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  • 1907
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“You have only just lighted it. You mustn’t waste a whole pipeful of tobacco because I have come in.”

The old man, grown childish with age, tittered and shuffled and giggled. Such a joke as the grand young lady was having with him. She saw he had only just lighted his pipe. The gentry joked a bit sometimes. But he was afraid of his grandson’s wife, who was frowning and shaking her head.

Betty went to him, and put her hand on his arm.

“Sit down,” she said, “and I will sit by you.” And she sat down and showed him that she had brought a package of tobacco with her, and actually a wonder of a red and yellow jar to hold it, at the sight of which unheard-of joys his rapture was so great that his trembling hands could scarcely clasp his treasures.

“Tee-hee! Tee-hee-ee! Deary me! Thankee–thankee, my lady,” he tittered, and he gazed and blinked at her beauty through heavenly tears.

“Nearly a hundred years old, and he has lived on sixteen shillings a week all his life, and earned it by working every hour between sunrise and sunset,” Betty said to her sister, when she went home. “A man has one life, and his has passed like that. It is done now, and all the years and work have left nothing in his old hands but his pipe. That’s all. I should not like to put it out for him. Who am I that I can buy him a new one, and keep it filled for him until the end? How did it happen? No,” suddenly, “I must not lose time in asking myself that. I must get the new pipe.”

She did it–a pipe of great magnificence–such as drew to the Doby cottage as many callers as the village could provide, each coming with fevered interest, to look at it–to be allowed to hold and examine it for a few moments, guessing at its probable enormous cost, and returning it reverently, to gaze at Doby with respect–the increase of which can be imagined when it was known that he was not only possessor of the pipe, but of an assurance that he would be supplied with as much tobacco as he could use, to the end of his days. From the time of the advent of the pipe, Grandfather Doby became a man of mark, and his life in the chimney corner a changed thing. A man who owns splendours and unlimited, excellent shag may like friends to drop in and crack jokes–and even smoke a pipe with him–a common pipe, which, however, is not amiss when excellent shag comes free.

“He lives in a wild whirl of gaiety–a social vortex,” said Betty to Lady Anstruthers, after one of her visits. “He is actually rejuvenated. I must order some new white smocks for him to receive his visitors in. Someone brought him an old copy of the Illustrated London News last night. We will send him illustrated papers every week.”

In the dull old brain, God knows what spark of life had been relighted. Young Mrs. Doby related with chuckles that granddad had begged that his chair might be dragged to the window, that he might sit and watch the village street. Sitting there, day after day, he smoked and looked at his pictures, and dozed and dreamed, his pipe and tobacco jar beside him on the window ledge. At any sound of wheels or footsteps his face lighted, and if, by chance, he caught a glimpse of Betty, he tottered to his feet, and stood hurriedly touching his bald forehead with a reverent, palsied hand.

” ‘Tis ‘urr,” he would say, enrapt. “I seen ‘urr–I did.” And young Mrs. Doby knew that this was his joy, and what he waited for as one waits for the coming of the sun.

” ‘Tis ‘urr! ‘Tis ‘urr!”

The vicar’s wife, Mrs. Brent, who since the affair of John Wilson’s fire had dropped into the background and felt it indiscreet to present tales of distress at the Court, began to recover her courage. Her perfunctory visits assumed a new character. The vicarage had, of course, called promptly upon Miss Vanderpoel, after her arrival. Mrs. Brent admired Miss Vanderpoel hugely.

“You seem so unlike an American,” she said once in her most tactful, ingratiating manner–which was very ingratiating indeed.

“Do I? What is one like when one is like an American? I am one, you know.”

“I can scarcely believe it,” with sweet ardour.

“Pray try,” said Betty with simple brevity, and Mrs. Brent felt that perhaps Miss Vanderpoel was not really very easy to get on with.

“She meant to imply that I did not speak through my nose, and talk too much, and too vivaciously, in a shrill voice,” Betty said afterwards, in talking the interview over with Rosy. “I like to convince myself that is not one’s sole national characteristic. Also it was not exactly Mrs. Brent’s place to kindly encourage me with the information that I do not seem to belong to my own country.”

Lady Anstruthers laughed, and Betty looked at her inquiringly.

“You said that just like–just like an Englishwoman.”

“Did I?” said Betty.

Mrs. Brent had come to talk to her because she did not wish to trouble dear Lady Anstruthers. Lady Anstruthers already looked much stronger, but she had been delicate so long that one hesitated to distress her with village matters. She did not add that she realised that she was coming to headquarters. The vicar and herself were much disturbed about a rather tiresome old woman–old Mrs. Welden–who lived in a tiny cottage in the village. She was eighty-three years old, and a respectable old person–a widow, who had reared ten children. The children had all grown up, and scattered, and old Mrs. Welden had nothing whatever to live on. No one knew how she lived, and really she would be better off in the workhouse. She could be sent to Brexley Union, and comfortably taken care of, but she had that singular, obstinate dislike to going, which it was so difficult to manage. She had asked for a shilling a week from the parish, but that could not be allowed her, as it would merely uphold her in her obstinate intention of remaining in her cottage, and taking care of herself–which she could not do. Betty gathered that the shilling a week would be a drain on the parish funds, and would so raise the old creature to affluence that she would feel she could defy fate. And the contumacity of old men and women should not be strengthened by the reckless bestowal of shillings.

Knowing that Miss Vanderpoel had already gained influence among the village people, Mrs. Brent said, she had come to ask her if she would see old Mrs. Welden and argue with her in such a manner as would convince her that the workhouse was the best place for her. It was, of course, so much pleasanter if these old people could be induced to go to Brexley willingly.

“Shall I be undermining the whole Political Economy of Stornham if I take care of her myself?” suggested Betty.

“You–you will lead others to expect the same thing will be done for them.”

“When one has resources to draw on,” Miss Vanderpoel commented, “in the case of a woman who has lived eighty- three years and brought up ten children until they were old and strong enough to leave her to take care of herself, it is difficult for the weak of mind to apply the laws of Political Economics. I will go and see old Mrs. Welden.”

If the Vanderpoels would provide for all the obstinate old men and women in the parish, the Political Economics of Stornham would proffer no marked objections. “A good many Americans,” Mrs. Brent reflected, “seemed to have those odd, lavish ways,” as witness Lady Anstruthers herself, on her first introduction to village life. Miss Vanderpoel was evidently a much stronger character, and extremely clever, and somehow the stream of the American fortune was at last being directed towards Stornham–which, of course, should have happened long ago. A good deal was “being done,” and the whole situation looked more promising. So was the matter discussed and summed up, the same evening after dinner, at the vicarage.

Betty found old Mrs. Welden’s cottage. It was in a green lane, turning from the village street–which was almost a green lane itself. A tiny hedged-in front garden was before the cottage door. A crazy-looking wicket gate was in the hedge, and a fuschia bush and a few old roses were in the few yards of garden. There were actually two or three geraniums in the window, showing cheerful scarlet between the short, white dimity curtains.

“A house this size and of this poverty in an American village,” was Betty’s thought, “would be a bare and straggling hideousness, with old tomato cans in the front yard. Here is one of the things we have to learn from them.”

When she knocked at the door an old woman opened it. She was a well-preserved and markedly respectable old person, in a decent print frock and a cap. At the sight of her visitor she beamed and made a suggestion of curtsey.

“How do you do, Mrs. Welden?” said Betty. “I am Lady Anstruthers’ sister, Miss Vanderpoel. I thought I would like to come and see you.”

“Thank you, miss, I am obliged for the kindness, miss. Won’t you come in and have a chair?”

There were no signs of decrepitude about her, and she had a cheery old eye. The tiny front room was neat, though there was scarcely space enough in it to contain the table covered with its blue-checked cotton cloth, the narrow sofa, and two or three chairs. There were a few small coloured prints, and a framed photograph or so on the walls, and on the table was a Bible, and a brown earthenware teapot, and a plate.

“Tom Wood’s wife, that’s neighbour next door to me,” she said, “gave me a pinch o’ tea–an’ I’ve just been ‘avin it. Tom Woods, miss, ‘as just been took on by Muster Kedgers as one of the new under gardeners at the Court.”

Betty found her delightful. She made no complaints, and was evidently pleased with the excitement of receiving a visitor. The truth was, that in common with every other old woman, she had secretly aspired to being visited some day by the amazing young lady from “Meriker.” Betty had yet to learn of the heartburnings which may be occasioned by an unconscious favouritism. She was not aware that when she dropped in to talk to old Doby, his neighbour, old Megworth, peered from behind his curtains, with the dew of envy in his rheumy eyes.

“S’ems,” he mumbled, “as if they wasn’t nobody now in Stornham village but Gaarge Doby–s’ems not.” They were very fierce in their jealousy of attention, and one must beware of rousing evil passions in the octogenarian breast.

The young lady from “Meriker” had not so far had time to make a call at any cottage in old Mrs. Welden’s lane–and she had knocked just at old Mrs. Welden’s door. This was enough to put in good spirits even a less cheery old person.

At first Betty wondered how she could with delicacy ask personal questions. A few minutes’ conversation, however, showed her that the personal affairs of Sir Nigel’s tenants were also the affairs of not only himself, but of such of his relatives as attended to their natural duty. Her presence in the cottage, and her interest in Mrs. Welden’s ready flow of simple talk, were desirable and proper compliments to the old woman herself. She was a decent and self-respecting old person, but in her mind there was no faintest glimmer of resentment of questions concerning rent and food and the needs of her simple, hard-driven existence. She had answered such questions on many occasions, when they had not been asked in the manner in which her ladyship’s sister asked them. Mrs. Brent had scolded her and “poked about” her cottage, going into her tiny “wash ‘us,” and up into her infinitesimal bedroom under the slanting roof, to see that they were kept clean. Miss Vanderpoel showed no disposition to “poke.” She sat and listened, and made an inquiry here and there, in a nice voice and with a smile in her eyes. There was some pleasure in relating the whole history of your eighty-three years to a young lady who listened as if she wanted to hear it. So old Mrs. Welden prattled on. About her good days, when she was young, and was kitchenmaid at the parsonage in a village twenty miles away; about her marriage with a young farm labourer; about his “steady” habits, and the comfort they had together, in spite of the yearly arrival of a new baby, and the crowding of the bit of a cottage his master allowed them. Ten of ’em, and it had been “up before sunrise, and a good bit of hard work to keep them all fed and clean.” But she had not minded that until Jack died quite sudden after a sunstroke. It was odd how much colour her rustic phraseology held. She made Betty see it all. The apparent natural inevitableness of their being turned out of the cottage, because another man must have it; the years during which she worked her way while the ten were growing up, having measles, and chicken pox, and scarlet fever, one dying here and there, dropping out quite in the natural order of things, and being buried by the parish in corners of the ancient church yard. Three of them “was took” by scarlet fever, then one of a “decline,” then one or two by other illnesses. Only four reached man and womanhood. One had gone to Australia, but he never was one to write, and after a year or two, Betty gathered, he had seemed to melt away into the great distance. Two girls had married, and Mrs. Welden could not say they had been “comf’able.” They could barely feed themselves and their swarms of children. The other son had never been steady like his father. He had at last gone to London, and London had swallowed him up. Betty was struck by the fact that she did not seem to feel that the mother of ten might have expected some return for her labours, at eighty-three.

Her unresentful acceptance of things was at once significant and moving. Betty found her amazing. What she lived on it was not easy to understand. She seemed rather like a cheerful old bird, getting up each unprovided-for morning, and picking up her sustenance where she found it.

“There’s more in the sayin’ `the Lord pervides’ than a good many thinks,” she said with a small chuckle, marked more by a genial and comfortable sense of humour than by an air of meritoriously quoting the vicar. “He DO.”

She paid one and threepence a week in rent for her cottage, and this was the most serious drain upon her resources. She apparently could live without food or fire, but the rent must be paid. “An’ I do get a bit be’ind sometimes,” she confessed apologetically, “an’ then it’s a trouble to get straight.”

Her cottage was one of a short row, and she did odd jobs for the women who were her neighbours. There were always babies to be looked after, and “bits of ‘elp” needed, sometimes there were “movings” from one cottage to another, and “confinements” were plainly at once exhilarating and enriching. Her temperamental good cheer, combined with her experience, made her a desirable companion and assistant. She was engagingly frank.

“When they’re new to it, an’ a bit frightened, I just give ’em a cup of ‘ot tea, an’ joke with ’em to cheer ’em up,” she said. “I says to Charles Jenkins’ wife, as lives next door, `come now, me girl, it’s been goin’ on since Adam an’ Eve, an’ there’s a good many of us left, isn’t there?’ An’ a fine boy it was, too, miss, an’ ‘er up an’ about before ‘er month.”

She was paid in sixpences and spare shillings, and in cups of tea, or a fresh-baked loaf, or screws of sugar, or even in a garment not yet worn beyond repair. And she was free to run in and out, and grow a flower or so in her garden, and talk with a neighbour over the low dividing hedge.

“They want me to go into the `Ouse,’ ” reaching the dangerous subject at last. “They say I’ll be took care of an’ looked after. But I don’t want to do it, miss. I want to keep my bit of a ‘ome if I can, an’ be free to come an’ go. I’m eighty-three, an’ it won’t be long. I ‘ad a shilling a week from the parish, but they stopped it because they said I ought to go into the `Ouse.’ “

She looked at Betty with a momentarily anxious smile.

“P’raps you don’t quite understand, miss,” she said. “It’ll seem like nothin’ to you–a place like this.”

“It doesn’t,” Betty answered, smiling bravely back into the old eyes, though she felt a slight fulness of the throat. “I understand all about it.”

It is possible that old Mrs. Welden was a little taken aback by an attitude which, satisfactory to her own prejudices though it might be, was, taken in connection with fixed customs, a trifle unnatural.

“You don’t mind me not wantin’ to go?” she said.

“No,” was the answer, “not at all.”

Betty began to ask questions. How much tea, sugar, soap, candles, bread, butter, bacon, could Mrs. Welden use in a week? It was not very easy to find out the exact quantities, as Mrs. Welden’s estimates of such things had been based, during her entire existence, upon calculation as to how little, not how much she could use.

When Betty suggested a pound of tea, a half pound–the old woman smiled at the innocent ignorance the suggestion of such reckless profusion implied.

“Oh, no! Bless you, miss, no! I couldn’t never do away with it. A quarter, miss–that’d be plenty–a quarter.”

Mrs. Welden’s idea of “the best,” was that at two shillings a pound. Quarter of a pound would cost sixpence (twelve cents, thought Betty). A pound of sugar would be twopence, Mrs. Welden would use half a pound (the riotous extravagance of two cents). Half a pound of butter, “Good tub butter, miss,” would be ten pence three farthings a pound. Soap, candles, bacon, bread, coal, wood, in the quantities required by Mrs. Welden, might, with the addition of rent, amount to the dizzying height of eight or ten shillings.

“With careful extravagance,” Betty mentally summed up, “I might spend almost two dollars a week in surrounding her with a riot of luxury.”

She made a list of the things, and added some extras as an idea of her own. Life had not afforded her this kind of thing before, she realised. She felt for the first time the joy of reckless extravagance, and thrilled with the excitement of it.

“You need not think of Brexley Union any more,” she said, when she, having risen to go, stood at the cottage door with old Mrs. Welden. “The things I have written down here shall be sent to you every Saturday night. I will pay your rent.”

“Miss–miss!” Mrs. Welden looked affrighted. “It’s too much, miss. An’ coals eighteen pence a hundred!”

“Never mind,” said her ladyship’s sister, and the old woman, looking up into her eyes, found there the colour Mount Dunstan had thought of as being that of bluebells under water. “I think we can manage it, Mrs. Welden. Keep yourself as warm as you like, and sometime I will come and have a cup of tea with you and see if the tea is good.”

“Oh! Deary me!” said Mrs. Welden. “I can’t think what to say, miss. It lifts everythin’–everythin’. It’s not to be believed. It’s like bein’ left a fortune.”

When the wicket gate swung to and the young lady went up the lane, the old woman stood staring after her. And here was a piece of news to run into Charley Jenkins’ cottage and tell–and what woman or man in the row would quite believe it?

CHAPTER XXV

“WE BEGAN TO MARRY THEM, MY GOOD FELLOW!”

Lord Dunholm and his eldest son, Lord Westholt, sauntered together smoking their after-dinner cigars on the broad- turfed terrace overlooking park and gardens which seemed to sweep without boundary line into the purplish land beyond. The grey mass of the castle stood clear-cut against the blue of a sky whose twilight was still almost daylight, though in the purity of its evening stillness a star already hung, here and there, and a young moon swung low. The great spaces about them held a silence whose exquisite entirety was marked at intervals by the distant bark of a shepherd dog driving his master’s sheep to the fold, their soft, intermittent plaints–the mother ewes’ mellow answering to the tender, fretful lambs– floated on the air, a lovely part of the ending day’s repose. Where two who are friends stroll together at such hours, the great beauty makes for silence or for thoughtful talk. These two men–father and son–were friends and intimates, and had been so from Westholt’s first memory of the time when his childish individuality began to detach itself from the background of misty and indistinct things. They had liked each other, and their liking and intimacy had increased with the onward moving and change of years. After sixty sane and decently spent active years of life, Lord Dunholm, in either country tweed or evening dress, was a well-built and handsome man; at thirty-three his son was still like him.

“Have you seen her?” he was saying.

“Only at a distance. She was driving Lady Anstruthers across the marshes in a cart. She drove well and—-” he laughed as he flicked the ash from his cigar–“the back of her head and shoulders looked handsome.”

“The American young woman is at present a factor which is without doubt to be counted with,” Lord Dunholm put the matter without lightness. “Any young woman is a factor, but the American young woman just now–just now—-” He paused a moment as though considering. “It did not seem at all necessary to count with them at first, when they began to appear among us. They were generally curiously exotic, funny little creatures with odd manners and voices. They were often most amusing, and one liked to hear them chatter and see the airy lightness with which they took superfluous, and sometimes unsuperfluous, conventions, as a hunter takes a five-barred gate. But it never occurred to us to marry them. We did not take them seriously enough. But we began to marry them– we began to marry them, my good fellow!”

The final words broke forth with such a suggestion of sudden anxiety that, in spite of himself, Westholt laughed involuntarily, and his father, turning to look at him, laughed also. But he recovered his seriousness.

“It was all rather a muddle at first,” he went on. “Things were not fairly done, and certain bad lots looked on it as a paying scheme on the one side, while it was a matter of silly, little ambitions on the other. But that it is an extraordinary country there is no sane denying–huge, fabulously resourceful in every way–area, variety of climate, wealth of minerals, products of all sorts, soil to grow anything, and sun and rain enough to give each thing what it needs; last, or rather first, a people who, considered as a nation, are in the riot of youth, and who began by being English–which we Englishmen have an innocent belief is the one method of `owning the earth.’ That figure of speech is an Americanism I carefully committed to memory. Well, after all, look at the map–look at the map! There we are.”

They had frequently discussed together the question of the development of international relations. Lord Dunholm, a man of far-reaching and clear logic, had realised that the oddly unaccentuated growth of intercourse between the two countries might be a subject to be reflected on without lightness.

“The habit we have of regarding America and Americans as rather a joke,” he had once said, “has a sort of parallel in the condescendingly amiable amusement of a parent at the precocity or whimsicalness of a child. But the child is shooting up amazingly–amazingly. In a way which suggests divers possibilities.”

The exchange of visits between Dunholm and Stornham had been rare and formal. From the call made upon the younger Lady Anstruthers on her marriage, the Dunholms had returned with a sense of puzzled pity for the little American bride, with her wonderful frock and her uneasy, childish eyes. For some years Lady Anstruthers had been too delicate to make or return calls. One heard painful accounts of her apparent wretched ill-health and of the condition of her husband’s estate.

“As the relations between the two families have evidently been strained for years,” Lord Dunholm said, “it is interesting to hear of the sudden advent of the sister. It seems to point to reconciliation. And you say the girl is an unusual person.

“From what one hears, she would be unusual if she were an English girl who had spent her life on an English estate. That an American who is making her first visit to England should seem to see at once the practical needs of a neglected place is a thing to wonder at. What can she know about it, one thinks. But she apparently does know. They say she has made no mistakes–even with the village people. She is managing, in one way or another, to give work to every man who wants it. Result, of course–unbounded rustic enthusiasm.”

Lord Dunholm laughed between the soothing whiffs of his cigar.

“How clever of her! And what sensible good feeling! Yes–yes! She evidently has learned things somewhere. Perhaps New York has found it wise to begin to give young women professional training in the management of English estates. Who knows? Not a bad idea.”

It was the rustic enthusiasm, Westholt explained, which had in a manner spread her fame. One heard enlightening and illustrative anecdotes of her. He related several well worth hearing. She had evidently a sense of humour and unexpected perceptions.

“One detail of the story of old Doby’s meerschaum,” Westholt said, “pleased me enormously. She managed to convey to him–without hurting his aged feelings or overwhelming him with embarrassment–that if he preferred a clean churchwarden or his old briarwood, he need not feel obliged to smoke the new pipe. He could regard it as a trophy. Now, how did she do that without filling him with fright and confusion, lest she might think him not sufficiently grateful for her present? But they tell me she did it, and that old Doby is rapturously happy and takes the meerschaum to bed with him, but only smokes it on Sundays–sitting at his window blowing great clouds when his neighbours are coming from church. It was a clever girl who knew that an old fellow might secretly like his old pipe best.”

“It was a deliciously clever girl,” said Lord Dunholm. “One wants to know and make friends with her. We must drive over and call. I confess, I rather congratulate myself that Anstruthers is not at home.”

“So do I,” Westholt answered. “One wonders a little how far he and his sister-in-law will `foregather’ when he returns. He’s an unpleasant beggar.”

A few days later Mrs. Brent, returning from a call on Mrs. Charley Jenkins, was passed by a carriage whose liveries she recognised half way up the village street. It was the carriage from Dunholm Castle. Lord and Lady Dunholm and Lord Westholt sat in it. They were, of course, going to call at the Court. Miss Vanderpoel was beginning to draw people. She naturally would. She would be likely to make quite a difference in the neighbourhood now that it had heard of her and Lady Anstruthers had been seen driving with her, evidently no longer an unvisitable invalid, but actually decently clothed and in her right mind. Mrs. Brent slackened her steps that she might have the pleasure of receiving and responding gracefully to salutations from the important personages in the landau. She felt that the Dunholms were important. There were earldoms AND earldoms, and that of Dunholm was dignified and of distinction.

A common-looking young man on a bicycle, who had wheeled into the village with the carriage, riding alongside it for a hundred yards or so, stopped before the Clock Inn and dismounted, just as Mrs. Brent neared him. He saw her looking after the equipage, and lifting his cap spoke to her civilly.

“This is Stornham village, ain’t it, ma’am?” he inquired.

“Yes, my man.” His costume and general aspect seemed to indicate that he was of the class one addressed as “my man,” though there was something a little odd about him.

“Thank you. That wasn’t Miss Vanderpoel’s eldest sister in that carriage, was it?”

“Miss Vanderpoel’s—-” Mrs. Brent hesitated. “Do you mean Lady Anstruthers?”

“I’d forgotten her name. I know Miss Vanderpoel’s eldest sister lives at Stornham–Reuben S. Vanderpoel’s daughter.”

“Lady Anstruthers’ younger sister is a Miss Vanderpoel, and she is visiting at Stornham Court now.” Mrs. Brent could not help adding, curiously, “Why do you ask?”

“I am going to see her. I’m an American.”

Mrs. Brent coughed to cover a slight gasp. She had heard remarkable things of the democratic customs of America. It was painful not to be able to ask questions.

“The lady in the carriage was the Countess of Dunholm,” she said rather grandly. “They are going to the Court to call on Miss Vanderpoel.”

“Then Miss Vanderpoel’s there yet. That’s all right. Thank you, ma’am,” and lifting his cap again he turned into the little public house.

The Dunholm party had been accustomed on their rare visits to Stornham to be received by the kind of man-servant in the kind of livery which is a manifest, though unwilling, confession. The men who threw open the doors were of regulation height, well dressed, and of trained bearing. The entrance hall had lost its hopeless shabbiness. It was a complete and picturesquely luxurious thing. The change suggested magic. The magic which had been used, Lord Dunholm reflected, was the simplest and most powerful on earth. Given surroundings, combined with a gift for knowing values of form and colour, if you have the power to spend thousands of guineas on tiger skins, Oriental rugs, and other beauties, barrenness is easily transformed.

The drawing-room wore a changed aspect, and at a first glance it was to be seen that in poor little Lady Anstruthers, as she had generally been called, there was to be noted alteration also. In her case the change, being in its first stages, could not perhaps be yet called transformation, but, aided by softly pretty arrangement of dress and hair, a light in her eyes, and a suggestion of pink under her skin, one recalled that she had once been a pretty little woman, and that after all she was only about thirty-two years old

That her sister, Miss Vanderpoel, had beauty, it was not necessary to hesitate in deciding. Neither Lord Dunholm nor his wife nor their son did hesitate. A girl with long limbs an alluring profile, and extraordinary black lashes set round lovely Irish-blue eyes, possesses physical capital not to be argued about.

She was not one of the curious, exotic little creatures, whose thin, though sometimes rather sweet, and always gay, high- pitched young voices Lord Dunholm had been so especially struck by in the early days of the American invasion. Her voice had a tone one would be likely to remember with pleasure. How well she moved–how well her black head was set on her neck! Yes, she was of the new type–the later generation.

These amazing, oddly practical people had evolved it– planned it, perhaps, bought–figuratively speaking–the architects and material to design and build it–bought them in whatever country they found them, England, France, Italy Germany–pocketing them coolly and carrying them back home to develop, complete, and send forth into the world when their invention was a perfected thing. Struck by the humour of his fancy, Lord Dunholm found himself smiling into the Irish-blue eyes. They smiled back at him in a way which warmed his heart. There were no pauses in the conversation which followed. In times past, calls at Stornham had generally held painfully blank moments. Lady Dunholm was as pleased as her husband. A really charming girl was an enormous acquisition to the neighbourhood.

Westholt, his father saw, had found even more than the story of old Doby’s pipe had prepared him to expect.

Country calls were not usually interesting or stimulating, and this one was. Lord Dunholm laid subtly brilliant plans to lead Miss Vanderpoel to talk of her native land and her views of it. He knew that she would say things worth hearing. Incidentally one gathered picturesque detail. To have vibrated between the two continents since her thirteenth year, to have spent a few years at school in one country, a few years in another, and yet a few years more in still another, as part of an arranged educational plan; to have crossed the Atlantic for the holidays, and to have journeyed thousands of miles with her father in his private car; to make the visits of a man of great schemes to his possessions of mines, railroads, and lands which were almost principalities–these things had been merely details of her life, adding interest and variety, it was true, but seeming the merely normal outcome of existence. They were normal to Vanderpoels and others of their class who were abnormalities in themselves when compared with the rest of the world.

Her own very lack of any abnormality reached, in Lord Dunholm’s mind, the highest point of illustration of the phase of life she beautifully represented–for beautiful he felt its rare charms were.

When they strolled out to look at the gardens he found talk with her no less a stimulating thing. She told her story of Kedgers, and showed the chosen spot where thickets of lilies were to bloom, with the giants lifting white archangel trumpets above them in the centre.

“He can be trusted,” she said. “I feel sure he can be trusted. He loves them. He could not love them so much and not be able to take care of them.” And as she looked at him in frank appeal for sympathy, Lord Dunholm felt that for the moment she looked like a tall, queenly child.

But pleased as he was, he presently gave up his place at her side to Westholt. He must not be a selfish old fellow and monopolise her. He hoped they would see each other often, he said charmingly. He thought she would be sure to like Dunholm, which was really a thoroughly English old place, marked by all the features she seemed so much attracted by. There were some beautiful relics of the past there, and some rather shocking ones–certain dungeons, for instance, and a gallows mount, on which in good old times the family gallows had stood. This had apparently been a working adjunct to the domestic arrangements of every respectable family, and that irritating persons should dangle from it had been a simple domestic necessity, if one were to believe old stories.

“It was then that nobles were regarded with respect,” he said, with his fine smile. “In the days when a man appeared with clang of arms and with javelins and spears before, and donjon keeps in the background, the attitude of bent knees and awful reverence were the inevitable results. When one could hang a servant on one’s own private gallows, or chop off his hand for irreverence or disobedience–obedience and reverence were a rule. Now, a month’s notice is the extremity of punishment, and the old pomp of armed servitors suggests comic opera. But we can show you relics of it at Dunholm.”

He joined his wife and began at once to make himself so delightful to Rosy that she ceased to be afraid of him, and ended by talking almost gaily of her London visit.

Betty and Westholt walked together. The afternoon being lovely, they had all sauntered into the park to look at certain views, and the sun was shining between the trees. Betty thought the young man almost as charming as his father, which was saying much. She had fallen wholly in love with Lord Dunholm–with his handsome, elderly face, his voice, his erect bearing, his fine smile, his attraction of manner, his courteous ease and wit. He was one of the men who stood for the best of all they had been born to represent. Her own father, she felt, stood for the best of all such an American as himself should be. Lord Westholt would in time be what his father was. He had inherited from him good looks, good feeling, and a sense of humour. Yes, he had been given from the outset all that the other man had been denied. She was thinking of Mount Dunstan as “the other man,” and spoke of him.

“You know Lord Mount Dunstan?” she said.

Westholt hesitated slightly.

“Yes–and no,” he answered, after the hesitation. “No one knows him very well. You have not met him?” with a touch of surprise in his tone.

“He was a passenger on the Meridiana when I last crossed the Atlantic. There was a slight accident and we were thrown together for a few moments. Afterwards I met him by chance again. I did not know who he was.”

Lord Westholt showed signs of hesitation anew. In fact, he was rather disturbed. She evidently did not know anything whatever of the Mount Dunstans. She would not be likely to hear the details of the scandal which had obliterated them, as it were, from the decent world.

The present man, though he had not openly been mixed up with the hideous thing, had borne the brand because he had not proved himself to possess any qualities likely to recommend him. It was generally understood that he was a bad lot also. To such a man the allurements such a young woman as Miss Vanderpoel would present would be extraordinary. It was unfortunate that she should have been thrown in his way. At the same time it was not possible to state the case clearly during one’s first call on a beautiful stranger.

“His going to America was rather spirited,” said the mellow voice beside him. “I thought only Americans took their fates in their hands in that way. For a man of his class to face a rancher’s life means determination. It means the spirit—-” with a low little laugh at the leap of her imagination–“of the men who were Mount Dunstans in early days and went forth to fight for what they meant to have. He went to fight. He ought to have won. He will win some day.”

“I do not know about fighting,” Lord Westholt answered. Had the fellow been telling her romantic stories? “The general impression was that he went to America to amuse himself.”

“No, he did not do that,” said Betty, with simple finality. “A sheep ranch is not amusing—-” She stopped short and stood still for a moment. They had been walking down the avenue, and she stopped because her eyes had been caught by a figure half sitting, half lying in the middle of the road, a prostrate bicycle near it. It was the figure of a cheaply dressed young man, who, as she looked, seemed to make an ineffectual effort to rise.

“Is that man ill?” she exclaimed. “I think he must be.” They went towards him at once, and when they reached him he lifted a dazed white face, down which a stream of blood was trickling from a cut on his forehead. He was, in fact, very white indeed, and did not seem to know what he was doing.

“I am afraid you are hurt,” Betty said, and as she spoke the rest of the party joined them. The young man vacantly smiled, and making an unconscious-looking pass across his face with his hand, smeared the blood over his features painfully. Betty kneeled down, and drawing out her handkerchief, lightly wiped the gruesome smears away. Lord Westholt saw what had happened, having given a look at the bicycle.

“His chain broke as he was coming down the incline, and as he fell he got a nasty knock on this stone,” touching with his foot a rather large one, which had evidently fallen from some cartload of building material.

The young man, still vacantly smiling, was fumbling at his breast pocket. He began to talk incoherently in good, nasal New York, at the mere sound of which Lady Anstruthers made a little yearning step forward.

“Superior any other,” he muttered. “Tabulator spacer– marginal release key–call your ‘tention–instantly–‘justable –Delkoff–no equal on market.” And having found what he had fumbled for, he handed a card to Miss Vanderpoel and sank unconscious on her breast.

“Let me support him, Miss Vanderpoel,” said Westholt, starting forward.

“Never mind, thank you,” said Betty. “If he has fainted I suppose he must be laid flat on the ground. Will you please to read the card.

It was the card Mount Dunstan had read the day before.

J. BURRIDGE & SON,
DELKOFF TYPEWRITER CO.
BROADWAY, NEW YORK. G. SELDEN.

“He is probably G. Selden,” said Westholt. “Travelling in the interests of his firm, poor chap. The clue is not of much immediate use, however.”

They were fortunately not far from the house, and Westholt went back quickly to summon servants and send for the village doctor. The Dunholms were kindly sympathetic, and each of the party lent a handkerchief to staunch the bleeding. Lord Dunholm helped Miss Vanderpoel to lay the young man down carefully.

“I am afraid,” he said; “I am really afraid his leg is broken. It was twisted under him. What can be done with him?”

Miss Vanderpoel looked at her sister.

“Will you allow him to be carried to the house temporarily, Rosy?” she asked. “There is apparently nothing else to be done.”

“Yes, yes,” said Lady Anstruthers. “How could one send him away, poor fellow! Let him be carried to the house.”

Miss Vanderpoel smiled into Lord Dunholm’s much approving, elderly eyes.

“G. Selden is a compatriot,” she said. “Perhaps he heard I was here and came to sell me a typewriter.”

Lord Westholt returning with two footmen and a light mattress, G. Selden was carried with cautious care to the house. The afternoon sun, breaking through the branches of the ancestral oaks, kindly touched his keen-featured, white young face. Lord Dunholm and Lord Westholt each lent a friendly hand, and Miss Vanderpoel, keeping near, once or twice wiped away an insistent trickle of blood which showed itself from beneath the handkerchiefs. Lady Dunholm followed with Lady Anstruthers.

Afterwards, during his convalescence, G. Selden frequently felt with regret that by his unconsciousness of the dignity of his cortege at the moment he had missed feeling himself to be for once in a position he would have designated as “out of sight” in the novelty of its importance. To have beheld him, borne by nobles and liveried menials, accompanied by ladies of title, up the avenue of an English park on his way to be cared for in baronial halls, would, he knew, have added a joy to the final moments of his grandmother, which the consolations of religion could scarcely have met equally in competition. His own point of view, however, would not, it is true, have been that of the old woman in the black net cap and purple ribbons, but of a less reverent nature. His enjoyment, in fact, would have been based upon that transatlantic sense of humour, whose soul is glee at the incompatible, which would have been full fed by the incongruity of “Little Willie being yanked along by a bunch of earls, and Reuben S. Vanderpoel’s daughters following the funeral.” That he himself should have been unconscious of the situation seemed to him like “throwing away money.”

The doctor arriving after he had been put to bed found slight concussion of the brain and a broken leg. With Lady Anstruthers’ kind permission, it would certainly be best that he should remain for the present where he was. So, in a bedroom whose windows looked out upon spreading lawns and broad-branched trees, he was as comfortably established as was possible. G. Selden, through the capricious intervention of Fate, if he had not “got next” to Reuben S. Vanderpoel himself, had most undisputably “got next” to his favourite daughter.

As the Dunholm carriage rolled down the avenue there reigned for a few minutes a reflective silence. It was Lady Dunholm who broke it. “That,” she said in her softly decided voice, “that is a nice girl.”

Lord Dunholm’s agreeable, humorous smile flickered into evidence.

“That is it,” he said. “Thank you, Eleanor, for supplying me with a quite delightful early Victorian word. I believe I wanted it. She is a beauty and she is clever. She is a number of other things–but she is also a nice girl. If you will allow me to say so, I have fallen in love with her.”

“If you will allow me to say so,” put in Westholt, “so have I–quite fatally.”

“That,” said his father, with speculation in his eye, “is more serious.”

CHAPTER XXVI

“WHAT IT MUST BE TO YOU–JUST YOU!”

G. Selden, awakening to consciousness two days later, lay and stared at the chintz covering of the top of his four-post bed through a few minutes of vacant amazement. It was a four- post bed he was lying on, wasn’t it? And his leg was bandaged and felt unmovable. The last thing he remembered was going down an incline in a tree-bordered avenue. There was nothing more. He had been all right then. Was this a four- post bed or was it not? Yes, it was. And was it part of the furnishings of a swell bedroom–the kind of bedroom he had never been in before? Tip top, in fact? He stared and tried to recall things–but could not, and in his bewilderment exclaimed aloud.

“Well,” he said, “if this ain’t the limit! You may search ME!”

A respectable person in a white apron came to him from the other side of the room. It was Buttle’s wife, who had been hastily called in.

“Sh–sh,” she said soothingly. “Don’t you worry. Nobody ain’t goin’ to search you. Nobody ain’t. There! Sh, sh, sh,” rather as if he were a baby. Beginning to be conscious of a curious sense of weakness, Selden lay and stared at her in a helplessness which might have been considered pathetic. Perhaps he had got “bats in his belfry,” and there was no use in talking.

At that moment, however, the door opened and a young lady entered. She was “a looker,” G. Selden’s weakness did not interfere with his perceiving. “A looker, by gee!” She was dressed, as if for going out, in softly tinted, exquisite things, and a large, strange hydrangea blue flower under the brim of her hat rested on soft and full black hair. The black hair gave him a clue. It was hair like that he had seen as Reuben S. Vanderpoel’s daughter rode by when he stood at the park gates at Mount Dunstan. “Bats in his belfry,” of course.

“How is he?” she said to the nurse.

“He’s been seeming comfortable all day, miss,” the woman answered, “but he’s light-headed yet. He opened his eyes quite sensible looking a bit ago, but he spoke queer. He said something was the limit, and that we might search him.”

Betty approached the bedside to look at him, and meeting the disturbed inquiry in his uplifted eyes, laughed, because, seeing that he was not delirious, she thought she understood. She had not lived in New York without hearing its argot, and she realised that the exclamation which had appeared delirium to Mrs. Buttle had probably indicated that the unexplainableness of the situation in which G. Selden found himself struck him as reaching the limit of probability, and that the most extended search of his person would fail to reveal any clue to satisfactory explanation.

She bent over him, with her laugh still shining in her eyes.

“I hope you feel better. Can you tell me?” she said.

His voice was not strong, but his answer was that of a young man who knew what he was saying.

“If I’m not off my head, ma’am, I’m quite comfortable, thank you,” he replied.

“I am glad to hear that,” said Betty. “Don’t be disturbed. Your mind is quite clear.”

“All I want,” said G. Selden impartially, “is just to know where I’m at, and how I blew in here. It would help me to rest better.”

“You met with an accident,” the “looker” explained, still smiling with both lips and eyes. “Your bicycle chain broke and you were thrown and hurt yourself. It happened in the avenue in the park. We found you and brought you in. You are at Stornham Court, which belongs to Sir Nigel Anstruthers. Lady Anstruthers is my sister. I am Miss Vanderpoel.”

“Hully gee!” ejaculated G. Selden inevitably. “Hully GEE!” The splendour of the moment was such that his brain whirled. As it was not yet in the physical condition to whirl with any comfort, he found himself closing his eyes weakly.

“That’s right,” Miss Vanderpoel said. “Keep them closed. I must not talk to you until you are stronger. Lie still and try not to think. The doctor says you are getting on very well. I will come and see you again.”

As the soft sweep of her dress reached the door he managed to open his eyes.

“Thank you, Miss Vanderpoel,” he said. “Thank you, ma’am. And as his eyelids closed again he murmured in luxurious peace: “Well, if that’s her–she can have ME–and welcome!”

. . . . .

She came to see him again each day–sometimes in a linen frock and garden hat, sometimes in her soft tints and lace and flowers before or after her drive in the afternoon, and two or three times in the evening, with lovely shoulders and wonderfully trailing draperies–looking like the women he had caught far-off glimpses of on the rare occasion of his having indulged himself in the highest and most remotely placed seat in the gallery at the opera, which inconvenience he had borne not through any ardent desire to hear the music, but because he wanted to see the show and get “a look-in” at the Four Hundred. He believed very implicitly in his Four Hundred, and privately–though perhaps almost unconsciously–cherished the distinction his share of them conferred upon him, as fondly as the English young man of his rudimentary type cherishes his dukes and duchesses. The English young man may revel in his coroneted beauties in photograph shops, the young American dwells fondly on flattering, or very unflattering, reproductions of his multi-millionaires’ wives and daughters in the voluminous illustrated sheets of his Sunday paper, without which life would be a wretched and savourless thing.

Selden had never seen Miss Vanderpoel in his Sunday paper, and here he was lying in a room in the same house with her. And she coming in to see him and talk to him as if he was one of the Four Hundred himself! The comfort and luxury with which he found himself surrounded sank into insignificance when compared with such unearthly luck as this. Lady Anstruthers came in to see him also, and she several times brought with her a queer little lame fellow, who was spoken of as “Master Ughtred.” “Master” was supposed by G. Selden to be a sort of title conferred upon the small sons of baronets and the like. The children he knew in New York and elsewhere answered to the names of Bob, or Jimmy, or Bill. No parallel to “Master” had been in vogue among them.

Lady Anstruthers was not like her sister. She was a little thing, and both she and Master Ughtred seemed fond of talking of New York. She had not been home for years, and the youngster had never seen it at all. He had some queer ideas about America, and seemed never to have seen anything but Stornham and the village. G. Selden liked him, and was vaguely sorry for a little chap to whom a description of the festivities attendant upon the Fourth of July and a Presidential election seemed like stories from the Arabian Nights.

“Tell me about the Tammany Tiger, if you please,” he said once. “I want to know what kind of an animal it is.”

From a point of view somewhat different from that of Mount Dunstan and Mr. Penzance, Betty Vanderpoel found talk with him interesting. To her he did not wear the aspect of a foreign product. She had not met and conversed with young men like him, but she knew of them. Stringent precautions were taken to protect her father from their ingenuous enterprises. They were not permitted to enter his offices; they were even discouraged from hovering about their neighbourhood when seen and suspected. The atmosphere, it was understood, was to be, if possible, disinfected of agents. This one, lying softly in the four-post bed, cheerfully grateful for the kindness shown him, and plainly filled with delight in his adventure, despite the physical discomforts attending it, gave her, as he began to recover, new views of the life he lived in common with his kind. It was like reading scenes from a realistic novel of New York life to listen to his frank, slangy conversation. To her, as well as to Mr. Penzance, sidelights were thrown upon existence in the “hall bedroom” and upon previously unknown phases of business life in Broadway and roaring “downtown” streets.

His determination, his sharp readiness, his control of temper under rebuff and superfluous harshness, his odd, impersonal summing up of men and things, and good-natured patience with the world in general, were, she knew, business assets. She was even moved–no less–by the remote connection of such a life with that of the first Reuben Vanderpoel who had laid the huge, solid foundations of their modern fortune. The first Reuben Vanderpoel must have seen and known the faces of men as G. Selden saw and knew them. Fighting his way step by step, knocking pertinaciously at every gateway which might give ingress to some passage leading to even the smallest gain, meeting with rebuff and indifference only to be overcome by steady and continued assault–if G. Selden was a nuisance, the first Vanderpoel had without doubt worn that aspect upon innumerable occasions. No one desires the presence of the man who while having nothing to give must persist in keeping himself in evidence, even if by strategy or force. From stories she was familiar with, she had gathered that the first Reuben Vanderpoel had certainly lacked a certain youth of soul she felt in this modern struggler for life. He had been the cleverer man of the two; G. Selden she secretly liked the better.

The curiosity of Mrs. Buttle, who was the nurse, had been awakened by a singular feature of her patient’s feverish wanderings.

“He keeps muttering, miss, things I can’t make out about Lord Mount Dunstan, and Mr. Penzance, and some child he calls Little Willie. He talks to them the same as if he knew them–same as if he was with them and they were talking to him quite friendly.”

One morning Betty, coming to make her visit of inquiry found the patient looking thoughtful, and when she commented upon his air of pondering, his reply cast light upon the mystery.

“Well, Miss Vanderpoel,” he explained, “I was lying here thinking of Lord Mount Dunstan and Mr. Penzance, and how well they treated me–I haven’t told you about that, have I?

“That explains what Mrs. Buttle said,” she answered. “When you were delirious you talked frequently to Lord Mount Dunstan and Mr. Penzance. We both wondered why.”

Then he told her the whole story. Beginning with his sitting on the grassy bank outside the park, listening to the song of the robin, he ended with the adieux at the entrance gates when the sound of her horse’s trotting hoofs had been heard by each of them.

“What I’ve been lying here thinking of,” he said, “is how queer it was it happened just that way. If I hadn’t stopped just that minute, and if you hadn’t gone by, and if Lord Mount Dunstan hadn’t known you and said who you were, Little Willie would have been in London by this time, hustling to get a cheap bunk back to New York in.”

“Because?” inquired Miss Vanderpoel.

G. Selden laughed and hesitated a moment. Then he made a clean breast of it.

“Say, Miss Vanderpoel,” he said, “I hope it won’t make you mad if I own up. Ladies like you don’t know anything about chaps like me. On the square and straight out, when I seen you and heard your name I couldn’t help remembering whose daughter you was. Reuben S. Vanderpoel spells a big thing. Why, when I was in New York we fellows used to get together and talk about what it’d mean to the chap who could get next to Reuben S. Vanderpoel. We used to count up all the business he does, and all the clerks he’s got under him pounding away on typewriters, and how they’d be bound to get worn out and need new ones. And we’d make calculations how many a man could unload, if he could get next. It was a kind of typewriting junior assistant fairy story, and we knew it couldn’t happen really. But we used to chin about it just for the fun of the thing. One of the boys made up a thing about one of us saving Reuben S.’s life–dragging him from under a runaway auto and, when he says, `What can I do to show my gratitude, young man?’ him handing out his catalogue and saying, `I should like to call your attention to the Delkoff, sir,’ and getting him to promise he’d never use any other, as long as he lived!”

Reuben S. Vanderpoel’s daughter laughed as spontaneously as any girl might have done. G. Selden laughed with her. At any rate, she hadn’t got mad, so far.

“That was what did it,” he went on. “When I rode away on my bike I got thinking about it and could not get it out of my head. The next day I just stopped on the road and got off my wheel, and I says to myself: `Look here, business is business, if you ARE travelling in Europe and lunching at Buckingham Palace with the main squeeze. Get busy! What’ll the boys say if they hear you’ve missed a chance like this? YOU hit the pike for Stornham Castle, or whatever it’s called, and take your nerve with you! She can’t do more than have you fired out, and you’ve been fired before and got your breath after it. So I turned round and made time. And that was how I happened on your avenue. And perhaps it was because I was feeling a bit rattled I lost my hold when the chain broke, and pitched over on my head. There, I’ve got it off my chest. I was thinking I should have to explain somehow.”

Something akin to her feeling of affection for the nice, long- legged Westerner she had seen rambling in Bond Street touched Betty again. The Delkoff was the centre of G. Selden’s world as the flowers were of Kedgers’, as the “little ‘ome” was of Mrs. Welden’s.

“Were you going to try to sell ME a typewriter?” she asked.

“Well,” G. Selden admitted, “I didn’t know but what there might be use for one, writing business letters on a big place like this. Straight, I won’t say I wasn’t going to try pretty hard. It may look like gall, but you see a fellow has to rush things or he’ll never get there. A chap like me HAS to get there, somehow.”

She was silent a few moments and looked as if she was thinking something over. Her silence and this look on her face actually caused to dawn in the breast of Selden a gleam of daring hope. He looked round at her with a faint rising of colour.

“Say, Miss Vanderpoel–say—-” he began, and then broke off.

“Yes?” said Betty, still thinking.

“C-COULD you use one–anywhere?” he said. “I don’t want to rush things too much, but–COULD you?”

“Is it easy to learn to use it?”

“Easy!” his head lifted from his pillow. “It’s as easy as falling off a log. A baby in a perambulator could learn to tick off orders for its bottle. And–on the square–there isn’t its equal on the market, Miss Vanderpoel–there isn’t.” He fumbled beneath his pillow and actually brought forth his catalogue.

“I asked the nurse to put it there. I wanted to study it now and then and think up arguments. See–adjustable to hold with perfect ease an envelope, an index card, or a strip of paper no wider than a postage stamp. Unsurpassed paper feed, practical ribbon mechanism–perfect and permanent alignment. “

As Mount Dunstan had taken the book, Betty Vanderpoel took it. Never had G. Selden beheld such smiling in eyes about to bend upon his catalogue.

“You will raise your temperature,” she said, “if you excite yourself. You mustn’t do that. I believe there are two or three people on the estate who might be taught to use a typewriter. I will buy three. Yes–we will say three.”

She would buy three. He soared to heights. He did not know how to thank her, though he did his best. Dizzying visions of what he would have to tell “the boys” when he returned to New York flashed across his mind. The daughter of Reuben S. Vanderpoel had bought three Delkoffs, and he was the junior assistant who had sold them to her.

“You don’t know what it means to me, Miss Vanderpoel,” he said, “but if you were a junior salesman you’d know. It’s not only the sale–though that’s a rake-off of fifteen dollars to me–but it’s because it’s YOU that’s bought them. Gee!” gazing at her with a frank awe whose obvious sincerity held a queer touch of pathos. “What it must be to be YOU–just YOU!”

She did not laugh. She felt as if a hand had lightly touched her on her naked heart. She had thought of it so often–had been bewildered restlessly by it as a mere child–this difference in human lot–this chance. Was it chance which had placed her entity in the centre of Bettina Vanderpoel’s world instead of in that of some little cash girl with hair raked back from a sallow face, who stared at her as she passed in a shop–or in that of the young Frenchwoman whose life was spent in serving her, in caring for delicate dresses and keeping guard over ornaments whose price would have given to her own humbleness ease for the rest of existence? What did it mean? And what Law was laid upon her? What Law which could only work through her and such as she who had been born with almost unearthly power laid in their hands–the reins of monstrous wealth, which guided or drove the world? Sometimes fear touched her, as with this light touch an her heart, because she did not KNOW the Law and could only pray that her guessing at it might be right. And, even as she thought these things, G. Selden went on.

“You never can know,” he said, “because you’ve always been in it. And the rest of the world can’t know, because they’ve never been anywhere near it.” He stopped and evidently fell to thinking.

“Tell me about the rest of the world,” said Betty quietly.

He laughed again.

“Why, I was just thinking to myself you didn’t know a thing about it. And it’s queer. It’s the rest of us that mounts up when you come to numbers. I guess it’d run into millions. I’m not thinking of beggars and starving people, I’ve been rushing the Delkoff too steady to get onto any swell charity organisation, so I don’t know about them. I’m just thinking of the millions of fellows, and women, too, for the matter of that, that waken up every morning and know they’ve got to hustle for their ten per or their fifteen per–if they can stir it up as thick as that. If it’s as much as fifty per, of course, seems like to me, they’re on Easy Street. But sometimes those that’s got to fifty per–or even more–have got more things to do with it–kids, you know, and more rent and clothes. They’ve got to get at it just as hard as we have. Why, Miss Vanderpoel, how many people do you suppose there are in a million that don’t have to worry over their next month’s grocery bills, and the rent of their flat? I bet there’s not ten–and I don’t know the ten.”

He did not state his case uncheerfully. “The rest of the world” represented to him the normal condition of things.

“Most married men’s a bit afraid to look an honest grocery bill in the face. And they WILL come in–as regular as spring hats. And I tell YOU, when a man’s got to live on seventy-five a month, a thing that’ll take all the strength and energy out of a twenty-dollar bill sorter gets him down on the mat.”

Like old Mrs. Welden’s, his roughly sketched picture was a graphic one.

” ‘Tain’t the working that bothers most of us. We were born to that, and most of us would feel like deadbeats if we were doing nothing. It’s the earning less than you can live on, and getting a sort of tired feeling over it. It’s the having to make a dollar-bill look like two, and watching every other fellow try to do the same thing, and not often make the trip. There’s millions of us–just millions–every one of us with his Delkoff to sell—-” his figure of speech pleased him and he chuckled at his own cleverness–“and thinking of it, and talking about it, and–under his vest–half afraid that he can’t make it. And what you say in the morning when you open your eyes and stretch yourself is, `Hully gee! I’ve GOT to sell a Delkoff to-day, and suppose I shouldn’t, and couldn’t hold down my job!’ I began it over my feeding bottle. So did all the people I know. That’s what gave me a sort of a jolt just now when I looked at you and thought about you being YOU– and what it meant.”

When their conversation ended she had a much more intimate knowledge of New York than she had ever had before, and she felt it a rich possession. She had heard of the “hall bedroom” previously, and she had seen from the outside the “quick lunch” counter, but G. Selden unconsciously escorted her inside and threw upon faces and lives the glare of a flashlight.

“There was a thing I’ve been thinking I’d ask you, Miss Vanderpoel,” he said just before she left him. “I’d like you to tell me, if you please. It’s like this. You see those two fellows treated me as fine as silk. I mean Lord Mount Dunstan and Mr. Penzance. I never expected it. I never saw a lord before, much less spoke to one, but I can tell you that one’s just about all right–Mount Dunstan. And the other one– the old vicar–I’ve never taken to anyone since I was born like I took to him. The way he puts on his eye-glasses and looks at you, sorter kind and curious about you at the same time! And his voice and his way of saying his words –well, they just GOT me–sure. And they both of ’em did say they’d like to see me again. Now do you think, Miss Vanderpoel, it would look too fresh–if I was to write a polite note and ask if either of them could make it convenient to come and take a look at me, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble. I don’t WANT to be too fresh–and perhaps they wouldn’t come anyhow–and if it is, please won’t you tell me, Miss Vanderpoel?”

Betty thought of Mount Dunstan as he had stood and talked to her in the deepening afternoon sun. She did not know much of him, but she thought–having heard G. Selden’s story of the lunch–that he would come. She had never seen Mr. Penzance, but she knew she should like to see him.

“I think you might write the note,” she said. “I believe they would come to see you.”

“Do you?” with eager pleasure. “Then I’ll do it. I’d give a good deal to see them again. I tell you, they are just It–both of them.”

CHAPTER XXVII

LIFE

Mount Dunstan, walking through the park next morning on his way to the vicarage, just after post time, met Mr. Penzance himself coming to make an equally early call at the Mount. Each of them had a letter in his hand, and each met the other’s glance with a smile.

“G. Selden,” Mount Dunstan said. “And yours?”

“G. Selden also,” answered the vicar. “Poor young fellow, what ill-luck. And yet–is it ill-luck? He says not.”

“He tells me it is not,” said Mount Dunstan. “And I agree with him.”

Mr. Penzance read his letter aloud.

“DEAR SIR:

“This is to notify you that owing to my bike going back on me when going down hill, I met with an accident in Stornham Park. Was cut about the head and leg broken. Little Willie being far from home and mother, you can see what sort of fix he’d been in if it hadn’t been for the kindness of Reuben S. Vanderpoel’s daughters–Miss Bettina and her sister Lady Anstruthers. The way they’ve had me taken care of has been great. I’ve been under a nurse and doctor same as if I was Albert Edward with appendycytus (I apologise if that’s not spelt right). Dear Sir, this is to say that I asked Miss Vanderpoel if I should be butting in too much if I dropped a line to ask if you could spare the time to call and see me. It would be considered a favour and appreciated by “G. SELDEN,
“Delkoff Typewriter Co. Broadway.

“P. S. Have already sold three Delkoffs to Miss Vanderpoel.”

“Upon my word,” Mr. Penzance commented, and his amiable fervour quite glowed, “I like that queer young fellow– I like him. He does not wish to `butt in too much.’ Now, there is rudimentary delicacy in that. And what a humorous, forceful figure of speech! Some butting animal–a goat, I seem to see, preferably–forcing its way into a group or closed circle of persons.”

His gleeful analysis of the phrase had such evident charm for him that Mount Dunstan broke into a shout of laughter, even as G. Selden had done at the adroit mention of Weber & Fields.

“Shall we ride over together to see him this morning? An hour with G. Selden, surrounded by the atmosphere of Reuben S. Vanderpoel, would be a cheering thing,” he said.

“It would,” Mr. Penzance answered. “Let us go by all means. We should not, I suppose,” with keen delight, “be `butting in’ upon Lady Anstruthers too early?” He was quite enraptured with his own aptness. “Like G. Selden, I should not like to `butt in,’ ” he added.

The scent and warmth and glow of a glorious morning filled the hour. Combining themselves with a certain normal human gaiety which surrounded the mere thought of G. Selden, they were good things for Mount Dunstan. Life was strong and young in him, and he had laughed a big young laugh, which had, perhaps tended to the waking in him of the feeling he was suddenly conscious of–that a six-mile ride over a white, tree-dappled, sunlit road would be pleasant enough, and, after all, if at the end of the gallop one came again upon that other in whom life was strong and young, and bloomed on rose-cheek and was the far fire in the blue deeps of lovely eyes, and the slim straightness of the fair body, why would it not be, in a way, all to the good? He had thought of her on more than one day, and felt that he wanted to see her again.

“Let us go,” he answered Penzance. “One can call on an invalid at any time. Lady Anstruthers will forgive us.”

In less than an hour’s time they were on their way. They laughed and talked as they rode, their horses’ hoofs striking out a cheerful ringing accompaniment to their voices. There is nothing more exhilarating than the hollow, regular ring and click-clack of good hoofs going well over a fine old Roman road in the morning sunlight. They talked of the junior assistant salesman and of Miss Vanderpoel. Penzance was much pleased by the prospect of seeing “this delightful and unusual girl.” He had heard stories of her, as had Lord Westholt. He knew of old Doby’s pipe, and of Mrs. Welden’s respite from the Union, and though such incidents would seem mere trifles to the dweller in great towns, he had himself lived and done his work long enough in villages to know the village mind and the scale of proportions by which its gladness and sadness were measured. He knew more of all this than Mount Dunstan could, since Mount Dunstan’s existence had isolated itself, from rather gloomy choice. But as he rode, Mount Dunstan knew that he liked to hear these things. There was the suggestion of new life and new thought in them, and such suggestion was good for any man–or woman, either–who had fallen into living in a dull, narrow groove.

“It is the new life in her which strikes me,” he said. “She has brought wealth with her, and wealth is power to do the good or evil that grows in a man’s soul; but she has brought something more. She might have come here and brought all the sumptuousness of a fashionable young beauty, who drove through the village and drew people to their windows, and made clodhoppers scratch their heads and pull their forelocks, and children bob curtsies and stare. She might have come and gone and left a mind-dazzling memory and nothing else. A few sovereigns tossed here and there would have earned her a reputation–but, by gee! to quote Selden–she has begun LIVING with them, as if her ancestors had done it for six hundred years. And what _I_ see is that if she had come without a penny in her pocket she would have done the same thing.” He paused a pondering moment, and then drew a sharp breath which was an exclamation in itself. “She’s Life!” he said. “She’s Life itself! Good God! what a thing it is for a man or woman to be Life–instead of a mass of tissue and muscle and nerve, dragged about by the mere mechanism of living!”

Penzance had listened seriously.

“What you say is very suggestive,” he commented. “It strikes me as true, too. You have seen something of her also, at least more than I have.”

“I did not think these things when I saw her–though I suppose I felt them unconsciously. I have reached this way of summing her up by processes of exclusion and inclusion. One hears of her, as you know yourself, and one thinks her over.”

“You have thought her over?”

“A lot,” rather grumpily. “A beautiful female creature inevitably gives an unbeautiful male creature something to think of–if he is not otherwise actively employed. I am not. She has become a sort of dawning relief to my hopeless humours. Being a low and unworthy beast, I am sometimes resentful enough of the unfairness of things. She has too much.”

When they rode through Stornham village they saw signs of work already done and work still in hand. There were no broken windows or palings or hanging wicket gates; cottage gardens had been put in order, and there were evidences of such cheering touches as new bits of window curtain and strong-looking young plants blooming between them. So many small, but necessary, things had been done that the whole village wore the aspect of a place which had taken heart, and was facing existence in a hopeful spirit. A year ago Mount Dunstan and his vicar riding through it had been struck by its neglected and dispirited look.

As they entered the hall of the Court Miss Vanderpoel was descending the staircase. She was laughing a little to herself, and she looked pleased when she saw them.

“It is good of you to come,” she said, as they crossed the hall to the drawing-room. “But I told him I really thought you would. I have just been talking to him, and he was a little uncertain as to whether he had assumed too much.”

“As to whether he had `butted in,’ ” said Mr. Penzance. “I think he must have said that.”

“He did. He also was afraid that he might have been `too fresh.’ ” answered Betty.

“On our part,” said Mr. Penzance, with gentle glee, “we hesitated a moment in fear lest we also might appear to be `butting in.’ “

Then they all laughed together. They were laughing when Lady Anstruthers entered, and she herself joined them. But to Mount Dunstan, who felt her to be somehow a touching little person, there was manifest a tenderness in her feeling for G. Selden. For that matter, however, there was something already beginning to be rather affectionate in the attitude of each of them. They went upstairs to find him lying in state upon a big sofa placed near a window, and his joy at the sight of them was a genuine, human thing. In fact, he had pondered a good deal in secret on the possibility of these swell people thinking he had “more than his share of gall” to expect them to remember him after he passed on his junior assistant salesman’s way. Reuben S. Vanderpoel’s daughters were of the highest of his Four Hundred, but they were Americans, and Americans were not as a rule so “stuck on themselves” as the English. And here these two swells came as friendly as you please. And that nice old chap that was a vicar, smiling and giving him “the glad hand”!

Betty and Mount Dunstan left Mr. Penzance talking to the convalescent after a short time. Mount Dunstan had asked to be shown the gardens. He wanted to see the wonderful things he had heard had been already done to them.

They went down the stairs together and passed through the drawing-room into the pleasure grounds. The once neglected lawns had already been mown and rolled, clipped and trimmed, until they spread before the eye huge measures of green velvet; even the beds girdling and adorning them were brilliant with flowers.

“Kedgers!” said Betty, waving her hand. “In my ignorance I thought we must wait for blossoms until next year; but it appears that wonders can be brought all ready to bloom for one from nursery gardens, and can be made to grow with care–and daring–and passionate affection. I have seen Kedgers turn pale with anguish as he hung over a bed of transplanted things which seemed to droop too long. They droop just at first, you know, and then they slowly lift their heads, slowly, as if to listen to a Voice calling–calling. Once I sat for quite a long time before a rose, watching it. When I saw it BEGIN to listen, I felt a little trembling pass over my body. I seemed to be so strangely near to such a strange thing. It was Life–Life coming back–in answer to what we cannot hear.”

She had begun lightly, and then her voice had changed. It was very quiet at the end of her speaking. Mount Dunstan simply repeated her last words.

“To what we cannot hear.”

“One feels it so much in a garden,” she said. “I have never lived in a garden of my own. This is not mine, but I have been living in it–with Kedgers. One is so close to Life in it– the stirring in the brown earth, the piercing through of green spears, that breaking of buds and pouring forth of scent! Why shouldn’t one tremble, if one thinks? I have stood in a potting shed and watched Kedgers fill a shallow box with damp rich mould and scatter over it a thin layer of infinitesimal seeds; then he moistens them and carries them reverently to his altars in a greenhouse. The ledges in Kedgers’ green- houses are altars. I think he offers prayers before them. Why not? I should. And when one comes to see them, the moist seeds are swelled to fulness, and when one comes again they are bursting. And the next time, tiny green things are curling outward. And, at last, there is a fairy forest of tiniest pale

green stems and leaves. And one is standing close to the Secret of the World! And why should not one prostrate one’s self, breathing softly–and touching one’s awed forehead to the earth?”

Mount Dunstan turned and looked at her–a pause in his step–they were walking down a turfed path, and over their heads meeting branches of new leaves hung. Something in his movement made her turn and pause also. They both paused –and quite unknowingly.

“Do you know,” he said, in a low and rather unusual voice, “that as we were on our way here, I said of you to Penzance, that you were Life–YOU!”

For a few seconds, as they stood so, his look held her–their eyes involuntarily and strangely held each other. Something softly glowing in the sunlight falling on them both, something raining down in the song of a rising skylark trilling in the blue a field away, something in the warmed incense of blossoms near them, was calling–calling in the Voice, though they did not know they heard. Strangely, a splendid blush rose in a fair flood under her skin. She was conscious of it, and felt a second’s amazed impatience that she should colour like a schoolgirl suspecting a compliment. He did not look at her as a man looks who has made a pretty speech. His eyes met hers straight and thoughtfully, and he repeated his last words as he had before repeated hers.

“That YOU were Life–you!”

The bluebells under water were for the moment incredibly lovely. Her feeling about the blush melted away as the blush itself had done.

“I am glad you said that!” she answered. “It was a beautiful thing to say. I have often thought that I should like it to be true.”

“It is true,” he said.

Then the skylark, showering golden rain, swept down to earth and its nest in the meadow, and they walked on.

She learned from him, as they walked together, and he also learned from her, in a manner which built for them as they went from point to point, a certain degree of delicate intimacy, gradually, during their ramble, tending to make discussion and question possible. Her intelligent and broad interest in the work on the estate, her frank desire to acquire such practical information as she lacked, aroused in himself an interest he had previously seen no reason that he should feel. He realised that his outlook upon the unusual situation was being illuminated by an intelligence at once brilliant and fine, while it was also full of nice shading. The situation, of course, WAS unusual. A beautiful young sister-in-law appearing upon the dark horizon of a shamefully ill-used estate, and restoring, with touches of a wand of gold, what a fellow who was a blackguard should have set in order years ago. That Lady Anstruthers’ money should have rescued her boy’s inheritance instead of being spent upon lavish viciousness went without saying. What Mount Dunstan was most struck by was the perfect clearness, and its combination with a certain judicial good breeding, in Miss Vanderpoel’s view of the matter. She made no confidences, beautifully candid as her manner was, but he saw that she clearly understood the thing she was doing, and that if her sister had had no son she would not have done this, but something totally different. He had an idea that Lady Anstruthers would have been swiftly and lightly swept back to New York, and Sir Nigel left to his own devices, in which case Stornham Court and its village would gradually have crumbled to decay. It was for Sir Ughtred Anstruthers the place was being restored. She was quite clear on the matter of entail. He wondered at first–not unnaturally–how a girl had learned certain things she had an obviously clear knowledge of. As they continued to converse he learned. Reuben S. Vanderpoel was without doubt a man remarkable not only in the matter of being the owner of vast wealth. The rising flood of his millions had borne him upon its strange surface a thinking, not an unthinking being–in fact, a strong and fine intelligence. His thousands of miles of yearly journeying in his sumptuous private car had been the means of his accumulating not merely added gains, but ideas, points of view, emotions, a human outlook worth counting as an asset. His daughter, when she had travelled with him, had seen and talked with him of all he himself had seen. When she had not been his companion she had heard from him afterwards all best worth hearing. She had become–without any special process–familiar with the technicalities of huge business schemes, with law and commerce and political situations. Even her childish interest in the world of enterprise and labour had been passionate. So she had acquired–inevitably, while almost unconsciously–a remarkable education.

“If he had not been HIMSELF he might easily have grown tired of a little girl constantly wanting to hear things– constantly asking questions,” she said. “But he did not get tired. We invented a special knock on the door of his private room. It said, `May I come in, father?’ If he was busy he answered with one knock on his desk, and I went away. If he had time to talk he called out, `Come, Betty,’ and I went to him. I used to sit upon the floor and lean against his knee. He had a beautiful way of stroking my hair or my hand as he talked. He trusted me. He told me of great things even before he had talked of them to men. He knew I would never speak of what was said between us in his room. That was part of his trust. He said once that it was a part of the evolution of race, that men had begun to expect of women what in past ages they really only expected of each other.”

Mount Dunstan hesitated before speaking.

“You mean–absolute faith–apart from affection?”

“Yes. The power to be quite silent, even when one is tempted to speak–if to speak might betray what it is wiser to keep to one’s self because it is another man’s affair. The kind of thing which is good faith among business men. It applies to small things as much as to large, and to other things than business.”

Mount Dunstan, recalling his own childhood and his own father, felt again the pressure of the remote mental suggestion that she had had too much, a childhood and girlhood like this, the affection and companionship of a man of large and ordered intelligence, of clear and judicial outlook upon an immense area of life and experience. There was no cause for wonder that her young womanhood was all it presented to himself, as well as to others. Recognising the shadow of resentment in his thought, he swept it away, an inward sense making it clear to him that if their positions had been reversed, she would have been more generous than himself.

He pulled himself together with an unconscious movement of his shoulders. Here was the day of early June, the gold of the sun in its morning, the green shadows, the turf they walked on together, the skylark rising again from the meadow and showering down its song. Why think of anything else. What a line that was which swept from her chin down her long slim throat to its hollow! The colour between the velvet of her close-set lashes–the remembrance of her curious splendid blush–made the man’s lost and unlived youth come back to him. What did it matter whether she was American or English–what did it matter whether she was insolently rich or beggarly poor? He would let himself go and forget all but the pleasure of the sight and hearing of her.

So as they went they found themselves laughing together and talking without restraint. They went through the flower and kitchen gardens; they saw the once fallen wall rebuilt now with the old brick; they visited the greenhouses and came upon Kedgers entranced with business, but enraptured at being called upon to show his treasures. His eyes, turning magnetised upon Betty, revealed the story of his soul. Mount Dunstan remarked that when he spoke to her of his flowers it was as if there existed between them the sympathy which might be engendered between two who had sat up together night after night with delicate children.

“He’s stronger to-day, miss,” he said, as they paused before a new wonderful bloom. “What he’s getting now is good for him. I had to change his food, miss, but this seems all right. His colour’s better.”

Betty herself bent over the flower as she might have bent over a child. Her eyes softened, she touched a leaf with a slim finger, as delicately as if it had been a new-born baby’s cheek. As Mount Dunstan watched her he drew a step nearer to her side. For the first time in his life he felt the glow of a normal and simple pleasure untouched by any bitterness.

CHAPTER XXVIII

SETTING THEM THINKING

Old Doby, sitting at his open window, with his pipe and illustrated papers on the table by his side, began to find life a series of thrills. The advantage of a window giving upon the village street unspeakably increased. For many years he had preferred the chimney corner greatly, and had rejoiced at the drawing in of winter days when a fire must be well kept up, and a man might bend over it, and rub his hands slowly gazing into the red coals or little pointed flames which seemed the only things alive and worthy the watching. The flames were blue at the base and yellow at the top, and jumped looking merry, and caught at bits of black coal, and set them crackling and throwing off splinters till they were ablaze and as much alive as the rest. A man could get comfort and entertainment therefrom. There was naught else so good to live with. Nothing happened in the street, and every dull face that passed was an old story, and told an old tale of stupefying hard labour and hard days.

But now the window was a better place to sit near. Carts went by with men whistling as they walked by the horses heads. Loads of things wanted for work at the Court. New faces passed faces of workmen–sometimes grinning, “impident youngsters,” who larked with the young women, and called out to them as they passed their cottages, if a good- looking one was loitering about her garden gate. Old Doby chuckled at their love-making chaff, remembering dimly that seventy years ago he had been just as proper a young chap, and had made love in the same way. Lord, Lord, yes! He had been a bold young chap as ever winked an eye. Then, too, there were the vans, heavy-loaded and closed, and coming along slowly. Every few days, at first, there had come a van from “Lunnon.” Going to the Court, of course. And to sit there, and hear the women talk about what might be in them, and to try to guess one’s self, that was a rare pastime. Fine things going to the Court these days–furniture and grandeur filling up the shabby or empty old rooms, and making them look like other big houses–same as Westerbridge even, so the women said. The women were always talking and getting bits of news somehow, and were beginning to be worth listening to, because they had something more interesting to talk about than children’s worn-out shoes, and whooping cough.

Doby heard everything first from them. “Dang the women, they always knowed things fust.” It was them as knowed about the smart carriages as began to roll through the one village street. They were gentry’s carriages, with fine, stamping horses, and jingling silver harness, and big coachmen, and tall footmen, and such like had long ago dropped off showing themselves at Stornham.

“But now the gentry has heard about Miss Vanderpoel, and what’s being done at the Court, and they know what it means,” said young Mrs. Doby. “And they want to see her, and find out what she’s like. It’s her brings them.”

Old Doby chuckled and rubbed his hands. He knew what she was like. That straight, slim back of hers, and the thick twist of black hair, and the way she had of laughing at you, as cheery as if a bell was ringing. Aye, he knew all about that.

“When they see her once, they’ll come agen, for sure,” he quavered shrilly, and day by day he watched for the grand carriages with vivid eagerness. If a day or two passed without his seeing one, he grew fretful, and was injured, feeling that his beauty was being neglected! “None to-day, nor yet yest’day,” he would cackle. “What be they folk a-doin’?”

Old Mrs. Welden, having heard of the pipe, and come to see it, had struck up an acquaintance with him, and dropped in almost every day to talk and sit at his window. She was a young thing, by comparison, and could bring him lively news, and, indeed, so stir him up with her gossip that he was in danger of becoming a young thing himself. Her groceries and his tobacco were subjects whose interest was undying.

A great curiosity had been awakened in the county, and visitors came from distances greater than such as ordinarily include usual calls. Naturally, one was curious about the daughter of the Vanderpoel who was a sort of national institution in his own country. His name had not been so much heard of in England when Lady Anstruthers had arrived but there had, at first, been felt an interest in her. But she had been a failure–a childish-looking girl–whose thin, fair, prettiness had no distinction, and who was obviously overwhelmed by her surroundings. She had evidently had no influence over Sir Nigel, and had not been able to prevent his making ducks and drakes of her money, which of course ought to have been spent on the estate. Besides which a married woman represented fewer potentialities than a handsome unmarried girl entitled to expectations from huge American wealth.

So the carriages came and came again, and, stately or unstately far-off neighbours sat at tea upon the lawn under the trees, and it was observed that the methods and appointments of the Court had entirely changed. Nothing looked new and American. The silently moving men-servants could not have been improved upon, there was plainly an excellent chef somewhere, and the massive silver was old and wonderful. Upon everybody’s word, the change was such as it was worth a long drive merely to see!

The most wonderful thing, however, was Lady Anstruthers herself. She had begun to grow delicately plump, her once drawn and haggard face had rounded out, her skin had smoothed, and was actually becoming pink and fair, a nimbus of pale fine hair puffed airily over her forehead, and she wore the most charming little clothes, all of which made her look fifteen years younger than she had seemed when, on the grounds of ill-health, she had retired into seclusion. The renewed relations with her family, the atmosphere by which she was surrounded, had evidently given her a fresh lease of life, and awakened in her a new courage.

When the summer epidemic of garden parties broke forth, old Doby gleefully beheld, day after day, the Court carriage drive by bearing her ladyship and her sister attired in fairest shades and tints “same as if they was flowers.” Their delicate vaporousness, and rare colours, were sweet delights to the old man, and he and Mrs. Welden spent happy evenings discussing them as personal possessions. To these two Betty WAS a personal possession, bestowing upon them a marked distinction. They were hers and she was theirs. No one else so owned her. Heaven had given her to them that their last years might be lighted with splendour.

On her way to one of the garden parties she stopped the carriage before old Doby’s cottage, and went in to him to speak a few words. She was of pale convolvulus blue that afternoon, and Doby, standing up touching his forelock and Mrs. Welden curtsying, gazed at her with prayer in their eyes. She had a few flowers in her hand, and a book of coloured photographs of Venice.

“These are pictures of the city I told you about–the city built in the sea–where the streets are water. You and Mrs. Welden can look at them together,” she said, as she laid flowers and book down. “I am going to Dunholm Castle to a garden party this afternoon. Some day I will come and tell you about it.”

The two were at the window staring spellbound, as she swept back to the carriage between the sweet-williams and Canterbury bells bordering the narrow garden path.

“Do you know I really went in to let them see my dress,” she said, when she rejoined Lady Anstruthers. “Old Doby’s granddaughter told me that he and Mrs. Welden have little quarrels about the colours I wear. It seems that they find my wardrobe an absorbing interest. When I put the book on the table, I felt Doby touch my sleeve with his trembling old hand. He thought I did not know.”

“What will they do with Venice?” asked Rosy.

“They will believe the water is as blue as the photographs make it–and the palaces as pink. It will seem like a chapter out of Revelations, which they can believe is true and not merely `Scriptur,’–because _I_ have been there. I wish I had been to the City of the Gates of Pearl, and could tell them about that.”

On the lawns at the garden parties she was much gazed at and commented upon. Her height and her long slender neck held her head above those of other girls, the dense black of her hair made a rich note of shadow amid the prevailing English blondness. Her mere colouring set her apart. Rosy used to watch her with tender wonder, recalling her memory of nine-year-old Betty, with the long slim legs and the demanding and accusing child-eyes. She had always been this creature even in those far-off days. At the garden party at Dunholm Castle it became evident that she was, after a manner, unusually the central figure of the occasion. It was not at all surprising, people said to each other. Nothing could have been more desirable for Lord Westholt. He combined rank with fortune, and the Vanderpoel wealth almost constituted rank in itself. Both Lord and Lady Dunholm seemed pleased with the girl. Lord Dunholm showed her great attention. When she took part in the dancing on the lawn, he looked on delightedly. He walked about the gardens with her, and it was plain to see that their conversation was not the ordinary polite effort to accord, usually marking the talk between a mature man and a merely pretty girl. Lord Dunholm sometimes laughed with unfeigned delight, and sometimes the two seemed to talk of grave things.

“Such occasions as these are a sort of yearly taking of the social census of the county,” Lord Dunholm explained. “One invites ALL one’s neighbours and is invited again. It is a