Part 4 out of 4
said the clergyman.
"Touring," explained Mr. Hoopdriver. "I can imagine that, with a
properly oiled machine, there can be no easier nor pleasanter way
of seeing the country."
"No," said Mr. Hoopdriver; "it isn't half a bad. way of getting
"For a young and newly married couple, a tandem bicycle must be,
I should imagine, a delightful bond."
"Quite so," said Mr. Hoopdriver, reddening a little.
"Do you ride a tandem?"
"No--we're separate," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
"The motion through the air is indisputably of a very
exhilarating description." With that decision, the clergyman
turned to give his orders to the attendant, in a firm,
authoritative voice, for a cup of tea, two gelatine lozenges,
bread and butter, salad, and pie to follow. "The gelatine
lozenges I must have. I require them to precipitate the tannin in
my tea," he remarked to the room at large, and folding his hands,
remained for some time with his chin thereon, staring fixedly at
a little picture over Mr. Hoopdriver's head.
"I myself am a cyclist," said the clergyman, descending suddenly
upon Mr. Hoopdriver.
"Indeed!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, attacking the moustache. "What
machine, may I ask?"
"I have recently become possessed of a tricycle. A bicycle is, I
regret to say, considered too--how shall I put it? --flippant by
my parishioners. So I have a tricycle. I have just been hauling
"Hauling!" said Jessie, surprised.
"With a shoe lace. And partly carrying it on my back."
The pause was unexpected. Jessie had some trouble with a crumb.
Mr. Hoopdriver's face passed through several phases of surprise.
Then he saw the explanation. "Had an accident?"
"I can hardly call it an accident. The wheels suddenly refused to
go round. I found myself about five miles from here with an
absolutely immobile machine."
"Ow!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, trying to seem intelligent, and Jessie
glanced at this insane person.
"It appears," said the clergyman, satisfied with the effect he
had created, "that my man carefully washed out the bearings with
paraffin, and let the machine dry without oiling it again. The
consequence was that they became heated to a considerable
temperature and jammed. Even at the outset the machine ran
stiffly as well as noisily, and I, being inclined to ascribe this
stiffness to my own lassitude, merely redoubled my exertions."
"'Ot work all round," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
"You could scarcely put it more appropriately. It is my rule of
life to do whatever I find to do with all my might. I believe,
indeed, that the bearings became red hot. Finally one of the
wheels jammed together. A side wheel it was, so that its stoppage
necessitated an inversion of the entire apparatus,--an inversion
in which I participated."
"Meaning, that you went over?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, suddenly much
"Precisely. And not brooking my defeat, I suffered repeatedly.
You may understand, perhaps, a natural impatience. I
expostulated--playfully, of course. Happily the road was not
overlooked. Finally, the entire apparatus became rigid, and I
abandoned the unequal contest. For all practical purposes the
tricycle was no better than a heavy chair without castors. It was
a case of hauling or carrying."
The clergyman's nutriment appeared in the doorway.
"Five miles," said the clergyman. He began at once to eat bread
and butter vigorously. "Happily," he said, "I am an eupeptic,
energetic sort of person on principle. I would all men were
"It's the best way," agreed Mr. Hoopdriver, and the conversation
gave precedence to bread and butter.
"Gelatine," said the clergyman, presently, stirring his tea
thoughtfully, "precipitates the tannin in one's tea and renders
it easy of digestion."
"That's a useful sort of thing to know," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
"You are altogether welcome," said the clergyman, biting
generously at two pieces of bread and butter folded together.
In the afternoon our two wanderers rode on at an easy pace
towards Stoney Cross. Conversation languished, the topic of South
Africa being in abeyance. Mr. Hoopdriver was silenced by
disagreeable thoughts. He had changed the last sovereign at
Ringwood. The fact had come upon him suddenly. Now too late he
was reflecting upon his resources. There was twenty pounds or
more in the post office savings bank in Putney, but his book was
locked up in his box at the Antrobus establishment. Else this
infatuated man would certainly have surreptitiously withdrawn the
entire sum in order to prolong these journeyings even for a few
days. As it was, the shadow of the end fell across his happiness.
Strangely enough, in spite of his anxiety and the morning's
collapse, he was still in a curious emotional state that was
certainly not misery. He was forgetting his imaginings and
posings, forgetting himself altogether in his growing
appreciation of his companion. The most tangible trouble in his
mind was the necessity of breaking the matter to her.
A long stretch up hill tired them long before Stoney Cross was
reached, and they dismounted and sat under the shade of a little
oak tree. Near the crest the road looped on itself, so that,
looking back, it sloped below them up to the right and then came
towards them. About them grew a rich heather with stunted oaks on
the edge of a deep ditch along the roadside, and this road was
sandy; below the steepness of the hill, however, it was grey and
barred with shadows, for there the trees clustered thick and
tall. Mr. Hoopdriver fumbled clumsily with his cigarettes.
"There's a thing I got to tell you," he said, trying to be
"Yes?" she said.
"I'd like to jest discuss your plans a bit, y'know."
"I'm very unsettled," said Jessie. "You are thinking of writing
"Or doing journalism, or teaching, or something like that."
"And keeping yourself independent of your stepmother?"
"How long'd it take now, to get anything of that sort to do?"
"I don't know at all. I believe there are a great many women
journalists and sanitary inspectors, and black-and-white artists.
But I suppose it takes time. Women, you know, edit most papers
nowadays, George Egerton says. I ought, I suppose, to communicate
with a literary agent."
"Of course," said Hoopdriver, "it's very suitable work. Not being
heavy like the drapery."
"There's heavy brain labour, you must remember."
"That wouldn't hurt YOU," said Mr. Hoopdriver, turning a
"It's like this," he said, ending a pause. "It's a juiced
nuisance alluding to these matters, but--we got very little more
He perceived that Jessie started, though he did not look at her.
"I was counting, of course, on your friend's writing and your
being able to take some action to-day." 'Take some action' was a
phrase he had learnt at his last 'swop.'
"Money," said Jessie. "I didn't think of money."
"Hullo! Here's a tandem bicycle," said Mr. Hoopdriver, abruptly,
and pointing with his cigarette.
She looked, and saw two little figures emerging from among the
trees at the foot of the slope. The riders were bowed sternly
over their work and made a gallant but unsuccessful attempt to
take the rise. The machine was evidently too highly geared for
hill climbing, and presently the rearmost rider rose on his
saddle and hopped off, leaving his companion to any fate he found
proper. The foremost rider was a man unused to such machines and
apparently undecided how to dismount. He wabbled a few yards up
the hill with a long tail of machine wabbling behind him.
Finally, he made an attempt to jump off as one does off a single
bicycle, hit his boot against the backbone, and collapsed
heavily, falling on his shoulder.
She stood up. "Dear me!" she said. "I hope he isn't hurt."
The second rider went to the assistance of the fallen man.
Hoopdriver stood up, too. The lank, shaky machine was lifted up
and wheeled out of the way, and then the fallen rider, being
assisted, got up slowly and stood rubbing his arm. No serious
injury seemed to be done to the man, and the couple presently
turned their attention to the machine by the roadside. They were
not in cycling clothes Hoopdriver observed. One wore the
grotesque raiment for which the Cockney discovery of the game of
golf seems indirectly blamable. Even at this distance the
flopping flatness of his cap, the bright brown leather at the top
of his calves, and the chequering of his stockings were
perceptible. The other, the rear rider, was a slender little man
"Amatoors," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
Jessie stood staring, and a veil of thought dropped over her
eyes. She no longer regarded the two men who were now tinkering
at the machine down below there.
"How much have you?" she said.
He thrust his right hand into his pocket and produced six coins,
counted them with his left index finger, and held them out to
her. "Thirteen four half," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Every penny."
"I have half a sovereign," she said. "Our bill wherever we
stop--" The hiatus was more eloquent than many words.
"I never thought of money coming in to stop us like this," said
"It's a juiced nuisance."
"Money," said Jessie. "Is it possible--Surely! Conventionality!
May only people of means--Live their own Lives? I never thought
"Here's some more cyclists coming," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
The two men were both busy with their bicycle still, but now from
among the trees emerged the massive bulk of a 'Marlborough Club'
tandem, ridden by a slender woman in grey and a burly man in ù
Norfolk jacket. Following close upon this came lank black figure
in a piebald straw hat, riding a tricycle of antiquated pattern
with two large wheels in front. The man in grey remained bowed
over the bicycle, with his stomach resting on the saddle, but his
companion stood up and addressed some remark to the tricycle
riders. Then it seemed as if he pointed up hill to where Mr.
Hoopdriver and his companion stood side by side. A still odder
thing followed; the lady in grey took out her handkerchief,
appeared to wave it for a moment, and then at a hasty motion from
her companion the white signal vanished.
"Surely," said Jessie, peering under her hand. "It's never--"
The tandem tricycle began to ascend the hill, quartering
elaborately from side to side to ease the ascent. It was evident,
from his heaving shoulders and depressed head, that the burly
gentleman was exerting himself. The clerical person on the
tricycle assumed the shape of a note of interrogation. Then on
the heels of this procession came a dogcart driven by a man in a
billycock hat and containing a lady in dark green.
"Looks like some sort of excursion," said Hoopdriver.
Jessie did not answer. She was still peering under her hand.
"Surely," she said.
The clergyman's efforts were becoming convulsive. With a curious
jerking motion, the tricycle he rode twisted round upon itself,
and he partly dismounted and partly fell off. He turned his
machine up hill again immediately and began to wheel it. Then the
burly gentleman dismounted, and with a courtly attentiveness
assisted the lady in grey to alight. There was some little
difference of opinion as to assistance, she so clearly wished to
help push. Finally she gave in, and the burly gentleman began
impelling the machine up hill by his own unaided strength. His
face made a dot of brilliant colour among the greys and greens at
the foot of the hill. The tandem bicycle was now, it seems,
repaired, and this joined the tail of the procession, its riders
walking behind the dogcart, from which the lady in green and the
driver had now descended.
"Mr. Hoopdriver," said Jessie. "Those people--I'm almost sure--"
"Lord!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, reading the rest in her face, and he
turned to pick up his machine at once. Then he dropped it and
assisted her to mount.
At the sight of Jessie mounting against the sky line the people
coming up the hill suddenly became excited and ended Jessie's
doubts at once. Two handkerchiefs waved, and some one shouted.
The riders of the tandem bicycle began to run it up hill, past
the other vehicles. But our young people did not wait for further
developments of the pursuit. In another moment they were out of
sight, riding hard down a steady incline towards Stoney Cross.
Before they had dropped among the trees out of sight of the hill
brow, Jessie looked back and saw the tandem rising over the
crest, with its rear rider just tumbling into the saddle.
"They're coming," she said, and bent her head over her handles in
true professional style.
They whirled down into the valley, over a white bridge, and saw
ahead of them a number of shaggy little ponies frisking in the
roadway. Involuntarily they slackened. "Shoo!" said Mr.
Hoopdriver, and the ponies kicked up their heels derisively. At
that Mr. Hoopdriver lost his temper and charged at them, narrowly
missed one, and sent them jumping the ditch into the bracken
under the trees, leaving the way clear for Jessie.
Then the road rose quietly but persistently; the treadles grew
heavy, and Mr. Hoopdriver's breath sounded like a saw. The tandem
appeared, making frightful exertions, at the foot, while the
chase was still climbing. Then, thank Heaven! a crest and a
stretch of up and down road, whose only disadvantage was its
pitiless exposure to the afternoon sun. The tandem apparently
dismounted at the hill, and did not appear against the hot blue
sky until they were already near some trees and a good mile away.
"We're gaining," said Mr. Hoopdriver, with a little Niagara of
perspiration dropping from brow to cheek. "That hill--"
But that was their only gleam of success. They were both nearly
spent. Hoopdriver, indeed, was quite spent, and only a feeling of
shame prolonged the liquidation of his bankrupt physique. From
that point the tandem grained upon them steadily. At the Rufus
Stone, it was scarcely a hundred yards behind. Then one desperate
spurt, and they found themselves upon a steady downhill stretch
among thick pine woods. Downhill nothing can beat a highly geared
tandem bicycle. Automatically Mr. Hoopdriver put up his feet, and
Jessie slackened her pace. In another moment they heard the swish
of the fat pneumatics behind them, and the tandem passed
Hoopdriver and drew alongside Jessie. Hoopdriver felt a mad
impulse to collide with this abominable machine as it passed him.
His only consolation was to notice that its riders, riding
violently, were quite as dishevelled as himself and smothered in
sandy white dust.
Abruptly Jessie stopped and dismounted, and the tandem riders
shot panting past them downhill. "Brake," said Dangle, who was
riding behind, and stood up on the pedals. For a moment the
velocity of the thing increased, and then they saw the dust fly
from the brake, as it came down on the front tire. Dangle's right
leg floundered in the air as he came off in the road. The tandem
wobbled. "Hold it!" cried Phipps over his shoulder, going on
downhill. I can't get off if you don't hold it." He put on the
brake until the machine stopped almost dead, and then feeling
unstable began to pedal again. Dangle shouted after him. "Put out
your foot, man," said Dangle.
In this way the tandem riders were carried a good hundred yards
or more beyond their quarry. Then Phipps realized his
possibilities, slacked up with the brake, and let the thing go
over sideways, dropping on to his right foot. With his left leg
still over the saddle, and still holding the handles, he looked
over his shoulder and began addressing uncomplimentary remarks to
Dangle. "You only think of yourself," said Phipps, with a florid
"They have forgotten us," said Jessie, turning her machine.
"There was a road at the top of the hill--to Lyndhurst," said
Hoopdriver, following her example.
"It's no good. There's the money. We must give it up. But let us
go back to that hotel at Rufus Stone. I don't see why we should
be led captive."
So to the consternation of the tandem riders, Jessie and her
companion mounted and rode quietly back up the hill again. As
they dismounted at the hotel entrance, the tandem overtook them,
and immediately afterwards the dogcart came into view in pursuit.
Dangle jumped off.
"Miss Milton, I believe," said Dangle, panting and raising a damp
cap from his wet and matted hair.
"I SAY," said Phipps, receding involuntarily. "Don't go doing it
again, Dangle. HELP a chap."
"One minute," said Dangle, and ran after his colleague.
Jessie leant her machine against the wall, and went into the
hotel entrance. Hoopdriver remained in the hotel entrance, limp
AT THE RUFUS STONE
He folded his arms as Dangle and Phipps returned towards him.
Phipps was abashed by his inability to cope with the tandem,
which he was now wheeling, but Dangle was inclined to be
quarrelsome. "Miss Milton?" he said briefly.
Mr. Hoopdriver bowed over his folded arms.
"Miss Milton within?" said Dangle.
AND not to be disturved," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
"You are a scoundrel, sir," said Mr. Dangle.
"Et your service," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "She awaits 'er
Mr. Dangle hesitated. "She will be here immediately," he said.
"Here is her friend, Miss Mergle."
Mr. Hoopdriver unfolded his arms slowly, and, with an air of
immense calm, thrust his hands into his breeches pockets. Then
with one of those fatal hesitations of his, it occurred to him
that this attitude was merely vulgarly defiant he withdrew both,
returned one and pulled at the insufficient moustache with the
other. Miss Mergle caught him in confusion. "Is this the man?"
she said to Dangle, and forthwith, "How DARE you, sir? How dare
you face me? That poor girl!"
"You will permit me to observe," began Mr. Hoopdriver, with a
splendid drawl, seeing himself, for the first time in all this
business, as a romantic villain.
"Ugh," said Miss Mergle, unexpectedly striking him about the
midriff with her extended palms, and sending him staggering
backward into the hall of the hotel.
"Let me pass said Miss Mergle, in towering indignation. "How dare
you resist my passage?" and so swept by him and into the
dining-room, wherein Jessie had sought refuge.
As Mr. Hoopdriver struggled for equilibrium with the
umbrella-stand, Dangle and Phipps, roused from their inertia by
Miss Mergle's activity, came in upon her heels, Phipps leading.
"How dare you prevent that lady passing?" said Phipps.
Mr. Hoopdriver looked obstinate, and, to Dangle's sense,
dangerous, but he made no answer. A waiter in full bloom appeared
at the end of the passage, guardant. "It is men of your stamp,
sir," said Phipps, "who discredit manhood."
Mr. Hoopdriver thrust his hands into his pockets. "Who the juice
are you?" shouted Mr. Hoopdriver, fiercely.
"Who are YOU, sir?" retorted Phipps. "Who are you? That's the
question. What are YOU, and what are you doing, wandering at
large with a young lady under age?"
"Don't speak to him," said Dangle.
"I'm not a-going to tell all my secrets to any one who comes at
me," said Hoopdriver. "Not Likely." And added fiercely, "And that
I tell you, sir."
He and Phipps stood, legs apart and both looking exceedingly
fierce at one another, and Heaven alone knows what might not have
happened, if the long clergyman had not appeared in the doorway,
heated but deliberate. "Petticoated anachronism," said the long
clergyman in the doorway, apparently still suffering from the
antiquated prejudice that demanded a third wheel and a black coat
from a clerical rider. He looked at Phipps and Hoopdriver for a
moment, then extending his hand towards the latter, he waved it
up and down three times, saying, "Tchak, tchak, tchak," very
deliberately as he did so. Then with a concluding "Ugh!" and a
gesture of repugnance he passed on into the dining-room from
which the voice of Miss Mergle was distinctly audible remarking
that the weather was extremely hot even for the time of year.
This expression of extreme disapprobation had a very demoralizing
effect upon Hoopdriver, a demoralization that was immediately
completed by the advent of the massive Widgery.
"Is this the man?" said Widgery very grimly, and producing a
special voice for the occasion from somewhere deep in his neck.
"Don't hurt him!" said Mrs. Milton, with clasped hands. "However
much wrong he has done her--No violence!"
"'Ow many more of you?" said Hoopdriver, at bay before the
umbrella stand. "Where is she? What has he done with her?" said
"I'm not going to stand here and be insulted by a lot of
strangers," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "So you needn't think it."
"Please don't worry, Mr. Hoopdriver," said Jessie, suddenly
appearing in the door of the dining-room. "I'm here, mother." Her
face was white.
Mrs. Milton said something about her child, and made an emotional
charge at Jessie. The embrace vanished into the dining-room.
Widgery moved as if to follow, and hesitated. "You'd better make
yourself scarce," he said to Mr. Hoopdriver.
"I shan't do anything of the kind," said Mr. Hoopdriver, with a
catching of the breath. "I'm here defending that young lady."
"You've done her enough mischief, I should think," said Widgery,
suddenly walking towards the dining-room, and closing the door
behind him, leaving Dangle and Phipps with Hoopdriver.
"Clear!" said Phipps, threateningly.
"I shall go and sit out in the garden," said Mr. Hoopdriver, with
dignity. "There I shall remain."
"Don't make a row with him," said Dangle.
And Mr. Hoopdriver retired, unassaulted, in almost sobbing
So here is the world with us again, and our sentimental excursion
is over. In the front of the Rufus Stone Hotel conceive a
remarkable collection of wheeled instruments, watched over by
Dangle and Phipps in grave and stately attitudes, and by the
driver of a stylish dogcart from Ringwood. In the garden behind,
in an attitude of nervous prostration, Mr. Hoopdriver was seated
on a rustic seat. Through the open window of a private
sitting-room came a murmur of voices, as of men and women in
conference. Occasionally something that might have been a girlish
"I fail to see what status Widgery has," says Dangle, "thrusting
himself in there."
"He takes too much upon himself," said Phipps.
"I've been noticing little things, yesterday and to-day," said
Dangle, and stopped.
"They went to the cathedral together in the afternoon."
"Financially it would be a good thing for her, of course," said
Dangle, with a gloomy magnanimity.
He felt drawn to Phipps now by the common trouble, in spite of
the man's chequered legs. "Financially it wouldn't be half bad."
"He's so dull and heavy," said Phipps.
Meanwhile, within, the clergyman had, by promptitude and
dexterity, taken the chair and was opening the case against the
unfortunate Jessie. I regret to have to say that my heroine had
been appalled by the visible array of public opinion against her
excursion, to the pitch of tears. She was sitting with flushed
cheeks and swimming eyes at the end of the table opposite to the
clergyman. She held her handkerchief crumpled up in her extended
hand. Mrs. Milton sat as near to her as possible, and
occasionally made little dabs with her hand at Jessie's hand, to
indicate forgiveness. These advances were not reciprocated, which
touched Widgery very much. The lady in green, Miss Mergle (B.
A.), sat on the opposite side near the clergyman. She was the
strong-minded schoolmistress to whom Jessie had written, and who
had immediately precipitated the pursuit upon her. She had picked
up the clergyman in Ringwood, and had told him everything
forthwith, having met him once at a British Association meeting.
He had immediately constituted himself administrator of the
entire business. Widgery, having been foiled in an attempt to
conduct the proceedings, stood with his legs wide apart in front
of the fireplace ornament, and looked profound and sympathetic.
Jessie's account of her adventures was a chary one and given
amidst frequent interruptions. She surprised herself by skilfully
omitting any allusion to the Bechamel episode. She completely
exonerated Hoopdriver from the charge of being more than an
accessory to her escapade. But public feeling was heavy against
Hoopdriver. Her narrative was inaccurate and sketchy, but happily
the others were too anxious to pass opinions to pin her down to
particulars. At last they had all the facts they would permit.
"My dear young lady," said the clergyman, "I can only ascribe
this extravagant and regrettable expedition of yours to the
wildest misconceptions of your place in the world and of your
duties and responsibilities. Even now, it seems to me, your
present emotion is due not so much to a real and sincere
penitence for your disobedience and folly as to a positive
annoyance at our most fortunate interference--"
"Not that," said Mrs. Milton, in a low tone. "Not that."
"But WHY did she go off like this?" said Widgery. "That's what
_I_ want to know."
Jessie made an attempt to speak, but Mrs. Milton said "Hush!" and
the ringing tenor of the clergyman rode triumphantly over the
meeting. "I cannot understand this spirit of unrest that has
seized upon the more intelligent portion of the feminine
community. You had a pleasant home, a most refined and
intelligent lady in the position of your mother, to cherish and
"If I HAD a mother," gulped Jessie, succumbing to the obvious
snare of self-pity, and sobbing.
"To cherish, protect, and advise you. And you must needs go out
of it all alone into a strange world of unknown dangers-"
"I wanted to learn," said Jessie.
"You wanted to learn. May you never have anything to UNlearn."
"AH!" from Mrs. Milton, very sadly.
"It isn't fair for all of you to argue at me at once," submitted
"A world full of unknown dangers," resumed the clergyman. "Your
proper place was surely the natural surroundings that are part of
you. You have been unduly influenced, it is only too apparent, by
a class of literature which, with all due respect to
distinguished authoress that shall be nameless, I must call the
New Woman Literature. In that deleterious ingredient of our book
"I don't altogether agree with you there," said Miss Mergle,
throwing her head back and regarding him firmly through her
spectacles, and Mr. Widgery coughed.
"What HAS all this to do with me?" asked Jessie, availing herself
of the interruption.
"The point is," said Mrs. Milton, on her defence, "that in my
"All I want to do," said Jessie, "is to go about freely by
myself. Girls do so in America. Why not here?"
"Social conditions are entirely different in America," said Miss
Mergle. "Here we respect Class Distinctions."
"It's very unfortunate. What I want to know is, why I cannot go
away for a holiday if I want to."
"With a strange young man, socially your inferior," said Widgery,
and made her flush by his tone.
"Why not?" she said. "With anybody."
"They don't do that, even in America," said Miss Mergle.
"My dear young lady," said the clergyman, "the most elementary
principles of decorum--A day will come when you will better
understand how entirely subservient your ideas are to the very
fundamentals of our present civilisation, when you will better
understand the harrowing anxiety you have given Mrs. Milton by
this inexplicable flight of yours. We can only put things down at
present, in charity, to your ignorance--"
"You have to consider the general body of opinion, too," said
"Precisely," said Miss Mergle. "There is no such thing as conduct
in the absolute." "If once this most unfortunate business gets
about," said the clergyman, "it will do you infinite harm."
"But I'VE done nothing wrong. Why should I be responsible for
"The world has no charity," said Mrs. Milton.
"For a girl," said Jessie. "No."
"Now do let us stop arguing, my dear young lady, and let us
listen to reason. Never mind how or why, this conduct of yours
will do you infinite harm, if once it is generally known. And not
only that, it will cause infinite pain to those who care for you.
But if you will return at once to your home, causing it to be
understood that you have been with friends for these last few
"Tell lies," said Jessie. "Certainly not. Most certainly not. But
I understand that is how your absence is understood at present,
and there is no reason--"
Jessie's grip tightened on her handkerchief. "I won't go back,"
she said, "to have it as I did before. I want a room of my own,
what books I need to read, to be free to go out by myself alone,
"Anything," said Mrs. Milton ,"anything in reason."
"But will you keep your promise?" said Jessie.
"Surely you won't dictate to your mother!" said Widgery.
"My stepmother! I don't want to dictate. I want definite promises
"This is most unreasonable," said the clergyman. "Very well,"
said Jessie, swallowing a sob but with unusual resolution. "Then
I won't go back. My life is being frittered away--"
"LET her have her way," said Widgery.
"A room then. All your Men. I'm not to come down and talk away
half my days--"
"My dear child, if only to save you," said Mrs. Milton. "If you
don't keep your promise--"
"Then I take it the matter is practically concluded," said the
clergyman. "And that you very properly submit to return to your
proper home. And now, if I may offer a suggestion, it is that we
take tea. Freed of its tannin, nothing, I think, is more
refreshing and stimulating."
"There's a train from Lyndhurst at thirteen minutes to six," said
Widgery, unfolding a time table. "That gives us about half an
hour or three-quarters here--if a conveyance is obtainable, that
"A gelatine lozenge dropped into the tea cup precipitates the
tannin in the form of tannate of gelatine," said the clergyman to
Miss Mergle, in a confidential bray.
Jessie stood up, and saw through the window a depressed head and
shoulders over the top of the back of a garden seat. She moved
towards the door. "While you have tea, mother," she said, "I must
tell Mr. Hoopdriver of our arrangements."
"Don't you think I--" began the clergyman.
"No," said Jessie, very rudely; "I don't."
"But, Jessie, haven't you already--"
"You are already breaking the capitulation," said Jessie.
"Will you want the whole half hour?" said Widgery, at the bell.
"Every minute," said Jessie, in the doorway. "He's behaved very
nobly to me."
"There's tea," said Widgery.
"I've had tea."
"He may not have behaved badly," said the clergyman. "But he's
certainly an astonishingly weak person to let a wrong-headed
Jessie closed the door into the garden.
Meanwhile Mr. Hoopdriver made a sad figure in the sunlight
outside. It was over, this wonderful excursion of his, so far as
she was concerned, and with the swift blow that separated them,
he realised all that those days had done for him. He tried to
grasp the bearings of their position. Of course, they would take
her away to those social altitudes of hers. She would become an
inaccessible young lady again. Would they let him say good-bye to
How extraordinary it had all been! He recalled the moment when he
had first seen her riding, with the sunlight behind her, along
the riverside road; he recalled that wonderful night at Bognor,
remembering it as if everything had been done of his own
initiative. "Brave, brave!" she had called him. And afterwards,
when she came down to him in the morning, kindly, quiet. But
ought he to have persuaded her then to return to her home? He
remembered some intention of the sort. Now these people snatched
her away from him as though he was scarcely fit to live in the
same world with her. No more he was! He felt he had presumed upon
her worldly ignorance in travelling with her day after day. She
was so dainty, so delightful, so serene. He began to recapitulate
her expressions, the light of her eyes, the turn of her face . .
He wasn't good enough to walk in the same road with her. Nobody
was. Suppose they let him say good-bye to her; what could he say?
That? But they were sure not to let her talk to him alone; her
mother would be there as--what was it? Chaperone. He'd never once
had a chance of saying what he felt; indeed, it was only now he
was beginning to realise what he felt. Love I he wouldn't
presume. It was worship. If only he could have one more chance.
He must have one more chance, somewhere, somehow. Then he would
pour out his soul to her eloquently. He felt eloquently, and
words would come. He was dust under her feet . . .
His meditation was interrupted by the click of a door handle, and
Jessie appeared in the sunlight under the verandah. "Come away
from here," she said to Hoopdriver, as he rose to meet her. "I'm
going home with them. We have to say good-bye."
Mr. Hoopdriver winced, opened and shut his mouth, and rose
without a word.
At first Jessie Milton and Mr. Hoopdriver walked away from the
hotel in silence. He heard a catching in her breath and glanced
at her and saw her ips pressed tight and a tear on her cheek. Her
face was hot and bright. She was looking straight before her. He
could think of nothing to say, and thrust his hands in his
pockets and looked away from her intentionally. After a while she
began to talk. They dealt disjointedly with scenery first, and
then with the means of self-education. She took his address at
Antrobus's and promised to send him some books. But even with
that it was spiritless, aching talk, Hoopdriver felt, for the
fighting mood was over. She seemed, to him, preoccupied with the
memories of her late battle, and that appearance hurt him.
"It's the end," he whispered to himself. "It's the end."
They went into a hollow and up a gentle wooded slope, and came at
last to a high and open space overlooking a wide expanse of
country. There, by a common impulse, they stopped. She looked at
her watch--a little ostentatiously. They stared at the billows of
forest rolling away beneath them, crest beyond crest, of leafy
trees, fading at last into blue.
"The end" ran through his mind, to the exclusion of all speakable
"And so," she said, presently, breaking the silence, "it comes to
For half a minute he did not answer. Then he gathered his
resolution. "There is one thing I MUST say."
"Well?" she said, surprised and abruptly forgetting the recent
argument. "I ask no return. But--"
Then he stopped. "I won't say it. It's no good. It would be rot
from me--now. I wasn't going to say anything. Good-bye."
She looked at him with a startled expression in her eyes. "No,"
she said. "But don't forget you are going to work. Remember,
brother Chris, you are my friend. You will work. You are not a
very strong man, you know, now--you will forgive me--nor do you
know all you should. But what will you be in six years' time?"
He stared hard in front of him still, and the lines about his
weak mouth seemed to strengthen. He knew she understood what he
could not say.
"I'll work," he said, concisely. They stood side by side for a
moment. Then he said, with a motion of his head, "I won't come
back to THEM. Do you mind? Going back alone?"
She took ten seconds to think. "No." she said, and held out her
hand, biting her nether lip. "GOOD-BYE," she whispered.
He turned, with a white face, looked into her eyes, took her hand
limply, and then with a sudden impulse, lifted it to his lips.
She would have snatched it away, but his grip tightened to her
movement. She felt the touch of his lips, and then he had dropped
her fingers and turned from her and was striding down the slope.
A dozen paces away his foot turned in the lip of a rabbit hole,
and he stumbled forward and almost fell. He recovered his balance
and went on, not looking back. He never once looked back. She
stared at his receding figure until it was small and far below
her, and then, the tears running over her eyelids now, turned
slowly, and walked with her hands gripped hard together behind
her, towards Stoney Cross again.
"I did not know," she whispered to herself. "I did not
understand. Even now--No, I do not understand."
So the story ends, dear Reader. Mr. Hoopdriver, sprawling down
there among the bracken, must sprawl without our prying, I think,
or listening to what chances to his breathing. And of what came
of it all, of the six years and afterwards, this is no place to
tell. In truth, there is no telling it, for the years have still
to run. But if you see how a mere counter-jumper, a cad on
castors, and a fool to boot, may come to feel the little
insufficiencies of life, and if he has to any extent won your
sympathies, my end is attained. (If it is not attained, may
Heaven forgive us both!) Nor will we follow this adventurous
young lady of ours back to her home at Surbiton, to her new
struggle against Widgery and Mrs. Milton combined. For, as she
will presently hear, that devoted man has got his reward. For
her, also, your sympathies are invited.
The rest of this great holiday, too--five days there are left of
it--is beyond the limits of our design. You see fitfully a
slender figure in a dusty brown suit and heather mixture
stockings, and brown shoes not intended to be cycled in, flitting
Londonward through Hampshire and Berkshire and Surrey, going
economically--for excellent reasons. Day by day he goes on,
riding fitfully and for the most part through bye-roads, but
getting a few miles to the north-eastward every day. He is a
narrow-chested person, with a nose hot and tanned at the bridge
with unwonted exposure, and brown, red-knuckled fists. A musing
expression sits upon the face of this rider, you observe.
Sometimes he whistles noiselessly to himself, sometimes he speaks
aloud, "a juiced good try, anyhow!" you hear; and sometimes, and
that too often for my liking, he looks irritable and hopeless. "I
know," he says, "I know. It's over and done. It isn't IN me. You
ain't man enough, Hoopdriver. Look at yer silly hands! . . . Oh,
my God!" and a gust of passion comes upon him and he rides
furiously for a space.
Sometimes again his face softens. "Anyhow, if I'm not to see her-
-she's going to lend me books," he thinks, and gets such comfort
as he can. Then again; "Books! What's books?" Once or twice
triumphant memories of the earlier incidents nerve his face for a
while. "I put the ky-bosh on HIS little game," he remarks. "I DID
that," and one might even call him happy in these phases. And,
by-the-bye, the machine, you notice, has been enamel-painted grey
and carries a sonorous gong.
This figure passes through Basingstoke and Bagshot, Staines,
Hampton, and Richmond. At last, in Putney High Street, glowing
with the warmth of an August sunset and with all the 'prentice
boys busy shutting up shop, and the work girls going home, and
the shop folks peeping abroad, and the white 'buses full of late
clerks and city folk rumbling home to their dinners, we part from
him. He is back. To-morrow, the early rising, the dusting, and
drudgery, begin again--but with a difference, with wonderful
memories and still more wonderful desires and ambitions replacing
those discrepant dreams.
He turns out of the High Street at the corner, dismounts with a
sigh, and pushes his machine through the gates of the Antrobus
stable yard, as the apprentice with the high collar holds them
open. There are words of greeting. "South Coast," you hear; and
"splendid weather--splendid." He sighs. "Yes--swapped him off for
a couple of sovs. It's a juiced good machine."
The gate closes upon him with a slam, and he vanishes from our