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  • 1894
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“It was incomparably the most artistic thing to do,” said I.

“I’m sometimes afraid you don’t do me justice, Mr. Carter,” remarked Dolly with some pathos.

I did not care to enter upon that discussion, and a pause followed. Then Dolly, in a timid manner, asked me–

“Do you remember the dreadful thing that happened the same evening?”

“That chances to remain in my memory,” I admitted.

“I’ve always thought it kind of you never to speak of it,” said she.

“It is best forgotten,” said I, smiling.

“We should have said the same about anybody,” protested Dolly.

“Certainly. We were only trying to be smart,” said I.

“And it was horribly unjust.”

“I quite agree with you, Lady Mickleham.”

“Besides, I didn’t know anything about him then. He had only arrived that day, you see.”

“Really we were not to blame,” I urged.

“Oh, but doesn’t it seem funny?”

“A strange whirligig, no doubt,” I mused.

There was a pause. Then the faintest of smiles appeared on Dolly’s face.

“He shouldn’t have worn such clothes,” she said, as though in self defense. “Anybody would have looked absurd in them.”

“It was all the clothes,” I agreed. “Besides, when a man doesn’t know a place, he always moons about and looks–“

“Yes. Rather awkward, doesn’t he, Mr. Carter?”

“And the mere fact of his looking at you–“

“At us, please.”

“Is nothing, although we made a grievance of it at the time.”

“That was very absurd of you,” said Dolly.

“It was certainly unreasonable of us,” said I.

“We ought have known he was a gentleman.”

“But we scouted the idea of it,” said I.

“It was a most curious mistake to make,” said Dolly.

“O, well, it’s put right now,” said I.

“Oh, Mr. Carter, do you remember mamma’s face when we described him?”

“That was a terrible moment,” said I, with a shudder.

“I said he was–ugly,” whispered Dolly.

“And I said–something worse,” murmured I.

“And mamma knew at once from our description that it was–“

“She saw it in a minute,” said I.

“And then you went away.”

“Well, I rather suppose I did,” said I.

“Mamma is just a little like the Dowager sometimes,” said Dolly.

“There is a touch now and then,” I conceded.

“And when I was introduced to him the next day I absolutely blushed.”

“I don’t altogether wonder at that,” I observed.

“But it wasn’t as if he’d heard what we were saying.”

“No; but he’d seen what we were doing.”

“Well, what were we doing?” cried Dolly defiantly.

“Conversing confidentially,” said I.

“And a week later you went home!”

“Just one week later,” said I.

There was a long pause.

“Well, you’ll take me to the theater?” asked Dolly, with something which, if I were so disposed, I might consider a sigh.

“I’ve seen the piece twice,” said I.

“How tiresome of you! You’ve seen everything twice.”

“I’ve seen some things much oftener,” I observed.

“I’ll get a nice girl for you to talk to, and I’ll have a young man.”

“I don’t want my girl to be too nice,” I observed.

“She shall be pretty,” said Dolly generously.

“I don’t mind if I do come with you,” said I. “What becomes of Archie?”

“He’s going to take his mother and his sisters to the Albert Hall.”

My face brightened.

“I am unreasonable,” I admitted.

“Sometimes you are,” said Dolly.

“I have much to be thankful for. Have you ever observed a small boy eat a penny ice?”

“Of course I have,” said Dolly.

“What does he do when he’s finished it?”

“Stop, I suppose.”

“On the contrary,” said I, “he licks the glass.”

“Yes, he does,” said Dolly meditatively.

“It’s not so bad–licking the glass,” said I.

Dolly stood opposite me, smiling. At this moment Archie entered. He had been working at his lathe. He is very fond of making things which he doesn’t want, and then giving them to people who have no use for them.

“How are you, old chap?” he began. “I’ve just finished an uncommon pretty–“

He stopped, paralyzed by a cry from Dolly–

“Archie, what in the world are you wearing?”

I turned a startled gaze upon Archie.

“It’s just an old suit I routed out,” said he apologetically.

I looked at Dolly; her eyes were closed shut, and she gasped–

“My dear, dear boy, go and change it!”

“I don’t see why it’s not–“

“Go and change it, if you love me,” besought Dolly.

“Oh, all right.”

“You look hideous in it,” she said, her eyes still shut.

Archie, who is very docile, withdrew. A guilty silence reigned for some moments. Then Dolly opened her eyes. “It was the suit,” she said, with a shudder. “Oh, how it all came back to me!”

“I could wish,” I observed, taking my hat, “that it would all come back to me.”

“I wonder if you mean that!”

“As much as I ever did,” said I earnestly.

“And that is–?

“Quite enough.”

“How tiresome you are!” she said, turning away with a smile.

Outside I met Archie in another suit.

“A quick change, eh, my boy?” said he.

“It took just a week,” I remarked absently.

Archie stared.

A SLIGHT MISTAKE

“I don’t ask you for more than a guinea,” said Mrs. Hilary, with a parade of forbearance.

“It would be the same,” I replied politely, “if you asked me for a thousand;” with which I handed her half-a-crown. She held it in her open hand, regarding it scornfully.

“Yes,” I continued, taking a seat, “I feel that pecuniary gifts–“

“Half-a-crown!”

“Are you a poor substitute for personal service. May not I accompany you to the ceremony?”

“I dare say you spent as much as this on wine with your lunch!”

“I was in a mad mood today,” I answered apologetically. “What are they taught at the school?”

“Above all, to be good girls,” said Mrs. Hilary earnestly. “What are you sneering at, Mr. Carter?”

“Nothing,” said I hastily, and I added with a sigh, “I suppose it’s all right.”

“I should like,” said Mrs. Hilary meditatively, “if I had not other duties, to dedicate my life to the service of girls.”

“I should think twice about that, if I were you,” said I, shaking my head.

“By the way, Mr. Carter, I don’t know if I’ve ever spoken unkindly of Lady Mickleham. I hope not.”

“Hope,” said I, “is not yet taxed.”

“If I have, I’m very sorry. She’s been most kind in undertaking to give away the prizes today. There must be some good in her.”

“Oh, don’t be hasty,” I implored.

“I always wanted to think well of her.”

“Ah! Now I never did.”

“And Lord Mickleham is coming, too. He’ll be most useful.”

“That settles it,” I exclaimed. “I may not be an earl, but I have a perfect right to be useful. I’ll go too.”

“I wonder if you’ll behave properly,” said Mrs. Hilary doubtfully.

I held out a half-sovereign, three half-crowns, and a shilling.

“Oh, well, you may come, since Hilary can’t,” said Mrs. Hilary.

“You mean he won’t,” I observed.

“He has always been prevented hitherto,” said she, with dignity.

So I went, and it proved a most agreeable expedition. There were 200 girls in blue frocks and white aprons (the girl three from the end of the fifth row was decidedly pretty)–a nice lot of prize books–the Micklehams (Dolly in demure black), ourselves, and the matron. All went well. Dolly gave away the prizes; Mrs. Hilary and Archie made little speeches. Then the matron came to me. I was sitting modestly at the back of the platform, a little distance behind the others.

“Mr. Musgrave,” said the matron to me, “we’re so glad to see you here at last. Won’t you say a few words?”

“It would be a privilege,” I responded cordially, “but unhappily I have a sore throat.”

The matron (who was a most respectable woman) said, “Dear, dear!” but did not press the point. Evidently, however, she liked me, for when we went to have a cup of tea, she got me in a corner and began to tell me all about the work. It was extremely interesting. Then the matron observed:

“And what an angel Mrs. Musgrave is!”

“Well, I should hardly call her that,” said I, with a smile.

“Oh, you mustn’t depreciate her–you, of all men!” cried the matron, with a somewhat ponderous archness. “Really I envy you her constant society.”

“I assure you, ” said I, “I see very little of her.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I only go to the house about once a fortnight–Oh, it’s not my fault. She won’t have me there oftener.”

“What do you mean? I beg your pardon. Perhaps I’ve touched on a painful–?”

“Not at all, not at all,” said I suavely. “It is very natural. I am neither young nor handsome, Mrs. Wiggins. I am not complaining.”

The matron gazed at me.

“Only seeing her here,” I pursued, “you have no idea of what she is at home. She has chosen to forbid me to come to her house–“

“Her house?”

“It happens to be more hers than mine,” I explained. “To forbid me, I say, more than once to come to her house. No doubt she had her reasons.”

“Nothing could justify it,” said the matron, directing a wondering glance at Mrs. Hilary.

“Do not let us blame her,” said I. “It is just an unfortunate accident. She is not as fond of me as I could wish, Mrs. Wiggins; and she is a great deal fonder than I could wish of–“

I broke off. Mrs. Hilary was walking toward us. I think she was pleased to see me getting on so well with the matron, for she was smiling pleasantly. The matron wore a bewildered expression.

“I suppose,” said Mrs. Hilary, “that you’ll drive back with the Micklehams?”

“Unless you want me,” said I, keeping a watchful eye on the matron.

“Oh, I don’t want you,” said Mrs. Hilary lightly.

“You won’t be alone this evening?” I asked anxiously.

Mrs. Hilary stared a little.

“O, no!” she said. “We shall have our usual party.”

“May I come one day next week?” I asked humbly.

Mrs. Hilary thought for a moment.

“I’m so busy next week–come the week after,” said she, giving me her hand.

“That’s very unkind,” said I.

“Nonsense!” said Mrs. Hilary, and she added, “Mind you let me know when you’re coming.”

“I won’t surprise you,” I assured her, with a covert glance at the matron.

The excellent woman was quite red in the face, and could gasp out nothing but “Goodbye,” as Mrs. Hilary affectionately pressed her hand.

At this moment Dolly came up. She was alone.

“Where’s Archie?” I asked.

“He’s run away; he’s got to meet somebody. I knew you’d see me home. Mrs. Hilary didn’t want you, of course?”

“Of course not,” said I plaintively.

“Besides, you’d rather come with me, wouldn’t you?” pursued Dolly, and she added, pleasantly to the matron, “Mrs. Hilary’s so down on him, you know.”

“I’d much rather come with you,” said I.

“We’ll have a cozy drive all to ourselves,” said Dolly, “without husbands or wives or anything horrid. Isn’t it nice to get rid of one’s husband sometimes, Mrs. Wiggins?”

“I have the misfortune to be a widow, Lady Mickleham,” said Mrs. Wiggins.

Dolly’s eyes rested upon her with an interesting expression. I knew that she was about to ask Mrs. Wiggins whether she liked the condition of life, and I interposed hastily, with a sigh:

“But you can look back on a happy marriage, Mrs. Wiggins?”

“I did my best to make it so,” said she stiffly.

“You are right,” said I. “Even in the face of unkindness we should strive–“

“My husband’s not unkind,” said Dolly.

“I didn’t mean your husband,” said I.

“What your poor wife would do if she cared a button for you, I don’t know,” observed Dolly.

“If I had a wife who cared for me, I should be a better man,” said I solemnly.

“But you’d probably be very dull,” said Dolly. “And you wouldn’t be allowed to drive with me.”

“Perhaps it’s all for the best,” said I, brightening up. “Goodbye, Mrs. Wiggins.”

Dolly walked on. Mrs. Wiggins held my hand for a moment.

“Young man,” said she sternly, “are you sure it’s not your own fault?”

“I’m not at all sure, Mrs. Wiggins,” said I. “But don’t be distressed about it. It’s of no consequence. I don’t let it make me unhappy. Goodbye; so many thanks. Charming girls you have here–especially that one in the fifth–I mean, charming, all of them. Goodbye.”

I hastened to the carriage. Mrs. Wiggins stood and watched. I got in and sat down by Dolly.

“Oh, Mrs. Wiggins,” said Dolly, dimpling, “don’t tell Mrs. Hilary that Archie wasn’t with us, or we shall get into trouble.” And she added to me, “Are you all right?”

“Rather!” said I appreciatively; and we drove off, leaving Mrs. Wiggins on her doorstep.

A fortnight later I went to call on Mrs. Hilary. After some conversation she remarked:

“I’m going to the school again tomorrow.”

“Really!” said I.

“And I’m so delighted–I’ve persuaded Hilary to come.”

She paused, and then added:

“You really seemed interested last time.”

“Oh, I was.”

“Would you like to come again tomorrow?”

“No, I think not, thanks,” said I carelessly.

“That’s just like you!” she said severely. “You never do any real good because you never stick to anything.”

“There are some things one can’t stick to,” said I.

“Oh, nonsense!” said Mrs. Hilary.

But there are–and I didn’t go.

THE OTHER LADY

“By the merest chance,” I observed meditatively, “I attended a reception last night.”

“I went to three,” said Lady Mickleham, selecting a sardine sandwich with care.

“I might not have gone,” I mused, “I might easily not have gone.”

“I can’t see what difference it would have made if you hadn’t,” said she.

“I thought three times about going. It’s a curious world.”

“What happened? You may smoke, you know.”

“I fell in love,” said I, lighting a cigarette.

Lady Mickleham placed her feet on the fender–it was a chilly afternoon–and turned her face to me, shielding it from the fire with her handkerchief.

“Men of your age,” she remarked, “have no business to be thinking of such things.”

“I was not thinking of it,” said I. “I was thinking of going home. Then I was introduced to her.”

“And you stayed a little, I suppose?”

“I stayed two hours–or two minutes,–I forget which”; and, I added, nodding my head at Lady Mickleham, “There was something irresistible about me last night.”

Lady Mickleham laughed.

“You seem very pleased with yourself,” she said, reaching for a fan to replace the handkerchief.

“Yes, take care of your complexion,” said I approvingly. “She has a lovely complexion.”

Lady Mickleham laid down the fan.

“I am very pleased with myself,” I continued. “She was delighted with me.”

“I suppose you talked nonsense to her.”

“I have not the least idea what I talked to her. It was quite immaterial. The language of the eyes–“

“Oh, you might be a boy!”

“I was,” said I, nodding again.

There was a long silence. Dolly looked at me; I looked at the fire. I did not, however, see the fire. I saw something quite different.

“She liked me very much,” I observed, stretching my hands out toward the blaze.

“You absurd old man!–” said Dolly. “Was she very charming?”

“She was perfect.”

“How? Clever?”

I waved my hand impatiently.

“Pretty, Mr. Carter?”

“Why, of course; the prettiest picture I ever–but that goes without saying.”

“It would have gone better without saying,” remarked Dolly. “Considering–“

To have asked “Considering what?” would have been the acme of bad taste.

I merely smiled, and waved my hand again.

“You’re quite serious about it, aren’t you?” said Dolly.

“I should think I was,” said I indignantly. “Not to be serious in such a matter is to waste it utterly.”

“I’ll come to the wedding,” said Dolly.

“There won’t be a wedding,” said I. “There are Reasons.”

“Oh! You’re very unlucky, Mr. Carter.”

“That,” I observed, “is as it may be, Lady Mickleham.”

“Were the Reasons at the reception?”

“They were. It made no difference.”

“It’s very curious,” remarked Dolly with a compassionate air, “that you always manage to admire people whom somebody else has married.”

“It would be very curious,” I rejoined, “if somebody had not married the people whom I admire. Last night, though, I made nothing of his sudden removal; my fancy rioted in accidental deaths for him.”

“He won’t die,” said Dolly.

“I hate that sort of superstition,” said I irritably. “He’s just as likely to die as any other man is.”

“He certainly won’t die,” said Dolly.

“Well, I know he won’t. Do let it alone,” said I, much exasperated. It was probably only kindness, but Dolly suddenly turned her eyes away from me and fixed them on the fire; she took the fan up again and twirled it in her hand; a queer little smile bent her lips.

“I hope the poor man won’t die,” said Dolly in a low voice.

“If he had died last night!” I cried longingly. Then, with a regretful shrug of my shoulders, I added, “Let him live now to the crack of doom!”

Somehow this restored my good humor. I rose and stood with my back to the fire, stretching myself and sighing luxuriously. Dolly leant back in her chair and laughed at me.

“Do you expect to be forgiven?” she asked.

“No, no,” said I; “I had too good an excuse.”

“I wish I’d been there–at the reception, I mean.”

“I’m extremely glad you weren’t, Lady Mickleham. As it was I forgot all my troubles.”

Dolly is not resentful; she did not mind the implied description. She leant back, smiling still. I sighed again, smiled at Dolly, and took my hat. Then I turned to the mirror over the mantelpiece, arranged my necktie, and gave my hair a touch.

“No one,” I observed, “can afford to neglect the niceties of the toilet. Those dainty little curls on the forehead–“

“You’ve had none there for ten years,” cried Lady Mickleham.

“I did not mean my forehead,” said I.

Sighing once again, I held out my hand to Dolly.

“Are you doing anything this evening?” she asked.

“That depends on what I’m asked to do,” said I cautiously.

“Well, Archie’s going to be at the House, and I thought you might take me to the Phaetons’ party. It’s quite a long drive, a horrible long drive, Mr. Carter.”

I stood for a moment considering this proposal.

“I don’t think,” said I, “that it would be proper.”

“Why, Archie suggested it! You’re making an excuse. You know you are!” and Lady Mickleham looked very indignant. “As if,” she added scornfully, “you cared about what was proper!”

I dropped into a chair, and said, in a confidential tone, “I don’t care a pin. It was a mere excuse. I don’t want to come.”

“You’re very rude, indeed. Many women would never speak to you again.”

“They would,” said I, “all do just as you will.”

“And what’s that, Mr. Carter.”

“Ask me again on the first opportunity.”

“Why won’t you come?” said Dolly, waiving this question.

I bent forward, holding my hat in my left hand and sawing the air with my right forefinger.

“You fail to allow,” said I impressively, “for the rejuvenescence which recent events have produced in me. If I came with you this evening, I should be quite capable–” I paused.

“Of anything dreadful?” asked Dolly.

“Of paying you pronounced attentions,” said I gravely.

“That,” said Dolly with equal gravity, “would be very regrettable. It would be unjust to me–and very insulting to her, Mr. Carter.”

“It would be the finest testimonial to her,” I cried.

“And you’ll spend the evening thinking of her?” asked Dolly.

“I shall go through the evening,” said I, “in the best way I can.” And I smiled contentedly.

“What’s her husband?” asked Dolly suddenly.

“Her husband,” I rejoined, “is nothing at all.”

Dolly, receiving this answer, looked at me with a pathetic air.

“It’s not quite fair,” she observed. “Do you know what I’m thinking about, Mr. Carter?”

“Certainly I do, Lady Mickleham. You are thinking that you would like to meet me for the first time.”

“Not at all. I was thinking that it would be amusing if you met me for the first time.”

I said nothing. Dolly rose and walked to the window. She swung the tassel of the blind and it bumped against the window. The failing sun caught her ruddy brown hair. There were curls on her forehead, too.

“It’s a grand world,” said I. “And, after all, one can grow old very gradually.”

“You’re not really old,” said Dolly, with the fleetest glance at me. A glance should not be over-long.

“Gradually and disgracefully,” I murmured.

“If you met me for the first time–” said Dolly, swinging the tassel.

“By Heaven, it should be the last!” I cried, and I rose to my feet.

Dolly let the tassel go, and made me a very pretty curtsey.

“I am going to another party tonight,” said I, nodding my head significantly.

“Ah!” said Dolly.

“And I shall again,” I pursued, “spend my time with the prettiest woman in the room.”

“Shall you?” asked Dolly, smiling.

“I am a very fortunate fellow,” I observed. “And as for Mrs. Hilary, she may say what she likes.”

“Oh, does Mrs. Hilary know the Other Lady?”

I walked toward the door.

“There is,” said I, laying my hand on the door, “no Other Lady.”

“I shall get there about eleven,” said Dolly.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

Unfortunately it was Sunday; therefore the gardeners could not be ordered to shift the long row of flower pots from the side of the terrace next the house, where Dolly had ordered them to be put, to the side remote from the house, where Dolly now wished them to stand. Yet Dolly could not think of living with the pots where they were till Monday. It would kill her, she said. So Archie left the cool shade of the great trees, where Dolly sat doing nothing, and Nellie Phaeton sat splicing the gig whip, and I lay in a deck chair with something iced beside me. Outside the sun was broiling hot and poor Archie mopped his brow at every weary journey across the broad terrace.

“It’s a burning’ shame, Dolly,” said Miss Phaeton. “I wouldn’t do it if I were him.”

“Oh, yes, you would, dear,” said Dolly. “The pots looked atrocious on that side.”

I took a long sip from my glass, and observed in a meditative tone:

“There but for the grace of woman, goes Samuel Travers Carter.”

Dolly’s lazy lids half lifted. Miss Phaeton mumbled (Her mouth was full of twine):

“What DO you mean?”

“Nemo omnibus horis sapit,” said I apologetically.

“I don’t know what that means either.”

“Nemo–everybody,” I translated, “sapit–has been in love–omnibus–once–horis–at least.”

“Oh, and you mean she wouldn’t have you?” asked Nellie, with blunt directness.

“Not quite that,” said I. “They–“

“THEY?” murmured Dolly, with half-lifted lids.

“THEY,” I pursued, “regretfully recognized my impossibility. Hence I am not carrying pots across a broad terrace under a hot sun.”

“Why did they think you impossible?” asked Miss Phaeton, who takes much interrest in this sort of question.

“A variety of reasons: for one, I was too clever, for another, too stupid; for others, too good–or too bad; too serious–or too frivolous; too poor or–“

“Well, no one objected to your money, I suppose?” interrupted Nellie.

“Pardon me. I was about to say ‘or not rich enough.'”

“But that’s the same thing.”

“The antithesis is certainly imperfect,” I admitted.

“Mr. Gay,” said Nellie, introducing the name with some timidity, “you know who I mean?–the poet–once said to me that man was essentially imperfect until he was married.”

“It is true,” I agreed. “And woman until she is dead.”

“I don’t think he meant it quite in that sense,” said Nellie, rather puzzled.

“I don’t think he meant it in any sense,” murmured Dolly, a little unkindly.

We might have gone on talking in this way for ever so long had not Archie at this point dropped a large flower pot and smashed it to bits. He stood looking at the bits for a moment, and then came towards us and sank into a chair.

“I’m off!” he announced.

“And half are on one side, and half on the other,” said Dolly, regretfully.

A sudden impulse seized me. I got up, put on my straw hat, took off my coat, walked out into the sun, and began to move flower pots across the broad terrace. I heard a laugh from Archie, a little cry from Dolly, and from Nellie Phaeton, “Goodness, what’s he doing that for?” I was not turned from my purpose. The luncheon bell rang. Miss Phaeton, whip and twine in hand, walked into the house. Archie followed her, saying as he passed that he hoped I shouldn’t find it warm. I went on shifting the flower pots. They were very heavy. I broke two, but I went on. Presently Dolly put up her parasol and came out from the shade to watch me. She stood there for a moment or two. Then, she said:

“Well, do you think you’d like it, Mr. Carter?”

“Wait till I’ve finished,” said I, waving my hand.

Another ten minutes saw the end of my task. Panting and hot I sought the shade, and flung myself onto my deck chair again. I also lit a cigarette.

“I think they looked better on the other side, after all,” said Dolly meditatively.

“Of course you do,” said I urbanely. “You needn’t tell me that”

“Perhaps you’d like to move them back,” she suggested.

“No,” said I. “I’ve done enough to create the impression.”

“And how did you like it?”

“It was,” said I, “in its way a pleasant enough illusion.” And I shrugged my shoulders, and blew a ring of smoke.

To my very considerable gratification, Dolly’s tone manifested some annoyance as she asked:

“Why do you say, ‘in its way’?”

“Because, in spite of the momentary pleasure I gained from feeling myself a married man, I could not banish the idea that we should not permanently suit one another.”

“Oh, you thought that?” said Dolly, smiling again.

“I must confess it,” said I. “The fault, I know, would be mine.”

“I’m sure of that,” said Dolly.

“But the fact is that I can’t exist in too high altitudes. The rarefaction of the moral atmosphere–“

“Please don’t use all those long words.”

“Well, then, to put it plainly,” said I, with a pleasant smile, “I felt all the time that Mrs. Hilary would be too good for me.”

It is not very often that it falls to my humble lot to startle Lady Mickleham out of her composure. But at this point she sat up quite straight in her chair; her cheek flushed, and her eyelids ceased to droop in indolent insouciance.

“Mrs. Hilary!” she said. “What has Mrs. Hilary–?

“I really thought you understood,” said I, “the object of my experiment.”

Dolly glanced at me. I believe that my expression was absolutely innocent–and I am, of course sure that hers expressed mere surprise.

“I thought,” she said, after a pause, “that you were thinking of Nellie Phaeton.”

“Oh, I see,” cried I smiling. “A natural mistake, to be sure.”

“She thought so too,” pursued Dolly, biting her lip.

“Did she though?”

“And I’m sure she’d be quite annoyed if she thought you were thinking of Mrs. Hilary.”

“As a matter of fact,” I observed, “she didn’t understand what I was doing at all.”

Dolly leant back. The relics of a frown still dwelt on her brow; presently, however, she began to swing her hat on her forefinger, and she threw a look at me. I immediately looked up toward the branches above my head.

“We might as well go in to lunch,” said Dolly.

“By all means,” I acquiesced, with alacrity.

We went out into the sunshine, and came where the pots were. Suddenly Dolly said:

“Go back and sit down again, Mr. Carter.”

“I want my lunch,” I ventured to observe.

“Do as I tell you,” said Dolly, stamping her foot; whereat, much intimidated, I went back, and stretched myself once more on the deck chair.

Dolly approached a flower pot. She stooped down, exerting her strength, lifted it, and carried it, not without effort, across the terrace.

Again she did the like. I sat smoking and watching. She lifted a third pot, but dropped it half way. Then, dusting her hands against one another, she came back slowly into the shade and sat down. I made no remark.

Dolly glanced at me.

“Well?” she said.

“Woman–woman–woman!” said I sadly.

“Must I carry some more?” asked Dolly, in a humble, yet protesting, tone.

“Mrs. Hilary,” I began, “is an exceedingly attractive–“

Dolly rose with a sigh.

“Where are you going?” I asked.

“More pots,” said Dolly, standing opposite me. “I must go on, you see.”

“Till when, Lady Mickleham?”

“Till you tell the truth,” said Dolly, and she suddenly burst into a little laugh.

“Woman–woman–woman!” said I again. “Let’s go in to lunch.”

“I’m going to carry the pots,” said Dolly. “It’s awfully hot, Mr. Carter–and look at my poor hands!”

She held them out to me.

“Lunch!” said I.

“Pots!” said Dolly, with infinite firmness.

The window of the dining room opened and Archie put his head out.

“Come along, you two,” he called. “Everything’s getting cold.”

Dolly turned an appealing glance on me.

“How obstinate you are!” she said. “You know perfectly well–“

I began to walk towards the house.

“I’m going in to lunch,” said I.

“Ask them to keep some for me,” said Dolly, and she turned up the sleeves of her gown, till her wrists were free.

“It’s most unfair,” said I indignantly.

“I don’t care if it is,” said Dolly, stooping down to lift a pot.

I watched her strain to lift it. She had chosen the largest and heaviest; she sighed delicately and delicately she panted. She also looked at her hands, and held them up for me to see the lines of brown on the pink. I put my hands in my pockets and said most sulkily, as I turned away towards the house:

“All right. It wasn’t Mrs. Hilary then.”

Dolly rose up, seized me by the arm, and made me run to the house.

“Mr. Carter,” she cried, “would stop for those wretched pots. He’s moved all except two, but he’s broken three. Isn’t he stupid?”

“You are an old ass, Carter,” said Archie.

“I believe you’re right, Archie,” said I.

ONE WAY IN

I had a very curious dream the other night. In fact, I dreamt that I was dead. I passed through a green baize door and found myself in a small square room. Opposite me was another door inscribed “Elysian Fields,” and in front of it, at a large table with a raised ledge, sat Rhadamanthus. As I entered I saw a graceful figure vanish through the door opposite.

“It’s no use trying to deceive me,” I observed. “That was Mrs. Hilary, I think; if you don’t mind, I’ll join her.”

“I’m afraid I must trouble you to take a seat for a few moments, Mr. Carter,” said Rhadamanthus, “while I run over your little account.”

“Any formalities which are usual,” I murmured politely, as I sat down.

Rhadamanthus turned over the leaves of a large book.

“Carter–Samuel Travers, isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes. For goodness sake don’t confuse me with Vincent Carter. He only paid five shillings in the pound.”

“Your case presents some peculiar features, Mr. Carter,” said Rhadamanthus. “I hope I am not censorious, but–well, that fine at Bowstreet?”

“I was a mere boy,” said I, with some warmth, “and my solicitor grossly mismanaged the case..”

“Well, well!” said he soothingly. “But haven’t you spent a great deal of time at Monte Carlo?”

“A man must be somewhere,” said I.

Rhadamanthus scratched his nose.

“I should have wasted the money anyhow,” I added.

“I suppose you would,” he conceded. “But what of this caveat lodged by the Dowager Lady Mickleham? That’s rather serious, you know; isn’t it now–joking apart?”

“I am disappointed,” I remarked, “to find a man of your experience paying any attention to such an ill-natured old woman.”

“We have our rules,” he replied, “and I’m afraid, Mr. Carter, that until that caveat is removed–“

“You don’t mean that?”

“Really, I’m afraid so.”

“Then I may as well go back,” said I, taking my hat.

At this moment there was a knock at the door.

“Although I can’t oblige you with an order of admission,” said Rhadamanthus, very civilly, “perhaps it would amuse you to listen to a case or two. There’s no hurry, you know. You’ve got lots of time before you.”

“It will be an extremely interesting experience,” said I, sitting down again.

The door opened, and, as I expected (I don’t know why, but it happens like that in dreams), Dolly Mickleham came in. She did not seem to see me. She bowed to Rhadamanthus, smiled, and took a chair immediately opposite the table.

“Mickleham–Dorothea–Countess of–” she said.

“Formerly, I think, Dolly Foster?” asked Rhadamanthus.

“I don’t see what that’s got to do with it,” said Dolly.

“The account runs on,” he explained, and began to consult his big book. Dolly leant back in her chair, slowly peeling off her gloves. Rhadamanthus shut the book with a bang.

“It’s not the least use,” he said decisively. “It wouldn’t be kind to pretend that it was, Lady Mickleham.”

“Dear, dear,” said Dolly. “What’s the matter?”

“Half the women in London have petitioned against you.”

“Have they, really?” cried Dolly, to all appearance rather delighted. “What do they say, Mr. Rhadamanthus? Is it in that book? Let me look.” And she held out her hand.

“The book’s too heavy for you to hold,” said he.

“I’ll come round,” said Dolly. So she went round and leant over his shoulder and read the book.

“What’s that scent you’ve got on?” asked Rhadamanthus.

“Bouquet du diable,” said she. (I had never heard of the perfume before.) “Isn’t it sweet?”

“I haven’t smelt it since I was a boy,” sighed Rhadamanthus.

“Poor old thing,” said Dolly. “I’m not going to read all this, you know.” And, with a somewhat contemptuous smile, she walked back to her chair. “They ought to be ashamed of themselves,” she added, as she sat down. “It’s just because I’m not a fright.”

“Aren’t you a fright?” asked Rhadamanthus. “Where are my spectacles?”

He put them on and looked at Dolly.

“I must go in, you know,” said Dolly, smiling at Rhadamanthus. “My husband has gone in!”

“I shouldn’t have thought you’d consider that conclusive,” said he, with a touch of satire in his tone.

“Don’t be horrid,” said Dolly, pouting.

There was a pause. Rhadamanthus examined Dolly through his spectacles.

“This is a very painful duty,” said he, at last. “I have sat here for a great many years, and I have seldom had a more painful duty.”

“It’s very absurd of you,” said Dolly.

“I can’t help it, though,” said he.

“Do you really mean that I’m not to go in?”

“I do, indeed,” said Rhadamanthus.

Dolly rose. She leant her arms on the raised ledge which ran along the table, and she leant her chin on her hands.

“Really?” she said.

“Really,” said he, looking the other way.

A sudden change came over Dolly’s face. Her dimples vanished; her eyes grew pathetic and began to shine rather than to sparkle; her lip quivered just a little.

“You’re very unkind,” she said in an extremely low tone. “I had no idea you would be so unkind.”

Rhadamanthus seemed very uncomfortable.

“Don’t do that,” he said, quite sharply, fidgeting with the blotting paper.

Dolly began to move slowly round the table. Rhadamanthus sat still. When she was standing close by him, she put her hand lightly on his arm and said:

“Please do, Mr. Rhadamanthus.”

“It’s as much as my place is worth,” he grumbled.

Dolly’s eyes shone still, but the faintest little smile began to play about her mouth.

“Some day,” she said (with total inappropriateness, now I come to think of it, though it did not strike me so at the time), “you’ll be glad to remember having done a kind thing. When you’re old–because you are not really old now–you will say, ‘I’m glad I didn’t send poor Dolly Mickleham away crying.'”

Rhadamanthus uttered an inarticulate sound–half impatience, half, I fancy, something else.

“We are none of us perfect, I dare say. If I asked your wife–“

“I haven’t got a wife,” said Rhadamanthus.

“That’s why you’re so hard-hearted,” said Dolly. “A man who’s got a wife is never hard on other women.”

There was another pause. Then Rhadamanthus, looking straight at the blotting paper, said:

“Oh, well, don’t bother me. Be off with you;” and as he spoke, the door behind him opened.

“Oh, you old dear!” she cried; and, stooping swiftly, she kissed Rhadamanthus. “You’re horribly bristly!” she laughed; and then, before he could move, she ran through the door.

I rose from my seat, taking my hat and stick in my hand. I felt, as you may suppose, that I had been there long enough. When I moved Rhadamanthus looked up, and with an attempt at unconsciousness observed:

“We will proceed with your case now, if you please, Mr. Carter.”

I looked him full in the face. Rhadamanthus blushed. I pursued my way towards the door.

“Stop!” he said, in a blustering tone. “You can’t go there, you know.”

I smiled significantly.

“Isn’t it rather too late for that sort of thing?” I asked. “You seem to forget that I have been here for the last quarter of an hour.”

“I didn’t know she was going to do it,” he protested.

“Oh, of course,” said I, “that will be your story. Mine, however, I shall tell in my own way.”

Rhadamanthus blushed again. Evidently he felt that he was in a delicate position. We were standing thus, facing one another, when the door began to open again, and Dolly put her head out.

“Oh, it’s you, is it?” she said. “I thought I heard your voice. Come along and help me to find Archie.”

“This gentleman says I’m not to come in,” said I.

“Oh, what nonsense! Now, you really mustn’t be silly, Mr. Rhadamanthus–or I shall have to–Mr. Carter, you weren’t there, were you?”

“I was–and a more interesting piece of scandal it has seldom been–“

“Hush! I didn’t do anything. Now, you know I didn’t, Mr. Carter!”

“No,” said I, “you didn’t. But Rhadamanthus, taking you unawares–“

“Oh, be off with you–both of you!” cried Rhadamanthus.

“That’s sensible,” said Dolly. “Because you know, there really isn’t any harm in poor Mr. Carter.

Rhadamanthus vanished. Dolly and I went inside.

“I suppose everything will be very different here,” said Dolly, and I think she sighed.

Whether it were or not I don’t know, for just then I awoke, and found myself saying aloud, in answer to the dream voice and the dream face (which had not gone altogether with the dream).

“Not everything”–a speech that, I agree, I ought not to have made, even though it were only in a dream.