Infomotions, Inc.The Shuttle / Burnett, Frances Hodgson, 1849-1924



Author: Burnett, Frances Hodgson, 1849-1924
Title: The Shuttle
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): vanderpoel; mount dunstan; betty; miss vanderpoel; stornham; anstruthers; dunstan; nigel; lady anstruthers; nigel anstruthers; stornham court; rosy; mount
Contributor(s): Grobe, Edwin, 1927- [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 213,188 words (longer than most) Grade range: 8-10 (high school) Readability score: 68 (easy)
Identifier: etext506
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Title: The Shuttle

Author: Frances Hodgson Burnett

Release Date: March 18, 2006 [EBook #506]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE SHUTTLE ***




Produced by Charles Keller and David Widger





THE SHUTTLE

By Frances Hodgson Burnett




CONTENTS

     CHAPTER
     I.       THE WEAVING OF THE SHUTTLE
     II.      A LACK OF PERCEPTION
     III.     YOUNG LADY ANSTRUTHERS
     IV.      A MISTAKE OF THE POSTBOY'S
     V.       ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC
     VI.      AN UNFAIR ENDOWMENT
     VII.     ON BOARD THE "MERIDIANA"
     VIII.    THE SECOND-CLASS PASSENGER
     IX.      LADY JANE GREY
     X.       "IS LADY ANSTRUTHERS AT HOME?"
     XI.      "I THOUGHT YOU HAD ALL FORGOTTEN"
     XII.     UGHTRED
     XIII.    ONE OF THE NEW YORK DRESSES
     XIV.     IN THE GARDENS
     XV.      THE FIRST MAN
     XVI.     THE PARTICULAR INCIDENT
     XVII.    TOWNLINSON & SHEPPARD
     XVIII.   THE FIFTEENTH EARL OF MOUNT DUNSTAN
     XIX.     SPRING IN BOND STREET
     XX.      THINGS OCCUR IN STORNHAM VILLAGE
     XXI.     KEDGERS
     XXII.    ONE OF MR. VANDERPOEL'S LETTERS
     XXIII.   INTRODUCING G. SELDEN
     XXIV.    THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF STORNHAM
     XXV.     "WE BEGAN TO MARRY THEM, MY GOOD FELLOW!"
     XXVI.    "WHAT IT MUST BE TO BE YOU--JUST YOU!"
     XXVII.   LIFE
     XXVIII.  SETTING THEM THINKING
     XXIX.    THE THREAD OF G. SELDEN
     XXX.     A RETURN
     XXXI.    NO, SHE WOULD NOT
     XXXII.   A GREAT BALL
     XXXIII.  FOR LADY JANE
     XXXIV.   RED GODWYN
     XXXV.    THE TIDAL WAVE
     XXXVI.   BY THE ROADSIDE EVERYWHERE
     XXXVII.  CLOSED CORRIDORS
     XXXVIII. AT SHANDY'S
     XXXIX.   ON THE MARSHES
     XL.      "DON'T GO ON WITH THIS"
     XLI.     SHE WOULD DO SOMETHING
     XLII.    IN THE BALLROOM
     XLIII.   HIS CHANCE
     XLIV.    A FOOTSTEP
     XLV.     THE PASSING BELL
     XLVI.    LISTENING
     XLVII.   "I HAVE NO WORD OR LOOK TO REMEMBER"
     XLVIII.  THE MOMENT
     XLIX.    AT STORNHAM AND AT BROADMORLANDS
     L.       THE PRIMEVAL THING





THE SHUTTLE




CHAPTER I

THE WEAVING OF THE SHUTTLE

No man knew when the Shuttle began its slow and heavy weaving from shore
to shore, that it was held and guided by the great hand of Fate. Fate
alone saw the meaning of the web it wove, the might of it, and its place
in the making of a world's history. Men thought but little of either web
or weaving, calling them by other names and lighter ones, for the time
unconscious of the strength of the thread thrown across thousands of
miles of leaping, heaving, grey or blue ocean.

Fate and Life planned the weaving, and it seemed mere circumstance
which guided the Shuttle to and fro between two worlds divided by a gulf
broader and deeper than the thousands of miles of salt, fierce sea--the
gulf of a bitter quarrel deepened by hatred and the shedding of
brothers' blood. Between the two worlds of East and West there was no
will to draw nearer. Each held apart. Those who had rebelled against
that which their souls called tyranny, having struggled madly and
shed blood in tearing themselves free, turned stern backs upon their
unconquered enemies, broke all cords that bound them to the past,
flinging off ties of name, kinship and rank, beginning with fierce
disdain a new life.

Those who, being rebelled against, found the rebels too passionate
in their determination and too desperate in their defence of their
strongholds to be less than unconquerable, sailed back haughtily to the
world which seemed so far the greater power. Plunging into new battles,
they added new conquests and splendour to their land, looking back with
something of contempt to the half-savage West left to build its own
civilisation without other aid than the strength of its own strong right
hand and strong uncultured brain.

But while the two worlds held apart, the Shuttle, weaving slowly in the
great hand of Fate, drew them closer and held them firm, each of them
all unknowing for many a year, that what had at first been mere threads
of gossamer, was forming a web whose strength in time none could
compute, whose severance could be accomplished but by tragedy and
convulsion.

The weaving was but in its early and slow-moving years when this
story opens. Steamers crossed and recrossed the Atlantic, but they
accomplished the journey at leisure and with heavy rollings and all such
discomforts as small craft can afford. Their staterooms and decks were
not crowded with people to whom the voyage was a mere incident--in many
cases a yearly one. "A crossing" in those days was an event. It was
planned seriously, long thought of, discussed and re-discussed, with and
among the various members of the family to which the voyager belonged.
A certain boldness, bordering on recklessness, was almost to be
presupposed in the individual who, turning his back upon New York,
Philadelphia, Boston, and like cities, turned his face towards "Europe."
In those days when the Shuttle wove at leisure, a man did not lightly
run over to London, or Paris, or Berlin, he gravely went to "Europe."

The journey being likely to be made once in a lifetime, the traveller's
intention was to see as much as possible, to visit as many cities
cathedrals, ruins, galleries, as his time and purse would allow. People
who could speak with any degree of familiarity of Hyde Park, the Champs
Elysees, the Pincio, had gained a certain dignity. The ability to touch
with an intimate bearing upon such localities was a raison de plus for
being asked out to tea or to dinner. To possess photographs and relics
was to be of interest, to have seen European celebrities even at a
distance, to have wandered about the outside of poets' gardens and
philosophers' houses, was to be entitled to respect. The period was a
far cry from the time when the Shuttle, having shot to and fro, faster
and faster, week by week, month by month, weaving new threads into its
web each year, has woven warp and woof until they bind far shore to
shore.

It was in comparatively early days that the first thread we follow
was woven into the web. Many such have been woven since and have
added greater strength than any others, twining the cord of sex and
home-building and race-founding. But this was a slight and weak
one, being only the thread of the life of one of Reuben Vanderpoel's
daughters--the pretty little simple one whose name was Rosalie.

They were--the Vanderpoels--of the Americans whose fortunes were a
portion of the history of their country. The building of these fortunes
had been a part of, or had created epochs and crises. Their millions
could scarcely be regarded as private property. Newspapers bandied them
about, so to speak, employing them as factors in argument, using them
as figures of speech, incorporating them into methods of calculation.
Literature touched upon them, moral systems considered them, stories for
the young treated them gravely as illustrative.

The first Reuben Vanderpoel, who in early days of danger had traded with
savages for the pelts of wild animals, was the lauded hero of stories
of thrift and enterprise. Throughout his hard-working life he had been
irresistibly impelled to action by an absolute genius of commerce,
expressing itself at the outset by the exhibition of courage in mere
exchange and barter. An alert power to perceive the potential value of
things and the possible malleability of men and circumstances, had stood
him in marvellous good stead. He had bought at low prices things which
in the eyes of the less discerning were worthless, but, having obtained
possession of such things, the less discerning had almost invariably
awakened to the fact that, in his hands, values increased, and methods
of remunerative disposition, being sought, were found. Nothing remained
unutilisable. The practical, sordid, uneducated little man developed the
power to create demand for his own supplies. If he was betrayed into
an error, he quickly retrieved it. He could live upon nothing and
consequently could travel anywhere in search of such things as he
desired. He could barely read and write, and could not spell, but he was
daring and astute. His untaught brain was that of a financier, his blood
burned with the fever of but one desire--the desire to accumulate. Money
expressed to his nature, not expenditure, but investment in such small
or large properties as could be resold at profit in the near or far
future. The future held fascinations for him. He bought nothing for his
own pleasure or comfort, nothing which could not be sold or bartered
again. He married a woman who was a trader's daughter and shared his
passion for gain. She was of North of England blood, her father having
been a hard-fisted small tradesman in an unimportant town, who had been
daring enough to emigrate when emigration meant the facing of unknown
dangers in a half-savage land. She had excited Reuben Vanderpoel's
admiration by taking off her petticoat one bitter winter's day to sell
it to a squaw in exchange for an ornament for which she chanced to know
another squaw would pay with a skin of value. The first Mrs. Vanderpoel
was as wonderful as her husband. They were both wonderful. They were
the founders of the fortune which a century and a half later was the
delight--in fact the piece de resistance--of New York society reporters,
its enormity being restated in round figures when a blank space must be
filled up. The method of statement lent itself to infinite variety and
was always interesting to a particular class, some elements of which
felt it encouraging to be assured that so much money could be a personal
possession, some elements feeling the fact an additional argument to be
used against the infamy of monopoly.

The first Reuben Vanderpoel transmitted to his son his accumulations and
his fever for gain. He had but one child. The second Reuben built upon
the foundations this afforded him, a fortune as much larger than the
first as the rapid growth and increasing capabilities of the country
gave him enlarging opportunities to acquire. It was no longer necessary
to deal with savages: his powers were called upon to cope with those
of white men who came to a new country to struggle for livelihood and
fortune. Some were shrewd, some were desperate, some were dishonest. But
shrewdness never outwitted, desperation never overcame, dishonesty never
deceived the second Reuben Vanderpoel. Each characteristic ended by
adapting itself to his own purposes and qualities, and as a result of
each it was he who in any business transaction was the gainer. It was
the common saying that the Vanderpoels were possessed of a money-making
spell. Their spell lay in their entire mental and physical absorption in
one idea. Their peculiarity was not so much that they wished to be rich
as that Nature itself impelled them to collect wealth as the load-stone
draws towards it iron. Having possessed nothing, they became rich,
having become rich they became richer, having founded their fortunes
on small schemes, they increased them by enormous ones. In time they
attained that omnipotence of wealth which it would seem no circumstance
can control or limit. The first Reuben Vanderpoel could not spell, the
second could, the third was as well educated as a man could be whose
sole profession is money-making. His children were taught all that
expensive teachers and expensive opportunities could teach them. After
the second generation the meagre and mercantile physical type of the
Vanderpoels improved upon itself. Feminine good looks appeared and were
made the most of. The Vanderpoel element invested even good looks to an
advantage. The fourth Reuben Vanderpoel had no son and two daughters.
They were brought up in a brown-stone mansion built upon a fashionable
New York thoroughfare roaring with traffic. To the farthest point of
the Rocky Mountains the number of dollars this "mansion" (it was always
called so) had cost, was known. There may have existed Pueblo Indians
who had heard rumours of the price of it. All the shop-keepers and
farmers in the United States had read newspaper descriptions of its
furnishings and knew the value of the brocade which hung in the bedrooms
and boudoirs of the Misses Vanderpoel. It was a fact much cherished that
Miss Rosalie's bath was of Carrara marble, and to good souls actively
engaged in doing their own washing in small New England or Western
towns, it was a distinct luxury to be aware that the water in the
Carrara marble bath was perfumed with Florentine Iris. Circumstances
such as these seemed to become personal possessions and even to lighten
somewhat the burden of toil.

Rosalie Vanderpoel married an Englishman of title, and part of the
story of her married life forms my prologue. Hers was of the early
international marriages, and the republican mind had not yet adjusted
itself to all that such alliances might imply. It was yet ingenuous,
imaginative and confiding in such matters. A baronetcy and a manor house
reigning over an old English village and over villagers in possible
smock frocks, presented elements of picturesque dignity to people whose
intimacy with such allurements had been limited by the novels of Mrs.
Oliphant and other writers. The most ordinary little anecdotes in which
vicarages, gamekeepers, and dowagers figured, were exciting in these
early days. "Sir Nigel Anstruthers," when engraved upon a visiting card,
wore an air of distinction almost startling. Sir Nigel himself was
not as picturesque as his name, though he was not entirely without
attraction, when for reasons of his own he chose to aim at agreeableness
of bearing. He was a man with a good figure and a good voice, and but
for a heaviness of feature the result of objectionable living, might
have given the impression of being better looking than he really was.
New York laid amused and at the same time, charmed stress upon the fact
that he spoke with an "English accent." His enunciation was in fact
clear cut and treated its vowels well. He was a man who observed with an
air of accustomed punctiliousness such social rules and courtesies as he
deemed it expedient to consider. An astute worldling had remarked that
he was at once more ceremonious and more casual in his manner than men
bred in America.

"If you invite him to dinner," the wording said, "or if you die,
or marry, or meet with an accident, his notes of condolence or
congratulation are prompt and civil, but the actual truth is that he
cares nothing whatever about you or your relations, and if you don't
please him he does not hesitate to sulk or be astonishingly rude, which
last an American does not allow himself to be, as a rule."

By many people Sir Nigel was not analysed, but accepted. He was of the
early English who came to New York, and was a novelty of interest, with
his background of Manor House and village and old family name. He was
very much talked of at vivacious ladies' luncheon parties, he was very
much talked to at equally vivacious afternoon teas. At dinner parties he
was furtively watched a good deal, but after dinner when he sat with
the men over their wine, he was not popular. He was not perhaps exactly
disliked, but men whose chief interest at that period lay in stocks
and railroads, did not find conversation easy with a man whose sole
occupation had been the shooting of birds and the hunting of foxes,
when he was not absolutely loitering about London, with his time on his
hands. The stories he told--and they were few--were chiefly anecdotes
whose points gained their humour by the fact that a man was a comically
bad shot or bad rider and either peppered a gamekeeper or was thrown
into a ditch when his horse went over a hedge, and such relations
did not increase in the poignancy of their interest by being filtered
through brains accustomed to applying their powers to problems of
speculation and commerce. He was not so dull but that he perceived
this at an early stage of his visit to New York, which was probably the
reason of the infrequency of his stories.

He on his side was naturally not quick to rise to the humour of a "big
deal" or a big blunder made on Wall Street--or to the wit of jokes
concerning them. Upon the whole he would have been glad to have
understood such matters more clearly. His circumstances were such as
had at last forced him to contemplate the world of money-makers with
something of an annoyed respect. "These fellows" who had neither
titles nor estates to keep up could make money. He, as he acknowledged
disgustedly to himself, was much worse than a beggar. There was Stornham
Court in a state of ruin--the estate going to the dogs, the farmhouses
tumbling to pieces and he, so to speak, without a sixpence to bless
himself with, and head over heels in debt. Englishmen of the rank which
in bygone times had not associated itself with trade had begun at least
to trifle with it--to consider its potentialities as factors possibly
to be made useful by the aristocracy. Countesses had not yet spiritedly
opened milliners' shops, nor belted Earls adorned the stage, but certain
noblemen had dallied with beer and coquetted with stocks. One of
the first commercial developments had been the discovery of
America--particularly of New York--as a place where if one could make up
one's mind to the plunge, one might marry one's sons profitably. At
the outset it presented a field so promising as to lead to rashness and
indiscretion on the part of persons not given to analysis of character
and in consequence relying too serenely upon an ingenuousness which
rather speedily revealed that it had its limits. Ingenuousness combining
itself with remarkable alertness of perception on occasion, is
rather American than English, and is, therefore, to the English mind,
misleading.

At first younger sons, who "gave trouble" to their families, were sent
out. Their names, their backgrounds of castles or manors, relatives of
distinction, London seasons, fox hunting, Buckingham Palace and Goodwood
Races, formed a picturesque allurement. That the castles and manors
would belong to their elder brothers, that the relatives of distinction
did not encourage intimacy with swarms of the younger branches of their
families; that London seasons, hunting, and racing were for their elders
and betters, were facts not realised in all their importance by the
republican mind. In the course of time they were realised to the full,
but in Rosalie Vanderpoel's nineteenth year they covered what was at
that time almost unknown territory. One may rest assured Sir Nigel
Anstruthers said nothing whatsoever in New York of an interview he had
had before sailing with an intensely disagreeable great-aunt, who was
the wife of a Bishop. She was a horrible old woman with a broad face,
blunt features and a raucous voice, whose tones added acridity to
her observations when she was indulging in her favourite pastime of
interfering with the business of her acquaintances and relations.

"I do not know what you are going chasing off to America for, Nigel,"
she commented. "You can't afford it and it is perfectly ridiculous of
you to take it upon yourself to travel for pleasure as if you were a man
of means instead of being in such a state of pocket that Maria tells me
you cannot pay your tailor. Neither the Bishop nor I can do anything
for you and I hope you don't expect it. All I can hope is that you know
yourself what you are going to America in search of, and that it is
something more practical than buffaloes. You had better stop in New
York. Those big shopkeepers' daughters are enormously rich, they say,
and they are immensely pleased by attentions from men of your class.
They say they'll marry anything if it has an aunt or a grandmother with
a title. You can mention the Marchioness, you know. You need not refer
to the fact that she thought your father a blackguard and your mother an
interloper, and that you have never been invited to Broadmere since you
were born. You can refer casually to me and to the Bishop and to the
Palace, too. A Palace--even a Bishop's--ought to go a long way with
Americans. They will think it is something royal." She ended her remarks
with one of her most insulting snorts of laughter, and Sir Nigel became
dark red and looked as if he would like to knock her down.

It was not, however, her sentiments which were particularly revolting to
him. If she had expressed them in a manner more flattering to himself he
would have felt that there was a good deal to be said for them. In
fact, he had put the same thing to himself some time previously, and, in
summing up the American matter, had reached certain thrifty decisions.
The impulse to knock her down surged within him solely because he had a
brutally bad temper when his vanity was insulted, and he was furious at
her impudence in speaking to him as if he were a villager out of work
whom she was at liberty to bully and lecture.

"For a woman who is supposed to have been born of gentle people," he
said to his mother afterwards, "Aunt Marian is the most vulgar old beast
I have ever beheld. She has the taste of a female costermonger." Which
was entirely true, but it might be added that his own was no better and
his points of view and morals wholly coincided with his taste.

Naturally Rosalie Vanderpoel knew nothing of this side of the matter.
She had been a petted, butterfly child, who had been pretty and admired
and indulged from her infancy; she had grown up into a petted, butterfly
girl, pretty and admired and surrounded by inordinate luxury. Her world
had been made up of good-natured, lavish friends and relations, who
enjoyed themselves and felt a delight in her girlish toilettes and
triumphs. She had spent her one season of belledom in being whirled from
festivity to festivity, in dancing in rooms festooned with thousands of
dollars' worth of flowers, in lunching or dining at tables loaded with
roses and violets and orchids, from which ballrooms or feasts she had
borne away wonderful "favours" and gifts, whose prices, being recorded
in the newspapers, caused a thrill of delight or envy to pass over the
land. She was a slim little creature, with quantities of light feathery
hair like a French doll's. She had small hands and small feet and a
small waist--a small brain also, it must be admitted, but she was an
innocent, sweet-tempered girl with a childlike simpleness of mind.
In fine, she was exactly the girl to find Sir Nigel's domineering
temperament at once imposing and attractive, so long as it was cloaked
by the ceremonies of external good breeding.

Her sister Bettina, who was still a child, was of a stronger and less
susceptible nature. Betty--at eight--had long legs and a square but
delicate small face. Her well-opened steel-blue eyes were noticeable
for rather extravagant ink-black lashes and a straight young stare
which seemed to accuse if not to condemn. She was being educated at
a ruinously expensive school with a number of other inordinately rich
little girls, who were all too wonderfully dressed and too lavishly
supplied with pocket money. The school considered itself especially
refined and select, but was in fact interestingly vulgar.

The inordinately rich little girls, who had most of them pretty and
spiritual or pretty and piquant faces, ate a great many bon bons and
chattered a great deal in high unmodulated voices about the parties
their sisters and other relatives went to and the dresses they wore.
Some of them were nice little souls, who in the future would emerge from
their chrysalis state enchanting women, but they used colloquialisms
freely, and had an ingenuous habit of referring to the prices of
things. Bettina Vanderpoel, who was the richest and cleverest and most
promisingly handsome among them, was colloquial to slanginess, but she
had a deep, mellow, child voice and an amazing carriage.

She could not endure Sir Nigel Anstruthers, and, being an American
child, did not hesitate to express herself with force, if with some
crudeness. "He's a hateful thing," she said, "I loathe him. He's stuck
up and he thinks you are afraid of him and he likes it."

Sir Nigel had known only English children, little girls who lived in
that discreet corner of their parents' town or country houses known
as "the schoolroom," apparently emerging only for daily walks with
governesses; girls with long hair and boys in little high hats and with
faces which seemed curiously made to match them. Both boys and girls
were decently kept out of the way and not in the least dwelt on except
when brought out for inspection during the holidays and taken to the
pantomime.

Sir Nigel had not realised that an American child was an absolute factor
to be counted with, and a "youngster" who entered the drawing-room when
she chose and joined fearlessly in adult conversation was an element he
considered annoying. It was quite true that Bettina talked too much
and too readily at times, but it had not been explained to her that
the opinions of eight years are not always of absorbing interest to the
mature. It was also true that Sir Nigel was a great fool for interfering
with what was clearly no affair of his in such a manner as would have
made him an enemy even had not the child's instinct arrayed her against
him at the outset.

"You American youngsters are too cheeky," he said on one of the
occasions when Betty had talked too much. "If you were my sister and
lived at Stornham Court, you would be learning lessons in the schoolroom
and wearing a pinafore. Nobody ever saw my sister Emily when she was
your age."

"Well, I'm not your sister Emily," retorted Betty, "and I guess I'm glad
of it."

It was rather impudent of her, but it must be confessed that she was
not infrequently rather impudent in a rude little-girl way, but she was
serenely unconscious of the fact.

Sir Nigel flushed darkly and laughed a short, unpleasant laugh. If she
had been his sister Emily she would have fared ill at the moment, for
his villainous temper would have got the better of him.

"I 'guess' that I may be congratulated too," he sneered.

"If I was going to be anybody's sister Emily," said Betty, excited a
little by the sense of the fray, "I shouldn't want to be yours."

"Now Betty, don't be hateful," interposed Rosalie, laughing, and her
laugh was nervous. "There's Mina Thalberg coming up the front steps. Go
and meet her."

Rosalie, poor girl, always found herself nervous when Sir Nigel and
Betty were in the room together. She instinctively recognised their
antagonism and was afraid Betty would do something an English baronet
would think vulgar. Her simple brain could not have explained to her
why it was that she knew Sir Nigel often thought New Yorkers vulgar. She
was, however, quite aware of this but imperfectly concealed fact, and
felt a timid desire to be explanatory.

When Bettina marched out of the room with her extraordinary carriage
finely manifest, Rosy's little laugh was propitiatory.

"You mustn't mind her," she said. "She's a real splendid little thing,
but she's got a quick temper. It's all over in a minute."

"They wouldn't stand that sort of thing in England," said Sir Nigel.
"She's deucedly spoiled, you know."

He detested the child. He disliked all children, but this one awakened
in him more than mere dislike. The fact was that though Betty herself
was wholly unconscious of the subtle truth, the as yet undeveloped
intellect which later made her a brilliant and captivating personality,
vaguely saw him as he was, an unscrupulous, sordid brute, as remorseless
an adventurer and swindler in his special line, as if he had been
engaged in drawing false cheques and arranging huge jewel robberies,
instead of planning to entrap into a disadvantageous marriage a girl
whose gentleness and fortune could be used by a blackguard of reputable
name. The man was cold-blooded enough to see that her gentle weakness
was of value because it could be bullied, her money was to be counted on
because it could be spent on himself and his degenerate vices and on his
racked and ruined name and estate, which must be rebuilt and restocked
at an early date by someone or other, lest they tumbled into ignominious
collapse which could not be concealed. Bettina of the accusing eyes did
not know that in the depth of her yet crude young being, instinct was
summing up for her the potentialities of an unusually fine specimen of
the British blackguard, but this was nevertheless the interesting truth.
When later she was told that her sister had become engaged to Sir
Nigel Anstruthers, a flame of colour flashed over her face, she stared
silently a moment, then bit her lip and burst into tears.

"Well, Bett," exclaimed Rosalie, "you are the queerest thing I ever
saw."

Bettina's tears were an outburst, not a flow. She swept them away
passionately with her small handkerchief.

"He'll do something awful to you," she said. "He'll nearly kill you. I
know he will. I'd rather be dead myself."

She dashed out of the room, and could never be induced to say a word
further about the matter. She would indeed have found it impossible to
express her intense antipathy and sense of impending calamity. She had
not the phrases to make herself clear even to herself, and after all
what controlling effort can one produce when one is only eight years
old?




CHAPTER II

A LACK OF PERCEPTION

Mercantile as Americans were proclaimed to be, the opinion of Sir
Nigel Anstruthers was that they were, on some points, singularly
unbusinesslike. In the perfectly obvious and simple matter of the
settlement of his daughter's fortune, he had felt that Reuben Vanderpoel
was obtuse to the point of idiocy. He seemed to have none of the
ordinary points of view. Naturally there was to Anstruthers' mind but
one point of view to take. A man of birth and rank, he argued, does not
career across the Atlantic to marry a New York millionaire's daughter
unless he anticipates deriving some advantage from the alliance. Such
a man--being of Anstruthers' type--would not have married a rich woman
even in his own country with out making sure that advantages were to
accrue to himself as a result of the union. "In England," to use his
own words, "there was no nonsense about it." Women's fortunes as well as
themselves belonged to their husbands, and a man who was master in his
own house could make his wife do as he chose. He had seen girls with
money managed very satisfactorily by fellows who held a tight rein, and
were not moved by tears, and did not allow talking to relations. If
he had been desirous of marrying and could have afforded to take a
penniless wife, there were hundreds of portionless girls ready to thank
God for a decent chance to settle themselves for life, and one need not
stir out of one's native land to find them.

But Sir Nigel had not in the least desired to saddle himself with a
domestic encumbrance, in fact nothing would have induced him to consider
the step if he had not been driven hard by circumstances. His fortunes
had reached a stage where money must be forthcoming somehow--from
somewhere. He and his mother had been living from hand to mouth, so to
speak, for years, and they had also been obliged to keep up appearances,
which is sometimes embittering even to persons of amiable tempers. Lady
Anstruthers, it is true, had lived in the country in as niggardly
a manner as possible. She had narrowed her existence to absolute
privation, presenting at the same time a stern, bold front to the
persons who saw her, to the insufficient staff of servants, to the
village to the vicar and his wife, and the few far-distant neighbours
who perhaps once a year drove miles to call or leave a card. She was an
old woman sufficiently unattractive to find no difficulty in the way
of limiting her acquaintances. The unprepossessing wardrobe she had
gathered in the passing years was remade again and again by the village
dressmaker. She wore dingy old silk gowns and appalling bonnets, and
mantles dripping with rusty fringes and bugle beads, but these mitigated
not in the least the unflinching arrogance of her bearing, or the
simple, intolerant rudeness which she considered proper and becoming
in persons like herself. She did not of course allow that there existed
many persons like herself.

That society rejoiced in this fact was but the stamp of its inferiority
and folly. While she pinched herself and harried her few hirelings at
Stornham it was necessary for Sir Nigel to show himself in town and
present as decent an appearance as possible. His vanity was far too
arrogant to allow of his permitting himself to drop out of the world to
which he could not afford to belong. That he should have been forgotten
or ignored would have been intolerable to him. For a few years he was
invited to dine at good houses, and got shooting and hunting as part
of the hospitality of his acquaintances. But a man who cannot afford to
return hospitalities will find that he need not expect to avail himself
of those of his acquaintances to the end of his career unless he is an
extremely engaging person. Sir Nigel Anstruthers was not an engaging
person. He never gave a thought to the comfort or interest of any other
human being than himself. He was also dominated by the kind of nasty
temper which so reveals itself when let loose that its owner cannot
control it even when it would be distinctly to his advantage to do so.

Finding that he had nothing to give in return for what he took as if it
were his right, society gradually began to cease to retain any lively
recollection of his existence. The tradespeople he had borne himself
loftily towards awakened to the fact that he was the kind of man it was
at once safe and wise to dun, and therefore proceeded to make his life
a burden to him. At his clubs he had never been a member surrounded and
rejoiced over when he made his appearance. The time came when he began
to fancy that he was rather edged away from, and he endeavoured to
sustain his dignity by being sulky and making caustic speeches when he
was approached. Driven occasionally down to Stornham by actual pressure
of circumstances, he found the outlook there more embittering still.

Lady Anstruthers laid the bareness of the land before him without any
effort to palliate unpleasantness. If he chose to stalk about and look
glum, she could sit still and call his attention to revolting truths
which he could not deny. She could point out to him that he had no
money, and that tenants would not stay in houses which were tumbling to
pieces, and work land which had been starved. She could tell him just
how long a time had elapsed since wages had been paid and accounts
cleared off. And she had an engaging, unbiassed way of seeming to drive
these maddening details home by the mere manner of her statement.

"You make the whole thing as damned disagreeable as you can," Nigel
would snarl.

"I merely state facts," she would reply with acrid serenity.

A man who cannot keep up his estate, pay his tailor or the rent of his
lodgings in town, is in a strait which may drive him to desperation.
Sir Nigel Anstruthers borrowed some money, went to New York and made his
suit to nice little silly Rosalie Vanderpoel.

But the whole thing was unexpectedly disappointing and surrounded by
irritating circumstances. He found himself face to face with a state of
affairs such as he had not contemplated. In England when a man married,
certain practical matters could be inquired into and arranged by
solicitors, the amount of the prospective bride's fortune, the
allowances and settlements to be made, the position of the bridegroom
with regard to pecuniary matters. To put it simply, a man found out
where he stood and what he was to gain. But, at first to his sardonic
entertainment and later to his disgusted annoyance, Sir Nigel gradually
discovered that in the matter of marriage, Americans had an ingenuous
tendency to believe in the sentimental feelings of the parties
concerned. The general impression seemed to be that a man married purely
for love, and that delicacy would make it impossible for him to ask
questions as to what his bride's parents were in a position to hand
over to him as a sort of indemnity for the loss of his bachelor freedom.
Anstruthers began to discover this fact before he had been many weeks
in New York. He reached the realisation of its existence by processes of
exclusion and inclusion, by hearing casual remarks people let drop, by
asking roundabout and careful questions, by leading both men and women
to the innocent expounding of certain points of view. Millionaires, it
appeared, did not expect to make allowances to men who married their
daughters; young women, it transpired, did not in the least realise that
a man should be liberally endowed in payment for assuming the duties
of a husband. If rich fathers made allowances, they made them to their
daughters themselves, who disposed of them as they pleased. In this
case, of course, Sir Nigel privately argued with fine acumen, it became
the husband's business to see that what his wife pleased should be what
most agreeably coincided with his own views and conveniences.

His most illuminating experience had been the hearing of some men,
hard-headed, rich stockbrokers with a vulgar sense of humour, enjoying
themselves quite uproariously one night at a club, over a story one
of them was relating of an unsatisfactory German son-in-law who had
demanded an income. He was a man of small title, who had married the
narrator's daughter, and after some months spent in his father-in-law's
house, had felt it but proper that his financial position should be put
on a practical footing.

"He brought her back after the bridal tour to make us a visit," said the
storyteller, a sharp-featured man with a quaint wry mouth, which seemed
to express a perpetual, repressed appreciation of passing events. "I had
nothing to say against that, because we were all glad to see her home
and her mother had been missing her. But weeks passed and months passed
and there was no mention made of them going over to settle in the
Slosh we'd heard so much of, and in time it came out that the Slosh
thing"--Anstruthers realised with gall in his soul that the "brute,"
as he called him, meant "Schloss," and that his mispronunciation was
at once a matter of humour and derision--"wasn't his at all. It was his
elder brother's. The whole lot of them were counts and not one of them
seemed to own a dime. The Slosh count hadn't more than twenty-five cents
and he wasn't the kind to deal any of it out to his family. So Lily's
count would have to go clerking in a dry goods store, if he promised to
support himself. But he didn't propose to do it. He thought he'd got on
to a soft thing. Of course we're an easy-going lot and we should have
stood him if he'd been a nice fellow. But he wasn't. Lily's mother used
to find her crying in her bedroom and it came out by degrees that it was
because Adolf had been quarrelling with her and saying sneering things
about her family. When her mother talked to him he was insulting. Then
bills began to come in and Lily was expected to get me to pay them. And
they were not the kind of bills a decent fellow calls on another man to
pay. But I did it five or six times to make it easy for her. I didn't
tell her that they gave an older chap than himself sidelights on the
situation. But that didn't work well. He thought I did it because I had
to, and he began to feel free and easy about it, and didn't try to cover
up his tracks so much when he sent in a new lot. He was always working
Lily. He began to consider himself master of the house. He intimated
that a private carriage ought to be kept for them. He said it was
beggarly that he should have to consider the rest of the family when he
wanted to go out. When I got on to the situation, I began to enjoy it.
I let him spread himself for a while just to see what he would do. Good
Lord! I couldn't have believed that any fellow could have thought any
other fellow could be such a fool as he thought I was. He went perfectly
crazy after a month or so and ordered me about and patronised me as if I
was a bootblack he meant to teach something to. So at last I had a talk
with Lily and told her I was going to put an end to it. Of course she
cried and was half frightened to death, but by that time he had ill-used
her so that she only wanted to get rid of him. So I sent for him and had
a talk with him in my office. I led him on to saying all he had on his
mind. He explained to me what a condescension it was for a man like
himself to marry a girl like Lily. He made a dignified, touching picture
of all the disadvantages of such an alliance and all the advantages they
ought to bring in exchange to the man who bore up under them. I rubbed
my head and looked worried every now and then and cleared my throat
apologetically just to warm him up. I can tell you that fellow felt
happy, downright happy when he saw how humbly I listened to him. He
positively swelled up with hope and comfort. He thought I was going to
turn out well, real well. I was going to pay up just as a vulgar New
York father-in-law ought to do, and thank God for the blessed privilege.
Why, he was real eloquent about his blood and his ancestors and the
hoary-headed Slosh. So when he'd finished, I cleared my throat in
a nervous, ingratiating kind of way again and I asked him kind of
anxiously what he thought would be the proper thing for a base-born New
York millionaire to do under the circumstances--what he would approve of
himself."

Sir Nigel was disgusted to see the narrator twist his mouth into a
sweet, shrewd, repressed grin even as he expectorated into the nearest
receptacle. The grin was greeted by a shout of laughter from his
companions.

"What did he say, Stebbins?" someone cried.

"He said," explained Mr. Stebbins deliberately, "he said that an
allowance was the proper thing. He said that a man of his rank must have
resources, and that it wasn't dignified for him to have to ask his wife
or his wife's father for money when he wanted it. He said an allowance
was what he felt he had a right to expect. And then he twisted his
moustache and said, 'what proposition' did I make--what would I allow
him?"

The storyteller's hearers evidently knew him well. Their laughter was
louder than before.

"Let's hear the rest, Joe! Let's hear it!"

"Well," replied Mr. Stebbins almost thoughtfully, "I just got up and
said, 'Well, it won't take long for me to answer that. I've always
been fond of my children, and Lily is rather my pet. She's always had
everything she wanted, and she always shall. She's a good girl and she
deserves it. I'll allow you----" The significant deliberation of his
drawl could scarcely be described. "I'll allow you just five minutes to
get out of this room, before I kick you out, and if I kick you out of
the room, I'll kick you down the stairs, and if I kick you down the
stairs, I shall have got my blood comfortably warmed up and I'll kick
you down the street and round the block and down to Hoboken, because
you're going to take the steamer there and go back to the place you came
from, to the Slosh thing or whatever you call it. We haven't a damned
bit of use for you here.' And believe it or not, gentlemen----" looking
round with the wry-mouthed smile, "he took that passage and back he
went. And Lily's living with her mother and I mean to hold on to her."

Sir Nigel got up and left the club when the story was finished. He took
a long walk down Broadway, gnawing his lip and holding his head in the
air. He used blasphemous language at intervals in a low voice. Some of
it was addressed to his fate and some of it to the vulgar mercantile
coarseness and obtuseness of other people.

"They don't know what they are talking of," he said. "It is unheard of.
What do they expect? I never thought of this. Damn it! I'm like a rat in
a trap."

It was plain enough that he could not arrange his fortune as he had
anticipated when he decided to begin to make love to little pink and
white, doll-faced Rosy Vanderpoel. If he began to demand monetary
advantages in his dealing with his future wife's people in their
settlement of her fortune, he might arouse suspicion and inquiry. He
did not want inquiry either in connection with his own means or his past
manner of living. People who hated him would be sure to crop up with
stories of things better left alone. There were always meddling fools
ready to interfere.

His walk was long and full of savage thinking. Once or twice as he
realised what the disinterestedness of his sentiments was supposed to
be, a short laugh broke from him which was rather like the snort of the
Bishopess.

"I am supposed to be moonstruck over a simpering American
chit--moonstruck! Damn!" But when he returned to his hotel he had made
up his mind and was beginning to look over the situation in evil cold
blood. Matters must be settled without delay and he was shrewd enough to
realise that with his temper and its varied resources a timid girl
would not be difficult to manage. He had seen at an early stage of their
acquaintance that Rosy was greatly impressed by the superiority of
his bearing, that he could make her blush with embarrassment when he
conveyed to her that she had made a mistake, that he could chill her
miserably when he chose to assume a lofty stiffness. A man's domestic
armoury was filled with weapons if he could make a woman feel gauche,
inexperienced, in the wrong. When he was safely married, he could pave
the way to what he felt was the only practical and feasible end.

If he had been marrying a woman with more brains, she would be more
difficult to subdue, but with Rosalie Vanderpoel, processes were
not necessary. If you shocked, bewildered or frightened her with
accusations, sulks, or sneers, her light, innocent head was set in such
a whirl that the rest was easy. It was possible, upon the whole, that
the thing might not turn out so infernally ill after all. Supposing that
it had been Bettina who had been the marriageable one! Appreciating to
the full the many reasons for rejoicing that she had not been, he walked
in gloomy reflection home.



CHAPTER III

YOUNG LADY ANSTRUTHERS

When the marriage took place the event was accompanied by an ingenuously
elate flourish of trumpets. Miss Vanderpoel's frocks were multitudinous
and wonderful, as also her jewels purchased at Tiffany's. She carried
a thousand trunks--more or less--across the Atlantic. When the ship
steamed away from the dock, the wharf was like a flower garden in the
blaze of brilliant and delicate attire worn by the bevy of relatives and
intimates who stood waving their handkerchiefs and laughingly calling
out farewell good wishes.

Sir Nigel's mental attitude was not a sympathetic or admiring one as
he stood by his bride's side looking back. If Rosy's half happy,
half tearful excitement had left her the leisure to reflect on his
expression, she would not have felt it encouraging.

"What a deuce of a row Americans make," he said even before they were
out of hearing of the voices. "It will be a positive rest to be in a
country where the women do not cackle and shriek with laughter."

He said it with that simple rudeness which at times professed to be
almost impersonal, and which Rosalie had usually tried to believe was
the outcome of a kind of cool British humour. But this time she started
a little at his words.

"I suppose we do make more noise than English people," she admitted
a second or so later. "I wonder why?" And without waiting for an
answer--somewhat as if she had not expected or quite wanted one--she
leaned a little farther over the side to look back, waving her small,
fluttering handkerchief to the many still in tumult on the wharf. She
was not perceptive or quick enough to take offence, to realise that the
remark was significant and that Sir Nigel had already begun as he meant
to go on. It was far from being his intention to play the part of an
American husband, who was plainly a creature in whom no authority vested
itself. Americans let their women say and do anything, and were capable
of fetching and carrying for them. He had seen a man run upstairs for
his wife's wrap, cheerfully, without the least apparent sense that
the service was the part of a footman if there was one in the house, a
parlour maid if there was not. Sir Nigel had been brought up in the good
Early Victorian days when "a nice little woman to fetch your slippers
for you" figured in certain circles as domestic bliss. Girls were
educated to fetch slippers as retrievers were trained to go into the
water after sticks, and terriers to bring back balls thrown for them.

The new Lady Anstruthers had, it supervened, several opportunities to
obtain a new view of her bridegroom's character before their voyage
across the Atlantic was over. At this period of the slower and more
cumbrous weaving of the Shuttle, the world had not yet awakened even to
the possibilities of the ocean greyhound. An Atlantic voyage at times
was capable of offering to a bride and bridegroom days enough to begin
to glance into their future with a premonition of the waning of the
honeymoon, at least, and especially if they were not sea-proof, to wish
wearily that the first half of it were over. Rosalie was not weary, but
she began to be bewildered. As she had never been a clever girl or quick
to perceive, and had spent her life among women-indulging American men,
she was not prepared with any precedent which made her situation clear.
The first time Sir Nigel showed his temper to her she simply stared at
him, her eyes looking like those of a puzzled, questioning child. Then
she broke into her nervous little laugh, because she did not know what
else to do. At his second outbreak her stare was rather startled and she
did not laugh.

Her first awakening was to an anxious wonderment concerning certain
moods of gloom, or what seemed to be gloom, to which he seemed prone. As
she lay in her steamer chair he would at times march stiffly up and
down the deck, apparently aware of no other existence than his own,
his features expressing a certain clouded resentment of whose very
unexplainableness she secretly stood in awe. She was not astute enough,
poor girl, to leave him alone, and when with innocent questionings she
endeavoured to discover his trouble, the greatest mystification she
encountered was that he had the power to make her feel that she was in
some way taking a liberty, and showing her lack of tact and perspicuity.

"Is anything the matter, Nigel?" she asked at first, wondering if she
were guilty of silliness in trying to slip her hand into his. She was
sure she had been when he answered her.

"No," he said chillingly.

"I don't believe you are happy," she returned. "Somehow you seem so--so
different."

"I have reasons for being depressed," he replied, and it was with a
stiff finality which struck a note of warning to her, signifying that it
would be better taste in her to put an end to her simple efforts.

She vaguely felt herself put in the wrong, and he preferred that it
should be so. It was the best form of preparation for any mood he might
see that it might pay him to show her in the future. He was, in fact,
confronting disdainfully his position. He had her on his hands and he
was returning to his relations with no definite advantage to exhibit as
the result of having married her. She had been supplied with an income
but he had no control over it. It would not have been so if he had
not been in such straits that he had been afraid to risk his chance by
making a stand. To have a wife with money, a silly, sweet temper and no
will of her own, was of course better than to be penniless, head over
heels in debt and hemmed in by difficulties on every side. He had seen
women trained to give in to anything rather than be bullied in public,
to accede in the end to any demand rather than endure the shame of
a certain kind of scene made before servants, and a certain kind of
insolence used to relatives and guests. The quality he found
most maddeningly irritating in Rosalie was her obviously absolute
unconsciousness of the fact that it was entirely natural and proper that
her resources should be in her husband's hands. He had, indeed, even
in these early days, made a tentative effort or so in the form of a
suggestive speech; he had given her openings to give him an opening to
put things on a practical basis, but she had never had the intelligence
to see what he was aiming at, and he had found himself almost
floundering ungracefully in his remarks, while she had looked at him
without a sign of comprehension in her simple, anxious blue eyes. The
creature was actually trying to understand him and could not. That was
the worst of it, the blank wall of her unconsciousness, her childlike
belief that he was far too grand a personage to require anything. These
were the things he was thinking over when he walked up and down the deck
in unamiable solitariness. Rosy awakened to the amazed consciousness of
the fact that, instead of being pleased with the luxury and prettiness
of her wardrobe and appointments, he seemed to dislike and disdain them.

"You American women change your clothes too much and think too much of
them," was one of his first amiable criticisms. "You spend more than
well-bred women should spend on mere dresses and bonnets. In New York it
always strikes an Englishman that the women look endimanche at whatever
time of day you come across them."

"Oh, Nigel!" cried Rosy woefully. She could not think of anything more
to say than, "Oh, Nigel!"

"I am sorry to say it is true," he replied loftily. That she was an
American and a New Yorker was being impressed upon poor little Lady
Anstruthers in a new way--somehow as if the mere cold statement of the
fact put a fine edge of sarcasm to any remark. She was of too innocent a
loyalty to wish that she was neither the one nor the other, but she did
wish that Nigel was not so prejudiced against the places and people she
cared for so much.

She was sitting in her stateroom enfolded in a dressing gown covered
with cascades of lace, tied with knots of embroidered ribbon, and her
maid, Hannah, who admired her greatly, was brushing her fair long hair
with a gold-backed brush, ornamented with a monogram of jewels.

If she had been a French duchess of a piquant type, or an English one
with an aquiline nose, she would have been beyond criticism; if she had
been a plump, over-fed woman, or an ugly, ill-natured, gross one, she
would have looked vulgar, but she was a little, thin, fair New
Yorker, and though she was not beyond criticism--if one demanded high
distinction--she was pretty and nice to look at. But Nigel Anstruthers
would not allow this to her. His own tailors' bills being far in
arrears and his pocket disgustingly empty, the sight of her ingenuous
sumptuousness and the gay, accustomed simpleness of outlook with which
she accepted it as her natural right, irritated him and roused his
venom. Bills would remain unpaid if she was permitted to spend her money
on this sort of thing without any consideration for the requirements of
other people.

He inhaled the air and made a gesture of distaste.

"This sachet business is rather overpowering," he said. "It is the sort
of thing a woman should be particularly discreet about."

"Oh, Nigel!" cried the poor girl agitatedly. "Hannah, do go and call
the steward to open the windows. Is it really strong?" she implored as
Hannah went out. "How dreadful. It's only orris and I didn't know Hannah
had put it in the trunks."

"My dear Rosalie," with a wave of the hand taking in both herself and
her dressing case, "it is all too strong."

"All--wh--what?" gaspingly.

"The whole thing. All that lace and love knot arrangement, the
gold-backed brushes and scent bottles with diamonds and rubies sticking
in them."

"They--they were wedding presents. They came from Tiffany's. Everyone
thought them lovely."

"They look as if they belonged to the dressing table of a French woman
of the demi-monde. I feel as if I had actually walked into the apartment
of some notorious Parisian soubrette."

Rosalie Vanderpoel was a clean-minded little person, her people were of
the clean-minded type, therefore she did not understand all that this
ironic speech implied, but she gathered enough of its significance to
cause her to turn first red and then pale and then to burst into tears.
She was crying and trying to conceal the fact when Hannah returned.
She bent her head and touched her eyes furtively while her toilette was
completed.

Sir Nigel had retired from the scene, but he had done so feeling that he
had planted a seed and bestowed a practical lesson. He had, it is true,
bestowed one, but again she had not understood its significance and was
only left bewildered and unhappy. She began to be nervous and uncertain
about herself and about his moods and points of view. She had never been
made to feel so at home. Everyone had been kind to her and lenient to
her lack of brilliancy. No one had expected her to be brilliant, and she
had been quite sweet-temperedly resigned to the fact that she was not
the kind of girl who shone either in society or elsewhere. She did not
resent the fact that she knew people said of her, "She isn't in the
least bit bright, Rosy Vanderpoel, but she's a nice, sweet little
thing." She had tried to be nice and sweet and had aspired to nothing
higher.

But now that seemed so much less than enough. Perhaps Nigel ought to
have married one of the clever ones, someone who would have known how to
understand him and who would have been more entertaining than she could
be. Perhaps she was beginning to bore him, perhaps he was finding her
out and beginning to get tired. At this point the always too ready
tears would rise to her eyes and she would be overwhelmed by a sense of
homesickness. Often she cried herself silently to sleep, longing for
her mother--her nice, comfortable, ordinary mother, whom she had several
times felt Nigel had some difficulty in being unreservedly polite
to--though he had been polite on the surface.

By the time they landed she had been living under so much strain in her
effort to seem quite unchanged, that she had lost her nerve. She did not
feel well and was sometimes afraid that she might do something silly and
hysterical in spite of herself, begin to cry for instance when there was
really no explanation for her doing it. But when she reached London the
novelty of everything so excited her that she thought she was going to
be better, and then she said to herself it would be proved to her that
all her fears had been nonsense. This return of hope made her quite
light-spirited, and she was almost gay in her little outbursts of
delight and admiration as she drove about the streets with her husband.
She did not know that her ingenuous ignorance of things he had known all
his life, her rapture over common monuments of history, led him to say
to himself that he felt rather as if he were taking a housemaid to see a
Lord Mayor's Show.

Before going to Stornham Court they spent a few days in town. There had
been no intention of proclaiming their presence to the world, and they
did not do so, but unluckily certain tradesmen discovered the fact that
Sir Nigel Anstruthers had returned to England with the bride he had
secured in New York. The conclusion to be deduced from this circumstance
was that the particular moment was a good one at which to send in bills
for "acct. rendered." The tradesmen quite shared Anstruthers' point
of view. Their reasoning was delightfully simple and they were wholly
unaware that it might have been called gross. A man over his head and
ears in debt naturally expected his creditors would be paid by the young
woman who had married him. America had in these days been so little
explored by the thrifty impecunious well-born that its ingenuous
sentimentality in certain matters was by no means comprehended.

By each post Sir Nigel received numerous bills. Sometimes letters
accompanied them, and once or twice respectful but firm male persons
brought them by hand and demanded interviews which irritated Sir Nigel
extremely. Given time to arrange matters with Rosalie, to train her to
some sense of her duty, he believed that the "acct. rendered" could be
wiped off, but he saw he must have time. She was such a little fool.
Again and again he was furious at the fate which had forced him to take
her.

The truth was that Rosalie knew nothing whatever about unpaid bills.
Reuben Vanderpoel's daughters had never encountered an indignant
tradesman in their lives. When they went into "stores" they were
received with unfeigned rapture. Everything was dragged forth to be
displayed to them, attendants waited to leap forth to supply their
smallest behest. They knew no other phase of existence than the one in
which one could buy anything one wanted and pay any price demanded for
it.

Consequently Rosalie did not recognise signs which would have been
obviously recognisable by the initiated. If Sir Nigel Anstruthers had
been a nice young fellow who had loved her, and he had been honest
enough to make a clean breast of his difficulties, she would have thrown
herself into his arms and implored him effusively to make use of all
her available funds, and if the supply had been insufficient, would have
immediately written to her father for further donations, knowing that
her appeal would be responded to at once. But Sir Nigel Anstruthers
cherished no sentiment for any other individual than himself, and he
had no intention of explaining that his mere vanity had caused him to
mislead her, that his rank and estate counted for nothing and that he
was in fact a pauper loaded with dishonest debts. He wanted money, but
he wanted it to be given to him as if he conferred a favour by receiving
it. It must be transferred to him as though it were his by right. What
did a man marry for? Therefore his wife's unconsciousness that she was
inflicting outrage upon him by her mere mental attitude filled his being
with slowly rising gall.

Poor Rosalie went joyfully forth shopping after the manner of all newly
arrived Americans. She bought new toilettes and gewgaws and presents
for her friends and relations in New York, and each package which was
delivered at the hotel added to Sir Nigel's rage.

That the little blockhead should be allowed to do what she liked with
her money and that he should not be able to forbid her! This he said
to himself at intervals of five minutes through the day--which led to
another small episode.

"You are spending a great deal of money," he said one morning in his
condemnatory manner. Rosalie looked up from the lace flounce which
had just been delivered and gave the little nervous laugh, which was
becoming entirely uncertain of propitiating.

"Am I?" she answered. "They say all Americans spend a good deal."

"Your money ought to be in proper hands and properly managed," he went
on with cold precision. "If you were an English woman, your husband
would control it."

"Would he?" The simple, sweet-tempered obtuseness of her tone was an
infuriating thing to him. There was the usual shade of troubled surprise
in her eyes as they met his. "I don't think men in America ever do that.
I don't believe the nice ones want to. You see they have such a pride
about always giving things to women, and taking care of them. I believe
a nice American man would break stones in the street rather than take
money from a woman--even his wife. I mean while he could work. Of course
if he was ill or had ill luck or anything like that, he wouldn't be so
proud as not to take it from the person who loved him most and wanted
to help him. You do sometimes hear of a man who won't work and lets his
wife support him, but it's very seldom, and they are always the low kind
that other men look down on."

"Wanted to help him." Sir Nigel selected the phrase and quoted it
between puffs of the cigar he held in his fine, rather cruel-looking
hands, and his voice expressed a not too subtle sneer. "A woman is not
'helping' her husband when she gives him control of her fortune. She
is only doing her duty and accepting her proper position with regard to
him. The law used to settle the thing definitely."

"Did-did it?" Rosy faltered weakly. She knew he was offended again and
that she was once more somehow in the wrong. So many things about her
seemed to displease him, and when he was displeased he always reminded
her that she was stupidly, objectionably guilty of not being an English
woman.

Whatsoever it happened to be, the fault she had committed out of her
depth of ignorance, he did not forget it. It was no habit of his to
endeavour to dismiss offences. He preferred to hold them in possession
as if they were treasures and to turn them over and over, in the mental
seclusion which nourishes the growth of injuries, since within its
barriers there is no chance of their being palliated by the apologies or
explanations of the offender.

During their journey to Stornham Court the next day he was in one of his
black moods. Once in the railway carriage he paid small attention to
his wife, but sat rigidly reading his Times, until about midway to their
destination he descended at a station and paid a visit to the buffet in
the small refreshment room, after which he settled himself to doze in
an exceedingly unbecoming attitude, his travelling cap pulled down,
his rather heavy face congested with the dark flush Rosalie had not yet
learned was due to the fact that he had hastily tossed off two or three
whiskies and sodas. Though he was never either thick of utterance or
unsteady on his feet, whisky and soda formed an important factor in his
existence. When he was annoyed or dull he at once took the necessary
precautions against being overcome by these feelings, and the effect
upon a constitutionally evil temper was to transform it into an infernal
one. The night had been a bad one for Rosy. Such floods of homesick
longing had overpowered her that she had not been able to sleep. She had
risen feeling shaky and hysterical and her nervousness had been added to
by her fear that Nigel might observe her and make comment. Of course
she told herself it was natural that he should not wish her to appear at
Stornham Court looking a pale, pink-nosed little fright. Her efforts
to be cheerful had indeed been somewhat touching, but they had met with
small encouragement.

She thought the green-clothed country lovely as the train sped through
it, and a lump rose in her small throat because she knew she might have
been so happy if she had not been so frightened and miserable. The thing
which had been dawning upon her took clearer, more awful form. Incidents
she had tried to explain and excuse to herself, upon all sorts of
futile, simple grounds, began to loom up before her in something like
their actual proportions. She had heard of men who had changed their
manner towards girls after they had married them, but she did not know
they had begun to change so soon. This was so early in the honeymoon to
be sitting in a railway carriage, in a corner remote from that occupied
by a bridegroom, who read his paper in what was obviously intentional,
resentful solitude. Emily Soame's father, she remembered it against her
will, had been obliged to get a divorce for Emily after her two years
of wretched married life. But Alfred Soames had been quite nice for six
months at least. It seemed as if all this must be a dream, one of those
nightmare things, in which you suddenly find yourself married to
someone you cannot bear, and you don't know how it happened, because you
yourself have had nothing to do with the matter. She felt that presently
she must waken with a start and find herself breathing fast, and panting
out, half laughing, half crying, "Oh, I am so glad it's not true! I am
so glad it's not true!"

But this was true, and there was Nigel. And she was in a new, unexplored
world. Her little trembling hands clutched each other. The happy, light
girlish days full of ease and friendliness and decency seemed gone
forever. It was not Rosalie Vanderpoel who pressed her colourless face
against the glass of the window, looking out at the flying trees; it was
the wife of Nigel Anstruthers, and suddenly, by some hideous magic, she
had been snatched from the world to which she belonged and was being
dragged by a gaoler to a prison from which she did not know how to
escape. Already Nigel had managed to convey to her that in England a
woman who was married could do nothing to defend herself against her
husband, and that to endeavour to do anything was the last impossible
touch of vulgar ignominy.

The vivid realisation of the situation seized upon her like a possession
as she glanced sideways at her bridegroom and hurriedly glanced away
again with a little hysterical shudder. New York, good-tempered,
lenient, free New York, was millions of miles away and Nigel was so
loathly near and--and so ugly. She had never known before that he was so
ugly, that his face was so heavy, his skin so thick and coarse and his
expression so evilly ill-tempered. She was not sufficiently analytical
to be conscious that she had with one bound leaped to the appalling
point of feeling uncontrollable physical abhorrence of the creature
to whom she was chained for life. She was terrified at finding herself
forced to combat the realisation that there were certain expressions
of his countenance which made her feel sick with repulsion. Her
self-reproach also was as great as her terror. He was her husband--her
husband--and she was a wicked girl. She repeated the words to herself
again and again, but remotely she knew that when she said, "He is my
husband," that was the worst thing of all.

This inward struggle was a bad preparation for any added misery, and
when their railroad journey terminated at Stornham Station she was met
by new bewilderment.

The station itself was a rustic place where wild roses climbed down a
bank to meet the very train itself. The station master's cottage had
roses and clusters of lilies waving in its tiny garden. The station
master, a good-natured, red-faced man, came forward, baring his head,
to open the railroad carriage door with his own hand. Rosy thought him
delightful and bowed and smiled sweet-temperedly to him and to his
wife and little girls, who were curtseying at the garden gate. She was
sufficiently homesick to be actually grateful to them for their air of
welcoming her. But as she smiled she glanced furtively at Nigel to see
if she was doing exactly the right thing.

He himself was not smiling and did not unbend even when the station
master, who had known him from his boyhood, felt at liberty to offer a
deferential welcome.

"Happy to see you home with her ladyship, Sir Nigel," he said; "very
happy, if I may say so."

Sir Nigel responded to the respectful amiability with a half-military
lifting of his right hand, accompanied by a grunt.

"D'ye do, Wells," he said, and strode past him to speak to the footman
who had come from Stornham Court with the carriage.

The new and nervous little Lady Anstruthers, who was left to trot after
her husband, smiled again at the ruddy, kind-looking fellow, this time
in conscious deprecation. In the simplicity of her republican sympathy
with a well-meaning fellow creature who might feel himself snubbed,
she could have shaken him by the hand. She had even parted her lips to
venture a word of civility when she was startled by hearing Sir Nigel's
voice raised in angry rating.

"Damned bad management not to bring something else," she heard. "Kind of
thing you fellows are always doing."

She made her way to the carriage, flurried again by not knowing whether
she was doing right or wrong. Sir Nigel had given her no instructions
and she had not yet learned that when he was in a certain humour there
was equal fault in obeying or disobeying such orders as he gave.

The carriage from the Court--not in the least a new or smart
equipage--was drawn up before the entrance of the station and Sir Nigel
was in a rage because the vehicle brought for the luggage was too small
to carry it all.

"Very sorry, Sir Nigel," said the coachman, touching his hat two or
three times in his agitation. "Very sorry. The omnibus was a little out
of order--the springs, Sir Nigel--and I thought----"

"You thought!" was the heated interruption. "What right had you to
think, damn it! You are not paid to think, you are paid to do your
work properly. Here are a lot of damned boxes which ought to go with us
and--where's your maid?" wheeling round upon his wife.

Rosalie turned towards the woman, who was approaching from the waiting
room.

"Hannah," she said timorously.

"Drop those confounded bundles," ordered Sir Nigel, "and show James the
boxes her ladyship is obliged to have this evening. Be quick about it
and don't pick out half a dozen. The cart can't take them."

Hannah looked frightened. This sort of thing was new to her, too. She
shuffled her packages on to a seat and followed the footman to the
luggage. Sir Nigel continued rating the coachman. Any form of violent
self-assertion was welcome to him at any time, and when he was irritated
he found it a distinct luxury to kick a dog or throw a boot at a cat.
The springs of the omnibus, he argued, had no right to be broken when
it was known that he was coming home. His anger was only added to by the
coachman's halting endeavours in his excuses to veil a fact he knew his
master was aware of, that everything at Stornham was more or less out of
order, and that dilapidations were the inevitable result of there being
no money to pay for repairs. The man leaned forward on his box and spoke
at last in a low tone.

"The bus has been broken some time," he said. "It's--it's an expensive
job, Sir Nigel. Her ladyship thought it better to----" Sir Nigel turned
white about the mouth.

"Hold your tongue," he commanded, and the coachman got red in the face,
saluted, biting his lips, and sat very stiff and upright on his box.

The station master edged away uneasily and tried to look as if he were
not listening. But Rosalie could see that he could not help hearing, nor
could the country people who had been passengers by the train and who
were collecting their belongings and getting into their traps.

Lady Anstruthers was ignored and remained standing while the scene
went on. She could not help recalling the manner in which she had been
invariably received in New York on her return from any journey, how she
was met by comfortable, merry people and taken care of at once. This was
so strange, it was so queer, so different.

"Oh, never mind, Nigel dear," she said at last, with innocent
indiscretion. "It doesn't really matter, you know."

Sir Nigel turned upon her a blaze of haughty indignation.

"If you'll pardon my saying so, it does matter," he said. "It matters
confoundedly. Be good enough to take your place in the carriage."

He moved to the carriage door, and not too civilly put her in. She
gasped a little for breath as she sat down. He had spoken to her as if
she had been an impertinent servant who had taken a liberty. The poor
girl was bewildered to the verge of panic. When he had ended his tirade
and took his place beside her he wore his most haughtily intolerant air.

"May I request that in future you will be good enough not to interfere
when I am reproving my servants," he remarked.

"I didn't mean to interfere," she apologised tremulously.

"I don't know what you meant. I only know what you did," was his
response. "You American women are too fond of cutting in. An Englishman
can think for himself without his wife's assistance."

The tears rose to her eyes. The introduction of the international
question overpowered her as always.

"Don't begin to be hysterical," was the ameliorating tenderness with
which he observed the two hot salt drops which fell despite her. "I
should scarcely wish to present you to my mother bathed in tears."

She wiped the salt drops hastily away and sat for a moment silent in the
corner of the carriage. Being wholly primitive and unanalytical, she was
ashamed and began to blame herself. He was right. She must not be silly
because she was unused to things. She ought not to be disturbed by
trifles. She must try to be nice and look cheerful. She made an effort
and did no speak for a few minutes. When she had recovered herself she
tried again.

"English country is so pretty," she said, when she thought she was quite
sure that her voice would not tremble. "I do so like the hedges and the
darling little red-roofed cottages."

It was an innocent tentative at saying something agreeable which might
propitiate him. She was beginning to realise that she was continually
making efforts to propitiate him. But one of the forms of unpleasantness
most enjoyable to him was the snubbing of any gentle effort at
palliating his mood. He condescended in this case no response whatever,
but merely continued staring contemptuously before him.

"It is so picturesque, and so unlike America," was the pathetic little
commonplace she ventured next. "Ain't it, Nigel?"

He turned his head slowly towards her, as if she had taken a new liberty
in disturbing his meditations.

"Wha--at?" he drawled.

It was almost too much for her to sustain herself under. Her courage
collapsed.

"I was only saying how pretty the cottages were," she faltered. "And
that there's nothing like this in America."

"You ended your remark by adding, 'ain't it,'" her husband
condescended. "There is nothing like that in England. I shall ask you to
do me the favour of leaving Americanisms out of your conversation when
you are in the society of English ladies and gentlemen. It won't do."

"I didn't know I said it," Rosy answered feebly.

"That is the difficulty," was his response. "You never know, but
educated people do."

There was nothing more to be said, at least for a girl who had never
known what it was to be bullied. This one felt like a beggar or a
scullery maid, who, being rated by her master, had not the refuge of
being able to "give warning." She could never give warning. The Atlantic
Ocean was between her and those who had loved and protected her all
her short life, and the carriage was bearing her onwards to the home in
which she was to live alone as this man's companion to the end of her
existence.

She made no further propitiatory efforts, but sat and stared in simple
blankness at the country, which seemed to increase in loveliness at each
new point of view. Sometimes she saw sweet wooded, rolling lands made
lovelier by the homely farmhouses and cottages enclosed and sheltered by
thick hedges and trees; once or twice they drove past a park enfolding
a great house guarded by its huge sentinel oaks and beeches; once the
carriage passed through an adorable little village, where children
played on the green and a square-towered grey church seemed to watch
over the steep-roofed cottages and creeper-covered vicarage. If she had
been a happy American tourist travelling in company with impressionable
friends, she would have broken into ecstatic little exclamations of
admiration every five minutes, but it had been driven home to her that
to her present companion, to whom nothing was new, her rapture would
merely represent the crudeness which had existed in contentment in a
brown-stone house on a noisy thoroughfare, through a life which had been
passed tramping up and down numbered streets and avenues.

They approached at last a second village with a green, a grass-grown
street and the irregular red-tiled cottages, which to the unaccustomed
eye seemed rather to represent studies for sketches than absolute
realities. The bells in the church tower broke forth into a chime and
people appeared at the doors of the cottages. The men touched their
foreheads as the carriage passed, and the children made bobbing
curtsies. Sir Nigel condescended to straighten himself a trifle in his
seat, and recognised the greetings with the stiff, half-military salute.
The poor girl at his side felt that he put as little feeling as possible
into the movement, and that if she herself had been a bowing villager
she would almost have preferred to be wholly ignored. She looked at him
questioningly.

"Are they--must _I_?" she began.

"Make some civil recognition," answered Sir Nigel, as if he were
instructing an ignorant child. "It is customary."

So she bowed and tried to smile, and the joyous clamour of the bells
brought the awful lump into her throat again. It reminded her of
the ringing of the chimes at the New York church on that day of her
marriage, which had been so full of gay, luxurious bustle, so crowded
with wedding presents, and flowers, and warm-hearted, affectionate
congratulations, and good wishes uttered in merry American voices.

The park at Stornham Court was large and beautiful and old. The trees
were magnificent, and the broad sweep of sward and rich dip of ferny
dell all that the imagination could desire. The Court itself was old,
and many-gabled and mellow-red and fine. Rosalie had learned from no
precedent as yet that houses of its kind may represent the apotheosis
of discomfort and dilapidation within, and only become more beautiful
without. Tumbled-down chimneys and broken tiles, being clambered over by
tossing ivy, are pictures to delight the soul.

As she descended from the carriage the girl was tremulous and uncertain
of herself and much overpowered by the unbending air of the man-servant
who received her as if she were a parcel in which it was no part of his
duty to take the smallest interest. As she mounted the stone steps she
caught a glimpse of broad gloom within the threshold, a big, square,
dingy hall where some other servants were drawn up in a row. She had
read of something of the sort in English novels, and she was suddenly
embarrassed afresh by her realisation of the fact that she did not know
what to do and that if she made a mistake Nigel would never forgive her.

An elderly woman came out of a room opening into the hall. She was an
ugly woman of a rigid carriage, which, with the obvious intention of
being severely majestic, was only antagonistic. She had a flaccid
chin, and was curiously like Nigel. She had also his expression when he
intended to be disagreeable. She was the Dowager Lady Anstruthers,
and being an entirely revolting old person at her best, she objected
extremely to the transatlantic bride who had made her a dowager, though
she was determinedly prepared to profit by any practical benefit likely
to accrue.

"Well, Nigel," she said in a deep voice. "Here you are at last."

This was of course a statement not to be refuted. She held out a
leathern cheek, and as Sir Nigel also presented his, their caress of
greeting was a singular and not effusive one.

"Is this your wife?" she asked, giving Rosalie a bony hand. And as he
did not indignantly deny this to be the fact, she added, "How do you
do?"

Rosalie murmured a reply and tried to control herself by making another
effort to swallow the lump in her throat. But she could not swallow
it. She had been keeping a desperate hold on herself too long. The
bewildered misery of her awakening, the awkwardness of the public row
at the station, the sulks which had filled the carriage to repletion
through all the long drive, and finally the jangling bells which had
so recalled that last joyous day at home--at home--had brought her to
a point where this meeting between mother and son--these two stony,
unpleasant creatures exchanging a reluctant rub of uninviting cheeks--as
two savages might have rubbed noses--proved the finishing impetus to
hysteria. They were so hideous, these two, and so ghastly comic and
fantastic in their unresponsive glumness, that the poor girl lost all
hold upon herself and broke into a trembling shriek of laughter.

"Oh!" she gasped in terror at what she felt to be her indecent madness.
"Oh! how--how----" And then seeing Nigel's furious start, his mother's
glare and all the servants' alarmed stare at her, she rushed staggering
to the only creature she felt she knew--her maid Hannah, clutched her
and broke down into wild sobbing.

"Oh, take me away!" she cried. "Oh, do! Oh, do! Oh, Hannah! Oh,
mother--mother!"

"Take your mistress to her room," commanded Sir Nigel. "Go downstairs,"
he called out to the servants. "Take her upstairs at once and throw
water in her face," to the excited Hannah.

And as the new Lady Anstruthers was half led, half dragged, in
humiliated hysteric disorder up the staircase, he took his mother by the
elbow, marched her into the nearest room and shut the door. There they
stood and stared at each other, breathing quick, enraged breaths and
looking particularly alike with their heavy-featured, thick-skinned,
infuriated faces.

It was the Dowager who spoke first, and her whole voice and manner
expressed all she intended that they should, all the derision, dislike
and scathing resignment to a grotesque fate.

"Well," said her ladyship. "So THIS is what you have brought home from
America!"



CHAPTER IV

A MISTAKE OF THE POSTBOY'S

As the weeks passed at Stornham Court the Atlantic Ocean seemed to
Rosalie Anstruthers to widen endlessly, and gay, happy, noisy New York
to recede until it was as far away as some memory of heaven. The girl
had been born in the midst of the rattling, rumbling bustle, and it
had never struck her as assuming the character of noise; she had only
thought of it as being the cheerful confusion inseparable from town. She
had been secretly offended and hurt when strangers said that New York
was noisy and dirty; when they called it vulgar, she never wholly
forgave them. She was of the New Yorkers who adore their New York
as Parisians adore Paris and who feel that only within its beloved
boundaries can the breath of life be breathed. People were often too hot
or too cold there, but there was usually plenty of bright glaring sun,
and the extremes of the weather had at least something rather dramatic
about them. There were dramatic incidents connected with them, at any
rate. People fell dead of sunstroke or were frozen to death, and the
newspapers were full of anecdotes during a "cold snap" or a "torrid
wave," which all made for excitement and conversation.

But at Stornham the rain seemed to young Lady Anstruthers to descend
ceaselessly. The season was a wet one, and when she rose in the morning
and looked out over the huge stretch of trees and sward she thought she
always saw the rain falling either in hopeless sheets or more hopeless
drizzle. The occasions upon which this was a dreary truth blotted out or
blurred the exceptions, when in liquid ultramarine deeps of sky, floated
islands and mountains of snow-white fleece, of a beauty of which she had
before had no conception.

In the English novels she had read, places such as Stornham Court were
always filled with "house parties," made up of wonderful town wits and
beauties, who provided endless entertainment for each other, who played
games, who hunted and shot pheasants and shone in dazzling amateur
theatricals. There were, however, no visitors at Stornham, and there
were in fact, no accommodations for any. There were numberless bedrooms,
but none really fit for guests to occupy. Carpets and curtains were
ancient and ragged, furniture was dilapidated, chimneys would not draw,
beds were falling to pieces. The Dowager Lady Anstruthers had never
either attracted desired, or been able to afford company. Her son's wife
suffered from the resulting boredom and unpopularity without being able
to comprehend the significance of the situation.

As the weeks dragged by a few heavy carriages deposited at the Court
a few callers. Some of the visitors bore imposing titles, which made
Rosalie very nervous and caused her hastily to array herself to receive
them in toilettes much too pretty and delicate for the occasion. Her
innocent idea was that she must do her husband credit by appearing as
"stylish" as possible.

As a result she was stared at, either with open disfavour, or with
well-bred, furtive criticism, and was described afterwards as being
either "very American" or "very over-dressed." When she had lived in
huge rooms in Fifth Avenue, Rosalie had changed her attire as many times
a day as she had changed her fancy; every hour had been filled with
engagements and amusements; the Vanderpoel carriages had driven up
to the door and driven away again and again through the mornings and
afternoons and until midnight and later. Someone was always going out or
coming in. There had been in the big handsome house not much more of an
air of repose than one might expect to find at a railway station; but
the flurry, the coming and going, the calling and chatting had all been
cheery, amiable. At Stornham, Rosalie sat at breakfast before unchanging
boiled eggs, unfailing toast and unalterable broiled bacon, morning
after morning. Sir Nigel sat and munched over the newspapers, his
mother, with an air of relentless disapproval from a lofty height of
both her food and companions, disposed of her eggs and her rasher at
Rosalie's right hand. She had transferred to her daughter-in-law her
previously occupied seat at the head of the table. This had been
done with a carefully prepared scene of intense though correct
disagreeableness, in which she had managed to convey all the rancour of
her dethroned spirit and her disapproval and disdain of international
alliances.

"It is of course proper that you should sit at the head of your
husband's table," she had said, among other agreeable things. "A woman
having devoted her life to her son must relinquish her position to the
person he chooses to marry. If you should have a son you will give
up your position to his wife. Since Nigel has married you, he has, of
course, a right to expect that you will at least make an effort to learn
something of what is required of women of your position."

"Sit down, Rosalie," said Nigel. "Of course you take the head of the
table, and naturally you must learn what is expected of my wife, but
don't talk confounded rubbish, mother, about devoting your life to your
son. We have seen about as little of each other as we could help. We
never agreed." They were both bullies and each made occasional efforts
at bullying the other without any particular result. But each could at
least bully the other into intensified unpleasantness.

The vicar's wife having made her call of ceremony upon the new
Lady Anstruthers, followed up the acquaintance, and found her quite
exotically unlike her mother-in-law, whose charities one may be sure had
neither been lavish nor dispensed by any hand less impressive than her
own. The younger woman was of wholly malleable material. Her sympathies
were easily awakened and her purse was well filled and readily opened.
Small families or large ones, newly born infants or newly buried ones,
old women with "bad legs" and old men who needed comforts, equally
touched her heart. She innocently bestowed sovereigns where an
Englishwoman would have known that half-crowns would have been
sufficient. As the vicaress was her almoner that lady felt her
importance rapidly on the increase. When she left a cottage saying,
"I'll speak to young Lady Anstruthers about you," the good woman of the
house curtsied low and her husband touched his forehead respectfully.

But this did not advance the fortunes of Sir Nigel, who personally
required of her very different things. Two weeks after her arrival at
Stornham, Rosalie began to see that somehow she was regarded as a person
almost impudently in the wrong. It appeared that if she had been an
English girl she would have been quite different, that she would have
been an advantage instead of a detriment. As an American she was a
detriment. That seemed to go without saying. She tried to do everything
she was told, and learn something from each cold insinuation. She did
not know that her very amenability and timidity were her undoing. Sir
Nigel and his mother thoroughly enjoyed themselves at her expense. They
knew they could say anything they chose, and that at the most she would
only break down into crying and afterwards apologise for being so badly
behaved. If some practical, strong-minded person had been near to defend
her she might have been rescued promptly and her tyrants routed. But she
was a young girl, tender of heart and weak of nature. She used to cry a
great deal when she was alone, and when she wrote to her mother she was
too frightened to tell the truth concerning her unhappiness.

"Oh, if I could just see some of them!" she would wail to herself. "If
I could just see mother or father or anybody from New York! Oh, I know
I shall never see New York again, or Broadway or Fifth Avenue or Central
Park--I never--never--never shall!" And she would grovel among her
pillows, burying her face and half stifling herself lest her sobs should
be heard. Her feeling for her husband had become one of terror and
repulsion. She was almost more afraid of his patronising, affectionate
moments than she was of his temper.

His conjugal condescensions made her feel vaguely--without knowing
why--as if she were some lower order of little animal.

American women, he said, had no conception of wifely duties and
affection. He had a great deal to say on the subject of wifely duty.
It was part of her duty as a wife to be entirely satisfied with his
society, and to be completely happy in the pleasure it afforded her. It
was her wifely duty not to talk about her own family and palpitatingly
expect letters by every American mail. He objected intensely to this
letter writing and receiving, and his mother shared his prejudices.

"You have married an Englishman," her ladyship said. "You have put it
out of his power to marry an Englishwoman, and the least consideration
you can show is to let New York and Nine-hundredth street remain upon
the other side of the Atlantic and not insist on dragging them into
Stornham Court."

The Dowager Lady Anstruthers was very fine in her picture of her mental
condition, when she realised, as she seemed periodically to do, that it
was no longer possible for her son to make a respectable marriage with
a woman of his own nation. The unadorned fact was that both she and
Sir Nigel were infuriated by the simplicity which made Rosalie slow in
comprehending that it was proper that the money her father allowed
her should be placed in her husband's hands, and left there with no
indelicate questioning. If she had been an English girl matters would
have been made plain to her from the first and arranged satisfactorily
before her marriage. Sir Nigel's mother considered that he had played
the fool, and would not believe that New York fathers were such touchy,
sentimental idiots as not to know what was expected of them.

They wasted no time, however, in coming to the point, and in a measure
it was the vicaress who aided them. Not she entirely, however.

Since her mother-in-law's first mention of a possible son whose wife
would eventually thrust her from her seat at the head of the table,
Rosalie had several times heard this son referred to. It struck her
that in England such things seemed discussed with more freedom than in
America. She had never heard a young woman's possible family arranged
for and made the subject of conversation in the more crude atmosphere
of New York. It made her feel rather awkward at first. Then she began
to realise that the son was part of her wifely duty also; that she was
expected to provide one, and that he was in some way expected to provide
for the estate--to rehabilitate it--and that this was because her
father, being a rich man, would provide for him. It had also struck her
that in England there was a tendency to expectation that someone
would "provide" for someone else, that relatives even by marriage were
supposed to "make allowances" on which it was quite proper for other
persons to live. Rosalie had been accustomed to a community in which
even rich men worked, and in which young and able-bodied men would have
felt rather indignant if aunts or uncles had thought it necessary to
pension them off as if they had been impotent paupers. It was Rosalie's
son who was to be "provided for" in this case, and who was to "provide
for" his father.

"When you have a son," her mother-in-law had remarked severely, "I
suppose something will be done for Nigel and the estate."

This had been said before she had been ten days in the house, and had
set her not-too-quick brain working. She had already begun to see that
life at Stornham Court was not the luxurious affair it was in the
house in Fifth Avenue. Things were shabby and queer and not at all
comfortable. Fires were not lighted because a day was chilly and gloomy.
She had once asked for one in her bedroom and her mother-in-law had
reproved her for indecent extravagance in a manner which took her breath
away.

"I suppose in America you have your house at furnace heat in July," she
said. "Mere wastefulness and self-indulgence! That is why Americans are
old women at twenty. They are shrivelled and withered by the unhealthy
lives they lead. Stuffing themselves with sweets and hot bread and never
breathing the fresh air."

Rosalie could not at the moment recall any withered and shrivelled old
women of twenty, but she blushed and stammered as usual.

"It is never cold enough for fires in July," she answered, "but we--we
never think fires extravagant when we are not comfortable without them."

"Coal must be cheaper than it is in England," said her ladyship. "When
you have a daughter, I hope you do not expect to bring her up as girls
are brought up in New York."

This was the first time Rosalie had heard of her daughter, and she was
not ready enough to reply. She naturally went into her room and cried
again, wondering what her father and mother would say if they knew that
bedroom fires were considered vulgarly extravagant by an impressive
member of the British aristocracy.

She was not at all strong at the time and was given to feeling chilly
and miserable on wet, windy days. She used to cry more than ever and was
so desolate that there were days when she used to go to the vicarage for
companionship. On such days the vicar's wife would entertain her with
stories of the villagers' catastrophes, and she would empty her purse
upon the tea table and feel a little consoled because she was the means
of consoling someone else.

"I suppose it gratifies your vanity to play the Lady Bountiful," Sir
Nigel sneered one evening, having heard in the village what she was
doing.

"I--never thought of such a thing," she stammered feebly. "Mrs. Brent
said they were so poor."

"You throw your money about as if you were a child," said her
mother-in-law. "It is a pity it is not put in the hands of some person
with discretion."

It had begun to dawn upon Rosalie that her ladyship was deeply convinced
that either herself or her son would be admirably discreet custodians of
the money referred to. And even the dawning of this idea had frightened
the girl. She was so inexperienced and ignorant that she felt it might
be possible that in England one's husband and one's mother-in-law could
do what they liked. It might be that they could take possession of one's
money as they seemed to take possession of one's self and one's very
soul. She would have been very glad to give them money, and had indeed
wondered frequently if she might dare to offer it to them, if they would
be outraged and insulted and slay her in their wrath at her purse-proud
daring. She had tried to invent ways in which she could approach the
subject, but had not been able to screw up her courage to any sticking
point. She was so overpowered by her consciousness that they seemed
continually to intimate that Americans with money were ostentatious and
always laying stress upon the amount of their possessions. She had no
conception of the primeval simpleness of their attitude in such matters,
and that no ceremonies were necessary save the process of transferring
sufficiently large sums as though they were the mere right of the
recipients. She was taught to understand this later. In the meantime,
however, ready as she would have been to give large sums if she had
known how, she was terrified by the thought that it might be possible
that she could be deprived of her bank account and reduced to the
condition of a sort of dependent upon the humours of her lately acquired
relations. She thought over this a good deal, and would have found
immense relief if she dared have consulted anyone. But she could not
make up her mind to reveal her unhappiness to her people. She had been
married so recently, everybody had thought her marriage so delightful,
she could not bear that her father and mother should be distressed by
knowing that she was wretched. She also reflected with misery that
New York would talk the matter over excitedly and that finally the
newspapers would get hold of the gossip. She could even imagine
interviewers calling at the house in Fifth Avenue and endeavouring
to obtain particulars of the situation. Her father would be angry and
refuse to give them, but that would make no difference; the newspapers
would give them and everybody would read what they said, whether it was
true or not. She could not possibly write facts, she thought, so her
poor little letters were restrained and unlike herself, and to the
warm-hearted souls in New York, even appearing stiff and unaffectionate,
as if her aristocratic surroundings had chilled her love for them. In
fact, it became far from easy for her to write at all, since Sir Nigel
so disapproved of her interest in the American mail. His objections had
indeed taken the form of his feeling himself quite within his rights
when he occasionally intercepted letters from her relations, with a view
of finding out whether they contained criticisms of himself, which would
betray that she had been guilty of indiscreet confidences. He discovered
that she had not apparently been so guilty, but it was evident that
there were moments when Mrs. Vanderpoel was uneasy and disposed to ask
anxious questions. When this occurred he destroyed the letters, and as a
result of this precaution on his part her motherly queries seemed to be
ignored, and she several times shed tears in the belief that Rosy had
grown so patrician that she was capable of snubbing her mother in
her resentment at feeling her privacy intruded upon and an unrefined
effusiveness shown.

"I just feel as if she was beginning not to care about us at all,
Betty," she said. "I couldn't have believed it of Rosy. She was always
such an affectionate girl."

"I don't believe it now," replied Betty sharply. "Rosy couldn't grow
hateful and stuck up. It's that nasty Nigel I know it is."

Sir Nigel's intention was that there should be as little intercourse
between Fifth Avenue and Stornham Court as was possible. Among other
things, he did not intend that a lot of American relations should come
tumbling in when they chose to cross the Atlantic. He would not have it,
and took discreet steps to prevent any accident of the sort. He wrote
to America occasionally himself, and knowing well how to make himself
civilly repellent, so subtly chilled his parents-in-law as to discourage
in them more than once their half-formed plan of paying a visit to their
child in her new home. He opened, read and reclosed all epistles to
and from New York, and while Mrs. Vanderpoel was much hurt to find
that Rosalie never condescended to make any response to her tentatives
concerning her possible visit, Rosalie herself was mystified by the fact
that the journey "to Europe" was never spoken of.

"I don't see why they never seem to think of coming over," she said
plaintively one day. "They used to talk so much about it."

"They?" ejaculated the Dowager Lady Anstruthers. "Whom may you mean?"

"Mother and father and Betty and some of the others."

Her mother-in-law put up her eye-glasses to stare at her.

"The whole family?" she inquired.

"There are not so many of them," Rosalie answered.

"A family is always too many to descend upon a young woman when she is
married," observed her ladyship unmovedly. Nigel glanced over the top of
his Times.

"I may as well tell you that it would not do at all," he put in.

"Why--why not?" exclaimed Rosalie, aghast.

"Americans don't do in English society," slightingly.

"But they are coming over so much. They like London so--all Americans
like London."

"Do they?" with a drawl which made Rosalie blush until the tears started
to her eyes. "I am afraid the sentiment is scarcely mutual."

Rosalie turned and fled from the room. She turned and fled because she
realised that she should burst out crying if she waited to hear another
word, and she realised that of late she seemed always to be bursting out
crying before one or the other of those two. She could not help it. They
always seemed to be implying something slighting or scathing. They were
always putting her in the wrong and hurting her feelings.

The day was damp and chill, but she put on her hat and ran out into the
park. She went down the avenue and turned into a coppice. There, among
the wet bracken, she sank down on the mossy trunk of a fallen tree and
huddled herself in a small heap, her head on her arms, actually wailing.

"Oh, mother! Oh, mother!" she cried hysterically. "Oh, I do wish you
would come. I'm so cold, mother; I'm so ill! I can't bear it! It seems
as if you'd forgotten all about me! You're all so happy in New York that
perhaps you have forgotten--perhaps you have! Oh, don't, mother--don't!"

It was a month later that through the vicar's wife she reached a
discovery and a climax. She had heard one morning from this lady of a
misfortune which had befallen a small farmer. It was a misfortune which
was an actual catastrophe to a man in his position. His house had caught
fire during a gale of wind and the fire had spread to the outbuildings
and rickyard and swept away all his belongings, his house, his
furniture, his hayricks, and stored grain, and even his few cows and
horses. He had been a poor, hard-working fellow, and his small insurance
had lapsed the day before the fire. He was absolutely ruined, and
with his wife and six children stood face to face with beggary and
starvation.

Rosalie Anstruthers entered the vicarage to find the poor woman who was
his companion in calamity sobbing in the hall. A child of a few weeks
was in her arms, and two small creatures clung crying to her skirts.

"We've worked hard," she wept; "we have, ma'am. Father, he's always been
steady, an' up early an' late. P'r'aps it's the Lord's 'and, as you
say, ma'am, but we've been decent people an' never missed church when we
could 'elp it--father didn't deserve it--that he didn't."

She was heartbroken in her downtrodden hopelessness. Rosalie literally
quaked with sympathy. She poured forth her pity in such words as the
poor woman had never heard spoken by a great lady to a humble creature
like herself. The villagers found the new Lady Anstruthers' interviews
with them curiously simple and suggestive of an equality they could
not understand. Stornham was a conservative old village, where the
distinction between the gentry and the peasants was clearly marked. The
cottagers were puzzled by Sir Nigel's wife, but they decided that she
was kind, if unusual.

As Rosalie talked to the farmer's wife she longed for her father's
presence. She had remembered a time when a man in his employ had lost
his all by fire, the small house he had just made his last payment upon
having been burned to the ground. He had lost one of his children in
the fire, and the details had been heartrending. The entire Vanderpoel
household had wept on hearing them, and Mr. Vanderpoel had drawn a
cheque which had seemed like a fortune to the sufferer. A new house
had been bought, and Mrs. Vanderpoel and her daughters and friends had
bestowed furniture and clothing enough to make the family comfortable to
the verge of luxury.

"See, you poor thing," said Rosalie, glowing with memories of this
incident, her homesick young soul comforted by the mere likeness in the
two calamities. "I brought my cheque book with me because I meant to
help you. A man worked for my father had his house burned, just as yours
was, and my father made everything all right for him again. I'll make it
all right for you; I'll make you a cheque for a hundred pounds now, and
then when your husband begins to build I'll give him some more."

The woman gasped for breath and turned pale. She was frightened. It
really seemed as if her ladyship must have lost her wits a little. She
could not mean this. The vicaress turned pale also.

"Lady Anstruthers," she said, "Lady Anstruthers, it--it is too much. Sir
Nigel----"

"Too much!" exclaimed Rosalie. "They have lost everything, you know;
their hayricks and cattle as well as their house; I guess it won't be
half enough."

Mrs. Brent dragged her into the vicar's study and talked to her. She
tried to explain that in English villages such things were not done in
a manner so casual, as if they were the mere result of unconsidered
feeling, as if they were quite natural things, such as any human person
might do. When Rosalie cried: "But why not--why not? They ought to be."
Mrs. Brent could not seem to make herself quite clear. Rosalie only
gathered in a bewildered way that there ought to be more ceremony, more
deliberation, more holding off, before a person of rank indulged in
such munificence. The recipient ought to be made to feel it more, to
understand fully what a great thing was being done.

"They will think you will do anything for them."

"So I will," said young Lady Anstruthers, "if I have the money when they
are in such awful trouble. Suppose we lost everything in the world and
there were people who could easily help us and wouldn't?"

"You and Sir Nigel--that is quite different," said Mrs. Brent. "I am
afraid that if you do not discuss the matter and ask advice from your
husband and mother-in-law they will be very much offended."

"If I were doing it with their money they would have the right to be,"
replied Rosalie, with entire ingenuousness. "I wouldn't presume to do
such a thing as that. That wouldn't be right, of course."

"They will be angry with me," said the vicaress awkwardly. This queer,
silly girl, who seemed to see nothing in the right light, frequently
made her feel awkward. Mrs. Brent told her husband that she appeared to
have no sense of dignity or proper appreciation of her position.

The wife of the farmer, John Wilson, carried away the cheque, quite
stunned. She was breathless with amazement and turned rather faint with
excitement, bewilderment and her sense of relief. She had to sit down
in the vicarage kitchen for a few minutes and drink a glass of the thin
vicarage beer.

Rosalie promised that she would discuss the matter and ask advice
when she returned to the Court. Just as she left the house Mrs. Brent
suddenly remembered something she had forgotten.

"The Wilson trouble completely drove it out of my mind," she said. "It
was a stupid mistake of the postboy's. He left a letter of yours among
mine when he came this morning. It was most careless. I shall speak
to his father about it. It might have been important that you should
receive it early."

When she saw the letter Rosalie uttered an exclamation. It was addressed
in her father's handwriting.

"Oh!" she cried. "It's from father! And the postmark is Havre. What does
it mean?"

She was so excited that she almost forgot to express her thanks.
Her heart leaped up in her throat. Could they have come over from
America--could they? Why was it written from Havre? Could they be near
her?

She walked along the road choked with ecstatic, laughing sobs. Her hand
shook so that she could scarcely tear open the envelope; she tore a
corner of the letter, and when the sheet was spread open her eyes were
full of wild, delighted tears, which made it impossible for her to see
for the moment. But she swept the tears away and read this:


DEAR DAUGHTER:

It seems as if we had had pretty bad luck in not seeing you. We had
counted on it very much, and your mother feels it all the more because
she is weak after her illness. We don't quite understand why you did
not seem to know about her having had diphtheria in Paris. You did not
answer Betty's letter. Perhaps it missed you in some way. Things do
sometimes go wrong in the mail, and several times your mother has
thought a letter has been lost. She thought so because you seemed to
forget to refer to things. We came over to leave Betty at a French
school and we had expected to visit you later. But your mother fell ill
of diphtheria and not hearing from you seemed to make her homesick,
so we decided to return to New York by the next steamer. I ran over to
London, however, to make some inquiries about you, and on the first day
I arrived I met your husband in Bond Street. He at once explained to me
that you had gone to a house party at some castle in Scotland, and said
you were well and enjoying yourself very much, and he was on his way to
join you. I am sorry, daughter, that it has turned out that we could not
see each other. It seems a long time since you left us. But I am very
glad, however, that you are so well and really like English life. If we
had time for it I am sure it would be delightful. Your mother sends
her love and wants very much to hear of all you are doing and enjoying.
Hoping that we may have better luck the next time we cross--

Your affectionate father,

REUBEN L. VANDERPOEL.


Rosalie found herself running breathlessly up the avenue. She was
clutching the letter still in her hand, and staggering from side to
side. Now and then she uttered horrible little short cries, like an
animal's. She ran and ran, seeing nothing, and now and then with the
clenched hand in which the letter was crushed striking a sharp blow at
her breast.

She stumbled up the big stone steps she had mounted on the day she was
brought home as a bride. Her dress caught her feet and she fell on her
knees and scrambled up again, gasping; she dashed across the huge
dark hall, and, hurling herself against the door of the morning room,
appeared, dishevelled, haggard-eyed, and with scarlet patches on her
wild, white face, before the Dowager, who started angrily to her feet:

"Where is Nigel? Where is Nigel?" she cried out frenziedly.

"What in heaven's name do you mean by such manners?" demanded her
ladyship. "Apologise at once!"

"Where is Nigel? Nigel! Nigel!" the girl raved. "I will see him--I
will--I will see him!"

She who had been the mildest of sweet-tempered creatures all her life
had suddenly gone almost insane with heartbroken, hysteric grief and
rage. She did not know what she was saying and doing; she only realised
in an agony of despair that she was a thing caught in a trap; that these
people had her in their power, and that they had tricked and lied to her
and kept her apart from what her girl's heart so cried out to and longed
for. Her father, her mother, her little sister; they had been near her
and had been lied to and sent away.

"You are quite mad, you violent, uncontrolled creature!" cried the
Dowager furiously. "You ought to be put in a straitjacket and drenched
with cold water."

Then the door opened again and Nigel strode in. He was in riding dress
and was breathless and livid with anger. He was in a nice mood to
confront a wife on the verge of screaming hysterics. After a bad half
hour with his steward, who had been talking of impending disasters,
he had heard by chance of Wilson's conflagration and the hundred-pound
cheque. He had galloped home at the top of his horse's speed.

"Here is your wife raving mad," cried out his mother.

Rosalie staggered across the room to him. She held up her hand clenching
the letter and shook it at him.

"My mother and father have been here," she shrieked. My mother has been
ill. They wanted to come to see me. You knew and you kept it from me.
You told my father lies--lies--hideous lies! You said I was away in
Scotland--enjoying myself--when I was here and dying with homesickness.
You made them think I did not care for them--or for New York! You have
killed me! Why did you do such a wicked thing!

He looked at her with glaring eyes. If a man born a gentleman is ever in
the mood to kick his wife to death, as costermongers do, he was in that
mood. He had lost control over himself as completely as she had, and
while she was only a desperate, hysteric girl, he was a violent man.

"I did it because I did not mean to have them here," he said. "I did it
because I won't have them here."

"They shall come," she quavered shrilly in her wildness. "They shall
come to see me. They are my own father and mother, and I will have
them."

He caught her arm in such a grip that she must have thought he would
break it, if she could have thought or felt anything.

"No, you will not have them," he ground forth between his teeth. "You
will do as I order you and learn to behave yourself as a decent married
woman should. You will learn to obey your husband and respect his wishes
and control your devilish American temper."

"They have gone--gone!" wailed Rosalie. "You sent them away! My father,
my mother, my sister!"

"Stop your indecent ravings!" ordered Sir Nigel, shaking her. "I will
not submit to be disgraced before the servants."

"Put your hand over her mouth, Nigel," cried his mother. "The very
scullery maids will hear."

She was as infuriated as her son. And, indeed, to behold civilised human
beings in the state of uncontrolled violence these three had reached was
a sight to shudder at.

"I won't stop," cried the girl. "Why did you take me away from
everything--I was quite happy. Everybody was kind to me. I loved people,
I had everything. No one ever--ever--ever ill-used anyone----"

Sir Nigel clutched her arm more brutally still and shook her with
absolute violence. Her hair broke loose and fell about her awful little
distorted, sobbing face.

"I did not take you to give you an opportunity to display your vulgar
ostentation by throwing away hundred-pound cheques to villagers," he
said. "I didn't take you to give you the position of a lady and be made
a fool of by you."

"You have ruined him," burst forth his mother. "You have put it out of
his power to marry an Englishwoman who would have known it was her duty
to give something in return for his name and protection."

Her ladyship had begun to rave also, and as mother and son were of equal
violence when they had ceased to control themselves, Rosalie began to
find herself enlightened unsparingly. She and her people were vulgar
sharpers. They had trapped a gentleman into a low American marriage and
had not the decency to pay for what they had got. If she had been an
Englishwoman, well born, and of decent breeding, all her fortune would
have been properly transferred to her husband and he would have had the
dispensing of it. Her husband would have been in the position to control
her expenditure and see that she did not make a fool of herself. As it
was she was the derision of all decent people, of all people who had
been properly brought up and knew what was in good taste and of good
morality.

First it was the Dowager who poured forth, and then it was Sir
Nigel. They broke in on each other, they interrupted one another with
exclamations and interpolations. They had so far lost themselves that
they did not know they became grotesque in the violence of their fury.
Rosalie's brain whirled. Her hysteria mounted and mounted. She stared
first at one and then at the other, gasping and sobbing by turns; she
swayed on her feet and clutched at a chair.

"I did not know," she broke forth at last, trying to make her voice
heard in the storm. "I never understood. I knew something made you
hate me, but I didn't know you were angry about money." She laughed
tremulously and wildly. "I would have given it to you--father would have
given you some--if you had been good to me." The laugh became hysterical
beyond her management. Peal after peal broke from her, she shook all
over with her ghastly merriment, sobbing at one and the same time.

"Oh! oh! oh!" she shrieked. "You see, I thought you were so
aristocratic. I wouldn't have dared to think of such a thing. I thought
an English gentleman--an English gentleman--oh! oh! to think it was
all because I did not give you money--just common dollars and cents
that--that I daren't offer to a decent American who could work for
himself."

Sir Nigel sprang at her. He struck her with his open hand upon the
cheek, and as she reeled she held up her small, feverish, shaking hand,
laughing more wildly than before.

"You ought not to strike me," she cried. "You oughtn't! You don't know
how valuable I am. Perhaps----" with a little, crazy scream--"perhaps I
might have a son."

She fell in a shuddering heap, and as she dropped she struck heavily
against the protruding end of an oak chest and lay upon the floor, her
arms flung out and limp, as if she were a dead thing.




CHAPTER V

ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC

In the course of twelve years the Shuttle had woven steadily and--its
movements lubricated by time and custom--with increasing rapidity.
Threads of commerce it caught up and shot to and fro, with threads of
literature and art, threads of life drawn from one shore to the other
and back again, until they were bound in the fabric of its weaving.
Coldness there had been between both lands, broad divergence of taste
and thought, argument across seas, sometimes resentment, but the web in
Fate's hands broadened and strengthened and held fast. Coldness faintly
warmed despite itself, taste and thought drawn into nearer contact,
reflecting upon their divergences, grew into tolerance and the knowledge
that the diverging, seen more clearly, was not so broad; argument
coming within speaking distance reasoned itself to logical and practical
conclusions. Problems which had stirred anger began to find solutions.
Books, in the first place, did perhaps more than all else. Cheap,
pirated editions of English works, much quarrelled over by authors and
publishers, being scattered over the land, brought before American eyes
soft, home-like pictures of places which were, after all was said and
done, the homes of those who read of them, at least in the sense of
having been the birthplaces of fathers or grandfathers. Some subtle,
far-reaching power of nature caused a stirring of the blood, a vague,
unexpressed yearning and lingering over pages which depicted sweet,
green lanes, broad acres rich with centuries of nourishment and care;
grey church towers, red roofs, and village children playing before
cottage doors. None of these things were new to those who pondered over
them, kinsmen had dwelt on memories of them in their fireside talk,
and their children had seen them in fancy and in dreams. Old grievances
having had time to fade away and take on less poignant colour, the
stirring of the blood stirred also imaginations, and wakened something
akin to homesickness, though no man called the feeling by its name. And
this, perhaps, was the strongest cord the Shuttle wove and was the true
meaning of its power. Being drawn by it, Americans in increasing numbers
turned their faces towards the older land. Gradually it was discovered
that it was the simplest affair in the world to drive down to the
wharves and take a steamer which landed one, after a more or less
interesting voyage, in Liverpool, or at some other convenient port.
From there one went to London, or Paris, or Rome; in fact, whithersoever
one's fancy guided, but first or last it always led the traveller to
the treading of green, velvet English turf. And once standing on
such velvet, both men and women, looking about them, felt, despite
themselves, the strange old thrill which some of them half resented and
some warmly loved.

In the course of twelve years, a length of time which will transform a
little girl wearing a short frock into a young woman wearing a long one,
the pace of life and the ordering of society may become so altered as
to appear amazing when one finds time to reflect on the subject. But one
does not often find time. Changes occur so gradually that one scarcely
observes them, or so swiftly that they take the form of a kind of amazed
shock which one gets over as quickly as one experiences it and realises
that its cause is already a fixed fact.

In the United States of America, which have not yet acquired the serene
sense of conservative self-satisfaction and repose which centuries of
age may bestow, the spirit of life itself is the aspiration for change.
Ambition itself only means the insistence on change. Each day is to be
better than yesterday fuller of plans, of briskness, of initiative. Each
to-day demands of to-morrow new men, new minds, new work. A to-day which
has not launched new ships, explored new countries, constructed new
buildings, added stories to old ones, may consider itself a failure,
unworthy even of being consigned to the limbo of respectable yesterdays.
Such a country lives by leaps and bounds, and the ten years which
followed the marriage of Reuben Vanderpoel's eldest daughter made many
such bounds and leaps. They were years which initiated and established
international social relations in a manner which caused them to
incorporate themselves with the history of both countries. As America
discovered Europe, that continent discovered America. American beauties
began to appear in English drawing-rooms and Continental salons. They
were presented at court and commented upon in the Row and the Bois.
Their little transatlantic tricks of speech and their mots were repeated
with gusto. It became understood that they were amusing and amazing.
Americans "came in" as the heroes and heroines of novels and stories.
Punch delighted in them vastly. Shopkeepers and hotel proprietors
stocked, furnished, and provisioned for them. They spent money
enormously and were singularly indifferent (at the outset) under
imposition. They "came over" in a manner as epoch-making, though less
war-like than that of William the Conqueror.

International marriages ceased to be a novelty. As Bettina Vanderpoel
grew up, she grew up, so to speak, in the midst of them. She saw her
country, its people, its newspapers, its literature, innocently rejoiced
by the alliances its charming young women contracted with foreign
rank. She saw it affectionately, gleefully, rubbing its hands over its
duchesses, its countesses, its miladies. The American Eagle spread its
wings and flapped them sometimes a trifle, over this new but so natural
and inevitable triumph of its virgins. It was of course only "American"
that such things should happen. America ruled the universe, and its
women ruled America, bullying it a little, prettily, perhaps. What could
be more a matter of course than that American women, being aided by
adoring fathers, brothers and husbands, sumptuously to ship themselves
to other lands, should begin to rule these lands also? Betty, in her
growing up, heard all this intimated. At twelve years old, though she
had detested Rosalie's marriage, she had rather liked to hear people
talk of the picturesqueness of places like Stornham Court, and of the
life led by women of rank in their houses in town and country. Such
talk nearly always involved the description of things and people, whose
colour and tone had only reached her through the medium of books, most
frequently fiction.

She was, however, of an unusually observing mind, even as a child, and
the time came when she realised that the national bird spread its wings
less proudly when the subject of international matches was touched upon,
and even at such times showed signs of restlessness. Now and then things
had not turned out as they appeared to promise; two or three seemingly
brilliant unions had resulted in disaster. She had not understood all
the details the newspapers cheerfully provided, but it was clear to
her that more than one previously envied young woman had had practical
reasons for discovering that she had made an astonishingly bad bargain.
This being the case, she used frequently to ponder over the case of
Rosy--Rosy! who had been swept away from them and swallowed up, as it
seemed, by that other and older world. She was in certain ways a silent
child, and no one but herself knew how little she had forgotten Rosy,
how often she pondered over her, how sometimes she had lain awake in the
night and puzzled out lines of argument concerning her and things which
might be true.

The one grief of poor Mrs. Vanderpoel's life had been the apparent
estrangement of her eldest child. After her first six months in England
Lady Anstruthers' letters had become fewer and farther between, and had
given so little information connected with herself that affectionate
curiosity became discouraged. Sir Nigel's brief and rare epistles
revealed so little desire for any relationship with his wife's family
that gradually Rosy's image seemed to fade into far distance and become
fainter with the passing of each month. It seemed almost an incredible
thing, when they allowed themselves to think of it, but no member of the
family had ever been to Stornham Court. Two or three efforts to arrange
a visit had been made, but on each occasion had failed through some
apparently accidental cause. Once Lady Anstruthers had been away, once
a letter had seemingly failed to reach her, once her children had had
scarlet fever and the orders of the physicians in attendance had
been stringent in regard to visitors, even relatives who did not fear
contagion.

"If she had been living in New York and her children had been ill I
should have been with her all the time," poor Mrs. Vanderpoel had said
with tears. "Rosy's changed awfully, somehow. Her letters don't sound a
bit like she used to be. It seems as if she just doesn't care to see her
mother and father."

Betty had frowned a good deal and thought intensely in secret. She did
not believe that Rosy was ashamed of her relations. She remembered,
however, it is true, that Clara Newell (who had been a schoolmate) had
become very super-fine and indifferent to her family after her marriage
to an aristocratic and learned German. Hers had been one of the
successful alliances, and after living a few years in Berlin she had
quite looked down upon New Yorkers, and had made herself exceedingly
unpopular during her one brief visit to her relatives. She seemed
to think her father and mother undignified and uncultivated, and she
disapproved entirely of her sisters dress and bearing. She said that
they had no distinction of manner and that all their interests were
frivolous and unenlightened.

"But Clara always was a conceited girl," thought Betty. "She was always
patronising people, and Rosy was only pretty and sweet. She always said
herself that she had no brains. But she had a heart."

After the lapse of a few years there had been no further discussion of
plans for visiting Stornham. Rosalie had become so remote as to appear
almost unreachable. She had been presented at Court, she had had three
children, the Dowager Lady Anstruthers had died. Once she had written
to her father to ask for a large sum of money, which he had sent to
her, because she seemed to want it very much. She required it to pay off
certain debts on the estate and spoke touchingly of her boy who would
inherit.

"He is a delicate boy, father," she wrote, "and I don't want the estate
to come to him burdened."

When she received the money she wrote gratefully of the generosity shown
her, but she spoke very vaguely of the prospect of their seeing each
other in the future. It was as if she felt her own remoteness even more
than they felt it themselves.

In the meantime Bettina had been taken to France and placed at school
there. The resulting experience was an enlightening one, far more
illuminating to the quick-witted American child than it would have been
to an English, French, or German one, who would not have had so much to
learn, and probably would not have been so quick at the learning.

Betty Vanderpoel knew nothing which was not American, and only vaguely
a few things which were not of New York. She had lived in Fifth Avenue,
attended school in a numbered street near her own home, played in and
been driven round Central Park. She had spent the hot months of the
summer in places up the Hudson, or on Long Island, and such resorts of
pleasure. She had believed implicitly in all she saw and knew. She
had been surrounded by wealth and decent good nature throughout her
existence, and had enjoyed her life far too much to admit of any doubt
that America was the most perfect country in the world, Americans the
cleverest and most amusing people, and that other nations were a little
out of it, and consequently sufficiently scant of resource to render
pity without condemnation a natural sentiment in connection with one's
occasional thoughts of them.

But hers was a mentality by no means ordinary. Inheritance in her nature
had combined with circumstances, as it has a habit of doing in all human
beings. But in her case the combinations were unusual and produced a
result somewhat remarkable. The quality of brains which, in the first
Reuben Vanderpoel had expressed itself in the marvellously successful
planning and carrying to their ends of commercial and financial schemes,
the absolute genius of penetration and calculation of the sordid and
uneducated little trader in skins and barterer of goods, having
filtered through two generations of gradual education and refinement
of existence, which was no longer that of the mere trader, had
been transformed in the great-granddaughter into keen, clear sight,
level-headed perceptiveness and a logical sense of values. As the first
Reuben had known by instinct the values of pelts and lands, Bettina
knew by instinct the values of qualities, of brains, of hearts, of
circumstances, and the incidents which affect them. She was as unaware
of the significance of her great possession as were those around her.
Nevertheless it was an unerring thing. As a mere child, unformed and
uneducated by life, she had not been one of the small creatures to be
deceived or flattered.

"She's an awfully smart little thing, that Betty," her New York aunts
and cousins often remarked. "She seems to see what people mean, it
doesn't matter what they say. She likes people you would not expect her
to like, and then again she sometimes doesn't care the least for people
who are thought awfully attractive."

As has been already intimated, the child was crude enough and not
particularly well bred, but her small brain had always been at work, and
each day of her life recorded for her valuable impressions. The page of
her young mind had ceased to be a blank much earlier than is usual.

The comparing of these impressions with such as she received when her
life in the French school was new afforded her active mental exercise.

She began with natural, secret indignation and rebellion. There was no
other American pupil in the establishment besides herself. But for the
fact that the name of Vanderpoel represented wealth so enormous as
to amount to a sort of rank in itself, Bettina would not have been
received. The proprietress of the institution had gravely disquieting
doubts of the propriety of America. Her pupils were not accustomed
to freedom of opinions and customs. An American child might either
consciously or unconsciously introduce them. As this must be guarded
against, Betty's first few months at the school were not agreeable to
her. She was supervised and expurgated, as it were. Special Sisters
were told off to converse and walk with her, and she soon perceived
that conversations were not only French lessons in disguise, but were
lectures on ethics, morals, and good manners, imperfectly concealed
by the mask and domino of amiable entertainment. She translated into
English after the following manner the facts her swift young perceptions
gathered. There were things it was so inelegant to say that only
the most impossible persons said them; there were things it was so
inexcusable to do that when done their inexcusability assumed the
proportions of a crime. There were movements, expressions, points of
view, which one must avoid as one would avoid the plague. And they were
all things, acts, expressions, attitudes of mind which Bettina had
been familiar with from her infancy, and which she was well aware were
considered almost entirely harmless and unobjectionable in New York,
in her beloved New York, which was the centre of the world, which was
bigger, richer, gayer, more admirable than any other city known upon the
earth.

If she had not so loved it, if she had ever dreamed of the existence of
any other place as being absolutely necessary, she would not have felt
the thing so bitterly. But it seemed to her that all these amiable
diatribes in exquisite French were directed at her New York, and it
must be admitted that she was humiliated and enraged. It was a personal,
indeed, a family matter. Her father, her mother, her relatives, and
friends were all in some degree exactly the kind of persons whose
speech, habits, and opinions she must conscientiously avoid. But for
the instinct of summing up values, circumstances, and intentions, it is
probable that she would have lost her head, let loose her temper and her
tongue, and have become insubordinate. But the quickness of perception
which had revealed practical potentialities to old Reuben Vanderpoel,
revealed to her the value of French which was perfectly fluent, a voice
which was musical, movements which were grace, manners which had a
still beauty, and comparing these things with others less charming
she listened and restrained herself, learning, marking, and inwardly
digesting with a cleverness most enviable.

Among her fellow pensionnaires she met with discomforting illuminations,
which were fine discipline also, though if she herself had been a less
intellectual creature they might have been embittering. Without doubt
Betty, even at twelve years, was intellectual. Hers was the practical
working intellect which begins duty at birth and does not lay down its
tools because the sun sets. The little and big girls who wrote their
exercises at her side did not deliberately enlighten her, but she
learned from them in vague ways that it was not New York which was the
centre of the earth, but Paris, or Berlin, Madrid, London, or Rome.
Paris and London were perhaps more calmly positive of themselves than
other capitals, and were a little inclined to smile at the lack of
seriousness in other claims. But one strange fact was more predominant
than any other, and this was that New York was not counted as a
civilised centre at all; it had no particular existence. Nobody
expressed this rudely; in fact, it did not acquire the form of actual
statement at any time. It was merely revealed by amiable and ingenuous
unconsciousness of the circumstance that such a part of the world
expected to be regarded or referred to at all. Betty began early to
realise that as her companions did not talk of Timbuctoo or Zanzibar,
so they did not talk of New York. Stockholm or Amsterdam seemed,
despite their smallness, to be considered. No one denied the presence of
Zanzibar on the map, but as it conveyed nothing more than the impression
of being a mere geographical fact, there was no reason why one should
dwell on it in conversation. Remembering all she had left behind, the
crowded streets, the brilliant shop windows, the buzz of individual
people, there were moments when Betty ground her strong little teeth.
She wanted to express all these things, to call out, to explain, and
command recognition for them. But her cleverness showed to her that
argument or protestation would be useless. She could not make such
hearers understand. There were girls whose interest in America was
founded on their impression that magnificent Indian chieftains in
blankets and feathers stalked about the streets of the towns, and
that Betty's own thick black hair had been handed down to her by some
beautiful Minnehaha or Pocahontas. When first she was approached by
timid, tentative questionings revealing this point of view, Betty felt
hot and answered with unamiable curtness. No, there were no red Indians
in New York. There had been no red Indians in her family. She had
neither grandmothers nor aunts who were squaws, if they meant that.

She felt so scornfully, so disgustedly indignant at their benighted
ignorance, that she knew she behaved very well in saying so little in
reply. She could have said so much, but whatsoever she had said would
have conveyed nothing to them, so she thought it all out alone. She
went over the whole ground and little realised how much she was teaching
herself as she turned and tossed in her narrow, spotlessly white bed at
night, arguing, comparing, drawing deductions from what she knew and
did not know of the two continents. Her childish anger, combining
itself with the practical, alert brain of Reuben Vanderpoel the first,
developed in her a logical reasoning power which led her to arrive at
many an excellent and curiously mature conclusion. The result was
finely educational. All the more so that in her fevered desire for
justification of the things she loved, she began to read books such as
little girls do not usually take interest in. She found some difficulty
in obtaining them at first, but a letter or two written to her father
obtained for her permission to read what she chose. The third Reuben
Vanderpoel was deeply fond of his younger daughter, and felt in secret
a profound admiration for her, which was saved from becoming too obvious
by the ever present American sense of humour.

"Betty seems to be going in for politics," he said after reading the
letter containing her request and her first list of books. "She's about
as mad as she can be at the ignorance of the French girls about America
and Americans. She wants to fill up on solid facts, so that she can come
out strong in argument. She's got an understanding of the power of solid
facts that would be a fortune to her if she were a man."

It was no doubt her understanding of the power of facts which led her
to learn everything well and to develop in many directions. She began to
dip into political and historical volumes because she was furious, and
wished to be able to refute idiocy, but she found herself continuing to
read because she was interested in a way she had not expected. She began
to see things. Once she made a remark which was prophetic. She made
it in answer to a guileless observation concerning the gold mines with
which Boston was supposed to be enriched.

"You don't know anything about America, you others," she said. "But you
WILL know!"

"Do you think it will become the fashion to travel in America?" asked a
German girl.

"Perhaps," said Betty. "But--it isn't so much that you will go to
America. I believe it will come to you. It's like that--America. It
doesn't stand still. It goes and gets what it wants."

She laughed as she ended, and so did the other girls. But in ten years'
time, when they were young women, some of them married, some of them
court beauties, one of them recalled this speech to another, whom she
encountered in an important house in St. Petersburg, the wife of the
celebrated diplomat who was its owner being an American woman.

Bettina Vanderpoel's education was a rather fine thing. She herself
had more to do with it than girls usually have to do with their own
training. In a few months' time those in authority in the French school
found that it was not necessary to supervise and expurgate her. She
learned with an interested rapacity which was at once unusual and
amazing. And she evidently did not learn from books alone. Her voice, as
an organ, had been musical and full from babyhood. It began to modulate
itself and to express things most voices are incapable of expressing.
She had been so built by nature that the carriage of her head and limbs
was good to behold. She acquired a harmony of movement which caused her
to lose no shade of grace and spirit. Her eyes were full of thought, of
speculation, and intentness.

"She thinks a great deal for one so young," was said of her frequently
by one or the other of her teachers. One finally went further and added,
"She has genius."

This was true. She had genius, but it was not specialised. It was not
genius which expressed itself through any one art. It was a genius for
life, for living herself, for aiding others to live, for vivifying
mere existence. She herself was, however, aware only of an eagerness
of temperament, a passion for seeing, doing, and gaining knowledge.
Everything interested her, everybody was suggestive and more or less
enlightening.

Her relatives thought her original in her fancies. They called them
fancies because she was so young. Fortunately for her, there was no
reason why she should not be gratified. Most girls preferred to spend
their holidays on the Continent. She elected to return to America every
alternate year. She enjoyed the voyage and she liked the entire change
of atmosphere and people.

"It makes me like both places more," she said to her father when she was
thirteen. "It makes me see things."

Her father discovered that she saw everything. She was the pleasure of
his life. He was attracted greatly by the interest she exhibited in
all orders of things. He saw her make bold, ingenuous plunges into all
waters, without any apparent consciousness that the scraps of knowledge
she brought to the surface were unusual possessions for a schoolgirl.
She had young views on the politics and commerce of different countries,
as she had views on their literature. When Reuben Vanderpoel swooped
across the American continent on journeys of thousands of miles, taking
her as a companion, he discovered that he actually placed a sort of
confidence in her summing up of men and schemes. He took her to see
mines and railroads and those who worked them, and he talked them over
with her afterward, half with a sense of humour, half with a sense of
finding comfort in her intelligent comprehension of all he said.

She enjoyed herself immensely and gained a strong picturesqueness of
character. After an American holiday she used to return to France,
Germany, or Italy, with a renewed zest of feeling for all things
romantic and antique. After a few years in the French convent she asked
that she might be sent to Germany.

"I am gradually changing into a French girl," she wrote to her father.
"One morning I found I was thinking it would be nice to go into a
convent, and another day I almost entirely agreed with one of the girls
who was declaiming against her brother who had fallen in love with a
Californian. You had better take me away and send me to Germany."

Reuben Vanderpoel laughed. He understood Betty much better than most of
her relations did. He knew when seriousness underlay her jests and his
respect for her seriousness was great. He sent her to school in Germany.
During the early years of her schooldays Betty had observed that America
appeared upon the whole to be regarded by her schoolfellows principally
as a place to which the more unfortunate among the peasantry emigrated
as steerage passengers when things could become no worse for them in
their own country. The United States was not mentally detached from any
other portion of the huge Western Continent. Quite well-educated persons
spoke casually of individuals having "gone to America," as if there were
no particular difference between Brazil and Massachusetts.

"I wonder if you ever saw my cousin Gaston," a French girl once asked
her as they sat at their desks. "He became very poor through ill living.
He was quite without money and he went to America."

"To New York?" inquired Bettina.

"I am not sure. The town is called Concepcion."

"That is not in the United States," Betty answered disdainfully. "It is
in Chili."

She dragged her atlas towards her and found the place.

"See," she said. "It is thousands of miles from New York." Her companion
was a near-sighted, rather slow girl. She peered at the map, drawing a
line with her finger from New York to Concepcion.

"Yes, they are at a great distance from one another," she admitted, "but
they are both in America."

"But not both in the United States," cried Betty. "French girls always
seem to think that North and South America are the same, that they are
both the United States."

"Yes," said the slow girl with deliberation. "We do make odd mistakes
sometimes." To which she added with entire innocence of any ironic
intention. "But you Americans, you seem to feel the United States, your
New York, to be all America."

Betty started a little and flushed. During a few minutes of rapid
reflection she sat bolt upright at her desk and looked straight
before her. Her mentality was of the order which is capable of making
discoveries concerning itself as well as concerning others. She had
never thought of this view of the matter before, but it was quite true.
To passionate young patriots such as herself at least, that portion of
the map covered by the United States was America. She suddenly saw also
that to her New York had been America. Fifth Avenue Broadway, Central
Park, even Tiffany's had been "America." She laughed and reddened a
shade as she put the atlas aside having recorded a new idea. She had
found out that it was not only Europeans who were local, which was a
discovery of some importance to her fervid youth.

Because she thought so often of Rosalie, her attention was, during the
passing years, naturally attracted by the many things she heard of such
marriages as were made by Americans with men of other countries than
their own. She discovered that notwithstanding certain commercial
views of matrimony, all foreigners who united themselves with American
heiresses were not the entire brutes primitive prejudice might lead
one to imagine. There were rather one-sided alliances which proved
themselves far from happy. The Cousin Gaston, for instance, brought home
a bride whose fortune rebuilt and refurnished his dilapidated chateau
and who ended by making of him a well-behaved and cheery country
gentleman not at all to be despised in his amiable, if light-minded good
nature and good spirits. His wife, fortunately, was not a young woman
who yearned for sentiment. She was a nice-tempered, practical American
girl, who adored French country life and knew how to amuse and manage
her husband. It was a genial sort of menage and yet though this was an
undeniable fact, Bettina observed that when the union was spoken of it
was always referred to with a certain tone which conveyed that though
one did not exactly complain of its having been undesirable, it was
not quite what Gaston might have expected. His wife had money and was
good-natured, but there were limitations to one's appreciation of a
marriage in which husband and wife were not on the same plane.

"She is an excellent person, and it has been good for Gaston," said
Bettina's friend. "We like her, but she is not--she is not----" She
paused there, evidently seeing that the remark was unlucky. Bettina, who
was still in short frocks, took her up.

"What is she not?" she asked.

"Ah!--it is difficult to explain--to Americans. It is really not exactly
a fault. But she is not of his world."

"But if he does not like that," said Bettina coolly, "why did he let her
buy him and pay for him?"

It was young and brutal, but there were times when the business
perspicuity of the first Reuben Vanderpoel, combining with the fiery,
wounded spirit of his young descendant, rendered Bettina brutal. She saw
certain unadorned facts with unsparing young eyes and wanted to state
them. After her frocks were lengthened, she learned how to state them
with more fineness of phrase, but even then she was sometimes still
rather unsparing.

In this case her companion, who was not fiery of temperament, only
coloured slightly.

"It was not quite that," she answered. "Gaston really is fond of her.
She amuses him, and he says she is far cleverer than he is."

But there were unions less satisfactory, and Bettina had opportunities
to reflect upon these also. The English and Continental papers did
not give enthusiastic, detailed descriptions of the marriages New York
journals dwelt upon with such delight. They were passed over with a
paragraph. When Betty heard them spoken of in France, Germany or Italy,
she observed that they were not, as a rule, spoken of respectfully. It
seemed to her that the bridegrooms were, in conversation, treated by
their equals with scant respect. It appeared that there had always been
some extremely practical reason for the passion which had led them to
the altar. One generally gathered that they or their estates were very
much out at elbow, and frequently their characters were not considered
admirable by their relatives and acquaintances. Some had been rather
cold shouldered in certain capitals on account of embarrassing little,
or big, stories. Some had spent their patrimonies in riotous living.
Those who had merely begun by coming into impoverished estates, and had
later attenuated their resources by comparatively decent follies, were
of the more desirable order. By the time she was nineteen, Bettina had
felt the blood surge in her veins more than once when she heard some
comments on alliances over which she had seen her compatriots glow with
affectionate delight.

"It was time Ludlow married some girl with money," she heard said of one
such union. "He had been playing the fool ever since he came into
the estate. Horses and a lot of stupid women. He had come some awful
croppers during the last ten years. Good-enough looking girl, they tell
me--the American he has married--tremendous lot of money. Couldn't
have picked it up on this side. English young women of fortune are not
looking for that kind of thing. Poor old Billy wasn't good enough."

Bettina told the story to her father when they next met. She had grown
into a tall young creature by this time. Her low, full voice was like a
bell and was capable of ringing forth some fine, mellow tones of irony.

"And in America we are pleased," she said, "and flatter ourselves that
we are receiving the proper tribute of adoration of our American wit and
beauty. We plume ourselves on our conquests."

"No, Betty," said her father, and his reflective deliberation had
meaning. "There are a lot of us who don't plume ourselves particularly
in these days. We are not as innocent as we were when this sort of thing
began. We are not as innocent as we were when Rosy was married." And
he sighed and rubbed his forehead with the handle of his pen. "Not as
innocent as we were when Rosy was married," he repeated.

Bettina went to him and slid her fine young arm round his neck. It was
a long, slim, round arm with a wonderful power to caress in its curves.
She kissed Vanderpoel's lined cheek.

"Have you had time to think much about Rosy?" she said.

"I've not had time, but I've done it," he answered. "Anything that hurts
your mother hurts me. Sometimes she begins to cry in her sleep, and when
I wake her she tells me she has been dreaming that she has seen Rosy."

"I have had time to think of her," said Bettina. "I have heard so much
of these things. I was at school in Germany when Annie Butterfield and
Baron von Steindahl were married. I heard it talked about there, and
then my mother sent me some American papers."

She laughed a little, and for a moment her laugh did not sound like a
girl's.

"Well, it's turned out badly enough," her father commented. "The papers
had plenty to say about it later. There wasn't much he was too good to
do to his wife, apparently."

"There was nothing too bad for him to do before he had a wife," said
Bettina. "He was black. It was an insolence that he should have dared to
speak to Annie Butterfield. Somebody ought to have beaten him."

"He beat her instead."

"Yes, and I think his family thought it quite natural. They said that
she was so vulgar and American that she exasperated Frederick beyond
endurance. She was not geboren, that was it." She laughed her severe
little laugh again. "Perhaps we shall get tired in time," she added. "I
think we are learning. If it is made a matter of business quite open and
aboveboard, it will be fair. You know, father, you always said that I
was businesslike."

There was interested curiosity in Vanderpoel's steady look at her. There
were times when he felt that Betty's summing up of things was well worth
listening to. He saw that now she was in one of her moods when it would
pay one to hear her out. She held her chin up a little, and her face
took on a fine stillness at once sweet and unrelenting. She was very
good to look at in such moments.

"Yes," he answered, "you have a particularly level head for a girl."

"Well," she went on. "What I see is that these things are not business,
and they ought to be. If a man comes to a rich American girl and says,
'I and my title are for sale. Will you buy us?' If the girl is--is that
kind of a girl and wants that kind of man, she can look them both over
and say, 'Yes, I will buy you,' and it can be arranged. He will not
return the money if he is unsatisfactory, but she cannot complain that
she has been deceived. She can only complain of that when he pretends
that he asks her to marry him because he wants her for his wife, because
he would want her for his wife if she were as poor as himself. Let it
be understood that he is property for sale, let her make sure that he is
the kind of property she wants to buy. Then, if, when they are married,
he is brutal or impudent, or his people are brutal or impudent, she can
say, 'I will forfeit the purchase money, but I will not forfeit myself.
I will not stay with you.'"

"They would not like to hear you say that, Betty," said her father,
rubbing his chin reflectively.

"No," she answered. "Neither the girl nor the man would like it, and it
is their business, not mine. But it is practical and would prevent silly
mistakes. It would prevent the girls being laughed at. It is when they
are flattered by the choice made of them that they are laughed at. No
one can sneer at a man or woman for buying what they think they want,
and throwing it aside if it turns out a bad bargain."

She had seated herself near her father. She rested her elbow slightly
on the table and her chin in the hollow of her hand. She was a beautiful
young creature. She had a soft curving mouth, and a soft curving cheek
which was warm rose. Taken in conjunction with those young charms, her
next words had an air of incongruity.

"You think I am hard," she said. "When I think of these things I
am hard--as hard as nails. That is an Americanism, but it is a good
expression. I am angry for America. If we are sordid and undignified,
let us get what we pay for and make the others acknowledge that we have
paid."

She did not smile, nor did her father. Mr. Vanderpoel, on the contrary,
sighed. He had a dreary suspicion that Rosy, at least, had not received
what she had paid for, and he knew she had not been in the least aware
that she had paid or that she was expected to do so. Several times
during the last few years he had thought that if he had not been so hard
worked, if he had had time, he would have seriously investigated
the case of Rosy. But who is not aware that the profession of
multimillionaire does not allow of any swerving from duty or of any
interests requiring leisure?

"I wonder, Betty," he said quite deliberately, "if you know how handsome
you are?"

"Yes," answered Bettina. "I think so. And I am tall. It is the fashion
to be tall now. It was Early Victorian to be little. The Queen brought
in the 'dear little woman,' and now the type has gone out."

"They will come to look at you pretty soon," said Vanderpoel. "What
shall you say then?"

"I?" said Bettina, and her voice sounded particularly low and mellow.
"I have a little monomania, father. Some people have a monomania for one
thing and some for another. Mine is for NOT taking a bargain from the
ducal remnant counter."



CHAPTER VI

AN UNFAIR ENDOWMENT

To Bettina Vanderpoel had been given, to an extraordinary extent, the
extraordinary thing which is called beauty--which is a thing
entirely set apart from mere good looks or prettiness. This thing
is extraordinary because, if statistics were taken, the result would
probably be the discovery that not three human beings in a million
really possess it. That it should be bestowed at all--since it is so
rare--seems as unfair a thing as appears to the mere mortal mind the
bestowal of unbounded wealth, since it quite as inevitably places the
life of its owner upon an abnormal plane. There are millions of pretty
women, and billions of personable men, but the man or woman of entire
physical beauty may cross one's pathway only once in a lifetime--or not
at all. In the latter case it is natural to doubt the absolute truth of
the rumours that the thing exists. The abnormal creature seems a mere
freak of nature and may chance to be angel, criminal, total insipidity,
virago or enchanter, but let such an one enter a room or appear in the
street, and heads must turn, eyes light and follow, souls yearn or
envy, or sink under the discouragement of comparison. With the complete
harmony and perfect balance of the singular thing, it would be folly for
the rest of the world to compete. A human being who had lived in poverty
for half a lifetime, might, if suddenly endowed with limitless fortune,
retain, to a certain extent, balance of mind; but the same creature
having lived the same number of years a wholly unlovely thing, suddenly
awakening to the possession of entire physical beauty, might find the
strain upon pure sanity greater and the balance less easy to preserve.
The relief from the conscious or unconscious tension bred by the sense
of imperfection, the calm surety of the fearlessness of meeting in
any eye a look not lighted by pleasure, would be less normal than the
knowledge that no wish need remain unfulfilled, no fancy ungratified.
Even at sixteen Betty was a long-limbed young nymph whose small head,
set high on a fine slim column of throat, might well have been crowned
with the garland of some goddess of health and the joy of life. She was
light and swift, and being a creature of long lines and tender curves,
there was pleasure in the mere seeing her move. The cut of her spirited
lip, and delicate nostril, made for a profile at which one turned to
look more than once, despite one's self. Her hair was soft and black and
repeated its colour in the extravagant lashes of her childhood, which
made mysterious the changeful dense blue of her eyes. They were eyes
with laughter in them and pride, and a suggestion of many deep things
yet unstirred. She was rather unusually tall, and her body had the
suppleness of a young bamboo. The deep corners of her red mouth curled
generously, and the chin, melting into the fine line of the lovely
throat, was at once strong and soft and lovely. She was a creature of
harmony, warm richness of colour, and brilliantly alluring life.

When her school days were over she returned to New York and gave
herself into her mother's hands. Her mother's kindness of heart and
sweet-tempered lovingness were touching things to Bettina. In the midst
of her millions Mrs. Vanderpoel was wholly unworldly. Bettina knew that
she felt a perpetual homesickness when she allowed herself to think of
the daughter who seemed lost to her, and the girl's realisation of this
caused her to wish to be especially affectionate and amenable. She was
glad that she was tall and beautiful, not merely because such physical
gifts added to the colour and agreeableness of life, but because
hers gave comfort and happiness to her mother. To Mrs. Vanderpoel, to
introduce to the world the loveliest debutante of many years was to be
launched into a new future. To concern one's self about her exquisite
wardrobe was to have an enlivening occupation. To see her surrounded,
to watch eyes as they followed her, to hear her praised, was to feel
something of the happiness she had known in those younger days when New
York had been less advanced in its news and methods, and slim little
blonde Rosalie had come out in white tulle and waltzed like a fairy with
a hundred partners.

"I wonder what Rosy looks like now," the poor woman said involuntarily
one day. Bettina was not a fairy. When her mother uttered her
exclamation Bettina was on the point of going out, and as she stood near
her, wrapped in splendid furs, she had the air of a Russian princess.

"She could not have worn the things you do, Betty," said the affectionate
maternal creature. "She was such a little, slight thing. But she was
very pretty. I wonder if twelve years have changed her much?"

Betty turned towards her rather suddenly.

"Mother," she said, "sometime, before very long, I am going to see."

"To see!" exclaimed Mrs. Vanderpoel. "To see Rosy!"

"Yes," Betty answered. "I have a plan. I have never told you of it, but
I have been thinking over it ever since I was fifteen years old."

She went to her mother and kissed her. She wore a becoming but resolute
expression.

"We will not talk about it now," she said. "There are some things I must
find out."

When she had left the room, which she did almost immediately, Mrs.
Vanderpoel sat down and cried. She nearly always shed a few tears
when anyone touched upon the subject of Rosy. On her desk were some
photographs. One was of Rosy as a little girl with long hair, one was of
Lady Anstruthers in her wedding dress, and one was of Sir Nigel.

"I never felt as if I quite liked him," she said, looking at this last,
"but I suppose she does, or she would not be so happy that she could
forget her mother and sister."

There was another picture she looked at. Rosalie had sent it with the
letter she wrote to her father after he had forwarded the money she
asked for. It was a little study in water colours of the head of her
boy. It was nothing but a head, the shoulders being fancifully draped,
but the face was a peculiar one. It was over-mature, and unlovely, but
for a mouth at once pathetic and sweet.

"He is not a pretty child," sighed Mrs. Vanderpoel. "I should have
thought Rosy would have had pretty babies. Ughtred is more like his
father than his mother."

She spoke to her husband later, of what Betty had said.

"What do you think she has in her mind, Reuben?" she asked.

"What Betty has in her mind is usually good sense," was his response.
"She will begin to talk to me about it presently. I shall not ask
questions yet. She is probably thinking: things over."

She was, in truth, thinking things over, as she had been doing for some
time. She had asked questions on several occasions of English people she
had met abroad. But a schoolgirl cannot ask many questions, and though
she had once met someone who knew Sir Nigel Anstruthers, it was a person
who did not know him well, for the reason that she had not desired
to increase her slight acquaintance. This lady was the aunt of one
of Bettina's fellow pupils, and she was not aware of the girl's
relationship to Sir Nigel. What Betty gathered was that her
brother-in-law was regarded as a decidedly bad lot, that since his
marriage to some American girl he had seemed to have money which he
spent in riotous living, and that the wife, who was said to be a silly
creature, was kept in the country, either because her husband did not
want her in London, or because she preferred to stay at Stornham. About
the wife no one appeared to know anything, in fact.

"She is rather a fool, I believe, and Sir Nigel Anstruthers is the kind
of man a simpleton would be obliged to submit to," Bettina had heard the
lady say.

Her own reflections upon these comments had led her through various
paths of thought. She could recall Rosalie's girlhood, and what
she herself, as an unconsciously observing child, had known of her
character. She remembered the simple impressionability of her mind. She
had been the most amenable little creature in the world. Her yielding
amiability could always be counted upon as a factor by the calculating;
sweet-tempered to weakness, she could be beguiled or distressed into any
course the desires of others dictated. An ill-tempered or self-pitying
person could alter any line of conduct she herself wished to pursue.

"She was neither clever nor strong-minded," Betty said to herself. "A
man like Sir Nigel Anstruthers could make what he chose of her. I wonder
what he has done to her?"

Of one thing she thought she was sure. This was that Rosalie's aloofness
from her family was the result of his design.

She comprehended, in her maturer years, the dislike of her childhood.
She remembered a certain look in his face which she had detested. She
had not known then that it was the look of a rather clever brute, who
was malignant, but she knew now.

"He used to hate us all," she said to herself. "He did not mean to know
us when he had taken Rosalie away, and he did not intend that she should
know us."

She had heard rumours of cases somewhat parallel, cases in which girls'
lives had become swamped in those of their husbands, and their husbands'
families. And she had also heard unpleasant details of the means
employed to reach the desired results. Annie Butterfield's husband had
forbidden her to correspond with her American relatives. He had argued
that such correspondence was disturbing to her mind, and to the domestic
duties which should be every decent woman's religion. One of the
occasions of his beating her had been in consequence of his finding her
writing to her mother a letter blotted with tears. Husbands frequently
objected to their wives' relatives, but there was a special order
of European husband who opposed violently any intimacy with American
relations on the practical ground that their views of a wife's position,
with regard to her husband, were of a revolutionary nature.

Mrs. Vanderpoel had in her possession every letter Rosalie or her
husband had ever written. Bettina asked to be allowed to read them, and
one morning seated herself in her own room before a blazing fire, with
the collection on a table at her side. She read them in order. Nigel's
began as they went on. They were all in one tone, formal, uninteresting,
and requiring no answers. There was not a suggestion of human feeling in
one of them.

"He wrote them," said Betty, "so that we could not say that he had never
written."

Rosalie's first epistles were affectionate, but timid. At the outset
she was evidently trying to conceal the fact that she was homesick.
Gradually she became briefer and more constrained. In one she said
pathetically, "I am such a bad letter writer. I always feel as if I want
to tear up what I have written, because I never say half that is in my
heart." Mrs. Vanderpoel had kissed that letter many a time. She was sure
that a mark on the paper near this particular sentence was where a tear
had fallen. Bettina was sure of this, too, and sat and looked at the
fire for some time.

That night she went to a ball, and when she returned home, she persuaded
her mother to go to bed.

"I want to have a talk with father," she exclaimed. "I am going to ask
him something."

She went to the great man's private room, where he sat at work, even
after the hours when less seriously engaged people come home from balls.
The room he sat in was one of the apartments newspapers had with much
detail described. It was luxuriously comfortable, and its effect was
sober and rich and fine.

When Bettina came in, Vanderpoel, looking up to smile at her in welcome,
was struck by the fact that as a background to an entering figure of
tall, splendid girlhood in a ball dress it was admirable, throwing up
all its whiteness and grace and sweep of line. He was always glad to see
Betty. The rich strength of the life radiating from her, the reality and
glow of her were good for him and had the power of detaching him from
work of which he was tired.

She smiled back at him, and, coming forward took her place in a
big armchair close to him, her lace-frilled cloak slipping from
her shoulders with a soft rustling sound which seemed to convey her
intention to stay.

"Are you too busy to be interrupted?" she asked, her mellow voice
caressing him. "I want to talk to you about something I am going to do."
She put out her hand and laid it on his with a clinging firmness which
meant strong feeling. "At least, I am going to do it if you will help
me," she ended.

"What is it, Betty?" he inquired, his usual interest in her accentuated
by her manner.

She laid her other hand on his and he clasped both with his own.

"When the Worthingtons sail for England next month," she explained, "I
want to go with them. Mrs. Worthington is very kind and will be good
enough to take care of me until I reach London."

Mr. Vanderpoel moved slightly in his chair. Then their eyes met
comprehendingly. He saw what hers held.

"From there you are going to Stornham Court!" he exclaimed.

"To see Rosy," she answered, leaning a little forward. "To SEE her.

"You believe that what has happened has not been her fault?" he said.
There was a look in her face which warmed his blood.

"I have always been sure that Nigel Anstruthers arranged it."

"Do you think he has been unkind to her?"

"I am going to see," she answered.

"Betty," he said, "tell me all about it."

He knew that this was no suddenly-formed plan, and he knew it would
be well worth while to hear the details of its growth. It was so
interestingly like her to have remained silent through the process of
thinking a thing out, evolving her final idea without having disturbed
him by bringing to him any chaotic uncertainties.

"It's a sort of confession," she answered. "Father, I have been thinking
about it for years. I said nothing because for so long I knew I was only
a child, and a child's judgment might be worth so little. But through
all those years I was learning things and gathering evidence. When I was
at school, first in one country and then another, I used to tell myself
that I was growing up and preparing myself to do a particular thing--to
go to rescue Rosy."

"I used to guess you thought of her in a way of your own," Vanderpoel
said, "but I did not guess you were thinking that much. You were always
a solid, loyal little thing, and there was business capacity in your
keeping your scheme to yourself. Let us look the matter in the face.
Suppose she does not need rescuing. Suppose, after all, she is a
comfortable, fine lady and adores her husband. What then?"

"If I should find that to be true, I will behave myself very well--as
if we had expected nothing else. I will make her a short visit and come
away. Lady Cecilia Orme, whom I knew in Florence, has asked me to stay
with her in London. I will go to her. She is a charming woman. But I
must first see Rosy--SEE her."

Mr. Vanderpoel thought the matter over during a few moments of silence.

"You do not wish your mother to go with you?" he said presently.

"I believe it will be better that she should not," she answered. "If
there are difficulties or disappointments she would be too unhappy."

"Yes," he said slowly, "and she could not control her feelings. She
would give the whole thing away, poor girl."

He had been looking at the carpet reflectively, and now he looked at
Bettina.

"What are you expecting to find, at the worst?" he asked her. "The kind
of thing which will need management while it is being looked into?"

"I do not know what I am expecting to find," was her reply. "We know
absolutely nothing; but that Rosy was fond of us, and that her marriage
has seemed to make her cease to care. She was not like that; she was not
like that! Was she, father?"

"No, she wasn't," he exclaimed. The memory of her in her short-frocked
and early girlish days, a pretty, smiling, effusive thing, given to
lavish caresses and affectionate little surprises for them all, came
back to him vividly. "She was the most affectionate girl I ever knew,"
he said. "She was more affectionate than you, Betty," with a smile.

Bettina smiled in return and bent her head to put a kiss on his hand, a
warm, lovely, comprehending kiss.

"If she had been different I should not have thought so much of the
change," she said. "I believe that people are always more or less LIKE
themselves as long as they live. What has seemed to happen has been so
unlike Rosy that there must be some reason for it."

"You think that she has been prevented from seeing us?"

"I think it so possible that I am not going to announce my visit
beforehand."

"You have a good head, Betty," her father said.

"If Sir Nigel has put obstacles in our way before, he will do it again.
I shall try to find out, when I reach London, if Rosalie is at Stornham.
When I am sure she is there, I shall go and present myself. If Sir Nigel
meets me at the park gates and orders his gamekeepers to drive me off
the premises, we shall at least know that he has some reason for not
wishing to regard the usual social and domestic amenities. I feel rather
like a detective. It entertains me and excites me a little."

The deep blue of her eyes shone under the shadow of the extravagant
lashes as she laughed.

"Are you willing that I should go, father?" she said next.

"Yes," he answered. "I am willing to trust you, Betty, to do things I
would not trust other girls to try at. If you were not my girl at all,
if you were a man on Wall Street, I should know you would be pretty safe
to come out a little more than even in any venture you made. You know
how to keep cool."

Bettina picked up her fallen cloak and laid it over her arm. It was made
of billowy frills of Malines lace, such as only Vanderpoels could buy.
She looked down at the amazing thing and touched up the frills with her
fingers as she whimsically smiled.

"There are a good many girls who can be trusted to do things in these
days," she said. "Women have found out so much. Perhaps it is because
the heroines of novels have informed them. Heroines and heroes always
bring in the new fashions in character. I believe it is years since a
heroine 'burst into a flood of tears.' It has been discovered, really,
that nothing is to be gained by it. Whatsoever I find at Stornham Court,
I shall neither weep nor be helpless. There is the Atlantic cable, you
know. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why heroines have changed. When
they could not escape from their persecutors except in a stage coach,
and could not send telegrams, they were more or less in everyone's
hands. It is different now. Thank you, father, you are very good to
believe in me."



CHAPTER VII

ON BOARD THE "MERIDIANA"

A large transatlantic steamer lying at the wharf on a brilliant, sunny
morning just before its departure is an interesting and suggestive
object to those who are fond of following suggestion to its end. One
sometimes wonders if it is possible that the excitement in the dock
atmosphere could ever become a thing to which one was sufficiently
accustomed to be able to regard it as among things commonplace. The
rumbling and rattling of waggons and carts, the loading and unloading of
boxes and bales, the people who are late, and the people who are early,
the faces which are excited, and the faces which are sad, the trunks and
bales, and cranes which creak and groan, the shouts and cries, the hurry
and confusion of movement, notwithstanding that every day has seen them
all for years, have a sort of perennial interest to the looker-on.

This is, perhaps, more especially the case when the looker-on is to be
a passenger on the outgoing ship; and the exhilaration of his point of
view may greatly depend upon the reason for his voyage and the class
by which he travels. Gaiety and youth usually appear upon the promenade
deck, having taken saloon passage. Dulness, commerce, and eld mingling
with them, it is true, but with a discretion which does not seem to
dominate. Second-class passengers wear a more practical aspect, and
youth among them is rarer and more grave. People who must travel second
and third class make voyages for utilitarian reasons. Their object is
usually to better themselves in one way or another. When they are going
from Liverpool to New York, it is usually to enter upon new efforts and
new labours. When they are returning from New York to Liverpool, it is
often because the new life has proved less to be depended upon than
the old, and they are bearing back with them bitterness of soul and
discouragement of spirit.

On the brilliant spring morning when the huge liner Meridiana was to
sail for England a young man, who was a second-class passenger, leaned
upon the ship's rail and watched the turmoil on the wharf with a
detached and not at all buoyant air.

His air was detached because he had other things in his mind than those
merely passing before him, and he was not buoyant because they were not
cheerful or encouraging subjects for reflection. He was a big young man,
well hung together, and carrying himself well; his face was square-jawed
and rugged, and he had dark red hair restrained by its close cut from
waving strongly on his forehead. His eyes were red brown, and a few dark
freckles marked his clear skin. He was of the order of man one looks at
twice, having looked at him once, though one does not in the least know
why, unless one finally reaches some degree of intimacy.

He watched the vehicles, heavy and light, roll into the big shed-like
building and deposit their freight; he heard the voices and caught the
sentences of instruction and comment; he saw boxes and bales hauled from
the dock side to the deck and swung below with the rattling of machinery
and chains. But these formed merely a noisy background to his mood,
which was self-centred and gloomy. He was one of those who go back to
their native land knowing themselves conquered. He had left England two
years before, feeling obstinately determined to accomplish a certain
difficult thing, but forces of nature combining with the circumstances
of previous education and living had beaten him. He had lost two years
and all the money he had ventured. He was going back to the place he
had come from, and he was carrying with him a sense of having been used
hardly by fortune, and in a way he had not deserved.

He had gone out to the West with the intention of working hard and using
his hands as well as his brains; he had not been squeamish; he had, in
fact, laboured like a ploughman; and to be obliged to give in had been
galling and bitter. There are human beings into whose consciousness of
themselves the possibility of being beaten does not enter. This man was
one of them.

The ship was of the huge and luxuriously-fitted class by which the rich
and fortunate are transported from one continent to another. Passengers
could indulge themselves in suites of rooms and live sumptuously. As the
man leaning on the rail looked on, he saw messengers bearing baskets and
boxes of fruit and flowers with cards and notes attached, hurrying up
the gangway to deliver them to waiting stewards. These were the farewell
offerings to be placed in staterooms, or to await their owners on the
saloon tables. Salter--the second-class passenger's name was Salter--had
seen a few such offerings before on the first crossing. But there had
not been such lavishness at Liverpool. It was the New Yorkers who
were sumptuous in such matters, as he had been told. He had also heard
casually that the passenger list on this voyage was to record important
names, the names of multi-millionaire people who were going over for the
London season.

Two stewards talking near him, earlier in the morning, had been exulting
over the probable largesse such a list would result in at the end of the
passage.

"The Worthingtons and the Hirams and the John William Spayters," said
one. "They travel all right. They know what they want and they want a
good deal, and they're willing to pay for it."

"Yes. They're not school teachers going over to improve their minds and
contriving to cross in a big ship by economising in everything else.
Miss Vanderpoel's sailing with the Worthingtons. She's got the best
suite all to herself. She'll bring back a duke or one of those prince
fellows. How many millions has Vanderpoel?"

"How many millions. How many hundred millions!" said his companion,
gloating cheerfully over the vastness of unknown possibilities. "I've
crossed with Miss Vanderpoel often, two or three times when she was in
short frocks. She's the kind of girl you read about. And she's got money
enough to buy in half a dozen princes."

"There are New Yorkers who won't like it if she does," returned the
other. "There's been too much money going out of the country. Her
suite is crammed full of Jack roses, now, and there are boxes waiting
outside."

Salter moved away and heard no more. He moved away, in fact, because he
was conscious that to a man in his case, this dwelling upon millions,
this plethora of wealth, was a little revolting. He had walked down
Broadway and seen the price of Jacqueminot roses, and he was not soothed
or allured at this particular moment by the picture of a girl whose
half-dozen cabins were crowded with them.

"Oh, the devil!" he said. "It sounds vulgar." And he walked up and
down fast, squaring his shoulders, with his hands in the pockets of his
rough, well-worn coat. He had seen in England something of the American
young woman with millionaire relatives. He had been scarcely more than a
boy when the American flood first began to rise. He had been old enough,
however, to hear people talk. As he had grown older, Salter had observed
its advance. Englishmen had married American beauties. American fortunes
had built up English houses, which otherwise threatened to fall into
decay. Then the American faculty of adaptability came into play.
Anglo-American wives became sometimes more English than their husbands.
They proceeded to Anglicise their relations, their relations' clothes,
even, in time, their speech. They carried or sent English conventions to
the States, their brothers ordered their clothes from West End tailors,
their sisters began to wear walking dresses, to play out-of-door games
and take active exercise. Their mothers tentatively took houses in
London or Paris, there came a period when their fathers or uncles,
serious or anxious business men, the most unsporting of human beings,
rented castles or manors with huge moors and covers attached and
entertained large parties of shooters or fishers who could be lured to
any quarter by the promise of the particular form of slaughter for which
they burned.

"Sheer American business perspicacity, that," said Salter, as he marched
up and down, thinking of a particular case of this order. "There's
something admirable in the practical way they make for what they want.
They want to amalgamate with English people, not for their own sake,
but because their women like it, and so they offer the men thousands of
acres full of things to kill. They can get them by paying for them,
and they know how to pay." He laughed a little, lifting his square
shoulders. "Balthamor's six thousand acres of grouse moor and Elsty's
salmon fishing are rented by the Chicago man. He doesn't care twopence
for them, and does not know a pheasant from a caper-cailzie, but his
wife wants to know men who do."

It must be confessed that Salter was of the English who were not pleased
with the American Invasion. In some of his views of the matter he was a
little prehistoric and savage, but the modern side of his character
was too intelligent to lack reason. He was by no means entirely modern,
however; a large part of his nature belonged to the age in which men
had fought fiercely for what they wanted to get or keep, and when the
amenities of commerce had not become powerful factors in existence.

"They're not a bad lot," he was thinking at this moment. "They are
rather fine in a way. They are clever and powerful and interesting--more
so than they know themselves. But it is all commerce. They don't come
and fight with us and get possession of us by force. They come and
buy us. They buy our land and our homes, and our landowners, for that
matter--when they don't buy them, they send their women to marry them,
confound it!"

He took half a dozen more strides and lifted his shoulders again.

"Beggarly lot as I am," he said, "unlikely as it seems that I can marry
at all, I'm hanged if I don't marry an Englishwoman, if I give my life
to a woman at all."

But, in fact, he was of the opinion that he should never give his life
to any woman, and this was because he was, at this period, also of the
opinion that there was small prospect of its ever being worth the giving
or taking. It had been one of those lives which begin untowardly and are
ruled by unfair circumstances.

He had a particularly well-cut and expressive mouth, and, as he went
back to the ship's side and leaned on his folded arms on the rail again,
its curves concealed a good deal of strong feeling.

The wharf was busier than before. In less than half an hour the ship
was to sail. The bustle and confusion had increased. There were people
hurrying about looking for friends, and there were people scribbling
off excited farewell messages at the telegraph office. The situation was
working up to its climax. An observing looker-on might catch glimpses of
emotional scenes. Many of the passengers were already on board, parties
of them accompanied by their friends were making their way up the
gangplank.

Salter had just been watching a luxuriously cared-for little invalid
woman being carried on deck in a reclining chair, when his attention
was attracted by the sound of trampling hoofs and rolling wheels. Two
noticeably big and smart carriages had driven up to the stopping-place
for vehicles. They were gorgeously of the latest mode, and their tall,
satin-skinned horses jangled silver chains and stepped up to their
noses.

"Here come the Worthingtons, whosoever they may be," thought
Salter. "The fine up-standing young woman is, no doubt, the
multi-millionairess."

The fine, up-standing young woman WAS the multi-millionairess. Bettina
walked up the gangway in the sunshine, and the passengers upon the upper
deck craned their necks to look at her. Her carriage of her head and
shoulders invariably made people turn to look.

"My, ain't she fine-looking!" exclaimed an excited lady beholder above.
"I guess that must be Miss Vanderpoel, the multi-millionaire's daughter.
Jane told me she'd heard she was crossing this trip."

Bettina heard her. She sometimes wondered if she was ever pointed out,
if her name was ever mentioned without the addition of the explanatory
statement that she was the multi-millionaire's daughter. As a child she
had thought it ridiculous and tiresome, as she had grown older she had
felt that only a remarkable individuality could surmount a fact so ever
present.

It was like a tremendous quality which overshadowed everything else.

"It wounds my vanity, I have no doubt," she had said to her father.
"Nobody ever sees me, they only see you and your millions and millions
of dollars."

Salter watched her pass up the gangway. The phase through which he
was living was not of the order which leads a man to dwell upon the
beautiful and inspiriting as expressed by the female image. Success and
the hopefulness which engender warmth of soul and quickness of heart
are required for the development of such allurements. He thought of the
Vanderpoel millions as the lady on the deck had thought of them, and
in his mind somehow the girl herself appeared to express them. The rich
up-springing sweep of her abundant hair, her height, her colouring, the
remarkable shade and length of her lashes, the full curve of her mouth,
all, he told himself, looked expensive, as if even nature herself had
been given carte blanche, and the best possible articles procured for
the money.

"She moves," he thought sardonically, "as if she were perfectly
aware that she could pay for anything. An unlimited income, no doubt,
establishes in the owner the equivalent to a sense of rank."

He changed his position for one in which he could command a view of the
promenade deck where the arriving passengers were gradually appearing.
He did this from the idle and careless curiosity which, though it is not
a matter of absolute interest, does not object to being entertained by
passing objects. He saw the Worthington party reappear. It struck Salter
that they looked not so much like persons coming on board a ship, as
like people who were returning to a hotel to which they were accustomed,
and which was also accustomed to them. He argued that they had probably
crossed the Atlantic innumerable times in this particular steamer.
The deck stewards knew them and made obeisance with empressement. Miss
Vanderpoel nodded to the steward Salter had heard discussing her. She
gave him a smile of recognition and paused a moment to speak to him.
Salter saw her sweep the deck with her glance and then designate a
sequestered corner, such as the experienced voyager would recognise as
being desirably sheltered. She was evidently giving an order concerning
the placing of her deck chair, which was presently brought. An elegantly
neat and decorous person in black, who was evidently her maid, appeared
later, followed by a steward who carried cushions and sumptuous fur
rugs. These being arranged, a delightful corner was left alluringly
prepared. Miss Vanderpoel, after her instructions to the deck steward,
had joined her party and seemed to be awaiting some arrival anxiously.

"She knows how to do herself well," Salter commented, "and she realises
that forethought is a practical factor. Millions have been productive of
composure. It is not unnatural, either."

It was but a short time later that the warning bell was rung. Stewards
passed through the crowds calling out, "All ashore, if you please--all
ashore." Final embraces were in order on all sides. People shook hands
with fervour and laughed a little nervously. Women kissed each other and
poured forth hurried messages to be delivered on the other side of
the Atlantic. Having kissed and parted, some of them rushed back and
indulged in little clutches again. Notwithstanding that the tide of
humanity surges across the Atlantic almost as regularly as the daily
tide surges in on its shores, a wave of emotion sweeps through every
ship at such partings.

Salter stood on deck and watched the crowd dispersing. Some of the
people were laughing and some had red eyes. Groups collected on the
wharf and tried to say still more last words to their friends crowding
against the rail.

The Worthingtons kept their places and were still looking out, by this
time disappointedly. It seemed that the friend or friends they
expected were not coming. Salter saw that Miss Vanderpoel looked more
disappointed than the rest. She leaned forward and strained her eyes to
see. Just at the last moment there was the sound of trampling horses and
rolling wheels again. From the arriving carriage descended hastily an
elderly woman, who lifted out a little boy excited almost to tears. He
was a dear, chubby little person in flapping sailor trousers, and he
carried a splendidly-caparisoned toy donkey in his arms. Salter could
not help feeling slightly excited himself as they rushed forward. He
wondered if they were passengers who would be left behind.

They were not passengers, but the arrivals Miss Vanderpoel had been
expecting so ardently. They had come to say good-bye to her and were too
late for that, at least, as the gangway was just about to be withdrawn.

Miss Vanderpoel leaned forward with an amazingly fervid expression on
her face.

"Tommy! Tommy!" she cried to the little boy. "Here I am, Tommy. We can
say good-bye from here."

The little boy, looking up, broke into a wail of despair.

"Betty! Betty! Betty!" he cried. "I wanted to kiss you, Betty."

Betty held out her arms. She did it with entire forgetfulness of the
existence of any lookers-on, and with such outreaching love on her
face that it seemed as if the child must feel her touch. She made a
beautiful, warm, consoling bud of her mouth.

"We'll kiss each other from here, Tommy," she said. "See, we can. Kiss
me, and I will kiss you."

Tommy held out his arms and the magnificent donkey. "Betty," he cried,
"I brought you my donkey. I wanted to give it to you for a present,
because you liked it."

Miss Vanderpoel bent further forward and addressed the elderly woman.

"Matilda," she said, "please pack Master Tommy's present and send it to
me! I want it very much."

Tender smiles irradiated the small face. The gangway was withdrawn, and,
amid the familiar sounds of a big craft's first struggle, the ship began
to move. Miss Vanderpoel still bent forward and held out her arms.

"I will soon come back, Tommy," she cried, "and we are always friends."

The child held out his short blue serge arms also, and Salter watching
him could not but be touched for all his gloom of mind.

"I wanted to kiss you, Betty," he heard in farewell. "I did so want to
kiss you."

And so they steamed away upon the blue.



CHAPTER VIII

THE SECOND-CLASS PASSENGER

Up to a certain point the voyage was like all other voyages. During the
first two days there were passengers who did not appear on deck, but
as the weather was fair for the season of the year, there were fewer
absentees than is usual. Indeed, on the third day the deck chairs were
all filled, people who were given to tramping during their voyages had
begun to walk their customary quota of carefully-measured miles the
day. There were a few pale faces dozing here and there, but the general
aspect of things had begun to be sprightly. Shuffleboard players and
quoit enthusiasts began to bestir themselves, the deck steward appeared
regularly with light repasts of beef tea and biscuits, and the brilliant
hues of red, blue, or yellow novels made frequent spots of colour upon
the promenade. Persons of some initiative went to the length of making
tentative observations to their next-chair neighbours. The second-cabin
passengers were cheerful, and the steerage passengers, having tumbled
up, formed friendly groups and began to joke with each other.

The Worthingtons had plainly the good fortune to be respectable sailors.
They reappeared on the second day and established regular habits, after
the manner of accustomed travellers. Miss Vanderpoel's habits were
regular from the first, and when Salter saw her he was impressed even
more at the outset with her air of being at home instead of on board
ship. Her practically well-chosen corner was an agreeable place to look
at. Her chair was built for ease of angle and width, her cushions were
of dark rich colours, her travelling rugs were of black fox fur, and
she owned an adjustable table for books and accompaniments. She appeared
early in the morning and walked until the sea air crimsoned her cheeks,
she sat and read with evident enjoyment, she talked to her companions
and plainly entertained them.

Salter, being bored and in bad spirits, found himself watching her
rather often, but he knew that but for the small, comic episode of
Tommy, he would have definitely disliked her. The dislike would not have
been fair, but it would have existed in spite of himself. It would
not have been fair because it would have been founded simply upon the
ignoble resentment of envy, upon the poor truth that he was not in the
state of mind to avoid resenting the injustice of fate in bestowing
multi-millions upon one person and his offspring. He resented his own
resentment, but was obliged to acknowledge its existence in his humour.
He himself, especially and peculiarly, had always known the bitterness
of poverty, the humiliation of seeing where money could be well used,
indeed, ought to be used, and at the same time having ground into him
the fact that there was no money to lay one's hand on. He had hated it
even as a boy, because in his case, and that of his people, the whole
thing was undignified and unbecoming. It was humiliating to him now to
bring home to himself the fact that the thing for which he was inclined
to dislike this tall, up-standing girl was her unconscious (he realised
the unconsciousness of it) air of having always lived in the atmosphere
of millions, of never having known a reason why she should not have
anything she had a desire for. Perhaps, upon the whole, he said to
himself, it was his own ill luck and sense of defeat which made her
corner, with its cushions and comforts, her properly attentive maid,
and her cold weather sables expressive of a fortune too colossal to be
decent.

The episode of the plump, despairing Tommy he had liked, however. There
had been a fine naturalness about it and a fine practicalness in her
prompt order to the elderly nurse that the richly-caparisoned donkey
should be sent to her. This had at once made it clear to the donor that
his gift was too valuable to be left behind.

"She did not care twopence for the lot of us," was his summing up. "She
might have been nothing but the nicest possible warm-hearted nursemaid
or a cottage woman who loved the child."

He was quite aware that though he had found himself more than once
observing her, she herself had probably not recognised the trivial fact
of his existing upon that other side of the barrier which separated the
higher grade of passenger from the lower. There was, indeed, no reason
why she should have singled him out for observation, and she was, in
fact, too frequently absorbed in her own reflections to be in the
frame of mind to remark her fellow passengers to the extent which was
generally customary with her. During her crossings of the Atlantic she
usually made mental observation of the people on board. This time, when
she was not talking to the Worthingtons, or reading, she was thinking of
the possibilities of her visit to Stornham. She used to walk about the
deck thinking of them and, sitting in her chair, sum them up as her eyes
rested on the rolling and breaking waves.

There were many things to be considered, and one of the first was the
perfectly sane suggestion her father had made.

"Suppose she does not want to be rescued? Suppose you find her a
comfortable fine lady who adores her husband."

Such a thing was possible, though Bettina did not think it probable. She
intended, however, to prepare herself even for this. If she found Lady
Anstruthers plump and roseate, pleased with herself and her position,
she was quite equal to making her visit appear a casual and conventional
affair.

"I ought to wish it to be so," she thought, "and, yet, how
disappointingly I should feel she had changed. Still, even ethical
reasons would not excuse one for wishing her to be miserable." She was a
creature with a number of passionate ideals which warred frequently with
the practical side of her mentality. Often she used to walk up and down
the deck or lean upon the ship's side, her eyes stormy with emotions.

"I do not want to find Rosy a heartless woman, and I do not want to find
her wretched. What do I want? Only the usual thing--that what cannot be
undone had never been done. People are always wishing that."

She was standing near the second-cabin barrier thinking this, the first
time she saw the passenger with the red hair. She had paused by mere
chance, and while her eyes were stormy with her thought, she suddenly
became conscious that she was looking directly into other eyes as
darkling as her own. They were those of a man on the wrong side of the
barrier. He had a troubled, brooding face, and, as their gaze met,
each of them started slightly and turned away with the sense of having
unconsciously intruded and having been intruded upon.

"That rough-looking man," she commented to herself, "is as anxious and
disturbed as I am."

Salter did look rough, it was true. His well-worn clothes had suffered
somewhat from the restrictions of a second-class cabin shared with two
other men. But the aspect which had presented itself to her brief glance
had been not so much roughness of clothing as of mood expressing itself
in his countenance. He was thinking harshly and angrily of the life
ahead of him.

These looks of theirs which had so inadvertently encountered each
other were of that order which sometimes startles one when in passing a
stranger one finds one's eyes entangled for a second in his or hers, as
the case may be. At such times it seems for that instant difficult to
disentangle one's gaze. But neither of these two thought of the other
much, after hurrying away. Each was too fully mastered by personal mood.

There would, indeed, have been no reason for their encountering each
other further but for "the accident," as it was called when spoken of
afterwards, the accident which might so easily have been a catastrophe.
It occurred that night. This was two nights before they were to land.

Everybody had begun to come under the influence of that cheerfulness of
humour, the sense of relief bordering on gaiety, which generally elates
people when a voyage is drawing to a close. If one has been dull, one
begins to gather one's self together, rejoiced that the boredom is over.
In any case, there are plans to be made, thought of, or discussed.

"You wish to go to Stornham at once?" Mrs. Worthington said to Bettina.
"How pleased Lady Anstruthers and Sir Nigel must be at the idea of
seeing you with them after so long."

"I can scarcely tell you how I am looking forward to it," Betty
answered.

She sat in her corner among her cushions looking at the dark water
which seemed to sweep past the ship, and listening to the throb of the
engines. She was not gay. She was wondering how far the plans she had
made would prove feasible. Mrs. Worthington was not aware that her visit
to Stornham Court was to be unannounced. It had not been necessary to
explain the matter. The whole affair was simple and decorous enough.
Miss Vanderpoel was to bid good-bye to her friends and go at once to her
sister, Lady Anstruthers, whose husband's country seat was but a short
journey from London. Bettina and her father had arranged that the fact
should be kept from the society paragraphist. This had required some
adroit management, but had actually been accomplished.

As the waves swished past her, Bettina was saying to herself, "What
will Rosy say when she sees me! What shall I say when I see Rosy? We are
drawing nearer to each other with every wave that passes."

A fog which swept up suddenly sent them all below rather early. The
Worthingtons laughed and talked a little in their staterooms, but
presently became quiet and had evidently gone to bed. Bettina was
restless and moved about her room alone after she had sent away her
maid. She at last sat down and finished a letter she had been writing to
her father.

"As I near the land," she wrote, "I feel a sort of excitement. Several
times to-day I have recalled so distinctly the picture of Rosy as I saw
her last, when we all stood crowded upon the wharf at New York to see
her off. She and Nigel were leaning upon the rail of the upper deck.
She looked such a delicate, airy little creature, quite like a pretty
schoolgirl with tears in her eyes. She was laughing and crying at the
same time, and kissing both her hands to us again and again. I was
crying passionately myself, though I tried to conceal the fact, and I
remember that each time I looked from Rosy to Nigel's heavy face the
poignancy of my anguish made me break forth again. I wonder if it was
because I was a child, that he looked such a contemptuous brute, even
when he pretended to smile. It is twelve years since then. I wonder--how
I wonder, what I shall find."

She stopped writing and sat a few moments, her chin upon her hand,
thinking. Suddenly she sprang to her feet in alarm. The stillness of the
night was broken by wild shouts, a running of feet outside, a tumult of
mingled sounds and motion, a dash and rush of surging water, a strange
thumping and straining of engines, and a moment later she was hurled
from one side of her stateroom to the other by a crashing shock which
seemed to heave the ship out of the sea, shuddering as if the end of all
things had come.

It was so sudden and horrible a thing that, though she had only been
flung upon a pile of rugs and cushions and was unhurt, she felt as if
she had been struck on the head and plunged into wild delirium. Above
the sound of the dashing and rocking waves, the straining and roaring of
hacking engines and the pandemonium of voices rose from one end of the
ship to the other, one wild, despairing, long-drawn shriek of women and
children. Bettina turned sick at the mad terror in it--the insensate,
awful horror.


"Something has run into us!" she gasped, getting up with her heart
leaping in her throat.

She could hear the Worthingtons' tempest of terrified confusion through
the partitions between them, and she remembered afterwards that in the
space of two or three seconds, and in the midst of their clamour, a
hundred incongruous thoughts leaped through her brain. Perhaps they were
this moment going down. Now she knew what it was like! This thing she
had read of in newspapers! Now she was going down in mid-ocean, she,
Betty Vanderpoel! And, as she sprang to clutch her fur coat, there
flashed before her mental vision a gruesome picture of the headlines
in the newspapers and the inevitable reference to the millions she
represented.

"I must keep calm," she heard herself say, as she fastened the
long coat, clenching her teeth to keep them from chattering. "Poor
Daddy--poor Daddy!"

Maddening new sounds were all about her, sounds of water dashing and
churning, sounds of voices bellowing out commands, straining and leaping
sounds of the engines. What was it--what was it? She must at least
find out. Everybody was going mad in the staterooms, the stewards were
rushing about, trying to quiet people, their own voices shaking and
breaking into cracked notes. If the worst had happened, everyone would
be fighting for life in a few minutes. Out on deck she must get and find
out for herself what the worst was.

She was the first woman outside, though the wails and shrieks swelled
below, and half-dressed, ghastly creatures tumbled gasping up the
companion-way.

"What is it?" she heard. "My God! what's happened? Where's the Captain!
Are we going down! The boats! The boats!"

It was useless to speak to the seamen rushing by. They did not see, much
less hear! She caught sight of a man who could not be a sailor, since
he was standing still. She made her way to him, thankful that she had
managed to stop her teeth chattering.

"What has happened to us?" she said.

He turned and looked at her straitly. He was the second-cabin passenger
with the red hair.

"A tramp steamer has run into us in the fog," he answered.

"How much harm is done?"

"They are trying to find out. I am standing here on the chance of
hearing something. It is madness to ask any man questions."

They spoke to each other in short, sharp sentences, knowing there was no
time to lose.

"Are you horribly frightened?" he asked.

She stamped her foot.

"I hate it--I hate it!" she said, flinging out her hand towards the
black, heaving water. "The plunge--the choking! No one could hate it
more. But I want to DO something!"

She was turning away when he caught her hand and held her.

"Wait a second," he said. "I hate it as much as you do, but I believe we
two can keep our heads. Those who can do that may help, perhaps. Let us
try to quiet the people. As soon as I find out anything I will come to
your friends' stateroom. You are near the boats there. Then I shall go
back to the second cabin. You work on your side and I'll work on mine.
That's all."

"Thank you. Tell the Worthingtons. I'm going to the saloon deck." She
was off as she spoke.

Upon the stairway she found herself in the midst of a struggling
panic-stricken mob, tripping over each other on the steps, and clutching
at any garment nearest, to drag themselves up as they fell, or were on
the point of falling. Everyone was crying out in question and appeal.

Bettina stood still, a firm, tall obstacle, and clutched at the hysteric
woman who was hurled against her.

"I've been on deck," she said. "A tramp steamer has run into us. No one
has time to answer questions. The first thing to do is to put on warm
clothes and secure the life belts in case you need them."

At once everyone turned upon her as if she was an authority. She replied
with almost fierce determination to the torrent of words poured forth.

"I know nothing further--only that if one is not a fool one must make
sure of clothes and belts."

"Quite right, Miss Vanderpoel," said one young man, touching his cap in
nervous propitiation.

"Stop screaming," Betty said mercilessly to the woman. "It's
idiotic--the more noise you make the less chance you have. How can men
keep their wits among a mob of shrieking, mad women?"

That the remote Miss Vanderpoel should have emerged from her luxurious
corner to frankly bully the lot of them was an excellent shock for the
crowd. Men, who had been in danger of losing their heads and becoming
as uncontrolled as the women, suddenly realised the fact and pulled
themselves together. Bettina made her way at once to the Worthingtons'
staterooms.

There she found frenzy reigning. Blanche and Marie Worthington were
darting to and fro, dragging about first one thing and then another.
They were silly with fright, and dashed at, and dropped alternately,
life belts, shoes, jewel cases, and wraps, while they sobbed and cried
out hysterically. "Oh, what shall we do with mother! What shall we do!"

The manners of Betty Vanderpoel's sharp schoolgirl days returned to her
in full force. She seized Blanche by the shoulder and shook her.

"What a donkey you are!" she said. "Put on your clothes. There they
are," pushing her to the place where they hung. "Marie--dress yourself
this moment. We may be in no real danger at all."

"Do you think not! Oh, Betty!" they wailed in concert. "Oh, what shall
we do with mother!"

"Where is your mother?"

"She fainted--Louise----"

Betty was in Mrs. Worthington's cabin before they had finished speaking.
The poor woman had fainted, and struck her cheek against a chair. She
lay on the floor in her nightgown, with blood trickling from a cut on
her face. Her maid, Louise, was wringing her hands, and doing nothing
whatever.

"If you don't bring the brandy this minute," said the beautiful Miss
Vanderpoel, "I'll box your ears. Believe me, my girl." She looked so
capable of doing it that the woman was startled and actually offended
into a return of her senses. Miss Vanderpoel had usually the best
possible manners in dealing with her inferiors.

Betty poured brandy down Mrs. Worthington's throat and applied strong
smelling salts until she gasped back to consciousness. She had just
burst into frightened sobs, when Betty heard confusion and exclamations
in the adjoining room. Blanche and Marie had cried out, and a man's
voice was speaking. Betty went to them. They were in various stages of
undress, and the red-haired second-cabin passenger was standing at the
door.

"I promised Miss Vanderpoel----" he was saying, when Betty came forward.
He turned to her promptly.

"I come to tell you that it seems absolutely to be relied on that there
is no immediate danger. The tramp is more injured than we are."

"Oh, are you sure? Are you sure?" panted Blanche, catching at his
sleeve.

"Yes," he answered. "Can I do anything for you?" he said to Bettina, who
was on the point of speaking.

"Will you be good enough to help me to assist Mrs. Worthington into her
berth, and then try to find the doctor."

He went into the next room without speaking. To Mrs. Worthington he
spoke briefly a few words of reassurance. He was a powerful man, and
laid her on her berth without dragging her about uncomfortably, or
making her feel that her weight was greater than even in her most
desponding moments she had suspected. Even her helplessly hysteric mood
was illuminated by a ray of grateful appreciation.

"Oh, thank you--thank you," she murmured. "And you are quite sure there
is no actual danger, Mr.----?"

"Salter," he terminated for her. "You may feel safe. The damage is
really only slight, after all."

"It is so good of you to come and tell us," said the poor lady, still
tremulous. "The shock was awful. Our introduction has been an alarming
one. I--I don't think we have met during the voyage."

"No," replied Salter. "I am in the second cabin."

"Oh! thank you. It's so good of you," she faltered amiably, for want of
inspiration. As he went out of the stateroom, Salter spoke to Bettina.

"I will send the doctor, if I can find him," he said. "I think, perhaps,
you had better take some brandy yourself. I shall."

"It's queer how little one seems to realise even that there are
second-cabin passengers," commented Mrs. Worthington feebly. "That was a
nice man, and perfectly respectable. He even had a kind of--of manner."




CHAPTER IX

LADY JANE GREY

It seemed upon the whole even absurd that after a shock so awful and a
panic wild enough to cause people to expose their very souls--for
there were, of course, endless anecdotes to be related afterwards,
illustrative of grotesque terror, cowardice, and utter abandonment
of all shadows of convention--that all should end in an anticlimax of
trifling danger, upon which, in a day or two, jokes might be made. Even
the tramp steamer had not been seriously injured, though its injuries
were likely to be less easy of repair than those of the Meridiana.

"Still," as a passenger remarked, when she steamed into the dock at
Liverpool, "we might all be at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean
this morning. Just think what columns there would have been in the
newspapers. Imagine Miss Vanderpoel's being drowned."

"I was very rude to Louise, when I found her wringing her hands over
you, and I was rude to Blanche," Bettina said to Mrs. Worthington. "In
fact I believe I was rude to a number of people that night. I am rather
ashamed."

"You called me a donkey," said Blanche, "but it was the best thing you
could have done. You frightened me into putting on my shoes, instead of
trying to comb my hair with them. It was startling to see you march into
the stateroom, the only person who had not been turned into a gibbering
idiot. I know I was gibbering, and I know Marie was."

"We both gibbered at the red-haired man when he came in," said Marie.
"We clutched at him and gibbered together. Where is the red-haired man,
Betty? Perhaps we made him ill. I've not seen him since that moment."

"He is in the second cabin, I suppose," Bettina answered, "but I have
not seen him, either."

"We ought to get up a testimonial and give it to him, because he did
not gibber," said Blanche. "He was as rude and as sensible as you were,
Betty."

They did not see him again, in fact, at that time. He had reasons of his
own for preferring to remain unseen. The truth was that the nearer his
approach to his native shores, the nastier, he was perfectly conscious,
his temper became, and he did not wish to expose himself by any incident
which might cause him stupidly and obviously to lose it.

The maid, Louise, however, recognised him among her companions in the
third-class carriage in which she travelled to town. To her mind, whose
opinions were regulated by neatly arranged standards, he looked morose
and shabbily dressed. Some of the other second-cabin passengers had made
themselves quite smart in various, not too distinguished ways. He had
not changed his dress at all, and the large valise upon the luggage
rack was worn and battered as if with long and rough usage. The woman
wondered a little if he would address her, and inquire after the health
of her mistress. But, being an astute creature, she only wondered this
for an instant, the next she realised that, for one reason or another,
it was clear that he was not of the tribe of second-rate persons who
pursue an accidental acquaintance with their superiors in fortune,
through sociable interchange with their footmen or maids.

When the train slackened its speed at the platform of the station, he
got up, reaching down his valise and leaving the carriage, strode to the
nearest hansom cab, waving the porter aside.

"Charing Cross," he called out to the driver, jumped in, and was rattled
away.

. . . . .

During the years which had passed since Rosalie Vanderpoel first came to
London as Lady Anstruthers, numbers of huge luxurious hotels had grown
up, principally, as it seemed, that Americans should swarm into them
and live at an expense which reminded them of their native land. Such
establishments would never have been built for English people, whose
habit it is merely to "stop" at hotels, not to LIVE in them. The
tendency of the American is to live in his hotel, even though his
intention may be only to remain in it two days. He is accustomed to
doing himself extremely well in proportion to his resources, whether
they be great or small, and the comforts, as also the luxuries, he
allows himself and his domestic appendages are in a proportion much
higher in its relation to these resources than it would be were he
English, French, German, or Italians. As a consequence, he expects, when
he goes forth, whether holiday-making or on business, that his hostelry
shall surround him, either with holiday luxuries and gaiety, or with
such lavishness of comfort as shall alleviate the wear and tear of
business cares and fatigues. The rich man demands something almost as
good as he has left at home, the man of moderate means something much
better. Certain persons given to regarding public wants and desires as
foundations for the fortune of business schemes having discovered
this, the enormous and sumptuous hotel evolved itself from their astute
knowledge of common facts. At the entrances of these hotels,
omnibuses and cabs, laden with trunks and packages frequently
bearing labels marked with red letters "S. S. So-and-So,
Stateroom--Hold--Baggage-room," drew up and deposited their contents
and burdens at regular intervals. Then men with keen, and often humorous
faces or almost painfully anxious ones, their exceedingly well-dressed
wives, and more or less attractive and vivacious-looking daughters,
their eager little girls, and un-English-looking little boys, passed
through the corridors in flocks and took possession of suites of rooms,
sometimes for twenty-four hours, sometimes for six weeks.

The Worthingtons took possession of such a suite in such a hotel.
Bettina Vanderpoel's apartments faced the Embankment. From her windows
she could look out at the broad splendid, muddy Thames, slowly rolling
in its grave, stately way beneath its bridges, bearing with it heavy
lumbering barges, excited tooting little penny steamers and craft
of various shapes and sizes, the errand or burden of each meaning a
different story.

It had been to Bettina one of her pleasures of the finest epicurean
flavour to reflect that she had never had any brief and superficial
knowledge of England, as she had never been to the country at all in
those earlier years, when her knowledge of places must necessarily have
been always the incomplete one of either a schoolgirl traveller or
a schoolgirl resident, whose views were limited by the walls of
restriction built around her.

If relations of the usual ease and friendliness had existed between Lady
Anstruthers and her family, Bettina would, doubtless, have known her
sister's adopted country well. It would have been a thing so natural
as to be almost inevitable, that she would have crossed the Channel to
spend her holidays at Stornham. As matters had stood, however, the child
herself, in the days when she had been a child, had had most definite
private views on the subject of visits to England. She had made up her
young mind absolutely that she would not, if it were decently possible
to avoid it, set her foot upon English soil until she was old enough
and strong enough to carry out what had been at first her passionately
romantic plans for discovering and facing the truth of the reason for
the apparent change in Rosy. When she went to England, she would go to
Rosy. As she had grown older, having in the course of education and
travel seen most Continental countries, she had liked to think that
she had saved, put aside for less hasty consumption and more delicate
appreciation of flavours, as it were, the country she was conscious she
cared for most.

"It is England we love, we Americans," she had said to her father. "What
could be more natural? We belong to it--it belongs to us. I could never
be convinced that the old tie of blood does not count. All nationalities
have come to us since we became a nation, but most of us in the
beginning came from England. We are touching about it, too. We trifle
with France and labour with Germany, we sentimentalise over Italy and
ecstacise over Spain--but England we love. How it moves us when we go
to it, how we gush if we are simple and effusive, how we are stirred
imaginatively if we are of the perceptive class. I have heard the
commonest little half-educated woman say the prettiest, clumsy,
emotional things about what she has seen there. A New England
schoolma'am, who has made a Cook's tour, will almost have tears in her
voice as she wanders on with her commonplaces about hawthorn hedges and
thatched cottages and white or red farms. Why are we not unconsciously
pathetic about German cottages and Italian villas? Because we have not,
in centuries past, had the habit of being born in them. It is only
an English cottage and an English lane, whether white with hawthorn
blossoms or bare with winter, that wakes in us that little yearning,
grovelling tenderness that is so sweet. It is only nature calling us
home."

Mrs. Worthington came in during the course of the morning to find her
standing before her window looking out at the Thames, the Embankment,
the hansom cabs themselves, with an absolutely serious absorption. This
changed to a smile as she turned to greet her.

"I am delighted," she said. "I could scarcely tell you how much. The
impression is all new and I am excited a little by everything. I am so
intensely glad that I have saved it so long and that I have known it
only as part of literature. I am even charmed that it rains, and that
the cabmen's mackintoshes are shining and wet." She drew forward a
chair, and Mrs. Worthington sat down, looking at her with involuntary
admiration.

"You look as if you were delighted," she said. "Your eyes--you have
amazing eyes, Betty! I am trying to picture to myself what Lady
Anstruthers will feel when she sees you. What were you like when she
married?"

Bettina sat down, smiling and looking, indeed, quite incredibly lovely.
She was capable of a warmth and a sweetness which were as embracing as
other qualities she possessed were powerful.

"I was eight years old," she said. "I was a rude little girl, with
long legs and a high, determined voice. I know I was rude. I remember
answering back."

"I seem to have heard that you did not like your brother-in-law, and
that you were opposed to the marriage."

"Imagine the undisciplined audacity of a child of eight 'opposing' the
marriage of her grown-up sister. I was quite capable of it. You see in
those days we had not been trained at all (one had only been allowed
tremendous liberty), and interfered conversationally with one's elders
and betters at any moment. I was an American little girl, and American
little girls were really--they really were!" with a laugh, whose musical
sound was after all wholly non-committal.

"You did not treat Sir Nigel Anstruthers as one of your betters."

"He was one of my elders, at all events, and becomingness of bearing
should have taught me to hold my little tongue. I am giving some thought
now to the kind of thing I must invent as a suitable apology when I find
him a really delightful person, full of virtues and accomplishments.
Perhaps he has a horror of me."

"I should like to be present at your first meeting," Mrs. Worthington
reflected. "You are going down to Stornham to-morrow?"

"That is my plan. When I write to you on my arrival, I will tell you if
I encountered the horror." Then, with a swift change of subject and a
lifting of her slender, velvet line of eyebrow, "I am only deploring
that I have not time to visit the Tower."

Mrs. Worthington was betrayed into a momentary glance of uncertainty,
almost verging in its significance on a gasp.

"The Tower? Of London? Dear Betty!"

Bettina's laugh was mellow with revelation.

"Ah!" she said. "You don't know my point of view; it's plain enough.
You see, when I delight in these things, I think I delight most in my
delight in them. It means that I am almost having the kind of feeling
the fresh American souls had who landed here thirty years ago and
revelled in the resemblance to Dickens's characters they met with in
the streets, and were historically thrilled by the places where people's
heads were chopped off. Imagine their reflections on Charles I., when
they stood in Whitehall gazing on the very spot where that poor last
word was uttered--'Remember.' And think of their joy when each crossing
sweeper they gave disproportionate largess to, seemed Joe All Alones in
the slightest disguise."

"You don't mean to say----" Mrs. Worthington was vaguely awakening to
the situation.

"That the charm of my visit, to myself, is that I realise that I am
rather like that. I have positively preserved something because I have
kept away. You have been here so often and know things so well, and you
were even so sophisticated when you began, that you have never really
had the flavours and emotions. I am sophisticated, too, sophisticated
enough to have cherished my flavours as a gourmet tries to save the
bouquet of old wine. You think that the Tower is the pleasure of
housemaids on a Bank Holiday. But it quite makes me quiver to think
of it," laughing again. "That I laugh, is the sign that I am not
as beautifully, freshly capable of enjoyment as those genuine first
Americans were, and in a way I am sorry for it."

Mrs. Worthington laughed also, and with an enjoyment.

"You are very clever, Betty," she said.

"No, no," answered Bettina, "or, if I am, almost everybody is clever in
these days. We are nearly all of us comparatively intelligent."

"You are very interesting at all events, and the Anstruthers will exult
in you. If they are dull in the country, you will save them."

"I am very interested, at all events," said Bettina, "and interest like
mine is quite passe. A clever American who lives in England, and is the
pet of duchesses, once said to me (he always speaks of Americans as if
they were a distant and recently discovered species), 'When they first
came over they were a novelty. Their enthusiasm amused people, but now,
you see, it has become vieux jeu. Young women, whose specialty was to be
excited by the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, are not novelties
any longer. In fact, it's been done, and it's done FOR as a specialty.'
And I am excited about the Tower of London. I may be able to restrain
my feelings at the sight of the Beef Eaters, but they will upset me a
little, and I must brace myself, I must indeed."

"Truly, Betty?" said Mrs. Worthington, regarding her with curiosity,
arising from a faint doubt of her entire seriousness, mingled with a
fainter doubt of her entire levity.

Betty flung out her hands in a slight, but very involuntary-looking,
gesture, and shook her head.

"Ah!" she said, "it was all TRUE, you know. They were all horribly
real--the things that were shuddered over and sentimentalised about.
Sophistication, combined with imagination, makes them materialise again,
to me, at least, now I am here. The gulf between a historical figure and
a man or woman who could bleed and cry out in human words was broad when
one was at school. Lady Jane Grey, for instance, how nebulous she was
and how little one cared. She seemed invented merely to add a detail
to one's lesson in English history. But, as we drove across Waterloo
Bridge, I caught a glimpse of the Tower, and what do you suppose I began
to think of? It was monstrous. I saw a door in the Tower and the stone
steps, and the square space, and in the chill clear, early morning a
little slender, helpless girl led out, a little, fair, real thing like
Rosy, all alone--everyone she belonged to far away, not a man near
who dared utter a word of pity when she turned her awful, meek, young,
desperate eyes upon him. She was a pious child, and, no doubt, she
lifted her eyes to the sky. I wonder if it was blue and its blueness
broke her heart, because it looked as if it might have pitied such a
young, patient girl thing led out in the fair morning to walk to the
hacked block and give her trembling pardon to the black-visored man with
the axe, and then 'commending her soul to God' to stretch her sweet slim
neck out upon it."

"Oh, Betty, dear!" Mrs. Worthington expostulated.

Bettina sprang to her and took her hand in pretty appeal.

"I beg pardon! I beg pardon, I really do," she exclaimed. "I did
not intend deliberately to be painful. But that--beneath the
sophistication--is something of what I bring to England."




CHAPTER X

"IS LADY ANSTRUTHERS AT HOME?"

All that she had brought with her to England, combined with what she had
called "sophistication," but which was rather her exquisite appreciation
of values and effects, she took with her when she went the next day to
Charing Cross Station and arranged herself at her ease in the railway
carriage, while her maid bought their tickets for Stornham.

What the people in the station saw, the guards and porters, the men in
the book stalls, the travellers hurrying past, was a striking-looking
girl, whose colouring and carriage made one turn to glance after her,
and who, having bought some periodicals and papers, took her place in a
first-class compartment and watched the passersby interestedly through
the open window. Having been looked at and remarked on during her
whole life, Bettina did not find it disturbing that more than one
corduroy-clothed porter and fresh-coloured, elderly gentleman, or
freshly attired young one, having caught a glimpse of her through her
window, made it convenient to saunter past or hover round. She looked
at them much more frankly than they looked at her. To her they were all
specimens of the types she was at present interested in. For practical
reasons she was summing up English character with more deliberate
intention than she had felt in the years when she had gradually learned
to know Continental types and differentiate such peculiarities as were
significant of their ranks and nations. As the first Reuben Vanderpoel
had studied the countenances and indicative methods of the inhabitants
of the new parts of the country in which it was his intention to
do business, so the modernity of his descendant applied itself to
observation for reasons parallel in nature though not in actual kind.
As he had brought beads and firewater to bear as agents upon savages
who would barter for them skins and products which might be turned into
money, so she brought her nineteenth-century beauty, steadfastness of
purpose and alertness of brain to bear upon the matter the practical
dealing with which was the end she held in view. To bear herself in this
matter with as practical a control of situations as that with which
her great-grandfather would have borne himself in making a trade with a
previously unknown tribe of Indians was quite her intention, though it
had not occurred to her to put it to herself in any such form. Still,
whether she was aware of the fact or not, her point of view was exactly
what the first Reuben Vanderpoel's had been on many very different
occasions. She had before her the task of dealing with facts and factors
of which at present she knew but little. Astuteness of perception,
self-command, and adaptability were her chief resources. She was ready,
either for calm, bold approach, or equally calm and wholly non-committal
retreat.

The perceptions she had brought with her filled her journey into Kent
with delicious things, delicious recognition of beauties she had before
known the existence of only through the reading of books, and the
dwelling upon their charms as reproduced, more or less perfectly,
on canvas. She saw roll by her, with the passing of the train, the
loveliness of land and picturesqueness of living which she had saved
for herself with epicurean intention for years. Her fancy, when detached
from her thoughts of her sister, had been epicurean, and she had been
quite aware that it was so. When she had left the suburbs and those
villages already touched with suburbanity behind, she felt herself
settle into a glow of luxurious enjoyment in the freshness of
her pleasure in the familiar, and yet unfamiliar, objects in the
thick-hedged fields, whose broad-branched, thick-foliaged oaks and
beeches were more embowering in their shade, and sweeter in their green
than anything she remembered that other countries had offered her,
even at their best. Within the fields the hawthorn hedges beautifully
enclosed were groups of resigned mother sheep with their young lambs
about them. The curious pointed tops of the red hopkilns, piercing the
trees near the farmhouses, wore an almost intentional air of adding
picturesque detail. There were clusters of old buildings and dots
of cottages and cottage gardens which made her now and then utter
exclamations of delight. Little inarticulate Rosy had seen and felt it
all twelve years before on her hopeless bridal home-coming when Nigel
had sat huddled unbecomingly in the corner of the railway carriage. Her
power of expression had been limited to little joyful gasps and obvious
laudatory adjectives, smothered in their birth by her first glance at
her bridegroom. Betty, in seeing it, knew all the exquisiteness of her
own pleasure, and all the meanings of it.

Yes, it was England--England. It was the England of Constable and
Morland, of Miss Mitford and Miss Austen, the Brontes and George Eliot.
The land which softly rolled and clothed itself in the rich verdure of
many trees, sometimes in lovely clusters, sometimes in covering copse,
was Constable's; the ripe young woman with the fat-legged children
and the farmyard beasts about her, as she fed the hens from the wooden
piggin under her arm, was Morland's own. The village street might be
Miss Mitford's, the well-to-do house Jane Austen's own fancy, in its
warm brick and comfortable decorum. She laughed a little as she thought
it.

"That is American," she said, "the habit of comparing every stick
and stone and breathing thing to some literary parallel. We almost
invariably say that things remind us of pictures or books--most usually
books. It seems a little crude, but perhaps it means that we are an
intensely literary and artistic people."

She continued to find comparisons revealing to her their appositeness,
until her journey had ended by the train's slackening speed and coming
to a standstill before the rural-looking little station which had
presented its quaint aspect to Lady Anstruthers on her home-coming of
years before.

It had not, during the years which certainly had given time for change,
altered in the least. The station master had grown stouter and more
rosy, and came forward with his respectful, hospitable air, to attend to
the unusual-looking young lady, who was the only first-class passenger.
He thought she must be a visitor expected at some country house, but
none of the carriages, whose coachmen were his familiar acquaintances,
were in waiting. That such a fine young lady should be paying a visit
at any house whose owners did not send an equipage to attend her coming,
struck him as unusual. The brougham from the "Crown," though a decent
country town vehicle, seemed inadequate. Yet, there it stood drawn up
outside the station, and she went to it with the manner of a young lady
who had ordered its attendance and knew it would be there.

Wells felt a good deal of interest. Among the many young ladies who
descended from the first-class compartments and passed through the
little waiting-room on their way to the carriages of the gentry they
were going to visit, he did not know when a young lady had "caught his
eye," so to speak, as this one did. She was not exactly the kind of
young lady one would immediately class mentally as "a foreigner," but
the blue of her eyes was so deep, and her hair and eyelashes so dark,
that these things, combining themselves with a certain "way" she had,
made him feel her to be of a type unfamiliar to the region, at least.

He was struck, also, by the fact that the young lady had no maid with
her. The truth was that Bettina had purposely left her maid in town. If
awkward things occurred, the presence of an attendant would be a sort
of complication. It was better, on the first approach, to be wholly
unencumbered.

"How far are we from Stornham Court?" she inquired.

"Five miles, my lady," he answered, touching his cap. She expressed
something which to the rural and ingenuous, whose standards were
defined, demanded a recognition of probable rank.

"I'd like to know," was his comment to his wife when he went home to
dinner, "who has gone to Stornham Court to-day. There's few enough
visitors go there, and none such as her, for certain. She don't live
anywhere on the line above here, either, for I've never seen her face
before. She was a tall, handsome one--she was, but it isn't just that
made you look after her. She was a clever one with a spirit, I'll be
bound. I was wondering what her ladyship would have to say to her."

"Perhaps she was one of HIS fine ladies?" suggestively.

"That she wasn't, either. And, as for that, I wonder what he'd have to
say to such as she is."

There was complexity of element enough in the thing she was on her way
to do, Bettina was thinking, as she was driven over the white ribbon
of country road that unrolled over rise and hollow, between the
sheep-dotted greenness of fields and the scented hedges. The soft beauty
enclosing her was a little shut out from her by her mental attitude. She
brought forward for her own decisions upon suitable action a number of
possible situations she might find herself called upon to confront.
The one thing necessary was that she should be prepared for anything
whatever, even for Rosy's not being pleased to see her, or for finding
Sir Nigel a thoroughly reformed and amiable character.

"It is the thing which seemingly CANNOT happen which one is most likely
to find one's self face to face with. It will be a little awkward to
arrange, if he has developed every domestic virtue, and is delighted to
see me."

Under such rather confusing conditions her plan would be to present to
them, as an affectionate surprise, the unheralded visit, which might
appear a trifle uncalled for. She felt happily sure of herself under any
circumstances not partaking of the nature of collisions at sea. Yet she
had not behaved absolutely ill at the time of the threatened catastrophe
in the Meridiana. Her remembrance, an oddly sudden one, of the definite
manner of the red-haired second-class passenger, assured her of that. He
had certainly had all his senses about him, and he had spoken to her as
a person to be counted on.

Her pulse beat a little more hurriedly as the brougham entered Stornham
village. It was picturesque, but struck her as looking neglected. Many
of the cottages had an air of dilapidation. There were many broken
windows and unmended garden palings. A suggested lack of whitewash in
several cases was not cheerful.

"I know nothing of the duties of English landlords," she said, looking
through her carriage window, "but I should do it myself, if I were
Rosy."

She saw, as she was taken through the park gateway, that that structure
was out of order, and that damaged diamond panes peered out from under
the thickness of the ivy massing itself over the lodge.

"Ah!" was her thought, "it does not promise as it should. Happy people
do not let things fall to pieces."

Even winding avenue, and spreading sward, and gorse, and broom, and
bracken, enfolding all the earth beneath huge trees, were not fair
enough to remove a sudden remote fear which arose in her rapidly
reasoning mind. It suggested to her a point of view so new that, while
she was amazed at herself for not having contemplated it before, she
found herself wishing that the coachman would drive rather more slowly,
actually that she might have more time to reflect.

They were nearing a dip in the park, where there was a lonely looking
pool. The bracken was thick and high there, and the sun, which had just
broken through a cloud, had pierced the trees with a golden gleam.

A little withdrawn from this shaft of brightness stood two figures, a
dowdy little woman and a hunchbacked boy. The woman held some ferns
in her hand, and the boy was sitting down and resting his chin on his
hands, which were folded on the top of a stick.

"Stop here for a moment," Bettina said to the coachman. "I want to ask
that woman a question."

She had thought that she might discover if her sister was at the Court.
She realised that to know would be a point of advantage. She leaned
forward and spoke.

"I beg your pardon," she said, "I wonder if you can tell me----"

The woman came forward a little. She had a listless step and a faded,
listless face.

"What did you ask?" she said.

Betty leaned still further forward.

"Can you tell me----" she began and stopped. A sense of stricture in
the throat stopped her, as her eyes took in the washed-out colour of
the thin face, the washed-out colour of the thin hair--thin drab hair,
dragged in straight, hard unbecomingness from the forehead and cheeks.

Was it true that her heart was thumping, as she had heard it said that
agitation made hearts thump?

She began again.

"Can you--tell me if--Lady Anstruthers is at home?" she inquired. As she
said it she felt the blood surge up from the furious heart, and the
hand she had laid on the handle of the door of the brougham clutched it
involuntarily.

The dowdy little woman answered her indifferently, staring at her a
little.

"I am Lady Anstruthers," she said.

Bettina opened the carriage door and stood upon the ground.

"Go on to the house," she gave order to the coachman, and, with a
somewhat startled look, he drove away.

"Rosy!" Bettina's voice was a hushed, almost awed, thing. "YOU are
Rosy?"

The faded little wreck of a creature began to look frightened.

"Rosy!" she repeated, with a small, wry, painful smile.

She was the next moment held in the folding of strong, young arms,
against a quickly beating heart. She was being wildly kissed, and the
very air seemed rich with warmth and life.

"I am Betty," she heard. "Look at me, Rosy! I am Betty. Look at me and
remember!"

Lady Anstruthers gasped, and broke into a faint, hysteric laugh. She
suddenly clutched at Bettina's arm. For a minute her gaze was wild as
she looked up.

"Betty," she cried out. "No! No! No! I can't believe it! I can't! I
can't!"

That just this thing could have taken place in her, Bettina had
never thought. As she had reflected on her way from the station, the
impossible is what one finds one's self face to face with. Twelve years
should not have changed a pretty blonde thing of nineteen to a worn,
unintelligent-looking dowdy of the order of dowdiness which seems to
have lived beyond age and sex. She looked even stupid, or at least
stupefied. At this moment she was a silly, middle-aged woman, who did
not know what to do. For a few seconds Bettina wondered if she was glad
to see her, or only felt awkward and unequal to the situation.

"I can't believe you," she cried out again, and began to shiver. "Betty!
Little Betty? No! No! it isn't!"

She turned to the boy, who had lifted his chin from his stick, and was
staring.

"Ughtred! Ughtred!" she called to him. "Come! She says--she says----"

She sat down upon a clump of heather and began to cry. She hid her face
in her spare hands and broke into sobbing.

"Oh, Betty! No!" she gasped. "It's so long ago--it's so far away. You
never came--no one--no one--came!"

The hunchbacked boy drew near. He had limped up on his stick. He spoke
like an elderly, affectionate gnome, not like a child.

"Don't do that, mother," he said. "Don't let it upset you so, whatever
it is."

"It's so long ago; it's so far away!" she wept, with catches in her
breath and voice. "You never came!"

Betty knelt down and enfolded her again. Her bell-like voice was firm
and clear.

"I have come now," she said. "And it is not far away. A cable will reach
father in two hours."

Pursuing a certain vivid thought in her mind, she looked at her watch.

"If you spoke to mother by cable this moment," she added, with
accustomed coolness, and she felt her sister actually start as she
spoke, "she could answer you by five o'clock."

Lady Anstruther's start ended in a laugh and gasp more hysteric than her
first. There was even a kind of wan awakening in her face, as she lifted
it to look at the wonderful newcomer. She caught her hand and held it,
trembling, as she weakly laughed.

"It must be Betty," she cried. "That little stern way! It is so like
her. Betty--Betty--dear!" She fell into a sobbing, shaken heap upon
the heather. The harrowing thought passed through Betty's mind that she
looked almost like a limp bundle of shabby clothes. She was so helpless
in her pathetic, apologetic hysteria.

"I shall--be better," she gasped. "It's nothing. Ughtred, tell her."

"She's very weak, really," said the boy Ughtred, in his mature way. "She
can't help it sometimes. I'll get some water from the pool."

"Let me go," said Betty, and she darted down to the water. She was
back in a moment. The boy was rubbing and patting his mother's hands
tenderly.

"At any rate," he remarked, as one consoled by a reflection, "father is
not at home."



CHAPTER XI

"I THOUGHT YOU HAD ALL FORGOTTEN."

As, after a singular half hour spent among the bracken under the trees,
they began their return to the house, Bettina felt that her sense of
adventure had altered its character. She was still in the midst of a
remarkable sort of exploit, which might end anywhere or in anything,
but it had become at once more prosaic in detail and more intense in its
significance. What its significance might prove likely to be when
she faced it, she had not known, it is true. But this was different
from--from anything. As they walked up the sun-dappled avenue she kept
glancing aside at Rosy, and endeavouring to draw useful conclusions. The
poor girl's air of being a plain, insignificant frump, long past youth,
struck an extraordinary and, for the time, unexplainable note. Her
ill-cut, out-of-date dress, the cheap suit of the hunchbacked boy,
who limped patiently along, helped by his crutch, suggested possible
explanations which were without doubt connected with the thought
which had risen in Bettina's mind, as she had been driven through the
broken-hinged entrance gate. What extraordinary disposal was being
made of Rosy's money? But her each glance at her sister also suggested
complication upon complication.

The singular half hour under the trees by the pool, spent, after the
first hysteric moments were over, in vague exclaimings and questions,
which seemed half frightened and all at sea, had gradually shown her
that she was talking to a creature wholly other than the Rosalie who had
so well known and loved them all, and whom they had so well loved and
known. They did not know this one, and she did not know them, she was
even a little afraid of the stir and movement of their life and being.
The Rosy they had known seemed to be imprisoned within the wall the
years of her separated life had built about her. At each breath she drew
Bettina saw how long the years had been to her, and how far her home had
seemed to lie away, so far that it could not touch her, and was only
a sort of dream, the recalling of which made her suddenly begin to cry
again every few minutes. To Bettina's sensitively alert mind it was
plain that it would not do in the least to drag her suddenly out of her
prison, or cloister, whichsoever it might be. To do so would be like
forcing a creature accustomed only to darkness, to stare at the blazing
sun. To have burst upon her with the old impetuous, candid fondness
would have been to frighten and shock her as if with something bordering
on indecency. She could not have stood it; perhaps such fondness was
so remote from her in these days that she had even ceased to be able to
understand it.

"Where are your little girls?" Bettina asked, remembering that there had
been notice given of the advent of two girl babies.

"They died," Lady Anstruthers answered unemotionally. "They both died
before they were a year old. There is only Ughtred."

Betty glanced at the boy and saw a small flame of red creep up on his
cheek. Instinctively she knew what it meant, and she put out her hand
and lightly touched his shoulder.

"I hope you'll like me, Ughtred," she said.

He almost started at the sound of her voice, but when he turned his face
towards her he only grew redder, and looked awkward without answering.
His manner was that of a boy who was unused to the amenities of polite
society, and who was only made shy by them.

Without warning, a moment or so later, Bettina stopped in the middle
of the avenue, and looked up at the arching giant branches of the trees
which had reached out from one side to the other, as if to clasp hands
or encompass an interlacing embrace. As far as the eye reached, they did
this, and the beholder stood as in a high stately pergola, with breaks
of deep azure sky between. Several mellow, cawing rooks were floating
solemnly beneath or above the branches, now wand then settling in some
highest one or disappearing in the thick greenness.

Lady Anstruthers stopped when her sister did so, and glanced at her in
vague inquiry. It was plain that she had outlived even her sense of the
beauty surrounding her.

"What are you looking at, Betty?" she asked.

"At all of it," Betty answered. "It is so wonderful."

"She likes it," said Ughtred, and then rather slunk a step behind his
mother, as if he were ashamed of himself.

"The house is just beyond those trees," said Lady Anstruthers.

They came in full view of it three minutes later. When she saw it, Betty
uttered an exclamation and stopped again to enjoy effects.

"She likes that, too," said Ughtred, and, although he said it
sheepishly, there was imperfectly concealed beneath the awkwardness a
pleasure in the fact.

"Do you?" asked Rosalie, with her small, painful smile.

Betty laughed.

"It is too picturesque, in its special way, to be quite credible," she
said.

"I thought that when I first saw it," said Rosy.

"Don't you think so, now?"

"Well," was the rather uncertain reply, "as Nigel says, there's not much
good in a place that is falling to pieces."

"Why let it fall to pieces?" Betty put it to her with impartial
promptness.

"We haven't money enough to hold it together," resignedly.

As they climbed the low, broad, lichen-blotched steps, whose broken
stone balustrades were almost hidden in clutching, untrimmed ivy, Betty
felt them to be almost incredible, too. The uneven stones of the terrace
the steps mounted to were lichen-blotched and broken also. Tufts of
green growths had forced themselves between the flags, and added an
untidy beauty. The ivy tossed in branches over the red roof and walls of
the house. It had been left unclipped, until it was rather an endlessly
clambering tree than a creeper. The hall they entered had the beauty
of spacious form and good, old oaken panelling. There were deep window
seats and an ancient high-backed settle or so, and a massive table by
the fireless hearth. But there were no pictures in places where pictures
had evidently once hung, and the only coverings on the stone floor were
the faded remnants of a central rug and a worn tiger skin, the head
almost bald and a glass eye knocked out.

Bettina took in the unpromising details without a quiver of the
extravagant lashes. These, indeed, and the eyes pertaining to them,
seemed rather to sweep the fine roof, and a certain minstrel's gallery
and staircase, than which nothing could have been much finer, with the
look of an appreciative admirer of architectural features and old oak.
She had not journeyed to Stornham Court with the intention of disturbing
Rosy, or of being herself obviously disturbed. She had come to
observe situations and rearrange them with that intelligence of which
unconsidered emotion or exclamation form no part.

"It is the first old English house I have seen," she said, with a sigh
of pleasure. "I am so glad, Rosy--I am so glad that it is yours."

She put a hand on each of Rosy's thin shoulders--she felt sharply
defined bones as she did so--and bent to kiss her. It was the natural
affectionate expression of her feeling, but tears started to Rosy's
eyes, and the boy Ughtred, who had sat down in a window seat, turned red
again, and shifted in his place.

"Oh, Betty!" was Rosy's faint nervous exclamation, "you seem so
beautiful and--so--so strange--that you frighten me."

Betty laughed with the softest possible cheerfulness, shaking her a
little.

"I shall not seem strange long," she said, "after I have stayed with you
a few weeks, if you will let me stay with you."

"Let you! Let you!" in a sort of gasp.

Poor little Lady Anstruthers sank on to a settle and began to cry again.
It was plain that she always cried when things occurred. Ughtred's
speech from his window seat testified at once to that.

"Don't cry, mother," he said. "You know how we've talked that over
together. It's her nerves," he explained to Bettina. "We know it only
makes things worse, but she can't stop it."

Bettina sat on the settle, too. She herself was not then aware of the
wonderful feeling the poor little spare figure experienced, as her
softly strong young arms curved about it. She was only aware that she
herself felt that this was a heart-breaking thing, and that she must
not--MUST not let it be seen how much she recognised its woefulness.
This was pretty, fair Rosy, who had never done a harm in her happy
life--this forlorn thing was her Rosy.

"Never mind," she said, half laughing again. "I rather want to cry
myself, and I am stronger than she is. I am immensely strong."

"Yes! Yes!" said Lady Anstruthers, wiping her eyes, and making a
tremendous effort at self-respecting composure. "You are strong. I have
grown so weak in--well, in every way. Betty, I'm afraid this is a poor
welcome. You see--I'm afraid you'll find it all so different from--from
New York."

"I wanted to find it different," said Betty.

"But--but--I mean--you know----" Lady Anstruthers turned helplessly to
the boy. Bettina was struck with the painful truth that she looked even
silly as she turned to him. "Ughtred--tell her," she ended, and hung her
head.

Ughtred had got down at once from his seat and limped forward. His
unprepossessing face looked as if he pulled his childishness together
with an unchildish effort.

"She means," he said, in his awkward way, "that she doesn't know how
to make you comfortable. The rooms are all so shabby--everything is so
shabby. Perhaps you won't stay when you see."

Bettina perceptibly increased the firmness of her hold on her sister's
body. It was as if she drew it nearer to her side in a kind of taking
possession. She knew that the moment had come when she might go this
far, at least, without expressing alarming things.

"You cannot show me anything that will frighten me," was the answer
she made. "I have come to stay, Rosy. We can make things right if they
require it. Why not?"

Lady Anstruthers started a little, and stared at her. She knew ten
thousand reasons why things had not been made right, and the casual
inference that such reasons could be lightly swept away as if by the
mere wave of a hand, implied a power appertaining to a time seeming so
lost forever that it was too much for her.

"Oh, Betty, Betty!" she cried, "you talk as if--you are so----!"

The fact, so simple to the members of the abnormal class to which she of
a truth belonged, the class which heaped up its millions, the absolute
knowledge that there was a great deal of money in the world and that she
was of those who were among its chief owners, had ceased to seem a fact,
and had vanished into the region of fairy stories.

That she could not believe it a reality revealed itself to Bettina, as
by a flash, which was also a revelation of many things. There would be
unpleasing truths to be learned, and she had not made her pilgrimage for
nothing. But--in any event--there were advantages without doubt in the
circumstance which subjected one to being perpetually pointed out as a
daughter of a multi-millionaire. As this argued itself out for her with
rapid lucidity, she bent and kissed Rosy once more. She even tried to
do it lightly, and not to allow the rush of love and pity in her soul to
betray her.

"I talk as if--as if I were Betty," she said. "You have forgotten. I
have not. I have been looking forward to this for years. I have been
planning to come to you since I was eleven years old. And here we sit."

"You didn't forget? You didn't?" faltered the poor wreck of Rosy. "Oh!
Oh! I thought you had all forgotten me--quite--quite!"

And her face went down in her spare, small hands, and she began to cry
again.



CHAPTER XII

UGHTRED

Bettina stood alone in her bedroom a couple of hours later. Lady
Anstruthers had taken her to it, preparing her for its limitations by
explaining that she would find it quite different from her room in
New York. She had been pathetically nervous and flushed about it, and
Bettina had also been aware that the apartment itself had been hastily,
and with much moving of objects from one chamber to another, made ready
for her.

The room was large and square and low. It was panelled in small squares
of white wood. The panels were old enough to be cracked here and there,
and the paint was stained and yellow with time, where it was not knocked
or worn off. There was a small paned, leaded window which filled a
large part of one side of the room, and its deep seat was an agreeable
feature. Sitting in it, one looked out over several red-walled gardens,
and through breaks in the trees of the park to a fair beyond. Bettina
stood before this window for a few moments, and then took a seat in the
embrasure, that she might gaze out and reflect at leisure.

Her genius, as has before been mentioned, was the genius for living,
for being vital. Many people merely exist, are kept alive by others, or
continue to vegetate because the persistent action of normal functions
will allow of their doing no less. Bettina Vanderpoel had lived vividly,
and in the midst of a self-created atmosphere of action from her
first hour. It was not possible for her to be one of the horde of mere
spectators. Wheresoever she moved there was some occult stirring of the
mental, and even physical, air. Her pulses beat too strongly, her blood
ran too fast to allow of inaction of mind or body. When, in passing
through the village, she had seen the broken windows and the hanging
palings of the cottages, it had been inevitable that, at once, she
should, in thought, repair them, set them straight. Disorder filled her
with a sort of impatience which was akin to physical distress. If she
had been born a poor woman she would have worked hard for her living,
and found an interest, almost an exhilaration, in her labour. Such gifts
as she had would have been applied to the tasks she undertook. It had
frequently given her pleasure to imagine herself earning her livelihood
as a seamstress, a housemaid, a nurse. She knew what she could have put
into her service, and how she could have found it absorbing. Imagination
and initiative could make any service absorbing. The actual truth was
that if she had been a housemaid, the room she set in order would have
taken a character under her touch; if she had been a seamstress, her
work would have been swiftly done, her imagination would have invented
for her combinations of form and colour; if she had been a nursemaid,
the children under her care would never have been sufficiently bored
to become tiresome or intractable, and they also would have gained
character to which would have been added an undeniable vividness of
outlook. She could not have left them alone, so to speak. In obeying the
mere laws of her being, she would have stimulated them. Unconsciously
she had stimulated her fellow pupils at school; when she was his
companion, her father had always felt himself stirred to interest and
enterprise.

"You ought to have been a man, Betty," he used to say to her sometimes.

But Betty had not agreed with him.

"You say that," she once replied to him, "because you see I am inclined
to do things, to change them, if they need changing. Well, one is either
born like that, or one is not. Sometimes I think that perhaps the people
who must ACT are of a distinct race. A kind of vigorous restlessness
drives them. I remember that when I was a child I could not see a pin
lying upon the ground without picking it up, or pass a drawer which
needed closing, without giving it a push. But there has always been as
much for women to do as for men."

There was much to be done here of one sort of thing and another. That
was certain. As she gazed through the small panes of her large windows,
she found herself overlooking part of a wilderness of garden, which
revealed itself through an arch in an overgrown laurel hedge. She had
glimpses of unkempt grass paths and unclipped topiary work which had
lost its original form. Among a tangle of weeds rose the heads of clumps
of daffodils, stirred by a passing wind of spring. In the park beyond a
cuckoo was calling.

She was conscious both of the forlorn beauty and significance of the
neglected garden, and of the clear quaintness of the cuckoo call, as she
thought of other things.

"Her spirit and her health are broken," was her summing up. "Her
prettiness has faded to a rag. She is as nervous as an ill-treated
child. She has lost her wits. I do not know where to begin with her.
I must let her tell me things as gradually as she chooses. Until I see
Nigel I shall not know what his method with her has been. She looks as
if she had ceased to care for things, even for herself. What shall I
write to mother?"

She knew what she should write to her father. With him she could be
explicit. She could record what she had found and what it suggested
to her. She could also make clear her reason for hesitance and
deliberation. His discretion and affection would comprehend the thing
which she herself felt and which affection not combined with discretion
might not take in. He would understand, when she told him that one of
the first things which had struck her, had been that Rosy herself, her
helplessness and timidity, might, for a period at least, form obstacles
in their path of action. He not only loved Rosy, but realised how slight
a sweet thing she had always been, and he would know how far a slight
creature's gentleness might be overpowered and beaten down.

There was so much that her mother must be spared, there was indeed
so little that it would be wise to tell her, that Bettina sat gently
rubbing her forehead as she thought of it. The truth was that she must
tell her nothing, until all was over, accomplished, decided. Whatsoever
there was to be "over," whatsoever the action finally taken, must be
a matter lying as far as possible between her father and herself. Mrs.
Vanderpoel's trouble would be too keen, her anxiety too great to keep to
herself, even if she were not overwhelmed by them. She must be told of
the beauties and dimensions of Stornham, all relatable details of Rosy's
life must be generously dwelt on. Above all Rosy must be made to write
letters, and with an air of freedom however specious.

A knock on the door broke the thread of her reflection. It was a
low-sounding knock, and she answered the summons herself, because she
thought it might be Rosy's.

It was not Lady Anstruthers who stood outside, but Ughtred, who balanced
himself on his crutches, and lifted his small, too mature, face.

"May I come in?" he asked.

Here was the unexpected again, but she did not allow him to see her
surprise.

"Yes," she said. "Certainly you may."

He swung in and then turned to speak to her.

"Please shut the door and lock it," he said.

There was sudden illumination in this, but of an order almost whimsical.
That modern people in modern days should feel bolts and bars a necessity
of ordinary intercourse was suggestive. She was plainly about to receive
enlightenment. She turned the key and followed the halting figure across
the room.

"What are you afraid of?" she asked.

"When mother and I talk things over," he said, "we always do it where no
one can see or hear. It's the only way to be safe."

"Safe from what?"

His eyes fixed themselves on her as he answered her almost sullenly.

"Safe from people who might listen and go and tell that we had been
talking."

In his thwarted-looking, odd child-face there was a shade of appeal not
wholly hidden by his evident wish not to be boylike. Betty felt a desire
to kneel down suddenly and embrace him, but she knew he was not prepared
for such a demonstration. He looked like a creature who had lived
continually at bay, and had learned to adjust himself to any situation
with caution and restraint.

"Sit down, Ughtred," she said, and when he did so she herself sat down,
but not too near him.

Resting his chin on the handle of a crutch, he gazed at her almost
protestingly.

"I always have to do these things," he said, "and I am not clever
enough, or old enough. I am only eleven."

The mention of the number of his years was plainly not apologetic, but
was a mere statement of his limitations. There the fact was, and he must
make the best of it he could.

"What things do you mean?"

"Trying to make things easier--explaining things when she cannot think
of excuses. To-day it is telling you what she is too frightened to tell
you herself. I said to her that you must be told. It made her nervous
and miserable, but I knew you must."

"Yes, I must," Betty answered. "I am glad she has you to depend on,
Ughtred."

His crutch grated on the floor and his boy eyes forbade her to believe
that their sudden lustre was in any way connected with restrained
emotion.

"I know I seem queer and like a little old man," he said. "Mother cries
about it sometimes. But it can't be helped. It is because she has never
had anyone but me to help her. When I was very little, I found out how
frightened and miserable she was. After his rages," he used no name,
"she used to run into my nursery and snatch me up in her arms and hide
her face in my pinafore. Sometimes she stuffed it into her mouth and bit
it to keep herself from screaming. Once--before I was seven--I ran into
their room and shouted out, and tried to fight for her. He was going
out, and had his riding whip in his hand, and he caught hold of me and
struck me with it--until he was tired."

Betty stood upright.

"What! What! What!" she cried out.

He merely nodded his head shortly. She saw what the thing had been by
the way his face lost colour.

"Of course he said it was because I was impudent, and needed
punishment," he said. "He said she had encouraged me in American
impudence. It was worse for her than for me. She kneeled down and
screamed out as if she was crazy, that she would give him what he wanted
if he would stop."

"Wait," said Betty, drawing in her breath sharply. "'He,' is Sir Nigel?
And he wanted something."

He nodded again

"Tell me," she demanded, "has he ever struck her?"

"Once," he answered slowly, "before I was born--he struck her and she
fell against something. That is why I am like this." And he touched his
shoulder.

The feeling which surged through Betty Vanderpoel's being forced her to
go and stand with her face turned towards the windows, her hands holding
each other tightly behind her back.

"I must keep still," she said. "I must make myself keep still."

She spoke unconsciously half aloud, and Ughtred heard her and replied
hurriedly.

"Yes," he said, "you must make yourself keep still. That is what we have
to do whatever happens. That is one of the things mother wanted you to
know. She is afraid. She daren't let you----"

She turned from the window, standing at her full height and looking very
tall for a girl.

"She is afraid? She daren't? See--that will come to an end now. There
are things which can be done."

He flushed nervously.

"That is what she was afraid you would say," he spoke fast and his hands
trembled. "She is nearly wild about it, because she knows he will try to
do something that will make you feel as if she does not want you."

"She is afraid of that?" Betty exclaimed.

"He'd do it! He'd do it--if you did not know beforehand."

"Oh!" said Betty, with unflinching clearness. "He is a liar, is he?"

The helpless rage in the unchildish eyes, the shaking voice, as he cried
out in answer, were a shock. It was as if he wildly rejoiced that she
had spoken the word.

"Yes, he's a liar--a liar!" he shrilled. "He's a liar and a bully and a
coward. He'd--he'd be a murderer if he dared--but he daren't." And
his face dropped on his arms folded on his crutch, and he broke into
a passion of crying. Then Betty knew she might go to him. She went and
knelt down and put her arm round him.

"Ughtred," she said, "cry, if you like, I should do it, if I were you.
But I tell you it can all be altered--and it shall be."

He seemed quite like a little boy when he put out his hand to hers and
spoke sobbingly:

"She--she says--that because you have only just come from America--and
in America people--can do things--you will think you can do things
here--and you don't know. He will tell lies about you lies you can't
bear. She sat wringing her hands when she thought of it. She won't
let you be hurt because you want to help her." He stopped abruptly and
clutched her shoulder.

"Aunt Betty! Aunt Betty--whatever happens--whatever he makes her seem
like--you are to know that it is not true. Now you have come--now she
has seen you it would KILL her if you were driven away and thought she
wanted you to go."

"I shall not think that," she answered, slowly, because she realised
that it was well that she had been warned in time. "Ughtred, are you
trying to tell me that above all things I must not let him think that
I came here to help you, because if he is angry he will make us all
suffer--and your mother most of all?"

"He'll find a way. We always know he will. He would either be so rude
that you would not stay here--or he would make mother seem rude--or he
would write lies to grandfather. Aunt Betty, she scarcely believes you
are real yet. If she won't tell you things at first, please don't mind."
He looked quite like a child again in his appeal to her, to try to
understand a state of affairs so complicated. "Could you--could you wait
until you have let her get--get used to you?"

"Used to thinking that there may be someone in the world to help her?"
slowly. "Yes, I will. Has anyone ever tried to help her?"

"Once or twice people found out and were sorry at first, but it only
made it worse, because he made them believe things."

"I shall not TRY, Ughtred," said Betty, a remote spark kindling in the
deeps of the pupils of her steel-blue eyes. "I shall not TRY. Now I am
going to ask you some questions."

Before he left her she had asked many questions which were pertinent
and searching, and she had learned things she realised she could have
learned in no other way and from no other person. But for his uncanny
sense of the responsibility he clearly had assumed in the days when he
wore pinafores, and which had brought him to her room to prepare her
mind for what she would find herself confronted with in the way of
apparently unexplainable obstacles, there was a strong likelihood that
at the outset she might have found herself more than once dangerously
at a loss. Yes, she would have been at a loss, puzzled, perhaps greatly
discouraged. She was face to face with a complication so extraordinary.

That one man, through mere persistent steadiness in evil temper and
domestic tyranny, should have so broken the creatures of his household
into abject submission and hopelessness, seemed too incredible. Such a
power appeared as remote from civilised existence in London and New York
as did that which had inflicted tortures in the dungeons of castles of
old. Prisoners in such dungeons could utter no cry which could reach the
outside world; the prisoners at Stornham Court, not four hours from Hyde
Park Corner, could utter none the world could hear, or comprehend if it
heard it. Sheer lack of power to resist bound them hand and foot. And
she, Betty Vanderpoel, was here upon the spot, and, as far as she could
understand, was being implored to take no steps, to do nothing. The
atmosphere in which she had spent her life, the world she had been
born into, had not made for fearfulness that one would be at any time
defenceless against circumstances and be obliged to submit to outrage.
To be a Vanderpoel was, it was true, to be a shining mark for envy as
for admiration, but the fact removed obstacles as a rule, and to find
one's self standing before a situation with one's hands, figuratively
speaking, tied, was new enough to arouse unusual sensations. She
recalled, with an ironic sense of bewilderment, as a sort of material
evidence of her own reality, the fact that not a week ago she had
stepped on to English soil from the gangway of a solid Atlantic liner.
It aided her to resist the feeling that she had been swept back into the
Middle Ages.

"When he is angry," was one of the first questions she put to Ughtred,
"what does he give as his reason? He must profess to have a reason."

"When he gets in a rage he says it is because mother is silly and
common, and I am badly brought up. But we always know he wants money,
and it makes him furious. He could kill us with rage."

"Oh!" said Betty. "I see."

"It began that time when he struck her. He said then that it was not
decent that a woman who was married should keep her own money. He made
her give him almost everything she had, but she wants to keep some for
me. He tries to make her get more from grandfather, but she will not
write begging letters, and she won't give him what she is saving for
me."

It was a simple and sordid enough explanation in one sense, and it was
one of which Bettina had known, not one parallel, but several. Having
married to ensure himself power over unquestioned resources, the man had
felt himself disgustingly taken in, and avenged himself accordingly. In
him had been born the makings of a domestic tyrant who, even had he been
favoured by fortune, would have wreaked his humours upon the defenceless
things made his property by ties of blood and marriage, and who, being
unfavoured, would do worse. Betty could see what the years had held for
Rosy, and how her weakness and timidity had been considered as positive
assets. A woman who will cry when she is bullied, may be counted upon to
submit after she has cried. Rosy had submitted up to a certain point and
then, with the stubbornness of a weak creature, had stood at timid bay
for her young.

What Betty gathered was that, after the long and terrible illness which
had followed Ughtred's birth, she had risen from what had been so nearly
her deathbed, prostrated in both mind and body. Ughtred did not know all
that he revealed when he touched upon the time which he said his mother
could not quite remember--when she had sat for months staring vacantly
out of her window, trying to recall something terrible which had
happened, and which she wanted to tell her mother, if the day ever came
when she could write to her again. She had never remembered clearly the
details of the thing she had wanted to tell, and Nigel had insisted
that her fancy was part of her past delirium. He had said that at the
beginning of her delirium she had attacked and insulted his mother and
himself but they had excused her because they realised afterwards what
the cause of her excitement had been. For a long time she had been too
brokenly weak to question or disbelieve, but, later she had vaguely
known that he had been lying to her, though she could not refute what
he said. She recalled, in course of time, a horrible scene in which all
three of them had raved at each other, and she herself had shrieked and
laughed and hurled wild words at Nigel, and he had struck her. That she
knew and never forgot. She had been ill a year, her hair had fallen out,
her skin had faded and she had begun to feel like a nervous, tired old
woman instead of a girl. Girlhood, with all the past, had become unreal
and too far away to be more than a dream. Nothing had remained real but
Stornham and Nigel and the little hunchbacked baby. She was glad when
the Dowager died and when Nigel spent his time in London or on the
Continent and left her with Ughtred. When he said that he must spend her
money on the estate, she had acquiesced without comment, because that
insured his going away. She saw that no improvement or repairs were
made, but she could do nothing and was too listless to make the attempt.
She only wanted to be left alone with Ughtred, and she exhibited
willpower only in defence of her child and in her obstinacy with regard
to asking money of her father.

"She thought, somehow, that grandfather and grandmother did not care
for her any more--that they had forgotten her and only cared for you,"
Ughtred explained. "She used to talk to me about you. She said you must
be so clever and so handsome that no one could remember her. Sometimes
she cried and said she did not want any of you to see her again, because
she was only a hideous, little, thin, yellow old woman. When I was very
little she told me stories about New York and Fifth Avenue. I thought
they were not real places--I though they were places in fairyland."

Betty patted his shoulder and looked away for a moment when he said
this. In her remote and helpless loneliness, to Rosy's homesick,
yearning soul, noisy, rattling New York, Fifth Avenue with its traffic
and people, its brown-stone houses and ricketty stages, had seemed like
THAT--so splendid and bright and heart-filling, that she had painted
them in colours which could belong only to fairyland. It said so much.

The thing she had suspected as she had talked to her sister was, before
the interview ended, made curiously clear. The first obstacle in her
pathway would be the shrinking of a creature who had been so long under
dominion that the mere thought of seeing any steps taken towards her
rescue filled her with alarm. One might be prepared for her almost
praying to be let alone, because she felt that the process of her
salvation would bring about such shocks and torments as she could not
endure the facing of.

"She will have to get used to you," Ughtred kept saying. "She will have
to get used to thinking things."

"I will be careful," Bettina answered. "She shall not be troubled. I did
not come to trouble her."




CHAPTER XIII

ONE OF THE NEW YORK DRESSES

As she went down the staircase later, on her way to dinner, Miss
Vanderpoel saw on all sides signs of the extent of the nakedness of
the land. She was in a fine old house, stripped of most of its saleable
belongings, uncared for, deteriorating year by year, gradually going to
ruin. One need not possess particular keenness of sight to observe
this, and she had chanced to see old houses in like condition in other
countries than England. A man-servant, in a shabby livery, opened the
drawing-room door for her. He was not a picturesque servitor of fallen
fortunes, but an awkward person who was not accustomed to his duties.
Betty wondered if he had been called in from the gardens to meet the
necessities of the moment. His furtive glance at the tall young woman
who passed him, took in with sudden embarrassment the fact that she
plainly did not belong to the dispirited world bounded by Stornham
Court. Without sparkling gems or trailing richness in her wake, she was
suggestively splendid. He did not know whether it was her hair or the
build of her neck and shoulders that did it, but it was revealed to him
that tiaras and collars of stones which blazed belonged without doubt
to her equipment. He recalled that there was a legend to the effect that
the present Lady Anstruthers, who looked like a rag doll, had been the
daughter of a rich American, and that better things might have been
expected of her if she had not been such a poor-spirited creature. If
this was her sister, she perhaps was a young woman of fortune, and that
she was not of poor spirit was plain.

The large drawing-room presented but another aspect of the bareness
of the rest of the house. In times probably long past, possibly in the
Dowager Lady Anstruthers' early years of marriage, the walls had been
hung with white and gold paper of a pattern which dominated the scene,
and had been furnished with gilded chairs, tables, and ottomans. Some
of these last had evidently been removed as they became too much out of
repair for use or ornament. Such as remained, tarnished as to gilding
and worn in the matter of upholstery, stood sparsely scattered on a
desert of carpet, whose huge, flowered medallions had faded almost from
view.

Lady Anstruthers, looking shy and awkward as she fingered an ornament on
a small table, seemed singularly a part of her background. Her evening
dress, slipping off her thin shoulders, was as faded and out of date
as her carpet. It had once been delicately blue and gauzy, but its
gauziness hung in crushed folds and its blue was almost grey. It was
also the dress of a girl, not that of a colourless, worn woman, and her
consciousness of its unfitness showed in her small-featured face as she
came forward.

"Do you--recognise it, Betty?" she asked hesitatingly. "It was one of my
New York dresses. I put it on because--because----" and her stammering
ended helplessly.

"Because you wanted to remind me," Betty said. If she felt it easier to
begin with an excuse she should be provided with one.

Perhaps but for this readiness to fall into any tone she chose to adopt
Rosy might have endeavoured to carry her poor farce on, but as it was
she suddenly gave it up.

"I put it on because I have no other," she said. "We never have visitors
and I haven't dressed for dinner for so long that I seem to have nothing
left that is fit to wear. I dragged this out because it was better than
anything else. It was pretty once----" she gave a little laugh, "twelve
years ago. How long years seem! Was I--was I pretty, Betty--twelve years
ago?"

"Twelve years is not such a long time." Betty took her hand and drew her
to a sofa. "Let us sit down and talk about it."

"There is nothing much to talk about. This is it----" taking in the room
with a wave of her hand. "I am it. Ughtred is it."

"Then let us talk about England," was Bettina's light skim over the thin
ice.

A red spot grew on each of Lady Anstruthers' cheek bones and made her
faded eyes look intense.

"Let us talk about America," her little birdclaw of a hand clinging
feverishly. "Is New York still--still----"

"It is still there," Betty answered with one of the adorable smiles
which showed a deep dimple near her lip. "But it is much nearer England
than it used to be."

"Nearer!" The hand tightened as Rosy caught her breath.

Betty bent rather suddenly and kissed her. It was the easiest way of
hiding the look she knew had risen to her eyes. She began to talk gaily,
half laughingly.

"It is quite near," she said. "Don't you realise it? Americans swoop
over here by thousands every year. They come for business, they come for
pleasure, they come for rest. They cannot keep away. They come to buy
and sell--pictures and books and luxuries and lands. They come to give
and take. They are building a bridge from shore to shore of their work,
and their thoughts, and their plannings, out of the lives and souls of
them. It will be a great bridge and great things will pass over it."
She kissed the faded cheek again. She wanted to sweep Rosy away from the
dreariness of "it." Lady Anstruthers looked at her with faintly smiling
eyes. She did not follow all this quite readily, but she felt pleased
and vaguely comforted.

"I know how they come here and marry," she said. "The new Duchess of
Downes is an American. She had a fortune of two million pounds."

"If she chooses to rebuild a great house and a great name," said Betty,
lifting her shoulders lightly, "why not--if it is an honest bargain? I
suppose it is part of the building of the bridge."

Little Lady Anstruthers, trying to pull up the sleeves of the gauzy
bodice slipping off her small, sharp bones, stared at her half in
wondering adoration, half in alarm.

"Betty--you--you are so handsome--and so clever and strange," she
fluttered. "Oh, Betty, stand up so that I can see how tall and handsome
you are!"

Betty did as she was told, and upon her feet she was a young woman of
long lines, and fine curves so inspiring to behold that Lady Anstruthers
clasped her hands together on her knees in an excited gesture.

"Oh, yes! Oh, yes!" she cried. "You are just as wonderful as you looked
when I turned and saw you under the trees. You almost make me afraid."

"Because I am wonderful?" said Betty. "Then I will not be wonderful any
more."

"It is not because I think you wonderful, but because other people will.
Would you rebuild a great house?" hesitatingly.

The fine line of Betty's black brows drew itself slightly together.

"No," she said.


"Wouldn't you?"

"How could the man who owned it persuade me that he was in earnest if he
said he loved me? How could I persuade him that I was worth caring for
and not a mere ambitious fool? There would be too much against us."

"Against you?" repeated Lady Anstruthers.

"I don't say I am fair," said Betty. "People who are proud are often not
fair. But we should both of us have seen and known too much."

"You have seen me now," said Lady Anstruthers in her listless voice, and
at the same moment dinner was announced and she got up from the sofa, so
that, luckily, there was no time for the impersonal answer it would have
been difficult to invent at a moment's notice. As they went into the
dining-room Betty was thinking restlessly. She remembered all the
material she had collected during her education in France and Germany,
and there was added to it the fact that she HAD seen Rosy, and having
her before her eyes she felt that there was small prospect of
her contemplating the rebuilding of any great house requiring
reconstruction.

There was fine panelling in the dining-room and a great fireplace and
a few family portraits. The service upon the table was shabby and the
dinner was not a bounteous meal. Lady Anstruthers in her girlish, gauzy
dress and looking too small for her big, high-backed chair tried to talk
rapidly, and every few minutes forgot herself and sank into silence,
with her eyes unconsciously fixed upon her sister's face. Ughtred
watched Betty also, and with a hungry questioning. The man-servant in
the worn livery was not a sufficiently well-trained and experienced
domestic to make any effort to keep his eyes from her. He was young
enough to be excited by an innovation so unusual as the presence of a
young and beautiful person surrounded by an unmistakable atmosphere of
ease and fearlessness. He had been talking of her below stairs and
felt that he had failed in describing her. He had found himself barely
supported by the suggestion of a housemaid that sometimes these dresses
that looked plain had been made in Paris at expensive places and had
cost "a lot." He furtively examined the dress which looked plain, and
while he admitted that for some mysterious reason it might represent
expensiveness, it was not the dress which was the secret of the effect,
but a something, not altogether mere good looks, expressed by the
wearer. It was, in fact, the thing which the second-class passenger,
Salter, had been at once attracted and stirred to rebellion by when Miss
Vanderpoel came on board the Meridiana.

Betty did not look too small for her high-backed chair, and she did
not forget herself when she talked. In spite of all she had found,
her imagination was stirred by the surroundings. Her sense of the fine
spaces and possibilities of dignity in the barren house, her knowledge
that outside the windows there lay stretched broad views of the park and
its heavy-branched trees, and that outside the gates stood the
neglected picturesqueness of the village and all the rural and--to
her--interesting life it slowly lived--this pleased and attracted her.

If she had been as helpless and discouraged as Rosalie she could see
that it would all have meant a totally different and depressing thing,
but, strong and spirited, and with the power of full hands, she was
remotely rejoicing in what might be done with it all. As she talked
she was gradually learning detail. Sir Nigel was on the Continent.
Apparently he often went there; also it revealed itself that no one knew
at what moment he might return, for what reason he would return, or if
he would return at all during the summer. It was evident that no one had
been at any time encouraged to ask questions as to his intentions, or to
feel that they had a right to do so.

This she knew, and a number of other things, before they left the table.
When they did so they went out to stroll upon the moss-grown stone
terrace and listened to the nightingales throwing 'm into the air silver
fountains of trilling song. When Bettina paused, leaning against the
balustrade of the terrace that she might hear all the beauty of it, and
feel all the beauty of the warm spring night, Rosy went on making her
effort to talk.

"It is not much of a neighbourhood, Betty," she said. "You are too
accustomed to livelier places to like it."

"That is my reason for feeling that I shall like it. I don't think I
could be called a lively person, and I rather hate lively places."

"But you are accustomed--accustomed----" Rosy harked back uncertainly.

"I have been accustomed to wishing that I could come to you," said
Betty. "And now I am here."

Lady Anstruthers laid a hand on her dress.

"I can't believe it! I can't believe it!" she breathed.

"You will believe it," said Betty, drawing the hand around her waist
and enclosing in her own arm the narrow shoulders. "Tell me about the
neighbourhood."

"There isn't any, really," said Lady Anstruthers. "The houses are so far
away from each other. The nearest is six miles from here, and it is one
that doesn't count.

"Why?"

"There is no family, and the man who owns it is so poor. It is a big
place, but it is falling to pieces as this is.

"What is it called?"

"Mount Dunstan. The present earl only succeeded about three years ago.
Nigel doesn't know him. He is queer and not liked. He has been away."

"Where?"

"No one knows. To Australia or somewhere. He has odd ideas. The Mount
Dunstans have been awful people for two generations. This man's father
was almost mad with wickedness. So was the elder son. This is a second
son, and he came into nothing but debt. Perhaps he feels the disgrace
and it makes him rude and ill-tempered. His father and elder brother had
been in such scandals that people did not invite them.

"Do they invite this man?"

"No. He probably would not go to their houses if they did. And he went
away soon after he came into the title."

"Is the place beautiful?"

"There is a fine deer park, and the gardens were wonderful a long time
ago. The house is worth looking at--outside."

"I will go and look at it," said Betty.

"The carriage is out of order. There is only Ughtred's cart."

"I am a good walker," said Betty.

"Are you? It would be twelve miles--there and back. When I was in New
York people didn't walk much, particularly girls."

"They do now," Betty answered. "They have learned to do it in England.
They live out of doors and play games. They have grown athletic and
tall."

As they talked the nightingales sang, sometimes near, sometimes in the
distance, and scents of dewy grass and leaves and earth were wafted
towards them. Sometimes they strolled up and down the terrace, sometimes
they paused and leaned against the stone balustrade. Betty allowed Rosy
to talk as she chose. She herself asked no obviously leading questions
and passed over trying moments with lightness. Her desire was to place
herself in a position where she might hear the things which would aid
her to draw conclusions. Lady Anstruthers gradually grew less nervous
and afraid of her subjects. In the wonder of the luxury of talking to
someone who listened with sympathy, she once or twice almost forgot
herself and made revelations she had not intended to make. She had often
the manner of a person who was afraid of being overheard; sometimes,
even when she was making speeches quite simple in themselves, her voice
dropped and she glanced furtively aside as if there were chances that
something she dreaded might step out of the shadow.

When they went upstairs together and parted for the night, the clinging
of Rosy's embrace was for a moment almost convulsive. But she tried to
laugh off its suggestion of intensity.

"I held you tight so that I could feel sure that you were real and would
not melt away," she said. "I hope you will be here in the morning."

"I shall never really go quite away again, now I have come," Betty
answered. "It is not only your house I have come into. I have come back
into your life."

After she had entered her room and locked the door she sat down and
wrote a letter to her father. It was a long letter, but a clear one.
She painted a definite and detailed picture and made distinct her chief
point.

"She is afraid of me," she wrote. "That is the first and worst obstacle.
She is actually afraid that I will do something which will only add to
her trouble. She has lived under dominion so long that she has forgotten
that there are people who have no reason for fear. Her old life seems
nothing but a dream. The first thing I must teach her is that I am to be
trusted not to do futile things, and that she need neither be afraid of
nor for me."

After writing these sentences she found herself leaving her desk and
walking up and down the room to relieve herself. She could not sit
still, because suddenly the blood ran fast and hot through her veins.
She put her hands against her cheeks and laughed a little, low laugh.

"I feel violent," she said. "I feel violent and I must get over it. This
is rage. Rage is worth nothing."

It was rage--the rage of splendid hot blood which surged in answer to
leaping hot thoughts. There would have been a sort of luxury in giving
way to the sway of it. But the self-indulgence would have been no aid to
future action. Rage was worth nothing. She said it as the first Reuben
Vanderpoel might have said of a useless but glittering weapon. "This gun
is worth nothing," and cast it aside.



CHAPTER XIV

IN THE GARDENS

She came out upon the stone terrace again rather early in the morning.
She wanted to wander about in the first freshness of the day, which was
always an uplifting thing to her. She wanted to see the dew on the grass
and on the ragged flower borders and to hear the tender, broken fluting
of birds in the trees. One cuckoo was calling to another in the park,
and she stopped and listened intently. Until yesterday she had never
heard a cuckoo call, and its hollow mellowness gave her delight. It
meant the spring in England, and nowhere else.

There was space enough to ramble about in the gardens. Paths and beds
were alike overgrown with weeds, but some strong, early-blooming things
were fighting for life, refusing to be strangled. Against the beautiful
old red walls, over which age had stolen with a wonderful grey bloom,
venerable fruit trees were spread and nailed, and here and there showed
bloom, clumps of low-growing things sturdily advanced their yellowness
or whiteness, as if defying neglect. In one place a wall slanted and
threatened to fall, bearing its nectarine trees with it; in another
there was a gap so evidently not of to-day that the heap of its masonry
upon the border bed was already covered with greenery, and the roots of
the fruit tree it had supported had sent up strong, insistent shoots.

She passed down broad paths and narrow ones, sometimes walking under
trees, sometimes pushing her way between encroaching shrubs; she
descended delightful mossy and broken steps and came upon dilapidated
urns, in which weeds grew instead of flowers, and over which rampant but
lovely, savage little creepers clambered and clung.

In one of the walled kitchen gardens she came upon an elderly gardener
at work. At the sound of her approaching steps he glanced round and then
stood up, touching his forelock in respectful but startled salute. He
was so plainly amazed at the sight of her that she explained herself.

"Good-morning," she said. "I am her ladyship's sister, Miss Vanderpoel.
I came yesterday evening. I am looking over your gardens."

He touched his forehead again and looked round him. His manner was not
cheerful. He cast a troubled eye about him.

"They're not much to see, miss," he said. "They'd ought to be, but
they're not. Growing things has to be fed and took care of. A man and a
boy can't do it--nor yet four or five of 'em."

"How many ought there to be?" Betty inquired, with business-like
directness. It was not only the dew on the grass she had come out to
see.

"If there was eight or ten of us we might put it in order and keep it
that way. It's a big place, miss."

Betty looked about her as he had done, but with a less discouraged eye.

"It is a beautiful place, as well as a large one," she said. "I can see
that there ought to be more workers."

"There's no one," said the gardener, "as has as many enemies as a
gardener, an' as many things to fight. There's grubs an' there's
greenfly, an' there's drout', an' wet an' cold, an' mildew, an' there's
what the soil wants and starves without, an' if you haven't got it nor
yet hands an' feet an' tools enough, how's things to feed, an' fight an'
live--let alone bloom an' bear?"

"I don't know much about gardens," said Miss Vanderpoel, "but I can
understand that."

The scent of fresh bedewed things was in the air. It was true that she
had not known much about gardens, but here standing in the midst of
one she began to awaken to a new, practical interest. A creature of
initiative could not let such a place as this alone. It was beauty being
slowly slain. One could not pass it by and do nothing.

"What is your name?" she asked

"Kedgers, miss. I've only been here about a twelve-month. I was took on
because I'm getting on in years an' can't ask much wage."

"Can you spare time to take me through the gardens and show me things?"

Yes, he could do it. In truth, he privately welcomed an opportunity
offering a prospect of excitement so novel. He had shown more
flourishing gardens to other young ladies in his past years of service,
but young ladies did not come to Stornham, and that one having, with
such extraordinary unexpectedness arrived, should want to look over the
desolation of these, was curious enough to rouse anyone to a sense of
a break in accustomed monotony. The young lady herself mystified him
by her difference from such others as he had seen. What the man in the
shabby livery had felt, he felt also, and added to this was a sense of
the practicalness of the questions she asked and the interest she showed
and a way she had of seeming singularly to suggest by the look in her
eyes and the tone of her voice that nothing was necessarily without
remedy. When her ladyship walked through the place and looked at things,
a pale resignation expressed itself in the very droop of her
figure. When this one walked through the tumbled-down grape-houses,
potting-sheds and conservatories, she saw where glass was broken, where
benches had fallen and where roofs sagged and leaked. She inquired about
the heating apparatus and asked that she might see it. She asked about
the village and its resources, about labourers and their wages.

"As if," commented Kedgers mentally, "she was what Sir Nigel
is--leastways what he'd ought to be an' ain't."

She led the way back to the fallen wall and stood and looked at it.

"It's a beautiful old wall," she said. "It should be rebuilt with the
old brick. New would spoil it."

"Some of this is broken and crumbled away," said Kedgers, picking up a
piece to show it to her.

"Perhaps old brick could be bought somewhere," replied the young lady
speculatively. "One ought to be able to buy old brick in England, if one
is willing to pay for it."

Kedgers scratched his head and gazed at her in respectful wonder which
was almost trouble. Who was going to pay for things, and who was going
to look for things which were not on the spot? Enterprise like this was
not to be explained.

When she left him he stood and watched her upright figure disappear
through the ivy-grown door of the kitchen gardens with a disturbed
but elated expression on his countenance. He did not know why he felt
elated, but he was conscious of elation. Something new had walked
into the place. He stopped his work and grinned and scratched his head
several times after he went back to his pottering among the cabbage
plants.

"My word," he muttered. "She's a fine, straight young woman. If she
was her ladyship things 'ud be different. Sir Nigel 'ud be different,
too--or there'd be some fine upsets."

There was a huge stable yard, and Betty passed through that on her way
back. The door of the carriage house was open and she saw two or three
tumbled-down vehicles. One was a landau with a wheel off, one was a
shabby, old-fashioned, low phaeton. She caught sight of a patently
venerable cob in one of the stables. The stalls near him were empty.

"I suppose that is all they have to depend upon," she thought. "And the
stables are like the gardens."

She found Lady Anstruthers and Ughtred waiting for her upon the terrace,
each of them regarding her with an expression suggestive of repressed
curiosity as she approached. Lady Anstruthers flushed a little and went
to meet her with an eager kiss.

"You look like--I don't know quite what you look like, Betty!" she
exclaimed.

The girl's dimple deepened and her eyes said smiling things.

"It is the morning--and your gardens," she answered. "I have been round
your gardens."

"They were beautiful once, I suppose," said Rosy deprecatingly.

"They are beautiful now. There is nothing like them in America at
least."

"I don't remember any gardens in America," Lady Anstruthers owned
reluctantly, "but everything seemed so cheerful and well cared for
and--and new. Don't laugh, Betty. I have begun to like new things. You
would if you had watched old ones tumbling to pieces for twelve years."

"They ought not to be allowed to tumble to pieces," said Betty. She
added her next words with simple directness. She could only discover
how any advancing steps would be taken by taking them. "Why do you allow
them to do it?"

Lady Anstruthers looked away, but as she looked her eyes passed
Ughtred's.

"I!" she said. "There are so many other things to do. It would cost so
much--such an enormity to keep it all in order."

"But it ought to be done--for Ughtred's sake."

"I know that," faltered Rosy, "but I can't help it."

"You can," answered Betty, and she put her arm round her as they turned
to enter the house. "When you have become more used to me and my driving
American ways I will show you how."

The lightness with which she said it had an odd effect on Lady
Anstruthers. Such casual readiness was so full of the suggestion of
unheard of possibilities that it was a kind of shock.

"I have been twelve years in getting un-used to you--I feel as if it
would take twelve years more to get used again," she said.

"It won't take twelve weeks," said Betty.



CHAPTER XV

THE FIRST MAN

The mystery of the apparently occult methods of communication among
the natives of India, between whom, it is said, news flies by means too
strange and subtle to be humanly explainable, is no more difficult
a problem to solve than that of the lightning rapidity with which a
knowledge of the transpiring of any new local event darts through
the slowest, and, as far as outward signs go, the least communicative
English village slumbering drowsily among its pastures and trees.

That which the Hall or Manor House believed last night, known only
to the four walls of its drawing-room, is discussed over the cottage
breakfast tables as though presented in detail through the columns of
the Morning Post. The vicarage, the smithy, the post office, the
little provision shop, are instantaneously informed as by magic of such
incidents of interest as occur, and are prepared to assist vicariously
at any future developments. Through what agency information is given
no one can tell, and, indeed, the agency is of small moment. Facts of
interest are perhaps like flights of swallows and dart chattering from
one red roof to another, proclaiming themselves aloud. Nothing is
so true as that in such villages they are the property and innocent
playthings of man, woman, and child, providing conversation and drama
otherwise likely to be lacked.

When Miss Vanderpoel walked through Stornham village street she became
aware that she was an exciting object of interest. Faces appeared at
cottage windows, women sauntered to doors, men in the taproom of the
Clock Inn left beer mugs to cast an eye on her; children pushed open
gates and stared as they bobbed their curtsies; the young woman who kept
the shop left her counter and came out upon her door step to pick up
her straying baby and glance over its shoulder at the face with the red
mouth, and the mass of black hair rolled upward under a rough blue
straw hat. Everyone knew who this exotic-looking young lady was. She had
arrived yesterday from London, and a week ago by means of a ship from
far-away America, from the country in connection with which the rural
mind curiously mixed up large wages, great fortunes and Indians.
"Gaarge" Lunsden, having spent five years of his youth labouring heavily
for sixteen shillings a week, had gone to "Meriker" and had earned there
eight shillings a day. This was a well-known and much-talked over
fact, and had elevated the western continent to a position of trust and
importance it had seriously lacked before the emigration of Lunsden. A
place where a man could earn eight shillings a day inspired interest as
well as confidence. When Sir Nigel's wife had arrived twelve years ago
as the new Lady Anstruthers, the story that she herself "had money" had
been verified by her fine clothes and her way of handing out sovereigns
in cases where the rest of the gentry, if they gave at all, would have
bestowed tea and flannel or shillings. There had been for a few months a
period of unheard of well-being in Stornham village; everyone remembered
the hundred pounds the bride had given to poor Wilson when his place had
burned down, but the village had of course learned, by its occult means,
that Sir Nigel and the Dowager had been angry and that there had been a
quarrel. Afterwards her ladyship had been dangerously ill, the baby had
been born a hunchback, and a year had passed before its mother had been
seen again. Since then she had been a changed creature; she had lost her
looks and seemed to care for nothing but the child. Stornham village
saw next to nothing of her, and it certainly was not she who had the
dispensing of her fortune. Rumour said Sir Nigel lived high in London
and foreign parts, but there was no high living at the Court. Her
ladyship's family had never been near her, and belief in them and their
wealth almost ceased to exist. If they were rich, Stornham felt that it
was their business to mend roofs and windows and not allow chimneys and
kitchen boilers to fall into ruin, the simple, leading article of faith
being that even American money belonged properly to England.

As Miss Vanderpoel walked at a light, swinging pace through the one
village street the gazers felt with Kedgers that something new was
passing and stirring the atmosphere. She looked straight, and with a
friendliness somehow dominating, at the curious women; her handsome eyes
met those of the men in a human questioning; she smiled and nodded to
the bobbing children. One of these, young enough to be uncertain on
its feet, in running to join some others stumbled and fell on the path
before her. Opening its mouth in the inevitable resultant roar, it was
shocked almost into silence by the tall young lady stooping at once,
picking it up, and cheerfully dusting its pinafore.

"Don't cry," she said; "you are not hurt, you know."

The deep dimple near her mouth showed itself, and the laugh in her eyes
was so reassuring that the penny she put into the grubby hand was less
productive of effect than her mere self. She walked on, leaving the
group staring after her breathless, because of a sense of having met
with a wonderful adventure. The grand young lady with the black hair
and the blue hat and tall, straight body was the adventure. She left the
same sense of event with the village itself. They talked of her all day
over their garden palings, on their doorsteps, in the street; of her
looks, of her height, of the black rim of lashes round her eyes, of
the chance that she might be rich and ready to give half-crowns and
sovereigns, of the "Meriker" she had come from, and above all of the
reason for her coming.

Betty swung with the light, firm step of a good walker out on to the
highway. To walk upon the fine, smooth old Roman road was a pleasure
in itself, but she soon struck away from it and went through lanes and
by-ways, following sign-posts because she knew where she was going. Her
walk was to take her to Mount Dunstan and home again by another road. In
walking, an objective point forms an interest, and what she had heard of
the estate from Rosalie was a vague reason for her caring to see it. It
was another place like Stornham, once dignified and nobly representative
of fine things, now losing their meanings and values. Values and
meanings, other than mere signs of wealth and power, there had been.
Centuries ago strong creatures had planned and built it for such reasons
as strength has for its planning and building. In Bettina Vanderpoel's
imagination the First Man held powerful and moving sway. It was he whom
she always saw. In history, as a child at school, she had understood and
drawn close to him. There was always a First Man behind all that one
saw or was told, one who was the fighter, the human thing who snatched
weapons and tools from stones and trees and wielded them in the carrying
out of the thought which was his possession and his strength. He was the
God made human; others waited, without knowledge of their waiting,
for the signal he gave. A man like others--with man's body, hands, and
limbs, and eyes--the moving of a whole world was subtly altered by his
birth. One could not always trace him, but with stone axe and spear
point he had won savage lands in savage ways, and so ruled them that,
leaving them to other hands, their march towards less savage life could
not stay itself, but must sweep on; others of his kind, striking rude
harps, had so sung that the loud clearness of their wild songs had rung
through the ages, and echo still in strains which are theirs, though
voices of to-day repeat the note of them. The First Man, a Briton
stained with woad and hung with skins, had tilled the luscious greenness
of the lands richly rolling now within hedge boundaries. The square
church towers rose, holding their slender corner spires above the trees,
as a result of the First Man, Norman William. The thought which held its
place, the work which did not pass away, had paid its First Man wages;
but beauties crumbling, homes falling to waste, were bitter things. The
First Man, who, having won his splendid acres, had built his home upon
them and reared his young and passed his possession on with a proud
heart, seemed but ill treated. Through centuries the home had enriched
itself, its acres had borne harvests, its trees had grown and spread
huge branches, full lives had been lived within the embrace of the
massive walls, there had been loves and lives and marriages and births,
the breathings of them made warm and full the very air. To Betty it
seemed that the land itself would have worn another face if it had not
been trodden by so many springing feet, if so many harvests had not
waved above it, if so many eyes had not looked upon and loved it.

She passed through variations of the rural loveliness she had seen on
her way from the station to the Court, and felt them grow in beauty as
she saw them again. She came at last to a village somewhat larger than
Stornham and marked by the signs of the lack of money-spending care
which Stornham showed. Just beyond its limits a big park gate opened on
to an avenue of massive trees. She stopped and looked down it, but
could see nothing but its curves and, under the branches, glimpses of a
spacious sweep of park with other trees standing in groups or alone
in the sward. The avenue was unswept and untended, and here and there
boughs broken off by wind.

Storms lay upon it. She turned to the road again and followed it,
because it enclosed the park and she wanted to see more of its evident
beauty. It was very beautiful. As she walked on she saw it rolled into
woods and deeps filled with bracken; she saw stretches of hillocky,
fine-grassed rabbit warren, and hollows holding shadowy pools; she
caught the gleam of a lake with swans sailing slowly upon it with curved
necks; there were wonderful lights and wonderful shadows, and brooding
stillness, which made her footfall upon the road a too material thing.

Suddenly she heard a stirring in the bracken a yard or two away from
her. Something was moving slowly among the waving masses of huge fronds
and caused them to sway to and fro. It was an antlered stag who rose
from his bed in the midst of them, and with majestic deliberation
got upon his feet and stood gazing at her with a calmness of pose
so splendid, and a liquid darkness and lustre of eye so stilly and
fearlessly beautiful, that she caught her breath. He simply gazed as her
as a great king might gaze at an intruder, scarcely deigning wonder.

As she had passed on her way, Betty had seen that the enclosing park
palings were decaying, covered with lichen and falling at intervals. It
had even passed through her mind that here was one of the demands
for expenditure on a large estate, which limited resources could not
confront with composure. The deer fence itself, a thing of wire ten
feet high, to form an obstacle to leaps, she had marked to be in such
condition as to threaten to become shortly a useless thing. Until this
moment she had seen no deer, but looking beyond the stag and across
the sward she now saw groups near each other, stags cropping or looking
towards her with lifted heads, does at a respectful but affectionate
distance from them, some caring for their fawns. The stag who had risen
near her had merely walked through a gap in the boundary and now stood
free to go where he would.

"He will get away," said Betty, knitting her black brows. Ah! what a
shame!

Even with the best intentions one could not give chase to a stag. She
looked up and down the road, but no one was within sight. Her brows
continued to knit themselves and her eyes ranged over the park itself in
the hope that some labourer on the estate, some woodman or game-keeper,
might be about.


"It is no affair of mine," she said, "but it would be too bad to let him
get away, though what happens to stray stags one doesn't exactly know."

As she said it she caught sight of someone, a man in leggings and shabby
clothes and with a gun over his shoulder, evidently an under keeper. He
was a big, rather rough-looking fellow, but as he lurched out into
the open from a wood Betty saw that she could reach him if she passed
through a narrow gate a few yards away and walked quickly.

He was slouching along, his head drooping and his broad shoulders
expressing the definite antipodes of good spirits. Betty studied his
back as she strode after him, her conclusion being that he was perhaps
not a good-humoured man to approach at any time, and that this was by
ill luck one of his less fortunate hours.

"Wait a moment, if you please," her clear, mellow voice flung out after
him when she was within hearing distance. "I want to speak to you,
keeper."

He turned with an air of far from pleased surprise. The afternoon
sun was in his eyes and made him scowl. For a moment he did not see
distinctly who was approaching him, but he had at once recognised a
certain cool tone of command in the voice whose suddenness had roused
him from a black mood. A few steps brought them to close quarters, and
when he found himself looking into the eyes of his pursuer he made
a movement as if to lift his cap, then checking himself, touched it,
keeper fashion.

"Oh!" he said shortly. "Miss Vanderpoel! Beg pardon."

Bettina stood still a second. She had her surprise also. Here was the
unexpected again. The under keeper was the red-haired second-class
passenger of the Meridiana.

He did not look pleased to see her, and the suddenness of his appearance
excluded the possibility of her realising that upon the whole she was at
least not displeased to see him.

"How do you do?" she said, feeling the remark fantastically
conventional, but not being inspired by any alternative. "I came to tell
you that one of the stags has got through a gap in the fence."

"Damn!" she heard him say under his breath. Aloud he said, "Thank you."

"He is a splendid creature," she said. "I did not know what to do. I was
glad to see a keeper coming."

"Thank you," he said again, and strode towards the place where the
stag still stood gazing up the road, as if reflecting as to whether it
allured him or not.

Betty walked back more slowly, watching him with interest. She wondered
what he would find it necessary to do. She heard him begin a low,
flute-like whistling, and then saw the antlered head turn towards him.
The woodland creature moved, but it was in his direction. It had without
doubt answered his call before and knew its meaning to be friendly. It
went towards him, stretching out a tender sniffing nose, and he put
his hand in the pocket of his rough coat and gave it something to eat.
Afterwards he went to the gap in the fence and drew the wires together,
fastening them with other wire, which he also took out of the coat
pocket.

"He is not afraid of making himself useful," thought Betty. "And the
animals know him. He is not as bad as he looks."

She lingered a moment watching him, and then walked towards the gate
through which she had entered. He glanced up as she neared him.

"I don't see your carriage," he said. "Your man is probably round the
trees."

"I walked," answered Betty. "I had heard of this place and wanted to see
it."

He stood up, putting his wire back into his pocket.

"There is not much to be seen from the road," he said. "Would you like
to see more of it?"

His manner was civil enough, but not the correct one for a servant.
He did not say "miss" or touch his cap in making the suggestion. Betty
hesitated a moment.

"Is the family at home?" she inquired.

"There is no family but--his lordship. He is off the place."

"Does he object to trespassers?"

"Not if they are respectable and take no liberties."

"I am respectable, and I shall not take liberties," said Miss
Vanderpoel, with a touch of hauteur. The truth was that she had spent a
sufficient number of years on the Continent to have become familiar with
conventions which led her not to approve wholly of his bearing. Perhaps
he had lived long enough in America to forget such conventions and to
lack something which centuries of custom had decided should belong
to his class. A certain suggestion of rough force in the man rather
attracted her, and her slight distaste for his manner arose from the
realisation that a gentleman's servant who did not address his superiors
as was required by custom was not doing his work in a finished way. In
his place she knew her own demeanour would have been finished.

"If you are sure that Lord Mount Dunstan would not object to my walking
about, I should like very much to see the gardens and the house," she
said. "If you show them to me, shall I be interfering with your duties?"

"No," he answered, and then for the first time rather glumly added,
"miss."

"I am interested," she said, as they crossed the grass together,
"because places like this are quite new to me. I have never been in
England before."

"There are not many places like this," he answered, "not many as old and
fine, and not many as nearly gone to ruin. Even Stornham is not quite as
far gone."

"It is far gone," said Miss Vanderpoel. "I am staying there--with my
sister, Lady Anstruthers."

"Beg pardon--miss," he said. This time he touched his cap in apology.

Enormous as the gulf between their positions was, he knew that he had
offered to take her over the place because he was in a sense glad to
see her again. Why he was glad he did not profess to know or even to
ask himself. Coarsely speaking, it might be because she was one of the
handsomest young women he had ever chanced to meet with, and while her
youth was apparent in the rich red of her mouth, the mass of her thick,
soft hair and the splendid blue of her eyes, there spoke in every line
of face and pose something intensely more interesting and compelling
than girlhood. Also, since the night they had come together on the
ship's deck for an appalling moment, he had liked her better and
rebelled less against the unnatural wealth she represented. He led her
first to the wood from which she had seen him emerge.

"I will show you this first," he explained. "Keep your eyes on the
ground until I tell you to raise them."

Odd as this was, she obeyed, and her lowered glance showed her that she
was being guided along a narrow path between trees. The light was mellow
golden-green, and birds were singing in the boughs above her. In a few
minutes he stopped.

"Now look up," he said.

She uttered an exclamation when she did so. She was in a fairy dell
thick with ferns, and at beautiful distances from each other incredibly
splendid oaks spread and almost trailed their lovely giant branches. The
glow shining through and between them, the shadows beneath them, their
great boles and moss-covered roots, and the stately, mellow distances
revealed under their branches, the ancient wildness and richness, which
meant, after all, centuries of cultivation, made a picture in
this exact, perfect moment of ripening afternoon sun of an almost
unbelievable beauty.

"There is nothing lovelier," he said in a low voice, "in all England."

Bettina turned to look at him, because his tone was a curious one for a
man like himself. He was standing resting on his gun and taking in the
loveliness with a strange look in his rugged face.

"You--you love it!" she said.

"Yes," but with a suggestion of stubborn reluctance in the admission.

She was rather moved.

"Have you been keeper here long?" she asked.

"No--only a few years. But I have known the place all my life."

"Does Lord Mount Dunstan love it?"

"In his way--yes."

He was plainly not disposed to talk of his master. He was perhaps not
on particularly good terms with him. He led her away and volunteered no
further information. He was, upon the whole, uncommunicative. He did not
once refer to the circumstance of their having met before. It was
plain that he had no intention of presuming upon the fact that he, as
a second-class passenger on a ship, had once been forced by accident
across the barriers between himself and the saloon deck. He was
stubbornly resolved to keep his place; so stubbornly that Bettina felt
that to broach the subject herself would verge upon offence.

But the golden ways through which he led her made the afternoon one
she knew she should never forget. They wandered through moss walks and
alleys, through tangled shrubberies bursting into bloom, beneath avenues
of blossoming horse-chestnuts and scented limes, between thickets of
budding red and white may, and jungles of neglected rhododendrons;
through sunken gardens and walled ones, past terraces with broken
balustrades of stone, and fallen Floras and Dianas, past moss-grown
fountains splashing in lovely corners. Arches, overgrown with yet
unblooming roses, crumbled in their time stained beauty. Stillness
brooded over it all, and they met no one. They scarcely broke the
silence themselves. The man led the way as one who knew it by heart, and
Bettina followed, not caring for speech herself, because the stillness
seemed to add a spell of enchantment. What could one say, to a stranger,
of such beauty so lost and given over to ruin and decay.

"But, oh!" she murmured once, standing still, with indrawn breath, "if
it were mine!--if it were mine!" And she said the thing forgetting that
her guide was a living creature and stood near.

Afterwards her memories of it all seemed to her like the memories of a
dream. The lack of speech between herself and the man who led her, his
often averted face, her own sense of the desertedness of each beauteous
spot she passed through, the mossy paths which gave back no sound of
footfalls as they walked, suggested, one and all, unreality. When
at last they passed through a door half hidden in an ivied wall, and
crossing a grassed bowling green, mounted a short flight of broken steps
which led them to a point through which they saw the house through a
break in the trees, this last was the final touch of all. It was a great
place, stately in its masses of grey stone to which thick ivy clung.
To Bettina it seemed that a hundred windows stared at her with closed,
blind eyes. All were shuttered but two or three on the lower floors. Not
one showed signs of life. The silent stone thing stood sightless among
all of which it was dead master--rolling acres, great trees, lost
gardens and deserted groves.

"Oh!" she sighed, "Oh!"

Her companion stood still and leaned upon his gun again, looking as he
had looked before.

"Some of it," he said, "was here before the Conquest. It belonged to
Mount Dunstans then."

"And only one of them is left," she cried, "and it is like this!"

"They have been a bad lot, the last hundred years," was the surly
liberty of speech he took, "a bad lot."

It was not his place to speak in such manner of those of his master's
house, and it was not the part of Miss Vanderpoel to encourage him by
response. She remained silent, standing perhaps a trifle more lightly
erect as she gazed at the rows of blind windows in silence.

Neither of them uttered a word for some time, but at length Bettina
roused herself. She had a six-mile walk before her and must go.

"I am very much obliged to you," she began, and then paused a second.
A curious hesitance came upon her, though she knew that under ordinary
circumstances such hesitation would have been totally out of place. She
had occupied the man's time for an hour or more, he was of the working
class, and one must not be guilty of the error of imagining that a man
who has work to do can justly spend his time in one's service for the
mere pleasure of it. She knew what custom demanded. Why should she
hesitate before this man, with his not too courteous, surly face. She
felt slightly irritated by her own unpractical embarrassment as she put
her hand into the small, latched bag at her belt.

"I am very much obliged, keeper," she said. "You have given me a
great deal of your time. You know the place so well that it has been
a pleasure to be taken about by you. I have never seen anything so
beautiful--and so sad. Thank you--thank you." And she put a goldpiece
in his palm.

His fingers closed over it quietly. Why it was to her great relief she
did not know--because something in the simple act annoyed her, even
while she congratulated herself that her hesitance had been absurd. The
next moment she wondered if it could be possible that he had expected
a larger fee. He opened his hand and looked at the money with a grim
steadiness.

"Thank you, miss," he said, and touched his cap in the proper manner.

He did not look gracious or grateful, but he began to put it in a small
pocket in the breast of his worn corduroy shooting jacket. Suddenly he
stopped, as if with abrupt resolve. He handed the coin back without any
change of his glum look.

"Hang it all," he said, "I can't take this, you know. I suppose I ought
to have told you. It would have been less awkward for us both. I am that
unfortunate beggar, Mount Dunstan, myself."

A pause was inevitable. It was a rather long one. After it, Betty took
back her half-sovereign and returned it to her bag, but she pleased a
certain perversity in him by looking more annoyed than confused.

"Yes," she said. "You ought to have told me, Lord Mount Dunstan."

He slightly shrugged his big shoulders.


"Why shouldn't you take me for a keeper? You crossed the Atlantic with
a fourth-rate looking fellow separated from you by barriers of wood
and iron. You came upon him tramping over a nobleman's estate in shabby
corduroys and gaiters, with a gun over his shoulder and a scowl on his
ugly face. Why should you leap to the conclusion that he is the belted
Earl himself? There is no cause for embarrassment."

"I am not embarrassed," said Bettina.

"That is what I like," gruffly.

"I am pleased," in her mellowest velvet voice, "that you like it."

Their eyes met with a singular directness of gaze. Between them a spark
passed which was not afterwards to be extinguished, though neither
of them knew the moment of its kindling, and Mount Dunstan slightly
frowned.

"I beg pardon," he said. "You are quite right. It had a deucedly
patronising sound."

As he stood before her Betty was given her opportunity to see him as she
had not seen him before, to confront the sum total of his physique. His
red-brown eyes looked out from rather fine heavy brows, his features
were strong and clear, though ruggedly cut, his build showed weight
of bone, not of flesh, and his limbs were big and long. He would have
wielded a battle-axe with power in centuries in which men hewed their
way with them. Also it occurred to her he would have looked well in a
coat of mail. He did not look ill in his corduroys and gaiters.

"I am a self-absorbed beggar," he went on. "I had been slouching about
the place, almost driven mad by my thoughts, and when I saw you took me
for a servant my fancy was for letting the thing go on. If I had been a
rich man instead of a pauper I would have kept your half-sovereign."

"I should not have enjoyed that when I found out the truth," said Miss
Vanderpoel.

"No, I suppose you wouldn't. But I should not have cared."

He was looking at her straightly and summing her up as she had summed
him up. A man and young, he did not miss a line or a tint of her chin or
cheek, shoulder, or brow, or dense, lifted hair. He had already, even
in his guise of keeper, noticed one thing, which was that while at times
her eyes were the blue of steel, sometimes they melted to the colour of
bluebells under water. They had been of this last hue when she had stood
in the sunken garden, forgetting him and crying low:

"Oh, if it were mine! If it were mine!"

He did not like American women with millions, but while he would not
have said that he liked her, he did not wish her yet to move away. And
she, too, did not wish, just yet, to move away. There was something
dramatic and absorbing in the situation. She looked over the softly
stirring grass and saw the sunshine was deepening its gold and the
shadows were growing long. It was not a habit of hers to ask questions,
but she asked one.

"Did you not like America?" was what she said.

"Hated it! Hated it! I went there lured by a belief that a man like
myself, with muscle and will, even without experience, could make a
fortune out of small capital on a sheep ranch. Wind and weather and
disease played the devil with me. I lost the little I had and came back
to begin over again--on nothing--here!" And he waved his hand over the
park with its sward and coppice and bracken and the deer cropping in the
late afternoon gold.

"To begin what again?" said Betty. It was an extraordinary enough thing,
seen in the light of conventions, that they should stand and talk like
this. But the spark had kindled between eye and eye, and because of it
they suddenly had forgotten that they were strangers.

"You are an American, so it may not seem as mad to you as it would to
others. To begin to build up again, in one man's life, what has taken
centuries to grow--and fall into this."

"It would be a splendid thing to do," she said slowly, and as she said
it her eyes took on their colour of bluebells, because what she had seen
had moved her. She had not looked at him, but at the cropping deer as
she spoke, but at her next sentence she turned to him again.

"Where should you begin?" she asked, and in saying it thought of
Stornham.

He laughed shortly.

"That is American enough," he said. "Your people have not finished their
beginnings yet and live in the spirit of them. I tell you of a wild
fancy, and you accept it as a possibility and turn on me with, 'Where
should you begin?'"

"That is one way of beginning," said Bettina. "In fact, it is the only
way."

He did not tell her that he liked that, but he knew that he did like it
and that her mere words touched him like a spur. It was, of course, her
lifelong breathing of the atmosphere of millions which made for this
fashion of moving at once in the direction of obstacles presenting to
the rest of the world barriers seemingly insurmountable. And yet there
was something else in it, some quality of nature which did not alone
suggest the omnipotence of wealth, but another thing which might be even
stronger and therefore carried conviction. He who had raged and clenched
his hands in the face of his knowledge of the aspect his dream would
have presented if he had revealed it to the ordinary practical mind,
felt that a point of view like this was good for him. There was in it
stimulus for a fleeting moment at least.

"That is a good idea," he answered. "Where should you begin?"

She replied quite seriously, though he could have imagined some girls
rather simpering over the question as a casual joke.

"One would begin at the fences," she said. "Don't you think so?"

"That is practical."

"That is where I shall begin at Stornham," reflectively.

"You are going to begin at Stornham?"

"How could one help it? It is not as large or as splendid as this has
been, but it is like it in a way. And it will belong to my sister's son.
No, I could not help it."

"I suppose you could not." There was a hint of wholly unconscious
resentment in his tone. He was thinking that the effect produced by
their boundless wealth was to make these people feel as a race of giants
might--even their women unknowingly revealed it.

"No, I could not," was her reply. "I suppose I am on the whole a sort
of commercial working person. I have no doubt it is commercial, that
instinct which makes one resent seeing things lose their value."

"Shall you begin it for that reason?"

"Partly for that one--partly for another." She held out her hand to him.
"Look at the length of the shadows. I must go. Thank you, Lord Mount
Dunstan, for showing me the place, and thank you for undeceiving me."

He held the side gate open for her and lifted his cap as she passed
through. He admitted to himself, with some reluctance, that he was not
content that she should go even yet, but, of course, she must go. There
passed through his mind a remote wonder why he had suddenly unbosomed
himself to her in a way so extraordinarily unlike himself. It was,
he thought next, because as he had taken her about from one place to
another he had known that she had seen in things what he had seen in
them so long--the melancholy loneliness, the significance of it, the
lost hopes that lay behind it, the touching pain of the stateliness
wrecked. She had shown it in the way in which she tenderly looked from
side to side, in the very lightness of her footfall, in the bluebell
softening of her eyes. Oh, yes, she had understood and cared, American
as she was! She had felt it all, even with her hideous background of
Fifth Avenue behind her.

When he had spoken it had been in involuntary response to an emotion in
herself.

So he stood, thinking, as he for some time watched her walking up the
sunset-glowing road.



CHAPTER XVI

THE PARTICULAR INCIDENT

Betty Vanderpoel's walk back to Stornham did not, long though it was,
give her time to follow to its end the thread of her thoughts. Mentally
she walked again with her uncommunicative guide, through woodpaths and
gardens, and stood gazing at the great blind-faced house. She had not
given the man more than an occasional glance until he had told her his
name. She had been too much absorbed, too much moved, by what she had
been seeing. She wondered, if she had been more aware of him, whether
his face would have revealed a great deal. She believed it would not. He
had made himself outwardly stolid. But the thing must have been bitter.
To him the whole story of the splendid past was familiar even if through
his own life he had looked on only at gradual decay. There must be
stories enough of men and women who had lived in the place, of what they
had done, of how they had loved, of what they had counted for in their
country's wars and peacemakings, great functions and law-building. To
be able to look back through centuries and know of one's blood that
sometimes it had been shed in the doing of great deeds, must be a thing
to remember. To realise that the courage and honour had been lost in
ignoble modern vices, which no sense of dignity and reverence for race
and name had restrained--must be bitter--bitter! And in the role of a
servant to lead a stranger about among the ruins of what had been--that
must have been bitter, too. For a moment Betty felt the bitterness of it
herself and her red mouth took upon itself a grim line. The worst of it
for him was that he was not of that strain of his race who had been
the "bad lot." The "bad lot" had been the weak lot, the vicious, the
self-degrading. Scandals which had shut men out from their class
and kind were usually of an ugly type. This man had a strong jaw, a
powerful, healthy body, and clean, though perhaps hard, eyes. The First
Man of them, who hewed his way to the front, who stood fierce in the
face of things, who won the first lands and laid the first stones, might
have been like him in build and look.

"It's a disgusting thing," she said to herself, "to think of the corrupt
weaklings the strong ones dwindled down to. I hate them. So does he."

There had been many such of late years, she knew. She had seen them in
Paris, in Rome, even in New York. Things with thin or over-thick bodies
and receding chins and foreheads; things haunting places of amusement
and finding inordinate entertainment in strange jokes and horseplay. She
herself had hot blood and a fierce strength of rebellion, and she was
wondering how, if the father and elder brother had been the "bad lot,"
he had managed to stand still, looking on, and keeping his hands off
them.

The last gold of the sun was mellowing the grey stone of the terrace and
enriching the green of the weeds thrusting themselves into life between
the uneven flags when she reached Stornham, and passing through the
house found Lady Anstruthers sitting there. In sustenance of her effort
to keep up appearances, she had put on a weird little muslin dress and
had elaborated the dressing of her thin hair. It was no longer dragged
back straight from her face, and she looked a trifle less abject, even a
shade prettier. Bettina sat upon the edge of the balustrade and touched
the hair with light fingers, ruffling it a little becomingly.

"If you had worn it like this yesterday," she said, "I should have known
you."

"Should you, Betty? I never look into a mirror if I can help it, but
when I do I never know myself. The thing that stares back at me with its
pale eyes is not Rosy. But, of course, everyone grows old."

"Not now! People are just discovering how to grow young instead."

Lady Anstruthers looked into the clear courage of her laughing eyes.

"Somehow," she said, "you say strange things in such a way that one
feels as if they must be true, however--however unlike anything else
they are."

"They are not as new as they seem," said Betty. "Ancient philosophers
said things like them centuries ago, but people did not believe them. We
are just beginning to drag them out of the dust and furbish them up and
pretend they are ours, just as people rub up and adorn themselves with
jewels dug out of excavations."

"In America people think so many new things," said poor little Lady
Anstruthers with yearning humbleness.

"The whole civilised world is thinking what you call new things," said
Betty. "The old ones won't do. They have been tried, and though they
have helped us to the place we have reached, they cannot help us any
farther. We must begin again."

"It is such a long time since I began," said Rosy, "such a long time."

"Then there must be another beginning for you, too. The hour has
struck."

Lady Anstruthers rose with as involuntary a movement as if a strong hand
had drawn her to her feet. She stood facing Betty, a pathetic little
figure in her washed-out muslin frock and with her washed-out face and
eyes and being, though on her faded cheeks a flush was rising.

"Oh, Betty!" she said, "I don't know what there is about you, but there
is something which makes one feel as if you believed everything and
could do everything, and as if one believes YOU. Whatever you were to
say, you would make it seem TRUE. If you said the wildest thing in the
world I should BELIEVE you."

Betty got up, too, and there was an extraordinary steadiness in her
eyes.

"You may," she answered. "I shall never say one thing to you which is
not a truth, not one single thing."

"I believe that," said Rosy Anstruthers, with a quivering mouth. "I do
believe it so."

"I walked to Mount Dunstan," Betty said later.

"Really?" said Rosy. "There and back?"

"Yes, and all round the park and the gardens."

Rosy looked rather uncertain.

"Weren't you a little afraid of meeting someone?"

"I did meet someone. At first I took him for a gamekeeper. But he turned
out to be Lord Mount Dunstan."

Lady Anstruthers gasped.

"What did he do?" she exclaimed. "Did he look angry at seeing a
stranger? They say he is so ill-tempered and rude."

"I should feel ill-tempered if I were in his place," said Betty. "He has
enough to rouse his evil passions and make him savage. What a fate for a
man with any sense and decency of feeling! What fools and criminals
the last generation of his house must have produced! I wonder how such
things evolve themselves. But he is different--different. One can see
it. If he had a chance--just half a chance--he would build it all up
again. And I don't mean merely the place, but all that one means when
one says 'his house.'"

"He would need a great deal of money," sighed Lady Anstruthers.

Betty nodded slowly as she looked out, reflecting, into the park.

"Yes, it would require money," was her admission.

"And he has none," Lady Anstruthers added. "None whatever."

"He will get some," said Betty, still reflecting. "He will make it, or
dig it up, or someone will leave it to him. There is a great deal of
money in the world, and when a strong creature ought to have some of it
he gets it."

"Oh, Betty!" said Rosy. "Oh, Betty!"

"Watch that man," said Betty; "you will see. It will come."

Lady Anstruthers' mind, working at no time on complex lines, presented
her with a simple modern solution.

"Perhaps he will marry an American," she said, and saying it, sighed
again.

"He will not do it on purpose." Bettina answered slowly and with such an
air of absence of mind that Rosy laughed a little.

"Will he do it accidentally, or against his will?" she said.

Betty herself smiled.

"Perhaps he will," she said. "There are Englishmen who rather dislike
Americans. I think he is one of them."

It apparently became necessary for Lady Anstruthers, a moment later, to
lean upon the stone balustrade and pick off a young leaf or so, for no
reason whatever, unless that in doing so she averted her look from her
sister as she made her next remark.

"Are you--when are you going to write to father and mother?"

"I have written," with unembarrassed evenness of tone. "Mother will be
counting the days."

"Mother!" Rosy breathed, with a soft little gasp. "Mother!" and turned
her face farther away. "What did you tell her?"

Betty moved over to her and stood close at her side. The power of her
personality enveloped the tremulous creature as if it had been a sense
of warmth.

"I told her how beautiful the place was, and how Ughtred adored you--and
how you loved us all, and longed to see New York again."

The relief in the poor little face was so immense that Betty's heart
shook before it. Lady Anstruthers looked up at her with adoring eyes.

"I might have known," she said; "I might have known that--that you would
only say the right thing. You couldn't say the wrong thing, Betty."

Betty bent over her and spoke almost yearningly.

"Whatever happens," she said, "we will take care that mother is not
hurt. She's too kind--she's too good--she's too tender."

"That is what I have remembered," said Lady Anstruthers brokenly. "She
used to hold me on her lap when I was quite grown up. Oh! her soft, warm
arms--her warm shoulder! I have so wanted her."

"She has wanted you," Betty answered. "She thinks of you just as she did
when she held you on her lap."

"But if she saw me now--looking like this! If she saw me! Sometimes I
have even been glad to think she never would."

"She will." Betty's tone was cool and clear. "But before she does I
shall have made you look like yourself."

Lady Anstruthers' thin hand closed on her plucked leaves convulsively,
and then opening let them drop upon the stone of the terrace.

"We shall never see each other. It wouldn't be possible," she said. "And
there is no magic in the world now, Betty. You can't bring back----"

"Yes, you can," said Bettina. "And what used to be called magic is only
the controlled working of the law and order of things in these days. We
must talk it all over."

Lady Anstruthers became a little pale.

"What?" she asked, low and nervously, and Betty saw her glance sideways
at the windows of the room which opened on to the terrace.

Betty took her hand and drew her down into a chair. She sat near her and
looked her straight in the face.

"Don't be frightened," she said. "I tell you there is no need to be
frightened. We are not living in the Middle Ages. There is a policeman
even in Stornham village, and we are within four hours of London, where
there are thousands."

Lady Anstruthers tried to laugh, but did not succeed very well, and her
forehead flushed.

"I don't quite know why I seem so nervous," she said. "It's very silly
of me."

She was still timid enough to cling to some rag of pretence, but Betty
knew that it would fall away. She did the wisest possible thing, which
was to make an apparently impersonal remark.

"I want you to go over the place with me and show me everything. Walls
and fences and greenhouses and outbuildings must not be allowed to
crumble away."

"What?" cried Rosy. "Have you seen all that already?" She actually
stared at her. "How practical and--and American!"

"To see that a wall has fallen when you find yourself obliged to walk
round a pile of grass-grown brickwork?" said Betty.

Lady Anstruthers still softly stared.

"What--what are you thinking of?" she asked.

"Thinking that it is all too beautiful----" Betty's look swept the
loveliness spread about her, "too beautiful and too valuable to be
allowed to lose its value and its beauty." She turned her eyes back to
Rosy and the deep dimple near her mouth showed itself delightfully. "It
is a throwing away of capital," she added.

"Oh!" cried Lady Anstruthers, "how clever you are! And you look so
different, Betty."

"Do I look stupid?" the dimple deepening. "I must try to alter that."

"Don't try to alter your looks," said Rosy. "It is your looks that make
you so--so wonderful. But usually women--girls----" Rosy paused.

"Oh, I have been trained," laughed Betty. "I am the spoiled daughter of
a business man of genius. His business is an art and a science. I have
had advantages. He has let me hear him talk. I even know some trifling
things about stocks. Not enough to do me vital injury--but something.
What I know best of all,"--her laugh ended and her eyes changed
their look,--"is that it is a blunder to think that beauty is not
capital--that happiness is not--and that both are not the greatest
assets in the scheme. This," with a wave of her hand, taking in all they
saw, "is beauty, and it ought to be happiness, and it must be taken care
of. It is your home and Ughtred's----"

"It is Nigel's," put in Rosy.

"It is entailed, isn't it?" turning quickly. "He cannot sell it?"

"If he could we should not be sitting here," ruefully.

"Then he cannot object to its being rescued from ruin."

"He will object to--to money being spent on things he does not care
for." Lady Anstruthers' voice lowered itself, as it always did when she
spoke of her husband, and she indulged in the involuntary hasty glance
about her.

"I am going to my room to take off my hat," Betty said. "Will you come
with me?"

She went into the house, talking quietly of ordinary things, and in
this way they mounted the stairway together and passed along the gallery
which led to her room. When they entered it she closed the door, locked
it, and, taking off her hat, laid it aside. After doing which she sat.

"No one can hear and no one can come in," she said. "And if they could,
you are afraid of things you need not be afraid of now. Tell me what
happened when you were so ill after Ughtred was born."

"You guessed that it happened then," gasped Lady Anstruthers.


"It was a good time to make anything happen," replied Bettina. "You were
prostrated, you were a child, and felt yourself cast off hopelessly from
the people who loved you."

"Forever! Forever!" Lady Anstruthers' voice was a sharp little moan.
"That was what I felt--that nothing could ever help me. I dared not
write things. He told me he would not have it--that he would stop any
hysterical complaints--that his mother could testify that he
behaved perfectly to me. She was the only person in the room with us
when--when----"

"When?" said Betty.

Lady Anstruthers shuddered. She leaned forward and caught Betty's hand
between her own shaking ones.

"He struck me! He struck me! He said it never happened--but it did--it
did! Betty, it did! That was the one thing that came back to me
clearest. He said that I was in delirious hysterics, and that I had
struggled with his mother and himself, because they tried to keep me
quiet, and prevent the servants hearing. One awful day he brought Lady
Anstruthers into the room, and they stood over me, as I lay in bed, and
she fixed her eyes on me and said that she--being an Englishwoman, and
a person whose word would be believed, could tell people the truth--my
father and mother, if necessary, that my spoiled, hysterical American
tempers had created unhappiness for me--merely because I was bored by
life in the country and wanted excitement. I tried to answer, but they
would not let me, and when I began to shake all over, they said that I
was throwing myself into hysterics again. And they told the doctor so,
and he believed it."

The possibilities of the situation were plainly to be seen. Fate, in the
form of temperament itself, had been against her. It was clear enough to
Betty as she patted and stroked the thin hands. "I understand. Tell me
the rest," she said.

Lady Anstruthers' head dropped.

"When I was loneliest, and dying of homesickness, and so weak that I
could not speak without sobbing, he came to me--it was one morning after
I had been lying awake all night--and he began to seem kinder. He had
not been near me for two days, and I had thought I was going to be
left to die alone--and mother would never know. He said he had been
reflecting and that he was afraid that we had misunderstood each
other--because we belonged to different countries, and had been brought
up in different ways----" she paused.

"And that if you understood his position and considered it, you might
both be quite happy," Betty gave in quiet termination.

Lady Anstruthers started.

"Oh, you know it all!" she exclaimed

"Only because I have heard it before. It is an old trick. And because
he seemed kind and relenting, you tried to understand--and signed
something."

"I WANTED to understand. I WANTED to believe. What did it matter which
of us had the money, if we liked each other and were happy? He told me
things about the estate, and about the enormous cost of it, and his bad
luck, and debts he could not help. And I said that I would do anything
if--if we could only be like mother and father. And he kissed me and I
signed the paper."

"And then?"

"He went to London the next day, and then to Paris. He said he was
obliged to go on business. He was away a month. And after a week had
passed, Lady Anstruthers began to be restless and angry, and once she
flew into a rage, and told me I was a fool, and that if I had been an
Englishwoman, I should have had some decent control over my husband,
because he would have respected me. In time I found out what I had done.
It did not take long."

"The paper you signed," said Betty, "gave him control over your money?"

A forlorn nod was the answer.

"And since then he has done as he chose, and he has not chosen to care
for Stornham. And once he made you write to father, to ask for more
money?"

"I did it once. I never would do it again. He has tried to make me. He
always says it is to save Stornham for Ughtred."

"Nothing can take Stornham from Ughtred. It may come to him a ruin, but
it will come to him."

"He says there are legal points I cannot understand. And he says he is
spending money on it."

"Where?"

"He--doesn't go into that. If I were to ask questions, he would make me
know that I had better stop. He says I know nothing about things. And
he is right. He has never allowed me to know and--and I am not like you,
Betty."

"When you signed the paper, you did not realise that you were doing
something you could never undo and that you would be forced to submit to
the consequences?"

"I--I didn't realise anything but that it would kill me to live as I had
been living--feeling as if they hated me. And I was so glad and thankful
that he seemed kinder. It was as if I had been on the rack, and he
turned the screws back, and I was ready to do anything--anything--if
I might be taken off. Oh, Betty! you know, don't you, that--that if he
would only have been a little kind--just a little--I would have obeyed
him always, and given him everything."

Betty sat and looked at her, with deeply pondering eyes. She was
confronting the fact that it seemed possible that one must build a new
soul for her as well as a new body. In these days of science and growing
sanity of thought, one did not stand helpless before the problem of
physical rebuilding, and--and perhaps, if one could pour life into a
creature, the soul of it would respond, and wake again, and grow.

"You do not know where he is?" she said aloud. "You absolutely do not
know?"

"I never know exactly," Lady Anstruthers answered. "He was here for a
few days the week before you came. He said he was going abroad. He might
appear to-morrow, I might not hear of him for six months. I can't help
hoping now that it will be the six months."

"Why particularly now?" inquired Betty.

Lady Anstruthers flushed and looked shy and awkward.

"Because of--you. I don't know what he would say. I don't know what he
would do."

"To me?" said Betty.

"It would be sure to be something unreasonable and wicked," said Lady
Anstruthers. "It would, Betty."

"I wonder what it would be?" Betty said musingly.

"He has told lies for years to keep you all from me. If he came now, he
would know that he had been found out. He would say that I had told you
things. He would be furious because you have seen what there is to see.
He would know that you could not help but realise that the money he made
me ask for had not been spent on the estate. He,--Betty, he would try to
force you to go away."

"I wonder what he would do?" Betty said again musingly. She felt
interested, not afraid.

"It would be something cunning," Rosy protested. "It would be something
no one could expect. He might be so rude that you could not remain
in the room with him, or he might be quite polite, and pretend he was
rather glad to see you. If he was only frightfully rude we should be
safer, because that would not be an unexpected thing, but if he was
polite, it would be because he was arranging something hideous, which
you could not defend yourself against."

"Can you tell me," said Betty quite slowly, because, as she looked down
at the carpet, she was thinking very hard, "the kind of unexpected thing
he has done to you?" Lifting her eyes, she saw that a troubled flush was
creeping over Lady Anstruthers' face.

"There--have been--so many queer things," she faltered. Then Betty knew
there was some special thing she was afraid to talk about, and that if
she desired to obtain illuminating information it would be well to go
into the matter.

"Try," she said, "to remember some particular incident."

Lady Anstruthers looked nervous.

"Rosy," in the level voice, "there has been a particular incident--and I
would rather hear of it from you than from him."

Rosy's lap held little shaking hands.

"He has held it over me for years," she said breathlessly. "He said
he would write about it to father and mother. He says he could use it
against me as evidence in--in the divorce court. He says that divorce
courts in America are for women, but in England they are for men,
and--he could defend himself against me."

The incongruity of the picture of the small, faded creature arraigned in
a divorce court on charges of misbehaviour would have made Betty smile
if she had been in smiling mood.

"What did he accuse you of?"

"That was the--the unexpected thing," miserably.

Betty took the unsteady hands firmly in her own.

"Don't be afraid to tell me," she said. "He knew you so well that he
understood what would terrify you the most. I know you so well that I
understand how he does it. Did he do this unexpected thing just before
you wrote to father for the money?" As she quite suddenly presented the
question, Rosy exclaimed aloud.


"How did you know?" she said. "You--you are like a lawyer. How could you
know?"

How simple she was! How obviously an easy prey! She had been
unconsciously giving evidence with every word.

"I have been thinking him over," Betty said. "He interests me. I have
begun to guess that he always wants something when he professes that he
has a grievance."

Then with drooping head, Rosy told the story.

"Yes, it happened before he made me write to father for so much money.
The vicar was ill and was obliged to go away for six months. The
clergyman who came to take his place was a young man. He was kind and
gentle, and wanted to help people. His mother was with him and she was
like him. They loved each other, and they were quite poor. His name was
Ffolliott. I liked to hear him preach. He said things that comforted me.
Nigel found out that he comforted me, and--when he called here, he was
more polite to him than he had ever been to Mr. Brent. He seemed almost
as if he liked him. He actually asked him to dinner two or three times.
After dinner, he would go out of the room and leave us together. Oh,
Betty!" clinging to her hands, "I was so wretched then, that sometimes
I thought I was going out of my mind. I think I looked wild. I used to
kneel down and try to pray, and I could not."

"Yes, yes," said Betty.

"I used to feel that if I could only have one friend, just one, I
could bear it better. Once I said something like that to Nigel. He only
shrugged his shoulders and sneered when I said it. But afterwards I
knew he had remembered. One evening, when he had asked Mr. Ffolliott to
dinner, he led him to talk about religion. Oh, Betty! It made my blood
turn cold when he began. I knew he was doing it for some wicked reason.
I knew the look in his eyes and the awful, agreeable smile on his mouth.
When he said at last, 'If you could help my poor wife to find comfort in
such things,' I began to see. I could not explain to anyone how he did
it, but with just a sentence, dropped here and there, he seemed to tell
the whole story of a silly, selfish, American girl, thwarted in her
vulgar little ambitions, and posing as a martyr, because she could
not have her own way in everything. He said once, quite casually, 'I'm
afraid American women are rather spoiled.' And then he said, in the
same tolerant way--'A poor man is a disappointment to an American girl.
America does not believe in rank combined with lack of fortune.' I dared
not defend myself. I am not clever enough to think of the right things
to say. He meant Mr. Ffolliott to understand that I had married him
because I thought he was grand and rich, and that I was a disappointed
little spiteful shrew. I tried to act as if he was not hurting me, but
my hands trembled, and a lump kept rising in my throat. When we returned
to the drawing-room, and at last he left us together, I was praying and
praying that I might be able to keep from breaking down."

She stopped and swallowed hard. Betty held her hands firmly until she
went on.

"For a few minutes, I sat still, and tried to think of some new
subject--something about the church or the village. But I could not
begin to speak because of the lump in my throat. And then, suddenly, but
quietly, Mr. Ffolliott got up. And though I dared not lift my eyes, I
knew he was standing before the fire, quite near me. And, oh! what do
you think he said, as low and gently as if his voice was a woman's.
I did not know that people ever said such things now, or even thought
them. But never, never shall I forget that strange minute. He said just
this:

"'God will help you. He will. He will.'

"As if it was true, Betty! As if there was a God--and--He had not
forgotten me. I did not know what I was doing, but I put out my hand and
caught at his sleeve, and when I looked up into his face, I saw in
his kind, good eyes, that he knew--that somehow--God knows how--he
understood and that I need not utter a word to explain to him that he
had been listening to lies."

"Did you talk to him?" Betty asked quietly.

"He talked to me. We did not even speak of Nigel. He talked to me as
I had never heard anyone talk before. Somehow he filled the room with
something real, which was hope and comfort and like warmth, which kept
my soul from shivering. The tears poured from my eyes at first, but the
lump in my throat went away, and when Nigel came back I actually did not
feel frightened, though he looked at me and sneered quietly."

"Did he say anything afterwards?"

"He laughed a little cold laugh and said, 'I see you have been seeking
the consolation of religion. Neurotic women like confessors. I do not
object to your confessing, if you confess your own backslidings and not
mine.'"

"That was the beginning," said Betty speculatively. "The unexpected
thing was the end. Tell me the rest?"

"No one could have dreamed of it," Rosy broke forth. "For weeks he was
almost like other people. He stayed at Stornham and spent his days in
shooting. He professed that he was rather enjoying himself in a dull
way. He encouraged me to go to the vicarage, he invited the Ffolliotts
here. He said Mrs. Ffolliott was a gentlewoman and good for me. He said
it was proper that I should interest myself in parish work. Once or
twice he even brought some little message to me from Mr. Ffolliott."

It was a pitiably simple story. Betty saw, through its relation, the
unconsciousness of the easily allured victim, the adroit leading on
from step to step, the ordinary, natural, seeming method which arranged
opportunities. The two had been thrown together at the Court, at the
vicarage, the church and in the village, and the hawk had looked on and
bided his time. For the first time in her years of exile, Rosy had begun
to feel that she might be allowed a friend--though she lived in secret
tremor lest the normal liberty permitted her should suddenly be snatched
away.

"We never talked of Nigel," she said, twisting her hands. "But he made
me begin to live again. He talked to me of Something that watched and
would not leave me--would never leave me. I was learning to believe it.
Sometimes when I walked through the wood to the village, I used to stop
among the trees and look up at the bits of sky between the branches, and
listen to the sound in the leaves--the sound that never stops--and it
seemed as if it was saying something to me. And I would clasp my hands
and whisper, 'Yes, yes,' 'I will,' 'I will.' I used to see Nigel looking
at me at table with a queer smile in his eyes and once he said
to me--'You are growing young and lovely, my dear. Your colour is
improving. The counsels of our friend are of a salutary nature.' It
would have made me nervous, but he said it almost good-naturedly, and I
was silly enough even to wonder if it could be possible that he was
pleased to see me looking less ill. It was true, Betty, that I was
growing stronger. But it did not last long."

"I was afraid not," said Betty.

"An old woman in the lane near Bartyon Wood was ill. Mr. Ffolliott had
asked me to go to see her, and I used to go. She suffered a great deal
and clung to us both. He comforted her, as he comforted me. Sometimes
when he was called away he would send a note to me, asking me to go to
her. One day he wrote hastily, saying that she was dying, and asked if I
would go with him to her cottage at once. I knew it would save time if
I met him in the path which was a short cut. So I wrote a few words and
gave them to the messenger. I said, 'Do not come to the house. I will
meet you in Bartyon Wood.'"

Betty made a slight movement, and in her face there was a dawning of
mingled amazement and incredulity. The thought which had come to her
seemed--as Ughtred's locking of the door had seemed--too wild for modern
days.

Lady Anstruthers saw her expression and understood it. She made a
hopeless gesture with her small, bony hand.

"Yes," she said, "it is just like that. No one would believe it. The
worst cleverness of the things he does, is that when one tells of them,
they sound like lies. I have a bewildered feeling that I should not
believe them myself if I had not seen them. He met the boy in the park
and took the note from him. He came back to the house and up to my room,
where I was dressing quickly to go to Mr. Ffolliott."

She stopped for quite a minute, rather as if to recover breath.

"He closed the door behind him and came towards me with the note in his
hand. And I saw in a second the look that always terrifies me, in his
face. He had opened the note and he smoothed out the paper quietly and
said, 'What is this. I could not help it--I turned cold and began to
shiver. I could not imagine what was coming."

"'Is it my note to Mr. Ffolliott?' I asked.

"'Yes, it is your note to Mr. Ffolliott,' and he read it aloud. "Do
not come to the house. I will meet you in Bartyon Wood." That is a nice
note for a man's wife to have written, to be picked up and read by a
stranger, if your confessor is not cautious in the matter of letters
from women----'

"When he begins a thing in that way, you may always know that he has
planned everything--that you can do nothing--I always know. I knew then,
and I knew I was quite white when I answered him:

"'I wrote it in a great hurry, Mrs. Farne is worse. We are going
together to her. I said I would meet him--to save time.'

"He laughed, his awful little laugh, and touched the paper.

"'I have no doubt. And I have no doubt that if other persons saw this,
they would believe it. It is very likely.

"'But you believe it,' I said. 'You know it is true. No one would be so
silly--so silly and wicked as to----' Then I broke down and cried out.
'What do you mean? What could anyone think it meant?' I was so wild that
I felt as if I was going crazy. He clenched my wrist and shook me.

"'Don't think you can play the fool with me,' he said. 'I have been
watching this thing from the first. The first time I leave you alone
with the fellow, I come back to find you have been giving him an
emotional scene. Do you suppose your simpering good spirits and your
imbecile pink cheeks told me nothing? They told me exactly this. I have
waited to come upon it, and here it is. "Do not come to the house--I
will meet you in the wood."'

"That was the unexpected thing. It was no use to argue and try to
explain. I knew he did not believe what he was saying, but he worked
himself into a rage, he accused me of awful things, and called me awful
names in a loud voice, so that he could be heard, until I was dumb and
staggering. All the time, I knew there was a reason, but I could
not tell then what it was. He said at last, that he was going to Mr.
Ffolliott. He said, 'I will meet him in the wood and I will take your
note with me.'

"Betty, it was so shameful that I fell down on my knees. 'Oh,
don't--don't--do that,' I said. 'I beg of you, Nigel. He is a gentleman
and a clergyman. I beg and beg of you. If you will not, I will do
anything--anything.' And at that minute I remembered how he had tried
to make me write to father for money. And I cried out--catching at his
coat, and holding him back. 'I will write to father as you asked me. I
will do anything. I can't bear it.'"

"That was the whole meaning of the whole thing," said Betty with eyes
ablaze. "That was the beginning, the middle and the end. What did he
say?"

"He pretended to be made more angry. He said, 'Don't insult me by trying
to bribe me with your vulgar money. Don't insult me.' But he gradually
grew sulky instead of raging, and though he put the note in his pocket,
he did not go to Mr. Ffolliott. And--I wrote to father."

"I remember that," Betty answered. "Did you ever speak to Mr. Ffolliott
again?"

"He guessed--he knew--I saw it in his kind, brown eyes when he passed
me without speaking, in the village. I daresay the villagers were
told about the awful thing by some servant, who heard Nigel's voice.
Villagers always know what is happening. He went away a few weeks later.
The day before he went, I had walked through the wood, and just outside
it, I met him. He stopped for one minute--just one--he lifted his hat
and said, just as he had spoken them that first night--just the same
words, 'God will help you. He will. He will.'"

A strange, almost unearthly joy suddenly flashed across her face.

"It must be true," she said. "It must be true. He has sent you, Betty.
It has been a long time--it has been so long that sometimes I have
forgotten his words. But you have come!"

"Yes, I have come," Betty answered. And she bent forward and kissed her
gently, as if she had been soothing a child.

There were other questions to ask. She was obliged to ask them. "The
unexpected thing" had been used as an instrument for years. It was
always efficacious. Over the yearningly homesick creature had hung the
threat that her father and mother, those she ached and longed for, could
be told the story in such a manner as would brand her as a woman with
a shameful secret. How could she explain herself? There were the awful,
written words. He was her husband. He was remorseless, plausible. She
dared not write freely. She had no witnesses to call upon. She had
discovered that he had planned with composed steadiness that misleading
impressions should be given to servants and village people. When the
Brents returned to the vicarage, she had observed, with terror, that for
some reason they stiffened, and looked askance when the Ffolliotts were
mentioned.

"I am afraid, Lady Anstruthers, that Mr. Ffolliott was a great mistake,"
Mrs. Brent said once.

Lady Anstruthers had not dared to ask any questions. She had felt the
awkward colour rising in her face and had known that she looked guilty.
But if she had protested against the injustice of the remark, Sir
Nigel would have heard of her words before the day had passed, and she
shuddered to think of the result. He had by that time reached the point
of referring to Ffolliott with sneering lightness, as "Your lover."

"Do you defend your lover to me," he had said on one occasion, when she
had entered a timid protest. And her white face and wild helpless eyes
had been such evidence as to the effect the word had produced, that he
had seen the expediency of making a point of using it.

The blood beat in Betty Vanderpoel's veins.

"Rosy," she said, looking steadily in the faded face, "tell me this. Did
you never think of getting away from him, of going somewhere, and trying
to reach father, by cable, or letter, by some means?"

Lady Anstruthers' weary and wrinkled little smile was a pitiably
illuminating thing.

"My dear" she said, "if you are strong and beautiful and rich and well
dressed, so that people care to look at you, and listen to what you say,
you can do things. But who, in England, will listen to a shabby, dowdy,
frightened woman, when she runs away from her husband, if he follows
her and tells people she is hysterical or mad or bad? It is the shabby,
dowdy woman who is in the wrong. At first, I thought of nothing else but
trying to get away. And once I went to Stornham station. I walked all
the way, on a hot day. And just as I was getting into a third-class
carriage, Nigel marched in and caught my arm, and held me back. I
fainted and when I came to myself I was in the carriage, being driven
back to the Court, and he was sitting opposite to me. He said, 'You
fool! It would take a cleverer woman than you to carry that out.' And I
knew it was the awful truth."

"It is not the awful truth now," said Betty, and she rose to her feet
and stood looking before her, but with a look which did not rest on
chairs and tables. She remained so, standing for a few moments of dead
silence.

"What a fool he was!" she said at last. "And what a villain! But a
villain is always a fool."

She bent, and taking Rosy's face between her hands, kissed it with a
kiss which seemed like a seal. "That will do," she said. "Now I know.
One must know what is in one's hands and what is not. Then one need not
waste time in talking of miserable things. One can save one's strength
for doing what can be done."

"I believe you would always think about DOING things," said Lady
Anstruthers. "That is American, too."

"It is a quality Americans inherited from England," lightly; "one of the
results of it is that England covers a rather large share of the map
of the world. It is a practical quality. You and I might spend hours in
talking to each other of what Nigel has done and what you have done, of
what he has said, and of what you have said. We might give some hours, I
daresay, to what the Dowager did and said. But wiser people than we are
have found out that thinking of black things past is living them again,
and it is like poisoning one's blood. It is deterioration of property."

She said the last words as if she had ended with a jest. But she knew
what she was doing.

"You were tricked into giving up what was yours, to a person who could
not be trusted. What has been done with it, scarcely matters. It is not
yours, but Sir Nigel's. But we are not helpless, because we have in our
hands the most powerful material agent in the world.

"Come, Rosy, and let us walk over the house. We will begin with that."



CHAPTER XVII

TOWNLINSON & SHEPPARD

During the whole course of her interesting life--and she had always
found life interesting--Betty Vanderpoel decided that she had known
no experience more absorbing than this morning spent in going over the
long-closed and deserted portions of the neglected house. She had never
seen anything like the place, or as full of suggestion. The greater
part of it had simply been shut up and left to time and weather, both of
which had had their effects. The fine old red roof, having lost tiles,
had fallen into leaks that let in rain, which had stained and rotted
walls, plaster, and woodwork; wind and storm had beaten through broken
window panes and done their worst with such furniture and hangings as
they found to whip and toss and leave damp and spotted with mould. They
passed through corridors, and up and down short or long stairways, with
stained or faded walls, and sometimes with cracked or fallen plastering
and wainscotting. Here and there the oak flooring itself was uncertain.
The rooms, whether large or small, all presented a like aspect of
potential beauty and comfort, utterly uncared for and forlorn. There
were many rooms, but none more than scantily furnished, and a number of
them were stripped bare. Betty found herself wondering how long a time
it had taken the belongings of the big place to dwindle and melt away
into such bareness.

"There was a time, I suppose, when it was all furnished," she said.

"All these rooms were shut up when I came here," Rosy answered. "I
suppose things worth selling have been sold. When pieces of furniture
were broken in one part of the house, they were replaced by things
brought from another. No one cared. Nigel hates it all. He calls it a
rathole. He detests the country everywhere, but particularly this part
of it. After the first year I had learned better than to speak to him of
spending money on repairs."

"A good deal of money should be spent on repairs," reflected Betty,
looking about her.

She was standing in the middle of a room whose walls were hung with
the remains of what had been chintz, covered with a pattern of loose
clusters of moss rosebuds. The dampness had rotted it until, in some
places, it had fallen away in strips from its fastenings. A quaint,
embroidered couch stood in one corner, and as Betty looked at it, a
mouse crept from under the tattered valance, stared at her in alarm
and suddenly darted back again, in terror of intrusion so unusual. A
casement window swung open, on a broken hinge, and a strong branch of
ivy, having forced its way inside, had thrown a covering of leaves over
the deep ledge, and was beginning to climb the inner woodwork. Through
the casement was to be seen a heavenly spread of country, whose rolling
lands were clad softly in green pastures and thick-branched trees.

"This is the Rosebud Boudoir," said Lady Anstruthers, smiling faintly.
"All the rooms have names. I thought them so delightful, when I first
heard them. The Damask Room--the Tapestry Room--the White Wainscot
Room--My Lady's Chamber. It almost broke my heart when I saw what they
looked like."

"It would be very interesting," Betty commented slowly, "to make them
look as they ought to look."

A remote fear rose to the surface of the expression in Lady Anstruthers'
eyes. She could not detach herself from certain recollections of
Nigel--of his opinions of her family--of his determination not to allow
it to enter as a factor in either his life or hers. And Betty had come
to Stornham--Betty whom he had detested as a child--and in the course of
two days, she had seemed to become a new part of the atmosphere, and to
make the dead despair of the place begin to stir with life. What other
thing than this was happening as she spoke of making such rooms as the
Rosebud Boudoir "look as they ought to look," and said the words not
as if they were part of a fantastic vision, but as if they expressed a
perfectly possible thing?

Betty saw the doubt in her eyes, and in a measure, guessed at its
meaning. The time to pause for argument had, however not arrived. There
was too much to be investigated, too much to be seen. She swept her on
her way. They wandered on through some forty rooms, more or less; they
opened doors and closed them; they unbarred shutters and let the sun
stream in on dust and dampness and cobwebs. The comprehension of the
situation which Betty gained was as valuable as it was enlightening.

The descent into the lower part of the house was a new experience. Betty
had not before seen huge, flagged kitchens, vaulted servants' halls,
stone passages, butteries and dairies. The substantial masonry of the
walls and arched ceilings, the stone stairway, and the seemingly
endless offices, were interestingly remote in idea from such domestic
modernities as chance views of up-to-date American household workings
had provided her.

In the huge kitchen itself, an elderly woman, rolling pastry, paused to
curtsy to them, with stolid curiosity in her heavy-featured face. In her
character as "single-handed" cook, Mrs. Noakes had sent up uninviting
meals to Lady Anstruthers for several years, but she had not seen her
ladyship below stairs before. And this was the unexpected arrival--the
young lady there had been "talk of" from the moment of her appearance.
Mrs. Noakes admitted with the grudgingness of a person of uncheerful
temperament, that looks like that always would make talk. A certain
degree of vague mental illumination led her to agree with Robert, the
footman, that the stranger's effectiveness was, perhaps, also, not
altogether a matter of good looks, and certainly it was not an affair
of clothes. Her brightish blue dress, of rough cloth, was nothing
particular, notwithstanding the fit of it. There was "something else
about her." She looked round the place, not with the casual indifference
of a fine young lady, carelessly curious to see what she had not seen
before, but with an alert, questioning interest.

"What a big place," she said to her ladyship. "What substantial walls!
What huge joints must have been roasted before such a fireplace."

She drew near to the enormous, antiquated cooking place.

"People were not very practical when this was built," she said. "It
looks as if it must waste a great deal of coal. Is it----?" she looked
at Mrs. Noakes. "Do you like it?"

There was a practical directness in the question for which Mrs. Noakes
was not prepared. Until this moment, it had apparently mattered little
whether she liked things or not. The condition of her implements of
trade was one of her grievances--the ancient fireplace and ovens the
bitterest.

"It's out of order, miss," she answered. "And they don't use 'em like
this in these days."

"I thought not," said Miss Vanderpoel.

She made other inquiries as direct and significant of the observing eye,
and her passage through the lower part of the establishment left Mrs.
Noakes and her companions in a strange but not unpleasurable state of
ferment.

"Think of a young lady that's never had nothing to do with kitchens,
going straight to that shameful old fireplace, and seeing what it meant
to the woman that's got to use it. 'Do you like it?' she says. If she'd
been a cook herself, she couldn't have put it straighter. She's got
eyes."

"She's been using them all over the place," said Robert. "Her and her
ladyship's been into rooms that's not been opened for years."

"More shame to them that should have opened 'em," remarked Mrs. Noakes.
"Her ladyship's a poor, listless thing--but her spirit was broken long
ago.

"This one will mend it for her, perhaps," said the man servant. "I
wonder what's going to happen."

"Well, she's got a look with her--the new one--as if where she was
things would be likely to happen. You look out. The place won't seem so
dead and alive if we've got something to think of and expect."

"Who are the solicitors Sir Nigel employs?" Betty had asked her sister,
when their pilgrimage through the house had been completed.

Messrs. Townlinson & Sheppard, a firm which for several generations
had transacted the legal business of much more important estates than
Stornham, held its affairs in hand. Lady Anstruthers knew nothing of
them, but that they evidently did not approve of the conduct of their
client. Nigel was frequently angry when he spoke of them. It could be
gathered that they had refused to allow him to do things he wished to
do--sell things, or borrow money on them.

"I think we must go to London and see them," Betty suggested.

Rosy was agitated. Why should one see them? What was there to be
spoken of? Their going, Betty explained would be a sort of visit of
ceremony--in a measure a precaution. Since Sir Nigel was apparently not
to be reached, having given no clue as to where he intended to go, it
might be discreet to consult Messrs. Townlinson & Sheppard with regard
to the things it might be well to do--the repairs it appeared necessary
to make at once. If Messrs. Townlinson & Sheppard approved of the doing
of such work, Sir Nigel could not resent their action, and say that in
his absence liberties had been taken. Such a course seemed businesslike
and dignified.

It was what Betty felt that her father would do. Nothing could be
complained of, which was done with the knowledge and under the sanction
of the family solicitors.

"Then there are other things we must do. We must go to shops and
theatres. It will be good for you to go to shops and theatres, Rosy."

"I have nothing but rags to wear," answered Lady Anstruthers, reddening.

"Then before we go we will have things sent down. People can be sent
from the shops to arrange what we want."

The magic of the name, standing for great wealth, could, it was true,
bring to them, not only the contents of shops, but the people who showed
them, and were ready to carry out any orders. The name of Vanderpoel
already stood, in London, for inexhaustible resource. Yes, it was simple
enough to send for politely subservient saleswomen to bring what one
wanted.

The being reminded in every-day matters of the still real existence of
the power of this magic was the first step in the rebuilding of Lady
Anstruthers. To realise that the wonderful and yet simple necromancy
was gradually encircling her again, had its parallel in the taking of
a tonic, whose effect was cumulative. She herself did not realise the
working of it. But Betty regarded it with interest. She saw it was good
for her, merely to look on at the unpacking of the New York boxes, which
the maid, sent for from London, brought down with her.

As the woman removed, from tray after tray, the tissue-paper-enfolded
layers of garments, Lady Anstruthers sat and watched her with normal,
simply feminine interest growing in her eyes. The things were made
with the absence of any limit in expenditure, the freedom with delicate
stuffs and priceless laces which belonged only to her faint memories of
a lost past.

Nothing had limited the time spent in the embroidering of this
apparently simple linen frock and coat; nothing had restrained the
hand holding the scissors which had cut into the lace which adorned in
appliques and filmy frills this exquisitely charming ball dress.

"It is looking back so far," she said, waving her hand towards them with
an odd gesture. "To think that it was once all like--like that."

She got up and went to the things, turning them over, and touching them
with a softness, almost expressing a caress. The names of the makers
stamped on bands and collars, the names of the streets in which their
shops stood, moved her. She heard again the once familiar rattle of
wheels, and the rush and roar of New York traffic.

Betty carried on the whole matter with lightness. She talked easily
and casually, giving local colour to what she said. She described the
abnormally rapid growth of the places her sister had known in her teens,
the new buildings, new theatres, new shops, new people, the later
mode of living, much of it learned from England, through the unceasing
weaving of the Shuttle.

"Changing--changing--changing. That is what it is always doing--America.
We have not reached repose yet. One wonders how long it will be before
we shall. Now we are always hurrying breathlessly after the next
thing--the new one--which we always think will be the better one. Other
countries built themselves slowly. In the days of their building, the
pace of life was a march. When America was born, the march had already
begun to hasten, and as a nation we began, in our first hour, at the
quickening speed. Now the pace is a race. New York is a kaleidoscope.
I myself can remember it a wholly different thing. One passes down a
street one day, and the next there is a great gap where some building
is being torn down--a few days later, a tall structure of some sort
is touching the sky. It is wonderful, but it does not tend to calm the
mind. That is why we cross the Atlantic so much. The sober, quiet-loving
blood our forbears brought from older countries goes in search of rest.
Mixed with other things, I feel in my own being a resentment
against newness and disorder, and an insistence on the atmosphere of
long-established things."

But for years Lady Anstruthers had been living in the atmosphere of
long-established things, and felt no insistence upon it. She yearned to
hear of the great, changing Western world--of the great, changing city.
Betty must tell her what the changes were. What were the differences
in the streets--where had the new buildings been placed? How had Fifth
Avenue and Madison Avenue and Broadway altered? Were not Gramercy
Park and Madison Square still green with grass and trees? Was it all
different? Would she not know the old places herself? Though it seemed a
lifetime since she had seen them, the years which had passed were really
not so many.

It was good for her to talk and be talked to in this manner Betty saw.
Still handling her subject lightly, she presented picture after picture.
Some of them were of the wonderful, feverish city itself--the place
quite passionately loved by some, as passionately disliked by others.
She herself had fallen into the habit, as she left childhood behind her,
of looking at it with interested wonder--at its riot of life and power,
of huge schemes, and almost superhuman labours, of fortunes so colossal
that they seemed monstrosities in their relation to the world. People
who in Rosalie's girlhood had lived in big ugly brownstone fronts, had
built for themselves or for their children, houses such as, in other
countries, would have belonged to nobles and princes, spending fortunes
upon their building, filling them with treasures brought from foreign
lands, from palaces, from art galleries, from collectors. Sometimes
strange people built such houses and lived strange lavish, ostentatious
lives in them, forming an overstrained, abnormal, pleasure-chasing world
of their own. The passing of even ten years in New York counted itself
almost as a generation; the fashions, customs, belongings of twenty
years ago wore an air of almost picturesque antiquity.

"It does not take long to make an 'old New Yorker,'" she said. "Each
day brings so many new ones."

There were, indeed, many new ones, Lady Anstruthers found. People who
had been poor had become hugely rich, a few who had been rich had
become poor, possessions which had been large had swelled to unnatural
proportions. Out of the West had risen fortunes more monstrous than all
others. As she told one story after another, Bettina realised, as she
had done often before, that it was impossible to enter into description
of the life and movements of the place, without its curiously involving
some connection with the huge wealth of it--with its influence, its
rise, its swelling, or waning.

"Somehow one cannot free one's self from it. This is the age of
wealth and invention--but of wealth before all else. Sometimes one is
tired--tired of it."

"You would not be tired of it if--well, if you were I, said Lady
Anstruthers rather pathetically.

"Perhaps not," Betty answered. "Perhaps not."

She herself had seen people who were not tired of it in the sense in
which she was--the men and women, with worn or intently anxious faces,
hastening with the crowds upon the pavements, all hastening somewhere,
in chase of that small portion of the wealth which they earned by their
labour as their daily share; the same men and women surging towards
elevated railroad stations, to seize on places in the homeward-bound
trains; or standing in tired-looking groups, waiting for the approach of
an already overfull street car, in which they must be packed together,
and swing to the hanging straps, to keep upon their feet. Their way of
being weary of it would be different from hers, they would be weary
only of hearing of the mountains of it which rolled themselves up, as it
seemed, in obedience to some irresistible, occult force.

On the day after Stornham village had learned that her ladyship and Miss
Vanderpoel had actually gone to London, the dignified firm of Townlinson
& Sheppard received a visit which created some slight sensation in
their establishment, though it had not been entirely unexpected. It had,
indeed, been heralded by a note from Miss Vanderpoel herself, who
had asked that the appointment be made. Men of Messrs. Townlinson &
Sheppard's indubitable rank in their profession could not fail to know
the significance of the Vanderpoel name. They knew and understood its
weight perfectly well. When their client had married one of Reuben
Vanderpoel's daughters, they had felt that extraordinary good fortune
had befallen him and his estate. Their private opinion had been that Mr.
Vanderpoel's knowledge of his son-in-law must have been limited, or
that he had curiously lax American views of paternal duty. The firm was
highly reputable, long established strictly conservative, and somewhat
insular in its point of view. It did not understand, or seek
to understand, America. It had excellent reasons for thoroughly
understanding Sir Nigel Anstruthers. Its opinions of him it reserved
to itself. If Messrs. Townlinson & Sheppard had been asked to give a
daughter into their client's keeping, they would have flatly refused to
accept the honour proposed. Mr. Townlinson had, indeed, at the time of
the marriage, admitted in strict confidence to his partner that for his
part he would have somewhat preferred to follow a daughter of his own to
her tomb. After the marriage the firm had found the situation confusing
and un-English. There had been trouble with Sir Nigel, who had plainly
been disappointed. At first it had appeared that the American magnate
had shown astuteness in refraining from leaving his son-in-law a free
hand. Lady Anstruthers' fortune was her own and not her husband's. Mr.
Townlinson, paying a visit to Stornham and finding the bride a gentle,
childish-looking girl, whose most marked expression was one of growing
timorousness, had returned with a grave face. He foresaw the result, if
her family did not stand by her with firmness, which he also foresaw her
husband would prevent if possible. It became apparent that the family
did not stand by her--or were cleverly kept at a distance. There was
a long illness, which seemed to end in the seclusion from the world,
brought about by broken health. Then it was certain that what Mr.
Townlinson had foreseen had occurred. The inexperienced girl had been
bullied into submission. Sir Nigel had gained the free hand, whatever
the means he had chosen to employ. Most improper--most improper, the
whole affair. He had a great deal of money, but none of it was used for
the benefit of the estate--his deformed boy's estate. Advice, dignified
remonstrance, resulted only in most disagreeable scenes. Messrs.
Townlinson & Sheppard could not exceed certain limits. The manner
in which the money was spent was discreditable. There were avenues
a respectable firm knew only by rumour, there were insane gambling
speculations, which could only end in disaster, there were things one
could not decently concern one's self with. Lady Anstruthers' family
had doubtless become indignant and disgusted, and had dropped the whole
affair. Sad for the poor woman, but not unnatural.

And now appears a Miss Vanderpoel, who wishes to appoint an interview
with Messrs. Townlinson & Sheppard. What does she wish to say? The
family is apparently taking the matter up. Is this lady an elder or a
younger sister of Lady Anstruthers? Is she an older woman of that strong
and rather trying American type one hears of, or is she younger than her
ladyship, a pretty, indignant, totally unpractical girl, outraged by
the state of affairs she has discovered, foolishly coming to demand
of Messrs. Townlinson & Sheppard an explanation of things they are not
responsible for? Will she, perhaps, lose her temper, and accuse and
reproach, or even--most unpleasant to contemplate--shed hysterical
tears?

It fell to Mr. Townlinson to receive her in the absence of Mr. Sheppard,
who had been called to Northamptonshire to attend to great affairs. He
was a stout, grave man with a heavy, well-cut face, and, when Bettina
entered his room, his courteous reception of her reserved his view of
the situation entirely.

She was not of the mature and rather alarming American type he had
imagined possible, he felt some relief in marking at once. She was also
not the pretty, fashionable young lady who might have come to scold him,
and ask silly, irrational questions.

His ordinarily rather unillumined countenance changed somewhat in
expression when she sat down and began to speak. Mr. Townlinson was
impressed by the fact that it was at once unmistakably evident that
whatsoever her reason for coming, she had not presented herself to ask
irrelevant or unreasonable questions. Lady Anstruthers, she explained
without superfluous phrase, had no definite knowledge of her husband's
whereabouts, and it had seemed possible that Messrs. Townlinson &
Sheppard might have received some information more recent that her own.
The impersonal framing of this inquiry struck Mr. Townlinson as being in
remarkably good taste, since it conveyed no condemnation of Sir Nigel,
and no desire to involve Mr. Townlinson in expressing any. It refrained
even from implying that the situation was an unusual one, which might
be open to criticism. Excellent reserve and great cleverness, Mr.
Townlinson commented inwardly. There were certainly few young ladies who
would have clearly realised that a solicitor cannot be called upon to
commit himself, until he has had time to weigh matters and decide upon
them. His long and varied experience had included interviews in which
charming, emotional women had expected him at once to "take sides." Miss
Vanderpoel exhibited no signs of expecting anything of this kind, even
when she went on with what she had come to say. Stornham Court and
its surroundings were depreciating seriously in value through need of
radical repairs etc. Her sister's comfort was naturally involved, and,
as Mr. Townlinson would fully understand, her nephew's future. The
sooner the process of dilapidation was arrested, the better and with
the less difficulty. The present time was without doubt better than an
indefinite future. Miss Vanderpoel, having fortunately been able to come
to Stornham, was greatly interested, and naturally desirous of seeing
the work begun. Her father also would be interested. Since it was not
possible to consult Sir Nigel, it had seemed proper to consult his
solicitors in whose hands the estate had been for so long a time. She
was aware, it seemed, that not only Mr. Townlinson, but Mr. Townlinson's
father, and also his grandfather, had legally represented the
Anstruthers, as well as many other families. As there seemed no
necessity for any structural changes, and the work done was such as
could only rescue and increase the value of the estate, could there be
any objection to its being begun without delay?

Certainly an unusual young lady. It would be interesting to discover
how well she knew Sir Nigel, since it seemed that only a knowledge of
him--his temper, his bitter, irritable vanity, could have revealed
to her the necessity of the precaution she was taking without even
intimating that it was a precaution. Extraordinarily clever girl.

Mr. Townlinson wore an air of quiet, business-like reflection.

"You are aware, Miss Vanderpoel, that the present income from the
estate is not such as would justify anything approaching the required
expenditure?"

"Yes, I am aware of that. The expense would be provided for by my
father."

"Most generous on Mr. Vanderpoel's part," Mr. Townlinson commented. "The
estate would, of course, increase greatly in value."

Circumstances had prevented her father from visiting Stornham, Miss
Vanderpoel explained, and this had led to his being ignorant of a
condition of things which he might have remedied. She did not explain
what the particular circumstances which had separated the families had
been, but Mr. Townlinson thought he understood. The condition existing
could be remedied now, if Messrs. Townlinson & Sheppard saw no obstacles
other than scarcity of money.

Mr. Townlinson's summing up of the matter expressed in effect that he
saw none. The estate had been a fine one in its day. During the last
sixty years it had become much impoverished. With conservative decorum
of manner, he admitted that there had not been, since Sir Nigel's
marriage, sufficient reason for the neglect of dilapidations. The firm
had strongly represented to Sir Nigel that certain resources should not
be diverted from the proper object of restoring the property, which
was entailed upon his son. The son's future should beyond all have been
considered in the dispensing of his mother's fortune.

He, by this time, comprehended fully that he need restrain no dignified
expression of opinion in his speech with this young lady. She had
come to consult with him with as clear a view of the proprieties and
discretions demanded by his position as he had himself. And yet each,
before the close of the interview, understood the point of view of the
other. What he recognised was that, though she had not seen Sir Nigel
since her childhood, she had in some astonishing way obtained an
extraordinary insight into his character, and it was this which had led
her to take her present step. She might not realise all she might have
to contend with, but her conservative and formal action had surrounded
her and her sister with a certain barrier of conventional protection, at
once self-controlled, dignified, and astutely intelligent.

"Since, as you say, no structural changes are proposed, such as an owner
might resent, and as Lady Anstruthers is the mother of the heir, and as
Lady Anstruthers' father undertakes to defray all expenditure, no sane
man could object to the restoration of the property. To do so would be
to cause public opinion to express itself strongly against him. Such
action would place him grossly in the wrong." Then he added with
deliberation, realising that he was committing himself, and feeling
firmly willing to do so for reasons of his own, "Sir Nigel is a man who
objects strongly to putting himself--publicly--in the wrong."

"Thank you," said Miss Vanderpoel.

He had said this of intention for her enlightenment, and she was aware
that he had done so.

"This will not be the first time that American fortunes have restored
English estates," Mr. Townlinson continued amiably. "There have been
many notable cases of late years. We shall be happy to place ourselves
at your disposal at all times, Miss Vanderpoel. We are obliged to you
for your consideration in the matter."

"Thank you," said Miss Vanderpoel again. "I wished to be sure that I
should not be infringing any English rule I had no knowledge of."

"You will be infringing none. You have been most correct and courteous."

Before she went away Mr. Townlinson felt that he had been greatly
enlightened as to what a young lady might know and be. She gave him
singularly clear details as to what was proposed. There was so much to
be done that he found himself opening his eyes slightly once or twice.
But, of course, if Mr. Vanderpoel was prepared to spend money in
a lavish manner, it was all to the good so far as the estate was
concerned. They were stupendous, these people, and after all the heir
was his grandson. And how striking it was that with all this power and
readiness to use it, was evidently combined, even in this beautiful
young person, the clearest business sense of the situation. What was
done would be for the comfort of Lady Anstruthers and the future of her
son. Sir Nigel, being unable to sell either house or lands, could not
undo it.

When Mr. Townlinson accompanied his visitor to her carriage with
dignified politeness he felt somewhat like an elderly solicitor who had
found himself drawn into the atmosphere of a sort of intensely modern
fairy tale. He saw two of his under clerks, with the impropriety of
middle-class youth, looking out of an office window at the dark blue
brougham and the tall young lady, whose beauty bloomed in the sunshine.
He did not, on the whole, wonder at, though he deplored, the conduct
of the young men. But they, of course, saw only what they colloquially
described to each other as a "rippin' handsome girl." They knew nothing
of the interesting interview.

He himself returned to his private room in a musing mood and thought
it all over, his mind dwelling on various features of the international
situation, and more than once he said aloud:

"Most remarkable. Very remarkable, indeed."



CHAPTER XVIII

THE FIFTEENTH EARL OF MOUNT DUNSTAN

James Hubert John Fergus Saltyre--fifteenth Earl of Mount Dunstan, "Jem
Salter," as his neighbours on the Western ranches had called him, the
red-haired, second-class passenger of the Meridiana, sat in the great
library of his desolate great house, and stared fixedly through the open
window at the lovely land spread out before him. From this particular
window was to be seen one of the greatest views in England. From the
upper nurseries he had lived in as a child he had seen it every day from
morning until night, and it had seemed to his young fancy to cover all
the plains of the earth. Surely the rest of the world, he had thought,
could be but small--though somewhere he knew there was London where the
Queen lived, and in London were Buckingham Palace and St. James Palace
and Kensington and the Tower, where heads had been chopped off; and the
Horse Guards, where splendid, plumed soldiers rode forth glittering,
with thrilling trumpets sounding as they moved. These last he always
remembered, because he had seen them, and once when he had walked in
the park with his nurse there had been an excited stir in the Row,
and people had crowded about a certain gate, through which an escorted
carriage had been driven, and he had been made at once to take off his
hat and stand bareheaded until it passed, because it was the Queen.
Somehow from that afternoon he dated the first presentation of certain
vaguely miserable ideas. Inquiries made of his attendant, when the
cortege had swept by, had elicited the fact that the Royal Lady herself
had children--little boys who were princes and little girls who were
princesses. What curious and persistent child cross-examination on his
part had drawn forth the fact that almost all the people who drove about
and looked so happy and brilliant, were the fathers or mothers of little
boys like, yet--in some mysterious way--unlike himself? And in what
manner had he gathered that he was different from them? His nurse, it
is true, was not a pleasant person, and had an injured and resentful
bearing. In later years he realised that it had been the bearing of an
irregularly paid menial, who rebelled against the fact that her place
was not among people who were of distinction and high repute, and whose
households bestowed a certain social status upon their servitors. She
was a tall woman with a sour face and a bearing which conveyed a glum
endurance of a position beneath her. Yes, it had been from her--Brough
her name was--that he had mysteriously gathered that he was not a
desirable charge, as regarded from the point of the servants' hall--or,
in fact, from any other point. His people were not the people whose
patronage was sought with anxious eagerness. For some reason their town
house was objectionable, and Mount Dunstan was without attractions.
Other big houses were, in some marked way, different. The town house he
objected to himself as being gloomy and ugly, and possessing only a bare
and battered nursery, from whose windows one could not even obtain a
satisfactory view of the Mews, where at least, there were horses and
grooms who hissed cheerfully while they curried and brushed them. He
hated the town house and was, in fact, very glad that he was scarcely
ever taken to it. People, it seemed, did not care to come either to
the town house or to Mount Dunstan. That was why he did not know other
little boys. Again--for the mysterious reason--people did not care that
their children should associate with him. How did he discover this?
He never knew exactly. He realised, however, that without distinct
statements, he seemed to have gathered it through various disconnected
talks with Brough. She had not remained with him long, having "bettered
herself" greatly and gone away in glum satisfaction, but she had stayed
long enough to convey to him things which became part of his existence,
and smouldered in his little soul until they became part of himself. The
ancestors who had hewn their way through their enemies with battle-axes,
who had been fierce and cruel and unconquerable in their savage pride,
had handed down to him a burning and unsubmissive soul. At six years
old, walking with Brough in Kensington Gardens, and seeing other
children playing under the care of nurses, who, he learned, were not
inclined to make advances to his attendant, he dragged Brough away with
a fierce little hand and stood apart with her, scowling haughtily, his
head in the air, pretending that he disdained all childish gambols, and
would have declined to join in them, even if he had been besought to so
far unbend. Bitterness had been planted in him then, though he had
not understood, and the sourness of Brough had been connected with no
intelligence which might have caused her to suspect his feelings, and no
one had noticed, and if anyone had noticed, no one would have cared in
the very least.

When Brough had gone away to her far superior place, and she had been
succeeded by one variety of objectionable or incompetent person after
another, he had still continued to learn. In different ways he silently
collected information, and all of it was unpleasant, and, as he grew
older, it took for some years one form. Lack of resources, which should
of right belong to persons of rank, was the radical objection to his
people. At the town house there was no money, at Mount Dunstan there was
no money. There had been so little money even in his grandfather's time
that his father had inherited comparative beggary. The fourteenth Earl
of Mount Dunstan did not call it "comparative" beggary, he called
it beggary pure and simple, and cursed his progenitors with engaging
frankness. He never referred to the fact that in his personable youth he
had married a wife whose fortune, if it had not been squandered, might
have restored his own. The fortune had been squandered in the course of
a few years of riotous living, the wife had died when her third son was
born, which event took place ten years after the birth of her second,
whom she had lost through scarlet fever. James Hubert John Fergus
Saltyre never heard much of her, and barely knew of her past existence
because in the picture gallery he had seen a portrait of a tall, thin,
fretful-looking young lady, with light ringlets, and pearls round
her neck. She had not attracted him as a child, and the fact that he
gathered that she had been his mother left him entirely unmoved. She
was not a loveable-looking person, and, indeed, had been at once
empty-headed, irritable, and worldly. He would probably have been no
less lonely if she had lived. Lonely he was. His father was engaged in
a career much too lively and interesting to himself to admit of his
allowing himself to be bored by an unwanted and entirely superfluous
child. The elder son, who was Lord Tenham, had reached a premature
and degenerate maturity by the time the younger one made his belated
appearance, and regarded him with unconcealed dislike. The worst thing
which could have befallen the younger boy would have been intimate
association with this degenerate youth.

As Saltyre left nursery days behind, he learned by degrees that the
objection to himself and his people, which had at first endeavoured
to explain itself as being the result of an unseemly lack of money,
combined with that unpleasant feature, an uglier one--namely, lack of
decent reputation. Angry duns, beggarliness of income, scarcity of
the necessaries and luxuries which dignity of rank demanded, the
indifference and slights of one's equals, and the ignoring of one's
existence by exalted persons, were all hideous enough to Lord Mount
Dunstan and his elder son--but they were not so hideous as was, to his
younger son, the childish, shamed frenzy of awakening to the truth
that he was one of a bad lot--a disgraceful lot, from whom nothing was
expected but shifty ways, low vices, and scandals, which in the end
could not even be kept out of the newspapers. The day came, in fact,
when the worst of these was seized upon by them and filled their sheets
with matter which for a whole season decent London avoided reading, and
the fast and indecent element laughed, derided, or gloated over.

The memory of the fever of the monstrous weeks which had passed at this
time was not one it was wise for a man to recall. But it was not to be
forgotten--the hasty midnight arrival at Mount Dunstan of father and
son, their haggard, nervous faces, their terrified discussions, and
argumentative raging when they were shut up together behind locked
doors, the appearance of legal advisers who looked as anxious as
themselves, but failed to conceal the disgust with which they were
battling, the knowledge that tongues were clacking almost hysterically
in the village, and that curious faces hurried to the windows when even
a menial from the great house passed, the atmosphere of below-stairs
whispers, and jogged elbows, and winks, and giggles; the final
desperate, excited preparations for flight, which might be ignominiously
stopped at any moment by the intervention of the law, the huddling away
at night time, the hot-throated fear that the shameful, self-branding
move might be too late--the burning humiliation of knowing the
inevitable result of public contempt or laughter when the world next day
heard that the fugitives had put the English Channel between themselves
and their country's laws.

Lord Tenham had died a few years later at Port Said, after descending
into all the hells of degenerate debauch. His father had lived
longer--long enough to make of himself something horribly near an
imbecile, before he died suddenly in Paris. The Mount Dunstan who
succeeded him, having spent his childhood and boyhood under the shadow
of the "bad lot," had the character of being a big, surly, unattractive
young fellow, whose eccentricity presented itself to those who knew
his stock, as being of a kind which might develop at any time into any
objectionable tendency. His bearing was not such as allured, and his
fortune was not of the order which placed a man in the view of the
world. He had no money to expend, no hospitalities to offer and
apparently no disposition to connect himself with society. His
wild-goose chase to America had, when it had been considered worth while
discussing at all, been regarded as being very much the kind of thing a
Mount Dunstan might do with some secret and disreputable end in view.
No one had heard the exact truth, and no one would have been inclined to
believe if they had heard it. That he had lived as plain Jem Salter, and
laboured as any hind might have done, in desperate effort and mad hope,
would not have been regarded as a fact to be credited. He had gone away,
he had squandered money, he had returned, he was at Mount Dunstan again,
living the life of an objectionable recluse--objectionable, because the
owner of a place like Mount Dunstan should be a power and an influence
in the county, should be counted upon as a dispenser of hospitalities,
as a supporter of charities, as a dignitary of weight. He was none of
these--living no one knew how, slouching about with his gun, riding or
walking sullenly over the roads and marshland.

Just one man knew him intimately, and this one had been from his
fifteenth year the sole friend of his life. He had come, then--the
Reverend Lewis Penzance--a poor and unhealthy scholar, to be vicar of
the parish of Dunstan. Only a poor and book-absorbed man would have
accepted the position. What this man wanted was no more than quiet, pure
country air to fill frail lungs, a roof over his head, and a place to
pore over books and manuscripts. He was a born monk and celibate--in
by-gone centuries he would have lived peacefully in some monastery,
spending his years in the reading and writing of black letter and the
illuminating of missals. At the vicarage he could lead an existence
which was almost the same thing.

At Mount Dunstan there remained still the large remnant of a great
library. A huge room whose neglected and half emptied shelves contained
some strange things and wonderful ones, though all were in disorder, and
given up to dust and natural dilapidation. Inevitably the Reverend Lewis
Penzance had found his way there, inevitably he had gained indifferently
bestowed permission to entertain himself by endeavouring to reduce to
order and to make an attempt at cataloguing. Inevitably, also, the hours
he spent in the place became the chief sustenance of his being.

There, one day, he had come upon an uncouth-looking boy with deep eyes
and a shaggy crop of red hair. The boy was poring over an old volume,
and was plainly not disposed to leave it. He rose, not too graciously,
and replied to the elder man's greeting, and the friendly questions
which followed. Yes, he was the youngest son of the house. He had
nothing to do, and he liked the library. He often came there and sat and
read things. There were some queer old books and a lot of stupid ones.
The book he was reading now? Oh, that (with a slight reddening of his
skin and a little awkwardness at the admission) was one of those he
liked best. It was one of the queer ones, but interesting for all that.
It was about their own people--the generations of Mount Dunstans who had
lived in the centuries past. He supposed he liked it because there were
a lot of odd stories and exciting things in it. Plenty of fighting and
adventure. There had been some splendid fellows among them. (He was
beginning to forget himself a little by this time.) They were afraid of
nothing. They were rather like savages in the earliest days, but at that
time all the rest of the world was savage. But they were brave, and
it was odd how decent they were very often. What he meant was--what
he liked was, that they were men--even when they were barbarians. You
couldn't be ashamed of them. Things they did then could not be done now,
because the world was different, but if--well, the kind of men they were
might do England a lot of good if they were alive to-day. They would be
different themselves, of course, in one way--but they must be the same
men in others. Perhaps Mr. Penzance (reddening again) understood what he
meant. He knew himself very well, because he had thought it all out, he
was always thinking about it, but he was no good at explaining.

Mr. Penzance was interested. His outlook on the past and the present had
always been that of a bookworm, but he understood enough to see that
he had come upon a temperament novel enough to awaken curiosity. The
apparently entirely neglected boy, of a type singularly unlike that of
his father and elder brother, living his life virtually alone in the big
place, and finding food to his taste in stories of those of his blood
whose dust had mingled with the earth centuries ago, provided him with a
new subject for reflection.

That had been the beginning of an unusual friendship. Gradually Penzance
had reached a clear understanding of all the building of the young life,
of its rankling humiliation, and the qualities of mind and body which
made for rebellion. It sometimes thrilled him to see in the big frame
and powerful muscles, in the strong nature and unconquerable spirit,
a revival of what had burned and stirred through lives lived in a dim,
almost mythical, past. There were legends of men with big bodies, fierce
faces, and red hair, who had done big deeds, and conquered in dark and
barbarous days, even Fate's self, as it had seemed. None could overthrow
them, none could stand before their determination to attain that which
they chose to claim. Students of heredity knew that there were curious
instances of revival of type. There had been a certain Red Godwyn who
had ruled his piece of England before the Conqueror came, and who had
defied the interloper with such splendid arrogance and superhuman lack
of fear that he had won in the end, strangely enough, the admiration
and friendship of the royal savage himself, who saw, in his, a kindred
savagery, a power to be well ranged, through love, if not through fear,
upon his own side. This Godwyn had a deep attraction for his descendant,
who knew the whole story of his fierce life--as told in one yellow
manuscript and another--by heart. Why might not one fancy--Penzance was
drawn by the imagining--this strong thing reborn, even as the offspring
of a poorer effete type. Red Godwyn springing into being again, had been
stronger than all else, and had swept weakness before him as he had done
in other and far-off days.

In the old library it fell out in time that Penzance and the boy spent
the greater part of their days. The man was a bookworm and a scholar,
young Saltyre had a passion for knowledge. Among the old books and
manuscripts he gained a singular education. Without a guide he could not
have gathered and assimilated all he did gather and assimilate. Together
the two rummaged forgotten shelves and chests, and found forgotten
things. That which had drawn the boy from the first always drew and
absorbed him--the annals of his own people. Many a long winter evening
the pair turned over the pages of volumes and of parchment, and followed
with eager interest and curiosity the records of wild lives--stories of
warriors and abbots and bards, of feudal lords at ruthless war with
each other, of besiegings and battles and captives and torments. Legends
there were of small kingdoms torn asunder, of the slaughter of their
kings, the mad fightings of their barons, and the faith or unfaith of
their serfs. Here and there the eternal power revealed itself in some
story of lawful or unlawful love--for dame or damsel, royal lady,
abbess, or high-born nun--ending in the welding of two lives or in
rapine, violence, and death. There were annals of early England, and of
marauders, monks, and Danes. And, through all these, some thing, some
man or woman, place, or strife linked by some tie with Mount Dunstan
blood. In past generations, it seemed plain, there had been certain
of the line who had had pride in these records, and had sought and
collected them; then had been born others who had not cared. Sometimes
the relations were inadequate, sometimes they wore an unauthentic air,
but most of them seemed, even after the passing of centuries, human
documents, and together built a marvellous great drama of life and
power, wickedness and passion and daring deeds.

When the shameful scandal burst forth young Saltyre was seen by neither
his father nor his brother. Neither of them had any desire to see him;
in fact, each detested the idea of confronting by any chance his hot,
intolerant eyes. "The Brat," his father had called him in his childhood,
"The Lout," when he had grown big-limbed and clumsy. Both he and Tenham
were sick enough, without being called upon to contemplate "The Lout,"
whose opinion, in any case, they preferred not to hear.

Saltyre, during the hideous days, shut himself up in the library. He did
not leave the house, even for exercise, until after the pair had fled.
His exercise he took in walking up and down from one end of the long
room to another. Devils were let loose in him. When Penzance came to
him, he saw their fury in his eyes, and heard it in the savagery of his
laugh.

He kicked an ancient volume out of his way as he strode to and fro.

"There has been plenty of the blood of the beast in us in bygone times,"
he said, "but it was not like this. Savagery in savage days had its
excuse. This is the beast sunk into the gibbering, degenerate ape."

Penzance came and spent hours of each day with him. Part of his rage
was the rage of a man, but he was a boy still, and the boyishness of his
bitterly hurt youth was a thing to move to pity. With young blood, and
young pride, and young expectancy rising within him, he was at an hour
when he should have felt himself standing upon the threshold of the
world, gazing out at the splendid joys and promises and powerful deeds
of it--waiting only the fit moment to step forth and win his place.

"But we are done for," he shouted once. "We are done for. And I am as
much done for as they are. Decent people won't touch us. That is where
the last Mount Dunstan stands." And Penzance heard in his voice an
absolute break. He stopped and marched to the window at the end of the
long room, and stood in dead stillness, staring out at the down-sweeping
lines of heavy rain.

The older man thought many things, as he looked at his big back and
body. He stood with his legs astride, and Penzance noted that his right
hand was clenched on his hip, as a man's might be as he clenched
the hilt of his sword--his one mate who might avenge him even when,
standing at bay, he knew that the end had come, and he must fall.
Primeval Force--the thin-faced, narrow-chested, slightly bald clergyman
of the Church of England was thinking--never loses its way, or fails to
sweep a path before it. The sun rises and sets, the seasons come and go,
Primeval Force is of them, and as unchangeable. Much of it stood before
him embodied in this strongly sentient thing. In this way the Reverend
Lewis found his thoughts leading him, and he--being moved to the depths
of a fine soul--felt them profoundly interesting, and even sustaining.

He sat in a high-backed chair, holding its arms with long thin hands,
and looking for some time at James Hubert John Fergus Saltyre. He said,
at last, in a sane level voice:

"Lord Tenham is not the last Mount Dunstan."

After which the stillness remained unbroken again for some minutes.
Saltyre did not move or make any response, and, when he left his place
at the window, he took up a book, and they spoke of other things.

When the fourteenth Earl died in Paris, and his younger son succeeded,
there came a time when the two companions sat together in the library
again. It was the evening of a long day spent in discouraging hard work.
In the morning they had ridden side by side over the estate, in the
afternoon they had sat and pored over accounts, leases, maps, plans. By
nightfall both were fagged and neither in sanguine mood.

Mount Dunstan had sat silent for some time. The pair often sat silent.
This pause was ended by the young man's rising and standing up,
stretching his limbs.

"It was a queer thing you said to me in this room a few years ago," he
said. "It has just come back to me."

Singularly enough--or perhaps naturally enough--it had also just arisen
again from the depths of Penzance's subconsciousness.

"Yes," he answered, "I remember. To-night it suggests premonition. Your
brother was not the last Mount Dunstan."

"In one sense he never was Mount Dunstan at all," answered the other
man. Then he suddenly threw out his arms in a gesture whose whole
significance it would have been difficult to describe. There was a kind
of passion in it. "I am the last Mount Dunstan," he harshly laughed.
"Moi qui vous parle! The last."

Penzance's eyes resting on him took upon themselves the far-seeing
look of a man who watches the world of life without living in it. He
presently shook his head.

"No," he said. "I don't see that. No--not the last. Believe me."

And singularly, in truth, Mount Dunstan stood still and gazed at him
without speaking. The eyes of each rested in the eyes of the other. And,
as had happened before, they followed the subject no further. From that
moment it dropped.

Only Penzance had known of his reasons for going to America. Even the
family solicitors, gravely holding interviews with him and restraining
expression of their absolute disapproval of such employment of his
inadequate resources, knew no more than that this Mount Dunstan, instead
of wasting his beggarly income at Cairo, or Monte Carlo, or in Paris as
the last one had done, prefers to waste it in newer places. The head
of the firm, when he bids him good-morning and leaves him alone, merely
shrugs his shoulders and returns to his letter writing with the corners
of his elderly mouth hard set.

Penzance saw him off--and met him upon his return. In the library they
sat and talked it over, and, having done so, closed the book of the
episode.

*****

He sat at the table, his eyes upon the wide-spread loveliness of the
landscape, but his thought elsewhere. It wandered over the years already
lived through, wandering backwards even to the days when existence,
opening before the child eyes, was a baffling and vaguely unhappy thing.

When the door opened and Penzance was ushered in by a servant, his face
wore the look his friend would have been rejoiced to see swept away to
return no more.

Then let us take our old accustomed seat and begin some casual talk,
which will draw him out of the shadows, and make him forget such things
as it is not good to remember. That is what we have done many times in
the past, and may find it well to do many a time again.

He begins with talk of the village and the country-side. Village stories
are often quaint, and stories of the countryside are sometimes--not
always--interesting. Tom Benson's wife has presented him with triplets,
and there is great excitement in the village, as to the steps to be
taken to secure the three guineas given by the Queen as a reward for
this feat. Old Benny Bates has announced his intention of taking a fifth
wife at the age of ninety, and is indignant that it has been suggested
that the parochial authorities in charge of the "Union," in which he
must inevitably shortly take refuge, may interfere with his rights as
a citizen. The Reverend Lewis has been to talk seriously with him, and
finds him at once irate and obdurate.

"Vicar," says old Benny, "he can't refuse to marry no man. Law won't let
him." Such refusal, he intimates, might drive him to wild and riotous
living. Remembering his last view of old Benny tottering down the
village street in his white smock, his nut-cracker face like a withered
rosy apple, his gnarled hand grasping the knotted staff his bent
body leaned on, Mount Dunstan grinned a little. He did not smile when
Penzance passed to the restoration of the ancient church at Mellowdene.
"Restoration" usually meant the tearing away of ancient oaken,
high-backed pews, and the instalment of smug new benches, suggesting
suburban Dissenting chapels, such as the feudal soul revolts at. Neither
did he smile at a reference to the gathering at Dunholm Castle, which
was twelve miles away. Dunholm was the possession of a man who stood for
all that was first and highest in the land, dignity, learning, exalted
character, generosity, honour. He and the late Lord Mount Dunstan had
been born in the same year, and had succeeded to their titles almost at
the same time. There had arrived a period when they had ceased to know
each other. All that the one man intrinsically was, the other man was
not. All that the one estate, its castle, its village, its tenantry,
represented, was the antipodes of that which the other stood for.
The one possession held its place a silent, and perhaps, unconscious
reproach to the other. Among the guests, forming the large house party
which London social news had already recorded in its columns, were great
and honourable persons, and interesting ones, men and women who counted
as factors in all good and dignified things accomplished. Even in the
present Mount Dunstan's childhood, people of their world had ceased to
cross his father's threshold. As one or two of the most noticeable names
were mentioned, mentally he recalled this, and Penzance, quick to see
the thought in his eyes, changed the subject.

"At Stornham village an unexpected thing has happened," he said. "One of
the relatives of Lady Anstruthers has suddenly appeared--a sister. You
may remember that the poor woman was said to be the daughter of some
rich American, and it seemed unexplainable that none of her family ever
appeared, and things were allowed to go from bad to worse. As it was
understood that there was so much money people were mystified by the
condition of things."

"Anstruthers has had money to squander," said Mount Dunstan. "Tenham and
he were intimates. The money he spends is no doubt his wife's. As her
family deserted her she has no one to defend her."

"Certainly her family has seemed to neglect her for years. Perhaps
they were disappointed in his position. Many Americans are extremely
ambitious. These international marriages are often singular things.
Now--apparently without having been expected--the sister appears.
Vanderpoel is the name--Miss Vanderpoel."

"I crossed the Atlantic with her in the Meridiana," said Mount Dunstan.

"Indeed! That is interesting. You did not, of course, know that she was
coming here."

"I knew nothing of her but that she was a saloon passenger with a suite
of staterooms, and I was in the second cabin. Nothing? That is not quite
true, perhaps. Stewards and passengers gossip, and one cannot close
one's ears. Of course one heard constant reiteration of the number of
millions her father possessed, and the number of cabins she managed to
occupy. During the confusion and alarm of the collision, we spoke to
each other."

He did not mention the other occasion on which he had seen her. There
seemed, on the whole, no special reason why he should.

"Then you would recognise her, if you saw her. I heard to-day that she
seems an unusual young woman, and has beauty."

"Her eyes and lashes are remarkable. She is tall. The Americans are
setting up a new type."

"Yes, they used to send over slender, fragile little women. Lady
Anstruthers was the type. I confess to an interest in the sister."

"Why?"

"She has made a curious impression. She has begun to do things. Stornham
village has lost its breath." He laughed a little. "She has been going
over the place and discussing repairs."

Mount Dunstan laughed also. He remembered what she had said. And she had
actually begun.

"That is practical," he commented.

"It is really interesting. Why should a young woman turn her
attention to repairs? If it had been her father--the omnipotent Mr.
Vanderpoel--who had appeared, one would not have wondered at such
practical activity. But a young lady--with remarkable eyelashes!"

His elbows were on the arm of his chair, and he had placed the tips
of his fingers together, wearing an expression of such absorbed
contemplation that Mount Dunstan laughed again.

"You look quite dreamy over it," he said.

"It allures me. Unknown quantities in character always allure me.
I should like to know her. A community like this is made up of the
absolutely known quantity--of types repeating themselves through
centuries. A new one is almost a startling thing. Gossip over teacups is
not usually entertaining to me, but I found myself listening to little
Miss Laura Brunel this afternoon with rather marked attention. I confess
to having gone so far as to make an inquiry or so. Sir Nigel Anstruthers
is not often at Stornham. He is away now. It is plainly not he who is
interested in repairs."

"He is on the Riviera, in retreat, in a place he is fond of," Mount
Dunstan said drily. "He took a companion with him. A new infatuation. He
will not return soon."



CHAPTER XIX

SPRING IN BOND STREET

The visit to London was part of an evolution of both body and mind to
Rosalie Anstruthers. In one of the wonderful modern hotels a suite of
rooms was engaged for them. The luxury which surrounded them was not of
the order Rosalie had vaguely connected with hotels. Hotel-keepers had
apparently learned many things during the years of her seclusion.

Vanderpoels, at least, could so establish themselves as not to greatly
feel the hotel atmosphere. Carefully chosen colours textures, and
appointments formed the background of their days, the food they ate
was a thing produced by art, the servants who attended them were
completely-trained mechanisms. To sit by a window and watch the
kaleidoscopic human tide passing by on its way to its pleasure, to reach
its work, to spend its money in unending shops, to show itself and its
equipage in the park, was a wonderful thing to Lady Anstruthers. It all
seemed to be a part of the life and quality of Betty, little Betty,
whom she had remembered only as a child, and who had come to her a tall,
strong young beauty, who had--it was resplendently clear--never known
a fear in her life, and whose mere personality had the effect of making
fears seem unreal.

She was taken out in a luxurious little brougham to shops whose varied
allurements were placed eagerly at her disposal. Respectful persons,
obedient to her most faintly-expressed desire, displayed garments as
wonderful as those the New York trunks had revealed. She was besought
to consider the fitness of articles whose exquisiteness she was almost
afraid to look at. Her thin little body was wonderfully fitted, managed,
encouraged to make the most of its long-ignored outlines.

"Her ladyship's slenderness is a great advantage," said the wisely
inciting ones. "There is no such advantage as delicacy of line."

Summing up the character of their customer with the saleswoman's
eye, they realised the discretion of turning to Miss Vanderpoel for
encouragement, though she was the younger of the two, and bore no title.
They were aware of the existence of persons of rank who were not lavish
patrons, but the name of Vanderpoel held most promising suggestions. To
an English shopkeeper the American has, of late years, represented
the spender--the type which, whatsoever its rank and resources, has,
mysteriously, always money to hand over counters in exchange for things
it chances to desire to possess. Each year surges across the Atlantic a
horde of these fortunate persons, who, to the sober, commercial British
mind, appear to be free to devote their existences to travel and
expenditure. This contingent appears shopping in the various shopping
thoroughfares; it buys clothes, jewels, miscellaneous attractive things,
making its purchases of articles useful or decorative with a freedom
from anxiety in its enjoyment which does not mark the mood of the
ordinary shopper. In the everyday purchaser one is accustomed to take
for granted, as a factor in his expenditure, a certain deliberation and
uncertainty; to the travelling American in Europe, shopping appears to
be part of the holiday which is being made the most of. Surely, all the
neat, smart young persons who buy frocks and blouses, hats and coats,
hosiery and chains, cannot be the possessors of large incomes; there
must be, even in America, a middle class of middle-class resources, yet
these young persons, male and female, and most frequently unaccompanied
by older persons--seeing what they want, greet it with expressions of
pleasure, waste no time in appropriating and paying for it, and go away
as in relief and triumph--not as in that sober joy which is clouded by
afterthought. The sales people are sometimes even vaguely cheered by their
gay lack of any doubt as to the wisdom of their getting what they admire,
and rejoicing in it. If America always buys in this holiday mood, it
must be an enviable thing to be a shopkeeper in their New York or Boston
or San Francisco. Who would not make a fortune among them? They want
what they want, and not something which seems to them less desirable,
but they open their purses and--frequently with some amused uncertainty
as to the differences between sovereigns and half-sovereigns, florins
and half-crowns--they pay their bills with something almost like glee.
They are remarkably prompt about bills--which is an excellent thing, as
they are nearly always just going somewhere else, to France or Germany
or Italy or Scotland or Siberia. Those of us who are shopkeepers, or
their salesmen, do not dream that some of them have incomes no larger
than our own, that they work for their livings, that they are teachers
journalists, small writers or illustrators of papers or magazines that
they are unimportant soldiers of fortune, but, with their queer American
insistence on exploration, and the ignoring of limitations, they have,
somehow, managed to make this exultant dash for a few daring weeks or
months of freedom and new experience. If we knew this, we should
regard them from our conservative standpoint of provident decorum as
improvident lunatics, being ourselves unable to calculate with their odd
courage and their cheerful belief in themselves. What we do know is that
they spend, and we are far from disdaining their patronage, though most
of them have an odd little familiarity of address and are not stamped
with that distinction which causes us to realise the enormous difference
between the patron and the tradesman, and makes us feel the worm
we remotely like to feel ourselves, though we would not for worlds
acknowledge the fact. Mentally, and in our speech, both among our equals
and our superiors, we condescend to and patronise them a little, though
that, of course, is the fine old insular attitude it would be un-British
to discourage. But, if we are not in the least definite concerning the
position and resources of these spenders as a mass, we are quite sure of
a select number. There is mention of them in the newspapers, of the
town houses, the castles, moors, and salmon fishings they rent, of
their yachts, their presentations actually at our own courts, of their
presence at great balls, at Ascot and Goodwood, at the opera on gala
nights. One staggers sometimes before the public summing-up of the
amount of their fortunes. These people who have neither blood nor rank,
these men who labour in their business offices, are richer than our
great dukes, at the realising of whose wealth and possessions we have at
times almost turned pale.

"Them!" chaffed a costermonger over his barrow. "Blimme, if some o' them
blokes won't buy Buckin'am Pallis an' the 'ole R'yal Fambly some mornin'
when they're out shoppin'."

The subservient attendants in more than one fashionable shop Betty and
her sister visit, know that Miss Vanderpoel is of the circle, though her
father has not as yet bought or hired any great estate, and his daughter
has not been seen in London.

"Its queer we've never heard of her being presented," one shopgirl says
to another. "Just you look at her."

She evidently knows what her ladyship ought to buy--what can be trusted
not to overpower her faded fragility. The saleswomen, even if they had
not been devoured by alert curiosity, could not have avoided seeing that
her ladyship did not seem to know what should be bought, and that Miss
Vanderpoel did, though she did not direct her sister's selection,
but merely seemed to suggest with delicate restraint. Her taste was
wonderfully perceptive. The things bought were exquisite, but a little
colourless woman could wear them all with advantage to her restrictions
of type.

As the brougham drove down Bond Street, Betty called Lady Anstruthers'
attention to more than one passer-by.

"Look, Rosy," she said. "There is Mrs. Treat Hilyar in the second
carriage to the right. You remember Josie Treat Hilyar married Lord
Varick's son."

In the landau designated an elderly woman with wonderfully-dressed
white hair sat smiling and bowing to friends who were walking. Lady
Anstruthers, despite her eagerness, shrank back a little, hoping to
escape being seen.

"Oh, it is the Lows she is speaking to--Tom and Alice--I did not know
they had sailed yet."

The tall, well-groomed young man, with the nice, ugly face, was showing
white teeth in a gay smile of recognition, and his pretty wife was
lightly waving a slim hand in a grey suede glove.

"How cheerful and nice-tempered they look," said Rosy. "Tom was only
twenty when I saw him last. Whom did he marry?"

"An English girl. Such a love. A Devonshire gentleman's daughter. In New
York his friends called her Devonshire Cream and Roses. She is one of
the pretty, flushy, pink ones."

"How nice Bond Street is on a spring morning like this," said Lady
Anstruthers. "You may laugh at me for saying it, Betty, but somehow it
seems to me more spring-like than the country."

"How clever of you!" laughed Betty. "There is so much truth in it."
The people walking in the sunshine were all full of spring thoughts and
plans. The colours they wore, the flowers in the women's hats and the
men's buttonholes belonged to the season. The cheerful crowds of people
and carriages had a sort of rushing stir of movement which suggested
freshness. Later in the year everything looks more tired. Now things
were beginning and everyone was rather inclined to believe that this
year would be better than last. "Look at the shop windows," said Betty,
"full of whites and pinks and yellows and blues--the colours of hyacinth
and daffodil beds. It seems as if they insist that there never has been
a winter and never will be one. They insist that there never was and
never will be anything but spring."

"It's in the air." Lady Anstruthers' sigh was actually a happy one. "It
is just what I used to feel in April when we drove down Fifth Avenue."

Among the crowds of freshly-dressed passers-by, women with flowery hats
and light frocks and parasols, men with touches of flower-colour on the
lapels of their coats, and the holiday look in their faces, she noted so
many of a familiar type that she began to look for and try to pick them
out with quite excited interest.

"I believe that woman is an American," she would say. "That girl looks
as if she were a New Yorker," again. "That man's face looks as if it
belonged to Broadway. Oh, Betty! do you think I am right? I should say
those girls getting out of the hansom to go into Burnham & Staples' came
from out West and are going to buy thousands of things. Don't they look
like it?"

She began to lean forward and look on at things with an interest so
unlike her Stornham listlessness that Betty's heart was moved.

Her face looked alive, and little waves of colour rose under her skin.
Several times she laughed the natural little laugh of her girlhood which
it had seemed almost too much to expect to hear again. The first of
these laughs came when she counted her tenth American, a tall Westerner
of the cartoon type, sauntering along with an expression of speculative
enjoyment on his odd face, and evidently, though furtively, chewing
tobacco.

"I absolutely love him, Betty," she cried. "You couldn't mistake him for
anything else."

"No," answered Betty, feeling that she loved him herself, "not if you
found him embalmed in the Pyramids."

They pleased themselves immensely, trying to guess what he would buy
and take home to his wife and girls in his Western town--though Western
towns were very grand and amazing in these days, Betty explained, and
knew they could give points to New York. He would not buy the things
he would have bought fifteen years ago. Perhaps, in fact, his wife and
daughters had come with him to London and stayed at the Metropole or
the Savoy, and were at this moment being fitted by tailors and modistes
patronised by Royalty.

"Rosy, look! Do you see who that is? Do you recognise her? It is
Mrs. Bellingham. She was little Mina Thalberg. She married Captain
Bellingham. He was quite poor, but very well born--a nephew of Lord
Dunholm's. He could not have married a poor girl--but they have been so
happy together that Mina is growing fat, and spends her days in taking
reducing treatments. She says she wouldn't care in the least, but Dicky
fell in love with her waist and shoulder line."

The plump, pretty young woman getting out of her victoria before a
fashionable hairdresser's looked radiant enough. She had not yet lost
the waist and shoulder line, though her pink frock fitted her with
discreet tightness. She paused a moment to pat and fuss prettily over
the two blooming, curly children who were to remain under the care of
the nurse, who sat on the back seat, holding the baby on her lap.

"I should not have known her," said Rosy. "She has grown pretty. She
wasn't a pretty child."

"It's happiness--and the English climate--and Captain Dicky. They adore
each other, and laugh at everything like a pair of children. They were
immensely popular in New York last winter, when they visited Mina's
people."

The effect of the morning upon Lady Anstruthers was what Betty had hoped
it might be. The curious drawing near of the two nations began to dawn
upon her as a truth. Immured in the country, not sufficiently interested
in life to read newspapers, she had heard rumours of some of the more
important marriages, but had known nothing of the thousand small details
which made for the weaving of the web. Mrs. Treat Hilyar driving in a
leisurely, accustomed fashion down Bond Street, and smiling casually at
her compatriots, whose "sailing" was as much part of the natural order
of their luxurious lives as their carriages, gave a definiteness to the
situation. Mina Thalberg, pulling down the embroidered frocks over the
round legs of her English-looking children, seemed to narrow the width
of the Atlantic Ocean between Liverpool and the docks on the Hudson
River.

She returned to the hotel with an appetite for lunch and a new
expression in her eyes which made Ughtred stare at her.

"Mother," he said, "you look different. You look well. It isn't only
your new dress and your hair."

The new style of her attire had certainly done much, and the maid who
had been engaged to attend her was a woman who knew her duties. She had
been called upon in her time to make the most of hair offering much
less assistance to her skill than was supplied by the fine, fair
colourlessness she had found dragged back from her new mistress's
forehead. It was not dragged back now, but had really been done wonders
with. Rosalie had smiled a little when she had looked at herself in the
glass after the first time it was so dressed.

"You are trying to make me look as I did when mother saw me last,
Betty," she said. "I wonder if you possibly could."

"Let us believe we can," laughed Betty. "And wait and see."

It seemed wise neither to make nor receive visits. The time for such
things had evidently not yet come. Even the mention of the Worthingtons
led to the revelation that Rosalie shrank from immediate contact with
people. When she felt stronger, when she became more accustomed to the
thought, she might feel differently, but just now, to be luxuriously one
with the enviable part of London, to look on, to drink in, to drive here
and there, doing the things she liked to do, ordering what was required
at Stornham, was like the creating for her of a new heaven and a new
earth.

When, one night, Betty took her with Ughtred to the theatre, it was to
see a play written by an American, played by American actors, produced
by an American manager. They had even engaged in theatrical enterprise,
it seemed, their actors played before London audiences, London actors
played in American theatres, vibrating almost yearly between the two
continents and reaping rich harvests. Hearing rumours of this in the
past, Lady Anstruthers had scarcely believed it entirely true. Now the
practical reality was brought before her. The French, who were only
separated from the English metropolis by a mere few miles of Channel,
did not exchange their actors year after year in increasing numbers,
making a mere friendly barter of each other's territory, as though each
land was common ground and not divided by leagues of ocean travel.

"It seems so wonderful," Lady Anstruthers argued. "I have always felt as
if they hated each other."

"They did once--but how could it last between those of the same
blood--of the same tongue? If we were really aliens we might be a
menace. But we are of their own." Betty leaned forward on the edge of
the box, looking out over the crowded house, filled with almost as many
Americans as English faces. She smiled, reflecting. "We were children
put out to nurse and breathe new air in the country, and now we are
coming home, vigorous, and full-grown."

She studied the audience for some minutes, and, as her glance wandered
over the stalls, it took in more than one marked variety of type.
Suddenly it fell on a face she delightedly recognised. It was that of
the nice, speculative-eyed Westerner they had seen enjoying himself in
Bond Street.

"Rosy," she said, "there is the Western man we love. Near the end of the
fourth row."

Lady Anstruthers looked for him with eagerness.

"Oh, I see him! Next to the big one with the reddish hair."

Betty turned her attention to the man in question, whom she had not
chanced to notice. She uttered an exclamation of surprise and interest.

"The big man with the red hair. How lovely that they should chance to
sit side by side--the big one is Lord Mount Dunstan!"

The necessity of seeing his solicitors, who happened to be Messrs.
Townlinson & Sheppard, had brought Lord Mount Dunstan to town. After a
day devoted to business affairs, he had been attracted by the idea of
going to the theatre to see again a play he had already seen in New
York. It would interest him to observe its exact effect upon a London
audience. While he had been in New York, he had gone with something of
the same feeling to see a great English actor play to a crowded house.
The great actor had been one who had returned to the country for a third
or fourth time, and, in the enthusiasm he had felt in the atmosphere
about him, Mount Dunstan had seen not only pleasure and appreciation of
the man's perfect art, but--at certain tumultuous outbursts--an almost
emotional welcome. The Americans, he had said to himself, were creatures
of warmer blood than the English. The audience on that occasion had
been, in mass, American. The audience he made one of now, was made up of
both nationalities, and, in glancing over it, he realised how large was
the number of Americans who came yearly to London. As Lady Anstruthers
had done, he found himself selecting from the assemblage the types which
were manifestly American, and those obviously English. In the seat next
to himself sat a man of a type he felt he had learned by heart in
the days of his life as Jem Salter. At a short distance fluttered
brilliantly an English professional beauty, with her male and female
court about her. In the stage box, made sumptuous with flowers, was a
royal party.

As this party had entered, "God save the Queen" had been played, and, in
rising with the audience during the entry, he had recalled that the tune
was identical with that of an American national air. How unconsciously
inseparable--in spite of the lightness with which they regarded the
curious tie between them--the two countries were. The people upon the
stage were acting as if they knew their public, their bearing
suggesting no sense of any barrier beyond the footlights. It was the
unconsciousness and lightness of the mutual attitude which had struck
him of late. Punch had long jested about "Fair Americans," who, in
their first introduction to its pages, used exotic and cryptic language,
beginning every sentence either with "I guess," or "Say, Stranger"; its
male American had been of the Uncle Sam order and had invariably worn
a "goatee." American witticisms had represented the Englishman in
plaid trousers, opening his remarks with "Chawley, deah fellah," and
unfailingly missing the point of any joke. Each country had cherished
its type and good-naturedly derided it. In time this had modified itself
and the joke had changed in kind. Many other things had changed, but the
lightness of treatment still remained. And yet their blood was mingling
itself with that of England's noblest and oldest of name, their wealth
was making solid again towers and halls which had threatened to crumble.
Ancient family jewels glittered on slender, young American necks, and
above--sometimes somewhat careless--young American brows. And yet, so
far, one was casual in one's thought of it all, still. On his own part
he was obstinate Briton enough to rebel against and resent it. They
were intruders. He resented them as he had resented in his boyhood the
historical fact that, after all, an Englishman was a German--a savage
who, five hundred years after the birth of Christ, had swooped upon
Early Briton from his Engleland and Jutland, and ravaging with fire and
sword, had conquered and made the land his possession, ravishing its
very name from it and giving it his own. These people did not come with
fire and sword, but with cable and telephone, and bribes of gold and
fair women, but they were encroaching like the sea, which, in certain
parts of the coast, gained a few inches or so each year. He shook his
shoulders impatiently, and stiffened, feeling illogically antagonistic
towards the good-natured, lantern-jawed man at his side.

The lantern-jawed man looked good-natured because he was smiling, and
he was smiling because he saw something which pleased him in one of the
boxes.

His expression of unqualified approval naturally directed Mount
Dunstan's eye to the point in question, where it remained for some
moments. This was because he found it resting upon Miss Vanderpoel, who
sat before him in luminous white garments, and with a brilliant spark
of ornament in the dense shadow of her hair. His sensation at the
unexpected sight of her would, if it had expressed itself physically,
have taken the form of a slight start. The luminous quality did not
confine itself to the whiteness of her garments. He was aware of feeling
that she looked luminous herself--her eyes, her cheek, the smile she
bent upon the little woman who was her companion. She was a beautifully
living thing.

Naturally, she was being looked at by others than himself. She was one
of those towards whom glasses in a theatre turn themselves inevitably.
The sweep and lift of her black hair would have drawn them, even if she
had offered no other charm. Yes, he thought, here was another of them.
To whom was she bringing her good looks and her millions? There were men
enough who needed money, even if they must accept it under less alluring
conditions. In the box next to the one occupied by the royal party was a
man who was known to be waiting for the advent of some such opportunity.
His was a case of dire, if outwardly stately, need. He was young, but a
fool, and not noted for personal charms, yet he had, in one sense, great
things to offer. There were, of course, many chances that he might offer
them to her. If this happened, would she accept them? There was really
no objection to him but his dulness, consequently there seemed many
chances that she might. There was something akin to the pomp of royalty
in the power her father's wealth implied. She could scarcely make an
ordinary marriage. It would naturally be a sort of state affair.
There were few men who had enough to offer in exchange for Vanderpoel
millions, and of the few none had special attractions. The one in
the box next to the royal party was a decent enough fellow. As young
princesses were not infrequently called upon, by the mere exclusion of
royal blood, to become united to young or mature princes without charm,
so American young persons who were of royal possessions must find
themselves limited. If you felt free to pick and choose from among
young men in the Guards or young attaches in the Diplomatic Service with
twopence a year, you might get beauty or wit or temperament or all three
by good luck, but if you were of a royal house of New York or Chicago,
you would probably feel you must draw lines and choose only such
splendours as accorded with, even while differing from, your own.

Any possible connection of himself with such a case did not present
itself to him. If it had done so, he would have counted himself,
haughtily, as beyond the pale. It was for other men to do things of the
sort; a remote antagonism of his whole being warred against the mere
idea. It was bigoted prejudice, perhaps, but it was a strong thing.

A lovely shoulder and a brilliant head set on a long and slender neck
have no nationality which can prevent a man's glance turning naturally
towards them. His turned again during the last act of the play, and at a
moment when he saw something rather like the thing he had seen when
the Meridiana moved away from the dock and the exalted Miss Vanderpoel
leaning upon the rail had held out her arms towards the child who had
brought his toy to her as a farewell offering.

Sitting by her to-night was a boy with a crooked back--Mount Dunstan
remembered hearing that the Anstruthers had a deformed son--and she
was leaning towards him, her hand resting on his shoulder, explaining
something he had not quite grasped in the action of the play. The
absolute adoration in the boy's uplifted eyes was an interesting thing
to take in, and the radiant warmth of her bright look was as unconscious
of onlookers as it had been when he had seen it yearning towards the
child on the wharf. Hers was the temperament which gave--which gave. He
found himself restraining a smile because her look brought back to him
the actual sound of the New York youngster's voice.

"I wanted to kiss you, Betty, oh, I did so want to kiss you!"

Anstruthers' boy--poor little beggar--looked as if he, too, in the face
of actors and audience, and brilliance of light, wanted to kiss her.





CHAPTER XX

THINGS OCCUR IN STORNHAM VILLAGE

It would not have been possible for Miss Vanderpoel to remain long in
social seclusion in London, and, before many days had passed, Stornham
village was enlivened by the knowledge that her ladyship and her sister
had returned to the Court. It was also evident that their visit to
London had not been made to no purpose. The stagnation of the waters of
village life threatened to become a whirlpool. A respectable person, who
was to be her ladyship's maid, had come with them, and her ladyship had
not been served by a personal attendant for years. Her ladyship had also
appeared at the dinner-table in new garments, and with her hair done
as other ladies wore theirs. She looked like a different woman, and
actually had a bit of colour, and was beginning to lose her frightened
way. Now it dawned upon even the dullest and least active mind that
something had begun to stir.

It had been felt vaguely when the new young lady from "Meriker" had
walked through the village street, and had drawn people to doors and
windows by her mere passing. After the return from London the signs of
activity were such as made the villagers catch their breaths in uttering
uncertain exclamations, and caused the feminine element to catch up
offspring or, dragging it by its hand, run into neighbours' cottages and
stand talking the incredible thing over in lowered and rather breathless
voices. Yet the incredible thing in question was--had it been seen from
the standpoint of more prosperous villagers--anything but extraordinary.
In entirely rural places the Castle, the Hall or the Manor, the Great
House--in short--still retains somewhat of the old feudal power to
bestow benefits or withhold them. Wealth and good will at the Manor
supply work and resultant comfort in the village and its surrounding
holdings. Patronised by the Great House the two or three small village
shops bestir themselves and awaken to activity. The blacksmith swings
his hammer with renewed spirit over the numerous jobs the gentry's
stables, carriage houses, garden tools, and household repairs give
to him. The carpenter mends and makes, the vicarage feels at ease,
realising that its church and its charities do not stand unsupported.
Small farmers and larger ones, under a rich and interested landlord,
thrive and are able to hold their own even against the tricks of wind
and weather. Farm labourers being, as a result, certain of steady and
decent wage, trudge to and fro, with stolid cheerfulness, knowing that
the pot boils and the children's feet are shod. Superannuated old men
and women are sure of their broth and Sunday dinner, and their dread of
the impending "Union" fades away. The squire or my lord or my lady can
be depended upon to care for their old bones until they are laid under
the sod in the green churchyard. With wealth and good will at the Great
House, life warms and offers prospects. There are Christmas feasts and
gifts and village treats, and the big carriage or the smaller ones stop
at cottage doors and at once confer exciting distinction and carry good
cheer.

But Stornham village had scarcely a remote memory of any period of such
prosperity. It had not existed even in the older Sir Nigel's time, and
certainly the present Sir Nigel's reign had been marked only by neglect,
ill-temper, indifference, and a falling into disorder and decay. Farms
were poorly worked, labourers were unemployed, there was no trade from
the manor household, no carriages, no horses, no company, no spending
of money. Cottages leaked, floors were damp, the church roof itself was
falling to pieces, and the vicar had nothing to give. The helpless and
old cottagers were carried to the "Union" and, dying there, were buried
by the stinted parish in parish coffins.

Her ladyship had not visited the cottages since her child's birth. And
now such inspiriting events as were everyday happenings in lucky places
like Westerbridge and Wratcham and Yangford, showed signs of being about
to occur in Stornham itself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You are the master of this shop?" she asked.

Buttle came forward, touching his brow in hasty salute.

"Yes, my lady," he answered. "Joseph Buttle, your ladyship."

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

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

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

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

"There's me and Sim Soames, miss," he answered. "No more, an' no less."

"Where can you get more?" asked Miss Vanderpoel.

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

"Me and Sim has always done what work was done," he stammered. "It
hasn't been much."

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

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

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

"They want any work, miss--that they are sure of decent pay for--sure of
it."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes, miss," he answered.

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

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

The tall young lady laughed beautifully and got up.

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

In the taproom of The Clock, when Joe Buttle dropped in for his pot of
beer, he found Fox, the saddler, and Tread, the blacksmith, and each of
them fell upon the others with something of the same story to tell. The
new young lady from the Court had been to see them, too, and had brought
to each her definite little note-book. Harness was to be repaired and
furbished up, the big carriage and the old phaeton were to be put in
order, and Master Ughtred's cart was to be given new paint and springs.

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XXI

KEDGERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Grow them, Kedgers, begin to grow them," said Miss Vanderpoel. "I have
never seen them--I must see them."

Kedgers' low, deprecatory chuckle made itself heard again,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You mean you'd trust me, miss--same as if I was Mr. Timson?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XXII

ONE OF MR. VANDERPOEL'S LETTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mrs. Vanderpoel's heart quickened its beat.

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

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

Mrs. Vanderpoel's kind, maternal face fell.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER XXIII

INTRODUCING G. SELDEN

A bird was perched upon a swaying branch of a slim young sapling near
the fence-supported hedge which bounded the park, and Mount Dunstan had
stopped to look at it and listen. A soft shower had fallen, and after
its passing, the sun coming through the light clouds, there had broken
forth again in the trees brief trills and calls and fluting of bird
notes. The sward and ferns glittered fresh green under the raindrops;
the young leaves on trees and hedge seemed visibly to uncurl, the
uncovered earth looked richly dark and moist, and sent forth the
fragrance from its deeps, which, rising to a man's nostrils, stirs and
thrills him because it is the scent of life's self. The bird upon the
sapling was a robin, the tiny round body perched upon his delicate legs,
plump and bright plumaged for mating. He touched his warm red breast
with his beak, fluffed out and shook his feathers, and, swelling his
throat, poured forth his small, entranced song. It was a gay, brief,
jaunty thing, but pure, joyous, gallant, liquid melody. There was dainty
bravado in it, saucy demand and allurement. It was addressed to some
invisible hearer of the tender sex, and wheresoever she might be
hidden--whether in great branch or low thicket or hedge--there was
hinted no doubt in her small wooer's note that she would hear it and
in due time respond. Mount Dunstan, listening, even laughed at its
confident music. The tiny thing uttering its Call of the World--jubilant
in the surety of answer!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The young fellow laughed outright.

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

"You are an American?"

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

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

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

"Fifteen per?" Mount Dunstan repeated doubtfully.

His companion chuckled.

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

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

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

"By George!" said Mount Dunstan. "That was American."

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

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

"Wasn't it rather--rash, considering the fifteen per?" Mount Dunstan
suggested. He was really beginning to enjoy himself.

"What's the use of making a dollar and sitting on it. I've not got
fifteen per--steady--and here I am."

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

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

J. BURRIDGE & SON,

DELKOFF TYPEWRITER CO.

BROADWAY, NEW YORK. G. SELDEN.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I don't find it so," said Mount Dunstan. "I have more time than I can
possibly use--and no money."

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

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

Mount Dunstan grinned a little.

"That's a very good way of putting it," he answered. "I never heard 'up
against it' before. It's good. Yes, I'm up against it.

"Out of a job?" with genial sympathy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Little Willie's not quite as easy as he looks," was the cryptic remark
of Mr. Selden.

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

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

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

"All right," he said. "I apologise--if it's cold fact. I'm not calling
you a liar."

"Thank you," still a little stiffly, from Mount Dunstan.

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

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

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

"I apologise, all right," G. Selden ended genially.

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

G. Selden hesitated. He liked the fellow anyhow.

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

"Perhaps," stolidly, "I did." Then, his voice warming,

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

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

"It's not necessary for you to call me anything in particular--as a
rule. If you were speaking of me, you might say Lord Mount Dunstan."

G. Selden looked relieved.

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

"What chance would you like?"

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

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

Selden pushed his cap and cleared his throat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G. Selden looked good-naturedly apologetic himself.

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

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

G. Selden suppressed an involuntary young laugh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"She's a looker," he remarked. "They're a lot of them lookers--not
all--but a fair show----"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Someone on horseback," said Penzance.

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

"Miss Vanderpoel," he said low to the vicar, "Lady Anstruther's sister."

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

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

Selden turned with a gasp of delighted, amazed recognition.

"Miss Vanderpoel," he burst forth, "Reuben Vanderpoel's daughter! The
one that's over here visiting her sister. Is it that one--sure?"

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

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

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

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

"Get next," murmured Penzance.

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

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



CHAPTER XXIV

THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF STORNHAM

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

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

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

"Don't put out your pipe," she said to old Grandfather Doby, rising
totteringly respectful from his chimney-side chair. "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 friendly duty one owes."

"I do not see Lord Mount Dunstan," Betty answered. "Is he here?"

She had never denied to herself her interest in Mount Dunstan, and she
had looked for him. Lord Dunholm hesitated a second, as his son had done
at Miss Vanderpoel's mention of the tabooed name. But, being an older
man, he felt more at liberty to speak, and gave her a rather long kind
look.

"My dear young lady," he said, "did you expect to see him here?"

"Yes, I think I did," Betty replied, with slow softness. "I believe I
rather hoped I should."

"Indeed! You are interested in him?"

"I know him very little. But I am interested. I will tell you why."

She paused by a seat beneath a tree, and they sat down together.
She gave, with a few swift vivid touches, a sketch of the red-haired
second-class passenger on the Meridiana, of whom she had only thought
that he was an unhappy, rough-looking young man, until the brief moment
in which they had stood face to face, each comprehending that the other
was to be relied on if the worst should come to the worst. She had
understood his prompt disappearance from the scene, and had liked it.
When she related the incident of her meeting with him when she thought
him a mere keeper on his own lands, Lord Dunholm listened with a changed
and thoughtful expression. The effect produced upon her imagination by
what she had seen, her silent wandering through the sad beauty of the
wronged place, led by the man who tried stiffly to bear himself as a
servant, his unintended self-revelations, her clear, well-argued point
of view charmed him. She had seen the thing set apart from its county
scandal, and so had read possibilities others had been blind to. He was
immensely touched by certain things she said about the First Man.

"He is one of them," she said. "They find their way in the end--they
find their way. But just now he thinks there is none. He is standing in
the dark--where the roads meet."

"You think he will find his way?" Lord Dunholm said. "Why do you think
so?"

"Because I KNOW he will," she answered. "But I cannot tell you WHY I
know."

"What you have said has been interesting to me, because of the light
your own thought threw upon what you saw. It has not been Mount Dunstan
I have been caring for, but for the light you saw him in. You met him
without prejudice, and you carried the light in your hand. You always
carry a light, my impression is," very quietly. "Some women do."

"The prejudice you speak of must be a bitter thing for a proud man to
bear. Is it a just prejudice? What has he done?"

Lord Dunholm was gravely silent for a few moments.

"It is an extraordinary thing to reflect,"--his words came slowly--"that
it may NOT be a just prejudice. _I_ do not know that he has done
anything--but seem rather sulky, and be the son of his father, and the
brother of his brother."

"And go to America," said Betty. "He could have avoided doing that--but
he cannot be called to account for his relations. If that is all--the
prejudice is NOT just."

"No, it is not," said Lord Dunholm, "and one feels rather awkward at
having shared it. You have set me thinking again, Miss Vanderpoel."



CHAPTER XXIX

THE THREAD OF G. SELDEN

The Shuttle having in its weaving caught up the thread of G. Selden's
rudimentary existence and drawn it, with the young man himself, across
the sea, used curiously the thread in question, in the forming of
the design of its huge web. As wool and coarse linen are sometimes
interwoven with rich silk for decorative or utilitarian purposes, so
perhaps was this previously unvalued material employed.

It was, indeed, an interesting truth that the young man, during his
convalescence, without his own knowledge, acted as a species of magnet
which drew together persons who might not easily otherwise have met.
Mr. Penzance and Mount Dunstan rode over to see him every few days, and
their visits naturally established relations with Stornham Court much
more intimate than could have formed themselves in the same length
of time under any of the ordinary circumstances of country life.
Conventionalities lost their prominence in friendly intercourse with
Selden. It was not, however, that he himself desired to dispense with
convention. His intense wish to "do the right thing," and avoid giving
offence was the most ingenuous and touching feature of his broad
cosmopolitan good nature.

"If I ever make a break, sir," he had once said, with almost passionate
fervour, in talking to Mr. Penzance, "please tell me, and set me on the
right track. No fellow likes to look like a hoosier, but I don't mind
that half as much as--as seeming not to APPRECIATE."

He used the word "appreciate" frequently. It expressed for him many
degrees of thanks.

"I tell you that's fine," he said to Ughtred, who brought him a flower
from the garden. "I appreciate that."

To Betty he said more than once:

"You know how I appreciate all this, Miss Vanderpoel. You DO know I
appreciate it, don't you?"

He had an immense admiration for Mount Dunstan, and talked to him a
great deal about America, often about the sheep ranch, and what it might
have done and ought to have done. But his admiration for Mr. Penzance
became affection. To him he talked oftener about England, and listened
to the vicar's scholarly stories of its history, its past glories and
its present ones, as he might have listened at fourteen to stories from
the Arabian Nights.

These two being frequently absorbed in conversation, Mount Dunstan was
rather thrown upon Betty's hands. When they strolled together about the
place or sat under the deep shade of green trees, they talked not only
of England and America, but of divers things which increased their
knowledge of each other. It is points of view which reveal qualities,
tendencies, and innate differences, or accordances of thought, and the
points of view of each interested the other.

"Mr. Selden is asking Mr. Penzance questions about English history,"
Betty said, on one of the afternoons in which they sat in the shade. "I
need not ask you questions. You ARE English history."

"And you are American history," Mount Dunstan answered.

"I suppose I am."

At one of their chance meetings Miss Vanderpoel had told Lord Dunholm
and Lord Westholt something of the story of G. Selden. The novelty of it
had delighted and amused them. Lord Dunholm had, at points, been touched
as Penzance had been. Westholt had felt that he must ride over to
Stornham to see the convalescent. He wanted to learn some New York
slang.

He would take lessons from Selden, and he would also buy a Delkoff--two
Delkoffs, if that would be better. He knew a hard-working fellow who
ought to have a typewriter.

"Heath ought to have one," he had said to his father. Heath was the
house-steward. "Think of the letters the poor chap has to write to
trades-people to order things, and unorder them, and blackguard the
shopkeepers when they are not satisfactory. Invest in one for Heath,
father."

"It is by no means a bad idea," Lord Dunholm reflected. "Time would be
saved by the use of it, I have no doubt."

"It saves time in any department where it can be used," Betty had
answered. "Three are now in use at Stornham, and I am going to present
one to Kedgers. This is a testimonial I am offering. Three weeks ago I
began to use the Delkoff. Since then I have used no other. If YOU use
them you will introduce them to the county."

She understood the feeling of the junior assistant, when he found
himself in the presence of possible purchasers. Her blood tingled
slightly. She wished she had brought a catalogue.

"We will come to Stornham to see the catalogue," Lord Dunholm promised.

"Perhaps you will read it aloud to us," Westholt suggested gleefully.

"G. Selden knows it by heart, and will repeat it to you with running
comments. Do you know I shall be very glad if you decide to buy one--or
two--or three," with an uplift of the Irish blue eyes to Lord Dunholm.
"The blood of the first Reuben Vanderpoel stirs in my veins--also I have
begun to be fond of G. Selden."

Therefore it occurred that on the afternoon referred to Lady Anstruthers
appeared crossing the sward with two male visitors in her wake.

"Lord Dunholm and Lord Westholt," said Betty, rising.

For this meeting between the men Selden was, without doubt, responsible.
While his father talked to Mount Dunstan, Westholt explained that they
had come athirst for the catalogue. Presently Betty took him to the
sheltered corner of the lawn, where the convalescent sat with Mr.
Penzance.

But, for a short time, Lord Dunholm remained to converse with Mount
Dunstan. In a way the situation was delicate. To encounter by chance a
neighbour whom one--for reasons--has not seen since his childhood, and
to be equal to passing over and gracefully obliterating the intervening
years, makes demand even upon finished tact. Lord Dunholm's world
had been a large one, and he had acquired experience tending to the
development of the most perfect methods. If G. Selden had chanced to
be the magnet which had decided his course this special afternoon, Miss
Vanderpoel it was who had stirred in him sufficient interest in Mount
Dunstan to cause him to use the best of these methods when he found
himself face to face with him.

He beautifully eliminated the years, he eliminated all but the facts
that the young man's father and himself had been acquaintances in youth,
that he remembered Mount Dunstan himself as a child, that he had heard
with interest of his visit to America. Whatsoever the young man felt,
he made no sign which presented obstacles. He accepted the eliminations
with outward composure. He was a powerful-looking fellow, with a fine
way of carrying his shoulders, and an eye which might be able to light
savagely, but just now, at least, he showed nothing of the sulkiness he
was accused of.

Lord Dunholm progressed admirably with him. He soon found that he need
not be upon any strain with regard to the eliminations. The man himself
could eliminate, which was an assistance.

They talked together when they turned to follow the others to the
retreat of G. Selden.

"Have you bought a Delkoff?" Lord Dunholm inquired.

"If I could have afforded it, I should have bought one."

"I think that we have come here with the intention of buying three. We
did not know we required them until Miss Vanderpoel recited half a page
of the catalogue to us."

"Three will mean a 'rake off' of fifteen dollars to G. Selden," said
Mount Dunstan. It was, he saw, necessary that he should explain the
meaning of a "rake off," and he did so to his companion's entertainment.

The afternoon was a satisfactory one. They were all kind to G. Selden,
and he on his part was an aid to them. In his innocence he steered
three of them, at least, through narrow places into an open sea of
easy intercourse. This was a good beginning. The junior assistant was
recovering rapidly, and looked remarkably well. The doctor had told him
that he might try to use his leg. The inside cabin of the cheap Liner
and "little old New York" were looming up before him. But what luck he
had had, and what a holiday! It had been enough to set a fellow up for
ten years' work. It would set up the boys merely to be told about it. He
didn't know what HE had ever done to deserve such luck as had happened
to him. For the rest of his life he would he waving the Union Jack
alongside of the Stars and Stripes.

Mr. Penzance it was who suggested that he should try the strength of the
leg now.

"Yes," Mount Dunstan said. "Let me help you."

As he rose to go to him, Westholt good-naturedly got up also. They took
their places at either side of his invalid chair and assisted him to
rise and stand on his feet.

"It's all right, gentlemen. It's all right," he called out with a
delighted flush, when he found himself upright. "I believe I could stand
alone. Thank you. Thank you."

He was able, leaning on Mount Dunstan's arm, to take a few steps.
Evidently, in a short time, he would find himself no longer disabled.

Mr. Penzance had invited him to spend a week at the vicarage. He was to
do this as soon as he could comfortably drive from the one place to the
other. After receiving the invitation he had sent secretly to London for
one of the Delkoffs he had brought with him from America as a specimen.
He cherished in private a plan of gently entertaining his host by
teaching him to use the machine. The vicar would thus be prepared for
that future in which surely a Delkoff must in some way fall into his
hands. Indeed, Fortune having at length cast an eye on himself, might
chance to favour him further, and in time he might be able to send a
"high-class machine" as a grateful gift to the vicarage. Perhaps Mr.
Penzance would accept it because he would understand what it meant of
feeling and appreciation.

During the afternoon Lord Dunholm managed to talk a good deal with
Mount Dunstan. There was no air of intention in his manner, nevertheless
intention was concealed beneath its courteous amiability. He wanted
to get at the man. Before they parted he felt he had, perhaps, learned
things opening up new points of view.

. . . . .

In the smoking-room at Dunholm that night he and his son talked of their
chance encounter. It seemed possible that mistakes had been made about
Mount Dunstan. One did not form a definite idea of a man's character
in the course of an afternoon, but he himself had been impressed by a
conviction that there had been mistakes.

"We are rather a stiff-necked lot--in the country--when we allow
ourselves to be taken possession of by an idea," Westholt commented.

"I am not at all proud of the way in which we have taken things
for granted," was his father's summing up. "It is, perhaps, worth
observing," taking his cigar from his mouth and smiling at the end of
it, as he removed the ash, "that, but for Miss Vanderpoel and G. Selden,
we might never have had an opportunity of facing the fact that we may
not have been giving fair play. And one has prided one's self on one's
fair play."



CHAPTER XXX

A RETURN

At the close of a long, warm afternoon Betty Vanderpoel came out upon
the square stone terrace overlooking the gardens, and that part of
the park which, enclosing them, caused them, as they melted into its
greenness, to lose all limitations and appear to be only a more blooming
bit of the landscape.

Upon the garden Betty's eyes dwelt, as she stood still for some minutes
taking in their effect thoughtfully.

Kedgers had certainly accomplished much. His close-trimmed lawns did
him credit, his flower beds were flushed and azured, purpled and snowed
with bloom. Sweet tall spires, hung with blue or white or rosy flower
bells, lifted their heads above the colour of lower growths. Only the
fervent affection, the fasting and prayer of a Kedgers could have done
such wonders with new things and old. The old ones he had cherished and
allured into a renewal of existence--the new ones he had so coaxed out
of their earthen pots into the soil, luxuriously prepared for their
reception, and had afterwards so nourished and bedewed with soft
waterings, so supported, watched over and adored that they had been
almost unconscious of their transplanting. Without assistants he could
have done nothing, but he had been given a sufficient number of under
gardeners, and had even managed to inspire them with something of his
own ambition and solicitude. The result was before Betty's eyes in
an aspect which, to such as knew the gardens well,--the Dunholms, for
instance,--was astonishing in its success.

"I've had privileges, miss, and so have the flowers," Kedgers had said
warmly, when Miss Vanderpoel had reported to him, for his encouragement,
Dunholm Castle's praise. "Not one of 'em has ever had to wait for
his food and drink, nor to complain of his bed not being what he was
accustomed to. They've not had to wait for rain, for we've given it to
'em from watering cans, and, thank goodness, the season's been kind to
'em."

Betty, descending the terrace steps, wandered down the paths between
the flower beds, glancing about her as she went. The air of neglect and
desolation had been swept away. Buttle and Tim Soames had been given
as many privileges as Kedgers. The chief points impressed upon them had
been that the work must be done, not only thoroughly, but quickly. As
many additional workmen as they required, as much solid material as they
needed, but there must be a despatch which at first it staggered them
to contemplate. They had not known such methods before. They had been
accustomed to work under money limitation throughout their lives, and,
when work must be done with insufficient aid, it must be done slowly.
Economy had been the chief factor in all calculations, speed had not
entered into them, so leisureliness had become a fixed habit. But it
seemed American to sweep leisureliness away into space with a free
gesture.

"It must be done QUICKLY," Miss Vanderpoel had said. "If ten men cannot
do it quickly enough, you must have twenty--or as many more as are
needed. It is time which must be saved just now."

Time more than money, it appeared. Buttle's experience had been that you
might take time, if you did not charge for it. When time began to mean
money, that was a different matter. If you did work by the job, you
might drive in a few nails, loiter, and return without haste; if you
worked by the hour, your absence would be inquired into. In the present
case no one could loiter. That was realised early. The tall girl, with
the deep straight look at you, made you realise that without spoken
words. She expected energy something like her own. She was a new force
and spurred them. No man knew how it was done, but, when she appeared
among them--even in the afternoon--"lookin' that womany," holding up
her thin dress over lace petticoats, the like of which had not been seen
before, she looked on with just the same straight, expecting eyes.
They did not seem to doubt in the least that she would find that great
advance had been made.

So advance had been made, and work accomplished. As Betty walked from
one place to another she saw the signs of it with gratification. The
place was not the one she had come to a few months ago. Hothouses,
outbuildings, stables were in repair. Work was still being done in
different places. In the house itself carpenters or decorators were
enclosed in some rooms, and at their business, but exterior order
prevailed. In the courtyard stablemen were at work, and her own groom
came forward touching his forehead. She paid a visit to the horses. They
were fine creatures, and, when she entered their stalls, made room for
her and whinnied gently, in well-founded expectation of sugar and bread
which were kept in a cupboard awaiting her visits. She smoothed velvet
noses and patted satin sides, talking to Mason a little before she went
her way.

Then she strolled into the park. The park was always a pleasure. She was
in a thoughtful mood, and the soft green shadowed silence lured her. The
summer wind hus-s-shed the branches as it lightly waved them, the brown
earth of the avenue was sun-dappled, there were bird notes and calls
to be heard here and there and everywhere, if one only arrested one's
attention a moment to listen. And she was in a listening and dreaming
mood--one of the moods in which bird, leaf, and wind, sun, shade, and
scent of growing things have part.

And yet her thoughts were of mundane things.

It was on this avenue that G. Selden had met with his accident. He was
still at Dunstan vicarage, and yesterday Mount Dunstan, in calling, had
told them that Mr. Penzance was applying himself with delighted interest
to a study of the manipulation of the Delkoff.

The thought of Mount Dunstan brought with it the thought of her father.
This was because there was frequently in her mind a connection between
the two. How would the man of schemes, of wealth, and power almost
unbounded, regard the man born with a load about his neck--chained
to earth by it, standing in the midst of his hungering and thirsting
possessions, his hands empty of what would feed them and restore their
strength? Would he see any solution of the problem? She could
imagine his looking at the situation through his gaze at the man, and
considering both in his summing up.

"Circumstances and the man," she had heard him say. "But always the man
first."

Being no visionary, he did not underestimate the power of circumstance.
This Betty had learned from him. And what could practically be done with
circumstance such as this? The question had begun to recur to her. What
could she herself have done in the care of Rosy and Stornham, if
chance had not placed in her hand the strongest lever? What she had
accomplished had been easy--easy. All that had been required had been
the qualities which control of the lever might itself tend to create in
one. Given--by mere chance again--imagination and initiative, the moving
of the lever did the rest. If chance had not been on one's side, what
then? And where was this man's chance? She had said to Rosy, in speaking
of the wealth of America, "Sometimes one is tired of it." And Rosy had
reminded her that there were those who were not tired of it, who
could bear some of the burden of it, if it might be laid on their own
shoulders. The great beautiful, blind-faced house, awaiting its slow
doom in the midst of its lonely unfed lands--what could save it, and all
it represented of race and name, and the stately history of men, but
the power one professed to call base and sordid--mere money? She felt a
sudden impatience at herself for having said she was tired of it. That
was a folly which took upon itself the aspect of an affectation.

And, if a man could not earn money--or go forth to rob richer neighbours
of it as in the good old marauding days--or accept it if it were offered
to him as a gift--what could he do? Nothing. If he had been born a
village labourer, he could have earned by the work of his hands enough
to keep his cottage roof over him, and have held up his head among his
fellows. But for such as himself there was no mere labour which would
avail. He had not that rough honest resource. Only the decent living and
orderly management of the generations behind him would have left to him
fairly his own chance to hold with dignity the place in the world into
which Fate had thrust him at the outset--a blind, newborn thing of whom
no permission had been asked.

"If I broke stones upon the highway for twelve hours a day, I might
earn two shillings," he had said to Betty, on the previous day. "I could
break stones well," holding out a big arm, "but fourteen shillings a
week will do no more than buy bread and bacon for a stonebreaker."

He was ordinarily rather silent and stiff in his conversational attitude
towards his own affairs. Betty sometimes wondered how she herself knew
so much about them--how it happened that her thoughts so often dwelt
upon them. The explanation she had once made to herself had been half
irony, half serious reflection.

"It is a result of the first Reuben Vanderpoel. It is because I am of
the fighting commercial stock, and, when I see a business problem, I
cannot leave it alone, even when it is no affair of mine."

As an exposition of the type of the commercial fighting-stock she
presented, as she paused beneath overshadowing trees, an aspect
beautifully suggesting a far different thing.

She stood--all white from slim shoe to tilted parasol,--and either the
result of her inspection of the work done by her order, or a combination
of her summer-day mood with her feeling for the problem, had given her
a special radiance. It glowed on lip and cheek, and shone in her Irish
eyes.

She had paused to look at a man approaching down the avenue. He was not
a labourer, and she did not know him. Men who were not labourers usually
rode or drove, and this one was walking. He was neither young nor old,
and, though at a distance his aspect was not attracting, she found that
she regarded him curiously, and waited for him to draw nearer.

The man himself was glancing about him with a puzzled look and knitted
forehead. When he had passed through the village he had seen things he
had not expected to see; when he had reached the entrance gate, and--for
reasons of his own--dismissed his station trap, he had looked at the
lodge scrutinisingly, because he was not prepared for its picturesque
trimness. The avenue was free from weeds and in order, the two gates
beyond him were new and substantial. As he went on his way and reached
the first, he saw at about a hundred yards distance a tall girl in white
standing watching him. Things which were not easily explainable always
irritated him. That this place--which was his own affair--should present
an air of mystery, did not improve his humour, which was bad to begin
with. He had lately been passing through unpleasant things, which had
left him feeling himself tricked and made ridiculous--as only women can
trick a man and make him ridiculous, he had said to himself. And there
had been an acrid consolation in looking forward to the relief of
venting one's self on a woman who dare not resent.

"What has happened, confound it!" he muttered, when he caught sight
of the girl. "Have we set up a house party?" And then, as he saw more
distinctly, "Damn! What a figure!"

By this time Betty herself had begun to see more clearly. Surely this
was a face she remembered--though the passing of years and ugly living
had thickened and blurred, somewhat, its always heavy features. Suddenly
she knew it, and the look in its eyes--the look she had, as a child,
unreasoningly hated.

Nigel Anstruthers had returned from his private holiday.

As she took a few quiet steps forward to meet him, their eyes rested on
each other. After a night or two in town his were slightly bloodshot,
and the light in them was not agreeable.

It was he who spoke first, and it is possible that he did not quite
intend to use the expletive which broke from him. But he was remembering
things also. Here were eyes he, too, had seen before--twelve years ago
in the face of an objectionable, long-legged child in New York. And his
own hatred of them had been founded in his own opinion on the best of
reasons. And here they gazed at him from the face of a young beauty--for
a beauty she was.

"Damn it!" he exclaimed; "it is Betty."

"Yes," she answered, with a faint, but entirely courteous, smile. "It
is. I hope you are very well."

She held out her hand. "A delicious hand," was what he said to himself,
as he took it. And what eyes for a girl to have in her head were those
which looked out at him between shadows. Was there a hint of the devil
in them? He thought so--he hoped so, since she had descended on the
place in this way. But WHAT the devil was the meaning of her being on
the spot at all? He was, however, far beyond the lack of astuteness
which might have permitted him to express this last thought at this
particular juncture. He was only betrayed into stupid mistakes,
afterwards to be regretted, when rage caused him utterly to lose control
of his wits. And, though he was startled and not exactly pleased, he was
not in a rage now. The eyelashes and the figure gave an agreeable fillip
to his humour. Howsoever she had come, she was worth looking at.

"How could one expect such a delightful thing as this?" he said, with a
touch of ironic amiability. "It is more than one deserves."

"It is very polite of you to say that," answered Betty.

He was thinking rapidly as he stood and gazed at her. There were, in
truth, many things to think of under circumstances so unexpected.

"May I ask you to excuse my staring at you?" he inquired with what Rosy
had called his "awful, agreeable smile." "When I saw you last you were a
fierce nine-year-old American child. I use the word 'fierce' because--if
you'll pardon my saying so--there was a certain ferocity about you."

"I have learned at various educational institutions to conceal it,"
smiled Betty.


"May I ask when you arrived?"

"A short time after you went abroad."

"Rosalie did not inform me of your arrival."

"She did not know your address. You had forgotten to leave it."

He had made a mistake and realised it. But she presented to him no air
of having observed his slip. He paused a few seconds, still regarding
her and still thinking rapidly. He recalled the mended windows and roofs
and palings in the village, the park gates and entrance. Who the devil
had done all that? How could a mere handsome girl be concerned in it?
And yet--here she was.

"When I drove through the village," he said next, "I saw that some
remarkable changes had taken place on my property. I feel as if you can
explain them to me."

"I hope they are changes which meet with your approval."

"Quite--quite," a little curtly. "Though I confess they mystify me.
Though I am the son-in-law of an American multimillionaire, I could not
afford to make such repairs myself."

A certain small spitefulness which was his most frequent undoing made it
impossible for him to resist adding the innuendo in his last sentence.
And again he saw it was a folly. The impersonal tone of her reply simply
left him where he had placed himself.

"We were sorry not to be able to reach you. As it seemed well to begin
the work at once, we consulted Messrs. Townlinson & Sheppard."

"We?" he repeated. "Am I to have the pleasure," with a slight wryness of
the mouth, "of finding Mr. Vanderpoel also at Stornham?"

"No--not yet. As I was on the spot, I saw your solicitors and asked
their advice and approval--for my father. If he had known how necessary
the work was, it would have been done before, for Ughtred's sake."

Her voice was that of a person who, in stating obvious facts, provides
no approach to enlightening comment upon them. And there was in her
manner the merest gracious impersonality.

"Do I understand that Mr. Vanderpoel employed someone to visit the place
and direct the work?"

"It was really not difficult to direct. It was merely a matter of
engaging labour and competent foremen."

An odd expression rose in his eyes.

"You suggest a novel idea, upon my word," he said. "Is it possible--you
see I know something of America--is it possible I must thank YOU for the
working of this magic?"

"You need not thank me," she said, rather slowly, because it was
necessary that she also should think of many things at once. "I could
not have helped doing it."

She wished to make all clear to him before he met Rosy. She knew it was
not unnatural that the unexpectedness of his appearance might deprive
Lady Anstruthers of presence of mind. Instinct told her that what was
needed in intercourse with him was, above all things, presence of mind.

"I will tell you about it," she said. "We will walk slowly up and down
here, if you do not object."

He did not object. He wanted to hear the story as he could not hear it
from his nervous little fool of a wife, who would be frightened into
forgetting things and their sequence. What he meant to discover was
where he stood in the matter--where his father-in-law stood, and, rather
specially, to have a chance to sum up the weaknesses and strengths of
the new arrival. That would be to his interest. In talking this thing
over she would unconsciously reveal how much vanity or emotion or
inexperience he might count upon as factors safe to use in one's
dealings with her in the future.

As he listened he was supported by the fact that he did not lose
consciousness of the eyes and the figure. But for these it is probable
that he would have gone blind with fury at certain points which forced
themselves upon him. The first was that there had been an absurd and
immense expenditure which would simply benefit his son and not himself.
He could not sell or borrow money on what had been given. Apparently
the place had been re-established on a footing such as it had not rested
upon during his own generation, or his father's. As he loathed life in
the country, it was not he who would enjoy its luxury, but his wife
and her child. The second point was that these people--this girl--had
somehow had the sharpness to put themselves in the right, and to place
him in a position at which he could not complain without putting himself
in the wrong. Public opinion would say that benefits had been heaped
upon him, that the correct thing had been done correctly with the
knowledge and approval of the legal advisers of his family. It had been
a masterly thing, that visit to Townlinson & Sheppard. He was obliged to
aid his self-control by a glance at the eyelashes. She was a new sort
of girl, this Betty, whose childhood he had loathed, and, to his jaded
taste, novelty appealed enormously. Her attraction for him was also
added to by the fact that he was not at all sure that there was not
combined with it a pungent spice of the old detestation. He was repelled
as well as allured. She represented things which he hated. First, the
mere material power, which no man can bully, whatsoever his humour. It
was the power he most longed for and, as he could not hope to possess
it, most sneered at and raged against. Also, as she talked, it was
plain that her habit of self-control and her sense of resource would
be difficult to deal with. He was a survival of the type of man whose
simple creed was that women should not possess resources, as when they
possessed them they could rarely be made to behave themselves.

But while he thought these things, he walked by her side and both
listened and talked smiling the agreeable smile.

"You will pardon my dull bewilderment," he said. "It is not unnatural,
is it--in a mere outsider?"

And Betty, with the beautiful impersonal smile, said:

"We felt it so unfortunate that even your solicitors did not know your
address."

When, at length, they turned and strolled towards the house, a carriage
was drawing up before the door, and at the sight of it, Betty saw her
companion slightly lift his eyebrows. Lady Anstruthers had been out and
was returning. The groom got down from the box, and two men-servants
appeared upon the steps. Lady Anstruthers descended, laughing a little
as she talked to Ughtred, who had been with her. She was dressed in
clear, pale grey, and the soft rose lining of her parasol warmed the
colour of her skin.

Sir Nigel paused a second and put up his glass.

"Is that my wife?" he said. "Really! She quite recalls New York."

The agreeable smile was on his lips as he hastened forward. He always
more or less enjoyed coming upon Rosalie suddenly. The obvious result
was a pleasing tribute to his power.

Betty, following him, saw what occurred.

Ughtred saw him first, and spoke quick and low.

"Mother!" he said.

The tone of his voice was evidently enough. Lady Anstruthers turned with
an unmistakable start. The rose lining of her parasol ceased to warm her
colour. In fact, the parasol itself stepped aside, and she stood with a
blank, stiff, white face.


"My dear Rosalie," said Sir Nigel, going towards her. "You don't look
very glad to see me."

He bent and kissed her quite with the air of a devoted husband. Knowing
what the caress meant, and seeing Rosy's face as she submitted to
it, Betty felt rather cold. After the conjugal greeting he turned to
Ughtred.

"You look remarkably well," he said.

Betty came forward.

"We met in the park, Rosy," she explained. "We have been talking to each
other for half an hour."

The atmosphere which had surrounded her during the last three months
had done much for Lady Anstruthers' nerves. She had the power to recover
herself. Sir Nigel himself saw this when she spoke.

"I was startled because I was not expecting to see you," she said. "I
thought you were still on the Riviera. I hope you had a pleasant journey
home."

"I had an extraordinarily pleasant surprise in finding your sister
here," he answered. And they went into the house.

In descending the staircase on his way to the drawing-room before
dinner, Sir Nigel glanced about him with interested curiosity. If
the village had been put in order, something more had been done here.
Remembering the worn rugs and the bald-headed tiger, he lifted his
brows. To leave one's house in a state of resigned dilapidation and
return to find it filled with all such things as comfort combined with
excellent taste might demand, was an enlivening experience--or would
have been so under some circumstances. As matters stood, perhaps, he
might have felt better pleased if things had been less well done. But
they were very well done. They had managed to put themselves in the
right in this also. The rich sobriety of colour and form left no opening
for supercilious comment--which was a neat weapon it was annoying to be
robbed of.

The drawing-room was fresh, brightly charming, and full of flowers.
Betty was standing before an open window with her sister. His wife's
shoulders, he observed at once, had absolutely begun to suggest
contours. At all events, her bones no longer stuck out. But one did
not look at one's wife's shoulders when one could turn from them to a
fairness of velvet and ivory. "You know," he said, approaching them, "I
find all this very amazing. I have been looking out of my window on to
the gardens."

"It is Betty who has done it all," said Rosy.

"I did not suspect you of doing it, my dear Rosalie," smiling. "When I
saw Betty standing in the avenue, I knew at once that it was she who had
mended the chimney-pots in the village and rehung the gates."

For the present, at least, it was evident that he meant to be
sufficiently amiable. At the dinner table he was conversational and
asked many questions, professing a natural interest in what had been
done. It was not difficult to talk to a girl whose eyes and shoulders
combined themselves with a quick wit and a power to attract which he
reluctantly owned he had never seen equalled. His reluctance arose
from the fact that such a power complicated matters. He must be on
the defensive until he knew what she was going to do, what he must do
himself, and what results were probable or possible. He had spent his
life in intrigue of one order or another. He enjoyed outwitting people
and rather preferred to attain an end by devious paths. He began every
acquaintance on the defensive. His argument was that you never knew how
things would turn out, consequently, it was as well to conduct one's
self at the outset with the discreet forethought of a man in the
presence of an enemy. He did not know how things would turn out in
Betty's case, and it was a little confusing to find one's self watching
her with a sense of excitement. He would have preferred to be cool--to
be cold--and he realised that he could not keep his eyes off her.

"I remember, with regret," he said to her later in the evening, "that
when you were a child we were enemies."

"I am afraid we were," was Betty's impartial answer.

"I am sure it was my fault," he said. "Pray forget it. Since you have
accomplished such wonders, will you not, in the morning, take me about
the place and explain to me how it has been done?"

When Betty went to her room she dismissed her maid as soon as possible,
and sat for some time alone and waiting. She had had no opportunity to
speak to Rosy in private, and she was sure she would come to her. In the
course of half an hour she heard a knock at the door.

Yes, it was Rosy, and her newly-born colour had fled and left her
looking dragged again. She came forward and dropped into a low chair
near Betty, letting her face fall into her hands.

"I'm very sorry, Betty," she half whispered, "but it is no use."

"What is no use?" Betty asked.

"Nothing is any use. All these years have made me such a coward. I
suppose I always was a coward, but in the old days there never was
anything to be afraid of."

"What are you most afraid of now?"

"I don't know. That is the worst. I am afraid of HIM--just of
himself--of the look in his eyes--of what he may be planning quietly. My
strength dies away when he comes near me."

"What has he said to you?" she asked.

"He came into my dressing-room and sat and talked. He looked about from
one thing to another and pretended to admire it all and congratulated
me. But though he did not sneer at what he saw, his eyes were sneering
at me. He talked about you. He said that you were a very clever woman. I
don't know how he manages to imply that a very clever woman is something
cunning and debased--but it means that when he says it. It seems to
insinuate things which make one grow hot all over."

She put out a hand and caught one of Betty's.

"Betty, Betty," she implored. "Don't make him angry. Don't."

"I am not going to begin by making him angry," Betty said. "And I do not
think he will try to make me angry--at first."

"No, he will not," cried Rosalie. "And--and you remember what I told you
when first we talked about him?"

"And do you remember," was Betty's answer, "what I said to you when I
first met you in the park? If we were to cable to New York this moment,
we could receive an answer in a few hours."

"He would not let us do it," said Rosy. "He would stop us in some
way--as he stopped my letters to mother--as he stopped me when I tried
to run away. Oh, Betty, I know him and you do not."

"I shall know him better every day. That is what I must do. I must learn
to know him. He said something more to you than you have told me, Rosy.
What was it?"

"He waited until Detcham left me," Lady Anstruthers confessed, more than
half reluctantly. "And then he got up to go away, and stood with his
hands resting on the chairback, and spoke to me in a low, queer voice.
He said, 'Don't try to play any tricks on me, my good girl--and don't
let your sister try to play any. You would both have reason to regret
it.'"

She was a half-hypnotised thing, and Betty, watching her with curious
but tender eyes, recognised the abnormality.

"Ah, if I am a clever woman," she said, "he is a clever man. He is
beginning to see that his power is slipping away. That was what G.
Selden would call 'bluff.'"




CHAPTER XXXI

NO, SHE WOULD NOT

Sir Nigel did not invite Rosalie to accompany them, when the next
morning, after breakfast, he reminded Betty of his suggestion of the
night before, that she should walk over the place with him, and show him
what had been done. He preferred to make his study of his sister-in-law
undisturbed.

There was no detail whose significance he missed as they went about
together. He had keen eyes and was a quite sufficiently practical person
on such matters as concerned his own interests. In this case it was to
his interest to make up his mind as to what he might gain or lose by the
appearance of his wife's family. He did not mean to lose--if it could be
helped--anything either of personal importance or material benefit. And
it could only be helped by his comprehending clearly what he had to deal
with. Betty was, at present, the chief factor in the situation, and he
was sufficiently astute to see that she might not be easy to read.
His personal theories concerning women presented to him two or three
effective ways of managing them. You made love to them, you flattered
them either subtly or grossly, you roughly or smoothly bullied them,
or you harrowed them with haughty indifference--if your love-making had
produced its proper effect--when it was necessary to lure or drive or
trick them into submission. Women should be made useful in one way or
another. Little fool as she was, Rosalie had been useful. He had, after
all was said and done, had some comparatively easy years as the result
of her existence. But she had not been useful enough, and there had even
been moments when he had wondered if he had made a mistake in separating
her entirely from her family. There might have been more to be gained
if he had allowed them to visit her and had played the part of a devoted
husband in their presence. A great bore, of course, but they could not
have spent their entire lives at Stornham. Twelve years ago, however, he
had known very little of Americans, and he had lost his temper. He was
really very fond of his temper, and rather enjoyed referring to it with
tolerant regret as being a bad one and beyond his control--with a manner
which suggested that the attribute was the inevitable result of strength
of character and masculine spirit. The luxury of giving way to it was a
great one, and it was exasperating as he walked about with this handsome
girl to find himself beginning to suspect that, where she was concerned,
some self-control might be necessary. He was led to this thought because
the things he took in on all sides could only have been achieved by a
person whose mind was a steadily-balanced thing. In one's treatment of
such a creature, methods must be well chosen. The crudest had sufficed
to overwhelm Rosalie. He tried two or three little things as experiments
during their walk.

The first was to touch with dignified pathos on the subject of Ughtred.
Betty, he intimated gently, could imagine what a man's grief and
disappointment might be on finding his son and heir deformed in such a
manner. The delicate reserve with which he managed to convey his fear
that Rosalie's own uncontrolled hysteric attacks had been the cause of
the misfortune was very well done. She had, of course, been very young
and much spoiled, and had not learned self-restraint, poor girl.

It was at this point that Betty first realised a certain hideous thing.
She must actually remain silent--there would be at the outset many times
when she could only protect her sister by refraining from either denial
or argument. If she turned upon him now with refutation, it was Rosy who
would be called upon to bear the consequences. He would go at once to
Rosy, and she herself would have done what she had said she would not
do--she would have brought trouble upon the poor girl before she was
strong enough to bear it. She suspected also that his intention was
to discover how much she had heard, and if she might be goaded into
betraying her attitude in the matter.

But she was not to be so goaded. He watched her closely and her very
colour itself seemed to be under her own control. He had expected--if
she had heard hysteric, garbled stories from his wife--to see a flame
of scarlet leap up on the cheek he was admiring. There was no such leap,
which was baffling in itself. Could it be that experience had taught
Rosalie the discretion of keeping her mouth shut?

"I am very fond of Ughtred," was the sole comment he was granted.
"We made friends from the first. As he grows older and stronger, his
misfortune may be less apparent. He will be a very clever man."

"He will be a very clever man if he is at all like----" He checked
himself with a slight movement of his shoulders. "I was going to say a
thing utterly banal. I beg your pardon. I forgot for the moment that I
was not talking to an English girl."

It was so stupid that she turned and looked at him, smiling faintly. But
her answer was quite mild and soft.

"Do not deprive me of compliments because I am a mere American," she
said. "I am very fond of them, and respond at once."

"You are very daring," he said, looking straight into her
eyes--"deliciously so. American women always are, I think."

"The young devil," he was saying internally. "The beautiful young devil!
She throws one off the track."

He found himself more and more attracted and exasperated as they made
their rounds. It was his sense of being attracted which was the cause
of his exasperation. A girl who could stir one like this would be a
dangerous enemy. Even as a friend she would not be safe, because one
faced the absurd peril of losing one's head a little and forgetting
the precautions one should never lose sight of where a woman was
concerned--the precautions which provided for one's holding a good taut
rein in one's own hands.

They went from gardens to greenhouses, from greenhouses to stables, and
he was on the watch for the moment when she would reveal some little
feminine pose or vanity, but, this morning, at least, she laid none
bare. She did not strike him as a being of angelic perfections, but
she was very modern and not likely to show easily any openings in her
armour.

"Of course, I continue to be amazed," he commented, "though one ought
not to be amazed at anything which evolves from your extraordinary
country. In spite of your impersonal air, I shall persist in regarding
you as my benefactor. But, to be frank, I always told Rosalie that if
she would write to your father he would certainly put things in order."

"She did write once, you will remember," answered Betty.

"Did she?" with courteous vagueness. "Really, I am afraid I did not hear
of it. My poor wife has her own little ideas about the disposal of her
income."

And Betty knew that she was expected to believe that Rosy had hoarded
the money sent to restore the place, and from sheer weak miserliness had
allowed her son's heritage to fall to ruin. And but for Rosy's sake,
she might have stopped upon the path and, looking at him squarely, have
said, "You are lying to me. And I know the truth."

He continued to converse amiably.

"Of course, it is you one must thank, not only for rousing in the poor
girl some interest in her personal appearance, but also some interest in
her neighbours. Some women, after they marry and pass girlhood, seem to
release their hold on all desire to attract or retain friends. For years
Rosalie has given herself up to a chronic semi-invalidism. When the
mistress of a house is always depressed and languid and does not return
visits, neighbours become discouraged and drop off, as it were."

If his wife had told stories to gain her sympathy his companion would be
sure to lose her temper and show her hand. If he could make her openly
lose her temper, he would have made an advance.

"One can quite understand that," she said. "It is a great happiness to
me to see Rosy gaining ground every day. She has taken me out with her
a good many times, and people are beginning to realise that she likes to
see them at Stornham."

"You are very delightful," he said, "with your 'She has taken me out.'
When I glanced at the magnificent array of cards on the salver in the
hall, I realised a number of things, and quite vulgarly lost my breath.
The Dunholms have been very amiable in recalling our existence. But
charming Americans--of your order--arouse amiable emotions."

"I am very amiable myself," said Betty.

It was he who flushed now. He was losing patience at feeling himself
held with such lightness at arm's length, and at being, in spite of
himself, somehow compelled to continue to assume a jocular courtesy.

"No, you are not," he answered.

"Not?" repeated Betty, with an incredulous lifting of her brows.

"You are charming and clever, but I rather suspect you of being a vixen.
At all events you are a spirited young woman and quick-witted enough to
understand the attraction you must have for the sordid herd."

And then he became aware--if not of an opening in her armour--at least
of a joint in it. For he saw, near her ear, a deepening warmth. That was
it. She was quick-witted, and she hid somewhere a hot pride.

"I confess, however," he proceeded cheerfully, "that notwithstanding my
own experience of the habits of the sordid herd, I saw one card I was
surprised to find, though really"--shrugging his shoulders--"I ought to
have been less surprised to find it than to find any other. But it was
bold. I suppose the fellow is desperate."

"You are speaking of----?" suggested Betty.

"Of Mount Dunstan. Hang it all, it WAS bold!" As if in half-amused
disgust.

As she had walked through the garden paths, Betty had at intervals bent
and gathered a flower, until she held in one hand a loose, fair sheaf.
At this moment she stooped to break off a spire of pale blue campanula.
And she was--as with a shock--struck with a consciousness that she
bent because she must--because to do so was a refuge--a concealment
of something she must hide. It had come upon her without a second's
warning. Sir Nigel was right. She was a vixen--a virago. She was in such
a rage that her heart sprang up and down and her cheek and eyes were on
fire. Her long-trained control of herself was gone. And her shock was a
lightning-swift awakening to the fact that she felt all this--she
must hide her face--because it was this one man--just this one and no
other--who was being dragged into this thing with insult.

It was an awakening, and she broke off, rather slowly,
one--two--three--even four campanula stems before she stood upright
again.

As for Nigel Anstruthers--he went on talking in his low-pitched,
disgusted voice.

"Surely he might count himself out of the running. There will be a good
deal of running, my dear Betty. You fair Americans have learned that by
this time. But that a man who has not even a decent name to offer--who
is blackballed by his county--should coolly present himself as a
pretendant is an insolence he should be kicked for."

Betty arranged her campanulas carefully. There was no exterior reason
why she should draw sword in Lord Mount Dunstan's defence. He had
certainly not seemed to expect anything intimately interested from
her. His manner she had generally felt to be rather restrained. But one
could, in a measure, express one's self.

"Whatsoever the 'running,'" she remarked, "no pretendant has
complimented me by presenting himself, so far--and Lord Mount Dunstan is
physically an unusually strong man."

"You mean it would be difficult to kick him? Is this partisanship? I
hope not. Am I to understand," he added with deliberation, "that Rosalie
has received him here?"

"Yes."

"And that you have received him, also--as you have received Lord
Westholt?"

"Quite."

"Then I must discuss the matter with Rosalie. It is not to be discussed
with you."

"You mean that you will exercise your authority in the matter?"

"In England, my dear girl, the master of a house is still sometimes
guilty of exercising authority in matters which concern the reputation
of his female relatives. In the absence of your father, I shall not
allow you, while you are under my roof, to endanger your name in any
degree. I am, at least, your brother by marriage. I intend to protect
you."

"Thank you," said Betty.

"You are young and extremely handsome, you will have an enormous
fortune, and you have evidently had your own way all your life. A girl,
such as you are, may either make a magnificent marriage or a ridiculous
and humiliating one. Neither American young women, nor English young
men, are as disinterested as they were some years ago. Each has begun to
learn what the other has to give."

"I think that is true," commented Betty.

"In some cases there is a good deal to be exchanged on both sides. You
have a great deal to give, and should get exchange worth accepting. A
beggared estate and a tainted title are not good enough."

"That is businesslike," Betty made comment again.

Sir Nigel laughed quietly.

"The fact is--I hope you won't misunderstand my saying it--you do not
strike me as being UN-businesslike, yourself."

"I am not," answered Betty.

"I thought not," rather narrowing his eyes as he watched her, because he
believed that she must involuntarily show her hand if he irritated her
sufficiently. "You do not impress me as being one of the girls who make
unsuccessful marriages. You are a modern New York beauty--not an early
Victorian sentimentalist." He did not despair of results from his
process of irritation. To gently but steadily convey to a beautiful and
spirited young creature that no man could approach her without ulterior
motive was rather a good idea. If one could make it clear--with a casual
air of sensibly taking it for granted--that the natural power of youth,
wit, and beauty were rendered impotent by a greatness of fortune whose
proportions obliterated all else; if one simply argued from the premise
that young love was no affair of hers, since she must always be regarded
as a gilded chattel, whose cost was writ large in plain figures, what
girl, with blood in her veins, could endure it long without wincing?
This girl had undue, and, as he regarded such matters, unseemly control
over her temper and her nerves, but she had blood enough in her veins,
and presently she would say or do something which would give him a lead.

"When you marry----" he began.

She lifted her head delicately, but ended the sentence for him with eyes
which were actually not unsmiling.

"When I marry, I shall ask something in exchange for what I have to
give."

"If the exchange is to be equal, you must ask a great deal," he
answered. "That is why you must be protected from such fellows as Mount
Dunstan."

"If it becomes necessary, perhaps I shall be able to protect myself,"
she said.

"Ah!" regretfully, "I am afraid I have annoyed you--and that you need
protection more than you suspect." If she were flesh and blood, she
could scarcely resist resenting the implication contained in this. But
resist it she did, and with a cool little smile which stirred him to
sudden, if irritated, admiration.

She paused a second, and used the touch of gentle regret herself.

"You have wounded my vanity by intimating that my admirers do not love
me for myself alone."

He paused, also, and, narrowing his eyes again, looked straight between
her lashes.

"They ought to love you for yourself alone," he said, in a low voice.
"You are a deucedly attractive girl."

"Oh, Betty," Rosy had pleaded, "don't make him angry--don't make him
angry."

So Betty lifted her shoulders slightly without comment.

"Shall we go back to the house now?" she said. "Rosalie will naturally
be anxious to hear that what has been done in your absence has met with
your approval."

In what manner his approval was expressed to Rosalie, Betty did not hear
this morning, at least. Externally cool though she had appeared, the
process had not been without its results, and she felt that she would
prefer to be alone.

"I must write some letters to catch the next steamer," she said, as she
went upstairs.

When she entered her room, she went to her writing table and sat down,
with pen and paper before her. She drew the paper towards her and took
up the pen, but the next moment she laid it down and gave a slight push
to the paper. As she did so she realised that her hand trembled.

"I must not let myself form the habit of falling into rages--or I
shall not be able to keep still some day, when I ought to do it," she
whispered. "I am in a fury--a fury." And for a moment she covered her
face.

She was a strong girl, but a girl, notwithstanding her powers. What she
suddenly saw was that, as if by one movement of some powerful unseen
hand, Rosy, who had been the centre of all things, had been swept out of
her thought. Her anger at the injustice done to Rosy had been as nothing
before the fire which had flamed in her at the insult flung at the
other. And all that was undue and unbalanced. One might as well look the
thing straightly in the face. Her old child hatred of Nigel Anstruthers
had sprung up again in ten-fold strength. There was, it was true,
something abominable about him, something which made his words more
abominable than they would have been if another man had uttered
them--but, though it was inevitable that his method should rouse one,
where those of one's own blood were concerned, it was not enough to fill
one with raging flame when his malignity was dealing with those who were
almost strangers. Mount Dunstan was almost a stranger--she had met Lord
Westholt oftener. Would she have felt the same hot beat of the blood, if
Lord Westholt had been concerned? No, she answered herself frankly, she
would not.




CHAPTER XXXII

A GREAT BALL

A certain great ball, given yearly at Dunholm Castle, was one of the
most notable social features of the county. It took place when the house
was full of its most interestingly distinguished guests, and, though
other balls might be given at other times, this one was marked by a
degree of greater state. On several occasions the chief guests had
been great personages indeed, and to be bidden to meet them implied
a selection flattering in itself. One's invitation must convey by
inference that one was either brilliant, beautiful, or admirable, if not
important.

Nigel Anstruthers had never appeared at what the uninvited were wont,
with derisive smiles, to call The Great Panjandrum Function--which was
an ironic designation not employed by such persons as received cards
bidding them to the festivity. Stornham Court was not popular in
the county; no one had yearned for the society of the Dowager Lady
Anstruthers, even in her youth; and a not too well-favoured young man
with an ill-favoured temper, noticeably on the lookout for grievances,
is not an addition to one's circle. At nineteen Nigel had discovered
the older Lord Mount Dunstan and his son Tenham to be congenial
acquaintances, and had been so often absent from home that his
neighbours would have found social intercourse with him difficult, even
if desirable. Accordingly, when the county paper recorded the splendours
of The Great Panjandrum Function--which it by no means mentioned by that
name--the list of "Among those present" had not so far contained the
name of Sir Nigel Anstruthers.

So, on a morning a few days after his return, the master of Stornham
turned over a card of invitation and read it several times before
speaking.

"I suppose you know what this means," he said at last to Rosalie, who
was alone with him.

"It means that we are invited to Dunholm Castle for the ball, doesn't
it?"

Her husband tossed the card aside on the table.

"It means that Betty will be invited to every house where there is a son
who must be disposed of profitably.

"She is invited because she is beautiful and clever. She would be
invited if she had no money at all," said Rosy daringly. She was
actually growing daring, she thought sometimes. It would not have been
possible to say anything like this a few months ago.

"Don't make silly mistakes," said Nigel. "There are a good many handsome
girls who receive comparatively little attention. But the hounds of war
are let loose, when one of your swollen American fortunes appears. The
obviousness of it 'virtuously' makes me sick. It's as vulgar--as New
York."

What befel next brought to Sir Nigel a shock of curious enlightenment,
but no one was more amazed than Rosy herself. She felt, when she heard
her own voice, as if she must be rather mad.

"I would rather," she said quite distinctly, "that you did not speak to
me of New York in that way."

"What!" said Anstruthers, staring at her with contempt which was
derision.

"It is my home," she answered. "It is not proper that I should hear it
spoken of slightingly."

"Your home! It has not taken the slightest notice of you for twelve
years. Your people dropped you as if you were a hot potato."

"They have taken me up again." Still in amazement at her own boldness,
but somehow learning something as she went on.

He walked over to her side, and stood before her.

"Look here, Rosalie," he said. "You have been taking lessons from your
sister. She is a beauty and young and you are not. People will stand
things from her they will not take from you. I would stand some things
myself, because it rather amuses a man to see a fine girl peacocking.
It's merely ridiculous in you, and I won't stand it--not a bit of it."

It was not specially fortunate for him that the door opened as he was
speaking, and Betty came in with her own invitation in her hand. He
was quick enough, however, to turn to greet her with a shrug of his
shoulders.

"I am being favoured with a little scene by my wife," he explained. "She
is capable of getting up excellent little scenes, but I daresay she does
not show you that side of her temper."

Betty took a comfortable chintz-covered, easy chair. Her expression was
evasively speculative.

"Was it a scene I interrupted?" she said. "Then I must not go away
and leave you to finish it. You were saying that you would not 'stand'
something. What does a man do when he will not 'stand' a thing? It
always sounds so final and appalling--as if he were threatening horrible
things such as, perhaps, were a resource in feudal times. What IS the
resource in these dull days of law and order--and policemen?"

"Is this American chaff?" he was disagreeably conscious that he was not
wholly successful in his effort to be lofty.

The frankness of Betty's smile was quite without prejudice.

"Dear me, no," she said. "It is only the unpicturesque result of
an unfeminine knowledge of the law. And I was thinking how one is
limited--and yet how things are simplified after all."

"Simplified!" disgustedly.

"Yes, really. You see, if Rosy were violent she could not beat you--even
if she were strong enough--because you could ring the bell and give her
into custody. And you could not beat her because the same unpleasant
thing would happen to you. Policemen do rob things of colour, don't
they? And besides, when one remembers that mere vulgar law insists
that no one can be forced to live with another person who is brutal or
loathsome, that's simple, isn't it? You could go away from Rosy," with
sweet clearness, "at any moment you wished--as far away as you liked."

"You seem to forget," still feeling that convincing loftiness was not
easy, "that when a man leaves his wife, or she deserts him, it is she
who is likely to be called upon to bear the onus of public opinion."

"Would she be called upon to bear it under all circumstances?"

"Damned clever woman as you are, you know that she would, as well as I
know it." He made an abrupt gesture with his hand. "You know that what
I say is true. Women who take to their heels are deucedly unpopular in
England."

"I have not been long in England, but I have been struck by the
prevalence of a sort of constitutional British sense of fair play
among the people who really count. The Dunholms, for instance, have
it markedly. In America it is the men who force women to take to their
heels who are deucedly unpopular. The Americans' sense of fair play is
their most English quality. It was brought over in ships by the first
colonists--like the pieces of fine solid old furniture, one even now
sees, here and there, in houses in Virginia."

"But the fact remains," said Nigel, with an unpleasant laugh, "the fact
remains, my dear girl."

"The fact that does remain," said Betty, not unpleasantly at all, and
still with her gentle air of mere unprejudiced speculation, "is that, if
a man or woman is properly ill-treated--PROPERLY--not in any amateurish
way--they reach the point of not caring in the least--nothing matters,
but that they must get away from the horror of the unbearable thing
--never to see or hear of it again is heaven enough to make anything
else a thing to smile at. But one could settle the other point by
experimenting. Suppose you run away from Rosy, and then we can see if
she is cut by the county."

His laugh was unpleasant again.

"So long as you are with her, she will not be cut. There are a number
of penniless young men of family in this, as well as the adjoining,
counties. Do you think Mount Dunstan would cut her?"

She looked down at the carpet thoughtfully a moment, and then lifted her
eyes.

"I do not think so," she answered. "But I will ask him."

He was startled by a sudden feeling that she might be capable of it.

"Oh, come now," he said, "that goes beyond a joke. You will not do
any such absurd thing. One does not want one's domestic difficulties
discussed by one's neighbours."

Betty opened coolly surprised eyes.

"I did not understand it was a personal matter," she remarked. "Where do
the domestic difficulties come in?"

He stared at her a few seconds with the look she did not like, which
was less likeable at the moment, because it combined itself with other
things.

"Hang it," he muttered. "I wish I could keep my temper as you can keep
yours," and he turned on his heel and left the room.

Rosy had not spoken. She had sat with her hands in her lap, looking out
of the window. She had at first had a moment of terror. She had,
indeed, once uttered in her soul the abject cry: "Don't make him angry,
Betty--oh, don't, don't!" And suddenly it had been stilled, and she
had listened. This was because she realised that Nigel himself was
listening. That made her see what she had not dared to allow herself
to see before. These trite things were true. There were laws to protect
one. If Betty had not been dealing with mere truths, Nigel would have
stopped her. He had been supercilious, but he could not contradict her.

"Betty," she said, when her sister came to her, "you said that to show
ME things, as well as to show them to him. I knew you did, and listened
to every word. It was good for me to hear you."

"Clear-cut, unadorned facts are like bullets," said Betty. "They reach
home, if one's aim is good. The shiftiest people cannot evade them."

. . . . .

A certain thing became evident to Betty during the time which elapsed
between the arrival of the invitations and the great ball. Despite an
obvious intention to assume an amiable pose for the time being, Sir
Nigel could not conceal a not quite unexplainable antipathy to one
individual. This individual was Mount Dunstan, whom it did not seem easy
for him to leave alone. He seemed to recur to him as a subject, without
any special reason, and this somewhat puzzled Betty until she heard from
Rosalie of his intimacy with Lord Tenham, which, in a measure, explained
it. The whole truth was that "The Lout," as he had been called, had
indulged in frank speech in his rare intercourse with his brother and
his friends, and had once interfered with hot young fury in a matter in
which the pair had specially wished to avoid all interference. His open
scorn of their methods of entertaining themselves they had felt to be
disgusting impudence, which would have been deservedly punished with a
horsewhip, if the youngster had not been a big-muscled, clumsy oaf, with
a dangerous eye. Upon this footing their acquaintance had stood in past
years, and to decide--as Sir Nigel had decided--that the oaf in question
had begun to make his bid for splendid fortune under the roof of
Stornham Court itself was a thing not to be regarded calmly. It was
more than he could stand, and the folly of temper, which was forever his
undoing, betrayed him into mistakes more than once. This girl, with
her beauty and her wealth, he chose to regard as a sort of property
rightfully his own. She was his sister-in-law, at least; she was living
under his roof; he had more or less the power to encourage or discourage
such aspirants as appeared. Upon the whole there was something soothing
to one's vanity in appearing before the world as the person at present
responsible for her. It gave a man a certain dignity of position, and
his chief girding at fate had always risen from the fact that he had not
had dignity of position. He would not be held cheap in this matter, at
least. But sometimes, as he looked at the girl he turned hot and sick,
as it was driven home to him that he was no longer young, that he had
never been good-looking, and that he had cut the ground from under his
feet twelve years ago, when he had married Rosalie! If he could have
waited--if he could have done several other things--perhaps the clever
acting of a part, and his power of domination might have given him a
chance. Even that blackguard of a Mount Dunstan had a better one now.
He was young, at least, and free--and a big strong beast. He was
forced, with bitter reluctance, to admit that he himself was not even
particularly strong--of late he had felt it hideously.

So he detested Mount Dunstan the more for increasing reasons,
as he thought the matter over. It would seem, perhaps, but a
subtle pleasure to the normal mind, but to him there was
pleasure--support--aggrandisement--in referring to the ill case of the
Mount Dunstan estate, in relating illustrative anecdotes, in dwelling
upon the hopelessness of the outlook, and the notable unpopularity of
the man himself. A confiding young lady from the States was required,
he said on one occasion, but it would be necessary that she should be a
young person of much simplicity, who would not be alarmed or chilled by
the obvious. No one would realise this more clearly than Mount Dunstan
himself. He said it coldly and casually, as if it were the simplest
matter of fact. If the fellow had been making himself agreeable
to Betty, it was as well that certain points should be--as it were
inadvertently--brought before her.

Miss Vanderpoel was really rather fine, people said to each other
afterwards, when she entered the ballroom at Dunholm Castle with her
brother-in-law. She bore herself as composedly as if she had been
escorted by the most admirable and dignified of conservative relatives,
instead of by a man who was more definitely disliked and disapproved of
than any other man in the county whom decent people were likely to meet.
Yet, she was far too clever a girl not to realise the situation clearly,
they said to each other. She had arrived in England to find her sister a
neglected wreck, her fortune squandered, and her existence stripped bare
of even such things as one felt to be the mere decencies. There was but
one thing to be deduced from the facts which had stared her in the
face. But of her deductions she had said nothing whatever, which was, of
course, remarkable in a young person. It may be mentioned that, perhaps,
there had been those who would not have been reluctant to hear what she
must have had to say, and who had even possibly given her a delicate
lead. But the lead had never been taken. One lady had even remarked
that, on her part, she felt that a too great reserve verged upon
secretiveness, which was not a desirable girlish quality.

Of course the situation had been so much discussed that people were
naturally on the lookout for the arrival of the Stornham party, as
it was known that Sir Nigel had returned home, and would be likely to
present himself with his wife and sister-in-law. There was not a dowager
present who did not know how and where he had reprehensibly spent the
last months. It served him quite right that the Spanish dancing person
had coolly left him in the lurch for a younger and more attractive, as
well as a richer man. If it were not for Miss Vanderpoel, one need not
pretend that one knew nothing about the affair--in fact, if it had not
been for Miss Vanderpoel, he would not have received an invitation--and
poor Lady Anstruthers would be sitting at home, still the forlorn little
frump and invalid she had so wonderfully ceased to be since her sister
had taken her in hand. She was absolutely growing even pretty and young,
and her clothes were really beautiful. The whole thing was amazing.

Betty, as well as Rosalie and Nigel--knew that many people turned
undisguisedly to look at them--even to watch them as they came into the
splendid ballroom. It was a splendid ballroom and a stately one, and
Lord Dunholm and Lord Westholt shared a certain thought when they met
her, which was that hers was distinctly the proud young brilliance of
presence which figured most perfectly against its background. Much as
people wanted to look at Sir Nigel, their eyes were drawn from him
to Miss Vanderpoel. After all it was she who made him an object of
interest. One wanted to know what she would do with him--how she would
"carry him off." How much did she know of the distaste people felt for
him, since she would not talk or encourage talk? The Dunholms could not
have invited her and her sister, and have ignored him; but did she not
guess that they would have ignored him, if they could? and was there not
natural embarrassment in feeling forced to appear in pomp, as it were,
under his escort?


But no embarrassment was perceptible. Her manner committed her to no
recognition of a shadow of a flaw in the character of her companion. It
even carried a certain conviction with it, and the lookers-on felt the
impossibility of suggesting any such flaw by their own manner. For this
evening, at least, the man must actually be treated as if he were an
entirely unobjectionable person. It appeared as if that was what the
girl wanted, and intended should happen.

This was what Nigel himself had begun to perceive, but he did not put it
pleasantly. Deucedly clever girl as she was, he said to himself, she
saw that it would be more agreeable to have no nonsense talked, and no
ruffling of tempers. He had always been able to convey to people that
the ruffling of his temper was a thing to be avoided, and perhaps she
had already been sharp enough to realise this was a fact to be counted
with. She was sharp enough, he said to himself, to see anything.

The function was a superb one. The house was superb, the rooms of
entertainment were in every proportion perfect, and were quite renowned
for the beauty of the space they offered; the people themselves were,
through centuries of dignified living, so placed that intercourse with
their kind was an easy and delightful thing. They need never doubt
either their own effect, or the effect of their hospitalities. Sir Nigel
saw about him all the people who held enviable place in the county. Some
of them he had never known, some of them had long ceased to recall his
existence. There were those among them who lifted lorgnettes or stuck
monocles into their eyes as he passed, asking each other in politely
subdued tones who the man was who seemed to be in attendance on Miss
Vanderpoel. Nigel knew this and girded at it internally, while he made
the most of his suave smile.

The distinguished personage who was the chief guest was to be seen at
the upper end of the room talking to a tall man with broad shoulders,
who was plainly interesting him for the moment. As the Stornham party
passed on, this person, making his bow, retired, and, as he turned
towards them, Sir Nigel recognising him, the agreeable smile was for the
moment lost.

"How in the name of Heaven did Mount Dunstan come here?" broke from him
with involuntary heat.

"Would it be rash to conclude," said Betty, as she returned the bow of a
very grand old lady in black velvet and an imposing tiara, "that he came
in response to invitation?"

The very grand old lady seemed pleased to see her, and, with a royal
little sign, called her to her side. As Betty Vanderpoel was a great
success with the Mrs. Weldens and old Dobys of village life, she was
also a success among grand old ladies. When she stood before them there
was a delicate submission in her air which was suggestive of obedience
to the dignity of their years and state. Strongly conservative and
rather feudal old persons were much pleased by this. In the present
irreverent iconoclasm of modern times, it was most agreeable to talk to
a handsome creature who was as beautifully attentive as if she had been
a specially perfect young lady-in-waiting.

This one even patted Betty's hand a little, when she took it. She was a
great county potentate, who was known as Lady Alanby of Dole--her house
being one of the most ancient and interesting in England.

"I am glad to see you here to-night," she said. "You are looking very
nice. But you cannot help that."

Betty asked permission to present her sister and brother-in-law. Lady
Alanby was polite to both of them, but she gave Nigel a rather sharp
glance through her gold pince-nez as she greeted him.

"Janey and Mary," she said to the two girls nearest her, "I daresay
you will kindly change your chairs and let Lady Anstruthers and Miss
Vanderpoel sit next to me."

The Ladies Jane and Mary Lithcom, who had been ordered about by her from
their infancy, obeyed with polite smiles. They were not particularly
pretty girls, and were of the indigent noble. Jane, who had almost
overlarge blue eyes, sighed as she reseated herself a few chairs lower
down.

"It does seem beastly unfair," she said in a low voice to her sister,
"that a girl such as that should be so awfully good-looking. She ought
to have a turned-up nose."

"Thank you," said Mary, "I have a turned-up nose myself, and I've got
nothing to balance it."

"Oh, I didn't mean a nice turned-up nose like yours," said Jane; "I
meant an ugly one. Of course Lady Alanby wants her for Tommy." And her
manner was not resigned.

"What she, or anyone else for that matter," disdainfully, "could want
with Tommy, I don't know," replied Mary.

"I do," answered Jane obstinately. "I played cricket with him when I
was eight, and I've liked him ever since. It is AWFUL," in a smothered
outburst, "what girls like us have to suffer."

Lady Mary turned to look at her curiously.

"Jane," she said, "are you SUFFERING about Tommy?"

"Yes, I am. Oh, what a question to ask in a ballroom! Do you want me to
burst out crying?"

"No," sharply, "look at the Prince. Stare at that fat woman curtsying to
him. Stare and then wink your eyes."

Lady Alanby was talking about Mount Dunstan.

"Lord Dunholm has given us a lead. He is an old friend of mine, and he
has been talking to me about it. It appears that he has been looking
into things seriously. Modern as he is, he rather tilts at injustices,
in a quiet way. He has satisfactorily convinced himself that Lord Mount
Dunstan has been suffering for the sins of the fathers--which must be
annoying."

"Is Lord Dunholm quite sure of that?" put in Sir Nigel, with a
suggestively civil air.

Old Lady Alanby gave him an unencouraging look.

"Quite," she said. "He would be likely to be before he took any steps."

"Ah," remarked Nigel. "I knew Lord Tenham, you see."

Lady Alanby's look was more unencouraging still. She quietly and openly
put up her glass and stared. There were times when she had not the
remotest objection to being rude to certain people.

"I am sorry to hear that," she observed. "There never was any room for
mistake about Tenham. He is not usually mentioned."

"I do not think this man would be usually mentioned, if everything were
known," said Nigel.

Then an appalling thing happened. Lady Alanby gazed at him a few
seconds, and made no reply whatever. She dropped her glass, and turned
again to talk to Betty. It was as if she had turned her back on him, and
Sir Nigel, still wearing an amiable exterior, used internally some bad
language.

"But I was a fool to speak of Tenham," he thought. "A great fool."

A little later Miss Vanderpoel made her curtsy to the exalted guest,
and was commented upon again by those who looked on. It was not at
all unnatural that one should find ones eyes following a girl who,
representing a sort of royal power, should have the good fortune of
possessing such looks and bearing.

Remembering his child bete noir of the long legs and square, audacious
little face, Nigel Anstruthers found himself restraining a slight grin
as he looked on at her dancing. Partners flocked about her like bees,
and Lady Alanby of Dole, and other very grand old or middle-aged ladies
all found the evening more interesting because they could watch her.

"She is full of spirit," said Lady Alanby, "and she enjoys herself as a
girl should. It is a pleasure to look at her. I like a girl who gets
a magnificent colour and stars in her eyes when she dances. It looks
healthy and young."

It was Tommy Miss Vanderpoel was dancing with when her ladyship said
this. Tommy was her grandson and a young man of greater rank than
fortune. He was a nice, frank, heavy youth, who loved a simple county
life spent in tramping about with guns, and in friendly hobnobbing with
the neighbours, and eating great afternoon teas with people whose jokes
were easy to understand, and who were ready to laugh if you tried a joke
yourself. He liked girls, and especially he liked Jane Lithcom, but
that was a weakness his grandmother did not at all encourage, and, as he
danced with Betty Vanderpoel, he looked over her shoulder more than once
at a pair of big, unhappy blue eyes, whose owner sat against the wall.

Betty Vanderpoel herself was not thinking of Tommy. In fact, during
this brilliant evening she faced still further developments of her own
strange case. Certain new things were happening to her. When she had
entered the ballroom she had known at once who the man was who stood
before the royal guest--she had known before he bowed low and withdrew.
And her recognition had brought with it a shock of joy. For a few
moments her throat felt hot and pulsing. It was true--the things which
concerned him concerned her. All that happened to him suddenly became
her affair, as if in some way they were of the same blood. Nigel's
slighting of him had infuriated her; that Lord Dunholm had offered him
friendship and hospitality was a thing which seemed done to herself,
and filled her with gratitude and affection; that he should be at this
place, on this special occasion, swept away dark things from his path.
It was as if it were stated without words that a conservative man of the
world, who knew things as they were, having means of reaching truths,
vouched for him and placed his dignity and firmness at his side.

And there was the gladness at the sight of him. It was an overpoweringly
strong thing. She had never known anything like it. She had not seen
him since Nigel's return, and here he was, and she knew that her life
quickened in her because they were together in the same room. He had
come to them and said a few courteous words, but he had soon gone away.
At first she wondered if it was because of Nigel, who at the time was
making himself rather ostentatiously amiable to her. Afterwards she saw
him dancing, talking, being presented to people, being, with a tactful
easiness, taken care of by his host and hostess, and Lord Westholt. She
was struck by the graceful magic with which this tactful ease surrounded
him without any obviousness. The Dunholms had given a lead, as Lady
Alanby had said, and the rest were following it and ignoring intervals
with reposeful readiness. It was wonderfully well done. Apparently
there had been no past at all. All began with this large young man,
who, despite his Viking type, really looked particularly well in evening
dress. Lady Alanby held him by her chair for some time, openly enjoying
her talk with him, and calling up Tommy, that they might make friends.

After a while, Betty said to herself, he would come and ask for a dance.
But he did not come, and she danced with one man after another. Westholt
came to her several times and had more dances than one. Why did the
other not come? Several times they whirled past each other, and when
it occurred they looked--both feeling it an accident--into each other's
eyes.

The strong and strange thing--that which moves on its way as do birth
and death, and the rising and setting of the sun--had begun to move in
them. It was no new and rare thing, but an ancient and common one--as
common and ancient as death and birth themselves; and part of the law
as they are. As it comes to royal persons to whom one makes obeisance at
their mere passing by, as it comes to scullery maids in royal kitchens,
and grooms in royal stables, as it comes to ladies-in-waiting and the
women who serve them, so it had come to these two who had been drawn
near to each other from the opposite sides of the earth, and each
started at the touch of it, and withdrew a pace in bewilderment, and
some fear.

"I wish," Mount Dunstan was feeling throughout the evening, "that her
eyes had some fault in their expression--that they drew one less--that
they drew ME less. I am losing my head."

"It would be better," Betty thought, "if I did not wish so much that he
would come and ask me to dance with him--that he would not keep away so.
He is keeping away for a reason. Why is he doing it?"

The music swung on in lovely measures, and the dancers swung with it.
Sir Nigel walked dutifully through the Lancers once with his wife, and
once with his beautiful sister-in-law. Lady Anstruthers, in her new
bloom, had not lacked partners, who discovered that she was a childishly
light creature who danced extremely well. Everyone was kind to her, and
the very grand old ladies, who admired Betty, were absolutely benign
in their manner. Betty's partners paid ingenuous court to her, and Sir
Nigel found he had not been mistaken in his estimate of the dignity his
position of escort and male relation gave to him.

Rosy, standing for a moment looking out on the brilliancy and state
about her, meeting Betty's eyes, laughed quiveringly.

"I am in a dream," she said.

"You have awakened from a dream," Betty answered.

From the opposite side of the room someone was coming towards them, and,
seeing him, Rosy smiled in welcome.

"I am sure Lord Mount Dunstan is coming to ask you to dance with him,"
she said. "Why have you not danced with him before, Betty?"

"He has not asked me," Betty answered. "That is the only reason."

"Lord Dunholm and Lord Westholt called at the Mount a few days after
they met him at Stornham," Rosalie explained in an undertone. "They
wanted to know him. Then it seems they found they liked each other. Lady
Dunholm has been telling me about it. She says Lord Dunholm thanks
you, because you said something illuminating. That was the word she
used--'illuminating.' I believe you are always illuminating, Betty."

Mount Dunstan was certainly coming to them. How broad his shoulders
looked in his close-fitting black coat, how well built his whole strong
body was, and how steadily he held his eyes! Here and there one sees a
man or woman who is, through some trick of fate, by nature a compelling
thing unconsciously demanding that one should submit to some domineering
attraction. One does not call it domineering, but it is so. This special
creature is charged unfairly with more than his or her single share of
force. Betty Vanderpoel thought this out as this "other one" came to
her. He did not use the ballroom formula when he spoke to her. He said
in rather a low voice:

"Will you dance with me?"

"Yes," she answered.

Lord Dunholm and his wife agreed afterwards that so noticeable a pair
had never before danced together in their ballroom. Certainly no pair
had ever been watched with quite the same interested curiosity. Some
onlookers thought it singular that they should dance together at all,
some pleased themselves by reflecting on the fact that no other two
could have represented with such picturesqueness the opposite poles
of fate and circumstance. No one attempted to deny that they were an
extraordinarily striking-looking couple, and that one's eyes followed
them in spite of one's self.

"Taken together they produce an effect that is somehow rather amazing,"
old Lady Alanby commented. "He is a magnificently built man, you know,
and she is a magnificently built girl. Everybody should look like that.
My impression would be that Adam and Eve did, but for the fact that
neither of them had any particular character. That affair of the apple
was so silly. Eve has always struck me as being the kind of woman who,
if she lived to-day, would run up stupid bills at her dressmakers and
be afraid to tell her husband. That wonderful black head of Miss
Vanderpoel's looks very nice poised near Mount Dunstan's dark red one."

"I am glad to be dancing with him," Betty was thinking. "I am glad to be
near him."

"Will you dance this with me to the very end," asked Mount Dunstan--"to
the very late note?"

"Yes," answered Betty.

He had spoken in a low but level voice--the kind of voice whose tone
places a man and woman alone together, and wholly apart from all others
by whomsoever they are surrounded. There had been no preliminary speech
and no explanation of the request followed. The music was a perfect
thing, the brilliant, lofty ballroom, the beauty of colour and sound
about them, the jewels and fair faces, the warm breath of flowers in
the air, the very sense of royal presence and its accompanying state and
ceremony, seemed merely a naturally arranged background for the strange
consciousness each held close and silently--knowing nothing of the mind
of the other.

This was what was passing through the man's mind.

"This is the thing which most men experience several times during their
lives. It would be reason enough for all the great deeds and all the
crimes one hears of. It is an enormous kind of anguish and a fearful
kind of joy. It is scarcely to be borne, and yet, at this moment, I
could kill myself and her, at the thought of losing it. If I had begun
earlier, would it have been easier? No, it would not. With me it is
bound to go hard. At twenty I should probably not have been able to keep
myself from shouting it aloud, and I should not have known that it was
only the working of the Law. 'Only!' Good God, what a fool I am! It is
because it is only the Law that I cannot escape, and must go on to the
end, grinding my teeth together because I cannot speak. Oh, her smooth
young cheek! Oh, the deep shadows of her lashes! And while we sway round
and round together, I hold her slim strong body in the hollow of my
arm."

It was, quite possibly, as he thought this that Nigel Anstruthers,
following him with his eyes as he passed, began to frown. He had been
watching the pair as others had, he had seen what others saw, and now he
had an idea that he saw something more, and it was something which did
not please him. The instinct of the male bestirred itself--the curious
instinct of resentment against another man--any other man. And, in
this case, Mount Dunstan was not any other man, but one for whom his
antipathy was personal.

"I won't have that," he said to himself. "I won't have it."

. . . . .

The music rose and swelled, and then sank into soft breathing, as they
moved in harmony together, gliding and swirling as they threaded their
way among other couples who swirled and glided also, some of them light
and smiling, some exchanging low-toned speech--perhaps saying words
which, unheard by others, touched on deep things. The exalted guest fell
into momentary silence as he looked on, being a man much attracted by
physical fineness and temperamental power and charm. A girl like that
would bring a great deal to a man and to the country he belonged to. A
great race might be founded on such superbness of physique and health
and beauty. Combined with abnormal resources, certainly no more could
be asked. He expressed something of the kind to Lord Dunholm, who stood
near him in attendance.

To herself Betty was saying: "That was a strange thing he asked me. It
is curious that we say so little. I should never know much about him.
I have no intelligence where he is concerned--only a strong, stupid
feeling, which is not like a feeling of my own. I am no longer Betty
Vanderpoel--and I wish to go on dancing with him--on and on--to the last
note, as he said."

She felt a little hot wave run over her cheek uncomfortably, and the
next instant the big arm tightened its clasp of her--for just one
second--not more than one. She did not know that he, himself, had seen
the sudden ripple of red colour, and that the equally sudden contraction
of the arm had been as unexpected to him and as involuntary as the quick
wave itself. It had horrified and made him angry. He looked the next
instant entirely stiff and cold.

"He did not know it happened," Betty resolved.

"The music is going to stop," said Mount Dunstan. "I know the waltz. We
can get once round the room again before the final chord. It was to be
the last note--the very last," but he said it quite rigidly, and Betty
laughed.

"Quite the last," she answered.

The music hastened a little, and their gliding whirl became more
rapid--a little faster--a little faster still--a running sweep of notes,
a big, terminating harmony, and the thing was over.

"Thank you," said Mount Dunstan. "One will have it to remember." And his
tone was slightly sardonic.

"Yes," Betty acquiesced politely.

"Oh, not you. Only I. I have never waltzed before."

Betty turned to look at him curiously.

"Under circumstances such as these," he explained. "I learned to dance
at a particularly hideous boys' school in France. I abhorred it. And
the trend of my life has made it quite easy for me to keep my
twelve-year-old vow that I would never dance after I left the place,
unless I WANTED to do it, and that, especially, nothing should make
me waltz until certain agreeable conditions were fulfilled. Waltzing I
approved of--out of hideous schools. I was a pig-headed, objectionable
child. I detested myself even, then."

Betty's composure returned to her.

"I am trusting," she remarked, "that I may secretly regard myself as
one of the agreeable conditions to be fulfilled. Do not dispel my hopes
roughly."

"I will not," he answered. "You are, in fact, several of them."

"One breathes with much greater freedom," she responded.

This sort of cool nonsense was safe. It dispelled feelings of tenseness,
and carried them to the place where Sir Nigel and Lady Anstruthers
awaited them. A slight stir was beginning to be felt throughout the
ballroom. The royal guest was retiring, and soon the rest began to melt
away. The Anstruthers, who had a long return drive before them, were
among those who went first.

When Lady Anstruthers and her sister returned from the cloak room, they
found Sir Nigel standing near Mount Dunstan, who was going also, and
talking to him in an amiably detached manner. Mount Dunstan, himself,
did not look amiable, or seem to be saying much, but Sir Nigel showed no
signs of being disturbed.

"Now that you have ceased to forswear the world," he said as his wife
approached, "I hope we shall see you at Stornham. Your visits must not
cease because we cannot offer you G. Selden any longer."

He had his own reasons for giving the invitation--several of them. And
there was a satisfaction in letting the fellow know, casually, that he
was not in the ridiculous position of being unaware of what had
occurred during his absence--that there had been visits--and also the
objectionable episode of the American bounder. That the episode had been
objectionable, he knew he had adroitly conveyed by mere tone and manner.

Mount Dunstan thanked him in the usual formula, and then spoke to Betty.

"G. Selden left us tremulous and fevered with ecstatic anticipation. He
carried your kind letter to Mr. Vanderpoel, next to his heart. His brain
seemed to whirl at the thought of what 'the boys' would say, when he
arrived with it in New York. You have materialised the dream of his
life!"

"I have interested my father," Betty answered, with a brilliant smile.
"He liked the romance of the Reuben S. Vanderpoel who rewarded the saver
of his life by unbounded orders for the Delkoff."

. . . . .

As their carriage drove away, Sir Nigel bent forward to look out of the
window, and having done it, laughed a little.

"Mount Dunstan does not play the game well," he remarked.

It was annoying that neither Betty nor his wife inquired what the
game in question might be, and that his temperament forced him into
explaining without encouragement.

"He should have 'stood motionless with folded arms,' or something of the
sort, and 'watched her equipage until it was out of sight.'"

"And he did not?" said Betty

"He turned on his heel as soon as the door was shut."

"People ought not to do such things," was her simple comment. To which
it seemed useless to reply.



CHAPTER XXXIII

FOR LADY JANE

There is no one thing on earth of such interest as the study of the laws
of temperament, which impel, support, or entrap into folly and danger
the being they rule. As a child, not old enough to give a definite name
to the thing she watched and pondered on, in child fashion, Bettina
Vanderpoel had thought much on this subject. As she had grown older, she
had never been ignorant of the workings of her own temperament, and she
had looked on for years at the laws which had wrought in her father's
being--the laws of strength, executive capacity, and that pleasure in
great schemes, which is roused less by a desire for gain than for a
strongly-felt necessity for action, resulting in success. She mentally
followed other people on their way, sometimes asking herself how far the
individual was to be praised or blamed for his treading of the path he
seemed to choose. And now there was given her the opportunity to study
the workings of the nature of Nigel Anstruthers, which was a curious
thing.

He was not an individual to be envied. Never was man more tormented by
lack of power to control his special devil, at the right moment of time,
and therefore, never was there one so inevitably his own frustration.
This Betty saw after the passing of but a few days, and wondered how far
he was conscious or unconscious of the thing. At times it appeared to
her that he was in a state of unrest--that he was as a man wavering
between lines of action, swayed at one moment by one thought, at another
by an idea quite different, and that he was harried because he could not
hold his own with himself.

This was true. The ball at Dunholm Castle had been enlightening, and
had wrought some changes in his points of view. Also other factors had
influenced him. In the first place, the changed atmosphere of Stornham,
the fitness and luxury of his surroundings, the new dignity given to his
position by the altered aspect of things, rendered external amiability
more easy. To ride about the country on a good horse, or drive in a
smart phaeton, or suitable carriage, and to find that people who a year
ago had passed him with the merest recognition, saluted him with polite
intention, was, to a certain degree, stimulating to a vanity which had
been long ill-fed. The power which produced these results should, of
course, have been in his own hands--his money-making father-in-law
should have seen that it was his affair to provide for that--but since
he had not done so, it was rather entertaining that it should be, for
the present, in the hands of this extraordinarily good-looking girl.

He had begun by merely thinking of her in this manner--as "this
extraordinarily good-looking girl," and had not, for a moment, hesitated
before the edifying idea of its not being impossible to arrange a lively
flirtation with her. She was at an age when, in his opinion, girlhood
was poised for flight with adventure, and his tastes had not led him
in the direction of youth which was fastidious. His Riviera episode had
left his vanity blistered and requiring some soothing application. His
life had worked evil with him, and he had fallen ill on the hands of a
woman who had treated him as a shattered, useless thing whose day was
done and with whom strength and bloom could not be burdened. He had kept
his illness a hidden secret, on his return to Stornham, his one desire
having been to forget--even to disbelieve in it, but dreams of its
suggestion sometimes awakened him at night with shudders and cold sweat.
He was hideously afraid of death and pain, and he had had monstrous
pain--and while he had lain battling with it, upon his bed in the villa
on the Mediterranean, he had been able to hear, in the garden outside,
the low voices and laughter of the Spanish dancer and the healthy,
strong young fool who was her new adorer.

When he had found himself face to face with Betty in the avenue,
after the first leap of annoyance, which had suddenly died down into
perversely interested curiosity, he could have laughed outright at
the novelty and odd unexpectedness of the situation. The ill-mannered,
impudently-staring, little New York beast had developed into THIS! Hang
it! No man could guess what the embryo female creature might result
in. His mere shakiness of physical condition added strength to her
attraction. She was like a young goddess of health and life and
fire; the very spring of her firm foot upon the moss beneath it was a
stimulating thing to a man whose nerves sprung secret fears upon him.
There were sparks between the sweep of her lashes, but she managed to
carry herself with the air of being as cool as a cucumber, which gave
spice to the effort to "upset" her. If she did not prove suitably
amenable, there would be piquancy in getting the better of her--in
stirring up unpleasant little things, which would make it easier for her
to go away than remain on the spot--if one should end by choosing to get
rid of her. But, for the moment, he had no desire to get rid of her. He
wanted to see what she intended to do--to see the thing out, in fact. It
amused him to hear that Mount Dunstan was on her track. There exists
for persons of a certain type a pleasure full-fed by the mere sense of
having "got even" with an opponent. Throughout his life he had made
a point of "getting even" with those who had irritatingly crossed his
path, or much disliked him. The working out of small or large plans to
achieve this end had formed one of his most agreeable recreations. He
had long owed Mount Dunstan a debt, which he had always meant to pay. He
had not intended to forget the episode of the nice little village girl
with whom Tenham and himself had been getting along so enormously well,
when the raging young ass had found them out, and made an absurdly
exaggerated scene, even going so far as threatening to smash the pair of
them, marching off to the father and mother, and setting the vicar on,
and then scratching together--God knows how--money enough to pack the
lot off to America, where they had since done well. Why should a man
forgive another who had made him look like a schoolboy and a fool? So,
to find Mount Dunstan rushing down a steep hill into this thing, was
edifying. You cannot take much out of a man if you never encounter him.
If you meet him, you are provided by Heaven with opportunities. You can
find out what he feels most sharply, and what he will suffer most by
being deprived of. His impression was that there was a good deal to be
got out of Mount Dunstan. He was an obstinate, haughty devil, and just
the fellow to conceal with a fury of pride a score of tender places in
his hide.

At the ball he had seen that the girl's effect had been of a kind which
even money and good looks uncombined with another thing might not
have produced. And she had the other thing--whatsoever it might be. He
observed the way in which the Dunholms met and greeted her, he marked
the glance of the royal personage, and his manner, when after her
presentation he conversed with and detained her, he saw the turning
of heads and exchange of remarks as she moved through the rooms. Most
especially, he took in the bearing of the very grand old ladies, led
by Lady Alanby of Dole. Barriers had thrown themselves down, these
portentous, rigorous old pussycats admired her, even liked her.

"Upon my word," he said to himself. "She has a way with her, you know.
She is a combination of Ethel Newcome and Becky Sharp. But she is more
level-headed than either of them, There's a touch of Trix Esmond, too."

The sense of the success which followed her, and the gradually-growing
excitement of looking on at her light whirls of dance, the carnation
of her cheek, and the laughter and pleasure she drew about her, had
affected him in a way by which he was secretly a little exhilarated. He
was conscious of a rash desire to force his way through these laughing,
vaunting young idiots, juggle or snatch their dances away from them, and
seize on the girl himself. He had not for so long a time been impelled
by such agreeable folly that he had sometimes felt the stab of the
thought that he was past it. That it should rise in him again made
him feel young. There was nothing which so irritated him against
Mount Dunstan as his own rebelling recognition of the man's youth, the
strength of his fine body, his high-held head and clear eye.

These things and others it was which swayed him, as was plain to Betty
in the time which followed, to many changes of mood.

"Are you sorry for a man who is ill and depressed," he asked one day,
"or do you despise him?"

"I am sorry."

"Then be sorry for me."

He had come out of the house to her as she sat on the lawn, under a
broad, level-branched tree, and had thrown himself upon a rug with his
hands clasped behind his head.

"Are you ill?"

"When I was on the Riviera I had a fall." He lied simply. "I strained
some muscle or other, and it has left me rather lame. Sometimes I have a
good deal of pain."

"I am very sorry," said Betty. "Very."

A woman who can be made sorry it is rarely impossible to manage. To
dwell with pathetic patience on your grievances, if she is weak and
unintelligent, to deplore, with honest regret, your faults and blunders,
if she is strong, are not bad ideas.

He looked at her reflectively.

"Yes, you are capable of being sorry," he decided. For a few moments
of silence his eyes rested upon the view spread before him. To give the
expression of dignified reflection was not a bad idea either.

"Do you know," he said at length, "that you produce an extraordinary
effect upon me, Betty?"

She was occupying herself by adding a few stitches to one of Rosy's
ancient strips of embroidery, and as she answered, she laid it flat upon
her knee to consider its effect.

"Good or bad?" she inquired, with delicate abstraction.

He turned his face towards her again--this time quickly.

"Both," he answered. "Both."

His tone held the flash of a heat which he felt should have startled her
slightly. But apparently it did not.

"I do not like 'both,'" with composed lightness. "If you had said that
you felt yourself develop angelic qualities when you were near me,
I should feel flattered, and swell with pride. But 'both' leaves me
unsatisfied. It interferes with the happy little conceit that one is
an all-pervading, beneficent power. One likes to contemplate a
large picture of one's self--not plain, but coloured--as a wholesale
reformer."

"I see. Thank you," stiffly and flushing. "You do not believe me."

Her effect upon him was such that, for the moment, he found himself
choosing to believe that he was in earnest. His desire to impress her
with his mood had actually led to this result. She ought to have been
rather moved--a little fluttered, perhaps, at hearing that she disturbed
his equilibrium.

"You set yourself against me, as a child, Betty," he said. "And you set
yourself against me now. You will not give me fair play. You might give
me fair play." He dropped his voice at the last sentence, and knew it
was well done. A touch of hopelessness is not often lost on a woman.

"What would you consider fair play?" she inquired.

"It would be fair to listen to me without prejudice--to let me explain
how it has happened that I have appeared to you a--a blackguard--I have
no doubt you would call it--and a fool." He threw out his hand in an
impatient gesture--impatient of himself--his fate--the tricks of bad
fortune which it implied had made of him a more erring mortal than he
would have been if left to himself, and treated decently.

"Do not put it so strongly," with conservative politeness.

"I don't refuse to admit that I am handicapped by a devil of a
temperament. That is an inherited thing."

"Ah!" said Betty. "One of the temperaments one reads about--for which
no one is to be blamed but one's deceased relatives. After all, that is
comparatively easy to deal with. One can just go on doing what one wants
to do--and then condemn one's grandparents severely."

A repellent quality in her--which had also the trick of transforming
itself into an exasperating attraction--was that she deprived him of the
luxury he had been most tenacious of throughout his existence. If the
injustice of fate has failed to bestow upon a man fortune, good looks
or brilliance, his exercise of the power to disturb, to enrage those who
dare not resent, to wound and take the nonsense out of those about him,
will, at all events, preclude the possibility of his being passed over
as a factor not to be considered. If to charm and bestow gives the sense
of power, to thwart and humiliate may be found not wholly unsatisfying.

But in her case the inadequacy of the usual methods had forced itself
upon him. It was as if the dart being aimed at her, she caught it in
her hand in its flight, broke off its point and threw it lightly aside
without comment. Most women cannot resist the temptation to answer a
speech containing a sting or a reproach. It was part of her abnormality
that she could let such things go by in a detached silence, which did
not express even the germ of comment or opinion upon them. This, he
said, was the result of her beastly sense of security, which, in its
turn, was the result of the atmosphere of wealth she had breathed since
her birth. There had been no obstacle which could not be removed for
her, no law of limitation had laid its rein on her neck. She had not
been taught by her existence the importance of propitiating opinion.
Under such conditions, how was fear to be learned? She had not learned
it. But for the devil in the blue between her lashes, he realised that
he should have broken loose long ago.

"I suppose I deserved that for making a stupid appeal to sympathy," he
remarked. "I will not do it again."

If she had been the woman who can be gently goaded into reply, she
would have made answer to this. But she allowed the observation to
pass, giving it free flight into space, where it lost itself after the
annoying manner of its kind.

"Have you any objection to telling me why you decided to come to England
this year?" he inquired, with a casual air, after the pause which she
did not fill in.

The bluntness of the question did not seem to disturb her. She was not
sorry, in fact, that he had asked it. She let her work lie upon her
knee, and leaned back in her low garden chair, her hands resting upon
its wicker arms. She turned on him a clear unprejudiced gaze.

"I came to see Rosy. I have always been very fond of her. I did not
believe that she had forgotten how much we had loved her, or how
much she had loved us. I knew that if I could see her again I should
understand why she had seemed to forget us."

"And when you saw her, you, of course, decided that I had behaved, to
quote my own words--like a blackguard and a fool."

"It is, of course, very rude to say you have behaved like a fool,
but--if you'll excuse my saying so--that is what has impressed me very
much. Don't you know," with a moderation, which singularly drove itself
home, "that if you had been kind to her, and had made her happy, you
could have had anything you wished for--without trouble?"

This was one of the unadorned facts which are like bullets. Disgustedly,
he found himself veering towards an outlook which forced him to admit
that there was probably truth in what she said, and he knew he heard
more truth as she went on.

"She would have wanted only what you wanted, and she would not have
asked much in return. She would not have asked as much as I should. What
you did was not businesslike." She paused a moment to give thought to
it. "You paid too high a price for the luxury of indulging the inherited
temperament. Your luxury was not to control it. But it was a bad
investment."

"The figure of speech is rather commercial," coldly.

"It is curious that most things are, as a rule. There is always the
parallel of profit and loss whether one sees it or not. The profits
are happiness and friendship--enjoyment of life and approbation. If the
inherited temperament supplies one with all one wants of such things, it
cannot be called a loss, of course."


"You think, however, that mine has not brought me much?"

"I do not know. It is you who know."

"Well," viciously, "there HAS been a sort of luxury in it in lashing out
with one's heels, and smashing things--and in knowing that people prefer
to keep clear."

She lifted her shoulders a little.

"Then perhaps it has paid."

"No," suddenly and fiercely, "damn it, it has not!"

And she actually made no reply to that.

"What do you mean to do?" he questioned as bluntly as before. He knew
she would understand what he meant.

"Not much. To see that Rosy is not unhappy any more. We can prevent
that. She was out of repair--as the house was. She is being rebuilt and
decorated. She knows that she will be taken care of."

"I know her better than you do," with a laugh. "She will not go away.
She is too frightened of the row it would make--of what I should say. I
should have plenty to say. I can make her shake in her shoes."

Betty let her eyes rest full upon him, and he saw that she was
softly summing him up--quite without prejudice, merely in interested
speculation upon the workings of type.

"You are letting the inherited temperament run away with you at this
moment," she reflected aloud--her quiet scrutiny almost abstracted. "It
was foolish to say that."

He had known it was foolish two seconds after the words had left his
lips. But a temper which has been allowed to leap hedges, unchecked
throughout life, is in peril of forming a habit of taking them even at
such times as a leap may land its owner in a ditch. This last was what
her interested eyes were obviously saying. It suited him best at the
moment to try to laugh.

"Don't look at me like that," he threw off. "As if you were calculating
that two and two make four."

"No prejudice of mine can induce them to make five or six--or three and
a half," she said. "No prejudice of mine--or of yours."

The two and two she was calculating with were the likelihoods and
unlikelihoods of the inherited temperament, and the practical powers she
could absolutely count on if difficulty arose with regard to Rosy.

He guessed at this, and began to make calculations himself.

But there was no further conversation for them, as they were obliged
to rise to their feet to receive visitors. Lady Alanby of Dole and Sir
Thomas, her grandson, were being brought out of the house to them by
Rosalie.

He went forward to meet them--his manner that of the graceful host. Lady
Alanby, having been welcomed by him, and led to the most comfortable,
tree-shaded chair, found his bearing so elegantly chastened that she
gazed at him with private curiosity. To her far-seeing and highly
experienced old mind it seemed the bearing of a man who was "up to
something." What special thing did he chance to be "up to"? His glance
certainly lurked after Miss Vanderpoel oddly. Was he falling in unholy
love with the girl, under his stupid little wife's very nose?

She could not, however, give her undivided attention to him, as she
wished to keep her eye on her grandson and--outrageously enough fit
happened that just as tea was brought out and Tommy was beginning to
cheer up and quite come out a little under the spur of the activities of
handing bread and butter and cress sandwiches, who should appear but the
two Lithcom girls, escorted by their aunt, Mrs. Manners, with whom they
lived. As they were orphans without money, if the Manners, who were
rather well off, had not taken them in, they would have had to go to the
workhouse, or into genteel amateur shops, as they were not clever enough
for governesses.

Mary, with her turned-up nose, looked just about as usual, but Jane had
a new frock on which was exactly the colour of the big, appealing eyes,
with their trick of following people about. She looked a little pale and
pathetic, which somehow gave her a specious air of being pretty, which
she really was not at all. The swaying young thinness of those very
slight girls whose soft summer muslins make them look like delicate
bags tied in the middle with fluttering ribbons, has almost invariably
a foolish attraction for burly young men whose characters are chiefly
marked by lack of forethought, and Lady Alanby saw Tommy's robust young
body give a sort of jerk as the party of three was brought across the
grass. After it he pulled himself together hastily, and looked stiff
and pink, shaking hands as if his elbow joint was out of order, being at
once too loose and too rigid. He began to be clumsy with the bread and
butter, and, ceasing his talk with Miss Vanderpoel, fell into silence.
Why should he go on talking? he thought. Miss Vanderpoel was a cracking
handsome girl, but she was too clever for him, and he had to think
of all sorts of new things to say when he talked to her. And--well, a
fellow could never imagine himself stretched out on the grass, puffing
happily away at a pipe, with a girl like that sitting near him,
smiling--the hot turf smelling almost like hay, the hot blue sky curving
overhead, and both the girl and himself perfectly happy--chock full
of joy--though neither of them were saying anything at all. You could
imagine it with some girls--you DID imagine it when you wakened early on
a summer morning, and lay in luxurious stillness listening to the birds
singing like mad.

Lady Jane was a nicely-behaved girl, and she tried to keep her
following blue eyes fixed on the grass, or on Lady Anstruthers, or
Miss Vanderpoel, but there was something like a string, which sometimes
pulled them in another direction, and once when this had happened--quite
against her will--she was terrified to find Lady Alanby's glass lifted
and fixed upon her.

As Lady Alanby's opinion of Mrs. Manners was but a poor one, and as
Mrs. Manners was stricken dumb by her combined dislike and awe of Lady
Alanby, a slight stiffness might have settled upon the gathering if
Betty had not made an effort. She applied herself to Lady Alanby and
Mrs. Manners at once, and ended by making them talk to each other. When
they left the tea table under the trees to look at the gardens, she
walked between them, playing upon the primeval horticultural passions
which dominate the existence of all respectable and normal country
ladies, until the gulf between them was temporarily bridged. This being
achieved, she adroitly passed them over to Lady Anstruthers, who, Nigel
observed with some curiosity, accepted the casual responsibility without
manifest discomfiture.

To the aching Tommy the manner in which, a few minutes later, he found
himself standing alone with Jane Lithcom in a path of clipped laurels
was almost bewilderingly simple. At the end of the laurel walk was a
pretty peep of the country, and Miss Vanderpoel had brought him to see
it. Nigel Anstruthers had been loitering behind with Jane and Mary. As
Miss Vanderpoel turned with him into the path, she stooped and picked a
blossom from a clump of speedwell growing at the foot of a bit of wall.

"Lady Jane's eyes are just the colour of this flower," she said.

"Yes, they are," he answered, glancing down at the lovely little blue
thing as she held it in her hand. And then, with a thump of the heart,
"Most people do not think she is pretty, but I--" quite desperately--"I
DO." His mood had become rash.

"So do I," Betty Vanderpoel answered.

Then the others joined them, and Miss Vanderpoel paused to talk a
little--and when they went on she was with Mary and Nigel Anstruthers,
and he was with Jane, walking slowly, and somehow the others melted
away, turning in a perfectly natural manner into a side path. Their own
slow pace became slower. In fact, in a few moments, they were standing
quite still between the green walls. Jane turned a little aside, and
picked off some small leaves, nervously. He saw the muslin on her chest
lift quiveringly.

"Oh, little Jane!" he said in a big, shaky whisper. The following eyes
incontinently brimmed over. Some shining drops fell on the softness of
the blue muslin.

"Oh, Tommy," giving up, "it's no use--talking at all."

"You mustn't think--you mustn't think--ANYTHING," he falteringly
commanded, drawing nearer, because it was impossible not to do it.

What he really meant, though he did not know how decorously to say it,
was that she must not think that he could be moved by any tall beauty,
towards the splendour of whose possessions his revered grandmother might
be driving him.

"I am not thinking anything," cried Jane in answer. "But she is
everything, and I am nothing. Just look at her--and then look at me,
Tommy."

"I'll look at you as long as you'll let me," gulped Tommy, and he was
boy enough and man enough to put a hand on each of her shoulders, and
drown his longing in her brimming eyes.

. . . . .

Mary and Miss Vanderpoel were talking with a curious intimacy, in
another part of the garden, where they were together alone, Sir Nigel
having been reattached to Lady Alanby.

"You have known Sir Thomas a long time?" Betty had just said.

"Since we were children. Jane reminded me at the Dunholms' ball that she
had played cricket with him when she was eight."

"They have always liked each other?" Miss Vanderpoel suggested.

Mary looked up at her, and the meeting of their eyes was frank to
revelation. But for the clear girlish liking for herself she saw in
Betty Vanderpoel's, Mary would have known her next speech to be of
imbecile bluntness. She had heard that Americans often had a queer,
delightful understanding of unconventional things. This splendid girl
was understanding her.

"Oh! You SEE!" she broke out. "You left them together on purpose!"

"Yes, I did." And there was a comprehension so deep in her look that
Mary knew it was deeper than her own, and somehow founded on some
subtler feeling than her own. "When two people want so much--care so
much to be together," Miss Vanderpoel added quite slowly--even as if the
words rather forced themselves from her, "it seems as if the whole world
ought to help them--everything in the world--the very wind, and rain,
and sun, and stars--oh, things have no RIGHT to keep them apart."

Mary stared at her, moved and fascinated. She scarcely knew that she
caught at her hand.

"I have never been in the state that Jane is," she poured forth. "And I
can't understand how she can be such a fool, but--but we care about each
other more than most girls do--perhaps because we have had no people.
And it's the kind of thing there is no use talking against, it seems.
It's killing the youngness in her. If it ends miserably, it will be as
if she had had an illness, and got up from it a faded, done-for spinster
with a stretch of hideous years to live. Her blue eyes will look like
boiled gooseberries, because she will have cried all the colour out of
them. Oh! You UNDERSTAND! I see you do."

Before she had finished both Miss Vanderpoel's hands were holding hers.

"I do! I do," she said. And she did, as a year ago she had not known she
could. "Is it Lady Alanby?" she ventured.

"Yes. Tommy will be helplessly poor if she does not leave him her money.
And she won't if he makes her angry. She is very determined. She will
leave it to an awful cousin if she gets in a rage. And Tommy is not
clever. He could never earn his living. Neither could Jane. They could
NEVER marry. You CAN'T defy relatives, and marry on nothing, unless you
are a character in a book."

"Has she liked Lady Jane in the past?" Miss Vanderpoel asked, as if
she was, mentally, rapidly going over the ground, that she might quite
comprehend everything.

"Yes. She used to make rather a pet of her. She didn't like me. She was
taken by Jane's meek, attentive, obedient ways. Jane was born a sweet
little affectionate worm. Lady Alanby can't hate her, even now. She just
pushes her out of her path."

"Because?" said Betty Vanderpoel.

Mary prefaced her answer with a brief, half-embarrassed laugh.

"Because of YOU."

"Because she thinks----?"

"I don't see how she can believe he has much of a chance. I don't think
she does--but she will never forgive him if he doesn't make a try at
finding out whether he has one or not."

"It is very businesslike," Betty made observation.

Mary laughed.

"We talk of American business outlook," she said, "but very few of
us English people are dreamy idealists. We are of a coolness and a
daring--when we are dealing with questions of this sort. I don't think
you can know the thing you have brought here. You descend on a dull
country place, with your money and your looks, and you simply STAY and
amuse yourself by doing extraordinary things, as if there was no London
waiting for you. Everyone knows this won't last. Next season you will
be presented, and have a huge success. You will be whirled about in
a vortex, and people will sit on the edge, and cast big strong lines,
baited with the most glittering things they can get together. You won't
be able to get away. Lady Alanby knows there would be no chance for
Tommy then. It would be too idiotic to expect it. He must make his try
now."

Their eyes met again, and Miss Vanderpoel looked neither shocked nor
angry, but an odd small shadow swept across her face. Mary, of course,
did not know that she was thinking of the thing she had realised so
often--that it was not easy to detach one's self from the fact that
one was Reuben S. Vanderpoel's daughter. As a result of it here one was
indecently and unwillingly disturbing the lives of innocent, unassuming
lovers.

"And so long as Sir Thomas has not tried--and found out--Lady Jane will
be made unhappy?"

"If he were to let you escape without trying, he would not be forgiven.
His grandmother has had her own way all her life."

"But suppose after I went away someone else came?"

Mary shook her head.

"People like you don't HAPPEN in one neighbourhood twice in a lifetime.
I am twenty-six and you are the first I have seen."

"And he will only be safe if?"

Mary Lithcom nodded.

"Yes--IF," she answered. "It's silly--and frightful--but it is true."

Miss Vanderpoel looked down on the grass a few moments, and then seemed
to arrive at a decision.

"He likes you? You can make him understand things?" she inquired.

"Yes."

"Then go and tell him that if he will come here and ask me a direct
question, I will give him a direct answer--which will satisfy Lady
Alanby."

Lady Mary caught her breath.

"Do you know, you are the most wonderful girl I ever saw!" she
exclaimed. "But if you only knew what I feel about Janie!" And tears
rushed into her eyes.

"I feel just the same thing about my sister," said Miss Vanderpoel. "I
think Rosy and Lady Jane are rather alike."

. . . . .

When Tommy tramped across the grass towards her he was turning red and
white by turns, and looking somewhat like a young man who was being
marched up to a cannon's mouth. It struck him that it was an American
kind of thing he was called upon to do, and he was not an American, but
British from the top of his closely-cropped head to the rather thick
soles of his boots. He was, in truth, overwhelmed by his sense of his
inadequacy to the demands of the brilliantly conceived, but unheard-of
situation. Joy and terror swept over his being in waves.

The tall, proud, wood-nymph look of her as she stood under a tree,
waiting for him, would have struck his courage dead on the spot and
caused him to turn and flee in anguish, if she had not made a little
move towards him, with a heavenly, every-day humanness in her eyes. The
way she managed it was an amazing thing. He could never have managed it
at all himself.


She came forward and gave him her hand, and really it was HER hand which
held his own comparatively steady.

"It is for Lady Jane," she said. "That prevents it from being ridiculous
or improper. It is for Lady Jane. Her eyes," with a soft-touched laugh,
"are the colour of the blue speedwell I showed you. It is the colour of
babies' eyes. And hers look as theirs do--as if they asked everybody not
to hurt them."

He actually fell upon his knee, and bending his head over her hand,
kissed it half a dozen times with adoration. Good Lord, how she SAW and
KNEW!

"If Jane were not Jane, and you were not YOU," the words rushed from
him, "it would be the most outrageous--the most impudent thing a man
ever had the cheek to do."

"But it is not." She did not draw her hand away, and oh, the girlish
kindness of her smiling, supporting look. "You came to ask me if----"

"If you would marry me, Miss Vanderpoel," his head bending over her hand
again. "I beg your pardon, I beg your pardon. Oh Lord, I do.'

"I thank you for the compliment you pay me," she answered. "I like you
very much, Sir Thomas--and I like you just now more than ever--but I
could not marry you. I should not make you happy, and I should not be
happy myself. The truth is----" thinking a moment, "each of us really
belongs to a different kind of person. And each of knows the fact."

"God bless you," he said. "I think you know everything in the world a
woman can know--and remain an angel."

It was an outburst of eloquence, and she took it in the prettiest
way--with the prettiest laugh, which had in it no touch of mockery or
disbelief in him.

"What I have said is quite final--if Lady Alanby should inquire," she
said--adding rather quickly, "Someone is coming."

It pleased her to see that he did not hurry to his feet clumsily, but
even stood upright, with a shade of boyish dignity, and did not release
her hand before he had bent his head low over it again.

Sir Nigel was bringing with him Lady Alanby, Mrs. Manners, and his wife,
and when Betty met his eyes, she knew at once that he had not made his
way to this particular garden without intention. He had discovered that
she was with Tommy, and it had entertained him to break in upon them.

"I did not intend to interrupt Sir Thomas at his devotions," he remarked
to her after dinner. "Accept my apologies."

"It did not matter in the least, thank you," said Betty.

. . . . .

"I am glad to be able to say, Thomas, that you did not look an entire
fool when you got up from your knees, as we came into the rose garden."
Thus Lady Alanby, as their carriage turned out of Stornham village.

"I'm glad myself," Tommy answered.

"What were you doing there? Even if you were asking her to marry you, it
was not necessary to go that far. We are not in the seventeenth century."

Then Tommy flushed.

"I did not intend to do it. I could not help it. She was so--so nice
about everything. That girl is an angel. I told her so."

"Very right and proper spirit to approach her in," answered the old
woman, watching him keenly. "Was she angel enough to say she would marry
you?"

Tommy, for some occult reason, had the courage to stare back into his
grandmother's eyes, quite as if he were a man, and not a hobbledehoy,
expecting to be bullied.

"She does not want me," he answered. "And I knew she wouldn't. Why
should she? I did what you ordered me to do, and she answered me as I
knew she would. She might have snubbed me, but she has such a way with
her--such a way of saying things and understanding, that--that--well, I
found myself on one knee, kissing her hand--as if I was being presented
at court."

Old Lady Alanby looked out on the passing landscape.

"Well, you did your best," she summed the matter up at last, "if you
went down on your knees involuntarily. If you had done it on purpose, it
would have been unpardonable."



CHAPTER XXXIV

RED GODWYN

Stornham Court had taken its proper position in the county as a place
which was equal to social exchange in the matter of entertainment. Sir
Nigel and Lady Anstruthers had given a garden party, according to the
decrees of the law obtaining in country neighbourhoods. The curiosity
to behold Miss Vanderpoel, and the change which had been worked in the
well-known desolation and disrepair, precluded the possibility of the
refusal of any invitations sent, the recipient being in his or her
right mind, and sound in wind and limb. That astonishing things had been
accomplished, and that the party was a successful affair, could not but
be accepted as truths. Garden parties had been heard of, were a trifle
repetitional, and even dull, but at this one there was real music and
real dancing, and clever entertainments were given at intervals in a
green-embowered little theatre, erected for the occasion. These were
agreeable additions to mere food and conversation, which were capable of
palling.

To the garden party the Anstruthers did not confine themselves.
There were dinner parties at Stornham, and they also were successful
functions. The guests were of those who make for the success of such
entertainments.

"I called upon Mount Dunstan this afternoon," Sir Nigel said one
evening, before the first of these dinners. "He might expect it, as one
is asking him to dine. I wish him to be asked. The Dunholms have taken
him up so tremendously that no festivity seems complete without him."

He had been invited to the garden party, and had appeared, but Betty
had seen little of him. It is easy to see little of a guest at an
out-of-door festivity. In assisting Rosalie to attend to her visitors
she had been much occupied, but she had known that she might have seen
more of him, if he had intended that it should be so. He did not--for
reasons of his own--intend that it should be so, and this she became
aware of. So she walked, played in the bowling green, danced and talked
with Westholt, Tommy Alanby and others.

"He does not want to talk to me. He will not, if he can avoid it," was
what she said to herself.

She saw that he rather sought out Mary Lithcom, who was not accustomed
to receiving special attention. The two walked together, danced
together, and in adjoining chairs watched the performance in the
embowered theatre. Lady Mary enjoyed her companion very much, but she
wondered why he had attached himself to her.

Betty Vanderpoel asked herself what they talked to each other about,
and did not suspect the truth, which was that they talked a good deal of
herself.

"Have you seen much of Miss Vanderpoel?" Lady Mary had begun by asking.

"I have SEEN her a good deal, as no doubt you have."

Lady Mary's plain face expressed a somewhat touched reflectiveness.

"Do you know," she said, "that the garden parties have been a different
thing this whole summer, just because one always knew one would see her
at them?"

A short laugh from Mount Dunstan.

"Jane and I have gone to every garden party within twenty miles, ever
since we left the schoolroom. And we are very tired of them. But this
year we have quite cheered up. When we are dressing to go to something
dull, we say to each other, 'Well, at any rate, Miss Vanderpoel will be
there, and we shall see what she has on, and how her things are made,'
and that's something--besides the fun of watching people make up to her,
and hearing them talk about the men who want to marry her, and wonder
which one she will take. She will not take anyone in this place," the
nice turned-up nose slightly suggesting a derisive sniff. "Who is there
who is suitable?"

Mount Dunstan laughed shortly again.

"How do you know I am not an aspirant myself?" he said. He had a
mirthless sense of enjoyment in his own brazenness. Only he himself knew
how brazen the speech was.

Lady Mary looked at him with entire composure.

"I am quite sure you are not an aspirant for anybody. And I happen
to know that you dislike moneyed international marriages. You are so
obviously British that, even if I had not been told that, I should know
it was true. Miss Vanderpoel herself knows it is true."

"Does she?"

"Lady Alanby spoke of it to Sir Nigel, and I heard Sir Nigel tell her."

"Exactly the kind of unnecessary thing he would be likely to repeat."
He cast the subject aside as if it were a worthless superfluity and
went on: "When you say there is no one suitable, you surely forget Lord
Westholt."

"Yes, it's true I forgot him for the moment. But--" with a laugh--"one
rather feels as if she would require a royal duke or something of that
sort."

"You think she expects that kind of thing?" rather indifferently.

"She? She doesn't think of the subject. She simply thinks of other
things--of Lady Anstruthers and Ughtred, of the work at Stornham and the
village life, which gives her new emotions and interest. She also thinks
about being nice to people. She is nicer than any girl I know."

"You feel, however, she has a right to expect it?" still without more
than a casual air of interest.

"Well, what do you feel yourself?" said Lady Mary. "Women who look like
that--even when they are not millionairesses--usually marry whom they
choose. I do not believe that the two beautiful Miss Gunnings rolled
into one would have made anything as undeniable as she is. One has seen
portraits of them. Look at her as she stands there talking to Tommy and
Lord Dunholm!"

Internally Mount Dunstan was saying: "I am looking at her, thank you,"
and setting his teeth a little.

But Lady Mary was launched upon a subject which swept her along with it,
and she--so to speak--ground the thing in.

"Look at the turn of her head! Look at her mouth and chin, and her eyes
with the lashes sweeping over them when she looks down! You must have
noticed the effect when she lifts them suddenly to look at you. It's so
odd and lovely that it--it almost----"

"Almost makes you jump," ended Mount Dunstan drily.

She did not laugh and, in fact, her expression became rather
sympathetically serious.

"Ah," she said, "I believe you feel a sort of rebellion against the
unfairness of the way things are dealt out. It does seem unfair, of
course. It would be perfectly disgraceful--if she were different. I
had moments of almost hating her until one day not long ago she did
something so bewitchingly kind and understanding of other people's
feelings that I gave up. It was clever, too," with a laugh, "clever and
daring. If she were a young man she would make a dashing soldier."

She did not give him the details of the story, but went on to say
in effect what she had said to Betty herself of the inevitable
incidentalness of her stay in the country. If she had not evidently come
to Stornham this year with a purpose, she would have spent the season
in London and done the usual thing. Americans were generally presented
promptly, if they had any position--sometimes when they had not. Lady
Alanby had heard that the fact that she was with her sister had awakened
curiosity and people were talking about her.

"Lady Alanby said in that dry way of hers that the arrival of an
unmarried American fortune in England was becoming rather like the visit
of an unmarried royalty. People ask each other what it means and begin
to arrange for it. So far, only the women have come, but Lady Alanby
says that is because the men have had no time to do anything but stay
at home and make the fortunes. She believes that in another generation
there will be a male leisure class, and then it will swoop down too, and
marry people. She was very sharp and amusing about it. She said it would
help them to rid themselves of a plethora of wealth and keep them from
bursting."

She was an amiable, if unsentimental person, Mary Lithcom--and was,
quite without ill nature, expressing the consensus of public opinion.
These young women came to the country with something practical
to exchange in these days, and as there were men who had certain
equivalents to offer, so also there were men who had none, and whom
decency should cause to stand aside. Mount Dunstan knew that when she
had said, "Who is there who is suitable?" any shadow of a thought of
himself as being in the running had not crossed her mind. And this was
not only for the reasons she had had the ready composure to name, but
for one less conquerable.

Later, having left Mary Lithcom, he decided to take a turn by himself.
He had done his duty as a masculine guest. He had conversed with young
women and old ones, had danced, visited gardens and greenhouses, and
taken his part in all things. Also he had, in fact, reached a point when
a few minutes of solitude seemed a good thing. He found himself turning
into the clipped laurel walk, where Tommy Alanby had stood with Jane
Lithcom, and he went to the end of it and stood looking out on the view.

"Look at the turn of her head," Lady Mary had said. "Look at her mouth
and chin." And he had been looking at them the whole afternoon, not
because he had intended to do so, but because it was not possible to
prevent himself from doing it.

This was one of the ironies of fate. Orthodox doctrine might suggest
that it was to teach him that his past rebellion had been undue.
Orthodox doctrine was ever ready with these soothing little
explanations. He had raged and sulked at Destiny, and now he had been
given something to rage for.

"No one knows anything about it until it takes him by the throat,"
he was thinking, "and until it happens to a man he has no right
to complain. I was not starving before. I was not hungering and
thirsting--in sight of food and water. I suppose one of the most awful
things in the world is to feel this and know it is no use."

He was not in the condition to reason calmly enough to see that there
might be one chance in a thousand that it was of use. At such times the
most intelligent of men and women lose balance and mental perspicacity.
A certain degree of unreasoning madness possesses them. They see too
much and too little. There were, it was true, a thousand chances against
him, but there was one for him--the chance that selection might be
on his side. He had not that balance of thought left which might have
suggested to him that he was a man young and powerful, and filled with
an immense passion which might count for something. All he saw was
that he was notably in the position of the men whom he had privately
disdained when they helped themselves by marriage. Such marriages he
had held were insults to the manhood of any man and the womanhood of
any woman. In such unions neither party could respect himself or
his companion. They must always in secret doubt each other, fret at
themselves, feel distaste for the whole thing. Even if a man loved such
a woman, and the feeling was mutual, to whom would it occur to believe
it--to see that they were not gross and contemptible? To no one. Would
it have occurred to himself that such an extenuating circumstance was
possible? Certainly it would not. Pig-headed pride and obstinacy it
might be, but he could not yet face even the mere thought of it--even
if his whole position had not been grotesque. Because, after all, it was
grotesque that he should even argue with himself. She--before his eyes
and the eyes of all others--the most desirable of women; people dinning
it in one's ears that she was surrounded by besiegers who waited for her
to hold out her sceptre, and he--well, what was he! Not that his mental
attitude was that of a meek and humble lover who felt himself unworthy
and prostrated himself before her shrine with prayers--he was, on
the contrary, a stout and obstinate Briton finding his stubbornly-held
beliefs made as naught by a certain obsession--an intolerable longing
which wakened with him in the morning, which sank into troubled sleep
with him at night--the longing to see her, to speak to her, to stand
near her, to breathe the air of her. And possessed by this--full of the
overpowering strength of it--was a man likely to go to a woman and say,
"Give your life and desirableness to me; and incidentally support me,
feed me, clothe me, keep the roof over my head, as if I were an impotent
beggar"?

"No, by God!" he said. "If she thinks of me at all it shall be as a man.
No, by God, I will not sink to that!"

. . . . .

A moving touch of colour caught his eye. It was the rose of a parasol
seen above the laurel hedge, as someone turned into the walk. He knew
the colour of it and expected to see other parasols and hear voices. But
there was no sound, and unaccompanied, the wonderful rose-thing moved
towards him.

"The usual things are happening to me," was his thought as it advanced.
"I am hot and cold, and just now my heart leaped like a rabbit. It would
be wise to walk off, but I shall not do it. I shall stay here, because
I am no longer a reasoning being. I suppose that a horse who refuses to
back out of his stall when his stable is on fire feels something of the
same thing."

When she saw him she made an involuntary-looking pause, and then
recovering herself, came forward.

"I seem to have come in search of you," she said. "You ought to be
showing someone the view really--and so ought I."

"Shall we show it to each other?" was his reply.

"Yes." And she sat down on the stone seat which had been placed for the
comfort of view lovers. "I am a little tired--just enough to feel that
to slink away for a moment alone would be agreeable. It IS slinking to
leave Rosalie to battle with half the county. But I shall only stay a
few minutes."

She sat still and gazed at the beautiful lands spread before her, but
there was no stillness in her mind, neither was there stillness in his.
He did not look at the view, but at her, and he was asking himself what
he should be saying to her if he were such a man as Westholt. Though
he had boldness enough, he knew that no man--even though he is free to
speak the best and most passionate thoughts of his soul--could be sure
that he would gain what he desired. The good fortune of Westholt, or of
any other, could but give him one man's fair chance.

But having that chance, he knew he should not relinquish it soon. There
swept back into his mind the story of the marriage of his ancestor, Red
Godwyn, and he laughed low in spite of himself.

Miss Vanderpoel looked up at him quickly.

"Please tell me about it, if it is very amusing," she said.

"I wonder if it will amuse you," was his answer. "Do you like savage
romance?"

"Very much."

It might seem a propos de rien, but he did not care in the least. He
wanted to hear what she would say.

"An ancestor of mine--a certain Red Godwyn--was a barbarian immensely to
my taste. He became enamoured of rumours of the beauty of the daughter
and heiress of his bitterest enemy. In his day, when one wanted a thing,
one rode forth with axe and spear to fight for it."

"A simple and alluring method," commented Betty. "What was her name?"

She leaned in light ease against the stone back of her seat, the rose
light cast by her parasol faintly flushed her. The silence of their
retreat seemed accentuated by its background of music from the gardens.
They smiled a second bravely into each other's eyes, then their glances
became entangled, as they had done for a moment when they had stood
together in Mount Dunstan park. For one moment each had been held
prisoner then--now it was for longer.

"Alys of the Sea-Blue Eyes."

Betty tried to release herself, but could not.

"Sometimes the sea is grey," she said.

His own eyes were still in hers.

"Hers were the colour of the sea on a day when the sun shines on it,
and there are large fleece-white clouds floating in the blue above. They
sparkled and were often like bluebells under water."

"Bluebells under water sounds entrancing," said Betty.

He caught his breath slightly.

"They were--entrancing," he said. "That was evidently the devil of
it--saving your presence."

"I have never objected to the devil," said Betty. "He is an energetic,
hard-working creature and paints himself an honest black. Please tell me
the rest."

"Red Godwyn went forth, and after a bloody fight took his enemy's
castle. If we still lived in like simple, honest times, I should take
Dunholm Castle in the same way. He also took Alys of the Eyes and bore
her away captive."

"From such incidents developed the germs of the desire for female
suffrage," Miss Vanderpoel observed gently.

"The interest of the story lies in the fact that apparently the savage
was either epicure or sentimentalist, or both. He did not treat the lady
ill. He shut her in a tower chamber overlooking his courtyard, and after
allowing her three days to weep, he began his barbarian wooing. Arraying
himself in splendour he ordered her to appear before him. He sat upon
the dais in his banquet hall, his retainers gathered about him--a great
feast spread. In archaic English we are told that the board groaned
beneath the weight of golden trenchers and flagons. Minstrels played and
sang, while he displayed all his splendour."

"They do it yet," said Miss Vanderpoel, "in London and New York and
other places."

"The next day, attended by his followers, he took her with him to ride
over his lands. When she returned to her tower chamber she had learned
how powerful and great a chieftain he was. She 'laye softely' and was
attended by many maidens, but she had no entertainment but to look
out upon the great green court. There he arranged games and trials of
strength and skill, and she saw him bigger, stronger, and more splendid
than any other man. He did not even lift his eyes to her window. He also
sent her daily a rich gift."

"How long did this go on?"

"Three months. At the end of that time he commanded her presence again
in his banquet hall. He told her the gates were opened, the drawbridge
down and an escort waiting to take her back to her father's lands, if
she would."

"What did she do?"

"She looked at him long--and long. She turned proudly away--in the
sea-blue eyes were heavy and stormy tears, which seeing----"

"Ah, he saw them?" from Miss Vanderpoel.

"Yes. And seizing her in his arms caught her to his breast, calling for
a priest to make them one within the hour. I am quoting the chronicle. I
was fifteen when I read it first."

"It is spirited," said Betty, "and Red Godwyn was almost modern in his
methods."

While professing composure and lightness of mood, the spell which works
between two creatures of opposite sex when in such case wrought in them
and made them feel awkward and stiff. When each is held apart from
the other by fate, or will, or circumstance, the spell is a stupefying
thing, deadening even the clearness of sight and wit.

"I must slink back now," Betty said, rising. "Will you slink back with
me to give me countenance? I have greatly liked Red Godwyn."

So it occurred that when Nigel Anstruthers saw them again it was as they
crossed the lawn together, and people looked up from ices and cups of
tea to follow their slow progress with questioning or approving eyes.



CHAPTER XXXV

THE TIDAL WAVE

There was only one man to speak to, and it being the nature of the
beast--so he harshly put it to himself--to be absolutely impelled to
speech at such times, Mount Dunstan laid bare his breast to him, tearing
aside all the coverings pride would have folded about him. The man was,
of course, Penzance, and the laying bare was done the evening after the
story of Red Godwyn had been told in the laurel walk.

They had driven home together in a profound silence, the elder man as
deep in thought as the younger one. Penzance was thinking that there
was a calmness in having reached sixty and in knowing that the pain and
hunger of earlier years would not tear one again. And yet, he himself
was not untorn by that which shook the man for whom his affection had
grown year by year. It was evidently very bad--very bad, indeed. He
wondered if he would speak of it, and wished he would, not because he
himself had much to say in answer, but because he knew that speech would
be better than hard silence.

"Stay with me to-night," Mount Dunstan said, as they drove through the
avenue to the house. "I want you to dine with me and sit and talk late.
I am not sleeping well."

They often dined together, and the vicar not infrequently slept at the
Mount for mere companionship's sake. Sometimes they read, sometimes went
over accounts, planned economies, and balanced expenditures. A chamber
still called the Chaplain's room was always kept in readiness. It had
been used in long past days, when a household chaplain had sat below
the salt and left his patron's table before the sweets were served.
They dined together this night almost as silently as they had driven
homeward, and after the meal they went and sat alone in the library.

The huge room was never more than dimly lighted, and the far-off corners
seemed more darkling than usual in the insufficient illumination of the
far from brilliant lamps. Mount Dunstan, after standing upon the hearth
for a few minutes smoking a pipe, which would have compared ill with old
Doby's Sunday splendour, left his coffee cup upon the mantel and began
to tramp up and down--out of the dim light into the shadows, back out of
the shadows into the poor light.

"You know," he said, "what I think about most things--you know what I
feel."

"I think I do."

"You know what I feel about Englishmen who brand themselves as half men
and marked merchandise by selling themselves and their houses and their
blood to foreign women who can buy them. You know how savage I have been
at the mere thought of it. And how I have sworn----"

"Yes, I know what you have sworn," said Mr. Penzance.

It struck him that Mount Dunstan shook and tossed his head rather like a
bull about to charge an enemy.

"You know how I have felt myself perfectly within my rights when I
blackguarded such men and sneered at such women--taking it for granted
that each was merchandise of his or her kind and beneath contempt. I am
not a foul-mouthed man, but I have used gross words and rough ones to
describe them."

"I have heard you."

Mount Dunstan threw back his head with a big, harsh laugh. He came out
of the shadow and stood still.

"Well," he said, "I am in love--as much in love as any lunatic ever
was--with the daughter of Reuben S. Vanderpoel. There you are--and there
_I_ am!"

"It has seemed to me," Penzance answered, "that it was almost
inevitable."

"My condition is such that it seems to ME that it would be inevitable in
the case of any man. When I see another man look at her my blood races
through my veins with an awful fear and a wicked heat. That will show
you the point I have reached." He walked over to the mantelpiece and
laid his pipe down with a hand Penzance saw was unsteady. "In turning
over the pages of the volume of Life," he said, "I have come upon the
Book of Revelations."

"That is true," Penzance said.

"Until one has come upon it one is an inchoate fool," Mount Dunstan went
on. "And afterwards one is--for a time at least--a sort of madman raving
to one's self, either in or out of a straitjacket--as the case may be. I
am wearing the jacket--worse luck! Do you know anything of the state of
a man who cannot utter the most ordinary words to a woman without being
conscious that he is making mad love to her? This afternoon I found
myself telling Miss Vanderpoel the story of Red Godwyn and Alys of the
Sea-Blue Eyes. I did not make a single statement having any connection
with myself, but throughout I was calling on her to think of herself and
of me as of those two. I saw her in my own arms, with the tears of Alys
on her lashes. I was making mad love, though she was unconscious of my
doing it."

"How do you know she was unconscious?" remarked Mr. Penzance. "You are a
very strong man."

Mount Dunstan's short laugh was even a little awful, because it meant so
much. He let his forehead drop a moment on to his arms as they rested on
the mantelpiece.

"Oh, my God!" he said. But the next instant his head lifted itself. "It
is the mystery of the world--this thing. A tidal wave gathering itself
mountain high and crashing down upon one's helplessness might be as
easily defied. It is supposed to disperse, I believe. That has been said
so often that there must be truth in it. In twenty or thirty or forty
years one is told one will have got over it. But one must live through
the years--one must LIVE through them--and the chief feature of one's
madness is that one is convinced that they will last forever."

"Go on," said Mr. Penzance, because he had paused and stood biting his
lip. "Say all that you feel inclined to say. It is the best thing you
can do. I have never gone through this myself, but I have seen and known
the amazingness of it for many years. I have seen it come and go."

"Can you imagine," Mount Dunstan said, "that the most damnable thought
of all--when a man is passing through it--is the possibility of its
GOING? Anything else rather than the knowledge that years could change
or death could end it! Eternity seems only to offer space for it. One
knows--but one does not believe. It does something to one's brain."

"No scientist, howsoever profound, has ever discovered what," the vicar
mused aloud.

"The Book of Revelations has shown to me how--how MAGNIFICENT life might
be!" Mount Dunstan clenched and unclenched his hands, his eyes flashing.
"Magnificent--that is the word. To go to her on equal ground to take her
hands and speak one's passion as one would--as her eyes answered. Oh,
one would know! To bring her home to this place--having made it as it
once was--to live with her here--to be WITH her as the sun rose and set
and the seasons changed--with the joy of life filling each of them. SHE
is the joy of Life--the very heart of it. You see where I am--you see!"

"Yes," Penzance answered. He saw, and bowed his head, and Mount Dunstan
knew he wished him to continue.

"Sometimes--of late--it has been too much for me and I have given free
rein to my fancy--knowing that there could never be more than fancy.
I was doing it this afternoon as I watched her move about among the
people. And Mary Lithcom began to talk about her." He smiled a grim
smile. "Perhaps it was an intervention of the gods to drag me down from
my impious heights. She was quite unconscious that she was driving
home facts like nails--the facts that every man who wanted money wanted
Reuben S. Vanderpoel's daughter--and that the young lady, not being
dull, was not unaware of the obvious truth! And that men with prizes
to offer were ready to offer them in a proper manner. Also that she was
only a brilliant bird of passage, who, in a few months, would be caught
in the dazzling net of the great world. And that even Lord Westholt
and Dunholm Castle were not quite what she might expect. Lady Mary was
sincerely interested. She drove it home in her ardour. She told me to
LOOK at her--to LOOK at her mouth and chin and eyelashes--and to make
note of what she stood for in a crowd of ordinary people. I could have
laughed aloud with rage and self-mockery."

Mr. Penzance was resting his forehead on his hand, his elbow on his
chair's arm.

"This is profound unhappiness," he said. "It is profound unhappiness."

Mount Dunstan answered by a brusque gesture.

"But it will pass away," went on Penzance, "and not as you fear it
must," in answer to another gesture, fiercely impatient. "Not that way.
Some day--or night--you will stand here together, and you will tell her
all you have told me. I KNOW it will be so."

"What!" Mount Dunstan cried out. But the words had been spoken with such
absolute conviction that he felt himself become pale.

It was with the same conviction that Penzance went on.

"I have spent my quiet life in thinking of the forces for which we find
no explanation--of the causes of which we only see the effects. Long ago
in looking at you in one of my pondering moments I said to myself that
YOU were of the Primeval Force which cannot lose its way--which sweeps
a clear pathway for itself as it moves--and which cannot be held back.
I said to you just now that because you are a strong man you cannot be
sure that a woman you are--even in spite of yourself--making mad love
to, is unconscious that you are doing it. You do not know what your
strength lies in. I do not, the woman does not, but we must all feel
it, whether we comprehend it or no. You said of this fine creature, some
time since, that she was Life, and you have just said again something of
the same kind. It is quite true. She is Life, and the joy of it. You are
two strong forces, and you are drawing together."

He rose from his chair, and going to Mount Dunstan put his hand on his
shoulder, his fine old face singularly rapt and glowing.

"She is drawing you and you are drawing her, and each is too strong to
release the other. I believe that to be true. Both bodies and souls do
it. They are not separate things. They move on their way as the stars
do--they move on their way."

As he spoke, Mount Dunstan's eyes looked into his fixedly. Then they
turned aside and looked down upon the mantel against which he was
leaning. He aimlessly picked up his pipe and laid it down again. He was
paler than before, but he said no single word.

"You think your reasons for holding aloof from her are the reasons of a
man." Mr. Penzance's voice sounded to him remote. "They are the reasons
of a man's pride--but that is not the strongest thing in the world. It
only imagines it is. You think that you cannot go to her as a luckier
man could. You think nothing shall force you to speak. Ask yourself
why. It is because you believe that to show your heart would be to place
yourself in the humiliating position of a man who might seem to her and
to the world to be a base fellow."

"An impudent, pushing, base fellow," thrust in Mount Dunstan fiercely.
"One of a vulgar lot. A thing fancying even its beggary worth buying.
What has a man--whose very name is hung with tattered ugliness--to
offer?"

Penzance's hand was still on his shoulder and his look at him was long.

"His very pride," he said at last, "his very obstinacy and haughty,
stubborn determination. Those broken because the other feeling is the
stronger and overcomes him utterly."

A flush leaped to Mount Dunstan's forehead. He set both elbows on the
mantel and let his forehead fall on his clenched fists. And the savage
Briton rose in him.

"No!" he said passionately. "By God, no!"

"You say that," said the older man, "because you have not yet reached
the end of your tether. Unhappy as you are, you are not unhappy
enough. Of the two, you love yourself the more--your pride and your
stubbornness."

"Yes," between his teeth. "I suppose I retain yet a sort of respect--and
affection--for my pride. May God leave it to me!"

Penzance felt himself curiously exalted; he knew himself unreasoningly
passing through an oddly unpractical, uplifted moment, in whose
impelling he singularly believed.

"You are drawing her and she is drawing you," he said. "Perhaps you drew
each other across seas. You will stand here together and you will tell
her of this--on this very spot."

Mount Dunstan changed his position and laughed roughly, as if to rouse
himself. He threw out his arm in a big, uneasy gesture, taking in the
room.

"Oh, come," he said. "You talk like a seer. Look about you. Look! I am
to bring her here!"

"If it is the primeval thing she will not care. Why should she?"

"She! Bring a life like hers to this! Or perhaps you mean that her own
wealth might make her surroundings becoming--that a man would endure
that?"

"If it is the primeval thing, YOU would not care. You would have
forgotten that you two had ever lived an hour apart."

He spoke with a deep, moved gravity--almost as if he were speaking of
the first Titan building of the earth. Mount Dunstan staring at his
delicate, insistent, elderly face, tried to laugh again--and failed
because the effort seemed actually irreverent. It was a singular
hypnotic moment, indeed. He himself was hypnotised. A flashlight of
new vision blazed before him and left him dumb. He took up his pipe
hurriedly, and with still unsteady fingers began to refill it. When it
was filled he lighted it, and then without a word of answer left the
hearth and began to tramp up and down the room again--out of the dim
light into the shadows, back out of the shadows and into the dim light
again, his brow working and his teeth holding hard his amber mouthpiece.

The morning awakening of a normal healthy human creature should be a
joyous thing. After the soul's long hours of release from the burden of
the body, its long hours spent--one can only say in awe at the mystery
of it, "away, away"--in flight, perhaps, on broad, tireless wings,
beating softly in fair, far skies, breathing pure life, to be brought
back to renew the strength of each dawning day; after these hours of
quiescence of limb and nerve and brain, the morning life returning
should unseal for the body clear eyes of peace at least. In time to
come this will be so, when the soul's wings are stronger, the body more
attuned to infinite law and the race a greater power--but as yet it
often seems as though the winged thing came back a lagging and reluctant
rebel against its fate and the chain which draws it back a prisoner to
its toil.

It had seemed so often to Mount Dunstan--oftener than not. Youth
should not know such awakening, he was well aware; but he had known it
sometimes even when he had been a child, and since his return from his
ill-starred struggle in America, the dull and reluctant facing of the
day had become a habit. Yet on the morning after his talk with his
friend--the curious, uplifted, unpractical talk which had seemed to
hypnotise him--he knew when he opened his eyes to the light that he had
awakened as a man should awake--with an unreasoning sense of pleasure
in the life and health of his own body, as he stretched mighty limbs,
strong after the night's rest, and feeling that there was work to be
done. It was all unreasoning--there was no more to be done than on those
other days which he had wakened to with bitterness, because they seemed
useless and empty of any worth--but this morning the mere light of the
sun was of use, the rustle of the small breeze in the leaves, the
soft floating past of the white clouds, the mere fact that the great
blind-faced, stately house was his own, that he could tramp far over
lands which were his heritage, unfed though they might be, and that the
very rustics who would pass him in the lanes were, so to speak, his own
people: that he had name, life, even the common thing of hunger for his
morning food--it was all of use.

An alluring picture--of a certain deep, clear bathing pool in the park
rose before him. It had not called to him for many a day, and now he saw
its dark blueness gleam between flags and green rushes in its encircling
thickness of shrubs and trees.

He sprang from his bed, and in a few minutes was striding across the
grass of the park, his towels over his arm, his head thrown back as he
drank in the freshness of the morning-scented air. It was scented with
dew and grass and the breath of waking trees and growing things; early
twitters and thrills were to be heard here and there, insisting on
morning joyfulness; rabbits frisked about among the fine-grassed
hummocks of their warren and, as he passed, scuttled back into their
holes, with a whisking of short white tails, at which he laughed with
friendly amusement. Cropping stags lifted their antlered heads, and
fawns with dappled sides and immense lustrous eyes gazed at him without
actual fear, even while they sidled closer to their mothers. A skylark
springing suddenly from the grass a few yards from his feet made him
stop short once and stand looking upward and listening. Who could pass
by a skylark at five o'clock on a summer's morning--the little, heavenly
light-heart circling and wheeling, showering down diamonds, showering
down pearls, from its tiny pulsating, trilling throat?

"Do you know why they sing like that? It is because all but the joy of
things has been kept hidden from them. They knew nothing but life and
flight and mating, and the gold of the sun. So they sing." That she had
once said.

He listened until the jewelled rain seemed to have fallen into his soul.
Then he went on his way smiling as he knew he had never smiled in his
life before. He knew it because he realised that he had never before
felt the same vigorous, light normality of spirit, the same sense of
being as other men. It was as though something had swept a great clear
space about him, and having room for air he breathed deep and was glad
of the commonest gifts of being.

The bathing pool had been the greatest pleasure of his uncared-for
boyhood. No one knew which long passed away Mount Dunstan had made it.
The oldest villager had told him that it had "allus ben there," even in
his father's time. Since he himself had known it he had seen that it was
kept at its best.

Its dark blue depths reflected in their pellucid clearness the water
plants growing at its edge and the enclosing shrubs and trees. The turf
bordering it was velvet-thick and green, and a few flag-steps led down
to the water. Birds came there to drink and bathe and preen and dress
their feathers. He knew there were often nests in the bushes--sometimes
the nests of nightingales who filled the soft darkness or moonlight of
early June with the wonderfulness of nesting song. Sometimes a straying
fawn poked in a tender nose, and after drinking delicately stole away,
as if it knew itself a trespasser.

To undress and plunge headlong into the dark sapphire water was a
rapturous thing. He swam swiftly and slowly by turns, he floated,
looking upward at heaven's blue, listening to birds' song and inhaling
all the fragrance of the early day. Strength grew in him and life pulsed
as the water lapped his limbs. He found himself thinking with pleasure
of a long walk he intended to take to see a farmer he must talk to about
his hop gardens; he found himself thinking with pleasure of other things
as simple and common to everyday life--such things as he ordinarily
faced merely because he must, since he could not afford an experienced
bailiff. He was his own bailiff, his own steward, merely, he had often
thought, an unsuccessful farmer of half-starved lands. But this morning
neither he nor they seemed so starved, and--for no reason--there was a
future of some sort.

He emerged from his pool glowing, the turf feeling like velvet beneath
his feet, a fine light in his eyes.

"Yes," he said, throwing out his arms in a lordly stretch of physical
well-being, "it might be a magnificent thing--mere strong living. THIS
is magnificent."



CHAPTER XXXVI

BY THE ROADSIDE EVERYWHERE

His breakfast and the talk over it with Penzance seemed good things. It
suddenly had become worth while to discuss the approaching hop harvest
and the yearly influx of the hop pickers from London. Yesterday the
subject had appeared discouraging enough. The great hop gardens of the
estate had been in times past its most prolific source of agricultural
revenue and the boast and wonder of the hop-growing county. The neglect
and scant food of the lean years had cost them their reputation. Each
season they had needed smaller bands of "hoppers," and their standard
had been lowered. It had been his habit to think of them gloomily, as
of hopeless and irretrievable loss. Because this morning, for a remote
reason, the pulse of life beat strong in him he was taking a new view.
Might not study of the subject, constant attention and the application
of all available resource to one end produce appreciable results? The
idea presented itself in the form of a thing worth thinking of.

"It would provide an outlook and give one work to do," he put it to his
companion. "To have a roof over one's head, a sound body, and work to
do, is not so bad. Such things form the whole of G. Selden's cheerful
aim. His spirit is alight within me. I will walk over and talk to
Bolter."

Bolter was a farmer whose struggle to make ends meet was almost too much
for him. Holdings whose owners, either through neglect or lack of money,
have failed to do their duty as landlords in the matter of repairs of
farmhouses, outbuildings, fences, and other things, gradually fall into
poor hands. Resourceful and prosperous farmers do not care to hold lands
under unprosperous landlords. There were farms lying vacant on the Mount
Dunstan estate, there were others whose tenants were uncertain rent
payers or slipshod workers or dishonest in small ways. Waste or sale
of the fertiliser which should have been given to the soil as its due,
neglect in the case of things whose decay meant depreciation of property
and expense to the landlord, were dishonesties. But Mount Dunstan knew
that if he turned out Thorn and Fittle, whom no watching could wholly
frustrate in their tricks, Under Mount Farm and Oakfield Rise would
stand empty for many a year. But for his poverty Bolter would have been
a good tenant enough. He was in trouble now because, though his hops
promised well, he faced difficulties in the matter of "pickers." Last
year he had not been able to pay satisfactory prices in return for
labour, and as a result the prospect of securing good workers was an
unpromising one.

The hordes of men, women, and children who flock year after year to
the hop-growing districts know each other. They learn also which may
be called the good neighbourhoods and which the bad; the gardens whose
holders are considered satisfactory as masters, and those who are
undesirable. They know by experience or report where the best "huts" are
provided, where tents are supplied, and where one must get along as one
can.

Generally the regular flocks are under a "captain," who gathers his
followers each season, manages them and looks after their interests and
their employers'. In some cases the same captain brings his regiment to
the same gardens year after year, and ends by counting himself as of the
soil and almost of the family of his employer. Each hard, thick-fogged
winter they fight through in their East End courts and streets, they
look forward to the open-air weeks spent between long, narrow green
groves of tall garlanded poles, whose wreathings hang thick with fresh
and pungent-scented hop clusters. Children play "'oppin" in dingy rooms
and alleys, and talk to each other of days when the sun shone hot and
birds were singing and flowers smelling sweet in the hedgerows; of
others when the rain streamed down and made mud of the soft earth, and
yet there was pleasure in the gipsying life, and high cheer in the fire
of sticks built in the field by some bold spirit, who hung over it a
tin kettle to boil for tea. They never forgot the gentry they had caught
sight of riding or driving by on the road, the parson who came to talk,
and the occasional groups of ladies from the "great house" who came into
the gardens to walk about and look at the bins and ask queer questions
in their gentry-sounding voices. They never knew anything, and they
always seemed to be entertained. Sometimes there were enterprising,
laughing ones, who asked to be shown how to strip the hops into the
bins, and after being shown played at the work for a little while,
taking off their gloves and showing white fingers with rings on. They
always looked as if they had just been washed, and as if all of their
clothes were fresh from the tub, and when anyone stood near them it
was observable that they smelt nice. Generally they gave pennies to the
children before they left the garden, and sometimes shillings to the
women. The hop picking was, in fact, a wonderful blend of work and
holiday combined.

Mount Dunstan had liked the "hopping" from his first memories of it. He
could recall his sensations of welcoming a renewal of interesting things
when, season after season, he had begun to mark the early stragglers on
the road. The stragglers were not of the class gathered under captains.
They were derelicts--tramps who spent their summers on the highways and
their winters in such workhouses as would take them in; tinkers, who
differ from the tramps only because sometimes they owned a rickety cart
full of strange household goods and drunken tenth-hand perambulators
piled with dirty bundles and babies, these last propelled by robust or
worn-out, slatternly women, who sat by the small roadside fire stirring
the battered pot or tending the battered kettle, when resting time had
come and food must be cooked. Gipsies there were who had cooking fires
also, and hobbled horses cropping the grass. Now and then appeared a
grand one, who was rumoured to be a Lee and therefore royal, and who
came and lived regally in a gaily painted caravan. During the late
summer weeks one began to see slouching figures tramping along the high
road at intervals. These were men who were old, men who were middle-aged
and some who were young, all of them more or less dust-grimed,
weather-beaten, or ragged. Occasionally one was to be seen in heavy
beery slumber under the hedgerow, or lying on the grass smoking lazily,
or with painful thrift cobbling up a hole in a garment. Such as these
were drifting in early that they might be on the ground when pickers
were wanted. They were the forerunners of the regular army.

On his walk to West Ways, the farm Bolter lived on, Mount Dunstan passed
two or three of these strays. They were the usual flotsam and jetsam,
but on the roadside near a hop garden he came upon a group of an aspect
so unusual that it attracted his attention. Its unusualness consisted in
its air of exceeding bustling cheerfulness. It was a domestic group of
the most luckless type, and ragged, dirty, and worn by an evidently long
tramp, might well have been expected to look forlorn, discouraged, and
out of spirits. A slouching father of five children, one plainly but
a few weeks old, and slung in a dirty shawl at its mother's breast, an
unhealthy looking slattern mother, two ancient perambulators, one piled
with dingy bundles and cooking utensils, the seven-year-old eldest
girl unpacking things and keeping an eye at the same time on the two
youngest, who were neither of them old enough to be steady on their
feet, the six-year-old gleefully aiding the slouching father to build
the wayside fire. The mother sat upon the grass nursing her baby and
staring about her with an expression at once stupefied and illuminated
by some temporary bliss. Even the slouching father was grinning, as if
good luck had befallen him, and the two youngest were tumbling about
with squeals of good cheer. This was not the humour in which such a
group usually dropped wearily on the grass at the wayside to eat its
meagre and uninviting meal and rest its dragging limbs. As he drew near,
Mount Dunstan saw that at the woman's side there stood a basket full of
food and a can full of milk.

Ordinarily he would have passed on, but, perhaps because of the human
glow the morning had brought him, he stopped and spoke.

"Have you come for the hopping?" he asked.

The man touched his forehead, apparently not conscious that the grin was
yet on his face.

"Yes, sir," he answered.

"How far have you walked?"

"A good fifty miles since we started, sir. It took us a good bit. We was
pretty done up when we stopped here. But we've 'ad a wonderful piece of
good luck." And his grin broadened immensely.

"I am glad to hear that," said Mount Dunstan. The good luck was plainly
of a nature to have excited them greatly. Chance good luck did not
happen to people like themselves. They were in the state of mind which
in their class can only be relieved by talk. The woman broke in, her
weak mouth and chin quite unsteady.

"Seems like it can't be true, sir," she said. "I'd only just come out
of the Union--after this one," signifying the new baby at her breast. "I
wasn't fit to drag along day after day. We 'ad to stop 'ere 'cos I was
near fainting away."

"She looked fair white when she sat down," put in the man. "Like she was
goin' off."

"And that very minute," said the woman, "a young lady came by on
'orseback, an' the minute she sees me she stops her 'orse an' gets
down."

"I never seen nothing like the quick way she done it," said the husband.
"Sharp, like she was a soldier under order. Down an' give the bridle to
the groom an' comes over."

"And kneels down," the woman took him up, "right by me an' says, 'What's
the matter? What can I do?' an' finds out in two minutes an' sends to
the farm for some brandy an' all this basketful of stuff," jerking her
head towards the treasure at her side. "An' gives 'IM," with another
jerk towards her mate, "money enough to 'elp us along till I'm fair
on my feet. That quick it was--that quick," passing her hand over
her forehead, "as if it wasn't for the basket," with a nervous,
half-hysteric giggle, "I wouldn't believe but what it was a dream--I
wouldn't."

"She was a very kind young lady," said Mount Dunstan, "and you were in
luck."

He gave a few coppers to the children and strode on his way. The glow
was hot in his heart, and he held his head high.

"She has gone by," he said. "She has gone by."

He knew he should find her at West Ways Farm, and he did so. Slim and
straight as a young birch tree, and elate with her ride in the morning
air, she stood silhouetted in her black habit against the ancient
whitewashed brick porch as she talked to Bolter.

"I have been drinking a glass of milk and asking questions about hops,"
she said, giving him her hand bare of glove. "Until this year I have
never seen a hop garden or a hop picker."

After the exchange of a few words Bolter respectfully melted away and
left them together.

"It was such a wonderful day that I wanted to be out under the sky for
a long time--to ride a long way," she explained. "I have been looking at
hop gardens as I rode. I have watched them all the summer--from the time
when there was only a little thing with two or three pale green leaves
looking imploringly all the way up to the top of each immensely tall
hop pole, from its place in the earth at the bottom of it--as if it was
saying over and over again, under its breath, 'Can I get up there? Can
I get up? Can I do it in time? Can I do it in time?' Yes, that was
what they were saying, the little bold things. I have watched them ever
since, putting out tendrils and taking hold of the poles and pulling and
climbing like little acrobats. And curling round and unfolding leaves
and more leaves, until at last they threw them out as if they were
beginning to boast that they could climb up into the blue of the sky
if the summer were long enough. And now, look at them!" her hand waved
towards the great gardens. "Forests of them, cool green pathways and
avenues with leaf canopies over them."

"You have seen it all," he said. "You do see things, don't you? A few
hundred yards down the road I passed something you had seen. I knew it
was you who had seen it, though the poor wretches had not heard your
name."

She hesitated a moment, then stooped down and took up in her hand a bit
of pebbled earth from the pathway. There was storm in the blue of
her eyes as she held it out for him to look at as it lay on the bare
rose-flesh of her palm.

"See," she said, "see, it is like that--what we give. It is like that."
And she tossed the earth away.

"It does not seem like that to those others."

"No, thank God, it does not. But to one's self it is the mere luxury of
self-indulgence, and the realisation of it sometimes tempts one to
be even a trifle morbid. Don't you see," a sudden thrill in her voice
startled him, "they are on the roadside everywhere all over the world."

"Yes. All over the world."

"Once when I was a child of ten I read a magazine article about the
suffering millions and the monstrously rich, who were obviously to blame
for every starved sob and cry. It almost drove me out of my childish
senses. I went to my father and threw myself into his arms in a violent
fit of crying. I clung to him and sobbed out, 'Let us give it all away;
let us give it all away and be like other people!'"

"What did he say?"

"He said we could never be quite like other people. We had a certain
load to carry along the highway. It was the thing the whole world wanted
and which we ourselves wanted as much as the rest, and we could not
sanely throw it away. It was my first lesson in political economy and
I abhorred it. I was a passionate child and beat furiously against the
stone walls enclosing present suffering. It was horrible to know that
they could not be torn down. I cried out, 'When I see anyone who is
miserable by the roadside I shall stop and give him everything he
wants--everything!' I was ten years old, and thought it could be done."

"But you stop by the roadside even now."

"Yes. That one can do."

"You are two strong creatures and you draw each other," Penzance had
said. "Perhaps you drew each other across seas. Who knows?"

Coming to West Ways on a chance errand he had, as it were, found
her awaiting him on the threshold. On her part she had certainly not
anticipated seeing him there, but--when one rides far afield in the
sun there are roads towards which one turns as if answering a summoning
call, and as her horse had obeyed a certain touch of the rein at a
certain point her cheek had felt momentarily hot.

Until later, when the "picking" had fairly begun, the kilns would not be
at work; but there was some interest even now in going over the ground
for the first time.

"I have never been inside an oast house," she said; "Bolter is going to
show me his, and explain technicalities."

"May I come with you?" he asked.

There was a change in him. Something had lighted in his eyes since the
day before, when he had told her his story of Red Godwyn. She wondered
what it was. They went together over the place, escorted by Bolter. They
looked into the great circular ovens, on whose floors the hops would be
laid for drying, they mounted ladder-like steps to the upper room where,
when dried, the same hops would lie in soft, light piles, until pushed
with wooden shovels into the long "pokes" to be pressed and packed
into a solid marketable mass. Bolter was allowed to explain the
technicalities, but it was plain that Mount Dunstan was familiar with
all of them, and it was he who, with a sentence here and there, gave her
the colour of things.

"When it is being done there is nearly always outside a touch of the
sharp sweetness of early autumn," he said "The sun slanting through the
little window falls on the pale yellow heaps, and there is a pungent
scent of hops in the air which is rather intoxicating."

"I am coming later to see the entire process," she answered.

It was a mere matter of seeing common things together and exchanging
common speech concerning them, but each was so strongly conscious of
the other that no sentence could seem wholly impersonal. There are
times when the whole world is personal to a mood whose intensity seems a
reason for all things. Words are of small moment when the mere sound of
a voice makes an unreasonable joy.

"There was that touch of sharp autumn sweetness in the air yesterday
morning," she said. "And the chaplets of briony berries that look as if
they had been thrown over the hedges are beginning to change to scarlet
here and there. The wild rose-haws are reddening, and so are the
clusters of berries on the thorn trees and bushes."

"There are millions of them," Mount Dunstan said, "and in a few weeks'
time they will look like bunches of crimson coral. When the sun shines
on them they will be wonderful to see."

What was there in such speeches as these to draw any two nearer and
nearer to each other as they walked side by side--to fill the morning
air with an intensity of life, to seem to cause the world to drop away
and become as nothing? As they had been isolated during their waltz in
the crowded ballroom at Dunholm Castle, so they were isolated now. When
they stood in the narrow green groves of the hop garden, talking simply
of the placing of the bins and the stripping and measuring of the vines,
there might have been no human thing within a hundred miles--within a
thousand. For the first time his height and strength conveyed to her an
impression of physical beauty. His walk and bearing gave her pleasure.
When he turned his red-brown eyes upon her suddenly she was conscious
that she liked their colour, their shape, the power of the look in them.
On his part, he--for the twentieth time--found himself newly moved by
the dower nature had bestowed on her. Had the world ever held before a
woman creature so much to be longed for?--abnormal wealth, New York and
Fifth Avenue notwithstanding, a man could only think of folding arms
round her and whispering in her lovely ear--follies, oaths, prayers,
gratitude.

And yet as they went about together there was growing in Betty
Vanderpoel's mind a certain realisation. It grew in spite of the
recognition of the change in him--the new thing lighted in his eyes.
Whatsoever he felt--if he felt anything--he would never allow himself
speech. How could he? In his place she could not speak herself. Because
he was the strong thing which drew her thoughts, he would not come to
any woman only to cast at her feet a burden which, in the nature of
things, she must take up. And suddenly she comprehended that the mere
obstinate Briton in him--even apart from greater things--had an immense
attraction for her. As she liked now the red-brown colour of his
eyes and saw beauty in his rugged features, so she liked his British
stubbornness and the pride which would not be beaten.

"It is the unconquerable thing, which leads them in their battles and
makes them bear any horror rather than give in. They have taken half the
world with it; they are like bulldogs and lions," she thought. "And--and
I am glorying in it."

"Do you know," said Mount Dunstan, "that sometimes you suddenly fling
out the most magnificent flag of colour--as if some splendid flame of
thought had sent up a blaze?"

"I hope it is not a habit," she answered. "When one has a splendid flare
of thought one should be modest about it."

What was there worth recording in the whole hour they spent together?
Outwardly there had only been a chance meeting and a mere passing by.
But each left something with the other and each learned something; and
the record made was deep.

At last she was on her horse again, on the road outside the white gate.

"This morning has been so much to the good," he said. "I had thought
that perhaps we might scarcely meet again this year. I shall become
absorbed in hops and you will no doubt go away. You will make visits or
go to the Riviera--or to New York for the winter?"

"I do not know yet. But at least I shall stay to watch the thorn trees
load themselves with coral." To herself she was saying: "He means to
keep away. I shall not see him."

As she rode off Mount Dunstan stood for a few moments, not moving from
his place. At a short distance from the farmhouse gate a side lane
opened upon the highway, and as she cantered in its direction a horseman
turned in from it--a man who was young and well dressed and who sat well
a spirited animal. He came out upon the road almost face to face with
Miss Vanderpoel, and from where he stood Mount Dunstan could see his
delighted smile as he lifted his hat in salute. It was Lord Westholt,
and what more natural than that after an exchange of greetings the two
should ride together on their way! For nearly three miles their homeward
road would be the same.

But in a breath's space Mount Dunstan realised a certain truth--a
simple, elemental thing. All the exaltation of the morning swooped and
fell as a bird seems to swoop and fall through space. It was all
over and done with, and he understood it. His normal awakening in the
morning, the physical and mental elation of the first clear hours, the
spring of his foot as he had trod the road, had all had but one meaning.
In some occult way the hypnotic talk of the night before had formed
itself into a reality, fantastic and unreasoning as it had been. Some
insistent inner consciousness had seized upon and believed it in spite
of him and had set all his waking being in tune to it. That was the
explanation of his undue spirits and hope. If Penzance had spoken a
truth he would have had a natural, sane right to feel all this and more.
But the truth was that he, in his guise--was one of those who are "on
the roadside everywhere--all over the world." Poetically figurative as
the thing sounded, it was prosaic fact.

So, still hearing the distant sounds of the hoofs beating in cheerful
diminuendo on the roadway, he turned about and went back to talk to
Bolter.



CHAPTER XXXVII

CLOSED CORRIDORS

To spend one's days perforce in an enormous house alone is a thing
likely to play unholy tricks with a man's mind and lead it to gloomy
workings. To know the existence of a hundred or so of closed doors
shut on the darkness of unoccupied rooms; to be conscious of flights
of unmounted stairs, of stretches of untrodden corridors, of unending
walls, from which the pictured eyes of long dead men and women stare,
as if seeing things which human eyes behold not--is an eerie and
unwholesome thing. Mount Dunstan slept in a large four-post bed in a
chamber in which he might have died or been murdered a score of times
without being able to communicate with the remote servants' quarters
below stairs, where lay the one man and one woman who attended him.
When he came late to his room and prepared for sleep by the light of two
flickering candles the silence of the dead in tombs was about him; but
it was only a more profound and insistent thing than the silence of the
day, because it was the silence of the night, which is a presence. He
used to tell himself with secret smiles at the fact that at certain
times the fantasy was half believable--that there were things which
walked about softly at night--things which did not want to be dead.
He himself had picked them out from among the pictures in the
gallery--pretty, light, petulant women; adventurous-eyed, full-blooded,
eager men. His theory was that they hated their stone coffins, and
fought their way back through the grey mists to try to talk and make
love and to be seen of warm things which were alive. But it was not to
be done, because they had no bodies and no voices, and when they beat
upon closed doors they would not open. Still they came back--came
back. And sometimes there was a rustle and a sweep through the air in a
passage, or a creak, or a sense of waiting which was almost a sound.

"Perhaps some of them have gone when they have been as I am," he had
said one black night, when he had sat in his room staring at the floor.
"If a man was dragged out when he had not LIVED a day, he would come
back I should come back if--God! A man COULD not be dragged away--like
THIS!"

And to sit alone and think of it was an awful and a lonely thing--a
lonely thing.

But loneliness was nothing new, only that in these months his had
strangely intensified itself. This, though he was not aware of it, was
because the soul and body which were the completing parts of him were
within reach--and without it. When he went down to breakfast he sat
singly at his table, round which twenty people might have laughed and
talked. Between the dining-room and the library he spent his days when
he was not out of doors. Since he could not afford servants, the many
other rooms must be kept closed. It was a ghastly and melancholy thing
to make, as he must sometimes, a sort of precautionary visit to the
state apartments. He was the last Mount Dunstan, and he would never see
them opened again for use, but so long as he lived under the roof he
might by prevision check, in a measure, the too rapid encroachments
of decay. To have a leak stopped here, a nail driven or a support put
there, seemed decent things to do.

"Whom am I doing it for?" he said to Mr. Penzance. "I am doing it
for myself--because I cannot help it. The place seems to me like some
gorgeous old warrior come to the end of his days It has stood the war of
things for century after century--the war of things. It is going now I
am all that is left to it. It is all I have. So I patch it up when I can
afford it, with a crutch or a splint and a bandage."

Late in the afternoon of the day on which Miss Vanderpoel rode away from
West Ways with Lord Westholt, a stealthy and darkly purple cloud rose,
lifting its ominous bulk against a chrysoprase and pink horizon. It
was the kind of cloud which speaks of but one thing to those who watch
clouds, or even casually consider them. So Lady Anstruthers felt some
surprise when she saw Sir Nigel mount his horse before the stone steps
and ride away, as it were, into the very heart of the coming storm.

"Nigel will be caught in the rain," she said to her sister. "I wonder
why he goes out now. It would be better to wait until to-morrow."

But Sir Nigel did not think so. He had calculated matters with some
nicety. He was not exactly on such terms with Mount Dunstan as would
make a casual call seem an entirely natural thing, and he wished to drop
in upon him for a casual call and in an unpremeditated manner. He
meant to reach the Mount about the time the storm broke, under
which circumstance nothing could bear more lightly an air of being
unpremeditated than to take refuge in a chance passing.

Mount Dunstan was in the library. He had sat smoking his pipe while he
watched the purple cloud roll up and spread itself, blotting out the
chrysoprase and pink and blue, and when the branches of the trees began
to toss about he had looked on with pleasure as the rush of big rain
drops came down and pelted things. It was a fine storm, and there were
some imposing claps of thunder and jagged flashes of lightning. As one
splendid rattle shook the air he was surprised to hear a summons at the
great hall door. Who on earth could be turning up at this time? His man
Reeve announced the arrival a few moments later, and it was Sir Nigel
Anstruthers. He had, he explained, been riding through the village when
the deluge descended, and it had occurred to him to turn in at the
park gates and ask a temporary shelter. Mount Dunstan received him with
sufficient courtesy. His appearance was not a thing to rejoice over, but
it could be endured. Whisky and soda and a smoke would serve to pass the
hour, if the storm lasted so long.

Conversation was not the easiest thing in the world under the
circumstances, but Sir Nigel led the way steadily after he had taken his
seat and accepted the hospitalities offered. What a place it was--this!
He had been struck for the hundredth time with the impressiveness of
the mass of it, the sweep of the park and the splendid grouping of the
timber, as he had ridden up the avenue. There was no other place like it
in the county. Was there another like it in England?

"Not in its case, I hope," Mount Dunstan said.

There were a few seconds of silence. The rain poured down in splashing
sheets and was swept in rattling gusts against the window panes.

"What the place needs is--an heiress," Anstruthers observed in the tone
of a practical man. "I believe I have heard that your views of things
are such that she should preferably NOT be an American."

Mount Dunstan did not smile, though he slightly showed his teeth.

"When I am driven to the wall," he answered, "I may not be fastidious as
to nationality."

Nigel Anstruthers' manner was not a bad one. He chose that tone of
casual openness which, while it does not wholly commit itself, may be
regarded as suggestive of the amiable half confidence of speeches made
as "man to man."

"My own opportunity of studying the genus American heiress within my own
gates is a first-class one. I find that it knows what it wants and that
its intention is to get it." A short laugh broke from him as he flicked
the ash from his cigar on to the small bronze receptacle at his elbow.
"It is not many years since it would have been difficult for a girl to
be frank enough to say, 'When I marry I shall ask something in exchange
for what I have to give.'"

"There are not many who have as much to give," said Mount Dunstan
coolly.

"True," with a slight shrug. "You are thinking that men are glad enough
to take a girl like that--even one who has not a shape like Diana's and
eyes like the sea. Yes, by George," softly, and narrowing his lids, "she
IS a handsome creature."

Mount Dunstan did not attempt to refute the statement, and Anstruthers
laughed low again.

"It is an asset she knows the value of quite clearly. That is the
interesting part of it. She has inherited the far-seeing commercial
mind. She does not object to admitting it. She educated herself in
delightful cold blood that she might be prepared for the largest prize
appearing upon the horizon. She held things in view when she was a
child at school, and obviously attacked her French, German, and Italian
conjugations with a twelve-year-old eye on the future."

Mount Dunstan leaning back carelessly in his chair, laughed--as it
seemed--with him. Internally he was saying that the man was a liar who
might always be trusted to lie, but he knew with shamed fury that
the lies were doing something to his soul--rolling dark vapours over
it--stinging him, dragging away props, and making him feel they had been
foolish things to lean on. This can always be done with a man in love
who has slight foundation for hope. For some mysterious and occult
reason civilisation has elected to treat the strange and great passion
as if it were an unholy and indecent thing, whose dominion over him
proper social training prevents any man from admitting openly. In
passing through its cruelest phases he must bear himself as if he were
immune, and this being the custom, he may be called upon to endure much
without the relief of striking out with manly blows. An enemy guessing
his case and possessing the infernal gift whose joy is to dishearten and
do hurt with courteous despitefulness, may plant a poisoned arrow here
and there with neatness and fine touch, while his bound victim can, with
decency, neither start, nor utter brave howls, nor guard himself, but
must sit still and listen, hospitably supplying smoke and drink and
being careful not to make an ass of himself.

Therefore Mount Dunstan pushed the cigars nearer to his visitor and
waved his hand hospitably towards the whisky and soda. There was no
reason, in fact, why Anstruthers--or any one indeed, but Penzance,
should suspect that he had become somewhat mad in secret. The man's talk
was marked merely by the lightly disparaging malice which was rarely to
be missed from any speech of his which touched on others. Yet it might
have been a thing arranged beforehand, to suggest adroitly either lies
or truth which would make a man see every sickeningly good reason for
feeling that in this contest he did not count for a man at all.

"It has all been pretty obvious," said Sir Nigel. "There is a sort of
cynicism in the openness of the siege. My impression is that almost
every youngster who has met her has taken a shot. Tommy Alanby
scrambling up from his knees in one of the rose-gardens was a satisfying
sight. His much-talked-of-passion for Jane Lithcom was temporarily in
abeyance."

The rain swirled in a torrent against the window, and casually glancing
outside at the tossing gardens he went on.

"She is enjoying herself. Why not? She has the spirit of the huntress.
I don't think she talks nonsense about friendship to the captives of her
bow and spear. She knows she can always get what she wants. A girl like
that MUST have an arrogance of mind. And she is not a young saint. She
is one of the women born with THE LOOK in her eyes. I own I should not
like to be in the place of any primeval poor brute who really went mad
over her--and counted her millions as so much dirt."

Mount Dunstan answered with a shrug of his big shoulders:

"Apparently he would seem as remote from the reason of to-day as the men
who lived on the land when Hengist and Horsa came--or when Caesar landed
at Deal."

"He would seem as remote to her," with a shrug also. "I should not like
to contend that his point of view would not interest her or that she
would particularly discourage him. Her eyes would call him--without
malice or intention, no doubt, but your early Briton ceorl or earl would
be as well understood by her. Your New York beauty who has lived in the
market place knows principally the prices of things."

He was not ill pleased with himself. He was putting it well and getting
rather even with her. If this fellow with his shut mouth had a sore spot
hidden anywhere he was giving him "to think." And he would find himself
thinking, while, whatsoever he thought, he would be obliged to continue
to keep his ugly mouth shut. The great idea was to say things WITHOUT
saying them, to set your hearer's mind to saying them for you.

"What strikes one most is a sort of commercial brilliance in her,"
taking up his thread again after a smilingly reflective pause. "It quite
exhilarates one by its novelty. There's spice in it. We English have not
a look-in when we are dealing with Americans, and yet France calls us
a nation of shopkeepers. My impression is that their women take little
inventories of every house they enter, of every man they meet. I heard
her once speaking to my wife about this place, as if she had lived in
it. She spoke of the closed windows and the state of the gardens--of
broken fountains and fallen arches. She evidently deplored the
deterioration of things which represented capital. She has inventoried
Dunholm, no doubt. That will give Westholt a chance. But she will do
nothing until after her next year's season in London--that I'd swear.
I look forward to next year. It will be worth watching. She has been
training my wife. A sister who has married an Englishman and has at
least spent some years of her life in England has a certain established
air. When she is presented one knows she will be a sensation. After
that----" he hesitated a moment, smiling not too pleasantly.

"After that," said Mount Dunstan, "the Deluge."

"Exactly. The Deluge which usually sweeps girls off their feet--but it
will not sweep her off hers. She will stand quite firm in the flood and
lose sight of nothing of importance which floats past."

Mount Dunstan took him up. He was sick of hearing the fellow's voice.

"There will be a good many things," he said; "there will be great
personages and small ones, pomps and vanities, glittering things and
heavy ones."

"When she sees what she wants," said Anstruthers, "she will hold out
her hand, knowing it will come to her. The things which drown will not
disturb her. I once made the blunder of suggesting that she might need
protection against the importunate--as if she had been an English girl.
It was an idiotic thing to do."

"Because?" Mount Dunstan for the moment had lost his head. Anstruthers
had maddeningly paused.

"She answered that if it became necessary she might perhaps be able to
protect herself. She was as cool and frank as a boy. No air pince about
it--merely consciousness of being able to put things in their right
places. Made a mere male relative feel like a fool."

"When ARE things in their right places?" To his credit be it spoken,
Mount Dunstan managed to say it as if in the mere putting together of
idle words. What man likes to be reminded of his right place! No man
wants to be put in his right place. There is always another place which
seems more desirable.

"She knows--if we others do not. I suppose my right place is at
Stornham, conducting myself as the brother-in-law of a fair American
should. I suppose yours is here--shut up among your closed corridors and
locked doors. There must be a lot of them in a house like this. Don't
you sometimes feel it too large for you?"

"Always," answered Mount Dunstan.

The fact that he added nothing else and met a rapid side glance with
unmoving red-brown eyes gazing out from under rugged brows, perhaps
irritated Anstruthers. He had been rather enjoying himself, but he had
not enjoyed himself enough. There was no denying that his plaything had
not openly flinched. Plainly he was not good at flinching. Anstruthers
wondered how far a man might go. He tried again.

"She likes the place, though she has a natural disdain for its
condition. That is practical American. Things which are going to pieces
because money is not spent upon them--mere money, of which all the
people who count for anything have so much--are inevitably rather
disdained. They are 'out of it.' But she likes the estate." As he
watched Mount Dunstan he felt sure he had got it at last--the right
thing. "If you were a duke with fifty thousand a year," with a
distinctly nasty, amicably humorous, faint laugh, "she would--by the
Lord, I believe, she would take it over--and you with it."

Mount Dunstan got up. In his rough walking tweeds he looked
over-big--and heavy--and perilous. For two seconds Nigel Anstruthers
would not have been surprised if he had without warning slapped his
face, or knocked him over, or whirled him out of his chair and kicked
him. He would not have liked it, but--for two seconds--it would have
been no surprise. In fact, he instinctively braced his not too
firm muscles. But nothing of the sort occurred. During the two
seconds--perhaps three--Mount Dunstan stood still and looked down at
him. The brief space at an end, he walked over to the hearth and stood
with his back to the big fireplace.

"You don't like her," he said, and his manner was that of a man dealing
with a matter of fact. "Why do you talk about her?"

He had got away again--quite away.

An ugly flush shot over Anstruthers' face. There was one more thing
to say--whether it was idiotic to say it or not. Things can always be
denied afterwards, should denial appear necessary--and for the moment
his special devil possessed him.

"I do not like her!" And his mouth twisted. "Do I not? I am not an old
woman. I am a man--like others. I chance to like her--too much."

There was a short silence. Mount Dunstan broke it.

"Then," he remarked, "you had better emigrate to some country with
a climate which suits you. I should say that England--for the
present--does not."

"I shall stay where I am," answered Anstruthers, with a slight
hoarseness of voice, which made it necessary for him to clear his
throat. "I shall stay where she is. I will have that satisfaction,
at least. She does not mind. I am only a racketty, middle-aged
brother-in-law, and she can take care of herself. As I told you, she has
the spirit of the huntress."

"Look here," said Mount Dunstan, quite without haste, and with an iron
civility. "I am going to take the liberty of suggesting something. If
this thing is true, it would be as well not to talk about it."

"As well for me--or for her?" and there was a serene significance in the
query.

Mount Dunstan thought a few seconds.

"I confess," he said slowly, and he planted his fine blow between
the eyes well and with directness. "I confess that it would not have
occurred to me to ask you to do anything or refrain from doing it for
her sake."

"Thank you. Perhaps you are right. One learns that one must protect
one's self. I shall not talk--neither will you. I know that. I was a
fool to let it out. The storm is over. I must ride home." He rose from
his seat and stood smiling. "It would smash up things nicely if the new
beauty's appearance in the great world were preceded by chatter of the
unseemly affection of some adorer of ill repute. Unfairly enough it is
always the woman who is hurt."

"Unless," said Mount Dunstan civilly, "there should arise the poor,
primeval brute, in his neolithic wrath, to seize on the man to blame,
and break every bone and sinew in his damned body."

"The newspapers would enjoy that more than she would," answered
Sir Nigel. "She does not like the newspapers. They are too ready
to disparage the multi-millionaire, and cackle about members of his
family."

The unhidden hatred which still professed to hide itself in the depths
of their pupils, as they regarded each other, had its birth in a passion
as elemental as the quakings of the earth, or the rage of two lions in
a desert, lashing their flanks in the blazing sun. It was well that at
this moment they should part ways.

Sir Nigel's horse being brought, he went on the way which was his.

"It was a mistake to say what I did," he said before going. "I ought to
have held my tongue. But I am under the same roof with her. At any rate,
that is a privilege no other man shares with me."

He rode off smartly, his horse's hoofs splashing in the rain pools left
in the avenue after the storm. He was not so sure after all that he
had made a mistake, and for the moment he was not in the mood to care
whether he had made one or not. His agreeable smile showed itself as he
thought of the obstinate, proud brute he had left behind, sitting alone
among his shut doors and closed corridors. They had not shaken hands
either at meeting or parting. Queer thing it was--the kind of enmity a
man could feel for another when he was upset by a woman. It was amusing
enough that it should be she who was upsetting him after all these
years--impudent little Betty, with the ferocious manner.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

AT SHANDY'S

On a late-summer evening in New York the atmosphere surrounding a
certain corner table at Shandy's cheap restaurant in Fourteenth Street
was stirred by a sense of excitement.

The corner table in question was the favourite meeting place of a group
of young men of the G. Selden type, who usually took possession of it at
dinner time--having decided that Shandy's supplied more decent food
for fifty cents, or even for twenty-five, than was to be found at other
places of its order. Shandy's was "about all right," they said to each
other, and patronised it accordingly, three or four of them generally
dining together, with a friendly and adroit manipulation of "portions"
and "half portions" which enabled them to add variety to their bill of
fare.

The street outside was lighted, the tide of passers-by was less full and
more leisurely in its movements than it was during the seething, working
hours of daylight, but the electric cars swung past each other with
whiz and clang of bell almost unceasingly, their sound being swelled, at
short intervals, by the roar and rumbling rattle of the trains dashing
by on the elevated railroad. This, however, to the frequenters of
Shandy's, was the usual accompaniment of every-day New York life and was
regarded as a rather cheerful sort of thing.

This evening the four claimants of the favourite corner table had met
together earlier than usual. Jem Belter, who "hammered" a typewriter at
Schwab's Brewery, Tom Wetherbee, who was "in a downtown office," Bert
Johnson, who was "out for the Delkoff," and Nick Baumgarten, who having
for some time "beaten" certain streets as assistant salesman for the
same illustrious machine, had been recently elevated to a "territory" of
his own, and was therefore in high spirits.

"Say!" he said. "Let's give him a fine dinner. We can make it between
us. Beefsteak and mushrooms, and potatoes hashed brown. He likes them.
Good old G. S. I shall be right glad to see him. Hope foreign travel has
not given him the swell head."

"Don't believe it's hurt him a bit. His letter didn't sound like it.
Little Georgie ain't a fool," said Jem Belter.

Tom Wetherbee was looking over the letter referred to. It had been
written to the four conjointly, towards the termination of Selden's
visit to Mr. Penzance. The young man was not an ardent or fluent
correspondent; but Tom Wetherbee was chuckling as he read the epistle.

"Say, boys," he said, "this big thing he's keeping back to tell us when
he sees us is all right, but what takes me is old George paying a visit
to a parson. He ain't no Young Men's Christian Association."


Bert Johnson leaned forward, and looked at the address on the letter
paper.

"Mount Dunstan Vicarage," he read aloud. "That looks pretty swell,
doesn't it?" with a laugh. "Say, fellows, you know Jepson at the office,
the chap that prides himself on reading such a lot? He said it reminded
him of the names of places in English novels. That Johnny's the biggest
snob you ever set your tooth into. When I told him about the lord fellow
that owns the castle, and that George seemed to have seen him, he nearly
fell over himself. Never had any use for George before, but just you
watch him make up to him when he sees him next."

People were dropping in and taking seats at the tables. They were all of
one class. Young men who lived in hall bedrooms. Young women who worked
in shops or offices, a couple here and there, who, living far uptown,
had come to Shandy's to dinner, that they might go to cheap seats in
some theatre afterwards. In the latter case, the girls wore their best
hats, had bright eyes, and cheeks lightly flushed by their sense of
festivity. Two or three were very pretty in their thin summer dresses
and flowered or feathered head gear, tilted at picturesque angles over
their thick hair. When each one entered the eyes of the young men at the
corner table followed her with curiosity and interest, but the glances
at her escort were always of a disparaging nature.

"There's a beaut!" said Nick Baumgarten. "Get onto that pink stuff
on her hat, will you. She done it because it's just the colour of her
cheeks."

They all looked, and the girl was aware of it, and began to laugh and
talk coquettishly to the young man who was her companion.

"I wonder where she got Clarence?" said Jem Belter in sarcastic allusion
to her escort. "The things those lookers have fastened on to them gets
ME."

"If it was one of US, now," said Bert Johnson. Upon which they broke
into simultaneous good-natured laughter.

"It's queer, isn't it," young Baumgarten put in, "how a fellow always
feels sore when he sees another fellow with a peach like that? It's just
straight human nature, I guess."

The door swung open to admit a newcomer, at the sight of whom Jem Belter
exclaimed joyously: "Good old Georgie! Here he is, fellows! Get on to
his glad rags."

"Glad rags" is supposed to buoyantly describe such attire as, by its
freshness or elegance of style, is rendered a suitable adornment for
festive occasions or loftier leisure moments. "Glad rags" may mean
evening dress, when a young gentleman's wardrobe can aspire to splendour
so marked, but it also applies to one's best and latest-purchased garb,
in contradistinction to the less ornamental habiliments worn every day,
and designated as "office clothes."

G. Selden's economies had not enabled him to give himself into the hands
of a Bond Street tailor, but a careful study of cut and material, as
spread before the eye in elegant coloured illustrations in the windows
of respectable shops in less ambitious quarters, had resulted in the
purchase of a well-made suit of smart English cut. He had a nice young
figure, and looked extremely neat and tremendously new and clean, so
much so, indeed, that several persons glanced at him a little admiringly
as he was met half way to the corner table by his friends.

"Hello, old chap! Glad to see you. What sort of a voyage? How did you
leave the royal family? Glad to get back?"

They all greeted him at once, shaking hands and slapping him on the
back, as they hustled him gleefully back to the corner table and made
him sit down.

"Say, garsong," said Nick Baumgarten to their favourite waiter, who came
at once in answer to his summons, "let's have a porterhouse steak, half
the size of this table, and with plenty of mushrooms and potatoes hashed
brown. Here's Mr. Selden just returned from visiting at Windsor Castle,
and if we don't treat him well, he'll look down on us."

G. Selden grinned. "How have you been getting on, Sam?" he said, nodding
cheerfully to the man. They were old and tried friends. Sam knew all
about the days when a fellow could not come into Shandy's at all, or
must satisfy his strong young hunger with a bowl of soup, or coffee and
a roll. Sam did his best for them in the matter of the size of portions,
and they did their good-natured utmost for him in the affair of the
pooled tip.

"Been getting on as well as can be expected," Sam grinned back. "Hope
you had a fine time, Mr. Selden?"

"Fine! I should smile! Fine wasn't in it," answered Selden. "But I'm
looking forward to a Shandy porterhouse steak, all the same."

"Did they give you a better one in the Strawnd?" asked Baumgarten, in
what he believed to be a correct Cockney accent.

"You bet they didn't," said Selden. "Shandy's takes a lot of beating."
That last is English.

The people at the other tables cast involuntary glances at them. Their
eager, hearty young pleasure in the festivity of the occasion was a
healthy thing to see. As they sat round the corner table, they produced
the effect of gathering close about G. Selden. They concentrated their
combined attention upon him, Belter and Johnson leaning forward on their
folded arms, to watch him as he talked.

"Billy Page came back in August, looking pretty bum," Nick Baumgarten
began. "He'd been painting gay Paree brick red, and he'd spent more
money than he'd meant to, and that wasn't half enough. Landed dead
broke. He said he'd had a great time, but he'd come home with rather a
dark brown taste in his mouth, that he'd like to get rid of."

"He thought you were a fool to go off cycling into the country," put in
Wetherbee, "but I told him I guessed that was where he was 'way off. I
believed you'd had the best time of the two of you."

"Boys," said Selden, "I had the time of my life." He said it almost
solemnly, and laid his hand on the table. "It was like one of those
yarns Bert tells us. Half the time I didn't believe it, and half the
time I was ashamed of myself to think it was all happening to me and
none of your fellows were in it."

"Oh, well," said Jem Belter, "luck chases some fellows, anyhow. Look at
Nick, there."

"Well," Selden summed the whole thing up, "I just FELL into it where
it was so deep that I had to strike out all I knew how to keep from
drowning."

"Tell us the whole thing," Nick Baumgarten put in; "from beginning to
end. Your letter didn't give anything away."

"A letter would have spoiled it. I can't write letters anyhow. I wanted
to wait till I got right here with you fellows round where I could
answer questions. First off," with the deliberation befitting such an
opening, "I've sold machines enough to pay my expenses, and leave some
over."

"You have? Gee whiz! Say, give us your prescription. Glad I know you,
Georgy!"

"And who do you suppose bought the first three?" At this point, it
was he who leaned forward upon the table--his climax being a thing to
concentrate upon. "Reuben S. Vanderpoel's daughter--Miss Bettina! And,
boys, she gave me a letter to Reuben S., himself, and here it is."

He produced a flat leather pocketbook and took an envelope from an inner
flap, laying it before them on the tablecloth. His knowledge that they
would not have believed him if he had not brought his proof was founded
on everyday facts. They would not have doubted his veracity, but
the possibility of such delirious good fortune. What they would have
believed would have been that he was playing a hilarious joke on
them. Jokes of this kind, but not of this proportion, were common
entertainments.

Their first impulse had been towards an outburst of laughter, but even
before he produced his letter a certain truthful seriousness in his look
had startled them. When he laid the envelope down each man caught his
breath. It could not be denied that Jem Belter turned pale with emotion.
Jem had never been one of the lucky ones.

"She let me read it," said G. Selden, taking the letter from its
envelope with great care. "And I said to her: 'Miss Vanderpoel, would
you let me just show that to the boys the first night I go to Shandy's?'
I knew she'd tell me if it wasn't all right to do it. She'd know I'd
want to be told. And she just laughed and said: 'I don't mind at all. I
like "the boys." Here is a message to them. "Good luck to you all."'"

"She said that?" from Nick Baumgarten.

"Yes, she did, and she meant it. Look at this."

This was the letter. It was quite short, and written in a clear,
definite hand.


"DEAR FATHER: This will be brought to you by Mr. G. Selden, of whom I
have written to you. Please be good to him.

"Affectionately,

"BETTY."


Each young man read it in turn. None of them said anything just at
first. A kind of awe had descended upon them--not in the least awe of
Vanderpoel, who, with other multi-millionaires, were served up each week
with cheerful neighbourly comment or equally neighbourly disrespect, in
huge Sunday papers read throughout the land--but awe of the unearthly
luck which had fallen without warning to good old G. S., who lived like
the rest of them in a hall bedroom on ten per, earned by tramping the
streets for the Delkoff.

"That girl," said G. Selden gravely, "that girl is a winner from
Winnersville. I take off my hat to her. If it's the scheme that some
people's got to have millions, and others have got to sell Delkoffs,
that girl's one of those that's entitled to the millions. It's all right
she should have 'em. There's no kick coming from me."

Nick Baumgarten was the first to resume wholly normal condition of mind.

"Well, I guess after you've told us about her there'll be no kick
coming from any of us. Of course there's something about you that royal
families cry for, and they won't be happy till they get. All of us boys
knows that. But what we want to find out is how you worked it so that
they saw the kind of pearl-studded hairpin you were."

"Worked it!" Selden answered. "I didn't work it. I've got a good bit of
nerve, but I never should have had enough to invent what happened--just
HAPPENED. I broke my leg falling off my bike, and fell right into
a whole bunch of them--earls and countesses and viscounts and
Vanderpoels. And it was Miss Vanderpoel who saw me first lying on the
ground. And I was in Stornham Court where Lady Anstruthers lives--and
she used to be Miss Rosalie Vanderpoel."

"Boys," said Bert Johnson, with friendly disgust, "he's been up to his
neck in 'em."

"Cheer up. The worst is yet to come," chaffed Tom Wetherbee.

Never had such a dinner taken place at the corner table, or, in fact,
at any other table at Shandy's. Sam brought beefsteaks, which were
princely, mushrooms, and hashed brown potatoes in portions whose
generosity reached the heart. Sam was on good terms with Shandy's
carver, and had worked upon his nobler feelings. Steins of lager beer
were ventured upon. There was hearty satisfying of fine hungers. Two of
the party had eaten nothing but one "Quick Lunch" throughout the day,
one of them because he was short of time, the other for economy's
sake, because he was short of money. The meal was a splendid thing. The
telling of the story could not be wholly checked by the eating of food.
It advanced between mouthfuls, questions being asked and details given
in answers. Shandy's became more crowded, as the hour advanced. People
all over the room cast interested looks at the party at the corner
table, enjoying itself so hugely. Groups sitting at the tables nearest
to it found themselves excited by the things they heard.

"That young fellow in the new suit has just come back from Europe," said
a man to his wife and daughter. "He seems to have had a good time."

"Papa," the daughter leaned forward, and spoke in a low voice, "I heard
him say 'Lord Mount Dunstan said Lady Anstruthers and Miss Vanderpoel
were at the garden party.' Who do you suppose he is?"

"Well, he's a nice young fellow, and he has English clothes on, but he
doesn't look like one of the Four Hundred. Will you have pie or vanilla
ice cream, Bessy?"

Bessy--who chose vanilla ice cream--lost all knowledge of its flavour
in her absorption in the conversation at the next table, which she could
not have avoided hearing, even if she had wished.

"She bent over the bed and laughed--just like any other nice girl--and
she said, 'You are at Stornham Court, which belongs to Sir Nigel
Anstruthers. Lady Anstruthers is my sister. I am Miss Vanderpoel.' And,
boys, she used to come and talk to me every day."

"George," said Nick Baumgarten, "you take about seventy-five bottles of
Warner's Safe Cure, and rub yourself all over with St. Jacob's Oil. Luck
like that ain't HEALTHY!"

. . . . .

Mr. Vanderpoel, sitting in his study, wore the interestedly grave look
of a man thinking of absorbing things. He had just given orders that a
young man who would call in the course of the evening should be brought
to him at once, and he was incidentally considering this young man, as
he reflected upon matters recalled to his mind by his impending
arrival. They were matters he had thought of with gradually increasing
seriousness for some months, and they had, at first, been the result of
the letters from Stornham, which each "steamer day" brought. They had
been of immense interest to him--these letters. He would have found them
absorbing as a study, even if he had not deeply loved Betty. He read in
them things she did not state in words, and they set him thinking.

He was not suspected by men like himself of concealing an imagination
beneath the trained steadiness of his exterior, but he possessed more
than the world knew, and it singularly combined itself with powers of
logical deduction.

If he had been with his daughter, he would have seen, day by day, where
her thoughts were leading her, and in what direction she was developing,
but, at a distance of three thousand miles, he found himself asking
questions, and endeavouring to reach conclusions. His affection for
Betty was the central emotion of his existence. He had never told
himself that he had outgrown the kind and pretty creature he had married
in his early youth, and certainly his tender care for her and pleasure
in her simple goodness had never wavered, but Betty had given him a
companionship which had counted greatly in the sum of his happiness.
Because imagination was not suspected in him, no one knew what she stood
for in his life. He had no son; he stood at the head of a great
house, so to speak--the American parallel of what a great house is in
non-republican countries. The power of it counted for great things, not
in America alone, but throughout the world. As international intimacies
increased, the influence of such houses might end in aiding in the
making of history. Enormous constantly increasing wealth and huge
financial schemes could not confine their influence, but must reach far.
The man whose hand held the lever controlling them was doing well when
he thought of them gravely. Such a man had to do with more than his own
mere life and living. This man had confronted many problems as the years
had passed. He had seen men like himself die, leaving behind them the
force they had controlled, and he had seen this force--controlled no
longer--let loose upon the world, sometimes a power of evil, sometimes
scattering itself aimlessly into nothingness and folly, which wrought
harm. He was not an ambitious man, but--perhaps because he was not
only a man of thought, but a Vanderpoel of the blood of the first
Reuben--these were things he did not contemplate without restlessness.
When Rosy had gone away and seemed lost to them, he had been glad when
he had seen Betty growing, day by day, into a strong thing. Feminine
though she was, she sometimes suggested to him the son who might have
been his, but was not. As the closeness of their companionship increased
with her years, his admiration for her grew with his love. Power left in
her hands must work for the advancement of things, and would not be idly
disseminated--if no antagonistic influence wrought against her. He had
found himself reflecting that, after all was said, the marriage of such
a girl had a sort of parallel in that of some young royal creature,
whose union might make or mar things, which must be considered. The man
who must inevitably strongly colour her whole being, and vitally mark
her life, would, in a sense, lay his hand upon the lever also. If he
brought sorrow and disorder with him, the lever would not move steadily.
Fortunes such as his grow rapidly, and he was a richer man by millions
than he had been when Rosalie had married Nigel Anstruthers. The memory
of that marriage had been a painful thing to him, even before he
had known the whole truth of its results. The man had been a common
adventurer and scoundrel, despite the facts of good birth and the air of
decent breeding. If a man who was as much a scoundrel, but cleverer--it
would be necessary that he should be much cleverer--made the best of
himself to Betty----! It was folly to think one could guess what a
woman--or a man, either, for that matter--would love. He knew Betty, but
no man knows the thing which comes, as it were, in the dark and claims
its own--whether for good or evil. He had lived long enough to see
beautiful, strong-spirited creatures do strange things, follow strange
gods, swept away into seas of pain by strange waves.

"Even Betty," he had said to himself, now and then. "Even my Betty. Good
God--who knows!"

Because of this, he had read each letter with keen eyes. They were long
letters, full of detail and colour, because she knew he enjoyed them.
She had a delightful touch. He sometimes felt as if they walked the
English lanes together. His intimacy with her neighbours, and her
neighbourhood, was one of his relaxations. He found himself thinking of
old Doby and Mrs. Welden, as a sort of soporific measure, when he lay
awake at night. She had sent photographs of Stornham, of Dunholm Castle,
and of Dole, and had even found an old engraving of Lady Alanby in her
youth. Her evident liking for the Dunholms had pleased him. They were
people whose dignity and admirableness were part of general knowledge.
Lord Westholt was plainly a young man of many attractions. If the two
were drawn to each other--and what more natural--all would be well.
He wondered if it would be Westholt. But his love quickened a sagacity
which needed no stimulus. He said to himself in time that, though she
liked and admired Westholt, she went no farther. That others paid court
to her he could guess without being told. He had seen the effect she had
produced when she had been at home, and also an unexpected letter to his
wife from Milly Bowen had revealed many things. Milly, having noted Mrs.
Vanderpoel's eager anxiety to hear direct news of Lady Anstruthers, was
not the person to let fall from her hand a useful thread of connection.
She had written quite at length, managing adroitly to convey all that
she had seen, and all that she had heard. She had been making a visit
within driving distance of Stornham, and had had the pleasure of meeting
both Lady Anstruthers and Miss Vanderpoel at various parties. She was so
sure that Mrs. Vanderpoel would like to hear how well Lady Anstruthers
was looking, that she ventured to write. Betty's effect upon the county
was made quite clear, as also was the interested expectation of her
appearance in town next season. Mr. Vanderpoel, perhaps, gathered more
from the letter than his wife did. In her mind, relieved happiness and
consternation were mingled.

"Do you think, Reuben, that Betty will marry that Lord Westholt?" she
rather faltered. "He seems very nice, but I would rather she married an
American. I should feel as if I had no girls at all, if they both lived
in England."

"Lady Bowen gives him a good character," her husband said, smiling. "But
if anything untoward happens, Annie, you shall have a house of your own
half way between Dunholm Castle and Stornham Court."

When he had begun to decide that Lord Westholt did not seem to be the
man Fate was veering towards, he not unnaturally cast a mental eye over
such other persons as the letters mentioned. At exactly what period his
thought first dwelt a shade anxiously on Mount Dunstan he could not have
told, but he at length became conscious that it so dwelt. He had begun
by feeling an interest in his story, and had asked questions about him,
because a situation such as his suggested query to a man of affairs.
Thus, it had been natural that the letters should speak of him. What she
had written had recalled to him certain rumours of the disgraceful
old scandal. Yes, they had been a bad lot. He arranged to put a
casual-sounding question or so to certain persons who knew English
society well. What he gathered was not encouraging. The present
Lord Mount Dunstan was considered rather a surly brute, and lived a
mysterious sort of life which might cover many things. It was bad blood,
and people were naturally shy of it. Of course, the man was a pauper,
and his place a barrack falling to ruin. There had been something rather
shady in his going to America or Australia a few years ago.

Good looking? Well, so few people had seen him. The lady, who was
speaking, had heard that he was one of those big, rather lumpy men, and
had an ill-tempered expression. She always gave a wide berth to a man
who looked nasty-tempered. One or two other persons who had spoken of
him had conveyed to Mr. Vanderpoel about the same amount of vaguely
unpromising information. The episode of G. Selden had been interesting
enough, with its suggestions of picturesque contrasts and combinations.
Betty's touch had made the junior salesman attracting. It was a good
type this, of a young fellow who, battling with the discouragements of
a hard life, still did not lose his amazing good cheer and patience, and
found healthy sleep and honest waking, even in the hall bedroom. He had
consented to Betty's request that he would see him, partly because he
was inclined to like what he had heard, and partly for a reason which
Betty did not suspect. By extraordinary chance G. Selden had seen Mount
Dunstan and his surroundings at close range. Mr. Vanderpoel had liked
what he had gathered of Mount Dunstan's attitude towards a personality
so singularly exotic to himself. Crude, uneducated, and slangy, the
junior salesman was not in any degree a fool. To an American father with
a daughter like Betty, the summing-up of a normal, nice-natured, common
young denizen of the United States, fresh from contact with the
effete, might be subtly instructive, and well worth hearing, if it was
unconsciously expressed. Mr. Vanderpoel thought he knew how, after
he had overcome his visitor's first awkwardness--if he chanced to be
self-conscious--he could lead him to talk. What he hoped to do was to
make him forget himself and begin to talk to him as he had talked to
Betty, to ingenuously reveal impressions and points of view. Young men
of his clean, rudimentary type were very definite about the things they
liked and disliked, and could be trusted to reveal admiration, or lack
of it, without absolute intention or actual statement. Being elemental
and undismayed, they saw things cleared of the mists of social prejudice
and modification. Yes, he felt he should be glad to hear of Lord Mount
Dunstan and the Mount Dunstan estate from G. Selden in a happy moment of
unawareness.

Why was it that it happened to be Mount Dunstan he was desirous to hear
of? Well, the absolute reason for that he could not have explained,
either. He had asked himself questions on the subject more than once.
There was no well-founded reason, perhaps. If Betty's letters had spoken
of Mount Dunstan and his home, they had also described Lord Westholt
and Dunholm Castle. Of these two men she had certainly spoken more fully
than of others. Of Mount Dunstan she had had more to relate through the
incident of G. Selden. He smiled as he realised the importance of the
figure of G. Selden. It was Selden and his broken leg the two men had
ridden over from Mount Dunstan to visit. But for Selden, Betty might not
have met Mount Dunstan again. He was reason enough for all she had said.
And yet----! Perhaps, between Betty and himself there existed the thing
which impresses and communicates without words. Perhaps, because
their affection was unusual, they realised each other's emotions. The
half-defined anxiety he felt now was not a new thing, but he confessed
to himself that it had been spurred a little by the letter the last
steamer had brought him. It was NOT Lord Westholt, it definitely
appeared. He had asked her to be his wife, and she had declined his
proposal.

"I could not have LIKED a man any more without being in love with him,"
she wrote. "I LIKE him more than I can say--so much, indeed, that I
feel a little depressed by my certainty that I do not love him."

If she had loved him, the whole matter would have been simplified. If
the other man had drawn her, the thing would not be simple. Her father
foresaw all the complications--and he did not want complications for
Betty. Yet emotions were perverse and irresistible things, and the
stronger the creature swayed by them, the more enormous their power.
But, as he sat in his easy chair and thought over it all, the
one feeling predominant in his mind was that nothing mattered but
Betty--nothing really mattered but Betty.

In the meantime G. Selden was walking up Fifth Avenue, at once touched
and exhilarated by the stir about him and his sense of home-coming. It
was pretty good to be in little old New York again. The hurried pace of
the life about him stimulated his young blood. There were no street cars
in Fifth Avenue, but there were carriages, waggons, carts, motors, all
pantingly hurried, and fretting and struggling when the crowded state
of the thoroughfare held them back. The beautifully dressed women in
the carriages wore no light air of being at leisure. It was evident that
they were going to keep engagements, to do things, to achieve objects.

"Something doing. Something doing," was his cheerful self-congratulatory
thought. He had spent his life in the midst of it, he liked it, and it
welcomed him back.

The appointment he was on his way to keep thrilled him into an uplifted
mood. Once or twice a half-nervous chuckle broke from him as he tried to
realise that he had been given the chance which a year ago had seemed
so impossible that its mere incredibleness had made it a natural subject
for jokes. He was going to call on Reuben S. Vanderpoel, and he was
going because Reuben S. had made an appointment with him.

He wore his London suit of clothes and he felt that he looked pretty
decent. He could only do his best in the matter of bearing. He always
thought that, so long as a fellow didn't get "chesty" and kept his head
from swelling, he was all right. Of course he had never been in one of
these swell Fifth Avenue houses, and he felt a bit nervous--but Miss
Vanderpoel would have told her father what sort of fellow he was, and
her father was likely to be something like herself. The house, which had
been built since Lady Anstruthers' marriage, was well "up-town," and was
big and imposing. When a manservant opened the front door, the square
hall looked very splendid to Selden. It was full of light, and of rich
furniture, which was like the stuff he had seen in one or two special
shop windows in Fifth Avenue--places where they sold magnificent
gilded or carven coffers and vases, pieces of tapestry and marvellous
embroideries, antiquities from foreign palaces. Though it was quite
different, it was as swell in its way as the house at Mount Dunstan,
and there were gleams of pictures on the walls that looked fine, and no
mistake.

He was expected. The man led him across the hall to Mr. Vanderpoel's
room. After he had announced his name he closed the door quietly and
went away. Mr. Vanderpoel rose from an armchair to come forward to meet
his visitor. He was tall and straight--Betty had inherited her slender
height from him. His well-balanced face suggested the relationship
between them. He had a steady mouth, and eyes which looked as if they
saw much and far.

"I am glad to see you, Mr. Selden," he said, shaking hands with
him. "You have seen my daughters, and can tell me how they are. Miss
Vanderpoel has written to me of you several times."

He asked him to sit down, and as he took his chair Selden felt that he
had been right in telling himself that Reuben S. Vanderpoel would be
somehow like his girl. She was a girl, and he was an elderly man of
business, but they were like each other. There was the same kind of
straight way of doing things, and the same straight-seeing look in both
of them.

It was queer how natural things seemed, when they really happened to a
fellow. Here he was sitting in a big leather chair and opposite to him
in its fellow sat Reuben S. Vanderpoel, looking at him with friendly
eyes. And it seemed all right, too--not as if he had managed to "butt
in," and would find himself politely fired out directly. He might have
been one of the Four Hundred making a call. Reuben S. knew how to make
a man feel easy, and no mistake. This G. Selden observed at once, though
he had, in fact, no knowledge of the practical tact which dealt with
him. He found himself answering questions about Lady Anstruthers and
her sister, which led to the opening up of other subjects. He did not
realise that he began to express ingenuous opinions and describe things.
His listener's interest led him on, a question here, a rather pleased
laugh there, were encouraging. He had enjoyed himself so much during his
stay in England, and had felt his experiences so greatly to be rejoiced
over, that they were easy to talk of at any time--in fact, it was even a
trifle difficult not to talk of them--but, stimulated by the look which
rested on him, by the deft word and ready smile, words flowed readily
and without the restraint of self-consciousness.

"When you think that all of it sort of began with a robin, it's queer
enough," he said. "But for that robin I shouldn't be here, sir," with a
boyish laugh. "And he was an English robin--a little fellow not half the
size of the kind that hops about Central Park."

"Let me hear about that," said Mr. Vanderpoel.

It was a good story, and he told it well, though in his own junior
salesman phrasing. He began with his bicycle ride into the green
country, his spin over the fine roads, his rest under the hedge during
the shower, and then the song of the robin perched among the fresh wet
leafage, his feathers puffed out, his red young satin-glossed breast
pulsating and swelling. His words were colloquial enough, but they
called up the picture.

"Everything sort of glittering with the sunshine on the wet drops, and
things smelling good, like they do after rain--leaves, and grass, and
good earth. I tell you it made a fellow feel as if the whole world was
his brother. And when Mr. Rob. lit on that twig and swelled his red
breast as if he knew the whole thing was his, and began to let them
notes out, calling for his lady friend to come and go halves with him, I
just had to laugh and speak to him, and that was when Lord Mount Dunstan
heard me and jumped over the hedge. He'd been listening, too."

The expression Reuben S. Vanderpoel wore made it an agreeable thing to
talk--to go on. He evidently cared to hear. So Selden did his best,
and enjoyed himself in doing it. His style made for realism and brought
things clearly before one. The big-built man in the rough and shabby
shooting clothes, his way when he dropped into the grass to sit beside
the stranger and talk, certain meanings in his words which conveyed to
Vanderpoel what had not been conveyed to G. Selden. Yes, the man
carried a heaviness about with him and hated the burden. Selden quite
unconsciously brought him out strongly.

"I don't know whether I'm the kind of fellow who is always making
breaks," he said, with his boy's laugh again, "but if I am, I never made
a worse one than when I asked him straight if he was out of a job, and
on the tramp. It showed what a nice fellow he was that he didn't get hot
about it. Some fellows would. He only laughed--sort of short--and said
his job had been more than he could handle, and he was afraid he was
down and out."

Mr. Vanderpoel was conscious that so far he was somewhat attracted by
this central figure. G. Selden was also proving satisfactory in the
matter of revealing his excellently simple views of persons and things.

"The only time he got mad was when I wouldn't believe him when he told
me who he was. I was a bit hot in the collar myself. I'd felt sorry for
him, because I thought he was a chap like myself, and he was up against
it. I know what that is, and I'd wanted to jolly him along a bit. When
he said his name was Mount Dunstan, and the place belonged to him,
I guessed he thought he was making a joke. So I got on my wheel and
started off, and then he got mad for keeps. He said he wasn't such a
damned fool as he looked, and what he'd said was true, and I could go
and be hanged."

Reuben S. Vanderpoel laughed. He liked that. It sounded like decent
British hot temper, which he had often found accompanied honest British
decencies.

He liked other things, as the story proceeded. The picture of the huge
house with the shut windows, made him slightly restless. The concealed
imagination, combined with the financier's resentment of dormant
interests, disturbed him. That which had attracted Selden in the
Reverend Lewis Penzance strongly attracted himself. Also, a man was a
good deal to be judged by his friends. The man who lived alone in the
midst of stately desolateness and held as his chief intimate a high-bred
and gentle-minded scholar of ripe years, gave, in doing this, certain
evidence which did not tell against him. The whole situation meant
something a splendid, vivid-minded young creature might be moved
by--might be allured by, even despite herself.

There was something fantastic in the odd linking of incidents--Selden's
chance view of Betty as she rode by, his next day's sudden resolve to
turn back and go to Stornham, his accident, all that followed seemed, if
one were fanciful--part of a scheme prearranged

"When I came to myself," G. Selden said, "I felt like that fellow in the
Shakespeare play that they dress up and put to bed in the palace when
he's drunk. I thought I'd gone off my head. And then Miss Vanderpoel
came." He paused a moment and looked down on the carpet, thinking. "Gee
whiz! It WAS queer," he said.

Betty Vanderpoel's father could almost hear her voice as the rest was
told. He knew how her laugh had sounded, and what her presence must
have been to the young fellow. His delightful, human, always satisfying
Betty!

Through this odd trick of fortune, Mount Dunstan had begun to see her.
Since, through the unfair endowment of Nature--that it was not wholly
fair he had often told himself--she was all the things that desire could
yearn for, there were many chances that when a man saw her he must long
to see her again, and there were the same chances that such an one as
Mount Dunstan might long also, and, if Fate was against him, long with
a bitter strength. Selden was not aware that he had spoken more fully of
Mount Dunstan and his place than of other things. That this had been the
case, had been because Mr. Vanderpoel had intended it should be so. He
had subtly drawn out and encouraged a detailed account of the time
spent at Mount Dunstan vicarage. It was easily encouraged. Selden's
affectionate admiration for the vicar led him on to enthusiasm. The
quiet house and garden, the old books, the afternoon tea under the
copper beech, and the long talks of old things, which had been so new to
the young New Yorker, had plainly made a mark upon his life, not likely
to be erased even by the rush of after years.

"The way he knew history was what got me," he said. "And the way you got
interested in it, when he talked. It wasn't just HISTORY, like you learn
at school, and forget, and never see the use of, anyhow. It was things
about men, just like yourself--hustling for a living in their way, just
as we're hustling in Broadway. Most of it was fighting, and there are
mounds scattered about that are the remains of their forts and camps.
Roman camps, some of them. He took me to see them. He had a little old
pony chaise we trundled about in, and he'd draw up and we'd sit and
talk. 'There were men here on this very spot,' he'd say, 'looking
out for attack, eating, drinking, cooking their food, polishing their
weapons, laughing, and shouting--MEN--Selden, fifty-five years before
Christ was born--and sometimes the New Testament times seem to us so far
away that they are half a dream.' That was the kind of thing he'd say,
and I'd sometimes feel as if I heard the Romans shouting. The country
about there was full of queer places, and both he and Lord Dunstan knew
more about them than I know about Twenty-third Street."

"You saw Lord Mount Dunstan often?" Mr. Vanderpoel suggested.

"Every day, sir. And the more I saw him, the more I got to like
him. He's all right. But it's hard luck to be fixed as he is--that's
stone-cold truth. What's a man to do? The money he ought to have to keep
up his place was spent before he was born. His father and his eldest
brother were a bum lot, and his grandfather and great-grandfather
were fools. He can't sell the place, and he wouldn't if he could.
Mr. Penzance was so fond of him that sometimes he'd say things. But,"
hastily, "perhaps I'm talking too much."

"You happen to be talking about questions I have been greatly interested
in. I have thought a good deal at times of the position of the holders
of large estates they cannot afford to keep up. This special instance is
a case in point."

G. Selden felt himself in luck again. Reuben S., quite evidently, found
his subject worthy of undivided attention. Selden had not heartily liked
Lord Mount Dunstan, and lived in the atmosphere surrounding him, looking
about him with sharp young New York eyes, without learning a good deal.

He had seen the practical hardship of the situation, and laid it bare.

"What Mr. Penzance says is that he's like the men that built things
in the beginning--fought for them--fought Romans and Saxons and
Normans--perhaps the whole lot at different times. I used to like to
get Mr. Penzance to tell stories about the Mount Dunstans. They were
splendid. It must be pretty fine to look back about a thousand years and
know your folks have been something. All the same its pretty fierce to
have to stand alone at the end of it, not able to help yourself, because
some of your relations were crazy fools. I don't wonder he feels mad."

"Does he?" Mr. Vanderpoel inquired.

"He's straight," said G. Selden sympathetically. "He's all right. But
only money can help him, and he's got none, so he has to stand and stare
at things falling to pieces. And--well, I tell you, Mr. Vanderpoel, he
LOVES that place--he's crazy about it. And he's proud--I don't mean he's
got the swell-head, because he hasn't--but he's just proud. Now, for
instance, he hasn't any use for men like himself that marry just for
money. He's seen a lot of it, and it's made him sick. He's not that
kind."

He had been asked and had answered a good many questions before he went
away, but each had dropped into the talk so incidentally that he had
not recognised them as queries. He did not know that Lord Mount Dunstan
stood out a clearly defined figure in Mr. Vanderpoel's mind, a figure to
be reflected upon, and one not without its attraction.

"Miss Vanderpoel tells me," Mr. Vanderpoel said, when the interview was
drawing to a close, "that you are an agent for the Delkoff typewriter."

G. Selden flushed slightly.

"Yes, sir," he answered, "but I didn't----"

"I hear that three machines are in use on the Stornham estate, and that
they have proved satisfactory."

"It's a good machine," said G. Selden, his flush a little deeper.

Mr. Vanderpoel smiled.

"You are a business-like young man," he said, "and I have no doubt you
have a catalogue in your pocket."

G. Selden was a business-like young man. He gave Mr. Vanderpoel one
serious look, and the catalogue was drawn forth.

"It wouldn't be business, sir, for me to be caught out without it," he
said. "I shouldn't leave it behind if I went to a funeral. A man's got
to run no risks."

"I should like to look at it."

The thing had happened. It was not a dream. Reuben S. Vanderpoel,
clothed and in his right mind, had, without pressure being exerted upon
him, expressed his desire to look at the catalogue--to examine it--to
have it explained to him at length.

He listened attentively, while G. Selden did his best. He asked a
question now and then, or made a comment. His manner was that of a
thoroughly composed man of business, but he was remembering what Betty
had told him of the "ten per," and a number of other things. He saw
the flush come and go under the still boyish skin, he observed that G.
Selden's hand was not wholly steady, though he was making an effort not
to seem excited. But he was excited. This actually meant--this thing so
unimportant to multi-millionaires--that he was having his "chance," and
his young fortunes were, perhaps, in the balance.

"Yes," said Reuben S., when he had finished, "it seems a good,
up-to-date machine."

"It's the best on the market," said G. Selden, "out and out, the best."

"I understand you are only junior salesman?"

"Yes, sir. Ten per and five dollars on every machine I sell. If I had a
territory, I should get ten."

"Then," reflectively, "the first thing is to get a territory."

"Perhaps I shall get one in time, if I keep at it," said Selden
courageously.

"It is a good machine. I like it," said Mr. Vanderpoel. "I can see a
good many places where it could be used. Perhaps, if you make it known
at your office that when you are given a good territory, I shall
give preference to the Delkoff over other typewriting machines, it
might--eh?"

A light broke out upon G. Selden's countenance--a light radiant and
magnificent. He caught his breath. A desire to shout--to yell--to whoop,
as when in the society of "the boys," was barely conquered in time.

"Mr. Vanderpoel," he said, standing up, "I--Mr. Vanderpoel--sir--I feel
as if I was having a pipe dream. I'm not, am I?"

"No," answered Mr. Vanderpoel, "you are not. I like you, Mr. Selden. My
daughter liked you. I do not mean to lose sight of you. We will begin,
however, with the territory, and the Delkoff. I don't think there will
be any difficulty about it."

. . . . .

Ten minutes later G. Selden was walking down Fifth Avenue, wondering
if there was any chance of his being arrested by a policeman upon the
charge that he was reeling, instead of walking steadily. He hoped he
should get back to the hall bedroom safely. Nick Baumgarten and Jem
Bolter both "roomed" in the house with him. He could tell them both.
It was Jem who had made up the yarn about one of them saving Reuben S.
Vanderpoel's life. There had been no life-saving, but the thing had come
true.

"But, if it hadn't been for Lord Mount Dunstan," he said, thinking it
over excitedly, "I should never have seen Miss Vanderpoel, and, if it
hadn't been for Miss Vanderpoel, I should never have got next to Reuben
S. in my life. Both sides of the Atlantic Ocean got busy to do a good
turn to Little Willie. Hully gee!"

In his study Mr. Vanderpoel was rereading Betty's letters. He felt that
he had gained a certain knowledge of Lord Mount Dunstan.



CHAPTER XXXIX

ON THE MARSHES

THE marshes stretched mellow in the autumn sun, sheep wandered about,
nibbling contentedly, or lay down to rest in groups, the sky reflecting
itself in the narrow dykes gave a blue colour to the water, a scent of
the sea was in the air as one breathed it, flocks of plover rose, now
and then, crying softly. Betty, walking with her dog, had passed a heron
standing at the edge of a pool.

From her first discovery of them, she had been attracted by the marshes
with their English suggestion of the Roman Campagna, their broad expanse
of level land spread out to the sun and wind, the thousands of white
sheep dotted or clustered as far as eye could reach, the hues of the
marsh grass and the plants growing thick at the borders of the strips
of water. Its beauty was all its own and curiously aloof from the
softly-wooded, undulating world about it. Driving or walking along the
high road--the road the Romans had built to London town long centuries
ago--on either side of one were meadows, farms, scattered cottages, and
hop gardens, but beyond and below stretched the marsh land, golden and
grey, and always alluring one by its silence.

"I never pass it without wanting to go to it--to take solitary walks
over it, to be one of the spots on it as the sheep are. It seems as if,
lying there under the blue sky or the low grey clouds with all the world
held at bay by mere space and stillness, they must feel something we
know nothing of. I want to go and find out what it is."

This she had once said to Mount Dunstan.

So she had fallen into the habit of walking there with her dog at her
side as her sole companion, for having need for time and space for
thought, she had found them in the silence and aloofness.

Life had been a vivid and pleasurable thing to her, as far as she could
look back upon it. She began to realise that she must have been very
happy, because she had never found herself desiring existence other than
such as had come to her day by day. Except for her passionate childish
regret at Rosy's marriage, she had experienced no painful feeling.
In fact, she had faced no hurt in her life, and certainly had been
confronted by no limitations. Arguing that girls in their teens usually
fall in love, her father had occasionally wondered that she passed
through no little episodes of sentiment, but the fact was that her
interests had been larger and more numerous than the interests of girls
generally are, and her affectionate intimacy with himself had left no
such small vacant spaces as are frequently filled by unimportant young
emotions. Because she was a logical creature, and had watched life and
those living it with clear and interested eyes, she had not been blind
to the path which had marked itself before her during the summer's
growth and waning. She had not, at first, perhaps, known exactly when
things began to change for her--when the clarity of her mind began to be
disturbed. She had thought in the beginning--as people have a habit
of doing--that an instance--a problem--a situation had attracted her
attention because it was absorbing enough to think over. Her view of the
matter had been that as the same thing would have interested her father,
it had interested herself. But from the morning when she had been
conscious of the sudden fury roused in her by Nigel Anstruthers' ugly
sneer at Mount Dunstan, she had better understood the thing which had
come upon her. Day by day it had increased and gathered power, and she
realised with a certain sense of impatience that she had not in any
degree understood it when she had seen and wondered at its effect on
other women. Each day had been like a wave encroaching farther upon the
shore she stood upon. At the outset a certain ignoble pride--she knew it
ignoble--filled her with rebellion. She had seen so much of this kind
of situation, and had heard so much of the general comment. People had
learned how to sneer because experience had taught them. If she gave
them cause, why should they not sneer at her as at things? She recalled
what she had herself thought of such things--the folly of them, the
obviousness--the almost deserved disaster. She had arrogated to herself
judgment of women--and men--who might, yes, who might have stood upon
their strip of sand, as she stood, with the waves creeping in, each one
higher, stronger, and more engulfing than the last. There might have
been those among them who also had knowledge of that sudden deadly
joy at the sight of one face, at the drop of one voice. When that wave
submerged one's pulsing being, what had the world to do with one--how
could one hear and think of what its speech might be? Its voice
clamoured too far off.

As she walked across the marsh she was thinking this first phase over.
She had reached a new one, and at first she looked back with a faint,
even rather hard, smile. She walked straight ahead, her mastiff, Roland,
padding along heavily close at her side. How still and wide and golden
it was; how the cry of plover and lifting trill of skylark assured one
that one was wholly encircled by solitude and space which were more
enclosing than any walls! She was going to the mounds to which Mr.
Penzance had trundled G. Selden in the pony chaise, when he had given
him the marvellous hour which had brought Roman camp and Roman legions
to life again. Up on the largest hillock one could sit enthroned,
resting chin in hand and looking out under level lids at the unstirring,
softly-living loveliness of the marsh-land world. So she was presently
seated, with her heavy-limbed Roland at her feet. She had come here to
try to put things clearly to herself, to plan with such reason as she
could control. She had begun to be unhappy, she had begun--with some
unfairness--to look back upon the Betty Vanderpoel of the past as
an unwittingly self-sufficient young woman, to find herself suddenly
entangled by things, even to know a touch of desperateness.

"Not to take a remnant from the ducal bargain counter," she was saying
mentally. That was why her smile was a little hard. What if the remnant
from the ducal bargain counter had prejudices of his own?

"If he were passionately--passionately in love with me," she said, with
red staining her cheeks, "he would not come--he would not come--he would
not come. And, because of that, he is more to me--MORE! And more he will
become every day--and the more strongly he will hold me. And there we
stand."

Roland lifted his fine head from his paws, and, holding it erect on a
stiff, strong neck, stared at her in obvious inquiry. She put out her
hand and tenderly patted him.

"He will have none of me," she said. "He will have none of me." And she
faintly smiled, but the next instant shook her head a little haughtily,
and, having done so, looked down with an altered expression upon the
cloth of her skirt, because she had shaken upon it, from the extravagant
lashes, two clear drops.

It was not the result of chance that she had seen nothing of him for
weeks. She had not attempted to persuade herself of that. Twice he had
declined an invitation to Stornham, and once he had ridden past her
on the road when he might have stopped to exchange greetings, or have
ridden on by her side. He did not mean to seem to desire, ever so
lightly, to be counted as in the lists. Whether he was drawn by any
liking for her or not, it was plain he had determined on this.

If she were to go away now, they would never meet again. Their ways in
this world would part forever. She would not know how long it took to
break him utterly--if such a man could be broken. If no magic change
took place in his fortunes--and what change could come?--the decay
about him would spread day by day. Stone walls last a long time, so the
house would stand while every beauty and stateliness within it fell into
ruin. Gardens would become wildernesses, terraces and fountains crumble
and be overgrown, walls that were to-day leaning would fall with time.
The years would pass, and his youth with them; he would gradually change
into an old man while he watched the things he loved with passion die
slowly and hard. How strange it was that lives should touch and pass on
the ocean of Time, and nothing should result--nothing at all! When she
went on her way, it would be as if a ship loaded with every aid of food
and treasure had passed a boat in which a strong man tossed, starving to
death, and had not even run up a flag.

"But one cannot run up a flag," she said, stroking Roland. "One cannot.
There we stand."

To her recognition of this deadlock of Fate, there had been adding the
growing disturbance caused by yet another thing which was increasingly
troubling, increasingly difficult to face.

Gradually, and at first with wonderful naturalness of bearing, Nigel
Anstruthers had managed to create for himself a singular place in her
everyday life. It had begun with a certain personalness in his attitude,
a personalness which was a thing to dislike, but almost impossible
openly to resent. Certainly, as a self-invited guest in his house, she
could scarcely protest against the amiability of his demeanour and his
exterior courtesy and attentiveness of manner in his conduct towards
her. She had tried to sweep away the objectionable quality in his
bearing, by frankness, by indifference, by entire lack of response, but
she had remained conscious of its increasing as a spider's web might
increase as the spider spun it quietly over one, throwing out threads
so impalpable that one could not brush them away because they were too
slight to be seen. She was aware that in the first years of his married
life he had alternately resented the scarcity of the invitations sent
them and rudely refused such as were received. Since he had returned
to find her at Stornham, he had insisted that no invitations should be
declined, and had escorted his wife and herself wherever they went. What
could have been conventionally more proper--what more improper than that
he should have persistently have remained at home? And yet there came a
time when, as they three drove together at night in the closed carriage,
Betty was conscious that, as he sat opposite to her in the dark, when he
spoke, when he touched her in arranging the robe over her, or opening
or shutting the window, he subtly, but persistently, conveyed that the
personalness of his voice, look, and physical nearness was a sort of
hideous confidence between them which they were cleverly concealing from
Rosalie and the outside world.

When she rode about the country, he had a way of appearing at some
turning and making himself her companion, riding too closely at her
side, and assuming a noticeable air of being engaged in meaningly
confidential talk. Once, when he had been leaning towards her with an
audaciously tender manner, they had been passed by the Dunholm carriage,
and Lady Dunholm and the friend driving with her had evidently tried not
to look surprised. Lady Alanby, meeting them in the same way at another
time, had put up her glasses and stared in open disapproval. She might
admire a strikingly handsome American girl, but her favour would not
last through any such vulgar silliness as flirtations with disgraceful
brothers-in-law. When Betty strolled about the park or the lanes, she
much too often encountered Sir Nigel strolling also, and knew that he
did not mean to allow her to rid herself of him. In public, he made a
point of keeping observably close to her, of hovering in her vicinity
and looking on at all she did with eyes she rebelled against finding
fixed on her each time she was obliged to turn in his direction. He had
a fashion of coming to her side and speaking in a dropped voice, which
excluded others, as a favoured lover might. She had seen both men and
women glance at her in half-embarrassment at their sudden sense of
finding themselves slightly de trop. She had said aloud to him on one
such occasion--and she had said it with smiling casualness for the
benefit of Lady Alanby, to whom she had been talking:

"Don't alarm me by dropping your voice, Nigel. I am easily
frightened--and Lady Alanby will think we are conspirators."

For an instant he was taken by surprise. He had been pleased to believe
that there was no way in which she could defend herself, unless she
would condescend to something stupidly like a scene. He flushed and drew
himself up.

"I beg your pardon, my dear Betty," he said, and walked away with
the manner of an offended adorer, leaving her to realise an odiously
unpleasant truth--which is that there are incidents only made more
inexplicable by an effort to explain. She saw also that he was
quite aware of this, and that his offended departure was a brilliant
inspiration, and had left her, as it were, in the lurch. To have said to
Lady Alanby: "My brother-in-law, in whose house I am merely staying for
my sister's sake, is trying to lead you to believe that I allow him to
make love to me," would have suggested either folly or insanity on her
own part. As it was--after a glance at Sir Nigel's stiffly retreating
back--Lady Alanby merely looked away with a wholly uninviting
expression.

When Betty spoke to him afterwards, haughtily and with determination, he
laughed.

"My dearest girl," he said, "if I watch you with interest and drop my
voice when I get a chance to speak to you, I only do what every other
man does, and I do it because you are an alluring young woman--which no
one is more perfectly aware of than yourself. Your pretence that you do
not know you are alluring is the most captivating thing about you. And
what do you think of doing if I continue to offend you? Do you propose
to desert us--to leave poor Rosalie to sink back again into the bundle
of old clothes she was when you came? For Heaven's sake, don't do that!"

All that his words suggested took form before her vividly. How well he
understood what he was saying. But she answered him bravely.

"No. I do not mean to do that."

He watched her for a few seconds. There was curiosity in his eyes.

"Don't make the mistake of imagining that I will let my wife go with you
to America," he said next. "She is as far off from that as she was when
I brought her to Stornham. I have told her so. A man cannot tie his wife
to the bedpost in these days, but he can make her efforts to leave him
so decidedly unpleasant that decent women prefer to stay at home and
take what is coming. I have seen that often enough 'to bank on it,' if I
may quote your American friends."

"Do you remember my once saying," Betty remarked, "that when a woman has
been PROPERLY ill-treated the time comes when nothing matters--nothing
but release from the life she loathes?"

"Yes," he answered. "And to you nothing would matter but--excuse
my saying it--your own damnable, headstrong pride. But Rosalie is
different. Everything matters to her. And you will find it so, my dear
girl."

And that this was at least half true was brought home to her by the fact
that late the same night Rosy came to her white with crying.

"It is not your fault, Betty," she said. "Don't think that I think it is
your fault, but he has been in my room in one of those humours when he
seems like a devil. He thinks you will go back to America and try to
take me with you. But, Betty, you must not think about me. It will be
better for you to go. I have seen you again. I have had you for--for a
time. You will be safer at home with father and mother."

Betty laid a hand on her shoulder and looked at her fixedly.

"What is it, Rosy?" she said. "What is it he does to you--that makes
you like this?"

"I don't know--but that he makes me feel that there is nothing but
evil and lies in the world and nothing can help one against them.
Those things he says about everyone--men and women--things one can't
repeat--make me sick. And when I try to deny them, he laughs."

"Does he say things about me?" Betty inquired, very quietly, and
suddenly Rosalie threw her arms round her.

"Betty, darling," she cried, "go home--go home. You must not stay here."

"When I go, you will go with me," Betty answered. "I am not going back
to mother without you."

She made a collection of many facts before their interview was at an
end, and they parted for the night. Among the first was that Nigel had
prepared for certain possibilities as wise holders of a fortress prepare
for siege. A rather long sitting alone over whisky and soda had, without
making him loquacious, heated his blood in such a manner as led him to
be less subtle than usual. Drink did not make him drunk, but malignant,
and when a man is in the malignant mood, he forgets his cleverness. So
he revealed more than he absolutely intended. It was to be gathered that
he did not mean to permit his wife to leave him, even for a visit; he
would not allow himself to be made ridiculous by such a thing. A man
who could not control his wife was a fool and deserved to be a
laughing-stock. As Ughtred and his future inheritance seemed to have
become of interest to his grandfather, and were to be well nursed and
taken care of, his intention was that the boy should remain under his
own supervision. He could amuse himself well enough at Stornham, now
that it had been put in order, if it was kept up properly and he filled
it with people who did not bore him. There were people who did not bore
him--plenty of them. Rosalie would stay where she was and receive his
guests. If she imagined that the little episode of Ffolliott had been
entirely dormant, she was mistaken. He knew where the man was, and
exactly how serious it would be to him if scandal was stirred up. He had
been at some trouble to find out. The fellow had recently had the luck
to fall into a very fine living. It had been bestowed on him by the old
Duke of Broadmorlands, who was the most strait-laced old boy in England.
He had become so in his disgust at the light behaviour of the wife he
had divorced in his early manhood. Nigel cackled gently as he detailed
that, by an agreeable coincidence, it happened that her Grace had
suddenly become filled with pious fervour--roused thereto by a
good-looking locum tenens--result, painful discoveries--the pair
being now rumoured to be keeping a lodging-house together somewhere in
Australia. A word to good old Broadmorlands would produce the effect
of a lighted match on a barrel of gunpowder. It would be the end of
Ffolliott. Neither would it be a good introduction to Betty's first
season in London, neither would it be enjoyed by her mother, whom he
remembered as a woman with primitive views of domestic rectitude.
He smiled the awful smile as he took out of his pocket the envelope
containing the words his wife had written to Mr. Ffolliott, "Do not come
to the house. Meet me at Bartyon Wood." It did not take much to convince
people, if one managed things with decent forethought. The Brents, for
instance, were fond neither of her nor of Betty, and they had never
forgotten the questionable conduct of their locum tenens. Then,
suddenly, he had changed his manner and had sat down, laughing, and
drawn Rosalie to his knee and kissed her--yes, he had kissed her
and told her not to look like a little fool or act like one. Nothing
unpleasant would happen if she behaved herself. Betty had improved her
greatly, and she had grown young and pretty again. She looked quite like
a child sometimes, now that her bones were covered and she dressed well.
If she wanted to please him she could put her arms round his neck and
kiss him, as he had kissed her.

"That is what has made you look white," said Betty.

"Yes. There is something about him that sometimes makes you feel as
if the very blood in your veins turned white," answered Rosy--in a low
voice, which the next moment rose. "Don't you see--don't you see,"
she broke out, "that to displease him would be like murdering Mr.
Ffolliott--like murdering his mother and mine--and like murdering
Ughtred, because he would be killed by the shame of things--and by being
taken from me. We have loved each other so much--so much. Don't you
see?"

"I see all that rises up before you," Betty said, "and I understand your
feeling that you cannot save yourself by bringing ruin upon an innocent
man who helped you. I realise that one must have time to think it over.
But, Rosy," a sudden ring in her voice, "I tell you there is a way
out--there is a way out! The end of the misery is coming--and it will
not be what he thinks."

"You always believe----" began Rosy.

"I know," answered Betty. "I know there are some things so bad that they
cannot go on. They kill themselves through their own evil. I KNOW! I
KNOW! That is all."



CHAPTER LX

"DON'T GO ON WITH THIS"

Of these things, as of others, she had come to her solitude to think.
She looked out over the marshes scarcely seeing the wandering or resting
sheep, scarcely hearing the crying plover, because so much seemed
to confront her, and she must look it all well in the face. She had
fulfilled the promise she had made to herself as a child. She had come
in search of Rosy, she had found her as simple and loving of heart as
she had ever been. The most painful discoveries she had made had
been concealed from her mother until their aspect was modified. Mrs.
Vanderpoel need now feel no shock at the sight of the restored Rosy.
Lady Anstruthers had been still young enough to respond both physically
and mentally to love, companionship, agreeable luxuries, and stimulating
interests. But for Nigel's antagonism there was now no reason why
she should not be taken home for a visit to her family, and her
long-yearned-for New York, no reason why her father and mother should
not come to Stornham, and thus establish the customary social relations
between their daughter's home and their own. That this seemed out of the
question was owing to the fact that at the outset of his married life
Sir Nigel had allowed himself to commit errors in tactics. A perverse
egotism, not wholly normal in its rancour, had led him into deeds which
he had begun to suspect of having cost him too much, even before Betty
herself had pointed out to him their unbusinesslike indiscretion. He had
done things he could not undo, and now, to his mind, his only resource
was to treat them boldly as having been the proper results of decision
founded on sound judgment, which he had no desire to excuse. A
sufficiently arrogant loftiness of bearing would, he hoped, carry him
through the matter. This Betty herself had guessed, but she had not
realised that this loftiness of attitude was in danger of losing some
of its effectiveness through his being increasingly stung and spurred
by circumstances and feelings connected with herself, which were at
once exasperating and at times almost overpowering. When, in his mingled
dislike and admiration, he had begun to study his sister-in-law, and
the half-amused weaving of the small plots which would make things
sufficiently unpleasant to be used as factors in her removal from the
scene, if necessary, he had not calculated, ever so remotely, on the
chance of that madness besetting him which usually besets men only
in their youth. He had imagined no other results to himself than a
subtly-exciting private entertainment, such as would give spice to the
dullness of virtuous life in the country. But, despite himself and his
intentions, he had found the situation alter. His first uncertainty of
himself had arisen at the Dunholm ball, when he had suddenly realised
that he was detesting men who, being young and free, were at liberty to
pay gallant court to the new beauty.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing to him had been his consciousness of
his sudden leap of antagonism towards Mount Dunstan, who, despite his
obvious lack of chance, somehow especially roused in him the rage of
warring male instinct. There had been admissions he had been forced,
at length, to make to himself. You could not, it appeared, live in the
house with a splendid creature like this one--with her brilliant eyes,
her beauty of line and movement before you every hour, her bloom, her
proud fineness holding themselves wholly in their own keeping--without
there being the devil to pay. Lately he had sometimes gone hot and cold
in realising that, having once told himself that he might choose to
decide to get rid of her, he now knew that the mere thought of her
sailing away of her own choice was maddening to him. There WAS the devil
to pay! It sometimes brought back to him that hideous shakiness of nerve
which had been a feature of his illness when he had been on the Riviera
with Teresita.

Of all this Betty only knew the outward signs which, taken at their
exterior significance, were detestable enough, and drove her hard as she
mentally dwelt on them in connection with other things. How easy, if she
stood alone, to defy his evil insolence to do its worst, and leaving the
place at an hour's notice, to sail away to protection, or, if she chose
to remain in England, to surround herself with a bodyguard of the people
in whose eyes his disrepute relegated a man such as Nigel Anstruthers
to powerless nonentity. Alone, she could have smiled and turned her back
upon him. But she was here to take care of Rosy. She occupied a position
something like that of a woman who remains with a man and endures
outrage because she cannot leave her child. That thought, in itself,
brought Ughtred to her mind. There was Ughtred to be considered as
well as his mother. Ughtred's love for and faith in her were deep and
passionate things. He fed on her tenderness for him, and had grown
stronger because he spent hours of each day talking, reading, and
driving with her. The simple truth was that neither she nor Rosalie
could desert Ughtred, and so long as Nigel managed cleverly enough, the
law would give the boy to his father.

"You are obliged to prove things, you know, in a court of law," he had
said, as if with casual amiability, on a certain occasion. "Proving
things is the devil. People lose their tempers and rush into rows which
end in lawsuits, and then find they can prove nothing. If I were a
villain," slightly showing his teeth in an agreeable smile--"instead
of a man of blameless life, I should go in only for that branch of my
profession which could be exercised without leaving stupid evidence
behind."

Since his return to Stornham the outward decorum of his own conduct had
entertained him and he had kept it up with an increasing appreciation of
its usefulness in the present situation. Whatsoever happened in the end,
it was the part of discretion to present to the rural world about him an
appearance of upright behaviour. He had even found it amusing to go to
church and also to occasionally make amiable calls at the vicarage. It
was not difficult, at such times, to refer delicately to his regret that
domestic discomfort had led him into the error of remaining much away
from Stornham. He knew that he had been even rather touching in his
expression of interest in the future of his son, and the necessity of
the boy's being protected from uncontrolled hysteric influences. And, in
the years of Rosalie's unprotected wretchedness, he had taken excellent
care that no "stupid evidence" should be exposed to view.

Of all this Betty was thinking and summing up definitely, point after
point. Where was the wise and practical course of defence? The most
unthinkable thing was that one could find one's self in a position in
which action seemed inhibited. What could one do? To send for her father
would surely end the matter--but at what cost to Rosy, to Ughtred, to
Ffolliott, before whom the fair path to dignified security had so newly
opened itself? What would be the effect of sudden confusion, anguish,
and public humiliation upon Rosalie's carefully rebuilt health and
strength--upon her mother's new hope and happiness? At moments it seemed
as if almost all that had been done might be undone. She was beset by
such a moment now, and felt for the time, at least, like a creature tied
hand and foot while in full strength.

Certainly she was not prepared for the event which happened. Roland
stiffened his ears, and, beginning a rumbling growl, ended it suddenly,
realising it an unnecessary precaution.

He knew the man walking up the incline of the mound from the side behind
them. So did Betty know him. It was Sir Nigel looking rather glowering
and pale and walking slowly. He had discovered where she had meant to
take refuge, and had probably ridden to some point where he could leave
his horse and follow her at the expense of taking a short cut which
saved walking.

As he climbed the mound to join her, Betty rose to her feet.

"My dear girl," he said, "don't get up as if you meant to go away. It
has cost me some exertion to find you."

"It will not cost you any exertion to lose me," was her light answer. "I
AM going away."

He had reached her, and stood still before her with scarcely a yard's
distance between them. He was slightly out of breath and even a trifle
livid. He leaned on his stick and his look at her combined leaping bad
temper with something deeper.

"Look here!" he broke out, "why do you make such a point of treating me
like the devil?"

Betty felt her heart give a hastened beat, not of fear, but of
repulsion. This was the mood and manner which subjugated Rosalie. He had
so raised his voice that two men in the distance, who might be either
labourers or sportsmen, hearing its high tone, glanced curiously towards
them.

"Why do you ask me a question which is totally absurd?" she said.

"It is not absurd," he answered. "I am speaking of facts, and I intend
to come to some understanding about them."

For reply, after meeting his look a few seconds, she simply turned her
back and began to walk away. He followed and overtook her.

"I shall go with you, and I shall say what I want to say," he persisted.
"If you hasten your pace I shall hasten mine. I cannot exactly see you
running away from me across the marsh, screaming. You wouldn't care to
be rescued by those men over there who are watching us. I should explain
myself to them in terms neither you nor Rosalie would enjoy. There! I
knew Rosalie's name would pull you up. Good God! I wish I were a weak
fool with a magnificent creature protecting me at all risks."

If she had not had blood and fire in her veins, she might have found
it easy to answer calmly. But she had both, and both leaped and beat
furiously for a few seconds. It was only human that it should be so. But
she was more than a passionate girl of high and trenchant spirit, and
she had learned, even in the days at the French school, what he had
never been able to learn in his life--self-control. She held herself in
as she would have held in a horse of too great fire and action. She
was actually able to look--as the first Reuben Vanderpoel would have
looked--at her capital of resource. But it meant taut holding of the
reins.

"Will you tell me," she said, stopping, "what it is you want?"

"I want to talk to you. I want to tell you truths you would rather
be told here than on the high road, where people are passing--or at
Stornham, where the servants would overhear and Rosalie be thrown into
hysterics. You will NOT run screaming across the marsh, because I should
run screaming after you, and we should both look silly. Here is a rather
scraggy tree. Will you sit on the mound near it--for Rosalie's sake?"

"I will not sit down," replied Betty, "but I will listen, because it is
not a bad idea that I should understand you. But to begin with, I will
tell you something." She stopped beneath the tree and stood with her
back against its trunk. "I pick up things by noticing people closely,
and I have realised that all your life you have counted upon getting
your own way because you saw that people--especially women--have a
horror of public scenes, and will submit to almost anything to avoid
them. That is true very often, but not always."

Her eyes, which were well opened, were quite the blue of steel, and
rested directly upon him. "I, for instance, would let you make a scene
with me anywhere you chose--in Bond Street--in Piccadilly--on the steps
of Buckingham Palace, as I was getting out of my carriage to attend a
drawing-room--and you would gain nothing you wanted by it--nothing. You
may place entire confidence in that statement."

He stared back at her, momentarily half-magnetised, and then broke forth
into a harsh half-laugh.

"You are so damned handsome that nothing else matters. I'm hanged if it
does!" and the words were an exclamation. He drew still nearer to her,
speaking with a sort of savagery. "Cannot you see that you could do
what you pleased with me? You are too magnificent a thing for a man to
withstand. I have lost my head and gone to the devil through you. That
is what I came to say."

In the few seconds of silence that followed, his breath came quickly
again and he was even paler than before.

"You came to me to say THAT?" asked Betty.

"Yes--to say it before you drove me to other things."

Her gaze was for a moment even slightly wondering. He presented the
curious picture of a cynical man of the world, for the time being ruled
and impelled only by the most primitive instincts. To a clear-headed
modern young woman of the most powerful class, he--her sister's
husband--was making threatening love as if he were a savage chief and
she a savage beauty of his tribe. All that concerned him was that he
should speak and she should hear--that he should show her he was the
stronger of the two.

"Are you QUITE mad?" she said.

"Not quite," he answered; "only three parts--but I am beyond my own
control. That is the best proof of what has happened to me. You are an
arrogant piece and you would defy me if you stood alone, but you don't,
and, by the Lord! I have reached a point where I will make use of every
lever I can lay my hand on--yourself, Rosalie, Ughtred, Ffolliott--the
whole lot of you!"

The thing which was hardest upon her was her knowledge of her own
strength--of what she might have allowed herself of flaming words and
instant action--but for the memory of Rosy's ghastly little face, as
it had looked when she cried out, "You must not think of me. Betty, go
home--go home!" She held the white desperation of it before her mental
vision and answered him even with a certain interested deliberateness.

"Do you know," she inquired, "that you are talking to me as though you
were the villain in the melodrama?"

"There is an advantage in that," he answered, with an unholy smile. "If
you repeat what I say, people will only think that you are indulging
in hysterical exaggeration. They don't believe in the existence of
melodrama in these days."

The cynical, absolute knowledge of this revealed so much that nerve was
required to face it with steadiness.

"True," she commented. "Now I think I understand."

"No, you don't," he burst forth. "You have spent your life standing on a
golden pedestal, being kowtowed to, and you imagine yourself immune from
difficulties because you think you can pay your way out of anything. But
you will find that you cannot pay your way out of this--or rather you
cannot pay Rosalie's way out of it."

"I shall not try. Go on," said the girl. "What I do not understand, you
must explain to me. Don't leave anything unsaid."

"Good God, what a woman you are!" he cried out bitterly. He had never
seen such beauty in his life as he saw in her as she stood with her
straight young body flat against the tree. It was not a matter of deep
colour of eye, or high spirit of profile--but of something which burned
him. Still as she was, she looked like a flame. She made him feel old
and body-worn, and all the more senselessly furious.

"I believe you hate me," he raged. "And I may thank my wife for that."
Then he lost himself entirely. "Why cannot you behave well to me? If you
will behave well to me, Rosalie shall go her own way. If you even
looked at me as you look at other men--but you do not. There is always
something under your lashes which watches me as if I were a wild beast
you were studying. Don't fancy yourself a dompteuse. I am not your man.
I swear to you that you don't know what you are dealing with. I swear
to you that if you play this game with me I will drag you two down if I
drag myself with you. I have nothing much to lose. You and your sister
have everything."

"Go on," Betty said briefly.

"Go on! Yes, I will go on. Rosalie and Ffolliott I hold in the hollow
of my hand. As for you--do you know that people are beginning to discuss
you? Gossip is easily stirred in the country, where people are so bored
that they chatter in self-defence. I have been considered a bad lot. I
have become curiously attached to my sister-in-law. I am seen hanging
about her, hanging over her as we ride or walk alone together. An
American young woman is not like an English girl--she is used to seeing
the marriage ceremony juggled with. There's a trifle of prejudice
against such young women when they are too rich and too handsome. Don't
look at me like that!" he burst forth, with maddened sharpness, "I won't
have it!"

The girl was regarding him with the expression he most resented--the
reflection of a normal person watching an abnormal one, and studying his
abnormality.

"Do you know that you are raving?" she said, with quiet
curiosity--"raving?"

Suddenly he sat down on the low mound near him, and as he touched his
forehead with his handkerchief, she saw that his hand actually shook.

"Yes," he answered, panting, "but 'ware my ravings! They mean what they
say."

"You do yourself an injury when you give way to them"--steadily, even
with a touch of slow significance--"a physical injury. I have noticed
that more than once."

He sprang to his feet again. Every drop of blood left his face. For
a second he looked as if he would strike her. His arm actually flung
itself out--and fell.

"You devil!" he gasped. "You count on that? You she-devil!"

She left her tree and stood before him.

"Listen to me," she said. "You intimate that you have been laying
melodramatic plots against me which will injure my good name. That
is rubbish. Let us leave it at that. You threaten that you will break
Rosy's heart and take her child from her, you say also that you will
wound and hurt my mother to her death and do your worst to ruin an
honest man----"

"And, by God, I will!" he raged. "And you cannot stop me, if----"

"I do not know whether I can stop you or not, though you may be sure
I will try," she interrupted him, "but that is not what I was going to
say." She drew a step nearer, and there was something in the intensity
of her look which fascinated and held him for a moment. She was
curiously grave. "Nigel, I believe in certain things you do not believe
in. I believe black thoughts breed black ills to those who think them.
It is not a new idea. There is an old Oriental proverb which says,
'Curses, like chickens, come home to roost.' I believe also that
the worst--the very worst CANNOT be done to those who think
steadily--steadily--only of the best. To you that is merely superstition
to be laughed at. That is a matter of opinion. But--don't go on with
this thing--DON'T GO ON WITH IT. Stop and think it over."

He stared at her furiously--tried to laugh outright, and failed because
the look in her eyes was so odd in its strength and stillness.

"You think you can lay some weird spell upon me," he jeered
sardonically.

"No, I don't," she answered. "I could not if I would. It is no affair of
mine. It is your affair only--and there is nothing weird about it. Don't
go on, I tell you. Think better of it."

She turned about without further speech, and walked away from him with
light swiftness over the marsh. Oddly enough, he did not even attempt to
follow her. He felt a little weak--perhaps because a certain thing she
had said had brought back to him a familiar touch of the horrors. She
had the eyes of a falcon under the odd, soft shade of the extraordinary
lashes. She had seen what he thought no one but himself had realised.
Having watched her retreating figure for a few seconds, he sat down--as
suddenly as before--on the mound near the tree.

"Oh, damn her!" he said, his damp forehead on his hands. "Damn the whole
universe!"

. . . . .

When Betty and Roland reached Stornham, the wicker-work pony chaise from
the vicarage stood before the stone entrance steps. The drawing-room
door was open, and Mrs. Brent was standing near it saying some last
words to Lady Anstruthers before leaving the house, after a visit
evidently made with an object. This Betty gathered from the solemnity of
her manner.

"Betty," said Lady Anstruthers, catching sight of her, "do come in for a
moment."

When Betty entered, both her sister and Mrs. Brent looked at her
questioningly.

"You look a little pale and tired, Miss Vanderpoel," Mrs. Brent said,
rather as if in haste to be the first to speak. "I hope you are not at
all unwell. We need all our strength just now. I have brought the most
painful news. Malignant typhoid fever has broken out among the hop
pickers on the Mount Dunstan estate. Some poor creature was evidently
sickening for it when he came from London. Three people died last
night."



CHAPTER XLI

SHE WOULD DO SOMETHING

Sir Nigel's face was not a good thing to see when he appeared at the
dinner table in the evening. As he took his seat the two footmen glanced
quickly at each other, and the butler at the sideboard furtively thrust
out his underlip. Not a man or woman in the household but had learned
the signal denoting the moment when no service would please, no word
or movement be unobjectionable. Lady Anstruthers' face unconsciously
assumed its propitiatory expression, and she glanced at her sister more
than once when Betty was unaware that she did so.

Until the soup had been removed, Sir Nigel scarcely spoke, merely making
curt replies to any casual remark. This was one of his simple and most
engaging methods of at once enjoying an ill-humour and making his wife
feel that she was in some way to blame for it.

"Mount Dunstan is in a deucedly unpleasant position," he condescended at
last. "I should not care to stand in his shoes."

He had not returned to the Court until late in the afternoon, but having
heard in the village the rumour of the outbreak of fever, he had made
inquiries and gathered detail.

"You are thinking of the outbreak of typhoid among the hop pickers?"
said Lady Anstruthers. "Mrs. Brent thinks it threatens to be very
serious."

"An epidemic, without a doubt," he answered. "In a wretched unsanitary
place like Dunstan village, the wretches will die like flies."

"What will be done?" inquired Betty.

He gave her one of the unpleasant personal glances and laughed
derisively.

"Done? The county authorities, who call themselves 'guardians,' will be
frightened to death and will potter about and fuss like old women, and
profess to examine and protect and lay restrictions, but everyone will
manage to keep at a discreet distance, and the thing will run riot and
do its worst. As far as one can see, there seems no reason why the whole
place should not be swept away. No doubt Mount Dunstan has wisely taken
to his heels already."

"I think that, on the contrary, there would be much doubt of that,"
Betty said. "He would stay and do what he could."

Sir Nigel shrugged his shoulders.

"Would he? I think you'll find he would not."

"Mrs. Brent tells me," Rosalie broke in somewhat hurriedly, "that the
huts for the hoppers are in the worst possible condition. They are so
dilapidated that the rain pours into them. There is no proper shelter
for the people who are ill, and Lord Mount Dunstan cannot afford to take
care of them."

"But he WILL--he WILL," broke forth Betty. Her head lifted itself and
she spoke almost as if through her small, shut teeth. A wave of intense
belief--high, proud, and obstinate, swept through her. It was a feeling
so strong and vibrant that she felt as if Mount Dunstan himself must be
reached and upborne by it--as if he himself must hear her.

Rosalie looked at her half-startled, and, for the moment held fascinated
by the sudden force rising in her and by the splendid spark of light
under her lids. She was reminded of the fierce little Betty of long ago,
with her delicate, indomitable small face and the spirit which even at
nine years old had somehow seemed so strong and straitly keen of sight
that one had known it might always be trusted. Actually, in one way, she
had not changed. She saw the truth of things. The next instant, however,
inadvertently glancing towards her husband, she caught her breath
quickly. Across his heavy-featured face had shot the sudden gleam of a
new expression. It was as if he had at the moment recognised something
which filled him with a rush of fury he himself was not prepared for.
That he did not wish it to be seen she knew by his manner. There was
a brief silence in which it passed away. He spoke after it, with
disagreeable precision.

"He has had an enormous effect on you--that man," he said to Betty.

He spoke clearly so that she might have the pleasure of being certain
that the menservants heard. They were close to the table, handing
fruit--professing to be automatons, eyes down, faces expressing nothing,
but as quick of hearing as it is said that blind men are. He knew that
if he had been in her place and a thing as insultingly significant
had been said to him, he should promptly have hurled the nearest
object--plate, wineglass, or decanter--in the face of the speaker.
He knew, too, that women cannot hurl projectiles without looking like
viragos and fools. The weakly-feminine might burst into tears or into a
silly rage and leave the table. There was a distinct breath's space
of pause, and Betty, cutting a cluster from a bunch of hothouse grapes
presented by the footman at her side, answered as clearly as he had
spoken himself.

"He is strong enough to produce an effect on anyone," she said. "I think
you feel that yourself. He is a man who will not be beaten in the end.
Fortune will give him some good thing."

"He is a fellow who knows well enough on which hand of him good things
lie," he said. "He will take all that offers itself."

"Why not?" Betty said impartially.

"There must be no riding or driving in the neighbourhood of the place,"
he said next. "I will have no risks run." He turned and addressed the
butler. "Jennings, tell the servants that those are my orders."

He sat over his wine but a short time that evening, and when he joined
his wife and sister-in-law in the drawing-room he went at once to Betty.
In fact, he was in the condition when a man cannot keep away from
a woman, but must invent some reason for reaching her whether it is
fatuous or plausible.

"What I said to Jennings was an order to you as well as to the people
below stairs. I know you are particularly fond of riding in the
direction of Mount Dunstan. You are in my care so long as you are in my
house."

"Orders are not necessary," Betty replied. "The day is past when one
rushed to smooth pillows and give the wrong medicine when one's friends
were ill. If one is not a properly-trained nurse, it is wiser not to
risk being very much in the way."

He spoke over her shoulder, dropping his voice, though Lady Anstruthers
sat apart, appearing to read.

"Don't think I am fool enough not to understand. You have yourself under
magnificent control, but a woman passionately in love cannot keep a
certain look out of her eyes."

He was standing on the hearth. Betty swung herself lightly round, facing
him squarely. Her full look was splendid.

"If it is there--let it stay," she said. "I would not keep it out of my
eyes if I could, and, you are right, I could not if I would--if it is
there. If it is--let it stay."

The daring, throbbing, human truth of her made his brain whirl. To a man
young and clean and fit to count as in the lists, to have heard her say
the thing of a rival would have been hard enough, but base, degenerate,
and of the world behind her day, to hear it while frenzied for her, was
intolerable. And it was Mount Dunstan she bore herself so highly for.
Whether melodrama is out of date or not there are, occasionally, some
fine melodramatic touches in the enmities of to-day.

"You think you will reach him," he persisted. "You think you will help
him in some way. You will not let the thing alone."

"Excuse my mentioning that whatsoever I take the liberty of doing will
encroach on no right of yours," she said.

But, alone in her room, after she went upstairs, the face reflecting
itself in the mirror was pale and its black brows were drawn together.

She sat down at the dressing-table, and, seeing the paled face, drew the
black brows closer, confronting a complicating truth.

"If I were free to take Rosalie and Ughtred home to-morrow," she
thought, "I could not bear to go. I should suffer too much."

She was suffering now. The strong longing in her heart was like
a physical pain. No word or look of this one man had given
her proof that his thoughts turned to her, and yet it was
intolerable--intolerable--that in his hour of stress and need they were
as wholly apart as if worlds rolled between them. At any dire moment it
was mere nature that she should give herself in help and support. If, on
the night at sea, when they had first spoken to each other, the ship
had gone down, she knew that they two, strangers though they were, would
have worked side by side among the frantic people, and have been among
the last to take to the boats. How did she know? Only because, he being
he, and she being she, it must have been so in accordance with the
laws ruling entities. And now he stood facing a calamity almost as
terrible--and she with full hands sat still.

She had seen the hop pickers' huts and had recognised their condition.
Mere brick sheds in which the pickers slept upon bundles of hay or straw
in their best days; in their decay they did not even provide shelter. In
fine weather the hop gatherers slept well enough in them, cooking their
food in gypsy-fashion in the open. When the rain descended, it must
run down walls and drip through the holes in the roofs in streams which
would soak clothes and bedding. The worst that Nigel and Mrs. Brent had
implied was true. Illness of any order, under such circumstances, would
have small chance of recovery, but malignant typhoid without shelter,
without proper nourishment or nursing, had not one chance in a
million. And he--this one man--stood alone in the midst of the
tragedy--responsible and helpless. He would feel himself responsible
as she herself would, if she were in his place. She was conscious that
suddenly the event of the afternoon--the interview upon the marshes, had
receded until it had become an almost unmeaning incident. What did the
degenerate, melodramatic folly matter----!

She had restlessly left her chair before the dressing-table, and was
walking to and fro. She paused and stood looking down at the carpet,
though she scarcely saw it.

"Nothing matters but one thing--one person," she owned to herself
aloud. "I suppose it is always like this. Rosy, Ughtred, even father and
mother--everyone seems less near than they were. It is too strong--too
strong. It is----" the words dropped slowly from her lips, "the
strongest thing--in the world."

She lifted her face and threw out her hands, a lovely young half-sad
smile curling the deep corners of her mouth. "Sometimes one feels so
disdained," she said--"so disdained with all one's power. Perhaps I am
an unwanted thing."

But even in this case there were aids one might make an effort to give.
She went to her writing-table and sat thinking for some time. Afterwards
she began to write letters. Three or four were addressed to London--one
was to Mr. Penzance.

. . . . .

Mount Dunstan and his vicar were walking through the village to the
vicarage. They had been to the hop pickers' huts to see the people
who were ill of the fever. Both of them noticed that cottage doors and
windows were shut, and that here and there alarmed faces looked out from
behind latticed panes.

"They are in a panic of fear," Mount Dunstan said, "and by way of
safeguard they shut out every breath of air and stifle indoors.
Something must be done."

Catching the eye of a woman who was peering over her short white dimity
blind, he beckoned to her authoritatively. She came to the door and
hesitated there, curtsying nervously.

Mount Dunstan spoke to her across the hedge.

"You need not come out to me, Mrs. Binner. You may stay where you are,"
he said. "Are you obeying the orders given by the Guardians?"

"Yes, my lord. Yes, my lord," with more curtsys.

"Your health is very much in your own hands," he added.

"You must keep your cottage and your children cleaner than you have ever
kept them before, and you must use the disinfectant I sent you. Keep
away from the huts, and open your windows. If you don't open them,
I shall come and do it for you. Bad air is infection itself. Do you
understand?"

"Yes, my lord. Thank your lordship."

"Go in and open your windows now, and tell your neighbours to do the
same. If anyone is ill let me know at once. The vicar and I will do our
best for everyone."

By that time curiosity had overcome fear, and other cottage doors had
opened. Mount Dunstan passed down the row and said a few words to each
woman or man who looked out. Questions were asked anxiously and he
answered them. That he was personally unafraid was comfortingly plain,
and the mere sight of him was, on the whole, an unexplainable support.

"We heard said your lordship was going away," put in a stout mother
with a heavy child on her arm, a slight testiness scarcely concealed
by respectful good-manners. She was a matron with a temper, and that a
Mount Dunstan should avoid responsibilities seemed highly credible.

"I shall stay where I am," Mount Dunstan answered. "My place is here."

They believed him, Mount Dunstan though he was. It could not be said
that they were fond of him, but gradually it had been borne in upon them
that his word was to be relied on, though his manner was unalluring and
they knew he was too poor to do his duty by them or his estate. As
he walked away with the vicar, windows were opened, and in one or two
untidy cottages a sudden flourishing of mops and brooms began.

There was dark trouble in Mount Dunstan's face. In the huts they had
left two men stiff on their straw, and two women and a child in a state
of collapse. Added to these were others stricken helpless. A number of
workers in the hop gardens, on realising the danger threatening them,
had gathered together bundles and children, and, leaving the harvest
behind, had gone on the tramp again. Those who remained were the weaker
or less cautious, or were held by some tie to those who were already
ill of the fever. The village doctor was an old man who had spent his
blameless life in bringing little cottagers into the world, attending
their measles and whooping coughs, and their father's and grandfather's
rheumatics. He had never faced a village crisis in the course of his
seventy-five years, and was aghast and flurried with fright. His methods
remained those of his youth, and were marked chiefly by a readiness
to prescribe calomel in any emergency. A younger and stronger man was
needed, as well as a man of more modern training. But even the most
brilliant practitioner of the hour could not have provided shelter and
nourishment, and without them his skill would have counted as nothing.
For three weeks there had been no rain, which was a condition of the
barometer not likely to last. Already grey clouds were gathering and
obscuring the blueness of the sky.

The vicar glanced upwards anxiously.

"When it comes," he said, "there will be a downpour, and a persistent
one."

"Yes," Mount Dunstan answered.

He had lain awake thinking throughout the night. How was a man to sleep!
It was as Betty Vanderpoel had known it would be. He, who--beggar though
he might be--was the lord of the land, was the man to face the strait of
these poor workers on the land, as his own. Some action must be taken.
What action? As he walked by his friend's side from the huts where the
dead men lay it revealed itself that he saw his way.

They were going to the vicarage to consult a medical book, but on the
way there they passed a part of the park where, through a break in the
timber the huge, white, blind-faced house stood on view. Mount Dunstan
laid his hand on Mr. Penzance's shoulder and stopped him,

"Look there!" he said. "THERE are weather-tight rooms enough."

A startled expression showed itself on the vicar's face.

"For what?" he exclaimed

"For a hospital," brusquely "I can give them one thing, at
least--shelter."

"It is a very remarkable thing to think of doing," Mr. Penzance said.

"It is not so remarkable as that labourers on my land should die at my
gate because I cannot give them decent roofs to cover them. There is a
roof that will shield them from the weather. They shall be brought to
the Mount."

The vicar was silent a moment, and a flush of sympathy warmed his face.

"You are quite right, Fergus," he said, "entirely right."

"Let us go to your study and plan how it shall be done," Mount Dunstan
said.

As they walked towards the vicarage, he went on talking.

"When I lie awake at night, there is one thread which always winds
itself through my thoughts whatsoever they are. I don't find that I can
disentangle it. It connects itself with Reuben S. Vanderpoel's daughter.
You would know that without my telling you. If you had ever struggled
with an insane passion----"

"It is not insane, I repeat," put in Penzance unflinchingly.

"Thank you--whether you are right or wrong," answered Mount Dunstan,
striding by his side. "When I am awake, she is as much a part of my
existence as my breath itself. When I think things over, I find that I
am asking myself if her thoughts would be like mine. She is a creature
of action. Last night, as I lay awake, I said to myself, 'She would DO
something. What would she do?' She would not be held back by fear of
comment or convention. She would look about her for the utilisable, and
she would find it somewhere and use it. I began to sum up the village
resources and found nothing--until my thoughts led me to my own house.
There it stood--empty and useless. If it were hers, and she stood in my
place, she would make it useful. So I decided."

"You are quite right," Mr. Penzance said again.

They spent an hour in his library at the vicarage, arranging practical
methods for transforming the great ballroom into a sort of hospital
ward. It could be done by the removal of pieces of furniture from the
many unused bedrooms. There was also the transportation of the patients
from the huts to be provided for. But, when all this was planned out,
each found himself looking at the other with an unspoken thought in his
mind. Mount Dunstan first expressed it.

"As far as I can gather, the safety of typhoid fever patients depends
almost entirely on scientific nursing, and the caution with which even
liquid nourishment is given. The woman whose husband died this morning
told me that he had seemed better in the night, and had asked for
something to eat. She gave him a piece of bread and a slice of cold
bacon, because he told her he fancied it. I could not explain to her, as
she sat sobbing over him, that she had probably killed him. When we have
patients in our ward, what shall we feed them on, and who will know how
to nurse them? They do not know how to nurse each other, and the women
in the village would not run the risk of undertaking to help us."

But, even before he had left the house, the problem was solved for them.
The solving of it lay in the note Miss Vanderpoel had written the night
before at Stornham.

When it was brought to him Mr. Penzance glanced up from certain
calculations he was making upon a sheet of note-paper. The accumulating
difficulties made him look worn and tired. He opened the note and read
it gravely, and then as gravely, though with a change of expression,
handed it to Mount Dunstan.

"Yes, she is a creature of action. She has heard and understood at
once, and she has done something. It is immensely practical--it is
fine--it--it is lovable."

"Do you mind my keeping it?" Mount Dunstan asked, after he had read it.

"Keep it by all means," the vicar answered. "It is worth keeping."

But it was quite brief. She had heard of the outbreak of fever among the
hop pickers, and asked to be allowed to give help to the people who were
suffering. They would need prompt aid. She chanced to know something of
the requirements of such cases, and had written to London for certain
supplies which would be sent to them at once. She had also written for
nurses, who would be needed above all else. Might she ask Mr. Penzance
to kindly call upon her for any further assistance required.

"Tell her we are deeply grateful," said Mount Dunstan, "and that she has
given us greater help than she knows."

"Why not answer her note yourself?" Penzance suggested.

Mount Dunstan shook his head.

"No," he said shortly. "No."



CHAPTER XLII

IN THE BALLROOM

Though Dunstan village was cut off, by its misfortune, from its usual
intercourse with its neighbours, in some mystic manner villages even at
twenty miles' distance learned all it did and suffered, feared or hoped.
It did not hope greatly, the rustic habit of mind tending towards a
discouraged outlook, and cherishing the drama of impending calamity.
As far as Yangford and Marling inmates of cottages and farmhouses were
inclined to think it probable that Dunstan would be "swep away,"
and rumours of spreading death and disaster were popular. Tread, the
advanced blacksmith at Stornham, having heard in his by-gone, better
days of the Great Plague of London, was greatly in demand as a narrator
of illuminating anecdotes at The Clock Inn.

Among the parties gathered at the large houses Mount Dunstan himself
was much talked of. If he had been a popular man, he might have become
a sort of hero; as he was not popular, he was merely a subject for
discussion. The fever-stricken patients had been carried in carts to
the Mount and given beds in the ballroom, which had been made into a
temporary ward. Nurses and supplies had been sent for from London, and
two energetic young doctors had taken the place of old Dr. Fenwick, who
had been frightened and overworked into an attack of bronchitis which
confined him to his bed. Where the money came from, which must be spent
every day under such circumstances, it was difficult to say. To the
simply conservative of mind, the idea of filling one's house with dirty
East End hop pickers infected with typhoid seemed too radical. Surely
he could have done something less extraordinary. Would everybody
be expected to turn their houses into hospitals in case of village
epidemics, now that he had established a precedent? But there were
people who approved, and were warm in their sympathy with him. At the
first dinner party where the matter was made the subject of argument,
the beautiful Miss Vanderpoel, who was present, listened silently to the
talk with such brilliant eyes that Lord Dunholm, who was in an elderly
way her staunch admirer, spoke to her across the table:

"Tell us what YOU think of it, Miss Vanderpoel," he suggested.

She did not hesitate at all.

"I like it," she answered, in her clear, well-heard voice. "I like it
better than anything I have ever heard."

"So do I," said old Lady Alanby shortly. "I should never have done it
myself--but I like it just as you do."

"I knew you would, Lady Alanby," said the girl. "And you, too, Lord
Dunholm."


"I like it so much that I shall write and ask if I cannot be of
assistance," Lord Dunholm answered.

Betty was glad to hear this. Only quickness of thought prevented her
from the error of saying, "Thank you," as if the matter were personal to
herself. If Mount Dunstan was restive under the obviousness of the fact
that help was so sorely needed, he might feel less so if her offer was
only one among others.

"It seems rather the duty of the neighbourhood to show some interest,"
put in Lady Alanby. "I shall write to him myself. He is evidently of
a new order of Mount Dunstan. It's to be hoped he won't take the fever
himself, and die of it He ought to marry some handsome, well-behaved
girl, and re-found the family."

Nigel Anstruthers spoke from his side of the table, leaning slightly
forward.

"He won't if he does not take better care of himself. He passed me
on the road two days ago, riding like a lunatic. He looks frightfully
ill--yellow and drawn and lined. He has not lived the life to prepare
him for settling down to a fight with typhoid fever. He would be done
for if he caught the infection."

"I beg your pardon," said Lord Dunholm, with quiet decision.
"Unprejudiced inquiry proves that his life has been entirely
respectable. As Lady Alanby says, he seems to be of a new order of Mount
Dunstan."

"No doubt you are right," said Sir Nigel suavely. "He looked ill,
notwithstanding."

"As to looking ill," remarked Lady Alanby to Lord Dunholm, who sat
near her, "that man looks as if he was going to pieces pretty rapidly
himself, and unprejudiced inquiry would not prove that his past had
nothing to do with it."

Betty wondered if her brother-in-law were lying. It was generally safest
to argue that he was. But the fever burned high at Mount Dunstan, and
she knew by instinct what its owner was giving of the strength of his
body and brain. A young, unmarried woman cannot go about, however,
making anxious inquiries concerning the welfare of a man who has made no
advance towards her. She must wait for the chance which brings news.

. . . . .

The fever, having ill-cared for and habitually ill fed bodies to work
upon, wrought fiercely, despite the energy of the two young doctors and
the trained nurses. There were many dark hours in the ballroom ward,
hours filled with groans and wild ravings. The floating Terpsichorean
goddesses upon the lofty ceiling gazed down with wondering eyes at
haggard faces and plucking hands which sometimes, behind the screen
drawn round their beds, ceased to look feverish, and grew paler and
stiller, until they moved no more. But, at least, none had died through
want of shelter and care. The supplies needed came from London each day.
Lord Dunholm had sent a generous cheque to the aid of the sufferers, and
so, also, had old Lady Alanby, but Miss Vanderpoel, consulting medical
authorities and hospitals, learned exactly what was required, and
necessities were forwarded daily in their most easily utilisable form.

"You generously told me to ask you for anything we found we required,"
Mr. Penzance wrote to her in his note of thanks. "My dear and kind
young lady, you leave nothing to ask for. Our doctors, who are young
and enthusiastic, are filled with delight in the completeness of the
resources placed in their hands."

She had, in fact, gone to London to consult an eminent physician, who
was an authority of world-wide reputation. Like the head of the legal
firm of Townlinson & Sheppard, he had experienced a new sensation in
the visit paid him by an indubitably modern young beauty, who wasted no
word, and whose eyes, while he answered her amazingly clear questions,
were as intelligently intent as those of an ardent and serious young
medical student. What a surgical nurse she would have made! It seemed
almost a pity that she evidently belonged to a class the members of
which are rich enough to undertake the charge of entire epidemics, but
who do not usually give themselves to such work, especially when they
are young and astonishing in the matter of looks.

In addition to the work they did in the ballroom ward, Mount Dunstan
and the vicar found much to do among the villagers. Ignorance and alarm
combined to create dangers, even where they might not have been feared.
Daily instruction and inspection of the cottages and their inmates was
required. The knowledge that they were under control and supervision
was a support to the frightened people and prevented their lapsing
into careless habits. Also, there began to develop among them a secret
dependence upon, and desire to please "his lordship," as the existing
circumstances drew him nearer to them, and unconsciously they were
attracted and dominated by his strength. The strong man carries his
power with him, and, when Mount Dunstan entered a cottage and talked to
its inmates, the anxious wife or surlily depressed husband was conscious
of feeling a certain sense of security. It had been a queer enough
thing, this he had done--bundling the infected hoppers out of their
leaking huts and carrying them up to the Mount itself for shelter
and care. At the most, gentlefolk generally gave soup or blankets or
hospital tickets, and left the rest to luck, but, "gentry-way" or not,
a man who did a thing like that would be likely to do other things, if
they were needed, and gave folk a feeling of being safer than ordinary
soup and blankets and hospital tickets could make them.

But "where did the money come from?" was asked during the first days.
Beds and doctors, nurses and medicine, fine brandy and unlimited fowls
for broth did not come up from London without being paid for. Pounds
and pounds a day must be paid out to get the things that were delivered
"regular" in hampers and boxes. The women talked to one another over
their garden palings, the men argued together over their beer at the
public house. Was he running into more debt? But even the village knew
that Mount Dunstan credit had been exhausted long ago, and there had
been no money at the Mount within the memory of man, so to speak.

One morning the matron with the sharp temper found out the truth,
though the outburst of gratitude to Mount Dunstan which resulted in her
enlightenment, was entirely spontaneous and without intention. Her doubt
of his Mount Dunstan blood had grown into a sturdy liking even for his
short speech and his often drawn-down brows.

"We've got more to thank your lordship for than common help," she said.
"God Almighty knows where we'd all ha' been but for what you've done.
Those poor souls you've nursed and fed----"

"I've not done it," he broke in promptly. "You're mistaken; I could not
have done it. How could I?"

"Well," exclaimed the matron frankly, "we WAS wondering where things
came from."

"You might well wonder. Have any of you seen Lady Anstruthers' sister,
Miss Vanderpoel, ride through the village? She used sometimes to ride
this way. If you saw her you will remember it.'

"The 'Merican young lady!" in ejaculatory delight. "My word, yes! A
fine young woman with black hair? That rich, they say, as millions won't
cover it."

"They won't," grimly. "Lord Dunholm and Lady Alanby of Dole kindly sent
cheques to help us, but the American young lady was first on the field.
She sent both doctors and nurses, and has supplied us with food and
medicine every day. As you say, Mrs. Brown, God Almighty knows what
would have become of us, but for what she has done."

Mrs. Brown had listened with rather open mouth. She caught her breath
heartily, as a sort of approving exclamation.

"God bless her!" she broke out. "Girls isn't generally like that. Their
heads is too full of finery. God bless her, 'Merican or no 'Merican!
That's what I say."

Mount Dunstan's red-brown eyes looked as if she had pleased him.

"That's what I say, too," he answered. "God bless her!"

There was not a day which passed in which he did not involuntarily say
the words to himself again and again. She had been wrong when she had
said in her musings that they were as far apart as if worlds rolled
between them. Something stronger than sight or speech drew them
together. The thread which wove itself through his thoughts grew
stronger and stronger. The first day her gifts arrived and he walked
about the ballroom ward directing the placing of hospital cots and
hospital aids and comforts, the spirit of her thought and intelligence,
the individuality and cleverness of all her methods, brought her so
vividly before him that it was almost as if she walked by his side,
as if they spoke together, as if she said, "I have tried to think of
everything. I want you to miss nothing. Have I helped you? Tell me if
there is anything more." The thing which moved and stirred him was his
knowledge that when he had thought of her she had also been thinking
of him, or of what deeply concerned him. When he had said to himself,
tossing on his pillow, "What would she DO?" she had been planning
in such a way as answered his question. Each morning, when the day's
supplies arrived, it was as if he had received a message from her.

As the people in the cottages felt the power of his temperament and
depended upon him, so, also, did the patients in the ballroom ward. The
feeling had existed from the outset and increased daily. The doctors and
nurses told one another that his passing through the room was like the
administering of a tonic. Patients who were weak and making no effort,
were lifted upon the strong wave of his will and carried onward towards
the shore of greater courage and strength.

Young Doctor Thwaite met him when he came in one morning, and spoke in a
low voice:

"There is a young man behind the screen there who is very low," he said.
"He had an internal haemorrhage towards morning, and has lost his pluck.
He has a wife and three children. We have been doing our best for him
with hot-water bottles and stimulants, but he has not the courage
to help us. You have an extraordinary effect on them all, Lord Mount
Dunstan. When they are depressed, they always ask when you are coming
in, and this man--Patton, his name is--has asked for you several times.
Upon my word, I believe you might set him going again."

Mount Dunstan walked to the bed, and, going behind the screen, stood
looking down at the young fellow lying breathing pantingly. His
eyes were closed as he laboured, and his pinched white nostrils drew
themselves in and puffed out at each breath. A nurse on the other side
of the cot had just surrounded him with fresh hot-water bottles.

Suddenly the sunken eyelids flew open, and the eyes met Mount Dunstan's
in imploring anxiousness.

"Here I am, Patton," Mount Dunstan said. "You need not speak."

But he must speak. Here was the strength his sinking soul had longed
for.

"Cruel bad--goin' fast--m' lord," he panted.

Mount Dunstan made a sign to the nurse, who gave him a chair. He sat
down close to the bed, and took the bloodless hand in his own.

"No," he said, "you are not going. You'll stay here. I will see to
that."

The poor fellow smiled wanly. Vague yearnings had led him sometimes, in
the past, to wander into chapels or stop and listen to street preachers,
and orthodox platitudes came back to him.

"God's--will," he trailed out.

"It's nothing of the sort. It's God's will that you pull yourself
together. A man with a wife and three children has no right to slip
out."

A yearning look flickered in the lad's eyes--he was scarcely more than a
lad, having married at seventeen, and had a child each year.

"She's--a good--girl."

"Keep that in your mind while you fight this out," said Mount Dunstan.
"Say it over to yourself each time you feel yourself letting go. Hold
on to it. I am going to fight it out with you. I shall sit here and take
care of you all day--all night, if necessary. The doctor and the nurse
will tell me what to do. Your hand is warmer already. Shut your eyes."

He did not leave the bedside until the middle of the night.

By that time the worst was over. He had acted throughout the hours under
the direction of nurse and doctor. No one but himself had touched the
patient. When Patton's eyes were open, they rested on him with a weird
growing belief. He begged his lordship to hold his hand, and was uneasy
when he laid it down.

"Keeps--me--up," he whispered.

"He pours something into them--vigour--magnetic power--life. He's like
a charged battery," Dr. Thwaite said to his co-workers. "He sat down by
Patton just in time. It sets one to thinking."

Having saved Patton, he must save others. When a man or woman sank, or
had increased fever, they believed that he alone could give them help.
In delirium patients cried out for him. He found himself doing hard
work, but he did not flinch from it. The adoration for him became a
sort of passion. Haggard faces lighted up into life at the sound of his
footstep, and heavy heads turned longingly on their pillows as he passed
by. In the winter days to come there would be many an hour's talk in
East End courts and alleys of the queer time when a score or more of
them had lain in the great room with the dancing and floating goddesses
looking down at them from the high, painted ceiling, and the swell, who
was a lord, walking about among them, working for them as the nurses
did, and sitting by some of them through awful hours, sometimes holding
burning or slackening and chilling hands with a grip whose steadiness
seemed to hold them back from the brink of the abyss they were slipping
into. The mere ignorantly childish desire to do his prowess credit and
to play him fair saved more than one man and woman from going out with
the tide.

"It is the first time in my life that I have fairly counted among men.
It's the first time I have known human affection, other than yours,
Penzance. They want me, these people; they are better for the sight of
me. It is a new experience, and it is good for a man's soul," he said.



CHAPTER XLIII

HIS CHANCE

Betty walked much alone upon the marshes with Roland at her side. At
intervals she heard from Mr. Penzance, but his notes were necessarily
brief, and at other times she could only rely upon report for news
of what was occurring at Mount Dunstan. Lord Mount Dunstan's almost
military supervision of and command over his villagers had certainly
saved them from the horrors of an uncontrollable epidemic; his decision
and energy had filled the alarmed Guardians with respect and this
respect had begun to be shared by many other persons. A man as prompt in
action, and as faithful to such responsibilities as many men might
have found plausible reasons enough for shirking, inevitably assumed a
certain dignity of aspect, when all was said and done. Lord Dunholm was
most clear in his expressions of opinion concerning him. Lady Alanby
of Dole made a practice of speaking of him in public frequently, always
with admiring approval, and in that final manner of hers, to whose
authority her neighbours had so long submitted. It began to be accepted
as a fact that he was a new development of his race--as her ladyship had
put it, "A new order of Mount Dunstan."

The story of his power over the stricken people, and of their passionate
affection and admiration for him, was one likely to spread far, and be
immensely popular. The drama of certain incidents appealed greatly
to the rustic mind, and by cottage firesides he was represented with
rapturous awe, as raising men, women, and children from the dead, by the
mere miracle of touch. Mrs. Welden and old Doby revelled in thrilling,
almost Biblical, versions of current anecdotes, when Betty paid her
visits to them.

"It's like the Scripture, wot he done for that young man as the last
breath had gone out of him, an' him lyin' stiffening fast. 'Young man,
arise,' he says. 'The Lord Almighty calls. You've got a young wife an'
three children to take care of. Take up your bed an' walk.' Not as he
wanted him to carry his bed anywheres, but it was a manner of speaking.
An' up the young man got. An' a sensible way," said old Mrs. Welden
frankly, "for the Lord to look at it--for I must say, miss, if I was
struck down for it, though I s'pose it's only my sinful ignorance--that
there's times when the Lord seems to think no more of sweepin' away a
steady eighteen-shillin' a week, and p'raps seven in family, an' one at
the breast, an' another on the way--than if it was nothin'. But likely
enough, eighteen shillin' a week an' confinements does seem paltry to
the Maker of 'eaven an' earth."

But, to the girl walking over the marshland, the humanness of the things
she heard gave to her the sense of nearness--of being almost within
sight and sound--which Mount Dunstan himself had felt, when each day
was filled with the result of her thought of the needs of the poor souls
thrown by fate into his hands. In these days, after listening to old
Mrs. Welden's anecdotes, through which she gathered the simpler truth
of things, Betty was able to construct for herself a less Scriptural
version of what she had heard. She was glad--glad in his sitting by
a bedside and holding a hand which lay in his hot or cold, but always
trusting to something which his strong body and strong soul gave without
stint. There would be no restraint there. Yes, he was kind--kind--kind
--with the kindness a woman loves, and which she, of all women, loved
most. Sometimes she would sit upon some mound, and, while her eyes
seemed to rest on the yellowing marsh and its birds and pools, they saw
other things, and their colour grew deep and dark as the marsh water
between the rushes.

The time was pressing when a change in her life must come. She
frequently asked herself if what she saw in Nigel Anstruthers' face was
the normal thinking of a sane man, which he himself could control. There
had been moments when she had seriously doubted it. He was haggard,
aging and restless. Sometimes he--always as if by chance--followed her
as she went from one room to another, and would seat himself and fix
his miserable eyes upon her for so long a time that it seemed he must
be unconscious of what he was doing. Then he would appear suddenly to
recollect himself and would start up with a muttered exclamation, and
stalk out of the room. He spent long hours riding or driving alone about
the country or wandering wretchedly through the Park and gardens. Once
he went up to town, and, after a few days' absence, came back looking
more haggard than before, and wearing a hunted look in his eyes. He had
gone to see a physician, and, after having seen him, he had tried to
lose himself in a plunge into deep and turbid enough waters; but he
found that he had even lost the taste of high flavours, for which he
had once had an epicurean palate. The effort had ended in his being
overpowered again by his horrors--the horrors in which he found himself
staring at that end of things when no pleasure had spice, no debauchery
the sting of life, and men, such as he, stood upon the shore of time
shuddering and naked souls, watching the great tide, bearing its
treasures, recede forever, and leave them to the cold and hideous dark.
During one day of his stay in town he had seen Teresita, who had at
first stared half frightened by the change she saw in him, and then had
told him truths he could have wrung her neck for putting into words.

"You look an old man," she said, with the foreign accent he had once
found deliciously amusing, but which now seemed to add a sting. "And
somesing is eating you op. You are mad in lofe with some beautiful one
who will not look at you. I haf seen it in mans before. It is she who
eats you op--your evil thinkings of her. It serve you right. Your eyes
look mad."

He himself, at times, suspected that they did, and cursed himself
because he could not keep cool. It was part of his horrors that he knew
his internal furies were worse than folly, and yet he could not restrain
them. The creeping suspicion that this was only the result of the simple
fact that he had never tried to restrain any tendency of his own was
maddening. His nervous system was a wreck. He drank a great deal of
whisky to keep himself "straight" during the day, and he rose many times
during his black waking hours in the night to drink more because he
obstinately refused to give up the hope that, if he drank enough, it
would make him sleep. As through the thoughts of Mount Dunstan, who was
a clean and healthy human being, there ran one thread which would not
disentangle itself, so there ran through his unwholesome thinking a
thread which burned like fire. His secret ravings would not have been
good to hear. His passion was more than half hatred, and a desire for
vengeance, for the chance to re-assert his own power, to prove himself
master, to get the better in one way or another of this arrogant young
outsider and her high-handed pride. The condition of his mind was so far
from normal that he failed to see that the things he said to himself,
the plans he laid, were grotesque in their folly. The old cruel
dominance of the man over the woman thing, which had seemed the mere
natural working of the law among men of his race in centuries past, was
awake in him, amid the limitations of modern days.

"My God," he said to himself more than once, "I would like to have
had her in my hands a few hundred years ago. Women were kept in their
places, then."

He was even frenzied enough to think over what he would have done, if
such a thing had been--of her utter helplessness against that which
raged in him--of the grey thickness of the walls where he might
have held and wrought his will upon her--insult, torment, death. His
alcohol-excited brain ran riot--but, when it did its foolish worst, he
was baffled by one thing.

"Damn her!" he found himself crying out. "If I had hung her up and
cut her into strips she would have died staring at me with her big
eyes--without uttering a sound."

There was a long reach between his imaginings and the time he lived
in. America had not been discovered in those decent days, and now a
man could not beat even his own wife, or spend her money, without being
meddled with by fools. He was thinking of a New York young woman of the
nineteenth century who could actually do as she hanged pleased, and who
pleased to be damned high and mighty. For that reason in itself it was
incumbent upon a man to get even with her in one way or another. High
and mightiness was not the hardest thing to reach. It offered a good
aim.

His temper when he returned to Stornham was of the order which in past
years had set Rosalie and her child shuddering and had sent the servants
about the house with pale or sullen faces. Betty's presence had the
odd effect of restraining him, and he even told her so with sneering
resentment.

"There would be the devil to pay if you were not here," he said. "You
keep me in order, by Jove! I can't work up steam properly when you watch
me."

He himself knew that it was likely that some change would take place.
She would not stay at Stornham and she would not leave his wife and
child alone with him again. It would be like her to hold her tongue
until she was ready with her infernal plans and could spring them on
him. Her letters to her father had probably prepared him for such action
as such a man would be likely to take. He could guess what it would be.
They were free and easy enough in America in their dealings with the
marriage tie. Their idea would doubtless be a divorce with custody of
the child. He wondered a little that they had remained quiet so long.
There had been American shrewdness in her coming boldly to Stornham to
look over the ground herself and actually set the place in order. It did
not present itself to his mind that what she had done had been no part
of a scheme, but the mere result of her temperament and training. He
told himself that it had been planned beforehand and carried out in
hard-headed commercial American fashion as a matter of business. The
thing which most enraged him was the implied cool, practical realisation
of the fact that he, as inheritor of an entailed estate, was but owner
in charge, and not young enough to be regarded as an insurmountable
obstacle to their plans. He could not undo the greater part of what had
been done, and they were calculating, he argued, that his would not be
likely to be a long life, and if--if anything happened--Stornham would
be Ughtred's and the whole vulgar lot of them would come over and take
possession and swagger about the place as if they had been born on it.
As to divorce or separation--if they took that line, he would at least
give them a good run for their money. They would wish they had let
sleeping dogs lie before the thing was over. The right kind of lawyer
could bully Rosalie into saying anything he chose on the witness-stand.
There was not much limit to the evidence a man could bring if he was
experienced enough to be circumstantial, and knew whom he was dealing
with. The very fact that the little fool could be made to appear to have
been so sly and sanctimonious would stir the gall of any jury of men.
His own condoning the matter for the sake of his sensitive boy, deformed
by his mother's unrestrained and violent hysteria before his birth,
would go a long way. Let them get their divorce, they would have paid
for it, the whole lot of them, the beautiful Miss Vanderpoel and
all. Such a story as the newspapers would revel in would not be
a recommendation to Englishmen of unsmirched reputation. Then his
exultation would suddenly drop as his mental excitement produced its
effect of inevitable physical fatigue. Even if he made them pay for
getting their own way, what would happen to himself afterwards? No
morbid vanity of self-bolstering could make the outlook anything
but unpromising. If he had not had such diabolical luck in his few
investments he could have lived his own life. As it was, old Vanderpoel
would possibly condescend to make him some insufficient allowance
because Rosalie would wish that it might be done, and he would be
expected to drag out to the end the kind of life a man pensioned by his
wife's relatives inevitably does. If he attempted to live in the country
he should blow out his brains. When his depression was at its worst, he
saw himself aging and shabby, rambling about from one cheap Continental
town to another, blackballed by good clubs, cold-shouldered even by the
Teresitas, cut off from society by his limited means and the stories
his wife's friends would spread. He ground his teeth when he thought
of Betty. Her splendid vitality had done something to life for him--had
given it savour. When he had come upon her in the avenue his blood had
stirred, even though it had been maliciously, and there had been spice
in his very resentment of her presence. And she would go away. He would
not be likely to see her again if his wife broke with him; she would be
swept out of his days. It was hideous to think of, and his rage would
overpower him and his nerves go to pieces again.

"What are you going to do?" he broke forth suddenly one evening, when
he found himself temporarily alone with her. "You are going to do
something. I see it in your eyes."

He had been for some time watching her from behind his newspaper, while
she, with an unread book upon her lap, had, in fact, been thinking
deeply and putting to herself serious questions.

Her answer made him stir rather uncomfortably.

"I am going to write to my father to ask him to come to England."

So this was what she had been preparing to spring upon him. He laughed
insolently.

"To ask him to come here?"

"With your permission."

"With mine? Does an American father-in-law wait for permission?"

"Is there any practical reason why you should prefer that he should NOT
come?"

He left his seat and walked over to her.

"Yes. Your sending for him is a declaration of war."

"It need not be so. Why should it?"

"In this case I happen to be aware that it is. The choice is your own, I
suppose," with ready bravado, "that you and he are prepared to face the
consequences. But is Rosalie, and is your mother?"

"My father is a business man and will know what can be done. He will
know what is worth doing," she answered, without noticing his
question. "But," she added the words slowly, "I have been making up
my mind--before I write to him--to say something to you--to ask you a
question."

He made a mock sentimental gesture.

"To ask me to spare my wife, to 'remember that she is the mother of my
child'?"

She passed over that also.

"To ask you if there is no possible way in which all this unhappiness
can be ended decently."

"The only decent way of ending it would be that there should be no
further interference. Let Rosalie supply the decency by showing me the
consideration due from a wife to her husband. The place has been put in
order. It was not for my benefit, and I have no money to keep it up. Let
Rosalie be provided with means to do it."

As he spoke the words he realised that he had opened a way for
embarrassing comment. He expected her to remind him that Rosalie had not
come to him without money. But she said nothing about the matter. She
never said the things he expected to hear.

"You do not want Rosalie for your wife," she went on "but you could
treat her courteously without loving her. You could allow her the
privileges other men's wives are allowed. You need not separate her from
her family. You could allow her father and mother to come to her and
leave her free to go to them sometimes. Will you not agree to that? Will
you not let her live peaceably in her own simple way? She is very gentle
and humble and would ask nothing more."

"She is a fool!" he exclaimed furiously. "A fool! She will stay where
she is and do as I tell her."

"You knew what she was when you married her. She was simple and girlish
and pretended to be nothing she was not. You chose to marry her and take
her from the people who loved her. You broke her spirit and her heart.
You would have killed her if I had not come in time to prevent it."

"I will kill her yet if you leave her," his folly made him say.

"You are talking like a feudal lord holding the power of life and death
in his hands," she said. "Power like that is ancient history. You can
hurt no one who has friends--without being punished."

It was the old story. She filled him with the desire to shake or disturb
her at any cost, and he did his utmost. If she was proposing to make
terms with him, he would show her whether he would accept them or not.
He let her hear all he had said to himself in his worst moments--all
that he had argued concerning what she and her people would do, and
what his own actions would be--all his intention to make them pay the
uttermost farthing in humiliation if he could not frustrate them.
His methods would be definite enough. He had not watched his wife and
Ffolliott for weeks to no end. He had known what he was dealing with. He
had put other people upon the track and they would testify for him. He
poured forth unspeakable statements and intimations, going, as usual,
further than he had known he should go when he began. Under the spur of
excitement his imagination served him well. At last he paused.

"Well," he put it to her, "what have you to say?"

"I?" with the remote intent curiosity growing in her eyes. "I have
nothing to say. I am leaving you to say things."

"You will, of course, try to deny----" he insisted.

"No, I shall not. Why should I?"

"You may assume your air of magnificence, but I am dealing with
uncomfortable factors." He stopped in spite of himself, and then burst
forth in a new order of rage. "You are trying some confounded experiment
on me. What is it?"

She rose from her chair to go out of the room, and stood a moment
holding her book half open in her hand.

"Yes. I suppose it might be called an experiment," was her answer.
"Perhaps it was a mistake. I wanted to make quite sure of something."

"Of what?"

"I did not want to leave anything undone. I did not want to believe that
any man could exist who had not one touch of decent feeling to redeem
him. It did not seem human."

White dints showed themselves about his nostrils.

"Well, you have found one," he cried. "You have a lashing tongue, by
God, when you choose to let it go. But I could teach you a good many
things, my girl. And before I have done you will have learned most of
them."

But though he threw himself into a chair and laughed aloud as she left
him, he knew that his arrogance and bullying were proving poor weapons,
though they had done him good service all his life. And he knew, too,
that it was mere simple truth that, as a result of the intellectual,
ethical vagaries he scathingly derided--she had actually been giving him
a sort of chance to retrieve himself, and that if he had been another
sort of man he might have taken it.



CHAPTER XLIV

A FOOTSTEP

It was cold enough for fires in halls and bedrooms, and Lady Anstruthers
often sat over hers and watched the glowing bed of coals with a fixed
thoughtfulness of look. She was so sitting when her sister went to
her room to talk to her, and she looked up questioningly when the door
closed and Betty came towards her.

"You have come to tell me something," she said.

A slight shade of anxiousness showed itself in her eyes, and Betty sat
down by her and took her hand. She had come because what she knew was
that Rosalie must be prepared for any step taken, and the time had
arrived when she must not be allowed to remain in ignorance even of
things it would be unpleasant to put into words.

"Yes," she answered. "I want to talk to you about something I have
decided to do. I think I must write to father and ask him to come to
us."

Rosalie turned white, but though her lips parted as if she were going to
speak, she said nothing.

"Do not be frightened," Betty said. "I believe it is the only thing to
do."

"I know! I know!"

Betty went on, holding the hand a little closer. "When I came here
you were too weak physically to be able to face even the thought of a
struggle. I saw that. I was afraid it must come in the end, but I knew
that at that time you could not bear it. It would have killed you
and might have killed mother, if I had not waited; and until you
were stronger, I knew I must wait and reason coolly about you--about
everything."

"I used to guess--sometimes," said Lady Anstruthers.

"I can tell you about it now. You are not as you were then," Betty said.
"I did not know Nigel at first, and I felt I ought to see more of him. I
wanted to make sure that my child hatred of him did not make me unfair.
I even tried to hope that when he came back and found the place in order
and things going well, he might recognise the wisdom of behaving with
decent kindness to you. If he had done that I knew father would have
provided for you both, though he would not have left him the opportunity
to do again what he did before. No business man would allow such a thing
as that. But as time has gone by I have seen I was mistaken in hoping
for a respectable compromise. Even if he were given a free hand he would
not change. And now----" She hesitated, feeling it difficult to choose
such words as would not be too unpleasant. How was she to tell Rosy of
the ugly, morbid situation which made ordinary passiveness impossible.
"Now there is a reason----" she began again.

To her surprise and relief it was Rosalie who ended for her. She spoke
with the painful courage which strong affection gives a weak thing. Her
face was pale no longer, but slightly reddened, and she lifted the hand
which held hers and kissed it.

"You shall not say it," she interrupted her. "I will. There is a reason
now why you cannot stay here--why you shall not stay here. That was why
I begged you to go. You must go, even if I stay behind alone."

Never had the beautiful Miss Vanderpoel's eyes worn so fully their look
of being bluebells under water. That this timid creature should so stand
at bay to defend her was more moving than anything else could have been.

"Thank you, Rosy--thank you," she answered. "But you shall not be left
alone. You must go, too. There is no other way. Difficulties will be
made for us, but we must face them. Father will see the situation from
a practical man's standpoint. Men know the things other men cannot
do. Women don't. Generally they know nothing about the law and can be
bullied into feeling that it is dangerous and compromising to inquire
into it. Nigel has always seen that it was easy to manage women. A
strong business man who has more exact legal information than he
has himself will be a new factor to deal with. And he cannot make
objectionable love to him. It is because he knows these things that he
says that my sending for father will be a declaration of war."

"Did he say that?" a little breathlessly.


"Yes, and I told him that it need not be so. But he would not listen."

"And you are sure father will come?"

"I am sure. In a week or two he will be here."

Lady Anstruthers' lips shook, her eyes lifted themselves to Betty's in
a touchingly distressed appeal. Had her momentary courage fled beyond
recall? If so, that would be the worst coming to the worst, indeed.
Yet it was not ordinary fear which expressed itself in her face, but a
deeper piteousness, a sudden hopeless pain, baffling because it seemed
a new emotion, or perhaps the upheaval of an old one long and carefully
hidden.

"You will be brave?" Betty appealed to her. "You will not give way,
Rosy?"

"Yes, I must be brave--I am not ill now. I must not fail you--I won't,
Betty, but----"

She slipped upon the floor and dropped her face upon the girl's knee,
sobbing.

Betty bent over her, putting her arms round the heaving shoulders,
and pleading with her to speak. Was there something more to be told,
something she did not know?

"Yes, yes. Oh, I ought to have told you long ago--but I have always been
afraid and ashamed. It has made everything so much worse. I was afraid
you would not understand and would think me wicked--wicked."

It was Betty who now lost a shade of colour. But she held the slim
little body closer and kissed her sister's cheek.

"What have you been afraid and ashamed to tell me? Do not be ashamed any
more. You must not hide anything, no matter what it is, Rosy. I shall
understand."

"I know I must not hide anything, now that all is over and father is
coming. It is--it is about Mr. Ffolliott."

"Mr. Ffolliott?" repeated Betty quite softly.

Lady Anstruthers' face, lifted with desperate effort, was like a weeping
child's. So much so in its tear-wet simpleness and utter lack of any
effort at concealment, that after one quick look at it Betty's hastened
pulses ceased to beat at double-quick time.

"Tell me, dear," she almost whispered.

"Mr. Ffolliott himself does not know--and I could not help it. He was
kind to me when I was dying of unkindness. You don't know what it was
like to be drowning in loneliness and misery, and to see one good hand
stretched out to help you. Before he went away--oh, Betty, I know it was
awful because I was married!--I began to care for him very much, and I
have cared for him ever since. I cannot stop myself caring, even though
I am terrified."

Betty kissed her again with a passion of tender pity. Poor little,
simple Rosy, too! The tide had crept around her also, and had swept
her off her feet, tossing her upon its surf like a wisp of seaweed and
bearing her each day farther from firm shore.

"Do not be terrified," she said. "You need only be afraid if--if you had
told him."

"He will never know--never. Once in the middle of the night," there was
anguish in the delicate face, pure anguish, "a strange loud cry wakened
me, and it was I myself who had cried out--because in my sleep it had
come home to me that the years would go on and on, and at last some day
he would die and go out of the world--and I should die and go out of the
world. And he would never know--even KNOW."

Betty's clasp of her loosened and she sat very still, looking straight
before her into some unseen place.

"Yes," she said involuntarily. "Yes, _I_ know--I know--I know."

Lady Anstruthers fell back a little to gaze at her.

"YOU know? YOU know?" she breathed. "Betty?"

But Betty at first did not speak. Her lovely eyes dwelt on the far-away
place.

"Betty," whispered Rosy, "do you know what you have said?"

The lovely eyes turned slowly towards her, and the soft corners of
Betty's mouth deepened in a curious unsteadiness.

"Yes. I did not intend to say it. But it is true. _I_ know--I know--I
know. Do not ask me how."

Rosalie flung her arms round her waist and for a moment hid her face.

"YOU! YOU!" she murmured, but stopped herself almost as she uttered the
exclamation. "I will not ask you," she said when she spoke again. "But
now I shall not be so ashamed. You are a beauty and wonderful, and I am
not; but if you KNOW, that makes us almost the same. You will understand
why I broke down. It was because I could not bear to think of what will
happen. I shall be saved and taken home, but Nigel will wreak revenge on
HIM. And I shall be the shame that is put upon him--only because he was
kind--KIND. When father comes it will all begin." She wrung her hands,
becoming almost hysterical.

"Hush," said Betty. "Hush! A man like that CANNOT be hurt, even by a man
like Nigel. There is a way out--there IS. Oh, Rosy, we must BELIEVE it."

She soothed and caressed her and led her on to relieving her long
locked-up misery by speech. It was easy to see the ways in which her
feeling had made her life harder to bear. She was as inexperienced as a
girl, and had accused herself cruelly. When Nigel had tormented her with
evil, carefully chosen taunts, she had felt half guilty and had coloured
scarlet or turned pale, afraid to meet his sneeringly smiling face. She
had tried to forget the kind voice, the kindly, understanding eyes, and
had blamed herself as a criminal because she could not.

"I had nothing else to remember--but unhappiness--and it seemed as if I
could not help but remember HIM," she said as simply as the Rosy who
had left New York at nineteen might have said it. "I was afraid to trust
myself to speak his name. When Nigel made insulting speeches I could
not answer him, and he used to say that women who had adventures should
train their faces not to betray them every time they were looked at.

"Oh!" broke from Betty's lips, and she stood up on the hearth and threw
out her hands. "I wish that for one day I might be a man--and your
brother instead of your sister!"

"Why?"

Betty smiled strangely--a smile which was not amused--which was perhaps
not a smile at all. Her voice as she answered was at once low and tense.

"Because, then I should know what to do. When a male creature cannot be
reached through manhood or decency or shame, there is one way in which
he can be punished. A man--a real man--should take him by his throat
and lash him with a whip--while others look on--lash him until he howls
aloud like a dog."

She had not expected to say it, but she had said it. Lady Anstruthers
looked at her fascinated, and then she covered her face with her hands,
huddling herself in a heap as she knelt on the rug, looking singularly
small and frail.

"Betty," she said presently, in a new, awful little voice, "I--I will
tell you something. I never thought I should dare to tell anyone alive.
I have shuddered at it myself. There have been days--awful, helpless
days, when I was sure there was no hope for me in all the world--when
deep down in my soul I understood what women felt when they MURDERED
people--crept to them in their wicked sleep and STRUCK them again--and
again--and again. Like that!" She sat up suddenly, as if she did not
know what she was doing, and uncovering her little ghastly face struck
downward three fierce times at nothingness--but as if it were not
nothingness, and as if she held something in her hand.

There was horror in it--Betty sprang at the hand and caught it.

"No! no!" she cried out. "Poor little Rosy! Darling little Rosy! No! no!
no!"

That instant Lady Anstruthers looked up at her shocked and awake. She
was Rosy again, and clung to her, holding to her dress, piteous and
panting.

"No! no!" she said. "When it came to me in the night--it was always in
the night--I used to get out of bed and pray that it might never, never
come again, and that I might be forgiven--just forgiven. It was too
horrible that I should even UNDERSTAND it so well." A woeful, wry little
smile twisted her mouth. "I was not brave enough to have done it. I
could never have DONE it, Betty; but the thought was there--it was
there! I used to think it had made a black mark on my soul."

. . . . .

The letter took long to write. It led a consecutive story up to the
point where it culminated in a situation which presented itself as no
longer to be dealt with by means at hand. Parts of the story previous
letters had related, though some of them it had not seemed absolutely
necessary to relate in detail. Now they must be made clear, and Betty
made them so.

"Because you trusted me you made me trust myself," was one of the things
she wrote. "For some time I felt that it was best to fight for my own
hand without troubling you. I hoped perhaps I might be able to lead
things to a decorous sort of issue. I saw that secretly Rosy hoped and
prayed that it might be possible. She gave up expecting happiness before
she was twenty, and mere decent peace would have seemed heaven to her,
if she could have been allowed sometimes to see those she loved and
longed for. Now that I must give up my hope--which was perhaps a rather
foolish one--and now that I cannot remain at Stornham, she would have
no defence at all if she were left alone. Her condition would be more
hopeless than before, because Nigel would never forget that we had tried
to rescue her and had failed. If I were a man, or if I were very much
older, I need not be actually driven away, but as it is I think that you
must come and take the matter into your own hands."

She had remained in her sister's room until long after midnight, and by
the time the American letter was completed and sealed, a pale touch of
dawning light was showing itself. She rose, and going to the window drew
the blind up and looked out. The looking out made her open the window,
and when she had done so she stood feeling the almost unearthly
freshness of the morning about her. The mystery of the first faint light
was almost unearthly, too. Trees and shrubs were beginning to take form
and outline themselves against the still pallor of the dawn. Before long
the waking of the birds would begin--a brief chirping note here and
there breaking the silence and warning the world with faint insistence
that it had begun to live again and must bestir itself. She had got out
of her bed sometimes on a summer morning to watch the beauty of it, to
see the flowers gradually reveal their colour to the eye, to hear the
warmly nesting things begin their joyous day. There were fewer bird
sounds now, and the garden beds were autumnal. But how beautiful it all
was! How wonderful life in such a place might be if flowers and birds
and sweep of sward, and mass of stately, broad-branched trees, were
parts of the home one loved and which surely would in its own way love
one in return. But soon all this phase of life would be over. Rosalie,
once safe at home, would look back, remembering the place with a
shudder. As Ughtred grew older the passing of years would dim miserable
child memories, and when his inheritance fell to him he might return to
see it with happier eyes. She began to picture to herself Rosy's voyage
in the ship which would carry her across the Atlantic to her mother
and the scenes connected in her mind only with a girl's happiness.
Whatsoever happened before it took place, the voyage would be made in
the end. And Rosalie would be like a creature in a dream--a heavenly,
unbelievable dream. Betty could imagine how she would look wrapped up
and sitting in her steamer chair, gazing out with rapturous eyes upon
the racing waves.

"She will be happy," she thought. "But I shall not. No, I shall not."

She drew in the morning air and unconsciously turned towards the place
where, across the rising and falling lands and behind the trees, she
knew the great white house stood far away, with watchers' lights showing
dimly behind the line of ballroom windows.

"I do not know how such a thing could be! I do not know how such a thing
could be!" she said. "It COULD not." And she lifted a high head, not
even asking herself what remote sense in her being so obstinately defied
and threw down the glove to Fate.

Sounds gain a curious distinctness and meaning in the hour of the break
of the dawn; in such an hour they seem even more significant than sounds
heard in the dead of night. When she had gone to the window she had
fancied that she heard something in the corridor outside her door, but
when she had listened there had been only silence. Now there was sound
again--that of a softly moved slippered foot. She went to the room's
centre and waited. Yes, certainly something had stirred in the passage.
She went to the door itself. The dragging step had hesitated--stopped.
Could it be Rosalie who had come to her for something. For one second
her impulse was to open the door herself; the next, she had changed her
mind with a sense of shock. Someone had actually touched the handle and
very delicately turned it. It was not pleasant to stand looking at it
and see it turn. She heard a low, evidently unintentionally uttered
exclamation, and she turned away, and with no attempt at softening
the sound of her footsteps walked across the room, hot with passionate
disgust. As well as if she had flung the door open, she knew who
stood outside. It was Nigel Anstruthers, haggard and unseemly, with
burned-out, sleepless eyes and bitten lip.

Bad and mad as she had at last seen the situation to be, it was uglier
and more desperate than she could well know.



CHAPTER XLV

THE PASSING BELL

The following morning Sir Nigel did not appear at the breakfast table.
He breakfasted in his own room, and it became known throughout the
household that he had suddenly decided to go away, and his man was
packing for the journey. What the journey or the reason for its being
taken happened to be were things not explained to anyone but Lady
Anstruthers, at the door of whose dressing room he appeared without
warning, just as she was leaving it.

Rosalie started when she found herself confronting him. His eyes looked
hot and hollow with feverish sleeplessness.

"You look ill," she exclaimed involuntarily. "You look as if you had not
slept."

"Thank you. You always encourage a man. I am not in the habit of
sleeping much," he answered. "I am going away for my health. It is as
well you should know. I am going to look up old Broadmorlands. I want
to know exactly where he is, in case it becomes necessary for me to see
him. I also require some trifling data connected with Ffolliott. If
your father is coming, it will be as well to be able to lay my hands on
things. You can explain to Betty. Good-morning." He waited for no reply,
but wheeled about and left her.

Betty herself wore a changed face when she came down. A cloud had passed
over her blooming, as clouds pass over a morning sky and dim it. Rosalie
asked herself if she had not noticed something like this before. She
began to think she had. Yes, she was sure that at intervals there had
been moments when she had glanced at the brilliant face with an uneasy
and yet half-unrealising sense of looking at a glowing light temporarily
waning. The feeling had been unrealisable, because it was not to be
explained. Betty was never ill, she was never low-spirited, she
was never out of humour or afraid of things--that was why it was so
wonderful to live with her