped to Mount Dunstan's forehead. He set both
elbows on the mantel and let his forehead fall on his clenched
fists. And the savage Briton rose in him.
"No!" he said passionately. "By God, no!"
"You say that," said the older man, "because you have not
yet reached the end of your tether. Unhappy as you are, you
are not unhappy enough. Of the two, you love yourself the
more--your pride and your stubbornness."
"Yes," between his teeth. "I suppose I retain yet a sort of
respect--and affection--for my pride. May God leave it to me!"
Penzance felt himself curiously exalted; he knew himself
unreasoningly passing through an oddly unpractical, uplifted
moment, in whose impelling he singularly believed.
"You are drawing her and she is drawing you," he said.
"Perhaps you drew each other across seas. You will stand
here together and you will tell her of this--on this very spot."
Mount Dunstan changed his position and laughed roughly, as
if to rouse himself. He threw out his arm in a big, uneasy
gesture, taking in the room.
"Oh, come," he said. "You talk like a seer. Look about
you. Look! I am to bring her here!"
"If it is the primeval thing she will not care. Why should she?"
"She! Bring a life like hers to this! Or perhaps you mean
that her own wealth might make her surroundings becoming--
that a man would endure that?"
"If it is the primeval thing, YOU would not care. You would
have forgotten that you two had ever lived an hour apart."
He spoke with a deep, moved gravity--almost as if he were
speaking of the first Titan building of the earth. Mount Dunstan
staring at his delicate, insistent, elderly face, tried to laugh
again--and failed because the effort seemed actually irreverent.
It was a singular hypnotic moment, indeed. He himself was
hypnotised. A flashlight of new vision blazed before him and
left him dumb. He took up his pipe hurriedly, and with still
unsteady fingers began to refill it. When it was filled he
lighted it, and then without a word of answer left the hearth
and began to tramp up and down the room again--out of the
dim light into the shadows, back out of the shadows and into
the dim light again, his brow working and his teeth holding
hard his amber mouthpiece.
The morning awakening of a normal healthy human creature
should be a joyous thing. After the soul's long hours of
release from the burden of the body, its long hours spent--
one can only say in awe at the mystery of it, "away, away"--
in flight, perhaps, on broad, tireless wings, beating softly in
fair, far skies, breathing pure life, to be brought back to renew
the strength of each dawning day; after these hours of quiescence
of limb and nerve and brain, the morning life returning
should unseal for the body clear eyes of peace at least. In
time to come this will be so, when the soul's wings are
stronger, the body more attuned to infinite law and the race a
greater power--but as yet it often seems as though the winged
thing came back a lagging and reluctant rebel against its fate
and the chain which draws it back a prisoner to its toil.
It had seemed so often to Mount Dunstan--oftener than
not. Youth should not know such awakening, he was well
aware; but he had known it sometimes even when he had been
a child, and since his return from his ill-starred struggle in
America, the dull and reluctant facing of the day had become
a habit. Yet on the morning after his talk with his friend--
the curious, uplifted, unpractical talk which had seemed to
hypnotise him--he knew when he opened his eyes to the light
that he had awakened as a man should awake--with an unreasoning
sense of pleasure in the life and health of his own body,
as he stretched mighty limbs, strong after the night's rest, and
feeling that there was work to be done. It was all unreasoning--
there was no more to be done than on those other days
which he had wakened to with bitterness, because they seemed
useless and empty of any worth--but this morning the mere
light of the sun was of use, the rustle of the small breeze in
the leaves, the soft floating past of the white clouds, the mere
fact that the great blind-faced, stately house was his own, that
he could tramp far over lands which were his heritage, unfed
though they might be, and that the very rustics who would pass
him in the lanes were, so to speak, his own people: that he had
name, life, even the common thing of hunger for his morning
food--it was all of use.
An alluring picture--of a certain deep, clear bathing pool in
the park rose before him. It had not called to him for many
a day, and now he saw its dark blueness gleam between flags
and green rushes in its encircling thickness of shrubs and trees.
He sprang from his bed, and in a few minutes was striding
across the grass of the park, his towels over his arm, his head
thrown back as he drank in the freshness of the morning-
scented air. It was scented with dew and grass and the
breath of waking trees and growing things; early twitters and
thrills were to be heard here and there, insisting on morning
joyfulness; rabbits frisked about among the fine-grassed hummocks
of their warren and, as he passed, scuttled back into their
holes, with a whisking of short white tails, at which he laughed
with friendly amusement. Cropping stags lifted their antlered
heads, and fawns with dappled sides and immense lustrous eyes
gazed at him without actual fear, even while they sidled closer
to their mothers. A skylark springing suddenly from the
grass a few yards from his feet made him stop short once and
stand looking upward and listening. Who could pass by a
skylark at five o'clock on a summer's morning--the little,
heavenly light-heart circling and wheeling, showering down
diamonds, showering down pearls, from its tiny pulsating,
"Do you know why they sing like that? It is because all
but the joy of things has been kept hidden from them. They
knew nothing but life and flight and mating, and the gold of
the sun. So they sing." That she had once said.
He listened until the jewelled rain seemed to have fallen into
his soul. Then he went on his way smiling as he knew he had
never smiled in his life before. He knew it because he realised
that he had never before felt the same vigorous, light normality
of spirit, the same sense of being as other men. It was as
though something had swept a great clear space about him, and
having room for air he breathed deep and was glad of the
commonest gifts of being.
The bathing pool had been the greatest pleasure of his
uncared-for boyhood. No one knew which long passed away
Mount Dunstan had made it. The oldest villager had told him
that it had "allus ben there," even in his father's time. Since
he himself had known it he had seen that it was kept at its best.
Its dark blue depths reflected in their pellucid clearness the
water plants growing at its edge and the enclosing shrubs and
trees. The turf bordering it was velvet-thick and green, and a
few flag-steps led down to the water. Birds came there to drink
and bathe and preen and dress their feathers. He knew there were
often nests in the bushes--sometimes the nests of nightingales
who filled the soft darkness or moonlight of early June with
the wonderfulness of nesting song. Sometimes a straying fawn
poked in a tender nose, and after drinking delicately stole away,
as if it knew itself a trespasser.
To undress and plunge headlong into the dark sapphire water
was a rapturous thing. He swam swiftly and slowly by turns,
he floated, looking upward at heaven's blue, listening to birds'
song and inhaling all the fragrance of the early day. Strength
grew in him and life pulsed as the water lapped his limbs. He
found himself thinking with pleasure of a long walk he intended
to take to see a farmer he must talk to about his hop gardens;
he found himself thinking with pleasure of other things as simple
and common to everyday life--such things as he ordinarily
faced merely because he must, since he could not afford an
experienced bailiff. He was his own bailiff, his own steward,
merely, he had often thought, an unsuccessful farmer of half-
starved lands. But this morning neither he nor they seemed
so starved, and--for no reason--there was a future of some sort.
He emerged from his pool glowing, the turf feeling like
velvet beneath his feet, a fine light in his eyes.
"Yes," he said, throwing out his arms in a lordly stretch of
physical well-being, "it might be a magnificent thing--mere
strong living. THIS is magnificent."
BY THE ROADSIDE EVERYWHERE
His breakfast and the talk over it with Penzance seemed good
things. It suddenly had become worth while to discuss the
approaching hop harvest and the yearly influx of the hop
pickers from London. Yesterday the subject had appeared
discouraging enough. The great hop gardens of the estate had
been in times past its most prolific source of agricultural
revenue and the boast and wonder of the hop-growing county.
The neglect and scant food of the lean years had cost them
their reputation. Each season they had needed smaller bands
of "hoppers," and their standard had been lowered. It had
been his habit to think of them gloomily, as of hopeless and
irretrievable loss. Because this morning, for a remote reason,
the pulse of life beat strong in him he was taking a new view.
Might not study of the subject, constant attention and the
application of all available resource to one end produce
appreciable results? The idea presented itself in the form of a
thing worth thinking of.
"It would provide an outlook and give one work to do," he
put it to his companion. "To have a roof over one's head, a
sound body, and work to do, is not so bad. Such things form
the whole of G. Selden's cheerful aim. His spirit is alight
within me. I will walk over and talk to Bolter."
Bolter was a farmer whose struggle to make ends meet was almost
too much for him. Holdings whose owners, either through neglect
or lack of money, have failed to do their duty as landlords in
the matter of repairs of farmhouses, outbuildings, fences, and
other things, gradually fall into poor hands. Resourceful
and prosperous farmers do not care to hold lands under
unprosperous landlords. There were farms lying vacant on the
Mount Dunstan estate, there were others whose tenants were
uncertain rent payers or slipshod workers or dishonest in small
ways. Waste or sale of the fertiliser which should have been
given to the soil as its due, neglect in the case of things whose
decay meant depreciation of property and expense to the landlord,
were dishonesties. But Mount Dunstan knew that if he
turned out Thorn and Fittle, whom no watching could wholly
frustrate in their tricks, Under Mount Farm and Oakfield
Rise would stand empty for many a year. But for his poverty
Bolter would have been a good tenant enough. He was in trouble
now because, though his hops promised well, he faced difficulties
in the matter of "pickers." Last year he had not been able to
pay satisfactory prices in return for labour, and as a result the
prospect of securing good workers was an unpromising one.
The hordes of men, women, and children who flock year after
year to the hop-growing districts know each other. They learn
also which may be called the good neighbourhoods and which
the bad; the gardens whose holders are considered satisfactory
as masters, and those who are undesirable. They know by
experience or report where the best "huts" are provided, where
tents are supplied, and where one must get along as one can.
Generally the regular flocks are under a "captain," who gathers
his followers each season, manages them and looks after their
interests and their employers'. In some cases the same captain
brings his regiment to the same gardens year after year, and
ends by counting himself as of the soil and almost of the
family of his employer. Each hard, thick-fogged winter they
fight through in their East End courts and streets, they look
forward to the open-air weeks spent between long, narrow
green groves of tall garlanded poles, whose wreathings hang
thick with fresh and pungent-scented hop clusters. Children
play " 'oppin" in dingy rooms and alleys, and talk to each
other of days when the sun shone hot and birds were singing
and flowers smelling sweet in the hedgerows; of others when
the rain streamed down and made mud of the soft earth, and
yet there was pleasure in the gipsying life, and high cheer
in the fire of sticks built in the field by some bold spirit, who
hung over it a tin kettle to boil for tea. They never forgot
the gentry they had caught sight of riding or driving by on
the road, the parson who came to talk, and the occasional
groups of ladies from the "great house" who came into the
gardens to walk about and look at the bins and ask queer
questions in their gentry-sounding voices. They never knew
anything, and they always seemed to be entertained. Sometimes
there were enterprising, laughing ones, who asked to be
shown how to strip the hops into the bins, and after being
shown played at the work for a little while, taking off their
gloves and showing white fingers with rings on. They always
looked as if they had just been washed, and as if all of their
clothes were fresh from the tub, and when anyone stood near
them it was observable that they smelt nice. Generally they
gave pennies to the children before they left the garden, and
sometimes shillings to the women. The hop picking was, in
fact, a wonderful blend of work and holiday combined.
Mount Dunstan had liked the "hopping" from his first
memories of it. He could recall his sensations of welcoming a
renewal of interesting things when, season after season, he had
begun to mark the early stragglers on the road. The stragglers
were not of the class gathered under captains. They
were derelicts--tramps who spent their summers on the highways
and their winters in such workhouses as would take
them in; tinkers, who differ from the tramps only because
sometimes they owned a rickety cart full of strange
household goods and drunken tenth-hand perambulators piled
with dirty bundles and babies, these last propelled by robust
or worn-out, slatternly women, who sat by the small roadside
fire stirring the battered pot or tending the battered
kettle, when resting time had come and food must be cooked.
Gipsies there were who had cooking fires also, and hobbled
horses cropping the grass. Now and then appeared a grand
one, who was rumoured to be a Lee and therefore royal, and
who came and lived regally in a gaily painted caravan. During
the late summer weeks one began to see slouching figures
tramping along the high road at intervals. These were men who
were old, men who were middle-aged and some who were
young, all of them more or less dust-grimed, weather-beaten,
or ragged. Occasionally one was to be seen in heavy beery
slumber under the hedgerow, or lying on the grass smoking
lazily, or with painful thrift cobbling up a hole in a garment.
Such as these were drifting in early that they might be on the
ground when pickers were wanted. They were the forerunners
of the regular army.
On his walk to West Ways, the farm Bolter lived on, Mount
Dunstan passed two or three of these strays. They were the
usual flotsam and jetsam, but on the roadside near a hop
garden he came upon a group of an aspect so unusual that it