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  • 1907
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To begin with, even before the journey to London, Kedgers had made two or three visits to The Clock, and had been in a communicative mood. He had related the story of the morning when he had looked up from his work and had found the strange young lady standing before him, with the result that he had been “struck all of a heap.” And then he had given a detailed account of their walk round the place, and of the way in which she had looked at things and asked questions, such as would have done credit to a man “with a ‘ead on ‘im.”

“Nay! Nay!” commented Kedgers, shaking his own head doubtfully, even while with admiration. “I’ve never seen the like before–in young women–neither in lady young women nor in them that’s otherwise.”

Afterwards had transpired the story of Mrs. Noakes, and the kitchen grate, Mrs. Noakes having a friend in Miss Lupin, the village dressmaker.

“I’d not put it past her,” was Mrs. Noakes’ summing up, “to order a new one, I wouldn’t.”

The footman in the shabby livery had been a little wild in his statements, being rendered so by the admiring and excited state of his mind. He dwelt upon the matter of her “looks,” and the way she lighted up the dingy dining-room, and so conversed that a man found himself listening and glancing when it was his business to be an unhearing, unseeing piece of mechanism.

Such simple records of servitors’ impressions were quite enough for Stornham village, and produced in it a sense of being roused a little from sleep to listen to distant and uncomprehended, but not unagreeable, sounds.

One morning Buttle, the carpenter, looked up as Kedgers had done, and saw standing on the threshold of his shop the tall young woman, who was a sensation and an event in herself.

“You are the master of this shop?” she asked.

Buttle came forward, touching his brow in hasty salute.

“Yes, my lady,” he answered. “Joseph Buttle, your ladyship.”

“I am Miss Vanderpoel,” dismissing the suddenly bestowed title with easy directness. “Are you busy? I want to talk to you.”

No one had any reason to be “busy” at any time in Stornham village, no such luck; but Buttle did not smile as he replied that he was at liberty and placed himself at his visitor’s disposal. The tall young lady came into the little shop, and took the chair respectfully offered to her. Buttle saw her eyes sweep the place as if taking in its resources.

“I want to talk to you about some work which must be done at the Court,” she explained at once. “I want to know how much can be done by workmen of the village. How many men have you?”

“How many men had he?” Buttle wavered between gratification at its being supposed that he had “men” under him and grumpy depression because the illusion must be dispelled.

“There’s me and Sim Soames, miss,” he answered. “No more, an’ no less.”

“Where can you get more?” asked Miss Vanderpoel.

It could not be denied that Buttle received a mental shock which verged in its suddenness on being almost a physical one. The promptness and decision of such a query swept him off his feet. That Sim Soames and himself should be an insufficient force to combat with such repairs as the Court could afford was an idea presenting an aspect of unheard-of novelty, but that methods as coolly radical as those this questioning implied, should be resorted to, was staggering.

“Me and Sim has always done what work was done,” he stammered. “It hasn’t been much.”

Miss Vanderpoel neither assented to nor dissented from this last palpable truth. She regarded Buttle with searching eyes. She was wondering if any practical ability concealed itself behind his dullness. If she gave him work, could he do it? If she gave the whole village work, was it too far gone in its unspurred stodginess to be roused to carrying it out?

“There is a great deal to be done now,” she said. “All that can be done in the village should be done here. It seems to me that the villagers want work–new work. Do they?”

Work! New work! The spark of life in her steady eyes actually lighted a spark in the being of Joe Buttle. Young ladies in villages–gentry–usually visited the cottagers a bit if they were well-meaning young women–left good books and broth or jelly, pottered about and were seen at church, and playing croquet, and finally married and removed to other places, or gradually faded year by year into respectable spinsterhood. And this one comes in, and in two or three minutes shows that she knows things about the place and understands. A man might then take it for granted that she would understand the thing he daringly gathered courage to say.

“They want any work, miss–that they are sure of decent pay for–sure of it.”

She did understand. And she did not treat his implication as an impertinence. She knew it was not intended as one, and, indeed, she saw in it a sort of earnest of a possible practical quality in Buttle. Such work as the Court had demanded had remained unpaid for with quiet persistence, until even bills had begun to lag and fall off. She could see exactly how it had been done, and comprehended quite clearly a lack of enthusiasm in the presence of orders from the Great House.

“All work will be paid for,” she said. “Each week the workmen will receive their wages. They may be sure. I will be responsible.”

“Thank you, miss,” said Buttle, and he half unconsciously touched his forehead again.

“In a place like this,” the young lady went on in her mellow voice, and with a reflective thoughtfulness in her handsome eyes, “on an estate like Stornham, no work that can be done by the villagers should be done by anyone else. The people of the land should be trained to do such work as the manor house, or cottages, or farms require to have done.”

“How did she think that out?” was Buttle’s reflection. In places such as Stornham, through generation after generation, the thing she had just said was accepted as law, clung to as a possession, any divergence from it being a grievance sullenly and bitterly grumbled over. And in places enough there was divergence in these days–the gentry sending to London for things, and having up workmen to do their best-paying jobs for them. The law had been so long a law that no village could see justice in outsiders being sent for, even to do work they could not do well themselves. It showed what she was, this handsome young woman–even though she did come from America–that she should know what was right.

She took a note-book out and opened it on the rough table before her.

“I have made some notes here,” she said, “and a sketch or two. We must talk them over together.”

If she had given Joe Buttle cause for surprise at the outset, she gave him further cause during the next half-hour. The work that was to be done was such as made him open his eyes, and draw in his breath. If he was to be allowed to do it–if he could do it–if it was to be paid for–it struck him that he would be a man set up for life. If her ladyship had come and ordered it to be done, he would have thought the poor thing had gone mad. But this one had it all jotted down in a clear hand, without the least feminine confusion of detail, and with here and there a little sharply-drawn sketch, such as a carpenter, if he could draw, which Buttle could not, might have made.

“There’s not workmen enough in the village to do it in a year, miss,” he said at last, with a gasp of disappointment.

She thought it over a minute, her pencil poised in her hand and her eyes on his face

“Can you,” she said, “undertake to get men from other villages, and superintend what they do? If you can do that, the work is still passing through your hands, and Stornham will reap the benefit of it. Your workmen will lodge at the cottages and spend part of their wages at the shops, and you who are a Stornham workman will earn the money to be made out of a rather large contract.”

Joe Buttle became quite hot. If you have brought up a family for years on the proceeds of such jobs as driving a ten- penny nail in here or there, tinkering a hole in a cottage roof, knocking up a shelf in the vicarage kitchen, and mending a panel of fence, to be suddenly confronted with a proposal to engage workmen and undertake “contracts” is shortening to the breath and heating to the blood.

“Miss,” he said, “we’ve never done big jobs, Sim Soames an’ me. P’raps we’re not up to it–but it’d be a fortune to us.”

She was looking down at one of her papers and making pencil marks on it.

“You did some work last year on a little house at Tidhurst, didn’t you?” she said.

To think of her knowing that! Yes, the unaccountable good luck had actually come to him that two Tidhurst carpenters, falling ill of the same typhoid at the same time, through living side by side in the same order of unsanitary cottage, he and Sim had been given their work to finish, and had done their best.

“Yes, miss,” he answered.

“I heard that when I was inquiring about you. I drove over to Tidhurst to see the work, and it was very sound and well done. If you did that, I can at least trust you to do something at the Court which will prove to me what you are equal to. I want a Stornham man to undertake this.”

“No Tidhurst man,” said Joe Buttle, with sudden courage, “nor yet no Barnhurst, nor yet no Yangford, nor Wratcham shall do it, if I can look it in the face. It’s Stornham work and Stornham had ought to have it. It gives me a brace-up to hear of it.”

The tall young lady laughed beautifully and got up.

“Come to the Court to-morrow morning at ten, and we will look it over together,” she said. “Good-morning, Buttle.” And she went away.

In the taproom of The Clock, when Joe Buttle dropped in for his pot of beer, he found Fox, the saddler, and Tread, the blacksmith, and each of them fell upon the others with something of the same story to tell. The new young lady from the Court had been to see them, too, and had brought to each

her definite little note-book. Harness was to be repaired and furbished up, the big carriage and the old phaeton were to be put in order, and Master Ughtred’s cart was to be given new paint and springs.

“This is what she said,” Fox’s story ran, “and she said it so straightforward and business-like that the conceitedest man that lived couldn’t be upset by it. `I want to see what you can do,’ she says. `I am new to the place and I must find out what everyone can do, then I shall know what to do myself.’ The way she sets them eyes on a man is a sight. It’s the sense in them and the human nature that takes you.”

“Yes, it’s the sense,” said Tread, “and her looking at you as if she expected you to have sense yourself, and understand that she’s doing fair business. It’s clear-headed like–her asking questions and finding out what Stornham men can do. She’s having the old things done up so that she can find out, and so that she can prove that the Court work is going to be paid for. That’s my belief.”

“But what does it all mean?” said Joe Buttle, setting his pot of beer down on the taproom table, round which they sat in conclave. “Where’s the money coming from? There’s money somewhere.”

Tread was the advanced thinker of the village. He had come–through reverses–from a bigger place. He read the newspapers.

“It’ll come from where it’s got a way of coming,” he gave forth portentously. “It’ll come from America. How they manage to get hold of so much of it there is past me. But they’ve got it, dang ’em, and they’re ready to spend it for what they want, though they’re a sharp lot. Twelve years ago there was a good bit of talk about her ladyship’s father being one of them with the fullest pockets. She came here with plenty, but Sir Nigel got hold of it for his games, and they’re the games that cost money. Her ladyship wasn’t born with a backbone, poor thing, but this new one was, and her ladyship’s father is her father, and you mark my words, there’s money coming into Stornham, though it’s not going to be played the fool with. Lord, yes! this new one has a backbone and good strong wrists and a good strong head, though I must say”–with a little masculine chuckle of admission–“it’s a bit unnatural with them eyelashes and them eyes looking at you between ’em. Like blue water between rushes in the marsh.”

Before the next twenty-four hours had passed a still more unlooked-for event had taken place. Long outstanding bills had been paid, and in as matter-of-fact manner as if they had not been sent in and ignored, in some cases for years. The settlement of Joe Buttle’s account sent him to bed at the day’s end almost light-headed. To become suddenly the possessor of thirty-seven pounds, fifteen and tenpence half-penny, of which all hope had been lost three years ago, was almost too much for any man. Six pounds, eight pounds, ten pounds, came into places as if sovereigns had been sixpences, and shillings farthings. More than one cottage woman, at the sight of the hoarded wealth in her staring goodman’s hand, gulped and began to cry. If they had had it before, and in driblets, it would have been spent long since, now, in a lump, it meant shoes and petticoats and tea and sugar in temporary abundance, and the sense of this abundance was felt to be entirely due to American magic. America was, in fact, greatly lauded and discussed, the case of “Gaarge” Lumsden being much quoted.

CHAPTER XXI

KEDGERS

The work at Stornham Court went on steadily, though with no greater rapidity than is usually achieved by rural labourers. There was, however, without doubt, a certain stimulus in the occasional appearance of Miss Vanderpoel, who almost daily sauntered round the place to look on, and exchange a few words with the workmen. When they saw her coming, the men, hastily standing up to touch their foreheads, were conscious of a slight acceleration of being which was not quite the ordinary quickening produced by the presence of employers. It was, in fact, a sensation rather pleasing than anxious. Her interest in the work was, upon the whole, one which they found themselves beginning to share. The unusualness of the situation–a young woman, who evidently stood for many things and powers desirable, employing labourers and seeming to know what she intended them to do–was a thing not easy to get over, or be come accustomed to. But there she was, as easy and well mannered as you please–and with gentlefolks’ ways, though, as an American, such finish could scarcely be expected from her. She knew each man’s name, it was revealed gradually, and, what was more, knew what he stood for in the village, what cottage he lived in, how many children he had, and something about his wife. She remembered things and made inquiries which showed knowledge. Besides this, she represented, though perhaps they were scarcely yet fully awake to the fact, the promise their discouraged dulness had long lost sight of.

It actually became apparent that her ladyship, who walked with her, was altering day by day. Was it true that the bit of colour they had heard spoken of when she returned from town was deepening and fixing itself on her cheek? It sometimes looked like it. Was she a bit less stiff and shy-like and frightened in her way? Buttle mentioned to his friends at The Clock that he was sure of it. She had begun to look a man in the face when she talked, and more than once he had heard her laugh at things her sister said.

To one man more than to any other had come an almost unspeakable piece of luck through the new arrival–a thing which to himself, at least, was as the opening of the heavens. This man was the discouraged Kedgers. Miss Vanderpoel, coming with her ladyship to talk to him, found that the man was a person of more experience than might have been imagined. In his youth he had been an under gardener at a great place, and being fond of his work, had learned more than under gardeners often learn. He had been one of a small army of workers under the orders of an imposing head gardener, whose knowledge was a science. He had seen and taken part in what was done in orchid houses, orangeries, vineries, peach houses, conservatories full of wondrous tropical plants. But it was not easy for a man like himself, uneducated and lacking confidence of character, to advance as a bolder young man might have done. The all-ruling head gardener had inspired him with awe. He had watched him reverently, accumulating knowledge, but being given, as an underling, no opportunity to do more than obey orders. He had spent his life in obeying, and congratulated himself that obedience secured him his weekly wage.

“He was a great man–Mr. Timson–he was,” he said, in talking to Miss Vanderpoel. “Ay, he was that. Knew everything that could happen to a flower or a s’rub or a vegetable. Knew it all. Had a lib’ery of books an’ read ’em night an’ day. Head gardener’s cottage was good enough for gentry. The old Markis used to walk round the hothouses an’ gardens talking to him by the hour. If you did what he told you EXACTLY like he told it to you, then you were all right, but if you didn’t–well, you was off the place before you’d time to look round. Worked under him from twenty to forty. Then he died an’ the new one that came in had new ways. He made a clean sweep of most of us. The men said he was jealous of Mr. Timson.”

“That was bad for you, if you had a wife and children,” Miss Vanderpoel said.

“Eight of us to feed,” Kedgers answered. “A man with that on him can’t wait, miss. I had to take the first place I could get. It wasn’t a good one–poor parsonage with a big family an’ not room on the place for the vegetables they wanted. Cabbages, an’ potatoes, an’ beans, an’ broccoli. No time nor ground for flowers. Used to seem as if flowers got to be a kind of dream.” Kedgers gave vent to a deprecatory half laugh. “Me–I was fond of flowers. I wouldn’t have asked no better than to live among ’em. Mr. Timson gave me a book or two when his lordship sent him a lot of new ones. I’ve bought a few myself–though I suppose I couldn’t afford it.”

From the poor parsonage he had gone to a market gardener, and had evidently liked the work better, hard and unceasing as it had been, because he had been among flowers again. Sudden changes from forcing houses to chill outside dampness had resulted in rheumatism. After that things had gone badly. He began to be regarded as past his prime of strength. Lower wages and labour still as hard as ever, though it professed to be lighter, and therefore cheaper. At last the big neglected gardens of Stornham.

“What I’m seeing, miss, all the time, is what could be done with ’em. Wonderful it’d be. They might be the show of the county-if we had Mr. Timson here.”

Miss Vanderpoel, standing in the sunshine on the broad weed-grown pathway, was conscious that he was remotely moving. His flowers–his flowers. They had been the centre of his rudimentary rural being. Each man or woman cared for some one thing, and the unfed longing for it left the life of the creature a thwarted passion. Kedgers, yearning to stir the earth about the roots of blooming things, and doomed to broccoli and cabbage, had spent his years unfed. No thing is a small thing. Kedgers, with the earth under his broad finger nails, and his half apologetic laugh, being the centre of his own world, was as large as Mount Dunstan, who stood thwarted in the centre of his. Chancing-for God knows what mystery of reason-to be born one of those having power, one might perhaps set in order a world like Kedgers’.

“In the course of twenty years’ work under Timson,” she said, “you must have learned a great deal from him.”

“A good bit, miss-a good bit,” admitted Kedgers. ” If I hadn’t ha’ cared for the work, I might ha’ gone on doing it with my eyes shut, but I didn’t. Mr. Timson’s heart was set on it as well as his head. An’ mine got to be. But I wasn’t even second or third under him–I was only one of a lot. He would have thought me fine an’ impident if I’d told him I’d got to know a good deal of what he knew–and had some bits of ideas of my own.”

“If you had men enough under you, and could order all you want,” Miss Vanderpoel said tentatively, “you know what the place should be, no doubt.”

“That I do, miss,” answered Kedgers, turning red with feeling. “Why, if the soil was well treated, anything would grow here. There’s situations for everything. There’s shade for things that wants it, and south aspects for things that won’t grow without the warmth of ’em. Well, I’ve gone about many a day when I was low down in my mind and worked myself up to being cheerful by just planning where I could put things and what they’d look like. Liliums, now, I could grow them in masses from June to October.” He was becoming excited, like a war horse scenting battle from afar, and forgot himself. “The Lilium Giganteum–I don’t know whether you’ve ever seen one, miss–but if you did, it’d almost take your breath away. A Lilium that grows twelve feet high and more, and has a flower like a great snow-white trumpet, and the scent pouring out of it so that it floats for yards. There’s a place where I could grow them so that you’d come on them sudden, and you’d think they couldn’t be true.”

“Grow them, Kedgers, begin to grow them,” said Miss Vanderpoel. “I have never seen them–I must see them.”

Kedgers’ low, deprecatory chuckle made itself heard again,

“Perhaps I’m going too fast,” he said. “It would take a good bit of expense to do it, miss. A good bit.”

Then Miss Vanderpoel made–and she made it in the simplest matter-of-fact manner, too–the startling remark which, three hours later, all Stornham village had heard of. The most astounding part of the remark was that it was uttered as if there was nothing in it which was not the absolutely natural outcome of the circumstances of the case.

“Expense which is proper and necessary need not be considered,” she said. “Regular accounts will be kept and supervised, but you can have all that is required.”

Then it appeared that Kedgers almost became pale. Being a foreigner, perhaps she did not know how much she was implying when she said such a thing to a man who had never held a place like Timson’s.

“Miss,” he hesitated, even shamefacedly, because to suggest to such a fine-mannered, calm young lady that she might be ignorant, seemed perilously near impertinence. “Miss, did you mean you wanted only the Lilium Giganteum, or–or other things, as well.”

“I should like to see,” she answered him, “all that you see. I should like to hear more of it all, when we have time to talk it over. I understand we should need time to discuss plans.”

The quiet way she went on! Seeming to believe in him, almost as if he was Mr. Timson. The old feeling, born and fostered by the great head gardener’s rule, reasserted itself.

“It means more to work–and someone over them, miss,” he said. “If–if you had a man like Mr. Timson—-“

“You have not forgotten what you learned. With men enough under you it can be put into practice.”

“You mean you’d trust me, miss–same as if I was Mr. Timson?”

“Yes. If you ever feel the need of a man like Timson, no doubt we can find one. But you will not. You love the work too much.”

Then still standing in the sunshine, on the weed-grown path, she continued to talk to him. It revealed itself that she understood a good deal. As he was to assume heavier responsibilities, he was to receive higher wages. It was his experience which was to be considered, not his years. This was a new point of view. The mere propeller of wheel- barrows and digger of the soil–particularly after having been attacked by rheumatism–depreciates in value after youth is past. Kedgers knew that a Mr. Timson, with a regiment of under gardeners, and daily increasing knowledge of his profession, could continue to direct, though years rolled by. But to such fortune he had not dared to aspire.

One of the lodges might be put in order for him to live in. He might have the hothouses to put in order, too; he might have implements, plants, shrubs, even some of the newer books to consult. Kedgers’ brain reeled.

“You–think I am to be trusted, miss?” he said more than once. “You think it would be all right? I wasn’t even second or third under Mr. Timson–but–if I say it as shouldn’t–I never lost a chance of learning things. I was just mad about it. T’aint only Liliums–Lord, I know ’em all, as if they were my own children born an’ bred–shrubs, coniferas, herbaceous borders that bloom in succession. My word! what you can do with just delphiniums an’ campanula an’ acquilegia an’ poppies, everyday things like them, that’ll grow in any cottage garden, an’ bulbs an’ annuals! Roses, miss–why, Mr. Timson had them in thickets–an’ carpets– an’ clambering over trees and tumbling over walls in sheets an’ torrents–just know their ways an’ what they want, an’ they’ll grow in a riot. But they want feeding–feeding. A rose is a gross feeder. Feed a Glory deejon, and watch over him, an’ he’ll cover a housetop an’ give you two bloomings.”

“I have never lived in an English garden. I should like to see this one at its best.”

Leaving her with salutes of abject gratitude, Kedgers moved away bewildered. What man could believe it true? At three or four yards’ distance he stopped and, turning, came back to touch his cap again.

“You understand, miss,” he said. “I wasn’t even second or third under Mr. Timson. I’m not deceiving you, am I, miss?”

“You are to be trusted,” said Miss Vanderpoel, “first because you love the things–and next because of Timson.”

CHAPTER XXII

ONE OF MR. VANDERPOEL’S LETTERS

Mr. Germen, the secretary of the great Mr. Vanderpoel, in arranging the neat stacks of letters preparatory to his chief’s entrance to his private room each morning, knowing where each should be placed, understood that such as were addressed in Miss Vanderpoel’s hand would be read before anything else. This had been the case even when she had just been placed in a French school, a tall, slim little girl, with immense demanding eyes, and a thick black plait of hair swinging between her straight, rather thin, shoulders. Between other financial potentates and their little girls, Mr. Germen knew that the oddly confidential relation which existed between these two was unusual. Her schoolgirl letters, it had been understood, should be given the first place on the stacks of envelopes each incoming ocean steamer brought in its mail bags. Since the beginning of her visit to her sister, Lady Anstruthers, the exact dates of mail steamers seemed to be of increased importance. Miss Vanderpoel evidently found much to write about. Each steamer brought a full-looking envelope to be placed in a prominent position.

On a hot morning in the early summer Mr. Germen found two or three–two of them of larger size and seeming to contain business papers. These he placed where they would be seen at once. Mr. Vanderpoel was a little later than usual in his arrival. At this season he came from his place in the country, and before leaving it this morning he had been talking to his wife, whom he found rather disturbed by a chance encounter with a young woman who had returned to visit her mother after a year spent in England with her English husband. This young woman, now Lady Bowen, once Milly Jones, had been one of the amusing marvels of New York. A girl neither rich nor so endowed by nature as to be able to press upon the world any special claim to consideration as a beauty, her enterprise, and the daring of her tactics, had been the delight of many a satiric onlooker. In her school- days she had ingenuously mapped out her future career. Other American girls married men with titles, and she intended to do the same thing. The other little girls laughed, but they liked to hear her talk. All information regarding such unions as was to be found in the newspapers and magazines, she collected and studiously read–sometimes aloud to her companions.

Social paragraphs about royalties, dukes and duchesses, lords and ladies, court balls and glittering functions, she devoured and learned by heart. An abominably vulgar little person, she was an interestingly pertinacious creature, and wrought night and day at acquiring an air of fashionable elegance, at first naturally laying it on in such manner as suggested that it should be scraped off with a knife, but with experience gaining a certain specious knowledge of forms. How the over-mature child at school had assimilated her uncanny young worldliness, it would have been less difficult to decide, if possible sources had been less numerous. The air was full of it, the literature of the day, the chatter of afternoon teas, the gossip of the hour. Before she was fifteen she saw the indiscretion of her childish frankness, and realised that it might easily be detrimental to her ambitions. She said no more of her plans for her future, and even took the astute tone of carelessly treating as a joke her vulgar little past. But no titled foreigner appeared upon the horizon without setting her small, but business-like, brain at work. Her lack of wealth and assured position made her situation rather hopeless. She was not of the class of lucky young women whose parents’ gorgeous establishments offered attractions to wandering persons of rank. She and her mother lived in a flat, and gave rather pathetic afternoon teas in return for such more brilliant hospitalities as careful and pertinacious calling and recalling obliged their acquaintances to feel they could not decently be left wholly out of. Milly and her anxious mother had worked hard. They lost no opportunity of writing a note, or sending a Christmas card, or an economical funeral wreath. By daily toil and the amicable ignoring of casualness of manner or slights, they managed to cling to the edge of the precipice of social oblivion, into whose depths a lesser degree of assiduity, or a greater sensitiveness, would have plunged them. Once–early in Milly’s career, when her ever-ready chatter and her superficial brightness were a novelty, it had seemed for a short time that luck might be glancing towards her. A young man of foreign title and of Bohemian tastes met her at a studio dance, and, misled by the smartness of her dress and her always carefully carried air of careless prosperity, began to pay a delusive court to her. For a few weeks all her freshest frocks were worn assiduously and credit was strained to buy new ones. The flat was adorned with fresh flowers and several new yellow and pale blue cushions appeared at the little teas, which began to assume a more festive air. Desirable people, who went ordinarily to the teas at long intervals and through reluctant weakness, or sometimes rebellious amiability, were drummed up and brought firmly to the fore. Milly herself began to look pink and fluffy through mere hopeful good spirits. Her thin little laugh was heard incessantly, and people amusedly if they were good-tempered, derisively if they were spiteful, wondered if it really would come to something. But it did not. The young foreigner suddenly left New York, making his adieus with entire lightness. There was the end of it. He had heard something about lack of income and uncertainty of credit, which had suggested to him that discretion was the better part of valour. He married later a young lady in the West, whose father was a solid person.

Less astute young women, under the circumstances, would have allowed themselves a week or so of headache or influenza, but Milly did not. She made calls in the new frocks, and with such persistent spirit that she fished forth from the depths of indifferent hospitality two or three excellent invitations. She wore her freshest pink frock, and an amazingly clever little Parisian diamond crescent in her hair, at the huge Monson ball at Delmonico’s, and it was recorded that it was on that glittering occasion that her “Uncle James” was first brought upon the scene. He was only mentioned lightly at first. It was to Milly’s credit that he was not made too much of. He was casually touched upon as a very rich uncle, who lived in Dakota, and had actually lived there since his youth, letting his few relations know nothing of him. He had been rather a black sheep as a boy, but Milly’s mother had liked him, and, when he had run away from New York, he had told her what he was going to do, and had kissed her when she cried, and had taken her daguerreotype with him. Now he had written, and it turned out that he was enormously rich, and was interested in Milly. From that time Uncle James formed an atmosphere. He did not appear in New York, but Milly spent the next season in London, and the Monsons, being at Hurlingham one day, had her pointed out to them as a new American girl, who was the idol of a millionaire uncle. She was not living in an ultra fashionable quarter, or with ultra fashionable people, but she was, on all occasions, they heard, beautifully dressed and beautifully–if a little heavily–hung with gauds and gems, her rings being said to be quite amazing and suggesting an impassioned lavishness on the part of Uncle James. London, having become inured to American marvels–Milly’s bit of it–accepted and enjoyed Uncle James and all the sumptuous attributes of his Dakota.

English people would swallow anything sometimes, Mrs. Monson commented sagely, and yet sometimes they stared and evidently thought you were lying about the simplest things. Milly’s corner of South Kensington had gulped down the Dakota uncle. Her managing in this way, if there was no uncle, was too clever and amusing. She had left her mother at home to scrimp and save, and by hook or by crook she had contrived to get a number of quite good things to wear. She wore them with such an air of accustomed resource that the jewels might easily–mixed with some relics of her mother’s better days–be of the order of the clever little Parisian diamond crescent. It was Milly’s never-laid-aside manner which did it. The announcement of her union with Sir Arthur Bowen was received in certain New York circles with little suppressed shrieks of glee. It had been so sharp of her to aim low and to realise so quickly that she could not aim high. The baronetcy was a recent one, and not unconnected with trade. Sir Arthur was not a rich man, and, had it leaked out, believed in Uncle James. If he did not find him all his fancy painted, Milly was clever enough to keep him quiet. She was, when all was said and done, one of the American women of title, her servants and the tradespeople addressed her as “my lady,” and with her capacity for appropriating what was most useful, and her easy assumption of possessing all required, she was a very smart person indeed. She provided herself with an English accent, an English vocabulary, and an English manner, and in certain circles was felt to be most impressive.

At an afternoon function in the country Mrs. Vanderpoel had met Lady Bowen. She had been one of the few kindly ones, who in the past had given an occasional treat to Milly Jones for her girlhood’s sake. Lady Bowen, having gathered a small group of hearers, was talking volubly to it, when the nice woman entered, and, catching sight of her, she swept across the room. It would not have been like Milly to fail to see and greet at once the wife of Reuben Vanderpoel. She would count anywhere, even in London sets it was not easy to connect one’s self with. She had already discovered that there were almost as many difficulties to be surmounted in London by the wife of an unimportant baronet as there had been to be overcome in New York by a girl without money or place. It was well to have something in the way of information to offer in one’s small talk with the lucky ones and Milly knew what subject lay nearest to Mrs. Vanderpoel’s heart.

“Miss Vanderpoel has evidently been enjoying her visit to Stornham Court,” she said, after her first few sentences. “I met Mrs. Worthington at the Embassy, and she said she had buried herself in the country. But I think she must have run up to town quietly for shopping. I saw her one day in Piccadilly, and I was almost sure Lady Anstruthers was with her in the carriage–almost sure.”

Mrs. Vanderpoel’s heart quickened its beat.

“You were so young when she married,” she said. “I daresay you have forgotten her face.”

“Oh, no!” Milly protested effusively. “I remember her quite well. She was so pretty and pink and happy-looking, and her hair curled naturally. I used to pray every night that when I grew up I might have hair and a complexion like hers.”

Mrs. Vanderpoel’s kind, maternal face fell.

“And you were not sure you recognised her? Well, I suppose twelve years does make a difference,” her voice dragging a little.

Milly saw that she had made a blunder. The fact was she had not even guessed at Rosy’s identity until long after the carriage had passed her.

“Oh, you see,” she hesitated, “their carriage was not near me, and I was not expecting to see them. And perhaps she looked a little delicate. I heard she had been rather delicate.”

She felt she was floundering, and bravely floundered away from the subject. She plunged into talk of Betty and people’s anxiety to see her, and the fact that the society columns were already faintly heralding her. She would surely come soon to town. It was too late for the first Drawing-room this year. When did Mrs. Vanderpoel think she would be presented? Would Lady Anstruthers present her? Mrs. Vanderpoel could not bring her back to Rosy, and the nature of the change which had made it difficult to recognise her.

The result of this chance encounter was that she did not sleep very well, and the next morning talked anxiously to her husband.

“What I could see, Reuben, was that Milly Bowen had not known her at all, even when she saw her in the carriage with Betty. She couldn’t have changed as much as that, if she had been taken care of, and happy.”

Her affection and admiration for her husband were such as made the task of soothing her a comparatively simple thing. The instinct of tenderness for the mate his youth had chosen was an unchangeable one in Reuben Vanderpoel. He was not a primitive man, but in this he was as unquestioningly simple as if he had been a kindly New England farmer. He had outgrown his wife, but he had always loved and protected her gentle goodness. He had never failed her in her smallest difficulty, he could not bear to see her hurt. Betty had been his compeer and his companion almost since her childhood, but his wife was the tenderest care of his days. There was a strong sense of relief in his thought of Betty now. It was good to remember the fineness of her perceptions, her clearness of judgment, and recall that they were qualities he might rely upon.

When he left his wife to take his train to town, he left her smiling again. She scarcely knew how her fears had been dispelled. His talk had all been kindly, practical, and reasonable. It was true Betty had said in her letter that Rosy had been rather delicate, and had not been taking very good care of herself, but that was to be remedied. Rosy had made a little joke or so about it herself.

“Betty says I am not fat enough for an English matron. I am drinking milk and breakfasting in bed, and am going to be massaged to please her. I believe we all used to obey Betty when she was a child, and now she is so tall and splendid, one would never dare to cross her. Oh, mother! I am so happy at having her with me!”

To reread just these simple things caused the suggestion of things not comfortably normal to melt away. Mrs. Vanderpoel sat down at a sunny window with her lap full of letters, and forgot Milly Bowen’s floundering.

When Mr. Vanderpoel reached his office and glanced at his carefully arranged morning’s mail, Mr. Germen saw him smile at the sight of the envelopes addressed in his daughter’s hand. He sat down to read them at once, and, as he read, the smile of welcome became a shrewd and deeply interested one.

“She has undertaken a good-sized contract,” he was saying to himself, “and she’s to be trusted to see it through. It is rather fine, the way she manages to combine emotions and romance and sentiments with practical good business, without letting one interfere with the other. It’s none of it bad business this, as the estate is entailed, and the boy is Rosy’s. It’s good business.”

This was what Betty had written to her father in New York from Stornham Court.

“The things I am beginning to do, it would be impossible for me to resist doing, and it would certainly be impossible for you. The thing I am seeing I have never seen, at close hand, before, though I have taken in something almost its parallel as part of certain picturesqueness of scenes in other countries. But I am LIVING with this and also, through relationship to Rosy, I, in a measure, belong to it, and it belongs to me. You and I may have often seen in American villages crudeness, incompleteness, lack of comfort, and the composition of a picture, a rough ugliness the result of haste and unsettled life which stays nowhere long, but packs up its goods and chattels and wanders farther afield in search of something better or worse, in any case in search of change, but we have never seen ripe, gradual falling to ruin of what generations ago was beautiful. To me it is wonderful and tragic and touching. If you could see the Court, if you could see the village, if you could see the church, if you could see the people, all quietly disintegrating, and so dearly perfect in their way that if one knew absolutely that nothing could be done to save them, one could only stand still and catch one’s breath and burst into tears. The church has stood since the Conquest, and, as it still stands, grey and fine, with its mass of square tower, and despite the state of its roof, is not yet given wholly to the winds and weather, it will, no doubt, stand a few centuries longer. The Court, however, cannot long remain a possible habitation, if it is not given a new lease of life. I do not mean that it will crumble to-morrow, or the day after, but we should not think it habitable now, even while we should admit that nothing could be more delightful to look at. The cottages in the village are already, many of them, amazing, when regarded as the dwellings of human beings. How long ago the cottagers gave up expecting that anything in particular would be done for them, I do not know. I am impressed by the fact that they are an unexpecting people. Their calm non-expectancy fills me with interest. Only centuries of waiting for their superiors in rank to do things for them, and the slow formation of the habit of realising that not to submit to disappointment was no use, could have produced the almost SERENITY of their attitude. It is all very well for newborn republican nations –meaning my native land–to sniff sternly and say that such a state of affairs is an insult to the spirit of the race. Perhaps it is now, but it was not apparently centuries ago, which was when it all began and when `Man’ and the `Race’ had not developed to the point of asking questions, to which they demand replies, about themselves and the things which happened to them. It began in the time of Egbert and Canute, and earlier, in the days of the Druids, when they used peacefully to allow themselves to be burned by the score, enclosed in wicker idols, as natural offerings to placate the gods. The modern acceptance of things is only a somewhat attenuated remnant of the ancient idea. And this is what I have to deal with and understand. When I begin to do the things I am going to do, with the aid of your practical advice, if I have your approval, the people will be at first rather afraid of me. They will privately suspect I am mad. It will, also, not seem at all unlikely that an American should be of unreasoningly extravagant and flighty mind. Stornham, having long slumbered in remote peace through lack of railroad convenience, still regards America as almost of the character of wild rumour. Rosy was their one American, and she disappeared from their view so soon that she had not time to make any lasting impression. I am asking myself how difficult, or how simple, it will be to quite understand these people, and to make them understand me. I greatly doubt its being simple. Layers and layers and layers of centuries must be far from easy to burrow through. They look simple, they do not know that they are not simple, but really they are not. Their point of view has been the point of view of the English peasant so many hundred years that an American point of view, which has had no more than a trifling century and a half to form itself in, may find its thews and sinews the less powerful of the two. When I walk down the village street, faces appear at windows, and figures, stolidly, at doors. What I see is that, vaguely and remotely, American though I am, the fact that I am of `her ladyship’s blood,’ and that her ladyship–American though she is–has the claim on them of being the mother of the son of the owner of the land–stirs in them a feeling that I have a shadowy sort of relationship in the whole thing, and with regard to their bad roofs and bad chimneys, to their broken palings, and damp floors, to their comforts and discomforts,a sort of responsibility. That is the whole thing, and you–just you, father–will understand me when I say that I actually like it. I might not like it if I were poor Rosy, but, being myself, I love it. There is something patriarchal in it which moves me.

“Is it an abounding and arrogant delight in power which makes it appeal to me, or is it something better? To feel that every man on the land, every woman, every child knew one, counted on one’s honour and friendship, turned to one believingly in time of stress, to know that one could help and be a finely faithful thing, the very knowledge of it would give one vigour and warm blood in the veins. I wish I had been born to it, I wish the first sounds falling on my newborn ears had been the clanging of the peal from an old Norman church tower, calling out to me, `Welcome; newcomer of our house, long life among us! Welcome!’ Still, though the first sounds that greeted me were probably the rattling of a Fifth Avenue stage, I have brought them SOMETHING, and who knows whether I could have brought it from without the range of that prosaic, but cheerful, rattle.”

The rest of the letter was detail of a business-like order. A large envelope contained the detail-notes of things to be done, notes concerning roofs, windows, flooring, park fences, gardens, greenhouses, tool houses, potting sheds, garden walls, gates, woodwork, masonry. Sharp little sketches, such as Buttle had seen, notes concerning Buttle, Fox, Tread, Kedgers, and less accomplished workmen; concerning wages of day labourers, hours, capabilities. Buttle, if he had chanced to see them, would have broken into a light perspiration at the idea of a young woman having compiled the documents. He had never heard of the first Reuben Vanderpoel.

Her father’s reply to Betty was as long as her own to him, and gave her keen pleasure by its support, both of sympathetic interest and practical advice. He left none of her points unnoted, and dealt with each of them as she had most hoped and indeed had felt she knew he would. This was his final summing up:

“If you had been a boy, and I own I am glad you were not –a man wants a daughter–I should have been quite willing to allow you your flutter on Wall Street, or your try at anything you felt you would like to handle. It would have interested me to look on and see what you were made of, what you wanted, and how you set about trying to get it. It’s a new kind of deal you have undertaken. It’s more romantic than Wall Street, but I think I do see what you see in it. Even apart from Rosy and the boy, it would interest me to see what you would do with it. This is your `flutter.’ I like the way you face it. If you were a son instead of a daughter, I should see I might have confidence in you. I could not confide to Wall Street what I will tell you–which is that in the midst of the drive and swirl and tumult of my life here, I like what you see in the thing, I like your idea of the lord of the land, who should love the land and the souls born on it, and be the friend and strength of them and give the best and get it back in fair exchange. There’s a steadiness in the thought of such a life among one’s kind which has attractions for a man who has spent years in a maelstrom, snatching at what whirls among the eddies of it. Your notes and sketches and summing up of probable costs did us both credit–I say `both’ because your business education is the result of our long talks and journeyings together. You began to train for this when you began going to visit mines and railroads with me at twelve years old. I leave the whole thing in your hands, my girl, I leave Rosy in your hands, and in leaving Rosy to you, you know how I am trusting you with your mother. Your letters to her tell her only what is good for her. She is beginning to look happier and younger already, and is looking forward to the day when Rosy and the boy will come home to visit us, and when we shall go in state to Stornham Court. God bless her, she is made up of affection and simple trust, and that makes it easy to keep things from her. She has never been ill-treated, and she knows I love her, so when I tell her that things are coming right, she never doubts me.

“While you are rebuilding the place you will rebuild Rosy so that the sight of her may not be a pain when her mother sees her again, which is what she is living for.”

CHAPTER XXIII

INTRODUCING G. SELDEN

A bird was perched upon a swaying branch of a slim young sapling near the fence-supported hedge which bounded the park, and Mount Dunstan had stopped to look at it and listen. A soft shower had fallen, and after its passing, the sun coming through the light clouds, there had broken forth again in the trees brief trills and calls and fluting of bird notes. The sward and ferns glittered fresh green under the raindrops; the young leaves on trees and hedge seemed visibly to uncurl,

the uncovered earth looked richly dark and moist, and sent forth the fragrance from its deeps, which, rising to a man’s nostrils, stirs and thrills him because it is the scent of life’s self. The bird upon the sapling was a robin, the tiny round body perched upon his delicate legs, plump and bright plumaged for mating. He touched his warm red breast with his beak, fluffed out and shook his feathers, and, swelling his throat, poured forth his small, entranced song. It was a gay, brief, jaunty thing, but pure, joyous, gallant, liquid melody. There was dainty bravado in it, saucy demand and allurement. It was addressed to some invisible hearer of the tender sex, and wheresoever she might be hidden–whether in great branch or low thicket or hedge –there was hinted no doubt in her small wooer’s note that she would hear it and in due time respond. Mount Dunstan, listening, even laughed at its confident music. The tiny thing uttering its Call of the World–jubilant in the surety of answer!

Having flung it forth, he paused a moment and waited, his small head turned sideways, his big, round, dew-bright black eye roguishly attentive. Then with more swelling of the throat he trilled and rippled gayly anew, undisturbed and undoubting, but with a trifle of insistence. Then he listened, tried again two or three times, with brave chirps and exultant little roulades. “Here am I, the bright-breasted, the liquid-eyed, the slender-legged, the joyous and conquering! Listen to me –listen to me. Listen and answer in the call of God’s world.” It was the joy and triumphant faith in the tiny note of the tiny thing–Life as he himself was, though Life whose mystery his man’s hand could have crushed–which, while he laughed, set Mount Dunstan thinking. Spring warmth and spring scents and spring notes set a man’s being in tune with infinite things.

The bright roulade began again, prolonged itself with renewed effort, rose to its height, and ended. From a bush in the thicket farther up the road a liquid answer came. And Mount Dunstan’s laugh at the sound of it was echoed by another which came apparently from the bank rising from the road on the other side of the hedge, and accompanying the laugh was a good-natured nasal voice.

“She’s caught on. There’s no mistake about that. I guess it’s time for you to hustle, Mr. Rob.”

Mount Dunstan laughed again. Jem Salter had heard voices like it, and cheerful slang phrases of the same order in his ranch days. On the other side of his park fence there was evidently sitting, through some odd chance, an American of the cheery, casual order, not sufficiently polished by travel to have lost his picturesque national characteristics.

Mount Dunstan put a hand on a broken panel of fence and leaped over into the road.

A bicycle was lying upon the roadside grass, and on the bank, looking as though he had been sheltering himself under the hedge from the rain, sat a young man in a cheap bicycling suit. His features were sharply cut and keen, his cap was pushed back from his forehead, and he had a pair of shrewdly careless boyish eves.

Mount Dunstan liked the look of him, and seeing his natural start at the unheralded leap over the gap, which was quite close to him, he spoke.

“Good-morning,” he said. “I am afraid I startled you.”

“Good-morning,” was the response. “It was a bit of a jolt seeing you jump almost over my shoulder. Where did you come from? You must have been just behind me.”

“I was,” explained Mount Dunstan. “Standing in the park listening to the robin.”

The young fellow laughed outright.

“Say,” he said, “that was pretty fine, wasn’t it? Wasn’t he getting it off his chest! He was an English robin, I guess. American robins are three or four times as big. I liked that little chap. He was a winner.”

“You are an American?”

“Sure,” nodding. “Good old Stars and Stripes for mine. First time I’ve been here. Came part for business and part for pleasure. Having the time of my life.”

Mount Dunstan sat down beside him. He wanted to hear him talk. He had liked to hear the ranchmen talk. This one was of the city type, but his genial conversational wanderings would be full of quaint slang and good spirits. He was quite ready to converse, as was made manifest by his next speech.

“I’m biking through the country because I once had an old grandmother that was English, and she was always talking about English country, and how green things was, and how there was hedges instead of rail fences. She thought there was nothing like little old England. Well, as far as roads and hedges go, I’m with her. They’re all right. I wanted a fellow I met crossing, to come with me, but he took a Cook’s trip to Paris. He’s a gay sort of boy. Said he didn’t want any green lanes in his. He wanted Boolyvard.” He laughed again and pushed his cap farther back on his forehead. “Said I wasn’t much of a sport. I tell YOU, a chap that’s got to earn his fifteen per, and live on it, can’t be TOO much of a sport.”

“Fifteen per?” Mount Dunstan repeated doubtfully.

His companion chuckled.

“I forgot I was talking to an Englishman. Fifteen dollars per week–that’s what `fifteen per’ means. That’s what he told me he gets at Lobenstien’s brewery in New York. Fifteen per. Not much, is it?”

“How does he manage Continental travel on fifteen per?” Mount Dunstan inquired.

“He’s a typewriter and stenographer, and he dug up some extra jobs to do at night. He’s been working and saving two years to do this. We didn’t come over on one of the big liners with the Four Hundred, you can bet. Took a cheap one, inside cabin, second class.”

“By George!” said Mount Dunstan. “That was American.”

The American eagle slightly flapped his wings. The young man pushed his cap a trifle sideways this time, and flushed a little.

“Well, when an American wants anything he generally reaches out for it.”

“Wasn’t it rather–rash, considering the fifteen per?” Mount Dunstan suggested. He was really beginning to enjoy himself.

“What’s the use of making a dollar and sitting on it. I’ve not got fifteen per–steady–and here I am.”

Mount Dunstan knew his man, and looked at him with inquiring interest. He was quite sure he would go on. This was a thing he had seen before–an utter freedom from the insular grudging reserve, a sort of occult perception of the presence of friendly sympathy, and an ingenuous readiness to meet it half way. The youngster, having missed his fellow-traveler, and probably feeling the lack of companionship in his country rides, was in the mood for self-revelation.

“I’m selling for a big concern,” he said, “and I’ve got a first-class article to carry. Up to date, you know, and all that. It’s the top notch of typewriting machines, the Delkoff. Ever seen it? Here’s my card,” taking a card from an inside pocket and handing it to him. It was inscribed:

J. BURRIDGE & SON,
DELKOFF TYPEWRITER CO.

BROADWAY, NEW YORK. G. SELDEN.

“That’s my name,” he said, pointing to the inscription in the corner. “I’m G. Selden, the junior assistant of Mr. Jones.”

At the sight of the insignia of his trade, his holiday air dropped from him, and he hastily drew from another pocket an illustrated catalogue.

“If you use a typewriter,” he broke forth, “I can assure you it would be to your interest to look at this.” And as Mount Dunstan took the proffered pamphlet, and with amiable gravity opened it, he rapidly poured forth his salesman’s patter, scarcely pausing to take his breath: “It’s the most up-to-date machine on the market. It has all the latest improved mechanical appliances. You will see from the cut in the catalogue that the platen roller is easily removed without a long mechanical operation. All you do is to slip two pins back and off comes the roller. There is also another point worth mentioning–the ribbon switch. By using this ribbon switch you can write in either red or blue ink while you are using only one ribbon. By throwing the switch on this side, you can use thirteen yards on the upper edge of the ribbon, by reversing it, you use thirteen yards on the lower edge–thus getting practically twenty-six yards of good, serviceable ribbon out of one that is only thirteen yards long–making a saving of fifty per cent. in your ribbon expenditure alone, which you will see is quite an item
to any enterprising firm.”

He was obliged to pause here for a second or so, but as Mount Dunstan exhibited no signs of intending to use violence, and, on the contrary, continued to inspect the catalogue, he broke forth with renewed cheery volubility:

“Another advantage is the new basket shift. Also, the carriage on this machine is perfectly stationary and rigid. On all other machines it is fastened by a series of connecting bolts and links, which you will readily understand makes perfect alignment uncertain. Then our tabulator is a part and parcel of the instrument, costing you nothing more than the original price of the machine, which is one hundred dollars–without discount.”

“It seems a good thing,” said Mount Dunstan. “If I had much business to transact, I should buy one.”

“If you bought one you’d HAVE business,” responded Selden. “That’s what’s the matter. It’s the up-to-date machines that set things humming. A slow, old-fashioned typewriter uses a firm’s time, and time’s money.”

“I don’t find it so,” said Mount Dunstan. “I have more time than I can possibly use–and no money.”

G. Selden looked at him with friendly interest. His experience, which was varied, had taught him to recognize symptoms. This nice, rough-looking chap, who, despite his rather shabby clothes, looked like a gentleman, wore an expression Jones’s junior assistant had seen many a time before. He had seen it frequently on the countenances of other junior assistants who had tramped the streets and met more or less savage rebuffs through a day’s length, without disposing of a single Delkoff, and thereby adding five dollars to the ten per. It was the kind of thing which wiped the youth out of a man’s face and gave him a hard, worn look about the eyes. He had looked like that himself many an unfeeling day before he had learned to “know the ropes and not mind a bit of hot air.” His buoyant, slangy soul was a friendly thing. He was a gregarious creature, and liked his fellow man. He felt, indeed, more at ease with him when he needed “jollying along.” Reticence was not even etiquette in a case as usual as this.

“Say,” he broke out, “perhaps I oughtn’t to have worried you. Are you up against it? Down on your luck, I mean,” in hasty translation.

Mount Dunstan grinned a little.

“That’s a very good way of putting it,” he answered. “I never heard `up against it’ before. It’s good. Yes, I’m up against it.

“Out of a job?” with genial sympathy.

“Well, the job I had was too big for me. It needed capital.” He grinned slightly again, recalling a phrase of his Western past. “I’m afraid I’m down and out.”

“No, you’re not,” with cheerful scorn. “You’re not dead, are you? S’long as a man’s not been dead a month, there’s always a chance that there’s luck round the corner. How did you happen here? Are you piking it?”

Momentarily Mount Dunstan was baffled. G. Selden, recognising the fact, enlightened him. “That’s New York again,” he said, with a boyish touch of apology. “It means on the tramp. Travelling along the turnpike. You don’t look as if you had come to that–though it’s queer the sort of fellows you do meet piking sometimes. Theatrical companies that have gone to pieces on the road, you know. Perhaps–” with a sudden thought, “you’re an actor. Are you?”

Mount Dunstan admitted to himself that he liked the junior assistant of Jones immensely. A more ingenuously common young man, a more innocent outsider, it had never been his blessed privilege to enter into close converse with, but his very commonness was a healthy, normal thing. It made no effort to wreathe itself with chaplets of elegance; it was beautifully unaware that such adornment was necessary. It enjoyed itself, youthfully; attacked the earning of its bread with genial pluck, and its good-natured humanness had touched him. He had enjoyed his talk; he wanted to hear more of it. He was not in the mood to let him go his way. To Penzance, who was to lunch with him to-day, he would present a study of absorbing interest.

“No,” he answered. “I’m not an actor. My name is Mount Dunstan, and this place,” with a nod over his shoulder, “is mine–but I’m up against it, nevertheless.”

Selden looked a trifle disgusted. He began to pick up his bicycle. He had given a degree of natural sympathy, and this was an English chap’s idea of a joke.

“I’m the Prince of Wales, myself,” he remarked, “and my mother’s expecting me to lunch at Windsor. So long, me lord,” and he set his foot on the treadle.

Mount Dunstan rose, feeling rather awkward. The point seemed somewhat difficult to contend.

“It is not a joke,” he said, conscious that he spoke rather stiffly.

“Little Willie’s not quite as easy as he looks,” was the cryptic remark of Mr. Selden.

Mount Dunstan lost his rather easily lost temper, which happened to be the best thing he could have done under the circumstances.

“Damn it,” he burst out. “I’m not such a fool as I evidently look. A nice ass I should be to play an idiot joke like that. I’m speaking the truth. Go if you like–and be hanged.”

Selden’s attention was arrested. The fellow was in earnest. The place was his. He must be the earl chap he had heard spoken of at the wayside public house he had stopped at for a pot of beer. He dismounted from his bicycle, and came back, pushing it before him, good-natured relenting and awkwardness combining in his look.

“All right,” he said. “I apologise–if it’s cold fact. I’m not calling you a liar.”

“Thank you,” still a little stiffly, from Mount Dunstan.

The unabashed good cheer of G. Selden carried him lightly over a slightly difficult moment. He laughed, pushing his cap back, of course, and looking over the hedge at the sweep of park, with a group of deer cropping softly in the foreground.

“I guess I should get a bit hot myself,” he volunteered handsomely, “if I was an earl, and owned a place like this, and a fool fellow came along and took me for a tramp. That was a pretty bad break, wasn’t it? But I did say you didn’t look like it. Anyway you needn’t mind me. I shouldn’t get onto Pierpont Morgan or W. K. Vanderbilt, if I met ’em in the street.”

He spoke the two names as an Englishman of his class would have spoken of the Dukes of Westminster or Marlborough. These were his nobles–the heads of the great American houses, and entirely parallel, in his mind, with the heads of any great house in England. They wielded the power of the world, and could wield it for evil or good, as any prince or duke might. Mount Dunstan saw the parallel.

“I apologise, all right,” G. Selden ended genially.

“I am not offended,” Mount Dunstan answered. “There was no reason why you should know me from another man. I was taken for a gamekeeper a few weeks since. I was savage a moment, because you refused to believe me–and why should you believe me after all?”

G. Selden hesitated. He liked the fellow anyhow.

“You said you were up against it–that was it. And–and I’ve seen chaps down on their luck often enough. Good Lord, the hard-luck stories I hear every day of my life. And they get a sort of look about the eyes and mouth. I hate to see it on any fellow. It makes me sort of sick to come across it even in a chap that’s only got his fool self to blame. I may be making another break, telling you–but you looked sort of that way.”

“Perhaps,” stolidly, “I did.” Then, his voice warming,

“It was jolly good-natured of you to think about it at all. Thank you.”

“That’s all right,” in polite acknowledgment. Then with another look over the hedge, “Say–what ought I to call you? Earl, or my Lord?”

“It’s not necessary for you to call me anything in particular–as a rule. If you were speaking of me, you might say Lord Mount Dunstan.”

G. Selden looked relieved.

“I don’t want to be too much off,” he said. “And I’d like to ask you a favour. I’ve only three weeks here, and I don’t want to miss any chances.”

“What chance would you like?”

“One of the things I’m biking over the country for, is to get a look at just such a place as this. We haven’t got ’em in America. My old grandmother was always talking about them. Before her mother brought her to New York she’d lived in a village near some park gates, and she chinned about it till she died. When I was a little chap I liked to hear her. She wasn’t much of an American. Wore a black net cap with purple ribbons in it, and hadn’t outlived her respect for aristocracy. Gee!” chuckling, “if she’d heard what I said to you just now, I reckon she’d have thrown a fit. Anyhow she made me feel I’d like to see the kind of places she talked about. And I shall think myself in luck if you’ll let me have a look at yours–just a bike around the park, if you don’t object–or I’ll leave the bike outside, if you’d rather.”

“I don’t object at all,” said Mount Dunstan. “The fact is, I happened to be on the point of asking you to come and have some lunch–when you got on your bicycle.”

Selden pushed his cap and cleared his throat.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” he said. “I’m pretty dusty,” with a glance at his clothes. “I need a wash and brush up– particularly if there are ladies.”

There were no ladies, and he could be made comfortable. This being explained to him, he was obviously rejoiced. With unembarrassed frankness, he expressed exultation. Such luck had not, at any time, presented itself to him as a possibility in his holiday scheme.

“By gee,” he ejaculated, as they walked under the broad oaks of the avenue leading to the house. “Speaking of luck, this is the limit! I can’t help thinking of what my grandmother would say if she saw me.”

He was a new order of companion, but before they had reached the house, Mount Dunstan had begun to find him inspiring to the spirits. His jovial, if crude youth, his unaffected acknowledgment of unaccustomedness to grandeur, even when in dilapidation, his delight in the novelty of the particular forms of everything about him–trees and sward, ferns and moss, his open self-congratulation, were without doubt cheerful things.

His exclamation, when they came within sight of the house itself, was for a moment disturbing to Mount Dunstan’s composure.

“Hully gee!” he said. “The old lady was right. All I’ve thought about ’em was ‘way off. It’s bigger than a museum.” His approval was immense.

During the absence in which he was supplied with the “wash and brush up,” Mount Dunstan found Mr. Penzance in the library. He explained to him what he had encountered, and how it had attracted him.

“You have liked to hear me describe my Western neighbours,” he said. “This youngster is a New York development, and of a different type. But there is a likeness. I have invited to lunch with us, a young man whom–Tenham, for instance, if he were here–would call `a bounder.’ He is nothing of the sort. In his junior-assistant-salesman way, he is rather a fine thing. I never saw anything more decently human than his way of asking me–man to man, making friends by the roadside if I was `up against it.’ No other fellow I have known has ever exhibited the same healthy sympathy.”

The Reverend Lewis was entranced. Already he was really quite flushed with interest. As Assyrian character, engraved upon sarcophogi, would have allured and thrilled him, so was he allured by the cryptic nature of the two or three American slang phrases Mount Dunstan had repeated to him. His was the student’s simple ardour.

“Up against it,” he echoed. “Really! Dear! Dear! And that signifies, you say—-“

“Apparently it means that a man has come face to face with an obstacle difficult or impossible to overcome.”

“But, upon my word, that is not bad. It is strong figure of speech. It brings up a picture. A man hurrying to an end–much desired–comes unexpectedly upon a stone wall. One can almost hear the impact. He is up against it. Most vivid. Excellent! Excellent!”

The nature of Selden’s calling was such that he was not accustomed to being received with a hint of enthusiastic welcome. There was something almost akin to this in the vicar’s courteously amiable, aquiline countenance when he rose to shake hands with the young man on his entrance. Mr. Penzance was indeed slightly disappointed that his greeting was not responded to by some characteristic phrasing. His American was that of Sam Slick and Artemus Ward, Punch and various English witticisms in anecdote. Life at the vicarage of Dunstan had not revealed to him that the model had become archaic.

The revelation dawned upon him during his intercourse with G. Selden. The young man in his cheap bicycling suit was a new development. He was markedly unlike an English youth of his class, as he was neither shy, nor laboriously at his ease. That he was at his ease to quite an amazing degree might perhaps have been remotely resented by the insular mind, accustomed to another order of bearing in its social inferiors, had it not been so obviously founded on entire unconsciousness of self, and so mingled with open appreciation of the unanticipated pleasures of the occasion. Nothing could have been farther from G. Selden than any desire to attempt to convey the impression that he had enjoyed the hospitality of persons of rank on previous occasions. He found indeed a gleeful point in the joke of the incongruousness of his own presence amid such surroundings.

“What Little Willie was expecting,” he remarked once, to the keen joy of Mr. Penzance, “was a hunk of bread and cheese at a village saloon somewhere. I ought to have said `pub,’ oughtn’t I? You don’t call them saloons here.”

He was encouraged to talk, and in his care-free fluency he opened up many vistas to the interested Mr. Penzance, who found himself, so to speak, whirled along Broadway, rushed up the steps of the elevated railroad and struggling to obtain a seat, or a strap to hang to on a Sixth Avenue train. The man was saturated with the atmosphere of the hot battle he lived in. From his childhood he had known nothing but the fever heat of his “little old New York,” as he called it with affectionate slanginess, and any temperature lower than that he was accustomed to would have struck him as being below normal. Penzance was impressed by his feeling of affection for the amazing city of his birth. He admired, he adored it, he boasted joyously of its perfervid charm.

“Something doing,” he said. “That’s what my sort of a fellow likes–something doing. You feel it right there when you walk along the streets. Little old New York for mine. It’s good enough for Little Willie. And it never stops. Why, Broadway at night—-“

He forgot his chop, and leaned forward on the table to pour forth his description. The manservant, standing behind Mount Dunstan’s chair, forgot himself also, thought he was a trained domestic whose duty it was to present dishes to the attention without any apparent mental processes. Certainly it was not his business to listen, and gaze fascinated. This he did, however, actually for the time unconscious of his breach of manners. The very crudity of the language used, the oddly sounding, sometimes not easily translatable slang phrases, used as if they were a necessary part of any conversation–the blunt, uneducated bareness of figure–seemed to Penzance to make more roughly vivid the picture dashed off. The broad thoroughfare almost as thronged by night as by day. Crowds going to theatres, loaded electric cars, whizzing and clanging bells, the elevated railroad rushing and roaring past within hearing, theatre fronts flaming with electric light, announcements of names of theatrical stars and the plays they appeared in, electric light advertisements of brands of cigars, whiskies, breakfast foods, all blazing high in the night air in such number and with such strength of brilliancy that the whole thoroughfare was as bright with light as a ballroom or a theatre. The vicar felt himself standing in the midst of it all, blinded by the glare.

“Sit down on the sidewalk and read your newspaper, a book, a magazine–any old thing you like,” with an exultant laugh.

The names of the dramatic stars blazing over entrances to the theatres were often English names, their plays English plays, their companies made up of English men and women. G. Selden was as familiar with them and commented upon their gifts as easily as if he had drawn his drama from the Strand instead of from Broadway. The novels piled up in the stations of what he called “the L” (which revealed itself as being a New-York-haste abbreviation of Elevated railroad), were in large proportion English novels, and he had his ingenuous estimate of English novelists, as well as of all else.

“Ruddy, now,” he said; “I like him. He’s all right, even though we haven’t quite caught onto India yet.”

The dazzle and brilliancy of Broadway so surrounded Penzance that he found it necessary to withdraw himself and return to his immediate surroundings, that he might recover from his sense of interested bewilderment. His eyes fell upon the stern lineaments of a Mount Dunstan in a costume of the time of Henry VIII. He was a burly gentleman, whose ruff-shortened thick neck and haughty fixedness of stare from the background of his portrait were such as seemed to eliminate him from the scheme of things, the clanging of electric cars, and the prevailing roar of the L. Confronted by his gaze, electric light advertisements of whiskies, cigars, and corsets seemed impossible.

“He’s all right,” continued G. Selden. “I’m ready to separate myself from one fifty any time I see a new book of his. He’s got the goods with him.”

The richness of colloquialism moved the vicar of Mount Dunstan to deep enjoyment.

“Would you mind–I trust you won’t,” he apologised courteously, “telling me exactly the significance of those two last sentences. In think I see their meaning, but—-“

G. Selden looked good-naturedly apologetic himself.

“Well, it’s slang–you see,” he explained. “I guess I can’t help it. You–” flushing a trifle, but without any touch of resentment in the boyish colour, “you know what sort of a chap I am. I’m not passing myself off as anything but an ordinary business hustler, am I–just under salesman to a typewriter concern? I shouldn’t like to think I’d got in here on any bluff. I guess I sling in slang every half dozen words—-.”

“My dear boy,” Penzance was absolutely moved and he spoke with warmth quite paternal, “Lord Mount Dunstan and I are genuinely interested–genuinely. He, because he knows New York a little, and I because I don’t. I am an elderly man, and have spent my life buried in my books in drowsy villages. Pray go on. Your American slang has frequently a delightful meaning–a fantastic hilarity, or common sense, or philosophy, hidden in its origin. In that it generally differs from English slang, which–I regret to say–is usually founded on some silly catch word. Pray go on. When you see a new book by Mr. Kipling, you are ready to `separate yourself from one fifty’ because he `has the goods with him.’ “

G. Selden suppressed an involuntary young laugh.

“One dollar and fifty cents is usually the price of a book,” he said. “You separate yourself from it when you take it out of your clothes–I mean out of your pocket–and pay it over the counter.”

“There’s a careless humour in it,” said Mount Dunstan grimly. “The suggestion of parting is not half bad. On the whole, it is subtle.”

“A great deal of it is subtle,” said Penzance, “though it all professes to be obvious. The other sentence has a commercial sound.”

“When a man goes about selling for a concern,” said the junior assistant of Jones, “he can prove what he says, if he has the goods with him. I guess it came from that. I don’t know. I only know that when a man is a straight sort of fellow, and can show up, we say he’s got the goods with him.”

They sat after lunch in the library, before an open window, looking into a lovely sunken garden. Blossoms were breaking out on every side, and robins, thrushes, and blackbirds chirped and trilled and whistled, as Mount Dunstan and Penzance led G. Selden on to paint further pictures for them.

Some of them were rather painful, Penzance thought. As connected with youth, they held a touch of pathos Selden was all unconscious of. He had had a hard life, made up, since his tenth year, of struggles to earn his living. He had sold newspapers, he had run errands, he had swept out a “candy store.” He had had a few years at the public school, and a few months at a business college, to which he went at night, after work hours. He had been “up against it good and plenty,” he told them. He seemed, however, to have had a knack of making friends and of giving them “a boost along” when such a chance was possible. Both of his listeners realised that a good many people had liked him, and the reason was apparent enough to them.

“When a chap gets sorry for himself,” he remarked once, “he’s down and out. That’s a stone-cold fact. There’s lots of hard-luck stories that you’ve got to hear anyhow. The fellow that can keep his to himself is the fellow that’s likely to get there.”

“Get there?” the vicar murmured reflectively, and Selden chuckled again.

“Get where he started out to go to–the White House, if you like. The fellows that have got there kept their hard- luck stories quiet, I bet. Guess most of ’em had plenty during election, if they were the kind to lie awake sobbing on their pillows because their feelings were hurt.”

He had never been sorry for himself, it was evident, though it must be admitted that there were moments when the elderly English clergyman, whose most serious encounters had been annoying interviews with cottagers of disrespectful manner, rather shuddered as he heard his simple recital of days when he had tramped street after street, carrying his catalogue with him, and trying to tell his story of the Delkoff to frantically busy men who were driven mad by the importunate sight of him, to worried, ill-tempered ones who broke into fury when they heard his voice, and to savage brutes who were only restrained by law from kicking him into the street.

“You’ve got to take it, if you don’t want to lose your job. Some of them’s as tired as you are. Sometimes, if you can give ’em a jolly and make ’em laugh, they’ll listen, and you may unload a machine. But it’s no merry jest just at first– particularly in bad weather. The first five weeks I was with the Delkoff I never made a sale. Had to live on my ten per, and that’s pretty hard in New York. Three and a half for your hall bedroom, and the rest for your hash and shoes. But I held on, and gradually luck began to turn, and I began not to care so much when a man gave it to me hot.”

The vicar of Mount Dunstan had never heard of the “hall bedroom” as an institution. A dozen unconscious sentences placed it before his mental vision. He thought it horribly touching. A narrow room at the back of a cheap lodging house, a bed, a strip of carpet, a washstand–this the sole refuge of a male human creature, in the flood tide of youth, no more than this to come back to nightly, footsore and resentful of soul, after a day’s tramp spent in forcing himself and his wares on people who did not want him or them, and who found infinite variety in the forcefulness of their method of saying so.

“What you know, when you go into a place, is that nobody wants to see you, and no one will let you talk if they can help it. The only thing is to get in and rattle off your stunt before you can be fired out.”

Sometimes at first he had gone back at night to the hall bedroom, and sat on the edge of the narrow bed, swinging his feet, and asking himself how long he could hold out. But he had held out, and evidently developed into a good salesman, being bold and of imperturbable good spirits and temper, and not troubled by hypersensitiveness. Hearing of the “hall bedroom,” the coldness of it in winter, and the breathless heat in summer, the utter loneliness of it at all times and seasons, one could not have felt surprise if the grown-up lad doomed to its narrowness as home had been drawn into the electric-lighted gaiety of Broadway, and being caught in its maelstrom, had been sucked under to its lowest depths. But it was to be observed that G. Selden had a clear eye, and a healthy skin, and a healthy young laugh yet, which were all wonderfully to his credit, and added enormously to one’s liking for him.

“Do you use a typewriter?” he said at last to Mr. Penzance. “It would cut out half your work with your sermons. If you do use one, I’d just like to call your attention to the Delkoff. It’s the most up-to-date machine on the market to-day,” drawing out the catalogue.

“I do not use one, and I am extremely sorry to say that I could not afford to buy one,” said Mr. Penzance with considerate courtesy, “but do tell me about it. I am afraid I never saw a typewriter.”

It was the most hospitable thing he could have done, and was of the tact of courts. He arranged his pince nez, and taking the catalogue, applied himself to it. G. Selden’s soul warmed within him. To be listened to like this. To be treated as a gentleman by a gentleman–by “a fine old swell like this–Hully gee!”

“This isn’t what I’m used to,” he said with genuine enjoyment. “It doesn’t matter, your not being ready to buy now. You may be sometime, or you may run up against someone who is. Little Willie’s always ready to say his piece.”

He poured it forth with glee–the improved mechanical appliances, the cuts in the catalogue, the platen roller, the ribbon switch, the twenty-six yards of red or blue typing, the fifty per cent. saving in ribbon expenditure alone, the new basket shift, the stationary carriage, the tabulator, the superiority to all other typewriting machines–the price one hundred dollars without discount. And both Mount Dunstan and Mr. Penzance listened entranced, examined cuts in the catalogue, asked questions, and in fact ended by finding that they must repress an actual desire to possess the luxury. The joy their attitude bestowed upon Selden was the thing he would feel gave the finishing touch to the hours which he would recall to the end of his days as the “time of his life.” Yes, by gee! he was having “the time of his life.”

Later he found himself feeling–as Miss Vanderpoel had felt–rather as if the whole thing was a dream. This came upon him when, with Mount Dunstan and Penzance, he walked through the park and the curiously beautiful old gardens. The lovely, soundless quiet, broken into only by bird notes, or his companions’ voices, had an extraordinary effect on him.

“It’s so still you can hear it,” he said once, stopping in a velvet, moss-covered path. “Seems like you’ve got quiet shut up here, and you’ve turned it on till the air’s thick with it. Good Lord, think of little old Broadway keeping it up, and the L whizzing and thundering along every three minutes, just the same, while we’re standing here! You can’t believe it.”

It would have gone hard with him to describe to them the value of his enjoyment. Again and again there came back to him the memory of the grandmother who wore the black net cap trimmed with purple ribbons. Apparently she had remained to the last almost contumaciously British. She had kept photographs of Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort on her bedroom mantelpiece, and had made caustic, international comparisons. But she had seen places like this, and her stories became realities to him now. But she had never thought of the possibility of any chance of his being shown about by the lord of the manor himself–lunching, by gee! and talking to them about typewriters. He vaguely knew that if the grandmother had not emigrated, and he had been born in Dunstan village, he would naturally have touched his forehead to Mount Dunstan and the vicar when they passed him in the road, and conversation between them would have been an unlikely thing. Somehow things had been changed by Destiny– perhaps for the whole of them, as years had passed.

What he felt when he stood in the picture gallery neither of his companions could at first guess. He ceased to talk, and wandered silently about. Secretly he found himself a trifle awed by being looked down upon by the unchanging eyes of men in strange, rich garments–in corslet, ruff, and doublet, velvet, powder, curled love locks, brocade and lace. The face of long-dead loveliness smiled out from its canvas, or withheld itself haughtily from his salesman’s gaze. Wonderful bare white shoulders, and bosoms clasped with gems or flowers and lace, defied him to recall any treasures of Broadway to compare with them. Elderly dames, garbed in stiff splendour, held stiff, unsympathetic inquiry in their eyes, as they looked back upon him. What exactly was a thirty shilling bicycle suit doing there? In the Delkoff, plainly none were interested. A pretty, masquerading shepherdess, with a lamb and a crook, seemed to laugh at him from under her broad beribboned straw hat. After looking at her for a minute or so, he gave a half laugh himself–but it was an awkward one.

“She’s a looker,” he remarked. “They’re a lot of them lookers–not all–but a fair show—-“

“A looker,” translated Mount Dunstan in a low voice to Penzance, “means, I believe, a young women with good looks–a beauty.”

“Yes, she IS a looker, by gee,” said G. Selden, “but– but–” the awkward half laugh, taking on a depressed touch of sheepishness, “she makes me feel ‘way off–they all do.”

That was it. Surrounded by them, he was fascinated but not cheered. They were all so smilingly, or disdainfully, or indifferently unconscious of the existence of the human thing of his class. His aspect, his life, and his desires were as remote as those of prehistoric man. His Broadway, his L railroad, his Delkoff–what were they where did they come into the scheme of the Universe? They silently gazed and lightly smiled or frowned THROUGH him as he stood. He was probably not in the least aware that he rather loudly sighed.

“Yes,” he said, “they make me feel ‘way off. I’m not in it. But she is a looker. Get onto that dimple in her cheek.”

Mount Dunstan and Penzance spent the afternoon in doing their best for him. He was well worth it. Mr. Penzance was filled with delight, and saturated with the atmosphere of New York.

“I feel,” he said, softly polishing his eyeglasses and almost affectionately smiling, “I really feel as if I had been walking down Broadway or Fifth Avenue. I believe that I might find my way to–well, suppose we say Weber & Field’s,” and G. Selden shouted with glee.

Never before, in fact, had he felt his heart so warmed by spontaneous affection as it was by this elderly, somewhat bald and thin-faced clergyman of the Church of England. This he had never seen before. Without the trained subtlety to have explained to himself the finely sweet and simply gracious deeps of it, he was moved and uplifted. He was glad he had “come across” it, he felt a vague regret at passing on his way, and leaving it behind. He would have liked to feel that perhaps he might come back. He would have liked to present him with a Delkoff, and teach him how to run it. He had delighted in Mount Dunstan, and rejoiced in him, but he had rather fallen in love with Penzance. Certain American doubts he had had of the solidity and permanency of England’s position and power were somewhat modified. When fellows like these two stood at the first rank, little old England was a pretty safe proposition.

After they had given him tea among the scents and songs of the sunken garden outside the library window, they set him on his way. The shadows were lengthening and the sunlight falling in deepening gold when they walked up the avenue and shook hands with him at the big entrance gates.

“Well, gentlemen,” he said, “you’ve treated me grand–as fine as silk, and it won’t be like Little Willie to forget it. When I go back to New York it’ll be all I can do to keep from getting the swell head and bragging about it. I’ve enjoyed myself down to the ground, every minute. I’m not the kind of fellow to be likely to be able to pay you back your kindness, but, hully gee! if I could I’d do it to beat the band. Good-bye, gentlemen–and thank you–thank you.”

Across which one of their minds passed the thought that the sound of the hollow impact of a trotting horse’s hoofs on the road, which each that moment became conscious of hearing was the sound of the advancing foot of Fate? It crossed no mind among the three. There was no reason why it should. And yet at that moment the meaning of the regular, stirring sound was a fateful thing.

“Someone on horseback,” said Penzance.

He had scarcely spoken before round the curve of the road she came. A finely slender and spiritedly erect girl’s figure, upon a satin-skinned bright chestnut with a thoroughbred gait, a smart groom riding behind her. She came towards them, was abreast them, looked at Mount Dunstan, a smiling dimple near her lip as she returned his quick salute.

“Miss Vanderpoel,” he said low to the vicar, “Lady Anstruther’s sister.”

Mr. Penzance, replacing his own hat, looked after her with surprised pleasure.

“Really,” he exclaimed, “Miss Vanderpoel! What a fine girl! How unusually handsome!”

Selden turned with a gasp of delighted, amazed recognition.

“Miss Vanderpoel,” he burst forth, “Reuben Vanderpoel’s daughter! The one that’s over here visiting her sister. Is it that one–sure?”

“Yes,” from Mount Dunstan without fervour. “Lady Anstruthers lives at Stornham, about six miles from here.”

“Gee,” with feverish regret. “If her father was there, and I could get next to him, my fortune would be made.”

“Should you,” ventured Penzance politely, “endeavour to sell him a typewriter?”

“A typewriter! Holy smoke! I’d try to sell him ten thousand. A fellow like that syndicates the world. If I could get next to him—-” and he mounted his bicycle with a laugh.

“Get next,” murmured Penzance.

“Get on the good side of him,” Mount Dunstan murmured in reply.

“So long, gentlemen, good-bye, and thank you again,” called G. Selden as he wheeled off, and was carried soundlessly down the golden road.

CHAPTER XXIV

THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF STORNHAM

The satin-skinned chestnut was one of the new horses now standing in the Stornham stables. There were several of them–a pair for the landau, saddle horses, smart young cobs for phaeton or dog cart, a pony for Ughtred–the animals necessary at such a place at Stornham. The stables themselves had been quickly put in order, grooms and stable boys kept them as they had not been kept for years. The men learned in a week’s time that their work could not be done too well. There were new carriages as well as horses. They had come from London after Lady Anstruthers and her sister returned from town. The horses had been brought down by their grooms–immensely looked after, blanketed, hooded, and altogether cared for as if they were visiting dukes and duchesses. They were all fine, handsome, carefully chosen creatures. When they danced and sidled through the village on their way to the Court, they created a sensation. Whosoever had chosen them had known his business. The older vehicles had been repaired in the village by Tread, and did him credit. Fox had also done his work well.

Plenty more of it had come into their work-shops. Tools to be used on the estate, garden implements, wheelbarrows, lawn rollers, things needed about the house, stables, and cottages, were to be attended to. The church roof was being repaired. Taking all these things and the “doing up” of the Court itself, there was more work than the village could manage, and carpenters, bricklayers, and decorators were necessarily brought from other places. Still Joe Buttle and Sim Soames were allowed to lead in all such things as lay within their capabilities. It was they who made such a splendid job of the entrance gates and the lodges. It was astonishing how much was done, and how the sense of life in the air–the work of resulting prosperity, made men begin to tread with less listless steps as they went to and from their labour. In the cottages things were being done which made downcast women bestir themselves and look less slatternly. Leaks mended here, windows there, the hopeless copper in the tiny washhouse replaced by a new one, chimneys cured of the habit of smoking, a clean, flowered paper put on a wall, a coat of whitewash– they were small matters, but produced great effect.

Betty had begun to drop into the cottages, and make the acquaintance of their owners. Her first visits, she observed, created great consternation. Women looked frightened or sullen, children stared and refused to speak, clinging to skirts and aprons. She found the atmosphere clear after her second visit. The women began to talk, and the children collected in groups and listened with cheerful grins. She could pick up little Jane’s kitten, or give a pat to small Thomas’ mongrel dog, in a manner which threw down barriers.

“Don’t put out your pipe,” she said to old Grandfather Doby, rising totteringly respectful from his chimney-side chair.