Part 3 out of 4
insistence in paying. She carried her point. Their talk came
round to their immediate plans for the day. They decided to ride
easily, through Havant, and stop, perhaps, at Fareham or
Southampton. For the previous day had tried them both. Holding
the map extended on his knee, Mr. Hoopdriver's eye fell by chance
on the bicycle at his feet. "That bicycle," he remarked, quite
irrelevantly, "wouldn't look the same machine if I got a big,
double Elarum instead of that little bell."
"Jest a thought." A pause.
"Very well, then,--Havant and lunch," said Jessie, rising.
"I wish, somehow, we could have managed it without stealing that
machine," said Hoopdriver. "Because it IS stealing it, you know,
come to think of it."
"Nonsense. If Mr. Bechamel troubles you--I will tell the whole
world--if need be."
"I believe you would," said Mr. Hoopdriver, admiring her. "You're
plucky enough--goodness knows."
Discovering suddenly that she was standing, he, too, rose and
picked up her machine. She took it and wheeled it into the road.
Then he took his own. He paused, regarding it. "I say!"said he.
"How'd this bike look, now, if it was enamelled grey?" She looked
over her shoulder at his grave face. "Why try and hide it in that
"It was jest a passing thought," said Mr. Hoopdriver, airily.
"Didn't MEAN anything, you know."
As they were riding on to Havant it occurred to Mr. Hoopdriver in
a transitory manner that the interview had been quite other than
his expectation. But that was the way with everything in Mr.
Hoopdriver's experience. And though his Wisdom looked grave
within him, and Caution was chinking coins, and an ancient
prejudice in favour of Property shook her head, something else
was there too, shouting in his mind to drown all these saner
considerations, the intoxicating thought of riding beside Her all
to-day, all to-morrow, perhaps for other days after that. Of
talking to her familiarly, being brother of all her slender
strength and freshness, of having a golden, real, and wonderful
time beyond all his imaginings. His old familiar fancyings gave
place to anticipations as impalpable and fluctuating and
beautiful as the sunset of a summer day.
At Havant he took an opportunity to purchase, at small
hairdresser's in the main street, a toothbrush,pair of nail
scissors, and a little bottle of stuff to darken the moustache,
an article the shopman introduced to his attention, recommended
highly, and sold in the excitement of the occasion.
THE UNEXPECTED ANECDOTE OF THE LION
They rode on to Cosham and lunched lightly but expensively there.
Jessie went out and posted her letter to her school friend. Then
the green height of Portsdown Hill tempted them, and leaving
their machines in the village they clambered up the slope to the
silent red-brick fort that crowned it. Thence they had a view of
Portsmouth and its cluster of sister towns, the crowded narrows
of the harbour, the Solent and the Isle of Wight like a blue
cloud through the hot haze. Jessie by some miracle had become a
skirted woman in the Cosham inn. Mr. Hoopdriver lounged
gracefully on the turf, smoked a Red Herring cigarette, and
lazily regarded the fortified towns that spread like a map away
there, the inner line of defence like toy fortifications, a mile
off perhaps ; and beyond that a few little fields and then the
beginnings of Landport suburb and the smoky cluster of the
multitudinous houses. To the right at the head of the harbour
shallows the town of Porchester rose among the trees. Mr.
Hoopdriver's anxiety receded to some remote corner of his brain
and that florid half-voluntary imagination of his shared the
stage with the image of Jessie. He began to speculate on the
impression he was creating. He took stock of his suit in a more
optimistic spirit, and reviewed, with some complacency, his
actions for the last four and twenty hours. Then he was dashed at
the thought of her infinite perfections.
She had been observing him quietly, rather more closely during
the last hour or so. She did not look at him directly because he
seemed always looking at her. Her own troubles had quieted down a
little, and her curiosity about the chivalrous, worshipping, but
singular gentleman in brown, was awakening. She had recalled,
too, the curious incident of their first encounter. She found him
hard to explain to herself. You must understand that her
knowledge of the world was rather less than nothing, having been
obtained entirely from books. You must not take a certain
ignorance for foolishness.
She had begun with a few experiments. He did not know French
except 'sivver play,' a phrase he seemed to regard as a very good
light table joke in itself. His English was uncertain, but not
such as books informed her distinguished the lower classes. His
manners seemed to her good on the whole, but a trifle
over-respectful and out of fashion. He called her I Madam' once.
He seemed a person of means and leisure, but he knew nothing of
recent concerts, theatres, or books. How did he spend his time?
He was certainly chivalrous, and a trifle simpleminded. She
fancied (so much is there in a change of costume) that she had
never met with such a man before. What COULD he be?
"Mr. Benson," she said, breaking a silence devoted to landscape.
He rolled over and regarded her, chin on knuckles.
"At your service."
"Do you paint? Are you an artist?"
"Well." Judicious pause. "I should hardly call myself a Nartist."
you know. I DO paint a little. And sketch, you know--skitty kind
He plucked and began to nibble a blade of grass. It was really
not so much lying as his quick imagination that prompted him to
add, "In Papers, you know, and all that."
"I see," said Jessie, looking at him thoughtfully. Artists were a
very heterogeneous class certainly, and geniuses had a trick of
being a little odd. He avoided her eye and bit his grass. "I
don't do MUCH, you know."
"It's not your profession?
"Oh, no," said Hoopdriver, anxious now to hedge. "I don't make a
regular thing of it, you know. jest now and then something comes
into my head and down it goes. No--I'm not a regular artist."
"Then you don't practise any regular profession? Mr. Hoopdriver
looked into her eyes and saw their quiet unsuspicious regard. He
had vague ideas of resuming the detective role. "It's like this,"
he said, to gain time. "I have a sort of profession. Only there's
a kind of reason--nothing much, you know "
"I beg your pardon for cross-examining you."
"No trouble," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Only I can't very well--I
leave it to you, you know. I don't want to make any mystery of
it, so far as that goes." Should he plunge boldly and be a
barrister? That anyhow was something pretty good. But she might
know about barristry.
"I think I could guess what you are."
"Well--guess," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
"You come from one of the colonies?"
"Dear me!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, veering round to the new wind.
"How did you find out THAT?" (the man was born in a London
suburb, dear Reader.)
"I guessed," she said.
He lifted his eyebrows as one astonished, and clutched a new
piece of grass.
"You were educated up country."
"Good again," said Hoopdriver, rolling over again into her elbow.
"You're a CLAIRVOY ant." He bit at the grass, smiling. "Which
colony was it?"
"That I don't know."
"You must guess," said Hoopdriver.
"South Africa," she said. "I strongly incline to South Africa."
"South Africa's quite a large place," he said.
"But South Africa is right?"
"You're warm," said Hoopdriver, "anyhow," and the while his
imagination was eagerly exploring this new province.
"South Africa IS right?" she insisted.
He turned over again and nodded, smiling reassuringly into her
"What made me think of South Africa was that novel of Olive
Schreiner's, you know--The Story of an African Farm.' Gregory
Rose is so like you."
"I never read 'The Story of an African Farm,'" said Hoopdriver.
"I must. What's he like?"
"You must read the book. But it's a wonderful place, with its
mixture of races, and its brand-new civilisation jostling the old
savagery. Were you near Khama?"
"He was a long way off from our place," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "We
had a little ostrich farm, you know--Just a few hundred of 'em,
out Johannesburg way."
"On the Karroo--was it called?"
"That's the term. Some of it was freehold though. Luckily. We got
along very well in the old days.--But there's no ostriches on
that farm now." He had a diamond mine in his head, just at the
moment, but he stopped and left a little to the girl's
imagination. Besides which it had occurred to him with a kind of
shock that he was lying.
"What became of the ostriches?"
"We sold 'em off, when we parted with the farm. Do you mind if I
have another cigarette? That was when I was quite a little chap,
you know, that we had this ostrich farm."
"Did you have Blacks and Boers about you?"
"Lots," said Mr. Hoopdriver, striking a match on his instep and
beginning to feel hot at the new responsibility he had brought
"How interesting! Do you know, I've never been out of England
except to Paris and Mentone and Switzerland."
"One gets tired of travelling (puff) after a bit, of course."
"You must tell me about your farm in South Africa. It always
stimulates my imagination to think of these places. I can fancy
all the tall ostriches being driven out by a black herd--to
graze, I suppose. How do ostriches feed?"
"Well," said Hoopdriver. "That's rather various. They have their
fancies, you know. There's fruit, of course, and that kind of
thing. And chicken food, and so forth. You have to use judgment."
"Did you ever see a lion?" "They weren't very common in our
district," said Hoopdriver, quite modestly. "But I've seen them,
of course. Once or twice."
"Fancy seeing a lion! Weren't you frightened?"
Mr. Hoopdriver was now thoroughly sorry he had accepted that
offer of South Africa. He puffed his cigarette and regarded the
Solent languidly as he settled the fate on that lion in his mind.
"I scarcely had time," he said. "It all happened in a minute."
"Go on," she said.
"I was going across the inner paddock where the fatted ostriches
"Did you EAT ostriches, then? I did not know--"
"Eat them!--often. Very nice they ARE too, properly stuffed.
Well, we--I, rather--was going across this paddock, and I saw
something standing up in the moonlight and looking at me." Mr.
Hoopdriver was in a hot perspiration now. His invention seemed to
have gone limp. "Luckily I had my father's gun with me. I was
scared, though, I can tell you. (Puff.) I just aimed at the end
that I thought was the head. And let fly. (Puff.) And over it
went, you know."
"AS dead. It was one of the luckiest shots I ever fired. And I
wasn't much over nine at the time, neither."
"_I_ should have screamed and run away."
"There's some things you can't run away from," said Mr.
Hoopdriver. "To run would have been Death."
"I don't think I ever met a lion-killer before," she remarked,
evidently with a heightened opinion of him.
There was a pause. She seemed meditating further questions. Mr.
Hoopdriver drew his watch hastily. "I say," said Mr. Hoopdriver,
showing it to her, "don't you think we ought to be getting on?"
His face was flushed, his ears bright red. She ascribed his
confusion to modesty. He rose with a lion added to the burthens
of his conscience, and held out his hand to assist her. They
walked down into Cosham again, resumed their machines, and went
on at a leisurely pace along the northern shore of the big
harbour. But Mr. Hoopdriver was no longer happy. This horrible,
this fulsome lie, stuck in his memory. Why HAD he done it? She
did not ask for any more South African stories, happily--at least
until Porchester was reached--but talked instead of Living One's
Own Life, and how custom hung on people like chains. She talked
wonderfully, and set Hoopdriver's mind fermenting. By the Castle,
Mr. Hoopdriver caught several crabs in little shore pools. At
Fareham they stopped for a second tea, and left the place towards
the hour of sunset, under such invigorating circumstances as you
shall in due course hear.
THE RESCUE EXPEDITION
And now to tell of those energetic chevaliers, Widgery, Dangle,
and Phipps, and of that distressed beauty, 'Thomas Plantagenet,'
well known in society, so the paragraphs said, as Mrs. Milton. We
left them at Midhurst station, if I remember rightly, waiting, in
a state of fine emotion, for the Chichester train. It was clearly
understood by the entire Rescue Party that Mrs. Milton was
bearing up bravely against almost overwhelming grief. The three
gentlemen outdid one another in sympathetic expedients; they
watched her gravely almost tenderly. The substantial Widgery
tugged at his moustache, and looked his unspeakable feelings at
her with those dog-like, brown eyes of his; the slender Dangle
tugged at HIS moustache, and did what he could with unsympathetic
grey ones. Phipps, unhappily, had no moustache to run any risks
with, so he folded his arms and talked in a brave, indifferent,
bearing-up tone about the London, Brighton, and South Coast
Railway, just to cheer the poor woman up a little. And even Mrs.
Milton really felt that exalted melancholy to the very bottom of
her heart, and tried to show it in a dozen little, delicate,
"There is nothing to do until we get to Chichester," said Dangle.
"Nothing," said Widgery, and aside in her ear: "You really ate
scarcely anything, you know."
"Their trains are always late," said Phipps, with his fingers
along the edge of his collar. Dangle, you must understand, was a
sub-editor and reviewer, and his pride was to be Thomas
Plantagenet's intellectual companion. Widgery, the big man, was
manager of a bank and a mighty golfer, and his conception of his
relations to her never came into his mind without those charming
oldlines, "Douglas, Douglas, tender and true," falling hard upon
its heels. His name was Douglas-Douglas Widgery. And Phipps,
Phipps was a medical student still, and he felt that he laid his
heart at her feet, the heart of a man of the world. She was kind
to them all in her way, and insisted on their being friends
together, in spite of a disposition to reciprocal criticism they
displayed. Dangle thought Widgery a Philistine, appreciating but
coarsely the merits of "A Soul Untrammelled," and Widgery thought
Dangle lacked, humanity--would talk insincerely to say a clever
thing. Both Dangle and Widgery thought Phipps a bit of a cub, and
Phipps thought both Dangle and Widgery a couple of Thundering
"They would have got to Chichester in time for lunch," said
Dangle, in the train. "After, perhaps. And there's no sufficient
place in the road. So soon as we get there, Phipps must inquire
at the chief hotels to see if any one answering to her
description has lunched there."
"Oh, I'LL inquire," said Phipps. "Willingly. I suppose you and
Widgery will just hang about--"
He saw an expression of pain on Mrs. Milton's gentle face, and
"No," said Dangle, "we shan't HANG ABOUT, as you put it. There
are two places in Chichester where tourists might go--the
cathedral and a remarkably fine museum. I shall go to the
cathedral and make an inquiry or so, while Widgery--"
"The museum. Very well. And after that there's a little thing or
two I've thought of myself," said Widgery.
To begin with they took Mrs. Milton in a kind of procession to
the Red Hotel and established her there with some tea. "You are
so kind to me," she said. "All of you." They signified that it
was nothing, and dispersed to their inquiries. By six they
returned, their zeal a little damped, without news. Widgery came
back with Dangle. Phipps was the last to return. "You're quite
sure," said Widgery, that there isn't any flaw in that inference
"Quite," said Dangle, rather shortly.
"Of course," said Widgery, "their starting from Midhurst on the
Chichester road doesn't absolutely bind them not to change their
"My dear fellow!--It does. Really it does. You must allow me to
have enough intelligence to think of cross-roads. Really you
must. There aren't any cross-roads to tempt them. Would they turn
aside here? No. Would they turn there? Many more things are
inevitable than you fancy."
"We shall see at once," said Widgery, at the window. "Here comes
Phipps. For my own part--"
"Phipps!" said Mrs. Milton. "Is he hurrying? Does he look--" She
rose in her eagerness, biting her trembling lip, and went towards
"No news," said Phipps, entering.
"Ah!" said Widgery.
"None?" said Dangle.
"Well," said Phipps. "One fellow had got hold of a queer story of
a man in bicycling clothes, who was asking the same question
about this time yesterday."
"What question?" said Mrs. Milton, in the shadow of the window.
She spoke in a low voice, almost a whisper.
"Why--Have you seen a young lady in a grey bicycling costume?"
Dangle caught at his lower lip. "What's that?" he said.
"Yesterday! A man asking after her then! What can THAT mean?"
"Heaven knows," said Phipps, sitting down wearily. "You'd better
"What kind of man?" said Dangle.
"How should I know?--in bicycling costume, the fellow said."
"But what height?--What complexion?"
"Didn't ask," said Phipps. "DIDN'T ASK! Nonsense," said Dangle.
"Ask him yourself," said Phipps. "He's an ostler chap in the
White Hart,--short, thick-set fellow, with a red face and a
crusty manner. Leaning up against the stable door. Smells of
whiskey. Go and ask him."
"Of course," said Dangle, taking his straw hat from the shade
over the stuffed bird on the chiffonier and turning towards the
door. "I might have known."
Phipps' mouth opened and shut.
"You're tired, I'm sure, Mr. Phipps," said the lady, soothingly.
"Let me ring for some tea for you." It suddenly occurred to
Phipps that he had lapsed a little from his chivalry. "I was a
little annoyed at the way he rushed me to do all this business,"
he said. "But I'd do a hundred times as much if it would bring
you any nearer to her." Pause. "I WOULD like a little tea."
"I don't want to raise any false hopes," said Widgery. "But I do
NOT believe they even came to Chichester. Dangle's a very clever
fellow, of course, but sometimes these Inferences of his--"
"Tchak!" said Phipps, suddenly.
"What is it?" said Mrs. Milton.
"Something I've forgotten. I went right out from here, went to
every other hotel in the place, and never thought--But never
mind. I'll ask when the waiter comes."
"You don't mean--" A tap, and the door opened. "Tea, m'm? yes,
m'm," said the waiter.
"One minute," said Phipps. "Was a lady in grey, a cycling lady--"
"Stopped here yesterday? Yessir. Stopped the night. With her
brother, sir--a young gent."
"Brother!" said Mrs. Milton, in a low tone. "Thank God!"
The waiter glanced at her and understood everything. "A young
gent, sir," he said, "very free with his money. Give the name of
Beaumont." He proceeded to some rambling particulars, and was
cross-examined by Widgery on the plans of the young couple.
"Havant! Where's Havant?" said Phipps. "I seem to remember it
"Was the man tall?" said Mrs. Milton, intently, "distinguished
looking? with a long, flaxen moustache? and spoke with a drawl?"
"Well," said the waiter, and thought. "His moustache, m'm, was
scarcely long--scrubby more, and young looking."
"About thirty-five, he was?"
"No, m'm. More like five and twenty. Not that."
"Dear me!" said Mrs. Milton, speaking in a curious, hollow voice,
fumbling for her salts, and showing the finest self-control. "It
must have been her YOUNGER brother--must have been."
"That will do, thank you," said Widgery, officiously, feeling
that she would be easier under this new surprise if the man were
dismissed. The waiter turned to go, and almost collided with
Dangle, who was entering the room, panting excitedly and with a
pocket handkerchief held to his right eye. "Hullo!" said dangle.
"What's up with YOU?" said Phipps.
"Nothing--an altercation merely with that drunken ostler of
yours. He thought it was a plot to annoy him--that the Young Lady
in Grey was mythical. Judged from your manner. I've got a piece
of raw meat to keep over it. You have some news, I see?"
"Did the man hit you?" asked Widgery.
Mrs. Milton rose and approached Dangle. "Cannot I do anything?"
Dangle was heroic. "Only tell me your news," he said, round the
corner of the handkerchief.
"It was in this way," said Phipps, and explained rather
sheepishly. While he was doing so, with a running fire of
commentary from Widgery, the waiter brought in a tray of tea. "A
time table," said Dangle, promptly, "for Havant." Mrs. Milton
poured two cups, and Phipps and Dangle partook in passover form.
They caught the train by a hair's breadth. So to Havant and
Dangle was puffed up to find that his guess of Havant was right.
In view of the fact that beyond Havant the Southampton road has a
steep hill continuously on the right-hand side, and the sea on
the left, he hit upon a magnificent scheme for heading the young
folks off. He and Mrs. Milton would go to Fareham, Widgery and
Phipps should alight one each at the intermediate stations of
Cosham and Porchester, and come on by the next train if they had
no news. If they did not come on, a wire to the Fareham post
office was to explain why. It was Napoleonic, and more than
consoled Dangle for the open derision of the Havant street boys
at the handkerchief which still protected his damaged eye.
Moreover, the scheme answered to perfection. The fugitives
escaped by a hair's breadth. They were outside the Golden Anchor
at Fareham, and preparing to mount, as Mrs. Milton and Dangle
came round the corner from the station. "It's her!" said Mrs.
Milton, and would have screamed. "Hist!" said Dangle, gripping
the lady's arm, removing his handkerchief in his excitement, and
leaving the piece of meat over his eye, an extraordinary
appearance which seemed unexpectedly to calm her. "Be cool!" said
Dangle, glaring under the meat. "They must not see us. They will
get away else. Were there flys at the station?" The young couple
mounted and vanished round the corner of the Winchester road. Had
it not been for the publicity of the business, Mrs. Milton would
have fainted. "SAVE HER!" she said.
"Ah! A conveyance," said Dangle. "One minute."
He left her in a most pathetic attitude, with her hand pressed to
her heart, and rushed into the Golden Anchor. Dog cart in ten
minutes. Emerged. The meat had gone now, and one saw the cooling
puffiness over his eye. "I will conduct you back to the station,"
said Dangle; "hurry back here, and pursue them. You will meet
Widgery and Phipps and tell them I am in pursuit."
She was whirled back to the railway station and left there, on a
hard, blistered, wooden seat in the sun. She felt tired and
dreadfully ruffled and agitated and dusty. Dangle was, no doubt,
most energetic and devoted ; but for a kindly, helpful manner
commend her to Douglas Widgery.
Meanwhile Dangle, his face golden in the evening sun, was driving
(as well as he could) a large, black horse harnessed into a thing
called a gig, northwestward towards Winchester. Dangle, barring
his swollen eye, was a refined-looking little man, and be wore a
deerstalker cap and was dressed in dark grey. His neck was long
and slender. Perhaps you know what gigs are, --huge, big, wooden
things and very high and the horse, too, was huge and big and
high, with knobby legs, a long face, a hard mouth, and a whacking
trick of pacing. Smack, smack, smack, smack it went along the
road, and hard by the church it shied vigorously at a hooded
The history of the Rescue Expedition now becomes confused. It
appears that Widgery was extremely indignant to find Mrs. Milton
left about upon the Fareham platform. The day had irritated him
somehow, though he had started with the noblest intentions, and
he seemed glad to find an outlet for justifiable indignation.
"He's such a spasmodic creature," said Widgery. "Rushing off! And
I suppose we're to wait here until he comes back! It's likely.
He's so egotistical, is Dangle. Always wants to mismanage
"He means to help me," said Mrs. Milton, a little reproachfully,
touching his arm. Widgery was hardly in the mood to be mollified
all at once. "He need not prevent ME," he said, and stopped.
"It's no good talking, you know, and you are tired."
"I can go on," she said brightly, "if only we find her." " While
I was cooling my heels in Cosham I bought a county map." He
produced and opened it. "Here, you see, is the road out of
Fareham." He proceeded with the calm deliberation of a business
man to develop a proposal of taking train forthwith to
Winchester. "They MUST be going to Winchester," he explained. It
was inevitable. To-morrow Sunday, Winchester a cathedral town,
road going nowhere else of the slightest importance,
"But Mr. Dangle?"
"He will simply go on until he has to pass something, and then he
will break his neck. I have seen Dangle drive before. It's
scarcely likely a dog-cart, especially a hired dog-cart, will
overtake bicycles in the cool of the evening. Rely upon me, Mrs.
"I am in your hands," she said, with pathetic littleness, looking
up at him, and for the moment he forgot the exasperation of the
Phipps, during this conversation, had stood in a somewhat
depressed attitude, leaning on his stick, feeling his collar, and
looking from one speaker to the other. The idea of leaving Dangle
behind seemed to him an excellent one. "We might leave a message
at the place where he got the dog-cart," he suggested, when he
saw their eyes meeting. There was a cheerful alacrity about all
three at the proposal.
But they never got beyond Botley. For even as their train ran
into the station, a mighty rumbling was heard, there was a
shouting overhead, the guard stood astonished on the platform,
and Phipps, thrusting his head out of the window, cried, "There
he goes!" and sprang out of the carriage. Mrs. Milton, following
in alarm, just saw it. From Widgery it was hidden. Botley station
lies in a cutting, overhead was the roadway, and across the lemon
yellows and flushed pinks of the sunset, there whirled a great
black mass, a horse like a long-nosed chess knight, the upper
works of a gig, and Dangle in transit from front to back. A
monstrous shadow aped him across the cutting. It was the event of
a second. Dangle seemed to jump, hang in the air momentarily, and
vanish, and after a moment's pause came a heart-rending smash.
Then two black heads running swiftly.
"Better get out," said Phipps to Mrs. Milton, who stood
fascinated in the doorway.
In another moment all three were hurrying up the steps. They
found Dangle, hatless, standing up with cut hands extended,
having his hands brushed by an officious small boy. A broad, ugly
road ran downhill in a long vista, and in the distance was a
little group of Botley inhabitants holding the big, black horse.
Even at that distance they could see the expression of conscious
pride on the monster's visage. It was as wooden-faced a horse as
you can imagine. The beasts in the Tower of London, on which the
men in armour are perched, are the only horses I have ever seen
at all like it. However, we are not concerned now with the horse,
but with Dangle. " Hurt?" asked Phipps, eagerly, leading.
"Mr. Dangle!" cried Mrs. Milton, clasping her hands.
"Hullo!" said Dangle, not surprised in the slightest. "Glad
you've come. I may want you. Bit of a mess I'm in--eigh? But I've
caught 'em. At the very place I expected, too."
"Caught them!" said Widgery. Where are they?"
"Up there," he said, with a backward motion of his head. "About a
mile up the hill. I left 'em. I HAD to."
"I don't understand," said Mrs. Milton, with that rapt, painful
look again. "Have you found Jessie?"
"I have. I wish I could wash the gravel out of my hands
somewhere. It was like this, you know. Came on them suddenly
round a corner. Horse shied at the bicycles. They were sitting by
the roadside botanising flowers. I just had time to shout,
'Jessie Milton, we've been looking for you,' and then that
confounded brute bolted. I didn't dare turn round. I had all my
work to do to save myself being turned over, as it was--so long
as I did, I mean. I just shouted, 'Return to your friends. All
will be forgiven.' And off I came, clatter, clatter. Whether they
"TAKE ME TO HER," said Mrs. Milton, with intensity, turning
"Certainly," said Widgery, suddenly becoming active. "How far is
"Mile and a half or two miles. I was determined to find them, you
know. I say though--Look at my hands! But I beg your pardon, Mrs.
Milton." He turned to Phipps. "Phipps, I say, where shall I wash
the gravel out? And have a look at my knee?"
"There's the station," said Phipps, becoming helpful. Dangle made
a step, and a damaged knee became evident. "Take my arm," said
"Where can we get a conveyance?" asked Widgery of two small boys.
The two small boys failed to understand. They looked at one
"There's not a cab, not a go-cart, in sight," said Widgery. "It's
a case of a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse."
"There's a harse all right," said one of the small boys with a
movement of the head.
"Don't you know where we can hire traps? asked Widgery. "Or a
cart or-- anything?" asked Mrs. Milton.
"John Ooker's gart a cart, but no one can't 'ire'n," said the
larger of the small boys, partially averting his face and staring
down the road and making a song of it. "And so's my feyther,
for's leg us broke."
"Not a cart even! Evidently. What shall we do?"
It occurred to Mrs. Milton that if Widgery was the man for
courtly devotion, Dangle was infinitely readier of resource. "I
suppose--" she said, timidly. "Perhaps if you were to ask Mr.
And then all the gilt came off Widgery. He answered quite rudely.
"Confound Dangle! Hasn't he messed us up enough? He must needs
drive after them in a trap to tell them we're coming, and now you
want me to ask him--"
Her beautiful blue eyes were filled with tears. He stopped
abruptly. "I'll go and ask Dangle," he said, shortly. "If you
wish it." And went striding into the station and down the steps,
leaving her in the road under the quiet inspection of the two
little boys, and with a kind of ballad refrain running through
her head, "Where are the Knights of the Olden Time?" and feeling
tired to death and hungry and dusty and out of curl, and, in
short, a martyr woman.
It goes to my heart to tell of the end of that day, how the
fugitives vanished into Immensity; how there were no more trains
how Botley stared unsympathetically with a palpable disposition
to derision, denying conveyances how the landlord of the Heron
was suspicious, how the next day was Sunday, and the hot summer's
day had crumpled the collar of Phipps and stained the skirts of
Mrs. Milton, and dimmed the radiant emotions of the whole party.
Dangle, with sticking-plaster and a black eye, felt the absurdity
of the pose of the Wounded Knight, and abandoned it after the
faintest efforts. Recriminations never, perhaps, held the
foreground of the talk, but they played like summer lightning on
the edge of the conversation. And deep in the hearts of all was a
galling sense of the ridiculous. Jessie, they thought, was most
to blame. Apparently, too, the worst, which would have made the
whole business tragic, was not happening. Here was a young woman
--young woman do I say? a mere girl!--had chosen to leave a
comfortable home in Surbiton, and all the delights of a refined
and intellectual circle, and had rushed off, trailing us after
her, posing hard, mutually jealous, and now tired and
weather-worn, to flick us off at last, mere mud from her wheel,
into this detestable village beer-house on a Saturday night! And
she had done it, not for Love and Passion, which are serious
excuses one may recognise even if one must reprobate, but just
for a Freak, just for a fantastic Idea ; for nothing, in fact,
but the outraging of Common Sense. Yet withal, such was our
restraint, that we talked of her still as one much misguided, as
one who burthened us with anxiety, as a lamb astray, and Mrs.
Milton having eaten, continued to show the finest feelings on the
She sat, I may mention, in the cushioned basket-chair, the only
comfortable chair in the room, and we sat on incredibly hard,
horsehair things having antimacassars tied to their backs by
means of lemon-coloured bows. It was different from those dear
old talks at Surbiton, somehow. She sat facing the window, which
was open (the night was so tranquil and warm), and the dim light-
-for we did not use the lamp--suited her admirably. She talked in
a voice that told you she was tired, and she seemed inclined to
state a case against herself in the matter of "A Soul
Untrammelled." It was such an evening as might live in a
sympathetic memoir, but it was a little dull while it lasted.
"I feel," she said, "that I am to blame. I have Developed. That
first book of mine--I do not go back upon a word of it, mind, but
it has been misunderstood, misapplied."
"It has," said Widgery, trying to look so deeply sympathetic as
to be visible in the dark. "Deliberately misunderstood."
"Don't say that," said the lady. "Not deliberately. I try and
think that critics are honest. After their lights. I was not
thinking of critics. But she--I mean--" She paused, an
"It is possible," said Dangle, scrutinising his sticking-plaster.
"I write a book and state a case. I want people to THINK as I
recommend, not to DO as I recommend. It is just Teaching. Only I
make it into a story. I want to Teach new Ideas, new Lessons, to
promulgate Ideas. Then when the Ideas have been spread
abroad--Things will come about. Only now it is madness to fly in
the face of the established order. Bernard Shaw, you know, has
explained that with regard to Socialism. We all know that to earn
all you consume is right, and that living on invested capital is
wrong. Only we cannot begin while we are so few. It is Those
"Precisely," said Widgery. "It is Those Others. They must begin
"And meanwhile you go on banking--"
"If I didn't, some one else would."
"And I live on Mr. Milton's Lotion while I try to gain a footing
"TRY!" said Phipps. "You HAVE done so." And, "That's different,"
said Dangle, at the same time.
"You are so kind to me. But in this matter. Of course Georgina
Griffiths in my book lived alone in a flat in Paris and went to
life classes and had men visitors, but then she was over
"Jessica is only seventeen, and girlish for that," said Dangle.
"It alters everything. That child! It is different with a woman.
And Georgina Griffiths never flaunted her freedom-- on a bicycle,
in country places. In this country. Where every one is so
particular. Fancy, SLEEPING away from home. It's dreadful-- If it
gets about it spells ruin for her."
"Ruin," said Widgery.
"No man would marry a girl like that," said Phipps.
"It must be hushed up," said Dangle.
"It always seems to me that life is made up of individuals, of
individual cases. We must weigh each person against his or her
circumstances. General rules don't apply--"
"I often feel the force of that," said Widgery. "Those are my
rules. Of course my books--"
"It's different, altogether different," said Dangle. "A novel
deals with typical cases."
"And life is not typical," said Widgery, with immense profundity.
Then suddenly, unintentionally, being himself most surprised and
shocked of any in the room, Phipps yawned. The failing was
infectious, and the gathering having, as you can easily
understand, talked itself weary, dispersed on trivial pretences.
But not to sleep immediately. Directly Dangle was alone he began,
with infinite disgust, to scrutinise his darkling eye, for he was
a neat-minded little man in spite of his energy. The whole
business--so near a capture--was horribly vexatious. Phipps sat
on his bed for some time examining, with equal disgust, a collar
he would have thought incredible for Sunday twenty-four hours
before. Mrs. Milton fell a-musing on the mortality of even big,
fat men with dog-like eyes, and Widgery was unhappy because he
had been so cross to her at the station, and because so far he
did not feel that he had scored over Dangle. Also he was angry
with Dangle. And all four of them, being souls living very much
upon the appearances of things, had a painful, mental middle
distance of Botley derisive and suspicious, and a remoter
background of London humorous, and Surbiton speculative. Were
they really, after all, behaving absurdly?
MR. HOOPDRIVER, KNIGHT ERRANT
As Mr. Dangle bad witnessed, the fugitives had been left by him
by the side of the road about two miles from Botley. Before Mr.
Dangle's appearance, Mr. Hoopdriver had been learning with great
interest that mere roadside flowers had names,--star-flowers,
wind-stars, St. John's wort, willow herb, lords and ladies,
bachelor's buttons,--most curious names, some of them. "The
flowers are all different in South Africa, y'know," he was
explaining with a happy fluke of his imagination to account for
his ignorance. Then suddenly, heralded by clattering sounds and a
gride of wheels, Dangle had flared and thundered across the
tranquillity of the summer evening; Dangle, swaying and
gesticulating behind a corybantic black horse, had hailed Jessie
by her name, had backed towards the hedge for no ostensible
reason, and vanished to the accomplishment of the Fate that had
been written down for him from the very beginning of things.
Jessie and Hoopdriver had scarcely time to stand up and seize
their machines, before this tumultuous, this swift and wonderful
passing of Dangle was achieved. He went from side to side of the
road,--worse even than the riding forth of Mr. Hoopdriver it was,
--and vanished round the corner.
"He knew my name," said Jessie. "Yes--it was Mr. Dangle."
"That was our bicycles did that," said Mr. Hoopdriver
simultaneously, and speaking with a certain complacent concern.
"I hope he won't get hurt."
"That was Mr. Dangle," repeated Jessie, and Mr. Hoopdriver heard
this time, with a violent start. His eyebrows went up
"What! someone you know?"
"He was looking for me," said Jessie. "I could see. He began to
call to me before the horse shied. My stepmother has sent him."
Mr. Hoopdriver wished he had returned the bicycle after all, for
his ideas were still a little hazy about Bechamel and Mrs.
Milton. Honesty IS the best policy--often, he thought. He turned
his head this way and that. He became active. "After us, eigh?
Then he'll come back. He's gone down that hill, and he won't be
able to pull up for a bit, I'm certain."
Jessie, he saw, had wheeled her machine into the road and was
mounting. Still staring at the corner that had swallowed up
Dangle, Hoopdriver followed suit. And so, just as the sun was
setting, they began another flight together,--riding now towards
Bishops Waltham, with Mr. Hoopdriver in the post of danger--the
rear--ever and again looking over his shoulder and swerving
dangerously as he did so. Occasionally Jessie had to slacken her
pace. He breathed heavily, and hated himself because his mouth
fell open, After nearly an hour's hard riding, they found
themselves uncaught at Winchester. Not a trace of Dangle nor any
other danger was visible as they rode into the dusky, yellow-lit
street. Though the bats had been fluttering behind thehedges and
the evening star was bright while they were still two miles from
Winchester, Mr. Hoopdriver pointed out the dangers of stopping in
such an obvious abiding-place, and gently but firmly insisted
upon replenishing the lamps and riding on towards Salisbury. From
Winchester, roads branch in every direction, and to turn abruptly
westward was clearly the way to throw off the chase. As
Hoopdriver saw the moon rising broad and yellow through the
twilight, he thought he should revive the effect of that ride out
of Bognor; but somehow, albeit the moon and all the atmospheric
effects were the same, the emotions were different. They rode in
absolute silence, and slowly after they had cleared the outskirts
of Winchester. Both of them were now nearly tired out,--the level
was tedious, and even a little hill a burden; and so it came
about that in the hamlet of Wallenstock they were beguiled to
stop and ask for accommodation in an exceptionally
prosperouslooking village inn. A plausible landlady rose to the
Now, as they passed into the room where their suppers were
prepared, Mr. Hoopdriver caught a glimpse through a door ajar and
floating in a reek of smoke, of three and a half faces-- for the
edge of the door cut one down--and an American cloth-covered
table with several glasses and a tankard. And he also heard a
remark. In the second before he heard that remark, Mr. Hoopdriver
had been a proud and happy man, to particularize, a baronet's
heir incognito. He had surrendered their bicycles to the odd man
of the place with infinite easy dignity, and had bowingly opened
the door for Jessie. "Who's that, then?" he imagined people
saying; and then, "Some'n pretty well orf--judge by the
bicycles." Then the imaginary spectators would fall a-talking of
the fashionableness of bicycling,--how judges And stockbrokers
and actresses and, in fact, all the best people rode, and how
that it was often the fancy of such great folk to shun the big
hotels, the adulation of urban crowds, and seek, incognito, the
cosy quaintnesses of village life. Then, maybe, they would think
of a certain nameless air of distinction about the lady who had
stepped across the doorway, and about the handsome,
flaxen-moustached, blue-eyed Cavalier who had followed her in,
and they would look one to another. "Tell you what it is," one of
the village elders would say--just as they do in novels--voicing
the thought of all, in a low, impressive tone: "There's such a
thinas entertaining barranets unawares-not to mention no higher
Such, I say, had been the filmy, delightful stuff in Mr.
Hoopdriver's head the moment before he heard that remark. But the
remark toppled him headlong. What the precise remark was need not
concern us. It was a casual piece of such satire as Strephon
delights in. Should you be curious, dear lady, as to its nature,
you have merely to dress yourself in a really modern cycling
costume, get one of the feeblest-looking of your men to escort
you, and ride out, next Saturday evening, to any public house
where healthy, homely people gather together. Then you will hear
quite a lot of the kind of thing Mr. Hoopdriver heard. More,
possibly, than you will desire.
The remark, I must add, implicated Mr. Hoopdriver. It indicated
an entire disbelief in his social standing. At a blow, it
shattered all the gorgeous imaginative fabric his mind had been
rejoicing in. All that foolish happiness vanished like a dream.
And there was nothing to show for it, as there is nothing to show
for any spiteful remark that has ever been made. Perhaps the man
who said the thing had a gleam of satisfaction at the idea of
taking a complacent-looking fool down a peg, but it is just as
possible he did not know at the time that his stray shot had hit.
He had thrown it as a boy throws a stone at a bird. And it not
only demolished a foolish, happy conceit, but it wounded. It
touched Jessie grossly.
She did not hear it, he concluded from her subsequent bearing;
but during the supper they had in the little private dining-room,
though she talked cheerfully, he was preoccupied. Whiffs of
indistinct conversation, and now and then laughter, came in from
the inn parloiir through the pelargoniums in the open window.
Hoopdriver felt it must all be in the same strain,--at her
expense and his. He answered her abstractedly. She was tired, she
said, and presently went to her room. Mr. Hoopdriver, in his
courtly way, opened the door for her and bowed her out. He stood
listening and fearing some new offence as she went upstairs, and
round the bend where the barometer hung beneath the stuffed
birds. Then he went back to the room, and stood on the hearthrug
before the. paper fireplace ornament. "Cads!" he said in a
scathing undertone, as a fresh burst of laughter came floating
in. All through supper he had been composing stinging repartee, a
blistering speech of denunciation to be presently delivered. He
would rate them as a nobleman should: "Call themselves
Englishmen, indeed, and insult a woman!" he would say; take the
names and addresses perhaps, threaten to speak to the Lord of the
Manor, promise to let them hear from him again, and so out with
consternation in his wake. It really ought to be done.
"Teach 'em better," he said fiercely, and tweaked his moustache
painfully. What was it? He revived the objectionable remark for
his own exasperation, and then went over the heads of his speech
He coughed, made three steps towards the door, then stopped and
went back to the hearthrug. He wouldn't--after all. Yet was he
not a Knight Errant? Should such men go unreproved, unchecked, by
wandering baronets incognito? Magnanimity? Look at it in that
way? Churls beneath one's notice? No; merely a cowardly
subterfuge. He WOULD after all.
Something within him protested that he was a hot-headed ass even
as he went towards the door again. But he only went on the more
resolutely. He crossed the hall, by the bar, and entered the room
from which the remark had proceeded. He opened the door abruptly
and stood scowling on them in the doorway. "You'll only make a
mess of it," remarked the internal sceptic. There were five men
in the room altogether: a fat person, with a long pipe and a
great number of chins, in an armchair by the fireplace, who
wished Mr. Hoopdriver a good evening very affably; a young fellow
smoking a cutty and displaying crossed legs with gaiters ; a
little, bearded man with a toothless laugh; a middle-aged,
comfortable man with bright eyes, who wore a velveteen jacket;
and a fair young man, very genteel in a yellowish-brown
ready-made suit and a white tie.
"H'm," said Mr. Hoopdriver, looking very stern and harsh. And
then in a forbidding tone, as one who consented to no liberties,
"Very pleasant day we've been 'aving," said the fair young man
with the white tie.
"Very," said Mr. Hoopdriver, slowly; and taking a brown armchair,
he planted it with great deliberation where he faced the
fireplace, and sat down. Let's see--how did that speech begin?
"Very pleasant roads about here," said the fair young man with
the white tie.
"Very," said Mr. Hoopdriver, eyeing him darkly. Have to begin
somehow. "The roads about here are all right, and the weather
about here is all right, but what I've come in here to say
is--there's some damned unpleasant people--damned unpleasant
"Oh!" said the young man with the gaiters, apparently making a
mental inventory of his pearl buttons as he spoke. "How's that?"
Mr. Hoopdriver put his hands on his knees and stuck out his
elbows with extreme angularity. In his heart he was raving at his
idiotic folly at thus bearding these lions,--indisputably they
WERE lions,--but he had to go through with it now. Heaven send,
his breath, which was already getting a trifle spasmodic, did not
suddenly give out. He fixed his eye on the face of the fat man
with the chins, and spoke in a low, impressive voice. "I came
here, sir," said Mr. Hoopdriver, and paused to inflate his
cheeks, "with a lady."
"Very nice lady," said the man with the gaiters, putting his head
on one side to admire a pearl button that had been hiding behind
the curvature of his calf. "Very nice lady indeed."
"I came here," said Mr. Hoopdriver, "with a lady."
"We saw you did, bless you," said the fat man with the chins, in
a curious wheezy voice. "I don't see there's anything so very
extraordinary in that. One 'ud think we hadn't eyes."
Mr. Hoopdriver coughed. "I came, here, sir--"
"We've 'eard that," said the little man with the beard, sharply
and went off into an amiable chuckle. "We know it by 'art," said
the little man, elaborating the point.
Mr. Hoopdriver temporarily lost his thread. He glared malignantly
at the little man with the beard, and tried to recover his
discourse. A pause.
"You were saying," said the fair young man with the white tie,
speaking very politely, "that you came here with a lady."
"A lady," meditated the gaiter gazer.
The man in velveteen, who was looking from one speaker to another
with keen, bright eyes, now laughed as though a point had been
scored, and stimulated Mr. Hoopdriver to speak, by fixing him
with an expectant regard.
"Some dirty cad," said Mr. Hoopdriver, proceeding with his
discourse, and suddenly growing extremely fierce, "made a remark
as we went by this door."
"Steady on!" said the old gentleman with many chins. ,Steady on!
Don't you go a-calling us names, please."
"One minute!" said Mr. Hoopdriver. "It wasn't I began calling
names." ("Who did? said the man with the chins.) "I'm not calling
any of you dirty cads. Don't run away with that impression. Only
some person in this room made a remark that showed he wasn't fit
to wipe boots on, and, with all due deference to such gentlemen
as ARE gentlemen" (Mr. Hoopdriver looked round for moral
support), "I want to know which it was."
"Meanin'?" said the fair young man in the white tie.
"That I'm going to wipe my boots on 'im straight away," said Mr.
Hoopdriver, reverting to anger, if with a slight catch in his
throat--than which threat of personal violence nothing had been
further from his thoughts on entering the room. He said this
because he could think of nothing else to say, and stuck out his
elbows truculently to hide the sinking of his heart. It is
curious how situations run away with us.
"'Ullo, Charlie!" said the little man, and "My eye!" said the
owner of the chins. 'You're going to wipe your boots on 'im?"
said the fair young man, in a tone of mild surprise.
"I am," said Mr. Hoopdriver, with emphatic resolution, and glared
in the young man's face.
"That's fair and reasonable," said the man in the velveteen
jacket; "if you can."
The interest of the meeting seemed transferred to the young man
in the white tic. "Of course, if you can't find out which it is,
I suppose you're prepared to wipe your boots in a liberal way on
everybody in the room," said this young man, in the same tone of
impersonal question. "This gentleman, the champion lightweight--"
"Own up, Charlie," said the young man with the gaiters, looking
up for a moment. "And don't go a-dragging in your betters. It's
fair and square. You can't get out of it."
"Was it this--gent?" began Mr. Hoopdriver.
"Of course," said the young man in the white tie, "when it comes
to talking of wiping boots--"
"I'm not talking; I'm going to do it," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
He looked round at the meeting. They were no longer antagonists;
they were spectators. He would have to go through with it now.
But this tone of personal aggression on the maker of the remark
had somehow got rid of the oppressive feeling of Hoopdriver
contra mundum. Apparently, he would have to fight someone. Would
he get a black eye? Would he get very much hurt? Pray goodness it
wasn't that sturdy chap in the gaiters! Should he rise and begin?
What would she think if he brought a black eye to breakfast
to-morrow?"Is this the man?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, with a
business-like calm, and arms more angular than ever.
"Eat 'im!" said the little man with the beard; "eat 'im straight
"Steady on!" said the young man in the white tie. "Steady on a
minute. If I did happen to say--"
"You did, did you?" said Mr. Hoopdriver.
Backing out of it, Charlie?" said the young man with the gaiters.
"Not a bit," said Charlie. "Surely we can pass a bit of a joke--"
"I'm going to teach you to keep your jokes to yourself," said Mr.
"Bray-vo!" said the shepherd of the flock of chins.
"Charlie IS a bit too free with his jokes," said the little man
with the beard.
"It's downright disgusting," said Hoopdriver, falling back upon
his speech. "A lady can't ride a bicycle in a country road, or
wear a dress a little out of the ordinary, but every dirty little
greaser must needs go shouting insults--"
"_I_ didn't know the young lady would hear what I said," said
Charlie. " Surely one can speak friendly to one's friends. How
was I to know the door was open--"
Hoopdriver began to suspect that his antagonist was, if possible,
more seriously alarmed at the prospect of violence than himself,
and his spirits rose again. These chaps ought to have a thorough
lesson. "Of COURSE you knew the door was open," he retorted
indignantly. "Of COURSE you thought we should hear what you said.
Don't go telling lies about it. It's no good your saying things
like that. You've had your fun, and you meant to have your fun.
And I mean to make an example of you, Sir."
"Ginger beer," said the little man with the beard, in a
confidential tone to the velveteen jacket, "is regular up this
'ot weather. Bustin' its bottles it is everywhere."
"What's the good of scrapping about in a publichouse?" said
Charlie, appealing to the company. "A fair fight without
interruptions, now, I WOULDN'T mind, if the gentleman's so
Evidently the man was horribly afraid. Mr. Hoopdriver grew
"Where you like," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "jest wherever you like."
"You insulted the gent," said the man in velveteen.
"Don't be a bloomin' funk, Charlie," said the man in gaiters.
"Why, you got a stone of him, if you got an ounce."
"What I say, is this," said the gentleman with the excessive
chins, trying to get a hearing by banging his chair arms. "If
Charlie goes saying things, he ought to back 'em up. That's what
I say. I don't mind his sayin' such things 't all, but he ought
to be prepared to back 'em up."
"I'll BACK 'em up all right," said Charlie, with extremely bitter
emphasis on 'back.' "If the gentleman likes to come Toosday
"Rot!" chopped in Hoopdriver. "Now."
"'Ear, 'ear," said the owner of the chins.
"Never put off till to-morrow, Charlie, what you can do to-day,"
said the man in the velveteen coat.
"You got to do it, Charlie," said the man in gaiters. "It's no
"It's like this," said Charlie, appealing to everyone except
Hoopdriver. "Here's me, got to take in her ladyship's dinner
to-morrow night. How should I look with a black eye? And going
round with the carriage with a split lip?"
"If you don't want your face sp'iled, Charlie, why don't you keep
your mouth shut?" said the person in gaiters.
"Exactly," said Mr. Hoopdriver, driving it home with great
fierceness. "Why don't you shut your ugly mouth?"
"It's as much as my situation's worth," protested Charlie.
"You should have thought of that before," said Hoopdriver.
"There's no occasion to be so thunderin' 'ot about it. I only
meant the thing joking," said Charlie. "AS one gentleman to
another, I'm very sorry if the gentleman's annoyed--"
Everybody began to speak at once. Mr. Hoopdriver twirled his
moustache. He felt that Charlie's recognition of his
gentlemanliness was at any rate a redeeming feature. But it
became his pose to ride hard and heavy over the routed fo c. He
shouted some insulting phrase over the tumult.
"You're regular abject," the man in gaiters was saying to
"Only don't think I'm afraid,--not of a spindle-legged cuss like
him shouted Charlie. "Because I ain't."
"Change of front," thought Hoopdriver, a little startled. "Where
are we going?"
"Don't sit there and be abusive," said the man in velveteen.
"He's offered to hit you, and if I was him, I'd hit you now."
"All right, then," said Charlie, with a sudden change of front
and springing to his feet. "If I must, I must. Now, then!" At
that, Hoopdriver, the child of Fate, rose too, with a horrible
sense that his internal monitor was right. Things had taken a
turn. He had made a mess of it, and now there was nothing for it,
so far as he could see, but to hit the man at once. He and
Charlie stood six feet apart, with a table between, both very
breathless and fierce. A vulgar fight in a public-house, and with
what was only too palpably a footman! Good Heavens! And this was
the dignified, scornful remonstrance! How the juice had it all
happened? Go round the table at him, I suppose. But before the
brawl could achieve itself, the man in gaiters intervened. "Not
here," he said, stepping between the antagonists. Everyone was
"Charlie's artful," said the little man with the beard.
"Buller's yard," said the man with the gaiters, taking the
control of the entire affair with the easy readiness of an
accomplished practitioner. "If the gentleman DON'T mind."
Buller's yard, it seemed, was the very place. "We'll do the thing
regular and decent, if you please." And before he completely
realized what was happening, Hoopdriver was being marched out
through the back premises of the inn, to the first and only fight
with fists that was ever to glorify his life.
Outwardly, so far as the intermittent moonlight showed, Mr.
Hoopdriver was quietly but eagerly prepared to fight. But
inwardly he was a chaos of conflicting purposes. It was
extraordinary how things happened. One remark had trod so closely
on the heels of another, that he had had the greatest difficulty
in following the development of the business. He distinctly
remembered himself walking across from one room to the other,--a
dignified, even an aristocratic figure, primed with considered
eloquence, intent upon a scathing remonstrance to these wretched
yokels, regarding their manners. Then incident had flickered into
incident until here he was out in a moonlit lane,--a slight, dark
figure in a group of larger, indistinct figures,--marching in a
quiet, business-like way towards some unknown horror at Buller's
yard. Fists! It was astonishing. It was terrible! In front of him
was the pallid figure of Charles, and he saw that the man in
gaiters held Charles kindly but firmly by the arm.
"It's blasted rot," Charles was saying, "getting up a fight just
for a thing like that; all very well for 'im. 'E's got 'is
'olidays; 'e 'asn't no blessed dinner to take up to-morrow night
like I 'ave.--No need to numb my arm, IS there?"
They went into Buller's yard through gates. There were sheds in
Buller's yard--sheds of mystery that the moonlight could not
solve--a smell of cows, and a pump stood out clear and black,
throwing a clear black shadow on the whitewashed wall. And here
it was his face was to be battered to a pulp. He knew this was
the uttermost folly, to stand up here and be pounded, but the way
out of it was beyond his imagining. Yet afterwards--? Could he
ever face her again? He patted his Norfolk jacket and took his
ground with his back to the gate. How did one square? So? Suppose
one were to turn and run even now, run straight back to the inn
and lock himself into his bedroom? They couldn't make, him come
out--anyhow. He could prosecute them for assault if they did. How
did one set about prosecuting for assault? He saw Charles, with
his face ghastly white under the moon, squaring in front of him.
He caught a blow on the arm and gave ground. Charles pressed him.
Then he hit with his right and with the violence of despair. It
was a hit of his own devising,--an impromptu,--but it chanced to
coincide with the regulation hook hit at the head. He perceived
with a leap of exultation that the thing his fist had met was the
jawbone of Charles. It was the sole gleam of pleasure he
experienced during the fight, and it was quite momentary. He had
hardly got home upon Charles before he was struck in the chest
and whirled backward. He had the greatest difficulty in keeping
his feet. He felt that his heart was smashed flat. "Gord darm!"
said somebody, dancing toe in hand somewhere behind him. As Mr.
Hoopdriver staggered, Charles gave a loud and fear-compelling
cry. He seemed to tower over Hoopdriver in the moonlight. Both
his fists were whirling. It was annihilation coming--no less. Mr.
Hoopdriver ducked perhaps and certainly gave ground to the right,
hit, and missed. Charles swept round to the left, missing
generously. A blow glanced over Mr. Hoopdriver's left ear, and
the flanking movement was completed. Another blow behind the ear.
Heaven and earth spun furiously round Mr. Hoopdriver, and then he
became aware of a figure in a light suit shooting violently
through an open gate into the night. The man in gaiters sprang
forward past Mr. Hoopdriver, but too late to intercept the
fugitive. There were shouts, laughter, and Mr. Hoopdriver, still
solemnly squaring, realized the great and wonderful
truth--Charles had fled. He, Hoopdriver, had fought and, by all
the rules of war, had won.
"That was a pretty cut under the jaw you gave him," the toothless
little man with the beard was remarking in an unexpectedly
"The fact of it is," said Mr. Hoopdriver, sitting beside the road
to Salisbury, and with the sound of distant church bells in his
cars, "I had to give the fellow a lesson; simply had to."
"It seems so dreadful that you should have to knock people
about," said Jessie.
"These louts get unbearable," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "If now and
then we didn't give them a lesson,--well, a lady cyclist in the
roads would be an impossibility."
"I suppose every woman shrinks from violence," said Jessie. "I
suppose men ARE braver--in a way--than women. It seems to me-I
can't imagine -how one could bring oneself to face a roomful of
rough characters, pick out the bravest, and. give him an
exemplary thrashing. I quail at the idea. I thought only Ouida's
guardsmen did things like that."
"It was nothing more than my juty--as a gentleman," said Mr.
"But to walk straight into the face of danger!"
"It's habit," said Mr. Hoopdriver, quite modestly, flicking off a
particle of cigarette ash that had settled on his knee.
THE ABASEMENT OF MR. HOOPDRIVER
On Monday morning the two fugitives found themselves breakfasting
at the Golden Pheasant in Blandford. They were in the course of
an elaborate doubling movement through Dorsetshire towards
Ringwood, where Jessie anticipated an answer from her
schoolmistress friend. By this time they had been nearly sixty
hours together, and you will understand that Mr. Hoopdriver's
feelings had undergone a considerable intensification and
development. At first Jessie had been only an impressionist
sketch upon his mind, something feminine, active, and dazzling,
something emphatically "above " him, cast into his company by a
kindly fate. His chief idea, at the outset, as you know, had been
to live up to her level, by pretending to be more exceptional,
more wealthy, better educated, and, above all, better born than
he was. His knowledge of the feminine mind was almost entirely
derived from the young ladies he had met in business, and in that
class (as in military society and among gentlemen's servants) the
good old tradition of a brutal social exclusiveness is still
religiously preserved. He had an almost intolerable dread of her
thinking him a I bounder.' Later he began to perceive the
distinction of her idiosyncracies. Coupled with a magnificent
want of experience was a splendid enthusiasm for abstract views
of the most advanced description, and her strength of conviction
completely carried Hoopdriver away. She was going to Live her Own
Life, with emphasis, and Mr. Hoopdriver was profoundly stirred to
similar resolves. So soon as he grasped the tenor of her views,
he perceived that he himself had thought as much from his
earliest years. "Of course," he remarked, in a flash of sexual
pride, "a man is freer than a woman. End in the Colonies, y'know,
there isn't half the Conventionality you find in society in this
He made one or two essays in the display of unconventionality,
and was quite unaware that he impressed her as a narrow-minded
person. He suppressed the habits of years and made no proposal to
go to church. He discussed church-going in a liberal spirit.
"It's jest a habit," he said, "jest a custom. I don't see what
good it does you at all, really." And he made a lot of excellent
jokes at the chimney-pot hat, jokes he had read in the Globe
'turnovers' on that subject. But he showed his gentle breeding by
keeping his gloves on all through the Sunday's ride, and
ostentatiously throwing away more than half a cigarette when they
passed a church whose congregation was gathering for afternoon
service. He cautiously avoided literary topics, except by way of
compliment, seeing that she was presently to be writing books.
It was on Jessie's initiative that they attended service in the
old-fashioned gallery of Blandford church. Jessie's conscience, I
may perhaps tell you, was now suffering the severest twinges. She
perceived clearly that things were not working out quite along
the lines she had designed-. She had read her Olive Schreiner and
George Egerton, and so forth, with all the want of perfect
comprehension of one who is still emotionally a girl. She knew
the thing to do was to have a flat and to go to the British
Museum and write leading articles for the daily p,tpers until
something better came along. If Bechamel (detestable person) had
kept his promises, instead of behaving with unspeakable
horridness, all would have been well. Now her only hope was that
liberal-minded woman, Miss Mergle, who, a year ago, had sent her
out, highly educated, into the world. Miss Mergle had told her at
parting to live fearlessly and truly, and had further given her a
volume of Emerson's Essays and Motley's "Dutch Republic," to help
her through the rapids of adolescence.
Jessie's feelings for her stepmother's household at Surbiton
amounted to an active detestation. There are no graver or more
solemn women in the world than these clever girls whose
scholastic advancement has retarded their feminine coquetry. In
spite of the advanced tone of 'Thomas Plantagenet's' antimarital
novel, Jessie had speedily seen through that amiable woman's
amiable defences. The variety of pose necessitated by the corps
of 'Men' annoyed her to an altogether unreasonable degree. To
return to this life of ridiculous unreality--unconditional
capitulation to 'Conventionality' was an exasperating prospect.
Yet what else was there to do? You will understand, therefore,
that at times she was moody (and Mr. Hoopdriver respectfully
silent and attentive) and at times inclined to eloquent
denunciation of the existing order of things. She was a
Socialist, Hoopdriver learnt, and he gave a vague intimation that
he went further, intending, thereby, no less than the horrors of
anarchism. He would have owned up to the destruction of the
Winter Palace indeed, had he had the faintest idea where the
Winter Palace was, and had his assurance amounted to certainty
that the Winter Palace was destroyed. He agreed with her
cordially that the position of women was intolerable, but checked
himself on the' verge of the proposition that a girl ought not to
expect a fellow to hand down boxes for her when he was getting
the 'swap' from a customer. It was Jessie's preoccupation with
her own perplexities, no doubt, that delayed the unveiling of Mr.
Hoopdriver all through Saturday and Sunday. Once or twice,
however, there were incidents that put him about terribly--even
questions that savoured of suspicion.
On Sunday night, for no conceivable reason, an unwonted
wakefulness came upon him. Unaccountably he realised he was a
contemptible liar, All through the small hours of Monday he
reviewed the tale of his falsehoods, and when he tried to turn
his mind from that, the financial problem suddenly rose upon him.
He heard two o'clock strike, and three. It is odd how unhappy
some of us are at times, when we are at our happiest.
"Good morning, Madam," said Hoopdriver, as Jessie came into the
breakfast room of the Golden Pheasant on Monday morning, and he
smiled, bowed, rubbed his hands together, and pulled out a chair
for her, and rubbed his hands again.
She stopped abruptly, with a puzzled expression on her face.
"Where HAVE I seen that before?" she said.
"The chair?" said Hoopdriver, flushing.
She came forward and shook hands with him, looking the while
curiously into his face. "And--Madam?"
"It's a habit," said Mr. Hoopdriver, guiltily. "A bad habit.
Calling ladies Madam. You must put it down to our colonial
roughness. Out there up country--y'know--the ladies--so rare--we
call 'em all Madam."
"You HAVE some funny habits, brother Chris," said Jessie. "Before
you sell your diamond shares and go into society, as you say, and
stand for Parliament--What a fine thing it is to be a man!--you
must cure yourself. That habit of bowing as you do, and rubbing
your hands, and looking expectant."
"It's a habit."
"I know. But I don't think it a good one. You don't mind my
"Not a bit. I'm grateful."
"I'm blessed or afflicted with a trick of observation," said
Jessie, looking at the breakfast table. Mr. Hoopdriver put his
hand to his moustache and then, thinking this might be another
habit, checked his arm and stuck his hand into his pocket. He
felt juiced awkward, to use his private formula. Jessie's eye
wandered to the armchair, where a piece of binding was loose,
and, possibly to carry out her theory of an observant
disposition, she turned and asked him for a pin.
Mr. Hoopdriver's hand fluttered instinctively to his lappel, and
there, planted by habit, were a couple of stray pins he had
"What an odd place to put pins!" exclaimed Jessie, taking it.
"It's 'andy," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "I saw a chap in a shop do it
"You must have a careful disposition," she said, over her
shoulder, kneeling down to the chair.
"In the centre of Africa--up country, that is--one learns to
value pins," said Mr. Hoopdriver, after a perceptible pause.
"There weren't over many pins in Africa. They don't lie about on
the ground there." His face was now in a fine, red glow. Where
would the draper break out next? He thrust his hands into his
coat pockets, then took one out again, furtively removed the
second pin and dropped it behind him gently. It fell with a loud
'ping' on the fender. Happily she made no remark, being
preoccupied with the binding of the chair.
Mr. Hoopdriver, instead of sitting down, went up to the table and
stood against it, with his finger-tips upon the cloth. They were
keeping breakfast a tremendous time. He took up his rolled
serviette looked closely and scrutinisingly at the ring, then put
his hand under the fold of the napkin and examined the texture,
and put the thing down again. Then he had a vague impulse to
finger his hollow wisdom tooth--happily checked. He suddenly
discovered he was standing as if the table was a counter, and sat
down forthwith. He drummed with his hand on the table. He felt
dreadfully hot and self-conscious.
"Breakfast is late," said Jessie, standing up.
Conversation was slack. Jessie wanted to know the distance to
Ringwood. Then silence fell again.
Mr. Hoopdriver, very uncomfortable and studying an easy bearing,
looked again at the breakfast things and then idly lifted the
corner of the tablecloth on the ends of his fingers, and regarded
it. "Fifteen three," he thought, privately.
"Why do you do that?" said Jessie.
"WHAT?" said Hoopdriver, dropping the tablecloth convulsively.
"Look at the cloth like that. I saw you do it yesterday, too."
Mr. Hoopdriver's face became quite a bright red. He began pulling
his moustache nervously. "I know," he said. "I know. It's a queer
habit, I know. But out there, you know, there's native servants,
you know, and--it's a queer thing to talk about--but one has to
look at things to see, don't y'know, whether they're quite clean
or not. It's got to be a habit."
"How odd!" said Jessie.
"Isn't it?" mumbled Hoopdriver.
"If I were a Sherlock Holmes," said Jessie, "I suppose I could
have told you were a colonial from little things like that. But
anyhow, I guessed it, didn't I?"
"Yes," said Hoopdriver, in a melancholy tone, "you guessed it."
Why not seize the opportunity for a neat confession, and add,
"unhappily in this case you guessed wrong." Did she suspect?
Then, at the psychological moment, the girl bumped the door open
with her tray and brought in the coffee and scrambled eggs.
"I am rather lucky with my intuitions, sometimes," said Jessie.
Remorse that had been accumulating in his mind for two days
surged to the top of his mind. What a shabby liar he was!
And, besides, he must sooner or later, inevitably, give himself
Mr. Hoopdriver helped the eggs and then, instead of beginning,
sat with his cheek on his hand, watching Jessie pour out the
coffee. His ears were a bright red, and his eyes bright. He took
his coffee cup clumsily, cleared his throat, suddenly leant back
in his chair, and thrust his hands deep into his pockets. "I'll
do it," he said aloud.
"Do what?" said Jessie, looking up in surprise over the coffee
pot. She was just beginning her scrambled egg.
"Miss Milton-- I'm a liar." He put his head on one side and
regarded her with a frown of tremendous resolution. Then in
measured accents, and moving his head slowly from side to side,
he announced, "Ay'm a deraper."
"You're a draper? I thought--"
"You thought wrong. But it's bound to come up. Pins, attitude,
habits--It's plain enough.
"I'm a draper's assistant let out for a ten-days holiday. Jest a
draper's assistant. Not much, is it? A counter-jumper."
"A draper's assistant isn't a position to be ashamed of," she
said, recovering, and not quite understanding yet what this all
"Yes, it is," he said, "for a man, in this country now. To be
just another man's hand, as I am. To have to wear what clothes
you are told, and go to church to please customers, and
work--There's no other kind of men stand such hours. A drunken
bricklayer's a king to it."
"But why are you telling me this now?"
"It's important you should know at once."
"But, Mr. Benson--"
"That isn't all. If you don't mind my speaking about myself a
bit, there's a few things I'd like to tell you. I can't go on
deceiving you. My name's not Benson. WHY I told you Benson, I
DON'T know. Except that I'm a kind of fool. Well--I wanted
somehow to seem more than I was. My name's Hoopdriver."
"And that about South Africa--and that lion."
And the discovery of diamonds on the ostrich farm. Lies too. And
all the reminiscences of the giraffes--lies too. I never rode on
no giraffes. I'd be afraid."
He looked at her with a kind of sullen satisfaction. He had eased
his conscience, anyhow. She regarded him in infinite perplexity.
This was a new side altogether to the man. "But WHY," she began.
"Why did I tell you such things? _I_ don't know. Silly sort of
chap, I expect. I suppose I wanted to impress you. But somehow,
now, I want you to know the truth."
Silence. Breakfast untouched. "I thought I'd tell you," said Mr.
Hoopdriver. "I suppose it's snobbishness and all that kind of
thing, as much as anything. I lay awake pretty near all last
night thinking about myself; thinking what a got-up imitation of
a man I was, and all that."
"And you haven't any diamond shares, and you are not going into
Parliament, and you're not--"
"All Lies," said Hoopdriver, in a sepulchral voice. "Lies from
beginning to end. 'Ow I came to tell 'em I DON'T know."
She stared at him blankly.
"I never set eyes on Africa in my life," said Mr. Hoopdriver,
completing the confession. Then he pulled his right hand from his
pocket, and with the nonchalance of one to whom the bitterness of
death is passed, began to drink his coffee.
"It's a little surprising," began Jessie, vaguely.
"Think it over," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "I'm sorry from the bottom
of my heart."
And then breakfast proceeded in silence. Jessie ate very little,
and seemed lost in thought. Mr. Hoopdriver was so overcome by
contrition and anxiety that he consumed an extraordinarily large
breakfast out of pure nervousness, and ate his scrambled eggs for
the most part with the spoon that belonged properly to the
marmalade. His eyes were gloomily downcast. She glanced at him
through her eyelashes. Once or twice she struggled with laughter,
once or twice she seemed to be indignant.
"I don't know what to think," she said at last. "I don't know
what to make of you--brother Chris. I thought, do you know? that
you were perfectly honest. And somehow--"
"I think so still."
"Honest--with all those lies!"
"I don't," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "I'm fair ashamed of myself. But
anyhow--I've stopped deceiving you."
"I THOUGHT," said the Young Lady in Grey, "that story of the
"Lord!" said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Don't remind me of THAT."
"I thought, somehow, I FELT, that the things you said didn't ring
quite true." She suddenly broke out in laughter, at the
expression of his face. "Of COURSE you are honest," she said.
"How could I ever doubt it? As if _I_ had never pretended! I see
it all now."
Abruptly she rose, and extended her hand across the breakfast
things. He looked at her doubtfully, and saw the dancing
friendliness in her eyes. He scarcely understood at first. He
rose, holding the marmalade spoon, and took her proffered hand
with abject humility. "Lord," he broke out, "if you aren't
"I see it all now." A brilliant inspiration had suddenly obscured
her humour. She sat down suddenly, and he sat down too. "You did
it," she said, "because you wanted to help me. And you thought I
was too Conventional to take help from one I might think my
"That was partly it," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
"How you misunderstood me!" she said.
"You don't mind?"
"It was noble of you. But I am sorry," she said, "you should
think me likely to be ashamed of you because you follow a decent
"I didn't know at first, you see," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
And he submitted meekly to a restoration of his self-respect. He
was as useful a citizen as could be,--it was proposed and
carried,--and his lying was of the noblest. And so the breakfast
concluded much more happily than his brightest expectation, and
they rode out of ruddy little Blandford as though no shadow of
any sort had come between them.
As they were sitting by the roadside among the pine trees
half-way up a stretch of hill between Wimborne and Ringwood,
however, Mr. Hoopdriver reopened the question of his worldly
"Ju think," he began abruptly, removing a meditative cigarette
from his mouth, "that a draper's shopman IS a decent citizen?"
"When he puts people off with what they don't quite want, for
"Need he do that?"
"Salesmanship," said Hoopdriver. "Wouldn't get a crib if he
didn't.--It's no good your arguing. It's not a particularly
honest nor a particularly useful trade; it's not very high up ;
there's no freedom and no leisure--seven to eight-thirty every
day in the week; don't leave much edge to live on, does it?--real
workmen laugh at us and educated chaps like bank clerks and
solicitors' clerks look down on us. You look respectable outside,
and inside you are packed in dormitories like convicts, fed on
bread and butter and bullied like slaves. You're just superior
enough to feel that you're not superior. Without capital there's
no prospects; one draper in a hundred don't even earn enough to
marry on; and if he DOES marry, his G.V. can just use him to
black boots if he likes, and he daren't put his back up. That's
drapery! And you tell me to be contented. Would YOU be contented
if you was a shop girl?"
She did not answer. She looked at him with distress in her brown
eyes, and he remained gloomily in possession of the field.
Presently he spoke. "I've been thinking," he said, and stopped.
She turned her face, resting her cheek on the palm of her hand.
There was a light in her eyes that made the expression of them
tender. Mr. Hoopdriver had not looked in her face while he had
talked. He had regarded the grass, and pointed his remarks with
redknuckled hands held open and palms upwards. Now they hung
limply over his knees.
"Well?" she said.
"I was thinking it this morning," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
"Of course it's silly." "Well?"
"It's like this. I'm twenty-three, about. I had my schooling all
right to fifteen, say. Well, that leaves me eight years
behind.--Is it too late? I wasn't so backward. I did algebra, and
Latin up to auxiliary verbs, and French genders. I got a kind of
"And now you mean, should you go on working?"
"Yes," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "That's it. You can't do much at
drapery without capital, you know. But if I could get really
educated. I've thought sometimes. . ."
"Why not? said the Young Lady in Grey.
Mr. Hoopdriver was surprised to see it in that light. "You
think?" he said. "Of course. You are a Man. You are free--" She
warmed. "I wish I were you to have the chance of that struggle."
"Am I Man ENOUGH?" said Mr. Hoopdriver aloud, but addressing
himself. "There's that eight years," he said to her.
"You can make it up. What you call educated men--They're not
going on. You can catch them. They are quite satisfied. Playing
golf, and thinking of clever things to say to women like my
stepmother, and dining out. You're in front of them already in
one thing. They think they know everything. You don't. And they
know such little things."
"Lord!" said Mr. Hoopdriver. "How you encourage a fellow!"
"If I could only help you," she said, and left an eloquent
hiatus. He became pensive again.
"It's pretty evident you don't think much of a draper," he said
Another interval. "Hundreds of men," she said, "have come from
the very lowest ranks of life. There was Burns, a ploughman; and
Hugh Miller, a stonemason; and plenty of others. Dodsley was a
"But drapers! We're too sort of shabby genteel to rise. Our coats
and cuffs might get crumpled--"
"Wasn't there a Clarke who wrote theology? He was a draper."
"There was one started a sewing cotton, the only one I ever heard
"Have you ever read 'Hearts Insurgent'?"
"Never," said Mr. Hoopdriver. He did not wait for her context,
but suddenly broke out with an account of his literary
requirements. "The fact is--I've read precious little. One don't
get much of a chance, situated as I am. We have a library at
business, and I've gone through that. Most Besant I've read, and
a lot of Mrs. Braddon's and Rider Haggard and Marie Corelli--and,
well--a Ouida or so. They're good stories, of course, and
first-class writers, but they didn't seem to have much to do with
me. But there's heaps of books one hears talked about, I HAVEN'T
"Don't you read any other books but novels?"
"Scarcely ever. One gets tired after business, and you can't get
the books. I have been to some extension lectures, of course,
'Lizabethan Dramatists,' it was, but it seemed a little
high-flown, you know. And I went and did wood-carving at the same
place. But it didn't seem leading nowhere, and I cut my thumb and
He made a depressing spectacle, with his face anxious and his
hands limp. "It makes me sick," he said, "to think how I've been
fooled with. My old schoolmaster ought to have a juiced HIDING.
He's a thief. He pretended to undertake to make a man of me, and
be's stole twenty-three years of my life, filled me up with
scraps and sweepings. Here I am! I don't KNOW anything, and I
can't DO anything, and all the learning time is over."
"Is it?" she said ; but he did not seem to hear her. "My o'
people didn't know any better, and went and paid thirty pounds
premium--thirty pounds down to have me made THIS. The G.V.
promised to teach me the trade, and he never taught me anything
but to be a Hand. It's the way they do with draper's apprentices.
If every swindler was locked up--well, you'd have nowhere to buy
tape and cotton. It's all very well to bring up Burns and those
chaps, but I'm not that make. Yet I'm not such muck that I might
not have been better--with teaching. I wonder what the chaps who
sneer and laugh at such as me would be if they'd been fooled
about as I've been. At twenty-three--it's a long start."
He looked up with a wintry smile, a sadder and wiser Hoopdriver
indeed than him of the glorious imaginings. "It's YOU done this,"
he said. "You're real. And it sets me thinking what I really am,
and what I might have been. Suppose it was all different--"
"MAKE it different."
"WORK. Stop playing at life. Face it like a man."
"Ah!" said Hoopdriver, glancing at her out of the corners of his
eyes. "And even then--"
"No! It's not much good. I'm beginning too late."
And there, in blankly thoughtful silence, that conversation
IN THE NEW FOREST
At Ringwood they lunched, and Jessie met with a disappointment.
There was no letter for her at the post office. Opposite the
hotel, The Chequered Career, was a machine shop with a
conspicuously second-hand Marlborough Club tandem tricycle
displayed in the window, together with the announcement that
bicycles and tricycles were on hire within. The establishment was
impressed on Mr. Hoopdriver's mind by the proprietor's action in
coming across the road and narrowly inspecting their machines.
His action revived a number of disagreeable impressions, but,
happily, came to nothing. While they were still lunching, a tall
clergyman, with a heated face, entered the room and sat down at
the table next to theirs. He was in a kind of holiday costume;
that is to say, he had a more than usually high collar, fastened
behind and rather the worse for the weather, and his long-tail
coat had been replaced by a black jacket of quite remarkable
brevity. He had faded brown shoes on his feet, his trouser legs
were grey with dust, and he wore a hat of piebald straw in the
place of the customary soft felt. He was evidently socially
"A most charming day, sir," he said, in a ringing tenor.
"Charming," said Mr. Hoopdriver, over a portion of pie.
"You are, I perceive, cycling through this delightful country,"