Infomotions, Inc.The Wheels of Chance: a Bicycling Idyll / Wells, H. G. (Herbert George), 1866-1946



Author: Wells, H. G. (Herbert George), 1866-1946
Title: The Wheels of Chance: a Bicycling Idyll
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): hoopdriver; jessie; dangle
Contributor(s): Bell, Clara, 1834-1927 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 56,416 words (short) Grade range: 7-10 (grade school) Readability score: 67 (easy)
Identifier: etext1264
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The Wheels of Chance

by H. G. Wells [Herbert George]

April, 1998  [Etext #1264]


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The Wheels of Chance; A Bicycling Idyll by H.G. Wells
Etext prepared by Dianne Bean of Phoenix, AZ with OmnipagePro
software donated by Caere.





THE WHEELS OF CHANCE; A BICYCLING IDYLL

by H.G. Wells

1896




THE PRINCIPAL CHARACTER IN THE STORY

I.

If you (presuming you are of the sex that does such things)--if
you had gone into the Drapery Emporium--which is really only
magnificent for shop--of Messrs. Antrobus & Co.--a perfectly
fictitious "Co.," by the bye--of Putney, on the 14th of August,
1895, had turned to the right-hand side, where the blocks of
white linen and piles of blankets rise up to the rail from which
the pink and blue prints depend, you might have been served by
the central figure of this story that is now beginning. He would
have come forward, bowing and swaying, he would have extended two
hands with largish knuckles and enormous cuffs over the counter,
and he would have asked you, protruding a pointed chin and
without the slightest anticipation of pleasure in his manner,
what he might have the pleasure of showing you. Under certain
circumstances--as, for instance, hats, baby linen, gloves, silks,
lace, or curtains--he would simply have bowed politely, and with
a drooping expression, and making a kind of circular sweep,
invited you to "step this way," and so led you beyond his ken;
but under other and happier conditions,--huckaback, blankets,
dimity, cretonne, linen, calico, are cases in point,--he would
have requested you to take a seat, emphasising the hospitality by
leaning over the counter and gripping a chair back in a spasmodic
manner, and so proceeded to obtain, unfold, and exhibit his goods
for your consideration. Under which happier circumstances you
might--if of an observing turn of mind and not too much of a
housewife to be inhuman--have given the central figure of this
story less cursory attention.

Now if you had noticed anything about him, it would have been
chiefly to notice how little he was noticeable. He wore the black
morning coat, the black tie, and the speckled grey nether parts
(descending into shadow and mystery below the counter) of his
craft. He was of a pallid complexion, hair of a kind of dirty
fairness, greyish eyes, and a skimpy, immature moustache under
his peaked indeterminate nose. His features were all small, but
none ill-shaped. A rosette of pins decorated the lappel of his
coat. His remarks, you would observe, were entirely what people
used to call cliche, formulae not organic to the occasion, but
stereotyped ages ago and learnt years since by heart. "This,
madam," he would say, "is selling very well" "We are doing a very
good article at four three a yard." "We could show you some.
thing better, of course." "No trouble, madam, I assure you." Such
were the simple counters of his intercourse. So, I say, he would
have presented himself to your superficial observation. He would
have danced about behind the counter, have neatly refolded the
goods he had shown you, have put on one side those you selected,
extracted a little book with a carbon leaf and a tinfoil sheet
from a fixture, made you out a little bill in that weak
flourishing hand peculiar to drapers, and have bawled "Sayn!"
Then a puffy little shop-walker would have come into view, looked
at the bill for a second, very hard (showing you a parting down
the middle of his head meanwhile), have scribbled a still more
flourishing J. M. all over the document, have asked you if there
was nothing more, have stood by you--supposing that you were
paying cash--until the central figure of this story reappeared
with the change. One glance more at him, and the puffy little
shop-walker would have been bowing you out, with fountains of
civilities at work all about you. And so the interview would have
terminated.

But real literature, as distinguished from anecdote, does not
concern itself with superficial appearances alone. Literature is
revelation. Modern literature is indecorous revelation. It is the
duty of the earnest author to tell you what you would not have
seen--even at the cost of some blushes. And the thing that you
would not have seen about this young man, and the thing of the
greatest moment to this story, the thing that must be told if the
book is to be written, was--let us face it bravely--the
Remarkable Condition of this Young Man's Legs.

Let us approach the business with dispassionate explicitness. Let
us assume something of the scientific spirit, the hard, almost
professorial tone of the conscientious realist. Let us treat this
young man's legs as a mere diagram, and indicate the points of
interest with the unemotional precision of a lecturer's pointer.
And so to our revelation. On the internal aspect of the right
ankle of this young man you would have observed, ladies and
gentlemen, a contusion and an abrasion; on the internal aspect of
the left ankle a contusion also; on its external aspect a large
yellowish bruise. On his left shin there were two bruises, one a
leaden yellow graduating here and there into purple, and another,
obviously of more recent date, of a blotchy red--tumid and
threatening. Proceeding up the left leg in a spiral manner, an
unnatural hardness and redness would have been discovered on the
upper aspect of the calf, and above the knee and on the inner
side, an extraordinary expanse of bruised surface, a kind of
closely stippled shading of contused points. The right leg would
be found to be bruised in a marvellous manner all about and under
the knee, and particularly on the interior aspect of the knee. So
far we may proceed with our details. Fired by these discoveries,
an investigator might perhaps have pursued his inquiries further-
-to bruises on the shoulders, elbows, and even the finger joints,
of the central figure of our story. He had indeed been bumped and
battered at an extraordinary number of points. But enough of
realistic description is as good as a feast, and we have
exhibited enough for our purpose. Even in literature one must
know where to draw the line.

Now the reader may be inclined to wonder how a respectable young
shopman should have got his legs, and indeed himself generally,
into such a dreadful condition. One might fancy that he had been
sitting with his nether extremities in some complicated
machinery, a threshing-machine, say, or one of those hay-making
furies. But Sherlock Holmes (now happily dead) would have fancied
nothing of the kind. He would have recognised at once that the
bruises on the internal aspect of the left leg, considered in the
light of the distribution of the other abrasions and contusions,
pointed unmistakably to the violent impact of the Mounting
Beginner upon the bicycling saddle, and that the ruinous state of
the right knee was equally eloquent of the concussions attendant
on that person's hasty, frequently causeless, and invariably ill-
conceived descents. One large bruise on the shin is even more
characteristic of the 'prentice cyclist, for upon every one of
them waits the jest of the unexpected treadle. You try at least
to walk your machine in an easy manner, and whack!--you are
rubbing your shin. So out of innocence we ripen. Two bruises on
that place mark a certain want of aptitude in learning, such as
one might expect in a person unused to muscular exercise.
Blisters on the hands are eloquent of the nervous clutch of the
wavering rider. And so forth, until Sherlock is presently
explaining, by the help of the minor injuries, that the machine
ridden is an old-fashioned affair with a fork instead of the
diamond frame, a cushioned tire, well worn on the hind wheel, and
a gross weight all on of perhaps three-and-forty pounds.

The revelation is made. Behind the decorous figure of the
attentive shopman that I had the honour of showing you at first,
rises a vision of a nightly struggle, of two dark figures and a
machine in a dark road,--the road, to be explicit, from
Roehampton to Putney Hill,--and with this vision is the sound of
a heel spurning the gravel, a gasping and grunting, a shouting of
"Steer, man, steer!" a wavering unsteady flight, a spasmodic
turning of the missile edifice of man and machine, and a
collapse. Then you descry dimly through the dusk the central
figure of this story sitting by the roadside and rubbing his leg
at some new place, and his friend, sympathetic (but by no means
depressed), repairing the displacement of the handle-bar.

Thus even in a shop assistant does the warmth of manhood assert
itself, and drive him against all the conditions of his calling,
against the counsels of prudence and the restrictions of his
means, to seek the wholesome delights of exertion and danger and
pain. And our first examination of the draper reveals beneath his
draperies--the man! To which initial fact (among others) we shall
come again in the end.



II

But enough of these revelations. The central figure of our story
is now going along behind the counter, a draper indeed, with your
purchases in his arms, to the warehouse, where the various
articles you have selected will presently be packed by the senior
porter and sent to you. Returning thence to his particular place,
he lays hands on a folded piece of gingham, and gripping the
corners of the folds in his hands, begins to straighten them
punctiliously. Near him is an apprentice, apprenticed to the same
high calling of draper's assistant, a ruddy, red-haired lad in a
very short tailless black coat and a very high collar, who is
deliberately unfolding and refolding some patterns of cretonne.
By twenty-one he too may hope to be a full-blown assistant, even
as Mr. Hoopdriver. Prints depend from the brass rails above them,
behind are fixtures full of white packages containing, as
inscriptions testify, Lino, Hd Bk, and Mull. You might imagine to
see them that the two were both intent upon nothing but
smoothness of textile and rectitude of fold. But to tell the
truth, neither is thinking of the mechanical duties in hand. The
assistant is dreaming of the delicious time--only four hours off
now--when he will resume the tale of his bruises and abrasions.
The apprentice is nearer the long long thoughts of boyhood, and
his imagination rides cap-a-pie through the chambers of his
brain, seeking some knightly quest in honour of that Fair Lady,
the last but one of the girl apprentices to the dress-making
upstairs. He inclines rather to street fighting against
revolutionaries--because then she could see him from the window.

Jerking them back to the present comes the puffy little
shop-walker, with a paper in his hand. The apprentice becomes
extremely active. The shopwalker eyes the goods in hand.
"Hoopdriver," he says, "how's that line of g-sez-x ginghams ? "

Hoopdriver returns from an imaginary triumph over the
uncertainties of dismounting. "They're going fairly well, sir.
But the larger checks seem hanging."

The shop-walker brings up parallel to the counter. "Any
particular time when you want your holidays?" he asks.

Hoopdriver pulls at his skimpy moustache. "No--Don't want them
too late, sir, of course."

"How about this day week?"

Hoopdriver becomes rigidly meditative, gripping the corners of
the gingham folds in his hands. His face is eloquent of
conflicting considerations. Can he learn it in a week? That's the
question. Otherwise Briggs will get next week, and he will have
to wait until September--when the weather is often uncertain. He
is naturally of a sanguine disposition. All drapers have to be,
or else they could never have the faith they show in the beauty,
washability, and unfading excellence of the goods they sell you.
The decision comes at last. "That'll do me very well," said Mr.
Hoopdriver, terminating the pause.

The die is cast.

The shop-walker makes a note of it and goes on to Briggs in the 
"dresses," the next in the strict scale of precedence of the
Drapery Emporium. Mr. Hoopdriver in alternating spasms anon
straightens his gingham and anon becomes meditative, with his
tongue in the hollow of his decaying wisdom tooth.



III

At supper that night, holiday talk held undisputed sway. Mr.
Pritchard spoke of "Scotland," Miss Isaacs clamoured of
Bettws-y-Coed, Mr. Judson displayed a proprietary interest in the
Norfolk Broads. "I?" said Hoopdriver when the question came to
him. "Why, cycling, of course."

"You're never going to ride that dreadful machine of yours, day
after day?" said Miss Howe of the Costume Department.

"I am," said Hoopdriver as calmly as possible, pulling at the
insufficient moustache. "I'm going for a Cycling Tour. Along the
South Coast."

"Well, all I hope, Mr. Hoopdriver, is that you'll get fine
weather," said Miss Howe. "And not come any nasty croppers."

"And done forget some tinscher of arnica in yer bag," said the
junior apprentice in the very high collar. (He had witnessed one
of the lessons at the top of Putney Hill.)

"You stow it," said Mr. Hoopdriver, looking hard and
threateningly at the junior apprentice, and suddenly adding in a
tone of bitter contempt,-- " Jampot."

"I'm getting fairly safe upon it now," he told Miss Howe.

At other times Hoopdriver might have further resented the
satirical efforts of the apprentice, but his mind was too full of
the projected Tour to admit any petty delicacies of dignity. He
left the supper table early, so that he might put in a good hour
at the desperate gymnastics up the Roehampton Road before it
would be time to come back for locking up. When the gas was
turned off for the night he was sitting on the edge of his bed,
rubbing arnica into his knee--a new and very big place--and
studying a Road Map of the South of England. Briggs of the 
"dresses," who shared the room with him, was sitting up in bed
and trying to smoke in the dark. Briggs had never been on a cycle
in his life, but he felt Hoopdriver's inexperience and offered
such advice as occurred to him.

"Have the machine thoroughly well oiled," said Briggs, "carry one
or two lemons with you, don't tear yourself to death the first
day, and sit upright. Never lose control of the machine, and
always sound the bell on every possible opportunity. You mind
those things, and nothing very much can't happen to you,
Hoopdriver--you take my word."

He would lapse into silence for a minute, save perhaps for a
curse or so at his pipe, and then break out with an entirely
different set of tips.

"Avoid running over dogs, Hoopdriver, whatever you do. It's one
of the worst things you can do to run over a dog. Never let the
machine buckle--there was a man killed only the other day through
his wheel buckling--don't scorch, don't ride on the foot-path,
keep your own side of the road, and if you see a tram- line, go
round the corner at once, and hurry off into the next county--and
always light up before dark. You mind just a few little things
like that, Hoopdriver, and nothing much can't happen to you--you
take my word."

"Right you are!" said Hoopdriver. "Good-night, old man."

"Good-night," said Briggs, and there was silence for a space,
save for the succulent respiration of the pipe. Hoopdriver rode
off into Dreamland on his machine, and was scarcely there before
he was pitched back into the world of sense again.--Something--
what was it ?

"Never oil the steering. It's fatal," a voice that came from
round a fitful glow of light, was saying. "And clean the chain
daily with black-lead. You mind just a few little things like
that--"

"Lord LOVE us!" said Hoopdriver, and pulled the bedclothes over
his ears.



THE RIDING FORTH OF MR. HOOPDRIVER

IV.

Only those who toil six long days out of the seven, and all the
year round, save for one brief glorious fortnight or ten days in
the summer time, know the exquisite sensations of the First
Holiday Morning. All the dreary, uninteresting routine drops from
you suddenly, your chains fall about your feet. All at once you
are Lord of yourself, Lord of every hour in the long, vacant day;
you may go where you please, call none Sir or Madame, have a
lappel free of pins, doff your black morning coat, and wear the
colour of your heart, and be a Man. You grudge sleep, you grudge
eating, and drinking even, their intrusion on those exquisite
moments. There will be no more rising before breakfast in casual
old clothing, to go dusting and getting ready in a cheerless,
shutterdarkened, wrappered-up shop, no more imperious cries of,
"Forward, Hoopdriver," no more hasty meals, and weary attendance
on fitful old women, for ten blessed days. The first morning is
by far the most glorious, for you hold your whole fortune in your
hands. Thereafter, every night, comes a pang, a spectre, that
will not be exorcised--the premonition of the return. The shadow
of going back, of being put in the cage again for another twelve
months, lies blacker and blacker across the sunlight. But on the
first morning of the ten the holiday has no past, and ten days
seems as good as infinity.

And it was fine, full of a promise of glorious days, a deep blue
sky with dazzling piles of white cloud here and there, as though
celestial haymakers had been piling the swathes of last night's
clouds into cocks for a coming cartage. There were thrushes in
the Richmond Road, and a lark on Putney Heath. The freshness of
dew was in the air; dew or the relics of an overnight shower
glittered on the leaves and grass. Hoopdriver had breakfasted
early by Mrs. Gunn's complaisance. He wheeled his machine up
Putney Hill, and his heart sang within him. Halfway up, a
dissipated-looking black cat rushed home across flile road and
vanished under a gate. All the big red-brick houses behind the
variegated shrubs and trees had their blinds down still, and he
would not have changed places with a soul in any one of them for
a hundred pounds.

He had on his new brown cycling suit--a handsome Norfolk jacket
thing for 30/--and his legs--those martyr legs--were more than
consoled by thick chequered stockings, "thin in the foot, thick
in the leg," for all they had endured. A neat packet of American
cloth behind the saddle contained his change of raiment, and the
bell and the handle-bar and the hubs and lamp, albeit a trifle
freckled by wear, glittered blindingly in the rising sunlight.
And at the top of the hill, after only one unsuccessful attempt,
which, somehow, terminated on the green, Hoopdriver mounted, and
with a stately and cautious restraint in his pace, and a
dignified curvature of path, began his great Cycling Tour along
the Southern Coast.

There is only one phrase to describe his course at this stage,
and that is--voluptuous curves. He did not ride fast, he did not
ride straight, an exacting critic might say he did not ride well-
-but he rode generously, opulently, using the whole road and even
nibbling at the footpath. The excitement never flagged. So far he
had never passed or been passed by anything, but as yet the day
was young and the road was clear. He doubted his steering so much
that, for the present, he had resolved to dismount at the
approach of anything else upon wheels. The shadows of the trees
lay very long and blue across the road, the morning sunlight was
like amber fire. 

At the cross-roads at the top of West Hill, where the cattle
trough stands, he turned towards Kingston and set himself to
scale the little bit of ascent. An early heath-keeper, in his
velveteen jacket, marvelled at his efforts. And while he yet
struggled, the head of a carter rose over the brow.

At the sight of him Mr. Hoopdriver, according to his previous
determination, resolved to dismount. He tightened the brake, and
the machine stopped dead. He was trying to think what he did with
his right leg whilst getting off. He gripped the handles and
released the brake, standing on the left pedal and waving his
right foot in the air. Then--these things take so long in the
telling--he found the machine was falling over to the right.
While he was deciding upon a plan of action, gravitation appears
to have been busy. He was still irresolute when he found the
machine on the ground, himself kneeling upon it, and a vague
feeling in his mind that again Providence had dealt harshly with
his shin. This happened when he was just level with the
heathkeeper. The man in the approaching cart stood up to see the
ruins better.

"THAT ain't the way to get off," said the heathkeeper.

Mr. Hoopdriver picked up the machine. The handle was twisted
askew again He said something under his breath. He would have to
unscrew the beastly thing.

"THAT ain't the way to get off," repeated the heathkeeper, after
a silence.

"_I_ know that," said Mr. Hoopdriver, testily, determined to
overlook the new specimen on his shin at any cost. He unbuckled
the wallet behind the saddle, to get out a screw hammer.

"If you know it ain't the way to get off--whaddyer do it for?"
said the heath-keeper, in a tone of friendly controversy.

Mr. Hoopdriver got out his screw hammer and went to the handle.
He was annoyed. "That's my business, I suppose," he said,
fumbling with the screw. The unusual exertion had made his hands
shake frightfully.

The heath-keeper became meditative, and twisted his stick in his
hands behind his back. "You've broken yer 'andle, ain't yer?" he
said presently. Just then the screw hammer slipped off the nut.
Mr. Hoopdriver used a nasty, low word.

"They're trying things, them bicycles," said the heath-keeper,
charitably. "Very trying." Mr. Hoopdriver gave the nut a vicious
turn and suddenly stood up--he was holding the front wheel
between his knees. "I wish," said he, with a catch in his voice,
"I wish you'd leave off staring at me."

Then with the air of one who has delivered an ultimatum, he began
replacing the screw hammer in the wallet.

The heath-keeper never moved. Possibly he raised his eyebrows,
and certainly he stared harder than he did before. "You're pretty
unsociable," he said slowly, as Mr. Hoopdriver seized the handles
and stood ready to mount as soon as the cart had passed.

The indignation gathered slowly but surely. "Why don't you ride
on a private road of your own if no one ain't to speak to you?"
asked the heath-keeper, perceiving more and more clearly the
bearing of the matter. "Can't no one make a passin' remark to
you, Touchy? Ain't I good enough to speak to you? Been struck
wooden all of a sudden?"

Mr. Hoopdriver stared into the Immensity of the Future. He was
rigid with emotion. It was like abusing the Lions in Trafalgar
Square. But the heathkeeper felt his honour was at stake.

"Don't you make no remarks to 'IM," said the keeper as the carter
came up broadside to them. "'E's a bloomin' dook, 'e is. 'E don't
converse with no one under a earl. 'E's off to Windsor, 'e is;
that's why 'e's stickin' his be'ind out so haughty. Pride! Why,
'e's got so much of it, 'e has to carry some of it in that there
bundle there, for fear 'e'd bust if 'e didn't ease hisself a bit-
-'E--" 

But Mr. Hoopdriver heard no more. He was hopping vigorously along
the road, in a spasmodic attempt to remount.He missed the treadle
once and swore viciously, to the keeper's immense delight. "Nar!
Nar!" said the heath-keeper.

In another moment Mr. Hoopdriver was up, and after one terrific
lurch of the machine, the heathkeeper dropped out of earshot.
Mr. Hoopdriver would have liked to look back at his enemy, but he
usually twisted round and upset if he tried that.
He had to imagine the indignant heath-keeper telling the carter
all about it. He tried to infuse as much disdain aspossible into
his retreating aspect.

He drove on his sinuous way down the dip by the new mere and up
the little rise to the crest of the hill that drops into Kingston
Vale; and so remarkable is the psychology of cycling, that he
rode all the straighter and easier because the emotions the
heathkeeper had aroused relieved his mind of the constant
expectation of collapse that had previously unnerved him. To ride
a bicycle properly is very like a love affair--chiefly it 
is a matter of faith. Believe you do it, and the thing is done;
doubt, and, for the life of you, you cannot.

Now you may perhaps imagine that as he rode on, his feelings
towards the heath-keeper were either vindictive or
remorseful,--vindictive for the aggravation or remorseful for his
own injudicious display of ill temper. As a matter of fact, they
were nothing of the sort. A sudden, a wonderful gratitude,
possessed him. The Glory of the Holidays had resumed its sway
with a sudden accession of splendour. At the crest of the hill he
put his feet upon the footrests, and now riding moderately
straight, went, with a palpitating brake, down that excellent
descent. A new delight was in his eyes, quite over and above the
pleasure of rushing through the keen, sweet, morning air. He
reached out his thumb and twanged his bell out of sheer
happiness.

"'He's a bloomin' Dook--he is!'" said Mr. Hoopdriver to himself,
in a soft undertone, as he went soaring down the hill, and again,
"'He's a bloomin' Dook!"' He opened his mouth in a silent laugh.
It was having a decent cut did it. His social superiority had
been so evident that even a man like that noticed it. No more
Manchester Department for ten days! Out of Manchester, a Man. The
draper Hoopdriver, the Hand, had vanished from existence. Instead
was a gentleman, a man of pleasure, with a five-pound note, two
sovereigns, and some silver at various convenient points of his
person. At any rate as good as a Dook, if not precisely in the
peerage. Involuntarily at the thought of his funds Hoopdriver's
right hand left the handle and sought his breast pocket, to be
immediately recalled by a violent swoop of the machine towards
the cemetery. Whirroo! Just missed that half-brick! Mischievous
brutes there were in the world to put such a thing in the road.
Some blooming 'Arry or other! Ought to prosecute a few of these
roughs, and the rest would know better. That must be the buckle
of the wallet was rattling on the mud-guard. How cheerfully the
wheels buzzed!

The cemetery was very silent and peaceful, but the Vale was
waking, and windows rattled and squeaked up, and a white dog came
out of one of the houses and yelped at him. He got off, rather
breathless, at the foot of Kingston Hill, and pushed up. Halfway
up, an early milk chariot rattled by him; two dirty men with
bundles came hurrying down. Hoopdriver felt sure they were
burglars, carrying home the swag.

It was up Kingston Hill that he first noticed a peculiar feeling,
a slight tightness at his knees; but he noticed, too, at the top
that he rode straighter than he did before. The pleasure of
riding straight blotted out these first intimations of fatigue. A
man on horseback appeared; Hoopdriver, in a tumult of soul at his
own temerity, passed him. Then down the hill into Kingston, with
the screw hammer, behind in the wallet, rattling against the oil
can. He passed, without misadventure, a fruiterer's van and a
sluggish cartload of bricks. And in Kingston Hoopdriver, with the
most exquisite sensations, saw the shutters half removed from a
draper's shop, and two yawning youths, in dusty old black jackets
and with dirty white comforters about their necks, clearing up
the planks and boxes and wrappers in the window, preparatory to
dressing it out. Even so had Hoopdriver been on the previous day.
But now, was he not a bloomin' Dook, palpably in the sight of
common men? Then round the corner to the right--bell banged
furiously--and so along the road to Surbiton.

Whoop for Freedom and Adventure! Every now and then a house with
an expression of sleepy surprise would open its eye as he passed,
and to the right of him for a mile or so the weltering Thames
flashed and glittered. Talk of your joie de vivre. Albeit with a
certain cramping sensation about the knees and calves slowly
forcing itself upon his attention.



THE SHAMEFUL EPISODE OF THE YOUNG LADY IN GREY

V

Now you must understand that Mr. Hoopdriver was not one of your
fast young men. If he had been King Lemuel, he could not have
profited more by his mother's instructions. He regarded the
feminine sex as something to bow to and smirk at from a safe
distance. Years of the intimate remoteness of a counter leave
their mark upon a man. It was an adventure for him to take one of
the Young Ladies of the establishment to church on a Sunday. Few
modern young men could have merited less the epithet "Dorg." But
I have thought at times that his machine may have had something
of the blade in its metal. Decidedly it was a machine with a
past. Mr. Hoopdriver had bought it second-hand from Hare's in
Putney, and Hare said it had had several owners. Second-hand was
scarcely the word for it, and Elare was mildly puzzled that he
should be selling such an antiquity. He said it was perfectly
sound, if a little old-fashioned, but he was absolutely silent
about its moral character. It may even have begun its career with
a poet, say, in his glorious youth. It may have been the bicycle
of a Really Bad Man. No one who has ever ridden a cycle of any
kind but will witness that the things are unaccountably prone to
pick up bad habits--and keep them.

It is undeniable that it became convulsed with the most violent
emotions directly the Young Lady in Grey appeared. It began an
absolutely unprecedented Wabble--unprecedented so far as
Hoopdriver's experience went. It "showed off"--the most decadent
sinuosity. It left a track like one of Beardsley's feathers. He
suddenly realised, too, that his cap was loose on his head and
his breath a mere remnant.

The Young Lady in Grey was also riding a bicycle. She was dressed
in a beautiful bluish-gray, and the sun behind her drew her
outline in gold and left the rest in shadow. Hoopdriver was dimly
aware that she was young, rather slender, dark, and with a bright
colour and bright eyes. Strange doubts possessed him as to the
nature of her nether costume. He had heard of such things of
course. French, perhaps. Her handles glittered; a jet of sunlight
splashed off her bell blindingly. She was approaching the high
road along an affluent from the villas of Surbiton. fee roads
converged slantingly. She was travelling at about the same pace
as Mr. Hoopdriver. The appearances pointed to a meeting at the
fork of the roads.

Hoopdriver was seized with a horrible conflict of doubts. By
contrast with her he rode disgracefully. Had he not better get
off at once and pretend something was wrong with his treadle ?
Yet even the end of getting off was an uncertainty. That last
occasion on Putney Heath! On the other hand, what would happen if
he kept on? To go very slow seemed the abnegation of his
manhood. To crawl after a mere schoolgirl! Besides, she was not
riding very fast. On the other hand, to thrust himself in front
of her, consuming the road in his tendril-like advance, seemed an
incivility--greed. He would leave her such a very little. His
business training made him prone to bow and step aside. If only
one could take one's hands off the handles, one might pass with a
silent elevation of the hat, of course. But even that was a
little suggestive of a funeral.

Meanwhile the roads converged. She was looking at him. She was
flushed, a little thin, and had very bright eyes. Her red lips
fell apart. She may have been riding hard, but it looked
uncommonly like a faint smile. And the things were--yes!--
RATIONALS! Suddenly an impulse to bolt from the situation became
clamorous. Mr. Hoopdriver pedalled convulsively, intending to
pass her. He jerked against some tin thing on the road, and it
flew up between front wheel and mud-guard. He twisted round
towards her. Had the machine a devil?

At that supreme moment it came across him that he would have done
wiser to dismount. He gave a frantic 'whoop' and tried to get
round, then, as he seemed falling over, he pulled the handles
straight again and to the left by an instinctive motion, and shot
behind her hind wheel, missing her by a hair's breadth. The
pavement kerb awaited him. He tried to recover, and found himself
jumped up on the pavement and riding squarely at a neat wooden
paling. He struck this with a terrific impact and shot forward
off his saddle into a clumsy entanglement. Then he began to
tumble over sideways, and completed the entire figure in a
sitting position on the gravel, with his feet between the fork
and the stay of the machine. The concussion on the gravel shook
his entire being. He remained in that position, wishing that he
had broken his neck, wishing even more heartily that he had never
been born. The glory of life had departed. Bloomin' Dook, indeed!
These unwomanly women!

There was a soft whirr, the click of a brake, two footfalls, and
the Young Lady in Grey stood holding her machine. She had turned
round and come back to him. The warm sunlight now was in her
face. "Are you hurt?" she said. She had a pretty, clear, girlish
voice. She was really very young--quite a girl, in fact. And rode
so well! It was a bitter draught.

Mr. Hoopdriver stood up at once. "Not a bit," he said, a little
ruefully. He became painfully aware that large patches of gravel
scarcely improve the appearance of a Norfolk suit. "I'm very
sorry indeed--"

"It's my fault," she said, interrupting and so saving him on the
very verge of calling her 'Miss.' (He knew 'Miss' was wrong, but
it was deep-seated habit with him.) "I tried to pass you on the
wrong side." Her face and eyes seemed all alive. "It's my place
to be sorry."

"But it was my steering--"

"I ought to have seen you were a Novice"--with a touch of
superiority. "But you rode so straight coming along there!"

She really was--dashed pretty. Mr. Hoopdriver's feelings passed
the nadir. When he spoke again there was the faintest flavour of
the aristocratic in his voice.

"It's my first ride, as a matter of fact. But that's no excuse
for my ah! blundering--"

"Your finger's bleeding," she said, abruptly.

He saw his knuckle was barked. "I didn't feel it," he said,
feeling manly.

"You don't at first. Have you any stickingplaster? If not--" She
balanced her machine against herself. She had a little side
pocket, and she whipped out a small packet of sticking-plaster
with a pair of scissors in a sheath at the side, and cut off a
generous portion. He had a wild impulse to ask her to stick it on
for him. Controlled. "Thank you," he said.

"Machine all right?" she asked, looking past him at the prostrate
vehicle, her hands on her handle-bar. For the first time
Hoopdriver did not feel proud of his machine.

He turned and began to pick up the fallen fabric. He looked over
his shoulder, and she was gone, turned his head over the other
shoulder down the road, and she was riding off. "ORF!" said Mr.
Hoopdriver. "Well, I'm blowed!--Talk about Slap Up!" (His
aristocratic refinement rarely adorned his speech in his private
soliloquies.) His mind was whirling. One fact was clear. A most
delightful and novel human being had flashed across his horizon
and was going out of his life again. The Holiday madness was in
his blood. She looked round!

At that he rushed his machine into the road, and began a hasty
ascent. Unsuccessful. Try again. Confound it, will he NEVER be
able to get up on the thing again? She will be round the corner
in a minute. Once more. Ah! Pedal! Wabble! No! Right this time!
He gripped the handles and put his head down. He would overtake
her.

The situation was primordial. The Man beneath prevailed for a
moment over the civilised superstructure, the Draper. He pushed
at the pedals with archaic violence. So Palaeolithic man may have
ridden his simple bicycle of chipped flint in pursuit of his
exogamous affinity. She vanished round the corner. His effort was
Titanic. What should he say when he overtook her? That scarcely
disturbed him at first. How fine she had looked, flushed with the
exertion of riding, breathing a little fast, but elastic and
active! Talk about your ladylike, homekeeping girls with
complexions like cold veal! But what should he say to her? That
was a bother. And he could not lift his cap without risking a
repetition of his previous ignominy. She was a real Young Lady.
No mistake about that! None of your blooming shop girls. (There
is no greater contempt in the world than that of shop men for
shop girls, unless it be that of shop girls for shop men.) Phew!
This was work. A certain numbness came and went at his knees.

"May I ask to whom I am indebted?" he panted to himself, trying
it over. That might do. Lucky he had a card case! A hundred a
shilling--while you wait. He was getting winded. The road was
certainly a bit uphill. He turned the corner and saw a long
stretch of road, and a grey dress vanishing. He set his teeth.
Had he gained on her at all? "Monkey on a gridiron!" yelped a
small boy. Hoopdriver redoubled his efforts. His breath became
audible, his steering unsteady, his pedalling positively
ferocious. A drop of perspiration ran into his eye, irritant as
acid. The road really was uphill beyond dispute. All his
physiology began to cry out at him. A last tremendous effort
brought him to the corner and showed yet another extent of shady
roadway, empty save for a baker's van. His front wheel suddenly
shrieked aloud. "Oh Lord!" said Hoopdriver, relaxing.

Anyhow she was not in sight. He got off unsteadily, and for a
moment his legs felt like wisps of cotton. He balanced his
machine against the grassy edge of the path and sat down panting.
His hands were gnarled with swollen veins and shaking palpably,
his breath came viscid.

"I'm hardly in training yet," he remarked. His legs had gone
leaden. "I don't feel as though I'd had a mouthful of breakfast."
Presently he slapped his side pocket and produced therefrom a
brand-new cigarette case and a packet of Vansittart's Red Herring
cigarettes. He filled the case. Then his eye fell with a sudden
approval on the ornamental chequering of his new stockings. The
expression in his eyes faded slowly to abstract meditation.

"She WAS a stunning girl," he said. "I wonder if I shall ever set
eyes on her again. And she knew how to ride, too! Wonder what she
thought of me."

The phrase 'bloomin' Dook' floated into his mind with a certain
flavour of comfort.

He lit a cigarette, and sat smoking and meditating. He did not
even look up when vehicles passed. It was perhaps ten minutes
before he roused himself. "What rot it is! What's the good of
thinking such things," he said. "I'm only a blessed draper's
assistant." (To be exact, he did not say blessed. The service of
a shop may polish a man's exterior ways, but the 'prentices'
dormitory is an indifferent school for either manners or morals.)
He stood up and began wheeling his machine towards Esher. It was
going to be a beautiful day, and the hedges and trees and the
open country were all glorious to his town-tired eyes. But it was
a little different from the elation of his start.

"Look at the gentleman wizzer bicitle," said a nursemaid on the
path to a personage in a perambulator. That healed him a little.
"'Gentleman wizzer bicitle,'--'bloomin' Dook'--I can't look so
very seedy," he said to himself.

"I WONDER--I should just like to know--"

There was something very comforting in the track of HER pneumatic
running straight and steady along the road before him. It must be
hers. No other pneumatic had been along the road that morning. It
was just possible, of course, that he might see her once more--
coming back. Should he try and say something smart? He speculated
what manner of girl she might be. Probably she was one of these
here New Women. He had a persuasion the cult had been maligned.
Anyhow she was a Lady. And rich people, too! Her machine couldn't
have cost much under twenty pounds. His mind came round and dwelt
some time on her visible self. Rational dress didn't look a bit
unwomanly. However, he disdained to be one of your
fortunehunters. Then his thoughts drove off at a tangent. He
would certainly have to get something to eat at the next public
house. 


ON THE ROAD TO RIPLEY

VI

In the fulness of time, Mr. Hoopdriver drew near the Marquis of
Granby at Esher, and as he came under the railway arch and saw
the inn in front of him, he mounted his machine again and rode
bravely up to the doorway. Burton and biscuit and cheese he had,
which, indeed, is Burton in its proper company; and as he was
eating there came a middleaged man in a drab cycling suit, very
red and moist and angry in the face, and asked bitterly for a
lemon squash. And he sat down upon the seat in the bar and mopped
his face. But scarcely had he sat down before he got up again and
stared out of the doorway. 

"Damn!" said he. Then, "Damned Fool!" 

"Eigh?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, looking round suddenly with a piece
of cheese in his cheek. 

The man in drab faced him. "I called myself a Damned Fool, sir.
Have you any objections?" 

"Oh!--None. None," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "I thought you spoke to
me. I didn't hear what you said." 

"To have a contemplative disposition and an energetic
temperament, sir, is hell. Hell, I tell you. A contemplative
disposition and a phlegmatic temperament, all very well. But
energy and philosophy--!" 

Mr. Hoopdriver looked as intelligent as he could, but said
nothing. 

"There's no hurry, sir, none whatever. I came out for exercise,
gentle exercise, and to notice the scenery and to botanise. And
no sooner do I get on the accursed machine, than off I go hammer
and tongs; I never look to right or left, never notice a flower,
never see a view, get hot, juicy, red,--like a grilled chop. Here
I am, sir. Come from Guildford in something under the hour. WHY,
sir?" 

Mr. Hoopdriver shook his head. 

"Because I'm a damned fool, sir. Because I've reservoirs and
reservoirs of muscular energy, and one or other of them is always
leaking. It's a most interesting road, birds and trees, I've no
doubt, and wayside flowers, and there's nothing I should enjoy
more than watching them. But I can't. Get me on that machine, and
I have to go. Get me on anything, and I have to go. And I don't
want to go a bit. WHY should a man rush about like a rocket, all
pace and fizzle? Why? It makes me furious. I can assure you, sir,
I go scorching along the road, and cursing aloud at myself for
doing it. A quiet, dignified, philosophical man, that's what I
am--at bottom; and here I am dancing with rage and swearing like
a drunken tinker at a perfect stranger--

"But my day's wasted. I've lost all that country road, and now
I'm on the fringe of London. And I might have loitered all the
morning! Ugh! Thank Heaven, sir, you have not the irritable
temperament, that you are not goaded to madness by your
endogenous sneers, by the eternal wrangling of an uncomfortable
soul and body. I tell you, I lead a cat and dog life--But what IS
the use of talking?--It's all of a piece!" 

He tossed his head with unspeakable self-disgust, pitched the
lemon squash into his mouth, paid for it, and without any further
remark strode to the door. Mr. Hoopdriver was still wondering
what to say when his interlocutor vanished. There was a noise of
a foot spurning the gravel, and when Mr. Hoopdriver reached the
doorway, the man in drab was a score of yards Londonward. He had
already gathered pace. He pedalled with ill-suppressed anger, and
his head was going down. In another moment he flew swiftly out of
sight under the railway arch, and Mr. Hoopdriver saw him no more.



VII 

After this whirlwind Mr. Hoopdriver paid his reckoning and--being
now a little rested about the muscles of the knees--resumed his
saddle and rode on in the direction of Ripley, along an excellent
but undulating road. He was pleased to find his command over his
machine already sensibly increased. He set himself little
exercises as he went along and performed them with variable
success. There was, for instance, steering in between a couple of
stones, say a foot apart, a deed of little difficulty as far as
the front wheel is concerned. But the back wheel, not being under
the sway of the human eye, is apt to take a vicious jump over the
obstacle, which sends a violent concussion all along the spine to
the skull, and will even jerk a loosely fastened hat over the
eyes, and so lead to much confusion. And again, there was taking
the hand or hands off the handlebar, a thing simple in itself,
but complex in its consequences. This particularly was a feat Mr.
Hoopdriver desired to do, for several divergent reasons; but at
present it simply led to convulsive balancings and novel and
inelegant modes of dismounting. 

The human nose is, at its best, a needless excrescence. There are
those who consider it ornamental, and would regard a face
deprived of its assistance with pity or derision; but it is
doubtful whether our esteem is dictated so much by a sense of its
absolute beauty as by the vitiating effect of a universally
prevalent fashion. In the case of bicycle students, as in the
young of both sexes, its inutility is aggravated by its
persistent annoyance--it requires constant attention. Until one
can ride with one hand, and search for, secure, and use a pocket
handkerchief with the other, cycling is necessarily a constant
series of descents. Nothing can be further from the author's
ambition than a wanton realism, but Mr. Hoopdriver's nose is a
plain and salient fact, and face it we must. And, in addition to
this inconvenience, there are flies. Until the cyclist can steer
with one hand, his face is given over to Beelzebub. Contemplative
flies stroll over it, and trifle absently with its most sensitive
surfaces. The only way to dislodge them is to shake the head
forcibly and to writhe one's features violently. This is not only
a lengthy and frequently ineffectual method, but one exceedingly
terrifying to foot passengers. And again, sometimes the beginner
rides for a space with one eye closed by perspiration, giving him
a waggish air foreign to his mood and ill calculated to overawe
the impertinent. However, you will appreciate now the motive of
Mr. Hoopdriver's experiments. He presently attained sufficient
dexterity to slap himself smartly and violently in the face with
his right hand, without certainly overturning the machine; but
his pocket handkerchief might have been in California for any
good it was to him while he was in the saddle. 

Yet you must not think that because Mr. Hoopdriver was a little
uncomfortable, he was unhappy in the slightest degree. In the
background of his consciousness was the sense that about this
time Briggs would be half-way through his window dressing, and
Gosling, the apprentice, busy, with a chair turned down over the
counter and his ears very red, trying to roll a piece of
huckaback--only those who have rolled pieces of huckaback know
quite how detestable huckaback is to roll--and the shop would be
dusty and, perhaps, the governor about and snappy. And here was
quiet and greenery, and one mucked about as the desire took one,
without a soul to see, and here was no wailing of "Sayn," no
folding of remnants, no voice to shout, "Hoopdriver, forward!"
And once he almost ran over something wonderful, a little, low,
red beast with a yellowish tail, that went rushing across the
road before him. It was the first weasel he had ever seen in his
cockney life. There were miles of this, scores of miles of this
before him, pinewood and oak forest, purple, heathery moorland
and grassy down, lush meadows, where shining rivers wound their
lazy way, villages with square-towered, flint churches, and
rambling, cheap, and hearty inns, clean, white, country towns,
long downhill stretches, where one might ride at one's ease
(overlooking a jolt or so), and far away, at the end of it
all,--the sea. 

What mattered a fly or so in the dawn of these delights? Perhaps
he had been dashed a minute by the shameful episode of the Young
Lady in Grey, and perhaps the memory of it was making itself a
little lair in a corner of his brain from which it could distress
him in the retrospect by suggesting that he looked like a fool;
but for the present that trouble was altogether in abeyance. The
man in drab--evidently a swell--had spoken to him as his equal,
and the knees of his brown suit and the chequered stockings were
ever before his eyes. (Or, rather, you could see the stockings by
carrying the head a little to one side.) And to feel, little by
little, his mastery over this delightful, treacherous machine,
growing and growing! Every half-mile or so his knees reasserted
themselves, and he dismounted and sat awhile by the roadside. 

It was at a charming little place between Esher and Cobham, where
a bridge crosses a stream, that Mr. Hoopdriver came across the
other cyclist in brown. It is well to notice the fact here,
although the interview was of the slightest, because it happened
that subsequently Hoopdriver saw a great deal more of this other
man in brown. The other cyclist in brown had a machine of
dazzling newness, and a punctured pneumatic lay across his knees.
He was a man of thirty or more, with a whitish face, an aquiline
nose, a lank, flaxen moustache, and very fair hair, and he
scowled at the job before him. At the sight of him Mr. Hoopdriver
pulled himself together, and rode by with the air of one born to
the wheel. "A splendid morning," said Mr. Hoopdriver, "and a fine
surface." 

"The morning and you and the surface be everlastingly damned!"
said the other man in brown as Hoopdriver receded. Hoopdriver
heard the mumble and did not distinguish the words, and he felt a
pleasing sense of having duly asserted the wide sympathy that
binds all cyclists together, of having behaved himself as becomes
one of the brotherhood of the wheel. The other man in brown
watched his receding aspect. "Greasy proletarian," said the other
man in brown, feeling a prophetic dislike. "Got a suit of brown,
the very picture of this. One would think his sole aim in life
had been to caricature me. It's Fortune's way with me. Look at
his insteps on the treadles! Why does Heaven make such men?" 

And having lit a cigarette, the other man in brown returned to
the business in hand. 

Mr. Hoopdriver worked up the hill towards Cobham to a point that
he felt sure was out of sight of the other man in brown, and then
he dismounted and pushed his machine; until the proximity of the
village and a proper pride drove him into the saddle again.



VIII 

Beyond Cobham came a delightful incident, delightful, that is, in
its beginning if a trifle indeterminate in the retrospect. It was
perhaps half-way between Cobham and Ripley. Mr. Hoopdriver
dropped down a little hill, where, unfenced from the road, fine
mossy trees and bracken lay on either side; and looking up he saw
an open country before him, covered with heather and set with
pines, and a yellow road runing across it, and half a mile away
perhaps, a little grey figure by the wayside waving something
white. "Never!" said Mr. Hoopdriver with his hands tightening on
the handles. 

He resumed the treadles, staring away before him, jolted over a
stone, wabbled, recovered, and began riding faster at once, with
his eyes ahead. "It can't be," said Hoopdriver. 

He rode his straightest, and kept his pedals spinning, albeit a
limp numbness had resumed possession of his legs." It CAN'T be,"
he repeated, feeling every moment more assured that it WAS.
"Lord! I don't know even now," said Mr. Hoopdriver (legs
awhirling), and then, "Blow my legs!" 

But he kept on and drew nearer and nearer, breathing hard and
gathering flies like a flypaper. In the valley he was hidden.
Then the road began to rise, and the resistance of the pedals
grew. As he crested the hill he saw her, not a hundred yards away
from him. "It's her!" he said. "It's her--right enough. It's the
suit's done it,"--which was truer even than Mr. Hoopdriver
thought. But now she was not waving her handkerchief, she was not
even looking at him. She was wheeling her machine slowly along
the road towards him, and admiring the pretty wooded hills
towards Weybridge. She might have been unaware of his existence
for all the recognition he got. 

For a moment horrible doubts troubled Mr. Hoopdriver. Had that
handkerchief been a dream? Besides which he was deliquescent and
scarlet, and felt so. It must be her coquetry--the handkerchief
was indisputable. Should he ride up to her and get off, or get
off and ride up to her? It was as well she didn't look, because
he would certainly capsize if he lifted his cap. Perhaps that was
her consideration. Even as he hesitated he was upon her. She must
have heard his breathing. He gripped the brake. Steady! His right
leg waved in the air, and he came down heavily and staggering,
but erect. She turned her eyes upon him with admirable surprise. 

Mr. Hoopdriver tried to smile pleasantly, hold up his machine,
raise his cap, and bow gracefully. Indeed, he felt that he did as
much. He was a man singularly devoid of the minutiae of
self-consciousness, and he was quite unaware of a tail of damp
hair lying across his forehead, and just clearing his eyes, and
of the general disorder of his coiffure. There was an
interrogative pause. 

"What can I have the pleasure--" began Mr. Haopdriver,
insinuatingly. "I mean" (remembering his emancipation and
abruptly assuming his most aristocratic intonation), "can I be of
any assistance to you?" 

The Young Lady in Grey bit her lower lip and said very prettily,
"None, thank you." She glanced away from him and made as if she
would proceed. 

"Oh!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, taken aback and suddenly crestfallen
again. It was so unexpected. He tried to grasp the situation. Was
she coquetting? Or had he--? 

"Excuse me, one minute," he said, as she began to wheel her
machine again. 

"Yes?" she said, stopping and staring a little, with the colour
in her cheeks deepening. 

"I should not have alighted if I had not--imagined that you--er,
waved something white--" He paused. 

She looked at him doubtfully. He HAD seen it! She decided that
he was not an unredeemed rough taking advantage of a mistake, but
an innocent soul meaning well while seeking happiness. "I DID
wave my handkerchief," she said. "I'm very sorry. I am
expecting--a friend, a gentleman,"--she seemed to flush pink for
a minute. "He is riding a bicycle and dressed in--in brown; and
at a distance, you know--" 

"Oh, quite!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, bearing up in manly fashion
against his bitter disappointment. "Certainly." 

"I'm awfully sorry, you know. Troubling you to dismount, and all
that." 

"No trouble. 'Ssure you," said Mr. Hoopdriver, mechanically and
bowing over his saddle as if it was a counter. Somehow he could
not find it in his heart to tell her that the man was beyond
there with a punctured pneumatic. He looked back along the road
and tried to think of something else to say. But the gulf in the
conversation widened rapidly and hopelessly. "There's nothing
further," began Mr. Hoopdriver desperately, recurring to his
stock of cliches. 

"Nothing, thank you," she said decisively. And immediately, "This
IS the Ripley road?" 

"Certainly," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Ripley is about two miles from
here. According to the mile-stones." 

"Thank you," she said warmly. "Thank you so much. I felt sure
there was no mistake. And I really am awfully sorry--" 

"Don't mention it," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Don't mention it." He
hesitated and gripped his handles to mount. "It's me," he said,
"ought to be sorry." Should he say it? Was it an impertinence?
Anyhow!--"Not being the other gentleman, you know." 

He tried a quietly insinuating smile that he knew for a grin even
as he smiled it; felt she disapproved--that she despised him, was
overcome with shame at her expression, turned his back upon her,
and began (very clumsily) to mount. He did so with a horrible
swerve, and went pedalling off, riding very badly, as he was only
too painfully aware. Nevertheless, thank Heaven for the mounting!
He could not see her because it was so dangerous for him to look
round, but he could imagine her indignant and pitiless. He felt
an unspeakable idiot. One had to be so careful what one said to
Young Ladies, and he'd gone and treated her just as though she
was only a Larky Girl. It was unforgivable. He always WAS a fool.
You could tell from her manner she didn't think him a gentleman.
One glance, and she seemed to look clear through him and all his
presence. What rot it was venturing to speak to a girl like that!
With her education she was bound to see through him at once. 

How nicely she spoke too! nice clear-cut words! She made him feel
what slush his own accent was. And that last silly remark. What
was it ? 'Not being the other gentleman, you know!' No point in
it. And 'GENTLEMAN!' What COULD she be thinking of him? 

But really the Young Lady in Grey had dismissed Hoopdriver from
her thoughts almost before he had vanished round the corner. She
had thought no ill of him. His manifest awe and admiration of her
had given her not an atom of offence. But for her just now there
were weightier things to think about, things that would affect
all the rest of her life. She continued slowly walking her
machine Londonward. Presently she stopped. "Oh! Why DOESN'T he
come?" she said, and stamped her foot petulantly. Then, as if in
answer, coming down the hill among the trees, appeared the other
man in brown, dismounted and wheeling his machine. 



HOW MR. HOOPDRIVER WAS HAUNTED 

IX 

As Mr. Hoopdriver rode swaggering along the Ripley road, it came
to him, with an unwarrantable sense of comfort, that he had seen
the last of the Young Lady in Grey. But the ill-concealed bladery
of the machine, the present machinery of Fate, the deus ex
machina, so to speak, was against him. The bicycle, torn from
this attractive young woman, grew heavier and heavier, and
continually more unsteady. It seemed a choice between stopping at
Ripley or dying in the flower of his days. He went into the
Unicorn, after propping his machine outside the door, and, as he
cooled down and smoked his Red Herring cigarette while the cold
meat was getting ready, he saw from the window the Young Lady in
Grey and the other man in brown, entering Ripley. 

They filled him with apprehension by looking at the house which
sheltered him, but the sight of his bicycle, propped in a drunk
and incapable attitude against the doorway, humping its rackety
mud-guard and leering at them with its darkened lantern eye,
drove them away--so it seemed to Mr. Hoopdriver--to the spacious
swallow of the Golden Dragon. The young lady was riding very
slowly, but the other man in brown had a bad puncture and was
wheeling his machine. Mr. Hoopdriver noted his flaxen moustache,
his aquiline nose, his rather bent shoulders, with a sudden,
vivid dislike. 

The maid at the Unicorn is naturally a pleasant girl, but she is
jaded by the incessant incidence of cyclists, and Hoopdriver's
mind, even as he conversed with her in that cultivated voice of
his--of the weather, of the distance from London, and of the
excellence of the Ripley road--wandered to the incomparable
freshness and brilliance of the Young Lady in Grey. As he sat at
meat he kept turning his head to the window to see what signs
there were of that person, but the face of the Golden Dragon
displayed no appreciation of the delightful morsel it had
swallowed. As an incidental consequence of this distraction, Mr.
Hoopdriver was for a minute greatly inconvenienced by a mouthful
of mustard. After he had called for his reckoning he went, his
courage being high with meat and mustard, to the door, intending
to stand, with his legs wide apart and his hands deep in his
pockets, and stare boldly across the road. But just then the
other man in brown appeared in the gateway of the Golden Dragon
yard--it is one of those delightful inns that date from the
coaching days--wheeling his punctured machine. He was taking it
to Flambeau's, the repairer's. He looked up and saw Hoopdriver,
stared for a minute, and then scowled darkly. 

But Hoopdriver remained stoutly in the doorway until the other
man in brown had disappeared into Flambeau's. Then he glanced
momentarily at the Golden Dragon, puckered his mouth into a
whistle of unconcern, and proceeded to wheel his machine into the
road until a sufficient margin for mounting was secured. 

Now, at that time, I say, Hoopdriver was rather desirous than not
of seeing no more of the Young Lady in Grey. The other man in
brown he guessed was her brother, albeit that person was of a
pallid fairness, differing essentially from her rich colouring;
and, besides, he felt he had made a hopeless fool of himself. But
the afternoon was against him, intolerably hot, especially on the
top of his head, and the virtue had gone out of his legs to
digest his cold meat, and altogether his ride to Guildford was
exceedingly intermittent. At times he would walk, at times lounge
by the wayside, and every public house, in spite of Briggs and a
sentiment of economy, meant a lemonade and a dash of bitter. (For
that is the experience of all those who go on wheels, that
drinking begets thirst, even more than thirst begets drinking,
until at last the man who yields becomes a hell unto himself, a
hell in which the fire dieth not, and the thirst is not
quenched.) Until a pennyworth of acrid green apples turned the
current that threatened to carry him away. Ever and again a
cycle, or a party of cyclists, would go by, with glittering
wheels and softly running chains, and on each occasion, to save
his self-respect, Mr. Hoopdriver descended and feigned some
trouble with his saddle. Each time he descended with less
trepidation. 

He did not reach Guildford until nearly four o'clock, and then he
was so much exhausted that he decided to put up there for the
night, at the Yellow Hammer Coffee Tavern. And after he had
cooled a space and refreshed himself with tea and bread and
butter and jam,--the tea he drank noisily out of the saucer,--he
went out to loiter away the rest of the afternoon. Guildford is
an altogether charming old town, famous, so he learnt from a
Guide Book, as the scene of Master Tupper's great historical
novel of Stephen Langton, and it has a delightful castle, all set
about with geraniums and brass plates commemorating the gentlemen
who put them up, and its Guildhall is a Tudor building, very
pleasant to see, and in the afternoon the shops are busy and the
people going to and fro make the pavements look bright and
prosperous. It was nice to peep in the windows and see the heads
of the men and girls in the drapers' shops, busy as busy, serving
away. The High Street runs down at an angle of seventy degrees to
the horizon (so it seemed to Mr. Hoopdriver, whose feeling for
gradients was unnaturally exalted), and it brought his heart into
his mouth to see a cyclist ride down it, like a fly crawling down
a window pane. The man hadn't even a brake. He visited the castle
early in the evening and paid his twopence to ascend the Keep. 

At the top, from the cage, he looked down over the clustering red
roofs of the town and the tower of the church, and then going to
the southern side sat down and lit a Red Herring cigarette, and
stared away south over the old bramble-bearing, fern-beset ruin,
at the waves of blue upland that rose, one behind another, across
the Weald, to the lazy altitudes of Hindhead and Butser. His pale
grey eyes were full of complacency and pleasurable anticipation.
Tomorrow he would go riding across that wide valley. 

He did not notice any one else had come up the Keep after him
until he heard a soft voice behind him saying: "Well, MISS
BEAUMONT, here's the view." Something in the accent pointed to a
jest in the name. 

"It's a dear old town, brother George," answered another voice
that sounded familiar enough, and turning his head, Mr.
Hoopdriver saw the other man in brown and the Young Lady in Grey,
with their backs towards him. She turned her smiling profile
towards Hoopdriver. "Only, you know, brothers don't call their
sisters--" 

She glanced over her shoulder and saw Hoopdriver. "Damn!" said
the other man in brown, quite audibly, starting as he followed
her glance. 

Mr. Hoopdriver, with a fine air of indifference, resumed the
Weald. "Beautiful old town, isn't it?" said the other man in
brown, after a quite perceptible pause. 

"Isn't it?" said the Young Lady in Grey. 

Another pause began. 

"Can't get alone anywhere," said the other man in brown, looking
round. 

Then Mr. Hoopdriver perceived clearly that he was in the way, and
decided to retreat. It was just his luck of course that he should
stumble at the head of the steps and vanish with indignity. This
was the third time that he'd seen HIM, and the fourth time her.
And of course he was too big a fat-head to raise his cap to HER!
He thought of that at the foot of the Keep. Apparently they aimed
at the South Coast just as he did, He'd get up betimes the next
day and hurry off to avoid her--them, that is. It never occurred
to Mr. Hoopdriver that Miss Beaumont and her brother might do
exactly the same thing, and that evening, at least, the
peculiarity of a brother calling his sister "Miss Beaumont" did
not recur to him. He was much too preoccupied with an analysis of
his own share of these encounters. He found it hard to be
altogether satisfied about the figure he had cut, revise his
memories as he would. 

Once more quite unintentionally he stumbled upon these two
people. It was about seven o'clock. He stopped outside a linen
draper's and peered over the goods in the window at the
assistants in torment. He could have spent a whole day happily at
that. He told himself that he was trying to see how they dressed
out the brass lines over their counters, in a purely professional
spirit, but down at the very bottom of his heart he knew better.
The customers were a secondary consideration, and it was only
after the lapse of perhaps a minute that he perceived that among
them was--the Young Lady in Grey! He turned away from the window
at once, and saw the other man in brown standing at the edge of
the pavement and regarding him with a very curious expression of
face. 

There came into Mr. Hoopdriver's head the curious problem whether
he was to be regarded as a nuisance haunting these people, or
whether they were to be regarded as a nuisance haunting him. He
abandoned the solution at last in despair, quite unable to decide
upon the course he should take at the next encounter, whether he
should scowl savagely at the couple or assume an attitude
eloquent of apology and propitiation. 



THE IMAGININGS OF MR. HOOPDRIVER'S HEART 

X 

Mr. Hoopdriver was (in the days of this story) a poet, though he
had never written a line of verse. Or perhaps romancer will
describe him better. Like I know not how many of those who do the
fetching and carrying of life,--a great number of them
certainly,--his real life was absolutely uninteresting, and if he
had faced it as realistically as such people do in Mr. Gissing's
novels, he would probably have come by way of drink to suicide in
the course of a year. But that was just what he had the natural
wisdom not to do. On the contrary, he was always decorating his
existence with imaginative tags, hopes, and poses, deliberate and
yet quite effectual self-deceptions; his experiences were mere
material for a romantic superstructure. If some power had given
Hoopdriver the 'giftie' Burns invoked, 'to see oursels as ithers
see us,' he would probably have given it away to some one else at
the very earliest opportunity. His entire life, you must
understand, was not a continuous romance, but a series of short
stories linked only by the general resemblance of their hero, a
brown-haired young fellow commonly, with blue eyes and a fair
moustache, graceful rather than strong, sharp and resolute rather
than clever (cp., as the scientific books say, p. 2). Invariably
this person possessed an iron will. The stories fluctuated
indefinitely. The smoking of a cigarette converted Hoopdriver's
hero into something entirely worldly, subtly rakish, with a
humorous twinkle in the eye and some gallant sinning in the
background. You should have seen Mr. Hoopdriver promenading the
brilliant gardens at Earl's Court on an early-closing night. His
meaning glances! (I dare not give the meaning.) Such an influence
as the eloquence of a revivalist preacher would suffice to divert
the story into absolutely different channels, make him a
white-soured hero, a man still pure, walking untainted and brave
and helpful through miry ways. The appearance of some daintily
gloved frockcoated gentleman with buttonhole and eyeglass
complete, gallantly attendant in the rear of customers, served
again to start visions of a simplicity essentially Cromwell-like,
of sturdy plainness, of a strong, silent man going righteously
through the world. This day there had predominated a fine
leisurely person immaculately clothed, and riding on an
unexceptional machine, a mysterious person--quite unostentatious,
but with accidental self-revelation of something over the common,
even a "bloomin' Dook," it might be incognito, on the tour of the
South Coast. 

You must not think that there was any TELLING of these stories of
this life-long series by Mr. Hoopdriver. He never dreamt that
they were known to a soul. If it were not for the trouble, I
would, I think, go back and rewrite this section from the
beginning, expunging the statements that Hoopdriver was a poet
and a romancer, and saying instead that he was a playwright and
acted his own plays. He was not only the sole performer, but the
entire audience, and the entertainment kept him almost
continuously happy. Yet even that playwright comparison scarcely
expresses all the facts of the case. After all, very many of his
dreams never got acted at all, possibly indeed, most of them, the
dreams of a solitary walk for instance, or of a tramcar ride, the
dreams dreamt behind the counter while trade was slack and
mechanical foldings and rollings occupied his muscles. Most of
them were little dramatic situations, crucial dialogues, the
return of Mr. Hoopdriver to his native village, for instance, in
a well-cut holiday suit and natty gloves, the unheard asides of
the rival neighbours, the delight of the old 'mater,' the
intelligence--"A ten-pound rise all at once from Antrobus,
mater. Whad d'yer think of that?" or again, the first whispering
of love, dainty and witty and tender, to the girl he served a few
days ago with sateen, or a gallant rescue of generalised beauty
in distress from truculent insult or ravening dog. 

So many people do this--and you never suspect it. You see a
tattered lad selling matches in the street, and you think there
is nothing between him and the bleakness of immensity, between
him and utter abasement, but a few tattered rags and a feeble
musculature. And all unseen by you a host of heaven- sent
fatuities swathes him about, even, maybe, as they swathe you
about. Many men have never seen their own profiles or the backs
of their heads, and for the back of your own mind no mirror has
been invented. They swathe him about so thickly that the pricks
of fate scarce penetrate to him, or become but a pleasant
titillation. And so, indeed, it is with all of us who go on
living. Self-deception is the anaesthetic of life, while God is
carving out our beings. 

But to return from this general vivisection to Mr. Hoopdriver's
imaginings. You see now how external our view has been; we have
had but the slightest transitory glimpses of the drama within, of
how the things looked in the magic mirror of Mr. Hoopdriver's
mind. On the road to Guildford and during his encounters with his
haunting fellow-cyclists the drama had presented chiefly the
quiet gentleman to whom we have alluded, but at Guildford, under
more varied stimuli, he burgeoned out more variously. There was
the house agent's window, for instance, set him upon a charming
little comedy. He would go in, make inquires about that
thirty-pound house, get the key possibly and go over it--the
thing would stimulate the clerk's curiosity immensely. He
searched his mind for a reason for this proceeding and discovered
that he was a dynamiter needing privacy. Upon that theory he
procured the key, explored the house carefully, said darkly that
it might suit his special needs, but that there were OTHERS to
consult. The clerk, however, did not understand the allusion, and
merely pitied him as one who had married young and paired himself
to a stronger mind than his own. 

This proceeding in some occult way led to the purchase of a
note-book and pencil, and that started the conception of an
artist taking notes. That was a little game Mr. Hoopdriver had,
in congenial company, played in his still younger days--to the
infinite annoyance of quite a number of respectable excursionists
at Hastings. In early days Mr. Hoopdriver had been, as his mother
proudly boasted, a 'bit of a drawer,' but a conscientious and
normally stupid schoolmaster perceived the incipient talent and
had nipped it in the bud by a series of lessons in art. However,
our principal character figured about quite happily in old
corners of Guildford, and once the other man in brown, looking
out of the bay window of the Earl of Kent, saw him standing in a
corner by a gateway, note-book in hand, busily sketching the
Earl's imposing features. At which sight the other man in brown
started back from the centre of the window, so as to be hidden
from him, and crouching slightly, watched him intently through
the interstices of the lace curtains. 



OMISSIONS

XI

Now the rest of the acts of Mr. Hoopdriver in Guildford, on the
great opening day of his holidays, are not to be detailed here.
How he wandered about the old town in the dusk, and up to the
Hogsback to see the little lamps below and the little stars above
come out one after another; how he returned through the
yellow-lit streets to the Yellow Hammer Coffee Tavern and supped
bravely in the commercial room--a Man among Men; how he joined in
the talk about flying-machines and the possibilities of
electricity, witnessing that fiying-machines were "dead certain
to come," and that electricity was "wonderful, wonderful"; how he
went and watched the billiard playing and said, "Left 'em"
several times with an oracular air; how he fell a-yawning; and
how he got out his cycling map and studied it intently,--are
things that find no mention here. Nor will I enlarge upon his
going into the writing-room, and marking the road from London to
Guildford with a fine, bright line of the reddest of red ink. In
his little cyclist hand-book there is a diary, and in the diary
there is an entry of these things--it is there to this day, and I
cannot do better than reproduce it here to witness that this book
is indeed a true one, and no lying fable written to while away an
hour.

At last he fell a-yawning so much that very reluctantly indeed he
set about finishing this great and splendid day. (Alas! that all
days must end at last! ) He got his candle in the hall from a
friendly waiting-maid, and passed upward--whither a modest
novelist, who writes for the family circle, dare not follow. Yet
I may tell you that he knelt down at his bedside, happy and
drowsy, and said, "Our Father 'chartin' heaven," even as he had
learnt it by rote from his mother nearly twenty years ago. And
anon when his breathing had become deep and regular, we may creep
into his bedroom and catch him at his dreams. He is lying upon
his left side, with his arm under the pillow. It is dark, and he
is hidden; but if you could have seen his face, sleeping there in
the darkness, I think you would have perceived, in spite of that
treasured, thin, and straggling moustache, in spite of your
memory of the coarse words he had used that day, that the man
before you was, after all, only a little child asleep.



THE DREAMS OF MR. HOOPDRIVER

XII

In spite of the drawn blinds and the darkness, you have just seen
Mr. Hoopdriver's face peaceful in its beauty sleep in the little,
plain bedroom at the very top of the Yellow Hammer Coffee Tavern
at Guildford. That was before midnight. As the night progressed
he was disturbed by dreams.

After your first day of cycling one dream is inevitable. A memory
of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and
round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful
dream bicycles that change and grow; you ride down steeples and
staircases and over precipices; you hover in horrible suspense
over inhabited towns, vainly seeking for a brake your hand cannot
find, to save you from a headlong fall; you plunge into weltering
rivers, and rush helplessly at monstrous obstacles. Anon Mr.
Hoopdriver found himself riding out of the darkness of
non-existence, pedalling Ezekiel's Wheels across the Weald of
Surrey, jolting over the hills and smashing villages in his
course, while the other man in brown cursed and swore at him and
shouted to stop his career. There was the Putney heath-keeper,
too, and the man in drab raging at him. He felt an awful fool, a-
-what was it?--a juggins, ah!--a Juggernaut. The villages went
off one after another with a soft, squashing noise. He did not
see the Young Lady in Grey, but he knew she was looking at his
back. He dared not look round. Where the devil was the brake? It
must have fallen off. And the bell? Right in front of him was
Guildford. He tried to shout and warn the town to get out of the
way, but his voice was gone as well. Nearer, nearer! it was
fearful! and in another moment the houses were cracking like nuts
and the blood of the inhabitants squirting this way and that. The
streets were black with people running. Right under his wheels he
saw the Young Lady in Grey. A feeling of horror came upon Mr.
Hoopdriver; he flung himself sideways to descend, forgetting how
high he was, and forthwith he began falling; falling, falling.

He woke up, turned over, saw the new moon on the window, wondered
a little, and went to sleep again.

This second dream went back into the first somehow, and the other
man in brown came threatening and shouting towards him. He grew
uglier and uglier as he approached, and his expression was
intolerably evil. He came and looked close into Mr. Hoopdriver's
eyes and then receded to an incredible distance. His face seemed
to be luminous. "MISS BEAUMONT," he said, and splashed up a spray
of suspicion. Some one began letting off fireworks, chiefly
Catherine wheels, down the shop, though Mr. Hoopdriver knew it
was against the rules. For it seemed that the place they were in
was a vast shop, and then Mr. Hoopdriver perceived that the other
man in brown was the shop-walker, differing from most
shop-walkers in the fact that he was lit from within as a Chinese
lantern might be. And the customer Mr. Hoopdriver was going to
serve was the Young Lady in Grey. Curious he hadn't noticed it
before. She was in grey as usual,--rationals,--and she had her
bicycle leaning against the counter. She smiled quite frankly at
him, just as she had done when she had apologised for stopping
him. And her form, as she leant towards him, was full of a
sinuous grace he had never noticed before. "What can I have the
pleasure?" said Mr. Hoopdriver at once, and she said, "The Ripley
road." So he got out the Ripley road and unrolled it and showed
it to her, and she said that would do very nicely, and kept on
looking at him and smiling, and he began measuring off eight
miles by means of the yard measure on the counter, eight miles
being a dress length, a rational dress length, that is; and then
the other man in brown came up and wanted to interfere, and said
Mr. Hoopdriver was a cad, besides measuring it off too slowly.
And as Mr. Hoopdriver began to measure faster, the other man in
brown said the Young Lady in Grey had been there long enough, and
that he WAS her brother, or else she would not be travelling with
him, and he suddenly whipped his arm about her waist and made off
with her. It occurred to Mr. Hoopdriver even at the moment that
this was scarcely brotherly behaviour. Of course it wasn't! The
sight of the other man gripping her so familiarly enraged him
frightfully; he leapt over the counter forthwith and gave chase.
They ran round the shop and up an iron staircase into the Keep,
and so out upon the Ripley road. For some time they kept dodging
in and out of a wayside hotel with two front doors and an inn
yard. The other man could not run very fast because he had hold
of the Young Lady in Grey, but Mr. Hoopdriver was hampered by the
absurd behaviour of his legs. They would not stretch out; they
would keep going round and round as if they were on the treadles
of a wheel, so that he made the smallest steps conceivable. This
dream came to no crisis. The chase seemed to last an interminable
time, and all kinds of people, heathkeepers, shopmen, policemen,
the old man in the Keep, the angry man in drab, the barmaid at
the Unicorn, men with flying-machines, people playing billiards
in the doorways, silly, headless figures, stupid cocks and hens
encumbered with parcels and umbrellas and waterproofs, people
carrying bedroom candles, and such-like riffraff, kept getting in
his way and annoying him, although he sounded his electric bell,
and said, "Wonderful, wonderful!" at every corner....



HOW MR. HOOPDRIVER WENT TO HASLEMERE

XIII

There was some little delay in getting Mr. Hoopdriver's
breakfast, so that after all he was not free to start out of
Guildford until just upon the stroke of nine. He wheeled his
machine from the High Street in some perplexity. He did not know
whether this young lady, who had seized hold of his imagination
so strongly, and her unfriendly and possibly menacing brother,
were ahead of him or even now breakfasting somewhere in
Guildford. In the former case he might loiter as he chose; in the
latter he must hurry, and possibly take refuge in branch roads.

It occurred to him as being in some obscure way strategic, that
he would leave Guildford not by the obvious Portsmouth road, but
by the road running through Shalford. Along this pleasant shady
way he felt suffficiently secure to resume his exercises in
riding with one hand off the handles, and in staring over his
shoulder. He came over once or twice, but fell on his foot each
time, and perceived that he was improving. Before he got to
Bramley a specious byway snapped him up, ran with him for half a
mile or more, and dropped him as a terrier drops a walkingstick,
upon the Portsmouth again, a couple of miles from Godalming. He
entered Godalming on his feet, for the road through that
delightful town is beyond dispute the vilest in the world, a mere
tumult of road metal, a way of peaks and precipices, and, after a
successful experiment with cider at the Woolpack, he pushed on to
Milford.

All this time he was acutely aware of the existence of the Young
Lady in Grey and her companion in brown, as a child in the dark
is of Bogies. Sometimes he could hear their pneumatics stealing
upon him from behind, and looking round saw a long stretch of
vacant road. Once he saw far ahead of him a glittering wheel, but
it proved to be a workingman riding to destruction on a very tall
ordinary. And he felt a curious, vague uneasiness about that
Young Lady in Grey, for which he was altogether unable to
account. Now that he was awake he had forgotten that accentuated
"Miss Beaumont that had been quite clear in his dream. But the
curious dream conviction, that the girl was not really the man's
sister, would not let itself be forgotten. Why, for instance,
should a man want to be alone with his sister on the top of a
tower? At Milford his bicycle made, so to speak, an ass of
itself. A finger-post suddenly jumped out at him, vainly
indicating an abrupt turn to the right, and Mr. Hoopdriver would
have slowed up and read the inscription, but no!--the bicycle
would not let him. The road dropped a little into Milford, and
the thing shied, put down its head and bolted, and Mr. Hoopdriver
only thought of the brake when the fingerpost was passed. Then to
have recovered the point of intersection would have meant
dismounting. For as yet there was no road wide enough for Mr.
Hoopdriver to turn in. So he went on his way--or to be precise,
he did exactly the opposite thing. The road to the right was the
Portsmouth road, and this he was on went to Haslemere and
Midhurst. By that error it came about that he once more came upon
his fellow travellers of yesterday, coming on them suddenly,
without the slightest preliminary announcement and when they
least expected it, under the Southwestern Railway arch. "It's
horrible," said a girlish voice; "it's brutal--cowardly--" And
stopped.

His expression, as he shot out from the archway at them, may have
been something between a grin of recognition and a scowl of
annoyance at himself for the unintentional intrusion. But
disconcerted as he waas, he was yet able to appreciate something
of the peculiarity of their mutual attitudes. The bicycles were
Iying by the roadside, and the two riders stood face to face. The
other man in brown's attitude, as it flashed upon Hoopdriver, was
a deliberate pose; he twirled his moustache and smiled faintly,
and he was conscientiously looking amused. And the girl stood
rigid, her arms straight by her side, her handkerchief clenched
in her hand, and her face was flushed, with the faintest touch of
red upon her eyelids. She seemed to Mr. Hoopdriver's sense to be
indignant. But that was the impression of a second. A mask of
surprised recognition fell across this revelation of emotion as
she turned her head towards him, and the pose of the other man in
brown vanished too in a momentary astonishment. And then he had
passed them, and was riding on towards Haslemere to make what he
could of the swift picture that had photographed itself on his
brain.

"Rum," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "It's DASHED rum!"

"They were having a row."

"Smirking--" What he called the other man in brown need not
trouble us.

"Annoying her!" That any human being should do that!

"WHY?"

The impulse to interfere leapt suddenly into Mr. Hoopdriver's
mind. He grasped his brake, descended, and stood looking
hesitatingly back. They still stood by the railway bridge, and it
seemed to Mr. Hoopdriver's fancy that she was stamping her foot.
He hesitated, then turned his bicycle round, mounted, and rode
back towards them, gripping his courage firmly lest it should
slip away and leave him ridiculous. "I'll offer 'im a screw
'ammer," said Mr. Hoopdriver. Then, with a wave of fierce
emotion, he saw that the girl was crying. In another moment they
heard him and turned in surprise. Certainly she had been crying;
her eyes were swimming in tears, and the other man in brown
looked exceedingly disconcerted. Mr. Hoopdriver descended and
stood over his machine.

"Nothing wrong, I hope?" he said, looking the other man in brown
squarely in the face. "No accident?"

"Nothing," said the other man in brown shortly. "Nothing at all,
thanks."

"But," said Mr. Hoopdriver, with a great effort, "the young lady
is crying. I thought perhaps--"

The Young Lady in Grey started, gave Hoopdriver one swift glance,
and covered one eye with her handkerchief. "It's this speck," she
said. "This speck of dust in my eye."

"This lady," said the other man in brown, explaining, "has a gnat
in her eye."

There was a pause. The young lady busied herself with her eye. "I
believe it's out," she said. The other man in brown made
movements indicating commiserating curiosity concerning the
alleged fly. Mr. Hoopdriver--the word is his own--stood
flabber-gastered. He had all the intuition of the simple-minded.
He knew there was no fly. But the ground was suddenly cut from
his feet. There is a limit to knighterrantry --dragons and false
knights are all very well, but flies! Fictitious flies! Whatever
the trouble was, it was evidently not his affair. He felt he had
made a fool of himself again. He would have mumbled some sort of
apology; but the other man in brown gave him no time, turned on
him abruptly, even fiercely. "I hope," he said, "that your
curiosity is satisfied?"

"Certainly," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"Then we won't detain you."

And, ignominiously, Mr. Hoopdriver turned his machine about,
struggled upon it, and resumed the road southward. And when he
learnt that he was not on the Portsmouth road, it was impossible
to turn and go back, for that would be to face his shame again,
and so he had to ride on by Brook Street up the hill to
Haslemere. And away to the right the Portsmouth road mocked at
him and made off to its fastnesses amid the sunlit green and
purple masses of Hindhead, where Mr. Grant Allen writes his Hill
Top Novels day by day.

The sun shone, and the wide blue hill views and pleasant valleys
one saw on either hand from the sandscarred roadway, even the
sides of the road itself set about with grey heather scrub and
prickly masses of gorse, and pine trees with their year's growth
still bright green, against the darkened needles of the previous
years, were fresh and delightful to Mr. Hoopdriver's eyes But the
brightness of the day and the day-old sense of freedom fought an
uphill fight against his intolerable vexation at that abominable
encounter, and had still to win it when he reached Haslemere. A
great brown shadow, a monstrous hatred of the other man in brown,
possessed him. He had conceived the brilliant idea of abandoning
Portsmouth, or at least giving up the straight way to his
fellow-wayfarers, and of striking out boldly to the left,
eastward. He did not dare to stop at any of the inviting
public-houses in the main street of Haslemere, but turned up a
side way and found a little beer-shop, the Good Hope, wherein to
refresh himself. And there he ate and gossipped condescendingly
with an aged labourer, assuming the while for his own private
enjoyment the attributes of a Lost Heir, and afterwards mounted
and rode on towards Northchapel, a place which a number of
finger-posts conspired to boom, but which some insidious turning
prevented him from attaining.



HOW MR. HOOPDRIVER REACHED MIDHURST

XIV

It was one of my uncle's profoundest remarks that human beings
are the only unreasonable creatures. This observation was so far
justified by Mr. Hoopdriver that, after spending the morning
tortuously avoiding the other man in brown and the Young Lady in
Grey, he spent a considerable part of the afternoon in thinking
about the Young Lady in Grey, and contemplating in an optimistic
spirit the possibilities of seeing her again. Memory and
imagination played round her, so that his course was largely
determined by the windings of the road he traversed. Of one
general proposition he was absolutely convinced. "There's
something Juicy wrong with 'em," said he--once even aloud. But
what it was he could not imagine. He recapitulated the facts.
"Miss Beaumont --brother and sister--and the stoppage to quarrel
and weep--it was perplexing material for a young man of small
experience. There was no exertion he hated so much as inference,
and after a time he gave up any attempt to get at the realities
of the case, and let his imagination go free. Should he ever see
her again? Suppose he did--with that other chap not about. The
vision he found pleasantest was an encounter with her, an
unexpected encounter at the annual Dancing Class 'Do' at the
Putney Assembly Rooms. Somehow they would drift together, and he
would dance with her again and again. It was a pleasant vision,
for you must understand that Mr. Hoopdriver danced uncommonly
well. Or again, in the shop, a sudden radiance in the doorway,
and she is bowed towards the Manchester counter. And then to lean
over that counter and murmur, seemingly apropos of the goods
under discussion, "I have not forgotten that morning on the
Portsmouth road," and lower, "I never shall forget."

At Northchapel Mr. Hoopdriver consulted his map and took counsel
and weighed his course of action. Petworth seemed a possible
resting-place, or Pullborough; Midhurst seemed too near, and any
place over the Downs beyond, too far, and so he meandered towards
Petworth, posing himself perpetually and loitering, gathering
wild flowers and wondering why they had no names--for he had
never heard of any--dropping them furtively at the sight of a
stranger, and generally 'mucking about.' There were purple
vetches in the hedges, meadowsweet, honeysuckle, belated
brambles--but the dog-roses had already gone; there were green
and red blackberries, stellarias, and dandelions, and in another
place white dead nettles, traveller's-joy, clinging bedstraw,
grasses flowering, white campions, and ragged robins. One
cornfield was glorious with poppies, bright scarlet and purple
white, and the blue corn-flowers were beginning. In the lanes the
trees met overhead, and the wisps of hay still hung to the
straggling hedges. Iri one of the main roads he steered a
perilous passage through a dozen surly dun oxen. Here and there
were little cottages, and picturesque beer-houses with the vivid
brewers' boards of blue and scarlet, and once a broad green and a
church, and an expanse of some hundred houses or so. Then he came
to a pebbly rivulet that emerged between clumps of sedge
loosestrife and forget-me-nots under an arch of trees, and
rippled across the road, and there he dismounted, longing to take
off shoes and stockings--those stylish chequered stockings were
now all dimmed with dust --and paddle his lean legs in the
chuckling cheerful water. But instead he sat in a manly attitude,
smoking a cigarette, for fear lest the Young Lady in Grey should
come glittering round the corner. For the flavour of the Young
Lady in Grey was present through it all, mixing with the flowers
and all the delight of it, a touch that made this second day
quite different from the first, an undertone of expectation,
anxiety, and something like regret that would not be ignored.

It was only late in the long evening that, quite abruptly, he
began to repent, vividly and decidedly, having fled these two
people. He was getting hungry, and that has a curious effect upon
the emotional colouring of our minds. The man was a sinister
brute, Hoopdriver saw in a flash of inspiration, and the
girl--she was in some serious trouble. And he who might have
helped her had taken his first impulse as decisive--and bolted.
This new view of it depressed him dreadfully. What might not be
happening to her now? He thought again of her tears. Surely it
was merely his duty, seeing the trouble afoot, to keep his eye
upon it.

He began riding fast to get quit of such selfreproaches. He found
himself in a tortuous tangle of roads, and as the dusk was coming
on, emerged, not at Petworth but at Easebourne, a mile from
Midhurst. "I'm getting hungry," said Mr. Hoopdriver, inquiring of
a gamekeeper in Easebourne village. "Midhurst a mile, and
Petworth five!--Thenks, I'll take Midhurst."

He came into Midhurst by the bridge at the watermill, and up the
North Street, and a little shop flourishing cheerfully, the
cheerful sign of a teapot, and exhibiting a brilliant array of
tobaccos, sweets, and children's toys in the window, struck his
fancy. A neat, bright-eyed little old lady made him welcome, and
he was presently supping sumptuously on sausages and tea, with a
visitors' book full of the most humorous and flattering remarks
about the little old lady, in verse and prose, propped up against
his teapot as he ate. Regular good some of the jokes were, and
rhymes that read well--even with your mouth full of sausage. Mr.
Hoopdriver formed a vague idea of drawing " something "--for his
judgment on the little old lady was already formed. He pictured
the little old lady discovering it afterwards--"My gracious! One
of them Punch men," she would say. The room had a curtained
recess and a chest of drawers, for presently it was to be his
bedroom, and the day part of it was decorated with framed
Oddfellows' certificates and giltbacked books and portraits, and
kettle-holders, and all kinds of beautiful things made out of
wool; very comfortable it was indeed. The window was lead framed
and diamond paned, and through it one saw the corner of the
vicarage and a pleasant hill crest, in dusky silhouette against
the twilight sky. And after the sausages had ceased to be, he lit
a Red Herring cigarette and went swaggering out into the twilight
street. All shadowy blue between its dark brick houses, was the
street, with a bright yellow window here and there and splashes
of green and red where the chemist's illumination fell across the
road.



AN INTERLUDE

XV

And now let us for a space leave Mr. Hoopdriver in the dusky
Midhurst North Street, and return to the two folks beside the
railway bridge between Milford and Haslemere. She was a girl of
eighteen, dark, fine featured, with bright eyes, and a rich,
swift colour under her warm-tinted skin. Her eyes were all the
brighter for the tears that swam in them. The man was thirty
three or four, fair, with a longish nose overhanging his sandy
flaxen moustache, pale blue eyes, and a head that struck out
above and behind. He stood with his feet wide apart, his hand on
his hip, in an attitude that was equally suggestive of defiance
and aggression. They had watched Hoopdriver out of sight. The
unexpected interruption had stopped the flood of her tears. He
tugged his abundant moustache and regarded her calmly. She stood
with face averted, obstinately resolved not to speak first. "Your
behaviour," he said at last, "makes you conspicuous."

She turned upon him, her eyes and cheeks glowing, her hands
clenched. "You unspeakable CAD," she said, and choked, stamped
her little foot, and stood panting.

"Unspeakable cad! My dear girl! Possible I AM an unspeakable cad.
Who wouldn't be--for you?"

"'Dear girl!' How DARE you speak to me like that? YOU--"

"I would do anything--"

"OH!"

There was a moment's pause. She looked squarely into his face,
her eyes alight with anger and contempt, and perhaps he flushed a
little. He stroked his moustache, and by an effort maintained his
cynical calm. "Let us be reasonable," he said.

"Reasonable! That means all that is mean and cowardly and sensual
in the world."

"You have always had it so--in your generalising way. But let us
look at the facts of the case--if that pleases you better."

With an impatient gesture she motioned him to go on.

"Well," he said,--"you've eloped."

"I've left my home," she corrected, with dignity. "I left my home
because it was unendurable. Because that woman--"

"Yes, yes. But the point is, you have eloped with me."

"You came with me. You pretended to be my friend. Promised to
help me to earn a living by writing. It was you who said, why
shouldn't a man and woman be friends? And now you dare--you
dare--"

"Really, Jessie, this pose of yours, this injured innocence--"

"I will go back. I forbid you--I forbid you to stand in the
way--"

"One moment. I have always thought that my little pupil was at
least clear-headed. You don't know everything yet, you know.
Listen to me for a moment."

"Haven't I been listening? And you have only insulted me. You who
dared only to talk of friendship, who scarcely dared hint at
anything beyond."

"But you took the hints, nevertheless. You knew. You KNEW. And
you did not mind. MIND! You liked it. It was the fun of the whole
thing for you. That I loved you, and could not speak to you. You
played with it--"

"You have said all that before. Do you think that justifies you?"

"That isn't all. I made up my mind--Well, to make the game more
even. And so I suggested to you and joined with you in this
expedition of yours, invented a sister at Midhurst--I tell you, I
HAVEN'T a sister! For one object--"

"Well?"

"To compromise you."

She started. That was a new way of putting it. For half a minute
neither spoke. Then she began half defiantly: "Much I am
compromised. Of course--I have made a fool of myself--"

"My dear girl, you are still on the sunny side of eighteen, and
you know very little of this world. Less than you think. But you
will learn. Before you write all those novels we have talked
about, you will have to learn. And that's one point--" He
hesitated. "You started and blushed when the man at breakfast
called you Ma'am. You thought it a funny mistake, but you did not
say anything because he was young and nervous--and besides, the
thought of being my wife offended your modesty. You didn't care
to notice it. But--you see; I gave your name as MRS. Beaumont."
He looked almost apologetic, in spite of his cynical pose. "MRS.
Beaumont," he repeated, pulling his flaxen moustache and watching
the effect.

She looked into his eyes speechless. "I am learning fast, " she
said slowly, at last.

He thought the time had come for an emotional attack. "Jessie,"
he said, with a sudden change of voice, "I know all this is mean,
isvillanous. But do you think that I have done all this scheming,
all this subterfuge, for any other object--"

She did not seem to listen to his words. "I shall ride home," she
said abruptly.

"To her?"

She winced.

"Just think," said he, "what she could say to you after this."

"Anyhow, I shall leave you now."

"Yes? And go--"

"Go somewhere to earn my living, to be a free woman, to live
without conventionality--"

"My dear girl, do let us be cynical. You haven't money and you
haven't credit. No one would take you in. It's one of two things:
go back to your stepmother, or--trust to me."

"How CAN I?"

"Then you must go back to her." He paused momentarily, to let
this consideration have its proper weight. "Jessie, I did not
mean to say the things I did. Upon my honour, I lost my head when
I spoke so. If you will, forgive me. I am a man. I could not help
myself. Forgive me, and I promise you--"

"How can I trust you?"

"Try me. I can assure you--"

She regarded him distrustfully.

"At any rate, ride on with me now. Surely we have been in the
shadow of this horrible bridge long enough."

"Oh! let me think," she said, half turning from him and pressing
her hand to her brow.

"THINK! Look here, Jessie. It is ten o'clock. Shall we call a
truce until one?"

She hesitated, demanded a definition of the truce, and at last
agreed.

They mounted, and rode on in silence, through the sunlight and
the heather. Both were extremely uncomfortable and disappointed.
She was pale, divided between fear and anger. She perceived she
was in a scrape, and tried in vain to think of a way of escape.
Only one tangible thing would keep in her mind, try as she would
to ignore it. That was the quite irrelevant fact that his head
was singularly like an albino cocoanut. He, too, felt thwarted.
He felt that this romantic business of seduction was, after all,
unexpectedly tame. But this was only the beginning. At any rate,
every day she spent with him was a day gained. Perhaps things
looked worse than they were; that was some consolation.



OF THE ARTIFICIAL IN MAN, AND OF THE ZEITGEIST

XVI

You have seen these two young people--Bechamel, by-the-bye, is
the man's name, and the girl's is Jessie Milton--from the
outside; you have heard them talking; they ride now side by side
(but not too close together, and in an uneasy silence) towards
Haslemere; and this chapter will concern itself with those
curious little council chambers inside their skulls, where their
motives are in session and their acts are considered and passed.

But first a word concerning wigs and false teeth. Some jester,
enlarging upon the increase of bald heads and purblind people,
has deduced a wonderful future for the children of men. Man, he
said, was nowadays a hairless creature by forty or fifty, and for
hair we gave him a wig; shrivelled, and we padded him; toothless,
and lo! false teeth set in gold. Did he lose a limb, and a fine,
new, artificial one was at his disposal; get indigestion, and to
hand was artificial digestive fluid or bile or pancreatine, as
the case might be. Complexions, too, were replaceable, spectacles
superseded an inefficient eye-lens, and imperceptible false
diaphragms were thrust into the failing ear. So he went over our
anatomies, until, at last, he had conjured up a weird thing of
shreds and patches, a simulacrum, an artificial body of a man,
with but a doubtful germ of living flesh lurking somewhere in his
recesses. To that, he held, we were coming.

How far such odd substitution for the body is possible need not
concern us now. But the devil, speaking by the lips of Mr.
Rudyard Kipling, hath it that in the case of one Tomlinson, the
thing, so far as the soul is concerned, has already been
accomplished. Time was when men had simple souls, desires as
natural as their eyes, a little reasonable philanthropy, a little
reasonable philoprogenitiveness, hunger, and a taste for good
living, a decent, personal vanity, a healthy, satisfying
pugnacity, and so forth. But now we are taught and disciplined
for years and years, and thereafter we read and read for all the
time some strenuous, nerve-destroying business permits. Pedagogic
hypnotists, pulpit and platform hypnotists, book-writing
hypnotists, newspaper-writing hypnotists, are at us all. This
sugar you are eating, they tell us, is ink, and forthwith we
reject it with infinite disgust. This black draught of unrequited
toil is True Happiness, and down it goes with every symptom of
pleasure. This Ibsen, they say, is dull past believing, and we
yawn and stretch beyond endurance. Pardon! they interrupt, but
this Ibsen is deep and delightful, and we vie with one another in
an excess of entertainment. And when we open the heads of these
two young people, we find, not a straightforward motive on the
surface anywhere; we find, indeed, not a soul so much as an
oversoul, a zeitgeist, a congestion of acquired ideas, a
highway's feast of fine, confused thinking. The girl is resolute
to Live Her Own Life, a phrase you may have heard before, and the
man has a pretty perverted ambition to be a cynical artistic
person of the very calmest description. He is hoping for the
awakening of Passion in her, among other things. He knows Passion
ought to awaken, from the text-books he has studied. He knows she
admires his genius, but he is unaware that she does not admire
his head. He is quite a distinguished art critic in London, and
he met her at that celebrated lady novelist's, her stepmother,
and here you have them well embarked upon the Adventure. Both are
in the first stage of repentance, which consists, as you have
probably found for yourself, in setting your teeth hard and
saying' "I WILL go on."

Things, you see, have jarred a little, and they ride on their way
together with a certain aloofness of manner that promises ill for
the orthodox development of the Adventure. He perceives he was
too precipitate. But he feels his honour is involved, and
meditates the development of a new attack. And the girl? She is
unawakened. Her motives are bookish, written by a haphazard
syndicate of authors, novelists, and biographers, on her white
inexperience. An artificial oversoul she is, that may presently
break down and reveal a human being beneath it. She is still in
that schoolgirl phase when a talkative old man is more
interesting than a tongue-tied young one, and when to be an
eminent mathematician, say, or to edit a daily paper, seems as
fine an ambition as any girl need aspire to. Bechaniel was to
have helped her to attain that in the most expeditious manner,
and here he is beside her, talking enigmatical phrases about
passion, looking at her with the oddest expression, and once, and
that was his gravest offence, offering to kiss her. At any rate
he has apologised. She still scarcely realises, you see, the
scrape she has got into.



THE ENCOUNTER AT MIDHURST

XVII

We left Mr. Hoopdriver at the door of the little tea, toy, and
tobacco shop. You must not think that a strain is put on
coincidence when I tell you that next door to Mrs. Wardor's--that
was the name of the bright-eyed, little old lady with whom Mr.
Hoopdriver had stopped--is the Angel Hotel, and in the Angel
Hotel, on the night that Mr. Hoopdriver reached Midhurst, were
'Mr.' and 'Miss' Beaumont, our Bechamel and Jessie Milton.
Indeed, it was a highly probable thing; for if one goes through
Guildford, the choice of southward roads is limited; you may go
by Petersfield to Portsmouth, or by Midhurst to Chichester, in
addition to which highways there is nothing for it but minor
roadways to Petworth or Pulborough, and cross-cuts Brightonward.
And coming to Midhurst from the north, the Angel's entrance lies
yawning to engulf your highly respectable cyclists, while Mrs.
Wardor's genial teapot is equally attractive to those who weigh
their means in little scales. But to people unfamiliar with the
Sussex roads--and such were the three persons of this story--the
convergence did not appear to be so inevitable.

Bechamel, tightening his chain in the Angel yard after dinner,
was the first to be aware of their reunion. He saw Hoopdriver
walk slowly across the gateway, his head enhaloed in cigarette
smoke, and pass out of sight up the street. Incontinently a mass
of cloudy uneasiness, that had been partly dispelled during the
day, reappeared and concentrated rapidly into definite suspicion.
He put his screw hammer into his pocket and walked through the
archway into the street, to settle the business forthwith, for he
prided himself on his decision. Hoopdriver was merely
promenading, and they met face to face.

At the sight of his adversary, something between disgust and
laughter seized Mr. Hoopdriver and for a moment destroyed his
animosity. "'Ere we are again!" he said, laughing insincerely in
a sudden outbreak at the perversity of chance.

The other man in brown stopped short in Mr. Hoopdriver's way,
staring. Then his face assumed an expression of dangerous
civility. "Is it any information to you," he said, with immense
politeness, "when I remark that you are following us?"

Mr. Hoopdriver, for some occult reason, resisted his
characteristic impulse to apologise. He wanted to annoy.the other
man in brown, and a sentence that had come into his head in a
previous rehearsal cropped up appropriately. "Since when," said
Mr. Hoopdriver, catching his breath, yet bringing the question
out valiantly, nevertheless,--"since when 'ave you purchased the
county of Sussex?"

"May I point out," said the other man in brown, "that I object--
we object not only to your proximity to us. To be frank--you
appear to be following us--with an object."

"You can always," said Mr. Hoopdriver, "turn round if you don't
like it, and go back the way you came."

"Oh-o!" said the other man in brown. "THAT'S it! I thought as
much."

"Did you?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, quite at sea, but rising pluckily
to the unknown occasion. What was the man driving at?

"I see," said the other man. "I see. I half suspected--" His
manner changed abruptly to a quality suspiciously friendly. "Yes-
-a word with you. You will, I hope, give me ten minutes."

Wonderful things were dawning on Mr. Hoopdriver. What did the
other man take him for? Here at last was reality! He hesitated.
Then he thought of an admirable phrase. "You 'ave some
communication--"

"We'll call it a communication," said the other man.

"I can spare you the ten minutes," said Mr. Hoopdriver, with
dignity.

"This way, then," said the other man in brown, and they walked
slowly down the North Street towards the Grammar School. There
was, perhaps, thirty seconds' silence. The other man stroked his
moustache nervously. Mr. Hoopdriver's dramatic instincts were now
fully awake. He did not quite understand in what role he was
cast, but it was evidently something dark and mysterious. Doctor
Conan Doyle, Victor Hugo, and Alexander Dumas were well within
Mr. Hoopdriver's range of reading, and he had not read them for
nothing.

"I will be perfectly frank with you," said the other man in
brown.

"Frankness is always the best course," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"Well, then--who the devil set you on this business?"

"Set me ON this business?"

"Don't pretend to be stupid. Who's your employer? Who engaged you
for this job?"

"Well," said Mr. Hoopdriver, confused. "No--I can't say."

"Quite sure?" The other man in brown glanced meaningly down at
his hand, and Mr. Hoopdriver, following him mechanically, saw a
yellow milled edge glittering in the twilight. Now your shop
assistant is just above the tip-receiving class, and only just
above it--so that he is acutely sensitive on the point.

Mr. Hoopdriver flushed hotly, and his eyes were angry as he met
those of the other man in brown. "Stow it!" said Mr. Hoopdriver,
stopping and facing the tempter.

"What!" said the other man in brown, surprised. "Eigh?" And so
saying he stowed it in his breeches pocket.

"D'yer think I'm to be bribed?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, whose
imagination was rapidly expanding the situation. "By Gosh! I'd
follow you now--"

"My dear sir," said the other man in brown, "I beg your pardon. I
misunderstood you. I really beg your pardon. Let us walk on. In
your profession--"

"What have you got to say against my profession?"

"Well, really, you know. There are detectives of an inferior
description--watchers. The whole class. Private Inquiry--I did
not realise--I really trust you will overlook what was, after
all--you must admit--a natural indiscretion. Men of honour are
not so common in the world--in any profession."

It was lucky for Mr. Hoopdriver that in Midhurst they do not
light the lamps in the summer time, or the one they were passing
had betrayed him. As it was, he had to snatch suddenly at his
moustache and tug fiercely at it, to conceal the furious tumult
of exultation, the passion of laughter, that came boiling up.
Detective! Even in the shadow Bechamel saw that a laugh was
stifled, but he put it down to the fact that the phrase "men of
honour" amused his interlocutor. "He'll come round yet," said
Bechamel to himself. "He's simply holding out for a fiver." He
coughed.

"I don't see that it hurts you to tell me who your employer is."

"Don't you? I do."

"Prompt," said Bechamel, appreciatively. "Now here's the thing I
want to put to you--the kernel of the whole business. You need
not answer if you don't want to. There's no harm done in my
telling you what I want to know. Are you employed to watch me--or
Miss Milton?"

"I'm not the leaky sort," said Mr. Hoopdriver, keeping the secret
he did not know with immense enjoyment. Miss Milton! That was her
name. Perhaps he'd tell some more. "It's no good pumping. Is that
all you're after?" said Mr. Hoopdriver.

Bechamel respected himself for his diplomatic gifts. He tried to
catch a remark by throwing out a confidence. "I take it there are
two people concerned in watching this affair."

"Who's the other?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, calmly, but controlling
with enormous internal tension his selfappreciation. "Who's the
other?" was really brilliant, he thought.

"There's my wife and HER stepmother."

"And you want to know which it is?"

"Yes," said Bechamel.

"Well--arst 'em!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, his exultation getting the
better of him, and with a pretty consciousness of repartee. "Arst
'em both."

Bechamel turned impatiently. Then he made a last effort. "I'd
give a five-pound note to know just the precise state of
affairs," he said.

"I told you to stow that," said Mr. Hoopdriver, in a threatening
tone. And added with perfect truth and a magnificent mystery,
"You don't quite understand who you're dealing with. But you
will!" He spoke with such conviction that he half believed that
that defective office of his in London--Baker Street, in fact--
really existed.

With that the interview terminated. Bechamel went back to the
Angel, perturbed. "Hang detectives!" It wasn't the kind of thing
he had anticipated at all. Hoopdriver, with round eyes and a
wondering smile, walked down to where the mill waters glittered
in the moonlight, and after meditating over the parapet of the
bridge for a space, with occasional murmurs of, "Private Inquiry"
and the like, returned, with mystery even in his paces, towards
the town.



XVIII

That glee which finds expression in raised eyebrows and long, low
whistling noises was upon Mr. Hoopdriver. For a space he forgot
the tears of the Young Lady in Grey. Here was a new game!--and a
real one. Mr. Hoopdriver as a Private Inquiry Agent, a Sherlock
Holmes in fact, keeping these two people 'under observation.' He
walked slowly back from the bridge until he was opposite the
Angel, and stood for ten minutes, perhaps, contemplating that
establishment and enjoying all the strange sensations of being
this wonderful, this mysterious and terrible thing. Everything
fell into place in his scheme. He had, of course, by a kind of
instinct, assumed the disguise of a cyclist, picked up the first
old crock he came across as a means of pursuit. 'No expense was
to be spared.'

Then he tried to understand what it was in particular that he was
observing. "My wife"--"HER stepmother!" Then he remembered her
swimming eyes. Abruptly came a wave of anger that surprised him,
washed away the detective superstructure, and left him plain Mr.
Hoopdriver. This man in brown, with his confident manner, and his
proffered half sovereign (damn him!) was up to no good, else why
should he object to being watched? He was married! She was not
his sister. He began to understand. A horrible suspicion of the
state of affairs came into Mr. Hoopdriver's head. Surely it had
not come to THAT. He was a detective!--he would find out. How was
it to be done? He began to submit sketches on approval to
himself. It required an effort before he could walk into the
Angel bar. "A lemonade and bitter, please," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

He cleared his throat. "Are Mr. and Mrs. Bowlong stopping here?"

"What, a gentleman and a young lady--on bicycles?"

"Fairly young--a married couple."

"No," said the barmaid, a talkative person of ample dimensions.
"There's no married couples stopping here. But there's a Mr. and
Miss BEAUMONT." She spelt it for precision. "Sure you've got the
name right, young man?"

"Quite," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"Beaumont there is, but no one of the name of-- What was the name
you gave?"

"Bowlong," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"No, there ain't no Bowlong," said the barmaid, taking up a
glasscloth and a drying tumbler and beginning to polish the
latter. "First off, I thought you might be asking for Beaumont--
the names being similar. Were you expecting them on bicycles?"

"Yes--they said they MIGHT be in Midhurst tonight."

"P'raps they'll come presently. Beaumont's here, but no Bowlong.
Sure that Beaumont ain't the name?"

"Certain," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"It's curious the names being so alike. I thought p'raps--"

And so they conversed at some length, Mr. Hoopdriver delighted to
find his horrible suspicion disposed of. The barmaid having
listened awhile at the staircase volunteered some particulars of
the young couple upstairs. Her modesty was much impressed by the
young lady's costume, so she intimated, and Mr. Hoopdriver
whispered the badinage natural to the occasion, at which she was
coquettishly shocked. "There'll be no knowing which is which, in
a year or two," said the barmaid. "And her manner too! She got
off her machine and give it 'im to stick up against the kerb, and
in she marched. 'I and my brother,' says she, 'want to stop here
to-night. My brother doesn't mind what kind of room 'e 'as, but I
want a room with a good view, if there's one to be got,' says
she. He comes hurrying in after and looks at her. 'I've settled
the rooms,' she says, and 'e says 'damn!' just like that. I can
fancy my brother letting me boss the show like that."

"I dessay you do," said Mr. Hoopdriver, "if the truth was known."

The barmaid looked down, smiled and shook her head, put down the
tumbler, polished, and took up another that had been draining,
and shook the drops of water into her little zinc sink.

"She'll be a nice little lot to marry," said the barmaid. "She'll
be wearing the--well, b-dashes, as the sayin' is. I can't think
what girls is comin' to."

This depreciation of the Young Lady in Grey was hardly to
Hoopdriver's taste.

"Fashion," said he, taking up his change. "Fashion is all the go
with you ladies--and always was. You'll be wearing 'em yourself
before a couple of years is out."

"Nice they'd look on my figger," said the barmaid, with a titter.
"No--I ain't one of your fashionable sort. Gracious no! I
shouldn't feel as if I'd anything on me, not more than if I'd
forgot-- Well, there! I'm talking." She put down the glass
abruptly. "I dessay I'm old fashioned," she said, and walked
humming down the bar.

"Not you," said Mr. Hoopdriver. He waited until he caught her
eye, then with his native courtesy smiled, raised his cap, and
wished her good evening.



XIX

Then Mr. Hoopdriver returned to the little room with the
lead-framed windows where he had dined, and where the bed was now
comfortably made, sat down on the box under the window, stared at
the moon rising on the shining vicarage roof, and tried to
collect his thoughts. How they whirled at first! It was past ten,
and most of Midhurst was tucked away in bed, some one up the
street was learning the violin, at rare intervals a belated
inhabitant hurried home and woke the echoes, and a corncrake kept
up a busy churning in the vicarage garden. The sky was deep blue,
with a still luminous afterglow along the hlack edge of the hill,
and the white moon overhead, save for a couple of yellow stars,
had the sky to herself.

At first his thoughts were kinetic, of deeds and not
relationships. There was this malefactor, and his victim, and it
had fallen on Mr. Hoopdriver to take a hand in the game. HE was
married. Did she know he was married? Never for a moment did a
thought of evil concerning her cross Hoopdriver's mind. Simple-
minded people see questions of morals so much better than
superior persons--who have read and thought themselves complex to
impotence. He had heard her voice, seen the frank light in her
eyes, and she had been weeping--that sufficed. The rights of the
case he hadn't properly grasped. But he would. And that smirking-
-well, swine was the mildest for him. He recalled the exceedingly
unpleasant incident of the railway bridge. "Thin we won't detain
yer, thenks," said Mr. Hoopdriver, aloud, in a strange,
unnatural, contemptible voice, supposed to represent that of
Bechamel. "Oh, the BEGGAR! I'll be level with him yet. He's
afraid of us detectives--that I'll SWEAR." (If Mrs. Wardor should
chance to be on the other side of the door within earshot, well
and good.)

For a space he meditated chastisements and revenges, physical
impossibilities for the most part,--Bechamel staggering headlong
from the impact of Mr. Hoopdriver's large, but, to tell the
truth, ill supported fist, Bechamel's five feet nine of height
lifted from the ground and quivering under a vigorously applied
horsewhip. So pleasant was such dreaming, that Mr. Hoopdriver's
peaked face under the moonlight was transfigured. One might have
paired him with that well-known and universally admired triumph,
'The Soul's Awakening,' so sweet was his ecstasy. And presently
with his thirst for revenge glutted by six or seven violent
assaults, a duel and two vigorous murders, his mind came round to
the Young Lady in Grey again.

She was a plucky one too. He went over the incident the barmaid
at the Angel had described to him. His thoughts ceased to be a
torrent, smoothed down to a mirror in which she was reflected
with infinite clearness and detail. He'd never met anything like
her before. Fancy that bolster of a barmaid being dressed in that
way! He whuffed a contemptuous laugh. He compared her colour, her
vigour, her voice, with the Young Ladies in Business with whom
his lot had been cast. Even in tears she was beautiful, more
beautiful indeed to him, for it made her seem softer and weaker,
more accessible. And such weeping as he had seen before had been
so much a matter of damp white faces, red noses, and hair coming
out of curl. Your draper's assistant becomes something of a judge
of weeping, because weeping is the custom of all Young Ladies in
Business, when for any reason their services are dispensed with.
She could weep--and (by Gosh!) she could smile. HE knew that, and
reverting to acting abruptly, he smiled confidentially at the
puckered pallor of the moon.

It is difficult to say how long Mr. Hoopdriver's pensiveness
lasted. It seemed a long time before his thoughts of action
returned. Then he remembered he was a 'watcher'; that to-morrow
he must be busy. It would be in character to make notes, and he
pulled out his little note-book. With that in hand he fell
a-thinking again. Would that chap tell her the 'tecks were after
them? If so, would she be as anxious to get away as HE was? He
must be on the alert. If possible he must speak to her. Just a
significant word, "Your friend--trust me!"--It occurred to him
that to-morrow these fugitives might rise early to escape. At
that he thought of the time and found it was half-past eleven.
"Lord!" said he, "I must see that I wake." He yawned and rose.
The blind was up, and he pulled back the little chintz curtains
to let the sunlight strike across to the bed, hung his watch
within good view of his pillow, on a nail that supported a
kettle-holder, and sat down on his bed to undress. He lay awake
for a little while thinking of the wonderful possibilities of the
morrow, and thence he passed gloriously into the wonderland of
dreams.



THE PURSUIT

XX

And now to tell of Mr. Hoopdriver, rising with the sun, vigilant,
active, wonderful, the practicable half of the lead-framed window
stuck open, ears alert, an eye flickering incessantly in the
corner panes, in oblique glances at the Angel front. Mrs. Wardor
wanted him to have his breakfast downstairs in her kitchen, but
that would have meant abandoning the watch, and he held out
strongly. The bicycle, cap-a-pie, occupied, under protest, a
strategic position in the shop. He was expectant by six in the
morning. By nine horrible fears oppressed him that his quest had
escaped him, and he had to reconnoitre the Angel yard in order to
satisfy himself. There he found the ostler (How are the mighty
fallen in these decadent days!) brushing down the bicycles of the
chase, and he returned relieved to Mrs. Wardor's premises. And
about ten they emerged, and rode quietly up the North Street. He
watched them until they turned the corner of the post office, and
then out into the road and up after them in fine style! They went
by the engine-house where the old stocks and the whipping posts
are, and on to the Chichester road, and he followed gallantly. So
this great chase began.

They did not look round, and he kept them just within sight,
getting down if he chanced to draw closely upon them round a
corner. By riding vigorously he kept quite conveniently near
them, for they made but little hurry. He grew hot indeed, and his
knees were a little stiff to begin with, but that was all. There
was little danger of losing them, for a thin chalky dust lay upon
the road, and the track of her tire was milled like a shilling,
and his was a chequered ribbon along the way. So they rode by
Cobden's monument and through the prettiest of villages, until at
last the downs rose steeply ahead. There they stopped awhile at
the only inn in the place, and Mr. Hoopdriver took up a position
which commanded the inn door, and mopped his face and thirsted
and smoked a Red Herring cigarette. They remained in the inn for
some time. A number of chubby innocents returning home from
school, stopped and formed a line in front of him, and watched
him quietly but firmly for the space of ten minutes or so. "Go
away," said he, and they only seemed quietly interested. He asked
them all their names then, and they answered indistinct murmurs.
He gave it up at last and became passive on his gate, and so at
length they tired of him.

The couple under observation occupied the inn so long that Mr.
Hoopdriver at the thought of their possible employment hungered
as well as thirsted. Clearly, they were lunching. It was a
cloudless day, and the sun at the meridian beat down upon the top
of Mr. Hoopdriver's head, a shower bath of sunshine, a huge jet
of hot light. It made his head swim. At last they emerged, and
the other man in brown looked back and saw him. They rode on to
the foot of the down, and dismounting began to push tediously up
that long nearly vertical ascent of blinding white road, Mr.
Hoopdriver hesitated. It might take them twenty minutes to mount
that. Beyond was empty downland perhaps for miles. He decided to
return to the inn and snatch a hasty meal.

At the inn they gave him biscuits and cheese and a misleading
pewter measure of sturdy ale, pleasant under the palate, cool in
the throat, but leaden in the legs, of a hot afternoon. He felt a
man of substance as he emerged in the blinding sunshine, but even
by the foot of the down the sun was insisting again that his
skull was too small for his brains. The hill had gone steeper,
the chalky road blazed like a magnesium light, and his front
wheel began an apparently incurable squeaking. He felt as a man
from Mars would feel if he were suddenly transferred to this
planet, about three times as heavy as he was wont to feel. The
two little black figures had vanished over the forehead of the
hill. "The tracks'll be all right," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

That was a comforting reflection. It not only justified a slow
progress up the hill, but at the crest a sprawl on the turf
beside the road, to contemplate the Weald from the south. In a
matter of two days he had crossed that spacious valley, with its
frozen surge of green hills, its little villages and townships
here and there, its copses and cornfields, its ponds and streams
like jewelery of diamonds and silver glittering in the sun. The
North Downs were hidden, far away beyond the Wealden Heights.
Down below was the little village of Cocking, and half-way up the
hill, a mile perhaps to the right, hung a flock of sheep grazing
together. Overhead an anxious peewit circled against the blue,
and every now and then emitted its feeble cry. Up here the heat
was tempered by a pleasant breeze. Mr. Hoopdriver was possessed
by unreasonable contentment; he lit himself a cigarette and
lounged more comfortably. Surely the Sussex ale is made of the
waters of Lethe, of poppies and pleasant dreams. Drowsiness
coiled insidiously about him.

He awoke with a guilty start, to find himself sprawling prone on
the turf with his cap over one eye. He sat up, rubbed his eyes,
and realised that he had slept. His head was still a trifle
heavy. And the chase? He jumped to his feet and stooped to pick.
up his overturned machine. He whipped out his watch and saw that
it was past two o'clock. "Lord love us, fancy that!--But the
tracks'll be all right," said Mr. Hoopdriver, wheeling his
machine back to the chalky road. "I must scorch till I overtake
them."

He mounted and rode as rapidly as the heat and a lingering
lassitude permitted. Now and then he had to dismount to examine
the surface where the road forked. He enjoyed that rather.
"Trackin'," he said aloud, and decided in the privacy of his own
mind that he had a wonderful instinct for 'spoor.' So he came
past Goodwood station and Lavant, and approached Chichester
towards four o'clock. And then came a terrible thing. In places
the road became hard, in places were the crowded indentations of
a recent flock of sheep, and at last in the throat of the town
cobbles and the stony streets branching east, west, north, and
south, at a stone cross under the shadow of the cathedral the
tracks vanished. "O Cricky!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, dismounting in
dismay and standing agape. "Dropped anything?" said an inhabitant
at the kerb. "Yes," said Mr. Hoopdriver, "I've lost the spoor,"
and walked upon his way, leaving the inhabitant marvelling what
part of a bicycle a spoor might be. Mr. Hoopdriver, abandoning
tracking, began asking people if they had seen a Young Lady in
Grey on a bicycle. Six casual people hadn't, and he began to feel
the inquiry was conspicuous, and desisted. But what was to be
done?

Hoopdriver was hot, tired, and hungry, and full of the first
gnawings of a monstrous remorse. He decided to get himself some
tea and meat, and in the Royal George he meditated over the
business in a melancholy frame enough. They had passed out of his
world--vanished, and all his wonderful dreams of some vague,
crucial interference collapsed like a castle of cards. What a
fool he had been not to stick to them like a leech! He might have
thought! But there!--what WAS the good of that sort of thing now?
He thought of her tears, of her helplessness, of the bearing of
the other man in brown, and his wrath and disappointment surged
higher. "What CAN I do?" said Mr. Hoopdriver aloud, bringing his
fist down beside the teapot.

What would Sherlock Holmes have done? Perhaps, after all, there
might be such things as clues in the world, albeit the age of
miracles was past. But to look for a clue in this intricate
network of cobbled streets, to examine every muddy interstice!
There was a chance by looking about and inquiry at the various
inns. Upon that he began. But of course they might have ridden
straight through and scarcely a soul have marked them. And then
came a positivelybrilliant idea. "'Ow many ways are there out of
Chichester?" said Mr. Hoopdriver. It was really equal to Sherlock
Holmes--that." If they've made tracks, I shall find those tracks.
If not--they're in the town." He was then in East Street, and he
started at once to make the circuit of the place, discovering
incidentally that Chichester is a walled city. In passing, he
made inquiries at the Black Swan, the Crown, and the Red Lion
Hotel. At six o'clock in the evening, he was walking downcast,
intent, as one who had dropped money, along the road towards
Bognor, kicking up the dust with his shoes and fretting with
disappointed pugnacity. A thwarted, crestfallen Hoopdriver it
was, as you may well imagine. And then suddenly there jumped upon
his attention--a broad line ribbed like a shilling, and close
beside it one chequered, that ever and again split into two.
"Found!" said Mr. Hoopdriver and swung round on his heel at once,
and back to the Royal George, helter skelter, for the bicycle
they were minding for him. The ostler thought he was confoundedly
imperious, considering his machine.



AT BOGNOR

XXI

That seductive gentleman, Bechamel, had been working up to a
crisis. He had started upon this elopement in a vein of fine
romance, immensely proud of his wickedness, and really as much in
love as an artificial oversoul can be, with Jessie. But either
she was the profoundest of coquettes or she had not the slightest
element of Passion (with a large P) in her composition. It warred
with all his ideas of himself and the feminine mind to think that
under their flattering circumstances she really could be so
vitally deficient. He found her persistent coolness, her more or
less evident contempt for himself, exasperating in the highest
degree. He put it to himself that she was enough to provoke a
saint, and tried to think that was piquant and enjoyable, but the
blisters on his vanity asserted themselves. The fact is, he was,
under this standing irritation, getting down to the natural man
in himself for once, and the natural man in himself, in spite of
Oxford and the junior Reviewers' Club, was a Palaeolithic
creature of simple tastes and violent methods. "I'll be level
with you yet," ran like a plough through the soil of his
thoughts.

Then there was this infernal detective. Bechamel had told his
wife he was going to Davos to see Carter. To that he had fancied
she was reconciled, but how she would take this exploit was
entirely problematical. She was a woman of peculiar moral views,
and she measured marital infidelity largely by its proximity to
herself. Out of her sight, and more particularly out of the sight
of the other women of her set, vice of the recognised description
was, perhaps, permissible to those contemptible weaklings, men,
but this was Evil on the High Roads. She was bound to make a
fuss, and these fusses invariably took the final form of a
tightness of money for Bechamel. Albeit, and he felt it was
heroic of him to resolve so, it was worth doing if it was to be
done. His imagination worked on a kind of matronly Valkyrie, and
the noise of pursuit and vengeance was in the air. The idyll
still had the front of the stage. That accursed detective, it
seemed, had been thrown off the scent, and that, at any rate,
gave a night's respite. But things must be brought to an issue
forthwith.

By eight o'clock in the evening, in a little dining-room in the
Vicuna Hotel, Bognor, the crisis had come, and Jessie, flushed
and angry in the face and with her heart sinking, faced him again
for her last st,ruggle with him. He had tricked her this time,
effectually, and luck had been on his side. She was booked as
Mrs. Beaumont. Save for her refusal to enter their room, and her
eccentricity of eating with unwashed hands, she had so far kept
up the appearances of things before the waiter. But the dinner
was grim enough. Now in turn she appealed to his better nature
and made extravagant statements of her plans to fool him.

He was white and vicious by this time, and his anger quivered
through his pose of brilliant wickedness.

"I will go to the station," she said. "I will go back--"

"The last train for anywhere leaves at 7.42."

"I will appeal to the police--"

"You don't know them."

"I will tell these hotel people."

"They will turn you out of doors. You're in such a thoroughly
false position now. They don't understand unconventionality, down
here."

She stamped her foot. "If I wander about the streets all night--"
she said.

"You who have never been out alone after dusk? Do you know what
the streets of a charming little holiday resort are like--"

"I don't care," she said. "I can go to the clergyman here."

"He's a charming man. Unmarried. And men are really more alike
than you think. And anyhow--"

"Well?"

"How CAN you explain the last two nights to anyone now? The
mischief is done, Jessie."

"You CUR," she said, and suddenly put her hand to her breast. He
thought she meant to faint, but she stood, with the colour gone
from her face.

"No," he said. "I love you."

"Love!" said she.

"Yes--love."

"There are ways yet," she said, after a pause.

"Not for you. You are too full of life and hope yet for, what is
it?--not the dark arch nor the black flowing river. Don't you
think of it. You'll only shirk it when the moment comes, and turn
it all into comedy."

She turned round abruptly from him and stood looking out across
the parade at the shining sea over which the afterglow of day
fled before the rising moon. He maintained his attitude. The
blinds were still up, for she had told the waiter not to draw
them. There was silence for some moments. 

At last he spoke in as persuasive a voice as he could summon.
"Take it sensibly, Jessie. Why should we, who have so much in
common, quarrel into melodrama? I swear I love you. You are all
that is bright and desirable to me. I am stronger than you,
older; man to your woman. To find YOU too--conventional!"

She looked at him over her shoulder, and he noticed with a twinge
of delight how her little chin came out beneath the curve of her
cheek.

"MAN!" she said. "Man to MY woman! Do MEN lie? Would a MAN use
his five and thirty years' experience to outwit a girl of
seventeen? Man to my woman indeed! That surely is the last
insult!"

"Your repartee is admirable, Jessie. I should say they do,
though--all that and more also when their hearts were set on such
a girl as yourself. For God's sake drop this shrewishness! Why
should you be so--difficult to me? Here am I with MY reputation,
MY career, at your feet. Look here, Jessie--on my honour, I will
marry you--"

"God forbid," she said, so promptly that she never learnt he had
a wife, even then. It occurred to him then for the first time, in
the flash of her retort, that she did not know he was married.

"'Tis only a pre-nuptial settlement," he said, following that
hint. 

He paused.

"You must be sensible. The thing's your own doing. Come out on
the beach now the beach here is splendid, and the moon will soon
be high."

"_I_ WON'T" she said, stamping her foot.

"Well, well--"

"Oh! leave me alone. Let me think--"

"Think," he said, "if you want to. It's your cry always. But you
can't save yourself by thinking, my dear girl. You can't save
yourself in any way now. If saving it is--this parsimony--"

"Oh, go--go."

"Very well. I will go. I will go and smoke a cigar. And think of
you, dear. . . . But do you think I should do all this if I did
not care?"

"Go," she whispered, without glancing round. She continued to
stare out of the window. He stood looking at her for a moment,
with a strange light in his eyes. He made a step towards her. "I
HAVE you,", he said. "You are mine. Netted--caught. But mine." He
would have gone up to her and laid his hand upon her, but he did
not dare to do that yet. "I have you in my hand," he said, "in my
power. Do you hear--POWER!"

She remained impassive. He stared at her for half a minute, and
then, with a superb gesture that was lost upon her, went to the
door. Surely the instinctive abasement of her sex before Strength
was upon his side. He told himself that his battle was won. She
heard the handle move and the catch click as the door closed
behind him. 



XXII

And now without in the twilight behold Mr. Hoopdriver, his cheeks
hot, his eye bright! His brain is in a tumult. The nervous,
obsequious Hoopdriver, to whom I introduced you some days since,
has undergone a wonderful change. Ever since he lost that 'spoor'
in Chichester, he has been tormented by the most horrible visions
of the shameful insults that may be happening. The strangeness of
new surroundings has been working to strip off the habitual
servile from him. Here was moonlight rising over the memory of a
red sunset, dark shadows and glowing orange lamps, beauty
somewhere mysteriously rapt away from him, tangible wrong in a
brown suit and an unpleasant face, flouting him. Mr. Hoopdriver
for the time, was in the world of Romance and Knight-errantry,
divinely forgetful of his social position or hers; forgetting,
too, for the time any of the wretched timidities that had tied
him long since behind the counter in his proper place. He was
angry and adventurous. It was all about him, this vivid drama he
had fallen into, and it was eluding him. He was far too grimly in
earnest to pick up that lost thread and make a play of it now.
The man was living. He did not pose when he alighted at the cof
ee tavern even, nor when he made his hasty meal.

As Bechamel crossed from the Vicuna towards the esplanade,
Hoopdriver, disappointed and exasperated, came hurrying round the
corner from the Temperance Hotel. At the sight of Bechamel, his
heart jumped, and the tension of his angry suspense exploded
into, rather than gave place to, an excited activity of mind.
They were at the Vicuna, and she was there now alone. It was the
occasion he sought. But he would give Chance no chance against
him. He went back round the corner, sat down on the seat, and
watched Bechamel recede into the dimness up the esplanade, before
he got up and walked into the hotel entrance. "A lady cyclist in
grey," he asked for, and followed boldly on the waiter's heels.
The door of the dining-room was opening before he felt a qualm.
And then suddenly he was nearly minded to turn and run for it,
and his features seemed to him to be convulsed.

She turned with a start, and looked at him with something between
terror and hope in her eyes.

"Can I--have a few words--with you, alone?" said Mr. Hoopdriver,
controlling his breath with difficulty. She hesitated, and then
motioned the waiter to withdraw.

Mr. Hoopdriver watched the door shut. He had intended to step out
into the middle of the room, fold his arms and say, "You are in
trouble. I am a Friend. Trust me." Instead of which he stood
panting and then spoke with sudden familiarity, hastily,
guiltily: "Look here. I don't know what the juice is up, but I
think there's something wrong. Excuse my intruding--if it isn't
so. I'll do anything you like to help you out of the scrape--if
you're in one. That's my meaning, I believe. What can I do? I
would do anything to help you."

Her brow puckered, as she watched him make, with infinite
emotion, this remarkable speech. "YOU!" she said. She was
tumultuously weighing possibilities in her mind, and he had
scarcely ceased when she had made her resolve.

She stepped a pace forward. "You are a gentleman," she said.

"Yes," said Mr. Hoopdriver. 

"Can I trust you?"

She did not wait for his assurance. "I must leave this hotel at
once. Come here."

She took his arm and led him to the window.

"You can just see the gate. It is still open. Through that are
our bicycles. Go down, get them out, and I will come down to you.
Dare you?

"Get your bicycle out in the road?"

"Both. Mine alone is no good. At once. Dare you?"

"Which way?"

"Go out by the front door and round. I will follow in one
minute."

"Right!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, and went.

He had to get those bicycles. Had he been told to go out and kill
Bechamel he would have done it. His head was a MaeIstrom now. He
walked out of the hotel, along the front, and into the big,
blackshadowed coach yard. He looked round. There were no bicycles
visible. Then a man emerged from the dark, a short man in a
short, black, shiny jacket. Hoopdriver was caught. He made no
attempt to turn and run for it. "I've been giving your machines a
wipe over, sir," said the man, recognising the suit, and touching
his cap. Hoopdriver's intelligence now was a soaring eagle; he
swooped on the situation at once. "That's right," he said, and
added, before the pause became marked, "Where is mine? I want to
look at the chain."

The man led him into an open shed, and went fumbling for a
lantern. Hoopdriver moved the lady's machine out of his way to
the door, and then laid hands on the man's machine and wheeled it
out of the shed into the yard. The gate stood open and beyond was
the pale road and a clump of trees black in the twilight. He
stooped and examined the chain with trembling fingers. How was it
to be done? Something behind the gate seemed to flutter. The man
must be got rid of anyhow.

"I say," said Hoopdriver, with an inspiration, "can you get me a
screwdriver?"

The man simply walked across the shed, opened and shut a box, and
came up to the kneeling Hoopdriver with a screwdriver in his
hand. Hoopdriver felt himself a lost man. He took the screwdriver
with a tepid "Thanks," and incontinently had another inspiration.

"I say," he said again.

"Well?"

"This is miles too big."

The man lit the lantern, brought it up to Hoopdriver and put it
down on the ground. "Want a smaller screwdriver?" he said.

Hoopdriver had his handkerchief out and sneezed a prompt ATICHEW.
It is the orthodox thing when you wish to avoid recognition. "As
small as you have," he said, out of his pocket handkerchief.

"I ain't got none smaller than that," said the ostler.

"Won't do, really," said Hoopdriver, still wallowing in his
handkerchief.

"I'll see wot they got in the 'ouse, if you like, sir," said the
man. "If you would," said Hoopdriver. And as the man's heavily
nailed boots went clattering down the yard, Hoopdriver stood up,
took a noiseless step to the lady's machine, laid trembling hands
on its handle and saddle, and prepared for a rush.

The scullery door opened momentarily and sent a beam of warm,
yellow light up the road, shut again behind the man, and
forthwith Hoopdriver rushed the machines towards the gate. A dark
grey form came fluttering to meet him. "Give me this," she said,
"and bring yours."

He passed the thing to her, touched her hand in the darkness, ran
back, seized Bechamel's machine, and followed.

The yellow light of the scullery door suddenly flashed upon the
cobbles again. It was too late now to do anything but escape. He
heard the ostler shout behind him, and came into the road. She
was up and dim already. He got into the saddle without a blunder.
In a moment the ostler was in the gateway with a full-throated
"HI! sir! That ain't allowed;" and Hoopdriver was overtaking the
Young Lady in Grey. For some moments the earth seemed alive with
shouts of, "Stop 'em!" and the shadows with ambuscades of police.
The road swept round, and they were riding out of sight of the
hotel, and behind dark hedges, side by side.

She was weeping with excitement as he overtook her. "Brave," she
said, "brave!" and he ceased to feel like a hunted thief. He
looked over his shoulder and about him, and saw that they were
already out of Bognor--for the Vicuna stands at the very
westernmost extremity of the sea front--and riding on a fair wide
road.



XXIII

The ostler (being a fool) rushed violently down the road
vociferating after them. Then he returned panting to the Vicuna
Hotel, and finding a group of men outside the entrance, who
wanted to know what was UP, stopped to give them the cream of the
adventure. That gave the fugitives five minutes. Then pushing
breathlessly into the bar, he had to make it clear to the barmaid
what the matter was, and the 'gov'nor' being out , they spent
some more precious time wondering 'what--EVER' was to be done! in
which the two customers returning from outside joined with
animation. There were also moral remarks and other irrelevant
contributions. There were conflicting ideas of telling the police
and pursuing the flying couple on a horse. That made ten minutes.
Then Stephen, the waiter, who had shown Hoopdriver up, came down
and lit wonderful lights and started quite a fresh discussion by
the simple question "WHICH?" That turned ten minutes into a
quarter of an hour. And in the midst of this discussion, making a
sudden and awestricken silence, appeared Bechamel in the hall
beyond the bar, walked with a resolute air to the foot of the
staircase, and passed out of sight. You conceive the backward
pitch of that exceptionally shaped cranium? Incredulous eyes
stared into one another's in the bar, as his paces, muffled by
the stair carpet, went up to the landing, turned, reached the
passage and walked into the dining-room overhead.

"It wasn't that one at all, miss," said the ostler,"I'd SWEAR"

"Well, that's Mr. Beaumont," said the barmaid, "--anyhow."

Their conversation hung comatose in the air, switched up by
Bechamel. They listened together. His feet stopped. Turned. Went
out of the diningroom. Down the passage to the bedroom. Stopped
again.

"Poor chap!" said the barmaid. "She's a wicked woman!"

"Sssh!" said Stephen.

After a pause Bechamel went back to the dining-room. They heard a
chair creak under him. Interlude of conversational eyebrows.

"I'm going up," said Stephen, "to break the melancholy news to
him."

Bechamel looked up from a week-old newspaper as, without
knocking, Stephen entered. Bechamel's face suggested a different
expectation. "Beg pardon, sir," said Stephen, with a diplomatic
cough.

"Well?" said Bechamel, wondering suddenly if Jessie had kept some
of her threats. If so, he was in for an explanation. But he had
it ready. She was a monomaniac. "Leave me alone with her," he
would say; "I know how to calm her."

"Mrs. Beaumont," said Stephen.

"WELL?"

"Has gone."

He rose with a fine surprise. "Gone!" he said with a half laugh.

"Gone, sir. On her bicycle."

"On her bicycle! Why?"

"She went, sir, with Another Gentleman."

This time Bechamel was really startled. "An--other Gentlemen!
WHO?"

"Another gentleman in brown, sir. Went into the yard, sir, got
out the two bicycles, sir, and went off, sir--about twenty
minutes ago."

Bechamel stood with his eyes round and his knuckle on his hips.
Stephen, watching him with immense enjoyment, speculated whether
this abandoned husband would weep or curse, or rush off at once
in furious pursuit. But as yet he seemed merely stunned.

"Brown clothes?" he said. "And fairish?"

"A little like yourself, sir--in the dark. The ostler, sir, Jim
Duke--"

Bechamel laughed awry. Then, with infinite fervour, he said--But
let us put in blank cartridge--he said, "--- ---!"

"I might have thought!"

He flung himself into the armchair.

"Damn her," said Bechamel, for all the world like a common man.
"I'll chuck this infernal business! They've gone, eigh?" 

"Yessir."

Well, let 'em GO," said Bechamel, making a memorable saying. "Let
'em GO. Who cares? And I wish him luck. And bring me some Bourbon
as fast as you can, there's a good chap. I'll take that, and then
I'll have another look round Bognor before I turn in."

Stephen was too surprised to say anything but "Bourbon, sir?"

"Go on," said Bechamel. "Damn you!"

Stephen's sympathies changed at once. "Yessir," he murmured,
fumbling for the door handle, and left the room, marvelling.
Bechamel, having in this way satisfied his sense of appearances,
and comported himself as a Pagan should, so soon as the waiter's
footsteps had passed, vented the cream of his feelings in a
stream of blasphemous indecency. Whether his wife or HER
stepmother had sent the detective, SHE had evidently gone off
with him, and that little business was over. And he was here,
stranded and sold, an ass, and as it were, the son of many
generations of asses. And his only ray of hope was that it seemed
more probable, after all, that the girl had escaped through her
stepmother. In which case the business might be hushed up yet,
and the evil hour of explanation with his wife indefinitely
postponed. Then abruptly the image of that lithe figure in grey
knickerbockers went frisking across his mind again, and he
reverted to his blasphemies. He started up in a gusty frenzy with
a vague idea of pursuit, and incontinently sat down again with a
concussion that stirred the bar below to its depths. He banged
the arms of the chair with his fist, and swore again. "Of all the
accursed fools that were ever spawned," he was chanting, "I,
Bechamel--" when with an abrupt tap and prompt opening of the
door, Stephen entered with the Bourbon.



THE MOONLIGHT RIDE

XXIV

And so the twenty minutes' law passed into an infinity. We leave
the wicked Bechamel clothing himself with cursing as with a
garment,--the wretched creature has already sufficiently sullied
our modest but truthful pages,--we leave the eager little group
in the bar of the Vicuna Hotel, we leave all Bognor as we have
left all Chichester and Midhurst and Haslemere and Guildford and
Ripley and Putney, and follow this dear fool of a Hoopdriver of
ours and his Young Lady in Grey out upon the moonlight road. How
they rode! How their hearts beat together and their breath came
fast, and how every shadow was anticipation and every noise
pursuit! For all that flight Mr. Hoopdriver was in the world of
Romance. Had a policeman intervened because their lamps were not
lit, Hoopdriver had cut him down and ridden on, after the fashion
of a hero born. Had Bechamel arisen in the way with rapiers for a
duel, Hoopdriver had fought as one to whom Agincourt was a
reality and drapery a dream. It was Rescue, Elopement, Glory! And
she by the side of him! He had seen her face in shadow, with the
morning sunlight tangled in her hair, he had seen her sympathetic
with that warm light in her face, he had seen her troubled and
her eyes bright with tears. But what light is there lighting a
face like hers, to compare with the soft glamour of the midsummer
moon?

The road turned northward, going round through the outskirts of
Bognor, in one place dark and heavy under a thick growth of
trees, then amidst villas again, some warm and lamplit, some
white and sleeping in the moonlight; then between hedges, over
which they saw broad wan meadows shrouded in a low-lying mist.
They scarcely heeded whither they rode at first, being only
anxious to get away, turning once westward when the spire of
Chichester cathedral rose suddenly near them out of the dewy
night, pale and intricate and high. They rode, speaking little,
just a rare word now and then, at a turning, at a footfall, at a
roughness in the road.

She seemed to be too intent upon escape to give much thought to
him, but after the first tumult of the adventure, as flight
passed into mere steady ridin@@ his mind became an enormous
appreciation of the position. The night was a warm white silence
save for the subtile running of their chains. He looked sideways
at her as she sat beside him with her ankles gracefully ruling
the treadles. Now the road turned westward, and she was a dark
grey outline against the shimmer of the moon; and now they faced
northwards, and the soft cold light passed caressingly over her
hair and touched her brow and cheek.

There is a magic quality in moonshine; it touches all that is
sweet and beautiful, and the rest of the night is hidden. It has
created the fairies, whom the sunlight kills, and fairyland rises
again in our hearts at the sight of it, the voices of the filmy
route, and their faint, soul-piercing melodies. By the moonlight
every man, dull clod though he be by day, tastes something of
Endymion, takes something of the youth and strength of Enidymion,
and sees the dear white goddess shining at him from his Lady's
eyes. The firm substantial daylight things become ghostly and
elusive, the hills beyond are a sea of unsubstantial texture, the
world a visible spirit, the spiritual within us rises out of its
darkness, loses something of its weight and body, and swims up
towards heaven. This road that was a mere rutted white dust, hot
underfoot, blinding to the eye, is now a soft grey silence, with
the glitter of a crystal grain set starlike in its silver here
and there. Overhead, riding serenely through the spacious blue,
is the mother of the silence, she who has spiritualised the
world, alone save for two attendant steady shining stars. And in
silence under her benign influence, under the benediction of her
light, rode our two wanderers side by side through the
transfigured and transfiguring night.

Nowhere was the moon shining quite so brightly as in Mr.
Hoopdriver's skull. At the turnings of the road he made his
decisions with an air of profound promptitude (and quite
haphazard). "The Right," he would say. Or again "The Left," as
one who knew. So it was that in the space of an hour they came
abruptly down a little lane, full tilt upon the sea. Grey beach
to the right of them and to the left, and a little white cottage
fast asleep inland of a sleeping fishing-boat. "Hullo!" said Mr.
Hoopdriver, sotto voce. They dismounted abruptly. Stunted oaks
and thorns rose out of the haze of moonlight that was tangled in
the hedge on either side.

"You are safe," said Mr. Hoopdriver, sweeping off his cap with an
air and bowing courtly.

"Where are we?"

"SAFE."

"But WHERE?"

"Chichester Harbour." He waved his arm seaward as though it was a
goal.

"Do you think they will follow us?"

"We have turned and turned again."

It seemed to Hoopdriver that he heard her sob. She stood dimly
there, holding her machine, and he, holding his, could go no
nearer to her to see if she sobbed for weeping or for want of
breath. "What are we to do now?" her voice asked.

"Are you tired?" he asked.

"I will do what has to be done."

The two black figures in the broken light were silent for a
space. "Do you know," she said, "I am not afraid of you. I am
sure you are honest to me. And I do not even know your name!"

He was taken with a sudden shame of his homely patronymic. "It's
an ugly name," he said. "But you are right in trusting me. I
would--I would do anything for you. . . . This is nothing."

She caught at her breath. She did not care to ask why. But
compared with Bechamel!--"We take each other on trust," she said.
"Do you want to know--how things are with me?"

"That man," she went on, after the assent of his listening
silence, "promised to help and protect me. I was unhappy at
home--never mind why. A stepmother--Idle, unoccupied, hindered,
cramped, that is enough, perhaps. Then he came into my life, and
talked to me of art and literature, and set my brain on fire. I
wanted to come out into the world, to be a human being--not a
thing in a hutch. And he--" 

"I know," said Hoopdriver.

"And now here I am--"

"I will do anything," said Hoopdriver.

She thought. "You cannot imagine my stepmother. No! I could not
describe her--"

"I am entirely at your service. I will help you with all my
power."

"I have lost an Illusion and found a Knight-errant." She spoke of
Bechamel as the Illusion.

Mr. Hoopdriver felt flattered. But he had no adequate answer.

"I'm thinking," he said, full of a rapture of protective
responsibility, " what we had best be doing. You are tired, you
know. And we can't wander all night--after the day we've had."

"That was Chichester we were near?" she asked.

"If," he meditated, with a tremble in his voice, "you would make
ME your brother, MISS BEAUMONT."

"Yes?"

"We could stop there together--"

She took a minute to answer. "I am going to light these lamps,"
said Hoopdriver. He bent down to his own, and struck a match on
his shoe. She looked at his face in its light, grave and intent.
How could she ever have thought him common or absurd?

"But you must tell me your name--brother," she said, 

"Er--Carrington," said Mr. Hoopdriver, after a momentary pause.
Who would be Hoopdriver on a night like this?

"But the Christian name?"

"Christian name? MY Christian name. Well--Chris." He snapped his
lamp and stood up. "If you will hold my machine, I will light
yours," he said.

She came round obediently and took his machine, and for a moment
they stood face to face. "My name, brother Chris," she said, "is
Jessie."

He looked into her eyes, and his excitement seemed arrested.
"JESSIE," he repeated slowly. The mute emotion of his face
affected her strangely. She had to speak. "It's not such a very
wonderful name, is it?" she said, with a laugh to break the
intensity.

He opened his mouth and shut it again, and, with a sudden wincing
of his features, abruptly turned and bent down to open the
lantern in front of her machine. She looked down at him, almost
kneeling in front of her, with an unreasonable approbation in her
eyes. It was, as I have indicated, the hour and season of the
full moon.



XXV

Mr. Hoopdriver conducted the rest of that night's journey with
the same confident dignity as before, and it was chiefly by good
luck and the fact that most roads about a town converge
thereupon, that Chichester was at last attained. It seemed at
first as though everyone had gone to bed, but the Red Hotel still
glowed yellow and warm. It was the first time Hoopdriver bad
dared the mysteries of a 'first-class' hotel.' But that night he
was in the mood to dare anything.

"So you found your Young Lady at last," said the ostler of the
Red Hotel; for it chanced he was one of those of whom Hoopdriver
had made inquiries in the afternoon.

"Quite a misunderstanding," said Hoopdriver, with splendid
readiness. "My sister had gone to Bognor But I brought her back
here. I've took a fancy to this place. And the moonlight's simply
dee-vine."

"We've had supper, thenks, and we're tired," said Mr. Hoopdriver.
"I suppose you won't take anything,--Jessie?" 

The glory of having her, even as a sister! and to call her Jessie
like that! But he carried it off splendidly, as he felt himself
bound to admit. "Good-night, Sis," he said, "and pleasant dreams.
I'll just 'ave a look at this paper before I turn in." But this
was living indeed! he told himself.

So gallantly did Mr. Hoopdriver comport himself up to the very
edge of the Most Wonderful Day of all. It had begun early, you
will remember, with a vigil in a little sweetstuff shop next door
to the Angel at Midhurst. But to think of all the things that had
happened since then! He caught himself in the middle of a yawn,
pulled out his watch, saw the time was halfpast eleven, and
marched off, with a fine sense of heroism, bedward.



THE SURBITON INTERLUDE

XXVI

And here, thanks to the glorious institution of sleep, comes a
break in the narrative again. These absurd young people are
safely tucked away now, their heads full of glowing nonsense,
indeed, but the course of events at any rate is safe from any
fresh developments through their activities for the next eight
hours or more. They are both sleeping healthily you will perhaps
be astonished to hear. Here is the girl--what girls are coming to
nowadays only Mrs. Lynn Linton can tell!--in company with an
absolute stranger, of low extraction and uncertain accent,
unchaperoned and unabashed; indeed, now she fancies she is safe,
she is, if anything, a little proud of her own share in these
transactions. Then this Mr. Hoopdriver of yours, roseate idiot
that he is! is in illegal possession of a stolen bicycle, a
stolen young lady, and two stolen names, established with them in
an hotel that is quite beyond his means, and immensely proud of
himself in a somnolent way for these incomparable follies. There
are occasions when a moralising novelist can merely wring his
hands and leave matters to take their course. For all Hoopdriver
knows or cares he may be locked up the very first thing to-morrow
morning for the rape of the cycle. Then in Bognor, let alone that
melancholy vestige, Bechamel (with whom our dealings are, thank
Goodness! over), there is a Coffee Tavern with a steak Mr.
Hoopdriver ordered, done to a cinder long ago, his American-cloth
parcel in a bedroom, and his own proper bicycle, by way of
guarantee, carefully locked up in the hayloft. To-morrow he will
be a Mystery, and they will be looking for his body along the sea
front. And so far we have never given a glance at the desolate
home in Surbiton, familiar to you no doubt through the medium of
illustrated interviews, where the unhappy stepmother--

That stepmother, it must be explained, is quite well known to
you. That is a little surprise I have prepared for you. She is
'Thomas Plantagenet,' the gifted authoress of that witty and
daring book, "A Soul Untrammelled," and quite an excellent woman
in her way,--only it is such a crooked way. Her real name is
Milton. She is a widow and a charming one, only ten years older
than Jessie, and she is always careful to dedicate her more
daring works to the 'sacred memory of my husband' to show that
there's nothing personal, you know, in the matter. Considering
her literary reputation (she was always speaking of herself as
one I martyred for truth,' because the critics advertised her
written indecorums in column long 'slates'),--considering her
literary reputation, I say, she was one of the most respectable
women it is possible to imagine. She furnished correctly, dressed
correctly, had severe notions of whom she might meet, went to
church, and even at times took the sacrament in some esoteric
spirit. And Jessie she brought up so carefully that she never
even let her read "A Soul Untrammelled." Which, therefore,
naturally enough, Jessie did, and went on from that to a feast of
advanced literature. Mrs. Milton not only brought up Jessie
carefully, but very slowly, so that at seventeen she was still a
clever schoolgirl (as you have seen her) and quite in the
background of the little literary circle of unimportant
celebrities which 'Thomas Plantagenet' adorned. Mrs. Milton knew
Bechamel's reputation of being a dangerous man; but then bad men
are not bad women, and she let him come to her house to show she
was not afraid--she took no account of Jessie. When the elopement
came, therefore, it was a double disappointment to her, for she
perceived his hand by a kind of instinct. She did the correct
thing. The correct thing, as you know, is to take hansom cabs,
regardless of expense, and weep and say you do not know WHAT to
do, round the circle of your confidential friends. She could not
have ridden nor wept more had Jessie been her own daughter--she
showed the properest spirit. And she not only showed it, but felt
it.

Mrs. Milton, as a successful little authoress and still more
successful widow of thirty-two,--"Thomas Plantagenet is a
charming woman," her reviewers used to write invariably, even if
they spoke ill of her,--found the steady growth of Jessie into
womanhood an unmitigated nuisance and had been willing enough to
keep her in the background. And Jessie--who had started this
intercourse at fourteen with abstract objections to
stepmothers--had been active enough in resenting this. Increasing
rivalry and antagonism had sprung up between them, until they
could engender quite a vivid hatred from a dropped hairpin or the
cutting of a book with a sharpened knife. There is very little
deliberate wickedness in the world. The stupidity of our
selfishness gives much the same results indeed, but in the
ethical laboratory it shows a different nature. And when the
disaster came, Mrs. Milton's remorse for their gradual loss of
sympathy and her share in the losing of it, was genuine enough.

You may imagine the comfort she got from her friends, and how
West Kensington and Notting Hill and Hampstead, the literary
suburbs, those decent penitentiaries of a once Bohemian calling,
hummed with the business, Her 'Men'--as a charming literary lady
she had, of course, an organised corps--were immensely excited,
and were sympathetic; helpfully energetic, suggestive, alert, as
their ideals of their various dispositions required them to be.
"Any news of Jessie?" was the pathetic opening of a dozen
melancholy but interesting conversations. To her Men she was not
perhaps so damp as she was to her women friends, but in a quiet
way she was even more touching. For three days, Wednesday that
is, Thursday, and Friday, nothing was heard of the fugitives. It
was known that Jessie, wearing a patent costume with buttonup
skirts, and mounted on a diamond frame safety with Dunlops, and a
loofah covered saddle, had ridden forth early in the morning,
taking with her about two pounds seven shillings in money, and a
grey touring case packed, and there, save for a brief note to her
stepmother,--a declaration of independence, it was said, an
assertion of her Ego containing extensive and very annoying
quotations from "A Soul Untrammelled," and giving no definite
intimation of her plans--knowledge ceased. That note was shown to
few, and then only in the strictest confidence.

But on Friday evening late came a breathless Man Friend, Widgery,
a correspondent of hers, who had heard of her trouble among the
first. He had been touring in Sussex,--his knapsack was still on
his back,--and he testified hurriedly that at a place called
Midhurst, in the bar of an hotel called the Angel, he had heard
from a barmaid a vivid account of a Young Lady in Grey.
Descriptions tallied. But who was the man in brown?"The poor,
misguided girl! I must go to her at once," she said, choking, and
rising with her hand to her heart.

"It's impossible to-night. There are no more trains. I looked on
my way."

"A mother's love," she said. "I bear her THAT."

"I know you do." He spoke with feeling, for no one admired his
photographs of scenery more than Mrs. Milton. "it's more than she
deserves."

"Oh, don't speak unkindly of her! She has been misled."

It was really very friendly of him. He declared he was only sorry
his news ended there. Should he follow them, and bring her back?
He had come to her because he knew of her anxiety. "It is GOOD of
you," she said, and quite instinctively took and pressed his
hand. "And to think of that poor girl--tonight! It's dreadful."
She looked into the fire that she had lit when he came in, the
warm light fell upon her dark purple dress, and left her features
in a warm shadow. She looked such a slight, frail thing to be
troubled so. "We must follow her." Her resolution seemed
magnificent. "I have no one to go with me."

"He must marry her," said the man.

"She has no friends. We have no one. After all--Two women.--So
helpless."

And this fair-haired little figure was the woman that people who
knew her only from her books, called bold, prurient even! Simply
because she was great-hearted--intellectual. He was overcome by
the unspeakable pathos of her position.

"Mrs. Milton," he said. "Hetty!"

She glanced at him. The overflow was imminent. "Not now," she
said, "not now. I must find her first."

"Yes," he said with intense emotion. (He was one of those big,
fat men who feel deeply.) "But let me help you. At least let me
help you."

 "But can you spare time?" she said. "For ME."

 "For you--"

 "But what can I do? what can WE do?"

"Go to Midhurst. Follow her on. Trace her. She was there on
Thursday night, last night. She cycled out of the town. Courage!"
he said. "We will save her yet!"

She put out her hand and pressed his again.

"Courage!" he repeated, finding it so well received.

There were alarms and excursions without. She turned her back to
the fire, and he sat down suddenly in the big armchair, which
suited his dimensions admirably. Then the door opened, and the
girl showed in Dangle, who looked curiously from one to the
other. There was emotion here, he had heard the armchair
creaking, and Mrs. Milton, whose face was flushed, displayed a
suspicious alacrity to explain. "You, too," she said, "are one of
my good friends. And we have news of her at last."

It was decidedly an advantage to Widgery, but Dangle determined
to show himself a man of resource. In the end he, too, was
accepted for the Midhurst Expedition, to the intense disgust of
Widgery; and young Phipps, a callow youth of few words, faultless
collars, and fervent devotion, was also enrolled before the
evening was out. They would scour the country, all three of them.
She appeared to brighten up a little, but it was evident she was
profoundly touched. She did not know what she had done to merit
such friends. Her voice broke a little, she moved towards the
door, and young Phipps, who was a youth of action rather than of
words, sprang and opened it--proud to be first.

"She is sorely troubled," said Dangle to Widgery. "We must do
what we can for her."

"She is a wonderful woman," said Dangle. "So subtle, so
intricate, so many faceted. She feels this deeply."

Young Phipps said nothing, but he felt the more.

And yet they say the age of chivalry is dead!

But this is only an Interlude, introduced to give our wanderers
time to refresh themselves by good, honest sleeping. For the
present, therefore, we will not concern ourselves with the
starting of the Rescue Party, nor with Mrs. Milton's simple but
becoming grey dress, with the healthy Widgery's Norfolk jacket
and thick boots, with the slender Dangle's energetic bearing, nor
with the wonderful chequerings that set off the legs of the
golf-suited Phipps. They are after us. In a little while they
will be upon us. You must imagine as you best can the competitive
raidings at Midhurst of Widgery, Dangle, and Phipps. How Widgery
was great at questions, and Dangle good at inference, and Phipps
so conspicuously inferior in everything that he felt it, and
sulked with Mrs. Milton most of the day, after the manner of your
callow youth the whole world over. Mrs. Milton stopped at the
Angel and was very sad and charming and intelligent, and Widgery
paid the bill. in the afternoon of Saturday, Chichester was
attained. But by that time our fugitives--As you shall
immediately hear. 



THE AWAKENING OF MR. HOOPDRIVER

XXVII

Mr. Hoopdriver stirred on his pillow, opened his eyes, and,
staring unmeaningly, yawned. The bedclothes were soft and
pleasant. He turned the peaked nose that overrides the
insufficient moustache, up to the ceiling, a pinkish projection
over the billow of white. You might see it wrinkle as he yawned
again, and then became quiet. So matters remained for a space.
Very slowly recollection returned to him. Then a shock of
indeterminate brown hair appeared, and first one watery grey eye
a-wondering, and then two ; the bed upheaved, and you had him,
his thin neck projecting abruptly from the clothes he held about
him, his face staring about the room. He held the clothes about
him, I hope I may explain, because his night-shirt was at Bognor
in an American-cloth packet, derelict. He yawned a third time,
rubbed his eyes, smacked his lips. He was recalling almost
everything now. The pursuit, the hotel, the tremulous daring of
his entry, the swift adventure of the inn yard, the
moonlight--Abruptly he threw the clothes back and rose into a
sitting position on the edge of the bed. Without was the noise of
shutters being unfastened and doors unlocked, and the passing of
hoofs and wheels in the street. He looked at his watch. Half-past
six. He surveyed the sumptuous room again.

"Lord!" said Mr. Hoopdriver. "It wasn't a dream, after all."

"I wonder what they charge for these Juiced rooms!" said Mr.
Hoopdriver, nursing one rosy foot.

He became meditative, tugging at his insufficient moustache.
Suddenly he gave vent to a noiseless laugh. "What a rush it was!
Rushed in and off with his girl right under his nose. Planned it
well too. Talk of highway robbery! Talk of brigands Up and off!
How juiced SOLD he must be feeling It was a shave too--in the
coach yard!"

Suddenly he became silent. Abruptly his eyebrows rose and his jaw
fell. "I sa-a-ay!" said Mr. Hoopdriver.

He had never thought of it before. Perhaps you will understand
the whirl he had been in overnight. But one sees things clearer
in the daylight. "I'm hanged if I haven't been and stolen a
blessed bicycle." 

"Who cares?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, presently, and his face
supplied the answer.

Then he thought of the Young Lady in Grey again, and tried to put
a more heroic complexion on the business. But of an early
morning, on an empty stomach (as with characteristic coarseness,
medical men put it) heroics are of a more difficult growth than
by moonlight. Everything had seemed exceptionally fine and
brilliant, but quite natural, the evening before.

Mr. Hoopdriver reached out his hand, took his Norfolk jacket,
laid it over his knees, and took out the money from the little
ticket pocket. " Fourteen and six-half," he said, holding the
coins in his left hand and stroking his chin with his right. He
verified, by patting, the presence of a pocketbook in the breast
pocket. "Five, fourteen, six-half," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Left."

With the Norfolk jacket still on his knees, he plunged into
another silent meditation. "That wouldn't matter," he said. "It's
the bike's the bother.

"No good going back to Bognor.

"Might send it back by carrier, of course. Thanking him for the
loan. Having no further use--" Mr. Hoopdriver chuckled and lapsed
into the silent concoction of a delightfully impudent letter.
"Mr. J. Hoopdriver presents his compliments." But the grave note
reasserted itself.

"Might trundle back there in an hour, of course, and exchange
them. MY old crock's so blessed shabby. He's sure to be spiteful
too. Have me run in, perhaps. Then she'd be in just the same old
fix, only worse. You see, I'm her Knight-errant. It complicates
things so."

His eye, wandering loosely, rested on the sponge bath. "What the
juice do they want with cream pans in a bedroom?" said Mr.
Hoopdriver, en passant.

"Best thing we can do is to set out of here as soon as possible,
anyhow. I suppose she'll go home to her friends. That bicycle is
a juicy nuisance, anyhow. Juicy nuisance!"

He jumped to his feet with a sudden awakening of energy, to
proceed with his toilet. Then with a certain horror he remembered
that the simple necessaries of that process were at
Bognor!"Lord!" he remarked, and whistled silently for a space.
"Rummy go! profit and loss; profit, one sister with bicycle
complete, wot offers?--cheap for tooth and 'air brush, vests,
night-shirt, stockings, and sundries.

"Make the best of it," and presently, when it came to
hair-brushing, he had to smooth his troubled locks with his
hands. It was a poor result. "Sneak out and get a shave, I
suppose, and buy a brush and so on. Chink again! Beard don't show
much."

He ran his hand over his chin, looked at himself steadfastly for
some time, and curled his insufficient moustache up with some
care. Then he fell a-meditating on his beauty. He considered
himself, three-quarter face, left and right. An expression of
distaste crept over his features. "Looking won't alter it,
Hoopdriver," he remarked. "You're a weedy customer, my man.
Shoulders narrow. Skimpy, anyhow."

He put his knuckles on the toilet table and regarded himself with
his chin lifted in the air. "Good Lord!" he said. "WHAT a neck!
Wonder why I got such a thundering lump there."

He sat down on the bed, his eye still on the glass. "If I'd been
exercised properly, if I'd been fed reasonable, if I hadn't been
shoved out of a silly school into a silly shop--But there! the
old folks didn't know no better. The schoolmaster ought to have.
But he didn't, poor old fool!--Still, when it comes to meeting a
girl like this--It's 'ARD.

"I wonder what Adam'd think of me--as a specimen. Civilisation,
eigh? Heir of the ages! I'm nothing. I know nothing. I can't do
anything--sketch a bit. Why wasn't I made an artist? 

"Beastly cheap, after all, this suit does look, in the sunshine."

"No good, Hoopdriver. Anyhow, you don't tell yourself any lies
about it. Lovers ain't your game,--anyway. But there's other
things yet. You can help the young lady, and you will--I suppose
she'll be going home--And that business of the bicycle's to see
to, too, my man. FORWARD, Hoopdriver! If you ain't a beauty,
that's no reason why you should stop and be copped, is it?"

And having got back in this way to a gloomy kind of
self-satisfaction, he had another attempt at his hair preparatory
to leaving his room and hurrying on breakfast, for an early
departure. While breakfast was preparing he wandered out into
South Street and refurnished himself with the elements of luggage
again. "No expense to be spared," he murmured, disgorging the
half-sovereign.



THE DEPARTURE FROM CHICHESTER

XXVIII

He caused his 'sister' to be called repeatedly, and when she came
down, explained with a humorous smile his legal relationship to
the bicycle in the yard. "Might be disagreeable, y' know." His
anxiety was obvious enough. "Very well," she said (quite
friendly); "hurry breakfast, and we'll ride out. I want to talk
things over with you." The girl seemed more beautiful than ever
after the night's sleep; her hair in comely dark waves from her
forehead, her ungauntleted finger-tips pink and cool. And how
decided she was! Breakfast was a nervous ceremony, conversation
fraternal but thin; the waiter overawed him, and he was cowed by
a multiplicity of forks. But she called him "Chris." They
discussed their route over his sixpenny county map for the sake
of talking, but avoided a decision in the presence of the
attendant. The five-pound note was changed for the bill, and
through Hoopdriver's determination to be quite the gentleman, the
waiter and chambermaid got half a crown each and the ostler a
florin. "'Olidays," said the ostler to himself, without
gratitude. The public mounting of the bicycles in the street was
a moment of trepidation. A policeman actually stopped and watched
them from the opposite kerb. Suppose him to come across and ask:
"Is that your bicycle, sir?" Fight? Or drop it and run? It was a
time of bewildering apprehension, too, going through the streets
of the town, so that a milk cart barely escaped destruction under
Mr. Hoopdriver's chancy wheel. That recalled him to a sense of
erratic steering, and he pulled himself together. In the lanes he
breathed freer, and a less formal conversation presently began.

"You've ridden out of Chichester in a great hurry," said Jessie.

"Well, the fact of it is, I'm worried, just a little bit. About
this machine."

"Of course," she said. "I had forgotten that. But where are we
going?"

"Jest a turning or two more, if you don't mind," said Hoopdriver.

"Jest a mile or so. I have to think of you, you know. I should
feel more easy. If we was locked up, you know--Not that I should
mind on my own account--"

They rode with a streaky, grey sea coming and going on their left
hand. Every mile they put between themselves and Chichester Mr.
Hoopdriver felt a little less conscience-stricken, and a little
more of the gallant desperado. Here he was riding on a splendid
machine with a Slap-up girl beside him. What would they think of
it in the Emporium if any of them were to see him? He imagined in
detail the astonishment of Miss Isaacs and of Miss Howe. "Why!
It's Mr. Hoopdriver," Miss Isaacs would say. "Never!"
emphatically from Miss Howe. Then he played with Briggs, and then
tried the 'G.V.' in a shay. "Fancy introducing 'em to her--My
sister pro tem." He was her brother Chris--Chris what?--Confound
it! Harringon, Hartington--something like that. Have to keep off
that topic until he could remember. Wish he'd told her the truth
now--almost. He glanced at her. She was riding with her eyes
straight ahead of her. Thinking. A little perplexed, perhaps, she
seemed. He noticed how well she rode and that she rode with her
lips closed--a thing he could never manage.

Mr. Hoopdriver's mind came round to the future. What was she
going to do? What were they both going to do? His thoughts took a
graver colour. He had rescued her. This was fine, manly rescue
work he was engaged upon. She ought to go home, in spite of that
stepmother. He must insist gravely but firmly upon that. She was
the spirited sort, of course, but still--Wonder if she had any
money? Wonder what the second-class fare from Havant to London
is? Of course he would have to pay that--it was the regular
thing, he being a gentleman. Then should he take her home? He
began to rough in a moving sketch of the return. The stepmother,
repentant of her indescribable cruelties, would be present,--even
these rich people have their troubles,--probably an uncle or two.
The footman would announce, Mr.--(bother that name!) and Miss
Milton. Then two women weeping together, and a knightly figure in
the background dressed in a handsome Norfolk jacket, still
conspicuously new. He would conceal his feeling until the very
end. Then, leaving, he would pause in the doorway in such an
attitude as Mr. George Alexander might assume, and say, slowly
and dwindlingly: "Be kind to her--BE kind to her," and so depart,
heartbroken to the meanest intelligence. But that was a matter
for the future. He would have to begin discussing the return
soon. There was no traffic along the road, and he came up beside
her (he had fallen behind in his musing). She began to talk. "Mr.
Denison," she began, and then, doubtfully, "That is your name?
I'm very stupid--"

"It is," said Mr. Hoopdriver. (Denison, was it? Denison, Denison,
Denison. What was she saying?)

"I wonder how far you are willing to help me?" Confoundedly hard
to answer a question like that on the spur of the moment, without
steering wildly. "You may rely--" said Mr. Hoopdriver, recovering
from a violent wabble. "I can assure you-- I want to help you
very much. Don't consider me at all. Leastways, consider me
entirely at your service." (Nuisance not to be able to say this
kind of thing right.)

"You see, I am so awkwardly situated."

"If I can only help you--you will make me very happy--" There was
a pause. Round a bend in the road they came upon a grassy space
between hedge and road, set with yarrow and meadowsweet, where a
felled tree lay among the green. There she dismounted, and
propping her machine against a stone, sat down. "Here, we can
talk," she said.

"Yes," said Mr. Hoopdriver, expectant.

She answered after a little while, sitting, elbow on knee, with
her chin in her hand, and looking straight in front of her. "I
don't know--I am resolved to Live my Own Life."

"Of course," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Naturally."

"I want to Live, and I want to see what life means. I want to
learn. Everyone is hurrying me, everything is hurrying me; I want
time to think."

Mr. Hoopdriver was puzzled, but admiring. It was wonderful how
clear and ready her words were. But then one might speak well
with a throat and lips like that. He knew he was inadequate, but
he tried to meet the occasion. "If you let them rush you into
anything you might repent of, of course you'd be very silly."

"Don't YOU want to learn?" she asked.

"I was wondering only this morning," he began, and stopped.

She was too intent upon her own thoughts to notice this
insufficiency. "I find myself in life, and it terrifies me. I
seem to be like a little speck, whirling on a wheel, suddenly
caught up. 'What am I here for?' I ask. Simply to be here at a
time--I asked it a week ago, I asked it yesterday, and I ask it
to-day. And little things happen and the days pass. My stepmother
takes me shopping, people come to tea, there is a new play to
pass the time, or a concert, or a novel. The wheels of the world
go on turning, turning. It is horrible. I want to do a miracle
like Joshua and stop the whirl until I have fought it out. At
home--It's impossible."

Mr. Hoopdriver stroked his moustache. "It IS so," he said in a
meditative tone. "Things WILL go on," he said. The faint breath
of summer stirred the trees, and a bunch of dandelion puff lifted
among the meadowsweet and struck and broke into a dozen separate
threads against his knee. They flew on apart, and sank, as the
breeze fell, among the grass: some to germinate, some to perish.
His eye followed them until they had vanished.

"I can't go back to Surbiton," said the Young Lady in Grey.

"EIGH?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, catching at his moustache. This was
an unexpected development.

"I want to write, you see," said the Young Lady in Grey, "to
write Books and alter things. To do Good. I want to lead a Free
Life and Own myself. I can't go back. I want to obtain a position
as a journalist. I have been told--But I know no one to help me
at once. No one that I could go to. There is one person--She was
a mistress at my school. If I could write to her--But then, how
could I get her answer?"

"H'mp," said Mr. Hoopdriver, very grave.

"I can't trouble you much more. You have come--you have risked
things--"

"That don't count," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "It's double pay to let
me do it, so to speak."

"It is good of you to say that. Surbiton is so Conventional. I am
resolved to be Unconventional--at any cost. But we are so
hampered. If I could only burgeon out of all that hinders me! I
want to struggle, to take my place in the world. I want to be my
own mistress, to shape my own career. But my stepmother objects
so. She does as she likes herself, and is strict with me to ease
her conscience. And if I go back now, go back owning myself
beaten--" She left the rest to his imagination.

"I see that," agreed Mr. Hoopdriver. He MUST help her. Within his
skull he was doing some intricate arithmetic with five pounds six
and twopence. In some vague way he inferred from all this that
Jessie was trying to escape from an undesirable marriage, but was
saying these things out of modesty. His circle of ideas was so
limited.

"You know, Mr.--I've forgotten your name again."

Mr. Hoopdriver seemed lost in abstraction. "You can't go back of
course, quite like that," he said thoughtfully. His ears waxed
suddenly red and his cheeks flushed.

"But what IS your name?"

"Name!" said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Why!--Benson, of course."

"Mr. Benson--yes it's really very stupid of me. But I can never
remember names. I must make a note on my cuff." She clicked a
little silver pencil and wrote the name down. "If I could write
to my friend. I believe she would be able to help me to an
independent life. I could write to her--or telegraph. Write, I
think. I could scarcely explain in a telegram. I know she would
help me."

Clearly there was only one course open to a gentleman under the
circumstances. "In that case," said Mr. Hoopdriver, "if you don't
mind trusting yourself to a stranger, we might continue as we are
perhaps. For a day or so. Until you heard." (Suppose thirty
shillings a day, that gives four days, say four thirties is hun'
and twenty, six quid,--well, three days, say; four ten.)

"You are very good to me."

His expression was eloquent.

"Very well, then, and thank you. It's wonderful--it's more than I
deserve that you--" She dropped the theme abruptly. "What was our
bill at Chichester?"

"Eigh?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, feigning a certain stupidity. There
was a brief discussion. Secretly he was delighted at her
insistence in paying. She carried her point. Their talk came
round to their immediate plans for the day. They decided to ride
easily, through Havant, and stop, perhaps, at Fareham or
Southampton. For the previous day had tried them both. Holding
the map extended on his knee, Mr. Hoopdriver's eye fell by chance
on the bicycle at his feet. "That bicycle," he remarked, quite
irrelevantly, "wouldn't look the same machine if I got a big,
double Elarum instead of that little bell."

"Why?"

"Jest a thought." A pause.

"Very well, then,--Havant and lunch," said Jessie, rising.

"I wish, somehow, we could have managed it without stealing that
machine," said Hoopdriver. "Because it IS stealing it, you know,
come to think of it."

"Nonsense. If Mr. Bechamel troubles you--I will tell the whole
world--if need be."

"I believe you would," said Mr. Hoopdriver, admiring her. "You're
plucky enough--goodness knows."

Discovering suddenly that she was standing, he, too, rose and
picked up her machine. She took it and wheeled it into the road.
Then he took his own. He paused, regarding it. "I say!"said he.
"How'd this bike look, now, if it was enamelled grey?" She looked
over her shoulder at his grave face. "Why try and hide it in that
way?"

"It was jest a passing thought," said Mr. Hoopdriver, airily.
"Didn't MEAN anything, you know." 

As they were riding on to Havant it occurred to Mr. Hoopdriver in
a transitory manner that the interview had been quite other than
his expectation. But that was the way with everything in Mr.
Hoopdriver's experience. And though his Wisdom looked grave
within him, and Caution was chinking coins, and an ancient
prejudice in favour of Property shook her head, something else
was there too, shouting in his mind to drown all these saner
considerations, the intoxicating thought of riding beside Her all
to-day, all to-morrow, perhaps for other days after that. Of
talking to her familiarly, being brother of all her slender
strength and freshness, of having a golden, real, and wonderful
time beyond all his imaginings. His old familiar fancyings gave
place to anticipations as impalpable and fluctuating and
beautiful as the sunset of a summer day.

At Havant he took an opportunity to purchase, at small
hairdresser's in the main street, a toothbrush,pair of nail
scissors, and a little bottle of stuff to darken the moustache,
an article the shopman introduced to his attention, recommended
highly, and sold in the excitement of the occasion.



THE UNEXPECTED ANECDOTE OF THE LION

XXIX

They rode on to Cosham and lunched lightly but expensively there.
Jessie went out and posted her letter to her school friend. Then
the green height of Portsdown Hill tempted them, and leaving
their machines in the village they clambered up the slope to the
silent red-brick fort that crowned it. Thence they had a view of
Portsmouth and its cluster of sister towns, the crowded narrows
of the harbour, the Solent and the Isle of Wight like a blue
cloud through the hot haze. Jessie by some miracle had become a
skirted woman in the Cosham inn. Mr. Hoopdriver lounged
gracefully on the turf, smoked a Red Herring cigarette, and
lazily regarded the fortified towns that spread like a map away
there, the inner line of defence like toy fortifications, a mile
off perhaps ; and beyond that a few little fields and then the
beginnings of Landport suburb and the smoky cluster of the
multitudinous houses. To the right at the head of the harbour
shallows the town of Porchester rose among the trees. Mr.
Hoopdriver's anxiety receded to some remote corner of his brain
and that florid half-voluntary imagination of his shared the
stage with the image of Jessie. He began to speculate on the
impression he was creating. He took stock of his suit in a more
optimistic spirit, and reviewed, with some complacency, his
actions for the last four and twenty hours. Then he was dashed at
the thought of her infinite perfections.

She had been observing him quietly, rather more closely during
the last hour or so. She did not look at him directly because he
seemed always looking at her. Her own troubles had quieted down a
little, and her curiosity about the chivalrous, worshipping, but
singular gentleman in brown, was awakening. She had recalled,
too, the curious incident of their first encounter. She found him
hard to explain to herself. You must understand that her
knowledge of the world was rather less than nothing, having been
obtained entirely from books. You must not take a certain
ignorance for foolishness.

She had begun with a few experiments. He did not know French
except 'sivver play,' a phrase he seemed to regard as a very good
light table joke in itself. His English was uncertain, but not
such as books informed her distinguished the lower classes. His
manners seemed to her good on the whole, but a trifle
over-respectful and out of fashion. He called her I Madam' once.
He seemed a person of means and leisure, but he knew nothing of
recent concerts, theatres, or books. How did he spend his time?
He was certainly chivalrous, and a trifle simpleminded. She
fancied (so much is there in a change of costume) that she had
never met with such a man before. What COULD he be?

"Mr. Benson," she said, breaking a silence devoted to landscape.

He rolled over and regarded her, chin on knuckles.

"At your service."

"Do you paint? Are you an artist?"

"Well." Judicious pause. "I should hardly call myself a Nartist."
you know. I DO paint a little. And sketch, you know--skitty kind
of things."

He plucked and began to nibble a blade of grass. It was really
not so much lying as his quick imagination that prompted him to
add, "In Papers, you know, and all that."

"I see," said Jessie, looking at him thoughtfully. Artists were a
very heterogeneous class certainly, and geniuses had a trick of
being a little odd. He avoided her eye and bit his grass. "I
don't do MUCH, you know."

"It's not your profession? 

"Oh, no," said Hoopdriver, anxious now to hedge. "I don't make a
regular thing of it, you know. jest now and then something comes
into my head and down it goes. No--I'm not a regular artist."

"Then you don't practise any regular profession? Mr. Hoopdriver
looked into her eyes and saw their quiet unsuspicious regard. He
had vague ideas of resuming the detective role. "It's like this,"
he said, to gain time. "I have a sort of profession. Only there's
a kind of reason--nothing much, you know "

"I beg your pardon for cross-examining you."

"No trouble," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Only I can't very well--I
leave it to you, you know. I don't want to make any mystery of
it, so far as that goes." Should he plunge boldly and be a
barrister? That anyhow was something pretty good. But she might
know about barristry.

"I think I could guess what you are."

"Well--guess," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"You come from one of the colonies?"

"Dear me!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, veering round to the new wind.
"How did you find out THAT?" (the man was born in a London
suburb, dear Reader.)

"I guessed," she said.

He lifted his eyebrows as one astonished, and clutched a new
piece of grass.

"You were educated up country."

"Good again," said Hoopdriver, rolling over again into her elbow.
"You're a CLAIRVOY ant." He bit at the grass, smiling. "Which
colony was it?"

"That I don't know."

"You must guess," said Hoopdriver.

"South Africa," she said. "I strongly incline to South Africa." 

"South Africa's quite a large place," he said.

"But South Africa is right?"

"You're warm," said Hoopdriver, "anyhow," and the while his
imagination was eagerly exploring this new province.

"South Africa IS right?" she insisted.

He turned over again and nodded, smiling reassuringly into her
eyes.

"What made me think of South Africa was that novel of Olive
Schreiner's, you know--The Story of an African Farm.' Gregory
Rose is so like you."

"I never read 'The Story of an African Farm,'" said Hoopdriver.
"I must. What's he like?"

"You must read the book. But it's a wonderful place, with its
mixture of races, and its brand-new civilisation jostling the old
savagery. Were you near Khama?"

"He was a long way off from our place," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "We
had a little ostrich farm, you know--Just a few hundred of 'em,
out Johannesburg way."

"On the Karroo--was it called?"

"That's the term. Some of it was freehold though. Luckily. We got
along very well in the old days.--But there's no ostriches on
that farm now." He had a diamond mine in his head, just at the
moment, but he stopped and left a little to the girl's
imagination. Besides which it had occurred to him with a kind of
shock that he was lying.

"What became of the ostriches?"

"We sold 'em off, when we parted with the farm. Do you mind if I
have another cigarette? That was when I was quite a little chap,
you know, that we had this ostrich farm."

"Did you have Blacks and Boers about you?"

"Lots," said Mr. Hoopdriver, striking a match on his instep and
beginning to feel hot at the new responsibility he had brought
upon himself.

"How interesting! Do you know, I've never been out of England
except to Paris and Mentone and Switzerland."

"One gets tired of travelling (puff) after a bit, of course."

"You must tell me about your farm in South Africa. It always
stimulates my imagination to think of these places. I can fancy
all the tall ostriches being driven out by a black herd--to
graze, I suppose. How do ostriches feed?"

"Well," said Hoopdriver. "That's rather various. They have their
fancies, you know. There's fruit, of course, and that kind of
thing. And chicken food, and so forth. You have to use judgment."

"Did you ever see a lion?" "They weren't very common in our
district," said Hoopdriver, quite modestly. "But I've seen them,
of course. Once or twice."

"Fancy seeing a lion! Weren't you frightened?"

Mr. Hoopdriver was now thoroughly sorry he had accepted that
offer of South Africa. He puffed his cigarette and regarded the
Solent languidly as he settled the fate on that lion in his mind.
"I scarcely had time," he said. "It all happened in a minute."

"Go on," she said.

"I was going across the inner paddock where the fatted ostriches
were."

"Did you EAT ostriches, then? I did not know--"

"Eat them!--often. Very nice they ARE too, properly stuffed.
Well, we--I, rather--was going across this paddock, and I saw
something standing up in the moonlight and looking at me." Mr.
Hoopdriver was in a hot perspiration now. His invention seemed to
have gone limp. "Luckily I had my father's gun with me. I was
scared, though, I can tell you. (Puff.) I just aimed at the end
that I thought was the head. And let fly. (Puff.) And over it
went, you know."

"Dead?"

"AS dead. It was one of the luckiest shots I ever fired. And I
wasn't much over nine at the time, neither."

"_I_ should have screamed and run away."

"There's some things you can't run away from," said Mr.
Hoopdriver. "To run would have been Death."

"I don't think I ever met a lion-killer before," she remarked,
evidently with a heightened opinion of him.

There was a pause. She seemed meditating further questions. Mr.
Hoopdriver drew his watch hastily. "I say," said Mr. Hoopdriver,
showing it to her, "don't you think we ought to be getting on?"

His face was flushed, his ears bright red. She ascribed his
confusion to modesty. He rose with a lion added to the burthens
of his conscience, and held out his hand to assist her. They
walked down into Cosham again, resumed their machines, and went
on at a leisurely pace along the northern shore of the big
harbour. But Mr. Hoopdriver was no longer happy. This horrible,
this fulsome lie, stuck in his memory. Why HAD he done it? She
did not ask for any more South African stories, happily--at least
until Porchester was reached--but talked instead of Living One's
Own Life, and how custom hung on people like chains. She talked
wonderfully, and set Hoopdriver's mind fermenting. By the Castle,
Mr. Hoopdriver caught several crabs in little shore pools. At
Fareham they stopped for a second tea, and left the place towards
the hour of sunset, under such invigorating circumstances as you
shall in due course hear.



THE RESCUE EXPEDITION

XXX

And now to tell of those energetic chevaliers, Widgery, Dangle,
and Phipps, and of that distressed beauty, 'Thomas Plantagenet,'
well known in society, so the paragraphs said, as Mrs. Milton. We
left them at Midhurst station, if I remember rightly, waiting, in
a state of fine emotion, for the Chichester train. It was clearly
understood by the entire Rescue Party that Mrs. Milton was
bearing up bravely against almost overwhelming grief. The three
gentlemen outdid one another in sympathetic expedients; they
watched her gravely almost tenderly. The substantial Widgery
tugged at his moustache, and looked his unspeakable feelings at
her with those dog-like, brown eyes of his; the slender Dangle
tugged at HIS moustache, and did what he could with unsympathetic
grey ones. Phipps, unhappily, had no moustache to run any risks
with, so he folded his arms and talked in a brave, indifferent,
bearing-up tone about the London, Brighton, and South Coast
Railway, just to cheer the poor woman up a little. And even Mrs.
Milton really felt that exalted melancholy to the very bottom of
her heart, and tried to show it in a dozen little, delicate,
feminine ways.

"There is nothing to do until we get to Chichester," said Dangle.
"Nothing."

"Nothing," said Widgery, and aside in her ear: "You really ate
scarcely anything, you know."

"Their trains are always late," said Phipps, with his fingers
along the edge of his collar. Dangle, you must understand, was a
sub-editor and reviewer, and his pride was to be Thomas
Plantagenet's intellectual companion. Widgery, the big man, was
manager of a bank and a mighty golfer, and his conception of his
relations to her never came into his mind without those charming
oldlines, "Douglas, Douglas, tender and true," falling hard upon
its heels. His name was Douglas-Douglas Widgery. And Phipps,
Phipps was a medical student still, and he felt that he laid his
heart at her feet, the heart of a man of the world. She was kind
to them all in her way, and insisted on their being friends
together, in spite of a disposition to reciprocal criticism they
displayed. Dangle thought Widgery a Philistine, appreciating but
coarsely the merits of "A Soul Untrammelled," and Widgery thought
Dangle lacked, humanity--would talk insincerely to say a clever
thing. Both Dangle and Widgery thought Phipps a bit of a cub, and
Phipps thought both Dangle and Widgery a couple of Thundering
Bounders.

"They would have got to Chichester in time for lunch," said
Dangle, in the train. "After, perhaps. And there's no sufficient
place in the road. So soon as we get there, Phipps must inquire
at the chief hotels to see if any one answering to her
description has lunched there."

"Oh, I'LL inquire," said Phipps. "Willingly. I suppose you and
Widgery will just hang about--"

He saw an expression of pain on Mrs. Milton's gentle face, and
stopped abruptly.

"No," said Dangle, "we shan't HANG ABOUT, as you put it. There
are two places in Chichester where tourists might go--the
cathedral and a remarkably fine museum. I shall go to the
cathedral and make an inquiry or so, while Widgery--"

"The museum. Very well. And after that there's a little thing or
two I've thought of myself," said Widgery.

To begin with they took Mrs. Milton in a kind of procession to
the Red Hotel and established her there with some tea. "You are
so kind to me," she said. "All of you." They signified that it
was nothing, and dispersed to their inquiries. By six they
returned, their zeal a little damped, without news. Widgery came
back with Dangle. Phipps was the last to return. "You're quite
sure," said Widgery, that there isn't any flaw in that inference
of yours?"

"Quite," said Dangle, rather shortly.

"Of course," said Widgery, "their starting from Midhurst on the
Chichester road doesn't absolutely bind them not to change their
minds."

"My dear fellow!--It does. Really it does. You must allow me to
have enough intelligence to think of cross-roads. Really you
must. There aren't any cross-roads to tempt them. Would they turn
aside here? No. Would they turn there? Many more things are
inevitable than you fancy."

"We shall see at once," said Widgery, at the window. "Here comes
Phipps. For my own part--"

"Phipps!" said Mrs. Milton. "Is he hurrying? Does he look--" She
rose in her eagerness, biting her trembling lip, and went towards
the window.

"No news," said Phipps, entering. 

"Ah!" said Widgery.

"None?" said Dangle.

"Well," said Phipps. "One fellow had got hold of a queer story of
a man in bicycling clothes, who was asking the same question
about this time yesterday."

"What question?" said Mrs. Milton, in the shadow of the window.
She spoke in a low voice, almost a whisper.

"Why--Have you seen a young lady in a grey bicycling costume?"

Dangle caught at his lower lip. "What's that?" he said.
"Yesterday! A man asking after her then! What can THAT mean?"

"Heaven knows," said Phipps, sitting down wearily. "You'd better
infer."

"What kind of man?" said Dangle.

"How should I know?--in bicycling costume, the fellow said."

"But what height?--What complexion?"

"Didn't ask," said Phipps. "DIDN'T ASK! Nonsense," said Dangle.

"Ask him yourself," said Phipps. "He's an ostler chap in the
White Hart,--short, thick-set fellow, with a red face and a
crusty manner. Leaning up against the stable door. Smells of
whiskey. Go and ask him."

"Of course," said Dangle, taking his straw hat from the shade
over the stuffed bird on the chiffonier and turning towards the
door. "I might have known."

Phipps' mouth opened and shut. 

"You're tired, I'm sure, Mr. Phipps," said the lady, soothingly.
"Let me ring for some tea for you." It suddenly occurred to
Phipps that he had lapsed a little from his chivalry. "I was a
little annoyed at the way he rushed me to do all this business,"
he said. "But I'd do a hundred times as much if it would bring
you any nearer to her." Pause. "I WOULD like a little tea."

"I don't want to raise any false hopes," said Widgery. "But I do
NOT believe they even came to Chichester. Dangle's a very clever
fellow, of course, but sometimes these Inferences of his--"

"Tchak!" said Phipps, suddenly.

"What is it?" said Mrs. Milton.

"Something I've forgotten. I went right out from here, went to
every other hotel in the place, and never thought--But never
mind. I'll ask when the waiter comes."

"You don't mean--" A tap, and the door opened. "Tea, m'm? yes,
m'm," said the waiter.

"One minute," said Phipps. "Was a lady in grey, a cycling lady--"

"Stopped here yesterday? Yessir. Stopped the night. With her
brother, sir--a young gent."

"Brother!" said Mrs. Milton, in a low tone. "Thank God!"

The waiter glanced at her and understood everything. "A young
gent, sir," he said, "very free with his money. Give the name of
Beaumont." He proceeded to some rambling particulars, and was
cross-examined by Widgery on the plans of the young couple.

"Havant! Where's Havant?" said Phipps. "I seem to remember it
somewhere."

"Was the man tall?" said Mrs. Milton, intently, "distinguished
looking? with a long, flaxen moustache? and spoke with a drawl?"

"Well," said the waiter, and thought. "His moustache, m'm, was
scarcely long--scrubby more, and young looking."

"About thirty-five, he was?"

"No, m'm. More like five and twenty. Not that."

"Dear me!" said Mrs. Milton, speaking in a curious, hollow voice,
fumbling for her salts, and showing the finest self-control. "It
must have been her YOUNGER brother--must have been."

"That will do, thank you," said Widgery, officiously, feeling
that she would be easier under this new surprise if the man were
dismissed. The waiter turned to go, and almost collided with
Dangle, who was entering the room, panting excitedly and with a
pocket handkerchief held to his right eye. "Hullo!" said dangle.
"What's up?"

"What's up with YOU?" said Phipps.

"Nothing--an altercation merely with that drunken ostler of
yours. He thought it was a plot to annoy him--that the Young Lady
in Grey was mythical. Judged from your manner. I've got a piece
of raw meat to keep over it. You have some news, I see?"

"Did the man hit you?" asked Widgery.

Mrs. Milton rose and approached Dangle. "Cannot I do anything?"

Dangle was heroic. "Only tell me your news," he said, round the
corner of the handkerchief.

"It was in this way," said Phipps, and explained rather
sheepishly. While he was doing so, with a running fire of
commentary from Widgery, the waiter brought in a tray of tea. "A
time table," said Dangle, promptly, "for Havant." Mrs. Milton
poured two cups, and Phipps and Dangle partook in passover form.
They caught the train by a hair's breadth. So to Havant and
inquiries.

Dangle was puffed up to find that his guess of Havant was right.
In view of the fact that beyond Havant the Southampton road has a
steep hill continuously on the right-hand side, and the sea on
the left, he hit upon a magnificent scheme for heading the young
folks off. He and Mrs. Milton would go to Fareham, Widgery and
Phipps should alight one each at the intermediate stations of
Cosham and Porchester, and come on by the next train if they had
no news. If they did not come on, a wire to the Fareham post
office was to explain why. It was Napoleonic, and more than
consoled Dangle for the open derision of the Havant street boys
at the handkerchief which still protected his damaged eye.

Moreover, the scheme answered to perfection. The fugitives
escaped by a hair's breadth. They were outside the Golden Anchor
at Fareham, and preparing to mount, as Mrs. Milton and Dangle
came round the corner from the station. "It's her!" said Mrs.
Milton, and would have screamed. "Hist!" said Dangle, gripping
the lady's arm, removing his handkerchief in his excitement, and
leaving the piece of meat over his eye, an extraordinary
appearance which seemed unexpectedly to calm her. "Be cool!" said
Dangle, glaring under the meat. "They must not see us. They will
get away else. Were there flys at the station?" The young couple
mounted and vanished round the corner of the Winchester road. Had
it not been for the publicity of the business, Mrs. Milton would
have fainted. "SAVE HER!" she said.

"Ah! A conveyance," said Dangle. "One minute."

He left her in a most pathetic attitude, with her hand pressed to
her heart, and rushed into the Golden Anchor. Dog cart in ten
minutes. Emerged. The meat had gone now, and one saw the cooling
puffiness over his eye. "I will conduct you back to the station,"
said Dangle; "hurry back here, and pursue them. You will meet
Widgery and Phipps and tell them I am in pursuit."

She was whirled back to the railway station and left there, on a
hard, blistered, wooden seat in the sun. She felt tired and
dreadfully ruffled and agitated and dusty. Dangle was, no doubt,
most energetic and devoted ; but for a kindly, helpful manner
commend her to Douglas Widgery.

Meanwhile Dangle, his face golden in the evening sun, was driving
(as well as he could) a large, black horse harnessed into a thing
called a gig, northwestward towards Winchester. Dangle, barring
his swollen eye, was a refined-looking little man, and be wore a
deerstalker cap and was dressed in dark grey. His neck was long
and slender. Perhaps you know what gigs are, --huge, big, wooden
things and very high and the horse, too, was huge and big and
high, with knobby legs, a long face, a hard mouth, and a whacking
trick of pacing. Smack, smack, smack, smack it went along the
road, and hard by the church it shied vigorously at a hooded
perambulator.

The history of the Rescue Expedition now becomes confused. It
appears that Widgery was extremely indignant to find Mrs. Milton
left about upon the Fareham platform. The day had irritated him
somehow, though he had started with the noblest intentions, and
he seemed glad to find an outlet for justifiable indignation.
"He's such a spasmodic creature," said Widgery. "Rushing off! And
I suppose we're to wait here until he comes back! It's likely.
He's so egotistical, is Dangle. Always wants to mismanage
everything himself."

"He means to help me," said Mrs. Milton, a little reproachfully,
touching his arm. Widgery was hardly in the mood to be mollified
all at once. "He need not prevent ME," he said, and stopped.
"It's no good talking, you know, and you are tired."

"I can go on," she said brightly, "if only we find her." " While
I was cooling my heels in Cosham I bought a county map." He
produced and opened it. "Here, you see, is the road out of
Fareham." He proceeded with the calm deliberation of a business
man to develop a proposal of taking train forthwith to
Winchester. "They MUST be going to Winchester," he explained. It
was inevitable. To-morrow Sunday, Winchester a cathedral town,
road going nowhere else of the slightest importance,

"But Mr. Dangle?"

"He will simply go on until he has to pass something, and then he
will break his neck. I have seen Dangle drive before. It's
scarcely likely a dog-cart, especially a hired dog-cart, will
overtake bicycles in the cool of the evening. Rely upon me, Mrs.
Milton--"

"I am in your hands," she said, with pathetic littleness, looking
up at him, and for the moment he forgot the exasperation of the
day.

Phipps, during this conversation, had stood in a somewhat
depressed attitude, leaning on his stick, feeling his collar, and
looking from one speaker to the other. The idea of leaving Dangle
behind seemed to him an excellent one. "We might leave a message
at the place where he got the dog-cart," he suggested, when he
saw their eyes meeting. There was a cheerful alacrity about all
three at the proposal.

But they never got beyond Botley. For even as their train ran
into the station, a mighty rumbling was heard, there was a
shouting overhead, the guard stood astonished on the platform,
and Phipps, thrusting his head out of the window, cried, "There
he goes!" and sprang out of the carriage. Mrs. Milton, following
in alarm, just saw it. From Widgery it was hidden. Botley station
lies in a cutting, overhead was the roadway, and across the lemon
yellows and flushed pinks of the sunset, there whirled a great
black mass, a horse like a long-nosed chess knight, the upper
works of a gig, and Dangle in transit from front to back. A
monstrous shadow aped him across the cutting. It was the event of
a second. Dangle seemed to jump, hang in the air momentarily, and
vanish, and after a moment's pause came a heart-rending smash.
Then two black heads running swiftly.

"Better get out," said Phipps to Mrs. Milton, who stood
fascinated in the doorway.

In another moment all three were hurrying up the steps. They
found Dangle, hatless, standing up with cut hands extended,
having his hands brushed by an officious small boy. A broad, ugly
road ran downhill in a long vista, and in the distance was a
little group of Botley inhabitants holding the big, black horse.
Even at that distance they could see the expression of conscious
pride on the monster's visage. It was as wooden-faced a horse as
you can imagine. The beasts in the Tower of London, on which the
men in armour are perched, are the only horses I have ever seen
at all like it. However, we are not concerned now with the horse,
but with Dangle. " Hurt?" asked Phipps, eagerly, leading.

"Mr. Dangle!" cried Mrs. Milton, clasping her hands. 

"Hullo!" said Dangle, not surprised in the slightest. "Glad
you've come. I may want you. Bit of a mess I'm in--eigh? But I've
caught 'em. At the very place I expected, too."

"Caught them!" said Widgery. Where are they?"

"Up there," he said, with a backward motion of his head. "About a
mile up the hill. I left 'em. I HAD to."

"I don't understand," said Mrs. Milton, with that rapt, painful
look again. "Have you found Jessie?"

"I have. I wish I could wash the gravel out of my hands
somewhere. It was like this, you know. Came on them suddenly
round a corner. Horse shied at the bicycles. They were sitting by
the roadside botanising flowers. I just had time to shout,
'Jessie Milton, we've been looking for you,' and then that
confounded brute bolted. I didn't dare turn round. I had all my
work to do to save myself being turned over, as it was--so long
as I did, I mean. I just shouted, 'Return to your friends. All
will be forgiven.' And off I came, clatter, clatter. Whether they
heard--"

"TAKE ME TO HER," said Mrs. Milton, with intensity, turning
towards Widgery.

"Certainly," said Widgery, suddenly becoming active. "How far is
it, Dangle?"

"Mile and a half or two miles. I was determined to find them, you
know. I say though--Look at my hands! But I beg your pardon, Mrs.
Milton." He turned to Phipps. "Phipps, I say, where shall I wash
the gravel out? And have a look at my knee?"

"There's the station," said Phipps, becoming helpful. Dangle made
a step, and a damaged knee became evident. "Take my arm," said
Phipps.

"Where can we get a conveyance?" asked Widgery of two small boys.

The two small boys failed to understand. They looked at one
another.

"There's not a cab, not a go-cart, in sight," said Widgery. "It's
a case of a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse."

"There's a harse all right," said one of the small boys with a
movement of the head.

"Don't you know where we can hire traps? asked Widgery. "Or a
cart or-- anything?" asked Mrs. Milton.

"John Ooker's gart a cart, but no one can't 'ire'n," said the
larger of the small boys, partially averting his face and staring
down the road and making a song of it. "And so's my feyther,
for's leg us broke."

"Not a cart even! Evidently. What shall we do?" 

It occurred to Mrs. Milton that if Widgery was the man for
courtly devotion, Dangle was infinitely readier of resource. "I
suppose--" she said, timidly. "Perhaps if you were to ask Mr.
Dangle--"

And then all the gilt came off Widgery. He answered quite rudely.
"Confound Dangle! Hasn't he messed us up enough? He must needs
drive after them in a trap to tell them we're coming, and now you
want me to ask him--"

Her beautiful blue eyes were filled with tears. He stopped
abruptly. "I'll go and ask Dangle," he said, shortly. "If you
wish it." And went striding into the station and down the steps,
leaving her in the road under the quiet inspection of the two
little boys, and with a kind of ballad refrain running through
her head, "Where are the Knights of the Olden Time?" and feeling
tired to death and hungry and dusty and out of curl, and, in
short, a martyr woman.



XXXI

It goes to my heart to tell of the end of that day, how the
fugitives vanished into Immensity; how there were no more trains
how Botley stared unsympathetically with a palpable disposition
to derision, denying conveyances how the landlord of the Heron
was suspicious, how the next day was Sunday, and the hot summer's
day had crumpled the collar of Phipps and stained the skirts of
Mrs. Milton, and dimmed the radiant emotions of the whole party.
Dangle, with sticking-plaster and a black eye, felt the absurdity
of the pose of the Wounded Knight, and abandoned it after the
faintest efforts. Recriminations never, perhaps, held the
foreground of the talk, but they played like summer lightning on
the edge of the conversation. And deep in the hearts of all was a
galling sense of the ridiculous. Jessie, they thought, was most
to blame. Apparently, too, the worst, which would have made the
whole business tragic, was not happening. Here was a young woman
--young woman do I say? a mere girl!--had chosen to leave a
comfortable home in Surbiton, and all the delights of a refined
and intellectual circle, and had rushed off, trailing us after
her, posing hard, mutually jealous, and now tired and
weather-worn, to flick us off at last, mere mud from her wheel,
into this detestable village beer-house on a Saturday night! And
she had done it, not for Love and Passion, which are serious
excuses one may recognise even if one must reprobate, but just
for a Freak, just for a fantastic Idea ; for nothing, in fact,
but the outraging of Common Sense. Yet withal, such was our
restraint, that we talked of her still as one much misguided, as
one who burthened us with anxiety, as a lamb astray, and Mrs.
Milton having eaten, continued to show the finest feelings on the
matter.

She sat, I may mention, in the cushioned basket-chair, the only
comfortable chair in the room, and we sat on incredibly hard,
horsehair things having antimacassars tied to their backs by
means of lemon-coloured bows. It was different from those dear
old talks at Surbiton, somehow. She sat facing the window, which
was open (the night was so tranquil and warm), and the dim light-
-for we did not use the lamp--suited her admirably. She talked in
a voice that told you she was tired, and she seemed inclined to
state a case against herself in the matter of "A Soul
Untrammelled." It was such an evening as might live in a
sympathetic memoir, but it was a little dull while it lasted.

"I feel," she said, "that I am to blame. I have Developed. That
first book of mine--I do not go back upon a word of it, mind, but
it has been misunderstood, misapplied."

"It has," said Widgery, trying to look so deeply sympathetic as
to be visible in the dark. "Deliberately misunderstood."

"Don't say that," said the lady. "Not deliberately. I try and
think that critics are honest. After their lights. I was not
thinking of critics. But she--I mean--" She paused, an
interrogation.

"It is possible," said Dangle, scrutinising his sticking-plaster.

"I write a book and state a case. I want people to THINK as I
recommend, not to DO as I recommend. It is just Teaching. Only I
make it into a story. I want to Teach new Ideas, new Lessons, to
promulgate Ideas. Then when the Ideas have been spread
abroad--Things will come about. Only now it is madness to fly in
the face of the established order. Bernard Shaw, you know, has
explained that with regard to Socialism. We all know that to earn
all you consume is right, and that living on invested capital is
wrong. Only we cannot begin while we are so few. It is Those
Others."

"Precisely," said Widgery. "It is Those Others. They must begin
first."

"And meanwhile you go on banking--"

"If I didn't, some one else would."

"And I live on Mr. Milton's Lotion while I try to gain a footing
in Literature."

"TRY!" said Phipps. "You HAVE done so." And, "That's different,"
said Dangle, at the same time.

"You are so kind to me. But in this matter. Of course Georgina
Griffiths in my book lived alone in a flat in Paris and went to
life classes and had men visitors, but then she was over
twenty-one."

"Jessica is only seventeen, and girlish for that," said Dangle.

"It alters everything. That child! It is different with a woman.
And Georgina Griffiths never flaunted her freedom-- on a bicycle,
in country places. In this country. Where every one is so
particular. Fancy, SLEEPING away from home. It's dreadful-- If it
gets about it spells ruin for her."

"Ruin," said Widgery.

"No man would marry a girl like that," said Phipps.

"It must be hushed up," said Dangle.

"It always seems to me that life is made up of individuals, of
individual cases. We must weigh each person against his or her
circumstances. General rules don't apply--"

"I often feel the force of that," said Widgery. "Those are my
rules. Of course my books--"

"It's different, altogether different," said Dangle. "A novel
deals with typical cases."

"And life is not typical," said Widgery, with immense profundity.

Then suddenly, unintentionally, being himself most surprised and
shocked of any in the room, Phipps yawned. The failing was
infectious, and the gathering having, as you can easily
understand, talked itself weary, dispersed on trivial pretences.
But not to sleep immediately. Directly Dangle was alone he began,
with infinite disgust, to scrutinise his darkling eye, for he was
a neat-minded little man in spite of his energy. The whole
business--so near a capture--was horribly vexatious. Phipps sat
on his bed for some time examining, with equal disgust, a collar
he would have thought incredible for Sunday twenty-four hours
before. Mrs. Milton fell a-musing on the mortality of even big,
fat men with dog-like eyes, and Widgery was unhappy because he
had been so cross to her at the station, and because so far he
did not feel that he had scored over Dangle. Also he was angry
with Dangle. And all four of them, being souls living very much
upon the appearances of things, had a painful, mental middle
distance of Botley derisive and suspicious, and a remoter
background of London humorous, and Surbiton speculative. Were
they really, after all, behaving absurdly?



MR. HOOPDRIVER, KNIGHT ERRANT

XXXII

As Mr. Dangle bad witnessed, the fugitives had been left by him
by the side of the road about two miles from Botley. Before Mr.
Dangle's appearance, Mr. Hoopdriver had been learning with great
interest that mere roadside flowers had names,--star-flowers,
wind-stars, St. John's wort, willow herb, lords and ladies,
bachelor's buttons,--most curious names, some of them. "The
flowers are all different in South Africa, y'know," he was
explaining with a happy fluke of his imagination to account for
his ignorance. Then suddenly, heralded by clattering sounds and a
gride of wheels, Dangle had flared and thundered across the
tranquillity of the summer evening; Dangle, swaying and
gesticulating behind a corybantic black horse, had hailed Jessie
by her name, had backed towards the hedge for no ostensible
reason, and vanished to the accomplishment of the Fate that had
been written down for him from the very beginning of things.
Jessie and Hoopdriver had scarcely time to stand up and seize
their machines, before this tumultuous, this swift and wonderful
passing of Dangle was achieved. He went from side to side of the
road,--worse even than the riding forth of Mr. Hoopdriver it was,
--and vanished round the corner.

"He knew my name," said Jessie. "Yes--it was Mr. Dangle."

"That was our bicycles did that," said Mr. Hoopdriver
simultaneously, and speaking with a certain complacent concern.
"I hope he won't get hurt."

"That was Mr. Dangle," repeated Jessie, and Mr. Hoopdriver heard
this time, with a violent start. His eyebrows went up
spasmodically.

"What! someone you know?" 

"Yes." 

"Lord!"

"He was looking for me," said Jessie. "I could see. He began to
call to me before the horse shied. My stepmother has sent him."

Mr. Hoopdriver wished he had returned the bicycle after all, for
his ideas were still a little hazy about Bechamel and Mrs.
Milton. Honesty IS the best policy--often, he thought. He turned
his head this way and that. He became active. "After us, eigh?
Then he'll come back. He's gone down that hill, and he won't be
able to pull up for a bit, I'm certain." 

Jessie, he saw, had wheeled her machine into the road and was
mounting. Still staring at the corner that had swallowed up
Dangle, Hoopdriver followed suit. And so, just as the sun was
setting, they began another flight together,--riding now towards
Bishops Waltham, with Mr. Hoopdriver in the post of danger--the
rear--ever and again looking over his shoulder and swerving
dangerously as he did so. Occasionally Jessie had to slacken her
pace. He breathed heavily, and hated himself because his mouth
fell open, After nearly an hour's hard riding, they found
themselves uncaught at Winchester. Not a trace of Dangle nor any
other danger was visible as they rode into the dusky, yellow-lit
street. Though the bats had been fluttering behind thehedges and
the evening star was bright while they were still two miles from
Winchester, Mr. Hoopdriver pointed out the dangers of stopping in
such an obvious abiding-place, and gently but firmly insisted
upon replenishing the lamps and riding on towards Salisbury. From
Winchester, roads branch in every direction, and to turn abruptly
westward was clearly the way to throw off the chase. As
Hoopdriver saw the moon rising broad and yellow through the
twilight, he thought he should revive the effect of that ride out
of Bognor; but somehow, albeit the moon and all the atmospheric
effects were the same, the emotions were different. They rode in
absolute silence, and slowly after they had cleared the outskirts
of Winchester. Both of them were now nearly tired out,--the level
was tedious, and even a little hill a burden; and so it came
about that in the hamlet of Wallenstock they were beguiled to
stop and ask for accommodation in an exceptionally
prosperouslooking village inn. A plausible landlady rose to the
occasion.

Now, as they passed into the room where their suppers were
prepared, Mr. Hoopdriver caught a glimpse through a door ajar and
floating in a reek of smoke, of three and a half faces-- for the
edge of the door cut one down--and an American cloth-covered
table with several glasses and a tankard. And he also heard a
remark. In the second before he heard that remark, Mr. Hoopdriver
had been a proud and happy man, to particularize, a baronet's
heir incognito. He had surrendered their bicycles to the odd man
of the place with infinite easy dignity, and had bowingly opened
the door for Jessie. "Who's that, then?" he imagined people
saying; and then, "Some'n pretty well orf--judge by the
bicycles." Then the imaginary spectators would fall a-talking of
the fashionableness of bicycling,--how judges And stockbrokers
and actresses and, in fact, all the best people rode, and how
that it was often the fancy of such great folk to shun the big
hotels, the adulation of urban crowds, and seek, incognito, the
cosy quaintnesses of village life. Then, maybe, they would think
of a certain nameless air of distinction about the lady who had
stepped across the doorway, and about the handsome,
flaxen-moustached, blue-eyed Cavalier who had followed her in,
and they would look one to another. "Tell you what it is," one of
the village elders would say--just as they do in novels--voicing
the thought of all, in a low, impressive tone: "There's such a
thinas entertaining barranets unawares-not to mention no higher
things--"

Such, I say, had been the filmy, delightful stuff in Mr.
Hoopdriver's head the moment before he heard that remark. But the
remark toppled him headlong. What the precise remark was need not
concern us. It was a casual piece of such satire as Strephon
delights in. Should you be curious, dear lady, as to its nature,
you have merely to dress yourself in a really modern cycling
costume, get one of the feeblest-looking of your men to escort
you, and ride out, next Saturday evening, to any public house
where healthy, homely people gather together. Then you will hear
quite a lot of the kind of thing Mr. Hoopdriver heard. More,
possibly, than you will desire.

The remark, I must add, implicated Mr. Hoopdriver. It indicated
an entire disbelief in his social standing. At a blow, it
shattered all the gorgeous imaginative fabric his mind had been
rejoicing in. All that foolish happiness vanished like a dream.
And there was nothing to show for it, as there is nothing to show
for any spiteful remark that has ever been made. Perhaps the man
who said the thing had a gleam of satisfaction at the idea of
taking a complacent-looking fool down a peg, but it is just as
possible he did not know at the time that his stray shot had hit.
He had thrown it as a boy throws a stone at a bird. And it not
only demolished a foolish, happy conceit, but it wounded. It
touched Jessie grossly.

She did not hear it, he concluded from her subsequent bearing;
but during the supper they had in the little private dining-room,
though she talked cheerfully, he was preoccupied. Whiffs of
indistinct conversation, and now and then laughter, came in from
the inn parloiir through the pelargoniums in the open window.
Hoopdriver felt it must all be in the same strain,--at her
expense and his. He answered her abstractedly. She was tired, she
said, and presently went to her room. Mr. Hoopdriver, in his
courtly way, opened the door for her and bowed her out. He stood
listening and fearing some new offence as she went upstairs, and
round the bend where the barometer hung beneath the stuffed
birds. Then he went back to the room, and stood on the hearthrug
before the. paper fireplace ornament. "Cads!" he said in a
scathing undertone, as a fresh burst of laughter came floating
in. All through supper he had been composing stinging repartee, a
blistering speech of denunciation to be presently delivered. He
would rate them as a nobleman should: "Call themselves
Englishmen, indeed, and insult a woman!" he would say; take the
names and addresses perhaps, threaten to speak to the Lord of the
Manor, promise to let them hear from him again, and so out with
consternation in his wake. It really ought to be done.

"Teach 'em better," he said fiercely, and tweaked his moustache
painfully. What was it? He revived the objectionable remark for
his own exasperation, and then went over the heads of his speech
again.

He coughed, made three steps towards the door, then stopped and
went back to the hearthrug. He wouldn't--after all. Yet was he
not a Knight Errant? Should such men go unreproved, unchecked, by
wandering baronets incognito? Magnanimity? Look at it in that
way? Churls beneath one's notice? No; merely a cowardly
subterfuge. He WOULD after all.

Something within him protested that he was a hot-headed ass even
as he went towards the door again. But he only went on the more
resolutely. He crossed the hall, by the bar, and entered the room
from which the remark had proceeded. He opened the door abruptly
and stood scowling on them in the doorway. "You'll only make a
mess of it," remarked the internal sceptic. There were five men
in the room altogether: a fat person, with a long pipe and a
great number of chins, in an armchair by the fireplace, who
wished Mr. Hoopdriver a good evening very affably; a young fellow
smoking a cutty and displaying crossed legs with gaiters ; a
little, bearded man with a toothless laugh; a middle-aged,
comfortable man with bright eyes, who wore a velveteen jacket;
and a fair young man, very genteel in a yellowish-brown
ready-made suit and a white tie.

"H'm," said Mr. Hoopdriver, looking very stern and harsh. And
then in a forbidding tone, as one who consented to no liberties,
"Good evening."

"Very pleasant day we've been 'aving," said the fair young man
with the white tie.

"Very," said Mr. Hoopdriver, slowly; and taking a brown armchair,
he planted it with great deliberation where he faced the
fireplace, and sat down. Let's see--how did that speech begin?

"Very pleasant roads about here," said the fair young man with
the white tie.

"Very," said Mr. Hoopdriver, eyeing him darkly. Have to begin
somehow. "The roads about here are all right, and the weather
about here is all right, but what I've come in here to say
is--there's some damned unpleasant people--damned unpleasant
people!"

"Oh!" said the young man with the gaiters, apparently making a
mental inventory of his pearl buttons as he spoke. "How's that?" 

Mr. Hoopdriver put his hands on his knees and stuck out his
elbows with extreme angularity. In his heart he was raving at his
idiotic folly at thus bearding these lions,--indisputably they
WERE lions,--but he had to go through with it now. Heaven send,
his breath, which was already getting a trifle spasmodic, did not
suddenly give out. He fixed his eye on the face of the fat man
with the chins, and spoke in a low, impressive voice. "I came
here, sir," said Mr. Hoopdriver, and paused to inflate his
cheeks, "with a lady."

"Very nice lady," said the man with the gaiters, putting his head
on one side to admire a pearl button that had been hiding behind
the curvature of his calf. "Very nice lady indeed."

"I came here," said Mr. Hoopdriver, "with a lady."

"We saw you did, bless you," said the fat man with the chins, in
a curious wheezy voice. "I don't see there's anything so very
extraordinary in that. One 'ud think we hadn't eyes."

Mr. Hoopdriver coughed. "I came, here, sir--"

"We've 'eard that," said the little man with the beard, sharply
and went off into an amiable chuckle. "We know it by 'art," said
the little man, elaborating the point.

Mr. Hoopdriver temporarily lost his thread. He glared malignantly
at the little man with the beard, and tried to recover his
discourse. A pause.

"You were saying," said the fair young man with the white tie,
speaking very politely, "that you came here with a lady."

"A lady," meditated the gaiter gazer.

The man in velveteen, who was looking from one speaker to another
with keen, bright eyes, now laughed as though a point had been
scored, and stimulated Mr. Hoopdriver to speak, by fixing him
with an expectant regard.

"Some dirty cad," said Mr. Hoopdriver, proceeding with his
discourse, and suddenly growing extremely fierce, "made a remark
as we went by this door."

"Steady on!" said the old gentleman with many chins. ,Steady on!
Don't you go a-calling us names, please."

"One minute!" said Mr. Hoopdriver. "It wasn't I began calling
names." ("Who did? said the man with the chins.) "I'm not calling
any of you dirty cads. Don't run away with that impression. Only
some person in this room made a remark that showed he wasn't fit
to wipe boots on, and, with all due deference to such gentlemen
as ARE gentlemen" (Mr. Hoopdriver looked round for moral
support), "I want to know which it was."

"Meanin'?" said the fair young man in the white tie.

"That I'm going to wipe my boots on 'im straight away," said Mr.
Hoopdriver, reverting to anger, if with a slight catch in his
throat--than which threat of personal violence nothing had been
further from his thoughts on entering the room. He said this
because he could think of nothing else to say, and stuck out his
elbows truculently to hide the sinking of his heart. It is
curious how situations run away with us.

"'Ullo, Charlie!" said the little man, and "My eye!" said the
owner of the chins. 'You're going to wipe your boots on 'im?"
said the fair young man, in a tone of mild surprise. 

"I am," said Mr. Hoopdriver, with emphatic resolution, and glared
in the young man's face.

"That's fair and reasonable," said the man in the velveteen
jacket; "if you can."

The interest of the meeting seemed transferred to the young man
in the white tic. "Of course, if you can't find out which it is,
I suppose you're prepared to wipe your boots in a liberal way on
everybody in the room," said this young man, in the same tone of
impersonal question. "This gentleman, the champion lightweight--"

"Own up, Charlie," said the young man with the gaiters, looking
up for a moment. "And don't go a-dragging in your betters. It's
fair and square. You can't get out of it."

"Was it this--gent?" began Mr. Hoopdriver.

"Of course," said the young man in the white tie, "when it comes
to talking of wiping boots--"

"I'm not talking; I'm going to do it," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

He looked round at the meeting. They were no longer antagonists;
they were spectators. He would have to go through with it now.
But this tone of personal aggression on the maker of the remark
had somehow got rid of the oppressive feeling of Hoopdriver
contra mundum. Apparently, he would have to fight someone. Would
he get a black eye? Would he get very much hurt? Pray goodness it
wasn't that sturdy chap in the gaiters! Should he rise and begin?
What would she think if he brought a black eye to breakfast
to-morrow?"Is this the man?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, with a
business-like calm, and arms more angular than ever.

"Eat 'im!" said the little man with the beard; "eat 'im straight
orf."

"Steady on!" said the young man in the white tie. "Steady on a
minute. If I did happen to say--"

"You did, did you?" said Mr. Hoopdriver.

Backing out of it, Charlie?" said the young man with the gaiters.

"Not a bit," said Charlie. "Surely we can pass a bit of a joke--"

"I'm going to teach you to keep your jokes to yourself," said Mr.
Hoopdriver.

"Bray-vo!" said the shepherd of the flock of chins.

"Charlie IS a bit too free with his jokes," said the little man
with the beard.

"It's downright disgusting," said Hoopdriver, falling back upon
his speech. "A lady can't ride a bicycle in a country road, or
wear a dress a little out of the ordinary, but every dirty little
greaser must needs go shouting insults--" 

"_I_ didn't know the young lady would hear what I said," said
Charlie. " Surely one can speak friendly to one's friends. How
was I to know the door was open--"

Hoopdriver began to suspect that his antagonist was, if possible,
more seriously alarmed at the prospect of violence than himself,
and his spirits rose again. These chaps ought to have a thorough
lesson. "Of COURSE you knew the door was open," he retorted
indignantly. "Of COURSE you thought we should hear what you said.
Don't go telling lies about it. It's no good your saying things
like that. You've had your fun, and you meant to have your fun.
And I mean to make an example of you, Sir."

"Ginger beer," said the little man with the beard, in a
confidential tone to the velveteen jacket, "is regular up this
'ot weather. Bustin' its bottles it is everywhere."

"What's the good of scrapping about in a publichouse?" said
Charlie, appealing to the company. "A fair fight without
interruptions, now, I WOULDN'T mind, if the gentleman's so
disposed."

Evidently the man was horribly afraid. Mr. Hoopdriver grew
truculent.

"Where you like," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "jest wherever you like."

"You insulted the gent," said the man in velveteen.

"Don't be a bloomin' funk, Charlie," said the man in gaiters.
"Why, you got a stone of him, if you got an ounce."

"What I say, is this," said the gentleman with the excessive
chins, trying to get a hearing by banging his chair arms. "If
Charlie goes saying things, he ought to back 'em up. That's what
I say. I don't mind his sayin' such things 't all, but he ought
to be prepared to back 'em up."

"I'll BACK 'em up all right," said Charlie, with extremely bitter
emphasis on 'back.' "If the gentleman likes to come Toosday
week--"

"Rot!" chopped in Hoopdriver. "Now."

"'Ear, 'ear," said the owner of the chins.

"Never put off till to-morrow, Charlie, what you can do to-day,"
said the man in the velveteen coat.

"You got to do it, Charlie," said the man in gaiters. "It's no
good."

"It's like this," said Charlie, appealing to everyone except
Hoopdriver. "Here's me, got to take in her ladyship's dinner
to-morrow night. How should I look with a black eye? And going
round with the carriage with a split lip?" 

"If you don't want your face sp'iled, Charlie, why don't you keep
your mouth shut?" said the person in gaiters. 

"Exactly," said Mr. Hoopdriver, driving it home with great
fierceness. "Why don't you shut your ugly mouth?"

"It's as much as my situation's worth," protested Charlie.

"You should have thought of that before," said Hoopdriver.

"There's no occasion to be so thunderin' 'ot about it. I only
meant the thing joking," said Charlie. "AS one gentleman to
another, I'm very sorry if the gentleman's annoyed--"

Everybody began to speak at once. Mr. Hoopdriver twirled his
moustache. He felt that Charlie's recognition of his
gentlemanliness was at any rate a redeeming feature. But it
became his pose to ride hard and heavy over the routed fo c. He
shouted some insulting phrase over the tumult.

"You're regular abject," the man in gaiters was saying to
Charlie.

More confusion.

"Only don't think I'm afraid,--not of a spindle-legged cuss like
him shouted Charlie. "Because I ain't."

"Change of front," thought Hoopdriver, a little startled. "Where
are we going?"

"Don't sit there and be abusive," said the man in velveteen.
"He's offered to hit you, and if I was him, I'd hit you now."

"All right, then," said Charlie, with a sudden change of front
and springing to his feet. "If I must, I must. Now, then!" At
that, Hoopdriver, the child of Fate, rose too, with a horrible
sense that his internal monitor was right. Things had taken a
turn. He had made a mess of it, and now there was nothing for it,
so far as he could see, but to hit the man at once. He and
Charlie stood six feet apart, with a table between, both very
breathless and fierce. A vulgar fight in a public-house, and with
what was only too palpably a footman! Good Heavens! And this was
the dignified, scornful remonstrance! How the juice had it all
happened? Go round the table at him, I suppose. But before the
brawl could achieve itself, the man in gaiters intervened. "Not
here," he said, stepping between the antagonists. Everyone was
standing up.

"Charlie's artful," said the little man with the beard.

"Buller's yard," said the man with the gaiters, taking the
control of the entire affair with the easy readiness of an
accomplished practitioner. "If the gentleman DON'T mind."
Buller's yard, it seemed, was the very place. "We'll do the thing
regular and decent, if you please." And before he completely
realized what was happening, Hoopdriver was being marched out
through the back premises of the inn, to the first and only fight
with fists that was ever to glorify his life.

Outwardly, so far as the intermittent moonlight showed, Mr.
Hoopdriver was quietly but eagerly prepared to fight. But
inwardly he was a chaos of conflicting purposes. It was
extraordinary how things happened. One remark had trod so closely
on the heels of another, that he had had the greatest difficulty
in following the development of the business. He distinctly
remembered himself walking across from one room to the other,--a
dignified, even an aristocratic figure, primed with considered
eloquence, intent upon a scathing remonstrance to these wretched
yokels, regarding their manners. Then incident had flickered into
incident until here he was out in a moonlit lane,--a slight, dark
figure in a group of larger, indistinct figures,--marching in a
quiet, business-like way towards some unknown horror at Buller's
yard. Fists! It was astonishing. It was terrible! In front of him
was the pallid figure of Charles, and he saw that the man in
gaiters held Charles kindly but firmly by the arm.

"It's blasted rot," Charles was saying, "getting up a fight just
for a thing like that; all very well for 'im. 'E's got 'is
'olidays; 'e 'asn't no blessed dinner to take up to-morrow night
like I 'ave.--No need to numb my arm, IS there?"

They went into Buller's yard through gates. There were sheds in
Buller's yard--sheds of mystery that the moonlight could not
solve--a smell of cows, and a pump stood out clear and black,
throwing a clear black shadow on the whitewashed wall. And here
it was his face was to be battered to a pulp. He knew this was
the uttermost folly, to stand up here and be pounded, but the way
out of it was beyond his imagining. Yet afterwards--? Could he
ever face her again? He patted his Norfolk jacket and took his
ground with his back to the gate. How did one square? So? Suppose
one were to turn and run even now, run straight back to the inn
and lock himself into his bedroom? They couldn't make, him come
out--anyhow. He could prosecute them for assault if they did. How
did one set about prosecuting for assault? He saw Charles, with
his face ghastly white under the moon, squaring in front of him.

He caught a blow on the arm and gave ground. Charles pressed him.
Then he hit with his right and with the violence of despair. It
was a hit of his own devising,--an impromptu,--but it chanced to
coincide with the regulation hook hit at the head. He perceived
with a leap of exultation that the thing his fist had met was the
jawbone of Charles. It was the sole gleam of pleasure he
experienced during the fight, and it was quite momentary. He had
hardly got home upon Charles before he was struck in the chest
and whirled backward. He had the greatest difficulty in keeping
his feet. He felt that his heart was smashed flat. "Gord darm!"
said somebody, dancing toe in hand somewhere behind him. As Mr.
Hoopdriver staggered, Charles gave a loud and fear-compelling
cry. He seemed to tower over Hoopdriver in the moonlight. Both
his fists were whirling. It was annihilation coming--no less. Mr.
Hoopdriver ducked perhaps and certainly gave ground to the right,
hit, and missed. Charles swept round to the left, missing
generously. A blow glanced over Mr. Hoopdriver's left ear, and
the flanking movement was completed. Another blow behind the ear.
Heaven and earth spun furiously round Mr. Hoopdriver, and then he
became aware of a figure in a light suit shooting violently
through an open gate into the night. The man in gaiters sprang
forward past Mr. Hoopdriver, but too late to intercept the
fugitive. There were shouts, laughter, and Mr. Hoopdriver, still
solemnly squaring, realized the great and wonderful
truth--Charles had fled. He, Hoopdriver, had fought and, by all
the rules of war, had won.

"That was a pretty cut under the jaw you gave him," the toothless
little man with the beard was remarking in an unexpectedly
friendly manner.

"The fact of it is," said Mr. Hoopdriver, sitting beside the road
to Salisbury, and with the sound of distant church bells in his
cars, "I had to give the fellow a lesson; simply had to."

"It seems so dreadful that you should have to knock people
about," said Jessie.

"These louts get unbearable," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "If now and
then we didn't give them a lesson,--well, a lady cyclist in the
roads would be an impossibility."

"I suppose every woman shrinks from violence," said Jessie. "I
suppose men ARE braver--in a way--than women. It seems to me-I
can't imagine -how one could bring oneself to face a roomful of
rough characters, pick out the bravest, and. give him an
exemplary thrashing. I quail at the idea. I thought only Ouida's
guardsmen did things like that."

"It was nothing more than my juty--as a gentleman," said Mr.
Hoopdriver.

"But to walk straight into the face of danger!"

"It's habit," said Mr. Hoopdriver, quite modestly, flicking off a
particle of cigarette ash that had settled on his knee.



THE ABASEMENT OF MR. HOOPDRIVER

XXXIII

On Monday morning the two fugitives found themselves breakfasting
at the Golden Pheasant in Blandford. They were in the course of
an elaborate doubling movement through Dorsetshire towards
Ringwood, where Jessie anticipated an answer from her
schoolmistress friend. By this time they had been nearly sixty
hours together, and you will understand that Mr. Hoopdriver's
feelings had undergone a considerable intensification and
development. At first Jessie had been only an impressionist
sketch upon his mind, something feminine, active, and dazzling,
something emphatically "above " him, cast into his company by a
kindly fate. His chief idea, at the outset, as you know, had been
to live up to her level, by pretending to be more exceptional,
more wealthy, better educated, and, above all, better born than
he was. His knowledge of the feminine mind was almost entirely
derived from the young ladies he had met in business, and in that
class (as in military society and among gentlemen's servants) the
good old tradition of a brutal social exclusiveness is still
religiously preserved. He had an almost intolerable dread of her
thinking him a I bounder.' Later he began to perceive the
distinction of her idiosyncracies. Coupled with a magnificent
want of experience was a splendid enthusiasm for abstract views
of the most advanced description, and her strength of conviction
completely carried Hoopdriver away. She was going to Live her Own
Life, with emphasis, and Mr. Hoopdriver was profoundly stirred to
similar resolves. So soon as he grasped the tenor of her views,
he perceived that he himself had thought as much from his
earliest years. "Of course," he remarked, in a flash of sexual
pride, "a man is freer than a woman. End in the Colonies, y'know,
there isn't half the Conventionality you find in society in this
country."

He made one or two essays in the display of unconventionality,
and was quite unaware that he impressed her as a narrow-minded
person. He suppressed the habits of years and made no proposal to
go to church. He discussed church-going in a liberal spirit.
"It's jest a habit," he said, "jest a custom. I don't see what
good it does you at all, really." And he made a lot of excellent
jokes at the chimney-pot hat, jokes he had read in the Globe
'turnovers' on that subject. But he showed his gentle breeding by
keeping his gloves on all through the Sunday's ride, and
ostentatiously throwing away more than half a cigarette when they
passed a church whose congregation was gathering for afternoon
service. He cautiously avoided literary topics, except by way of
compliment, seeing that she was presently to be writing books.

It was on Jessie's initiative that they attended service in the
old-fashioned gallery of Blandford church. Jessie's conscience, I
may perhaps tell you, was now suffering the severest twinges. She
perceived clearly that things were not working out quite along
the lines she had designed-. She had read her Olive Schreiner and
George Egerton, and so forth, with all the want of perfect
comprehension of one who is still emotionally a girl. She knew
the thing to do was to have a flat and to go to the British
Museum and write leading articles for the daily p,tpers until
something better came along. If Bechamel (detestable person) had
kept his promises, instead of behaving with unspeakable
horridness, all would have been well. Now her only hope was that
liberal-minded woman, Miss Mergle, who, a year ago, had sent her
out, highly educated, into the world. Miss Mergle had told her at
parting to live fearlessly and truly, and had further given her a
volume of Emerson's Essays and Motley's "Dutch Republic," to help
her through the rapids of adolescence.

Jessie's feelings for her stepmother's household at Surbiton
amounted to an active detestation. There are no graver or more
solemn women in the world than these clever girls whose
scholastic advancement has retarded their feminine coquetry. In
spite of the advanced tone of 'Thomas Plantagenet's' antimarital
novel, Jessie had speedily seen through that amiable woman's
amiable defences. The variety of pose necessitated by the corps
of 'Men' annoyed her to an altogether unreasonable degree. To
return to this life of ridiculous unreality--unconditional
capitulation to 'Conventionality' was an exasperating prospect.
Yet what else was there to do? You will understand, therefore,
that at times she was moody (and Mr. Hoopdriver respectfully
silent and attentive) and at times inclined to eloquent
denunciation of the existing order of things. She was a
Socialist, Hoopdriver learnt, and he gave a vague intimation that
he went further, intending, thereby, no less than the horrors of
anarchism. He would have owned up to the destruction of the
Winter Palace indeed, had he had the faintest idea where the
Winter Palace was, and had his assurance amounted to certainty
that the Winter Palace was destroyed. He agreed with her
cordially that the position of women was intolerable, but checked
himself on the' verge of the proposition that a girl ought not to
expect a fellow to hand down boxes for her when he was getting
the 'swap' from a customer. It was Jessie's preoccupation with
her own perplexities, no doubt, that delayed the unveiling of Mr.
Hoopdriver all through Saturday and Sunday. Once or twice,
however, there were incidents that put him about terribly--even
questions that savoured of suspicion.

On Sunday night, for no conceivable reason, an unwonted
wakefulness came upon him. Unaccountably he realised he was a
contemptible liar, All through the small hours of Monday he
reviewed the tale of his falsehoods, and when he tried to turn
his mind from that, the financial problem suddenly rose upon him.
He heard two o'clock strike, and three. It is odd how unhappy
some of us are at times, when we are at our happiest.



XXXIV

"Good morning, Madam," said Hoopdriver, as Jessie came into the
breakfast room of the Golden Pheasant on Monday morning, and he
smiled, bowed, rubbed his hands together, and pulled out a chair
for her, and rubbed his hands again.

She stopped abruptly, with a puzzled expression on her face.
"Where HAVE I seen that before?" she said.

"The chair?" said Hoopdriver, flushing.

"No--the attitude."

She came forward and shook hands with him, looking the while
curiously into his face. "And--Madam?"

"It's a habit," said Mr. Hoopdriver, guiltily. "A bad habit.
Calling ladies Madam. You must put it down to our colonial
roughness. Out there up country--y'know--the ladies--so rare--we
call 'em all Madam." 

"You HAVE some funny habits, brother Chris," said Jessie. "Before
you sell your diamond shares and go into society, as you say, and
stand for Parliament--What a fine thing it is to be a man!--you
must cure yourself. That habit of bowing as you do, and rubbing
your hands, and looking expectant."

"It's a habit."

"I know. But I don't think it a good one. You don't mind my
telling you?"

"Not a bit. I'm grateful."

"I'm blessed or afflicted with a trick of observation," said
Jessie, looking at the breakfast table. Mr. Hoopdriver put his
hand to his moustache and then, thinking this might be another
habit, checked his arm and stuck his hand into his pocket. He
felt juiced awkward, to use his private formula. Jessie's eye
wandered to the armchair, where a piece of binding was loose,
and, possibly to carry out her theory of an observant
disposition, she turned and asked him for a pin.

Mr. Hoopdriver's hand fluttered instinctively to his lappel, and
there, planted by habit, were a couple of stray pins he had
impounded.

"What an odd place to put pins!" exclaimed Jessie, taking it.

"It's 'andy," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "I saw a chap in a shop do it
once."

"You must have a careful disposition," she said, over her
shoulder, kneeling down to the chair.

"In the centre of Africa--up country, that is--one learns to
value pins," said Mr. Hoopdriver, after a perceptible pause.
"There weren't over many pins in Africa. They don't lie about on
the ground there." His face was now in a fine, red glow. Where
would the draper break out next? He thrust his hands into his
coat pockets, then took one out again, furtively removed the
second pin and dropped it behind him gently. It fell with a loud
'ping' on the fender. Happily she made no remark, being
preoccupied with the binding of the chair.

Mr. Hoopdriver, instead of sitting down, went up to the table and
stood against it, with his finger-tips upon the cloth. They were
keeping breakfast a tremendous time. He took up his rolled
serviette looked closely and scrutinisingly at the ring, then put
his hand under the fold of the napkin and examined the texture,
and put the thing down again. Then he had a vague impulse to
finger his hollow wisdom tooth--happily checked. He suddenly
discovered he was standing as if the table was a counter, and sat
down forthwith. He drummed with his hand on the table. He felt
dreadfully hot and self-conscious.

"Breakfast is late," said Jessie, standing up. 

"Isn't it?"

Conversation was slack. Jessie wanted to know the distance to
Ringwood. Then silence fell again. 

Mr. Hoopdriver, very uncomfortable and studying an easy bearing,
looked again at the breakfast things and then idly lifted the
corner of the tablecloth on the ends of his fingers, and regarded
it. "Fifteen three," he thought, privately.

"Why do you do that?" said Jessie.

"WHAT?" said Hoopdriver, dropping the tablecloth convulsively.

"Look at the cloth like that. I saw you do it yesterday, too."

Mr. Hoopdriver's face became quite a bright red. He began pulling
his moustache nervously. "I know," he said. "I know. It's a queer
habit, I know. But out there, you know, there's native servants,
you know, and--it's a queer thing to talk about--but one has to
look at things to see, don't y'know, whether they're quite clean
or not. It's got to be a habit."

"How odd!" said Jessie.

"Isn't it?" mumbled Hoopdriver.

"If I were a Sherlock Holmes," said Jessie, "I suppose I could
have told you were a colonial from little things like that. But
anyhow, I guessed it, didn't I?"

"Yes," said Hoopdriver, in a melancholy tone, "you guessed it." 

Why not seize the opportunity for a neat confession, and add,
"unhappily in this case you guessed wrong." Did she suspect?
Then, at the psychological moment, the girl bumped the door open
with her tray and brought in the coffee and scrambled eggs.

"I am rather lucky with my intuitions, sometimes," said Jessie.

Remorse that had been accumulating in his mind for two days
surged to the top of his mind. What a shabby liar he was!

And, besides, he must sooner or later, inevitably, give himself
away. 



XXXV

Mr. Hoopdriver helped the eggs and then, instead of beginning,
sat with his cheek on his hand, watching Jessie pour out the
coffee. His ears were a bright red, and his eyes bright. He took
his coffee cup clumsily, cleared his throat, suddenly leant back
in his chair, and thrust his hands deep into his pockets. "I'll
do it," he said aloud.

"Do what?" said Jessie, looking up in surprise over the coffee
pot. She was just beginning her scrambled egg.

"Own up."

"Own what?"

"Miss Milton-- I'm a liar." He put his head on one side and
regarded her with a frown of tremendous resolution. Then in
measured accents, and moving his head slowly from side to side,
he announced, "Ay'm a deraper."

"You're a draper? I thought--"

"You thought wrong. But it's bound to come up. Pins, attitude,
habits--It's plain enough.

"I'm a draper's assistant let out for a ten-days holiday. Jest a
draper's assistant. Not much, is it? A counter-jumper."

"A draper's assistant isn't a position to be ashamed of," she
said, recovering, and not quite understanding yet what this all
meant.

"Yes, it is," he said, "for a man, in this country now. To be
just another man's hand, as I am. To have to wear what clothes
you are told, and go to church to please customers, and
work--There's no other kind of men stand such hours. A drunken
bricklayer's a king to it."

"But why are you telling me this now?"

"It's important you should know at once."

"But, Mr. Benson--"

"That isn't all. If you don't mind my speaking about myself a
bit, there's a few things I'd like to tell you. I can't go on
deceiving you. My name's not Benson. WHY I told you Benson, I
DON'T know. Except that I'm a kind of fool. Well--I wanted
somehow to seem more than I was. My name's Hoopdriver."

"Yes?"

"And that about South Africa--and that lion."

"Well?"

"Lies."

"Lies!"

And the discovery of diamonds on the ostrich farm. Lies too. And
all the reminiscences of the giraffes--lies too. I never rode on
no giraffes. I'd be afraid."

He looked at her with a kind of sullen satisfaction. He had eased
his conscience, anyhow. She regarded him in infinite perplexity.
This was a new side altogether to the man. "But WHY," she began. 

"Why did I tell you such things? _I_ don't know. Silly sort of
chap, I expect. I suppose I wanted to impress you. But somehow,
now, I want you to know the truth."

Silence. Breakfast untouched. "I thought I'd tell you," said Mr.
Hoopdriver. "I suppose it's snobbishness and all that kind of
thing, as much as anything. I lay awake pretty near all last
night thinking about myself; thinking what a got-up imitation of
a man I was, and all that."

"And you haven't any diamond shares, and you are not going into
Parliament, and you're not--"

"All Lies," said Hoopdriver, in a sepulchral voice. "Lies from
beginning to end. 'Ow I came to tell 'em I DON'T know."

She stared at him blankly. 

"I never set eyes on Africa in my life," said Mr. Hoopdriver,
completing the confession. Then he pulled his right hand from his
pocket, and with the nonchalance of one to whom the bitterness of
death is passed, began to drink his coffee.

"It's a little surprising," began Jessie, vaguely.

"Think it over," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "I'm sorry from the bottom
of my heart."

And then breakfast proceeded in silence. Jessie ate very little,
and seemed lost in thought. Mr. Hoopdriver was so overcome by
contrition and anxiety that he consumed an extraordinarily large
breakfast out of pure nervousness, and ate his scrambled eggs for
the most part with the spoon that belonged properly to the
marmalade. His eyes were gloomily downcast. She glanced at him
through her eyelashes. Once or twice she struggled with laughter,
once or twice she seemed to be indignant.

"I don't know what to think," she said at last. "I don't know
what to make of you--brother Chris. I thought, do you know? that
you were perfectly honest. And somehow--"

"Well?"

"I think so still."

"Honest--with all those lies!"

"I wonder."

"I don't," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "I'm fair ashamed of myself. But
anyhow--I've stopped deceiving you."

"I THOUGHT," said the Young Lady in Grey, "that story of the
lion--"

"Lord!" said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Don't remind me of THAT."

"I thought, somehow, I FELT, that the things you said didn't ring
quite true." She suddenly broke out in laughter, at the
expression of his face. "Of COURSE you are honest," she said.
"How could I ever doubt it? As if _I_ had never pretended! I see
it all now."

Abruptly she rose, and extended her hand across the breakfast
things. He looked at her doubtfully, and saw the dancing
friendliness in her eyes. He scarcely understood at first. He
rose, holding the marmalade spoon, and took her proffered hand
with abject humility. "Lord," he broke out, "if you aren't
enough--but there!"

"I see it all now." A brilliant inspiration had suddenly obscured
her humour. She sat down suddenly, and he sat down too. "You did
it," she said, "because you wanted to help me. And you thought I
was too Conventional to take help from one I might think my
social inferior."

"That was partly it," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"How you misunderstood me!" she said.

"You don't mind?" 

"It was noble of you. But I am sorry," she said, "you should
think me likely to be ashamed of you because you follow a decent
trade." 

"I didn't know at first, you see," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

And he submitted meekly to a restoration of his self-respect. He
was as useful a citizen as could be,--it was proposed and
carried,--and his lying was of the noblest. And so the breakfast
concluded much more happily than his brightest expectation, and
they rode out of ruddy little Blandford as though no shadow of
any sort had come between them. 



XXXVI

As they were sitting by the roadside among the pine trees
half-way up a stretch of hill between Wimborne and Ringwood,
however, Mr. Hoopdriver reopened the question of his worldly
position.

"Ju think," he began abruptly, removing a meditative cigarette
from his mouth, "that a draper's shopman IS a decent citizen?"

"Why not?"

"When he puts people off with what they don't quite want, for
instance?"

"Need he do that?"

"Salesmanship," said Hoopdriver. "Wouldn't get a crib if he
didn't.--It's no good your arguing. It's not a particularly
honest nor a particularly useful trade; it's not very high up ;
there's no freedom and no leisure--seven to eight-thirty every
day in the week; don't leave much edge to live on, does it?--real
workmen laugh at us and educated chaps like bank clerks and
solicitors' clerks look down on us. You look respectable outside,
and inside you are packed in dormitories like convicts, fed on
bread and butter and bullied like slaves. You're just superior
enough to feel that you're not superior. Without capital there's
no prospects; one draper in a hundred don't even earn enough to
marry on; and if he DOES marry, his G.V. can just use him to
black boots if he likes, and he daren't put his back up. That's
drapery! And you tell me to be contented. Would YOU be contented
if you was a shop girl?"

She did not answer. She looked at him with distress in her brown
eyes, and he remained gloomily in possession of the field.

Presently he spoke. "I've been thinking," he said, and stopped.

She turned her face, resting her cheek on the palm of her hand.
There was a light in her eyes that made the expression of them
tender. Mr. Hoopdriver had not looked in her face while he had
talked. He had regarded the grass, and pointed his remarks with
redknuckled hands held open and palms upwards. Now they hung
limply over his knees.

"Well?" she said.

"I was thinking it this morning," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"Yes?"

"Of course it's silly." "Well?"

"It's like this. I'm twenty-three, about. I had my schooling all
right to fifteen, say. Well, that leaves me eight years
behind.--Is it too late? I wasn't so backward. I did algebra, and
Latin up to auxiliary verbs, and French genders. I got a kind of
grounding."

"And now you mean, should you go on working?"

"Yes," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "That's it. You can't do much at
drapery without capital, you know. But if I could get really
educated. I've thought sometimes. . ."

"Why not? said the Young Lady in Grey.

Mr. Hoopdriver was surprised to see it in that light. "You
think?" he said. "Of course. You are a Man. You are free--" She
warmed. "I wish I were you to have the chance of that struggle."

"Am I Man ENOUGH?" said Mr. Hoopdriver aloud, but addressing
himself. "There's that eight years," he said to her.

"You can make it up. What you call educated men--They're not
going on. You can catch them. They are quite satisfied. Playing
golf, and thinking of clever things to say to women like my
stepmother, and dining out. You're in front of them already in
one thing. They think they know everything. You don't. And they
know such little things."

"Lord!" said Mr. Hoopdriver. "How you encourage a fellow!" 

"If I could only help you," she said, and left an eloquent
hiatus. He became pensive again.

"It's pretty evident you don't think much of a draper," he said
abruptly.

Another interval. "Hundreds of men," she said, "have come from
the very lowest ranks of life. There was Burns, a ploughman; and
Hugh Miller, a stonemason; and plenty of others. Dodsley was a
footman--"

"But drapers! We're too sort of shabby genteel to rise. Our coats
and cuffs might get crumpled--"

"Wasn't there a Clarke who wrote theology? He was a draper."

"There was one started a sewing cotton, the only one I ever heard
tell of."

"Have you ever read 'Hearts Insurgent'?"

"Never," said Mr. Hoopdriver. He did not wait for her context,
but suddenly broke out with an account of his literary
requirements. "The fact is--I've read precious little. One don't
get much of a chance, situated as I am. We have a library at
business, and I've gone through that. Most Besant I've read, and
a lot of Mrs. Braddon's and Rider Haggard and Marie Corelli--and,
well--a Ouida or so. They're good stories, of course, and
first-class writers, but they didn't seem to have much to do with
me. But there's heaps of books one hears talked about, I HAVEN'T
read." 

"Don't you read any other books but novels?"

"Scarcely ever. One gets tired after business, and you can't get
the books. I have been to some extension lectures, of course,
'Lizabethan Dramatists,' it was, but it seemed a little
high-flown, you know. And I went and did wood-carving at the same
place. But it didn't seem leading nowhere, and I cut my thumb and
chucked it."

He made a depressing spectacle, with his face anxious and his
hands limp. "It makes me sick," he said, "to think how I've been
fooled with. My old schoolmaster ought to have a juiced HIDING.
He's a thief. He pretended to undertake to make a man of me, and
be's stole twenty-three years of my life, filled me up with
scraps and sweepings. Here I am! I don't KNOW anything, and I
can't DO anything, and all the learning time is over."

"Is it?" she said ; but he did not seem to hear her. "My o'
people didn't know any better, and went and paid thirty pounds
premium--thirty pounds down to have me made THIS. The G.V.
promised to teach me the trade, and he never taught me anything
but to be a Hand. It's the way they do with draper's apprentices.
If every swindler was locked up--well, you'd have nowhere to buy
tape and cotton. It's all very well to bring up Burns and those
chaps, but I'm not that make. Yet I'm not such muck that I might
not have been better--with teaching. I wonder what the chaps who
sneer and laugh at such as me would be if they'd been fooled
about as I've been. At twenty-three--it's a long start."

He looked up with a wintry smile, a sadder and wiser Hoopdriver
indeed than him of the glorious imaginings. "It's YOU done this,"
he said. "You're real. And it sets me thinking what I really am,
and what I might have been. Suppose it was all different--"

"MAKE it different."

"How?"

"WORK. Stop playing at life. Face it like a man." 

"Ah!" said Hoopdriver, glancing at her out of the corners of his
eyes. "And even then--" 

"No! It's not much good. I'm beginning too late."

And there, in blankly thoughtful silence, that conversation
ended. 



IN THE NEW FOREST

XXXVII

At Ringwood they lunched, and Jessie met with a disappointment.
There was no letter for her at the post office. Opposite the
hotel, The Chequered Career, was a machine shop with a
conspicuously second-hand Marlborough Club tandem tricycle
displayed in the window, together with the announcement that
bicycles and tricycles were on hire within. The establishment was
impressed on Mr. Hoopdriver's mind by the proprietor's action in
coming across the road and narrowly inspecting their machines.
His action revived a number of disagreeable impressions, but,
happily, came to nothing. While they were still lunching, a tall
clergyman, with a heated face, entered the room and sat down at
the table next to theirs. He was in a kind of holiday costume;
that is to say, he had a more than usually high collar, fastened
behind and rather the worse for the weather, and his long-tail
coat had been replaced by a black jacket of quite remarkable
brevity. He had faded brown shoes on his feet, his trouser legs
were grey with dust, and he wore a hat of piebald straw in the
place of the customary soft felt. He was evidently socially
inclined.

"A most charming day, sir," he said, in a ringing tenor.

"Charming," said Mr. Hoopdriver, over a portion of pie.

"You are, I perceive, cycling through this delightful country,"
said the clergyman.

"Touring," explained Mr. Hoopdriver. "I can imagine that, with a
properly oiled machine, there can be no easier nor pleasanter way
of seeing the country."

"No," said Mr. Hoopdriver; "it isn't half a bad. way of getting
about."

"For a young and newly married couple, a tandem bicycle must be,
I should imagine, a delightful bond."

"Quite so," said Mr. Hoopdriver, reddening a little.

"Do you ride a tandem?"

"No--we're separate," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"The motion through the air is indisputably of a very
exhilarating description." With that decision, the clergyman
turned to give his orders to the attendant, in a firm,
authoritative voice, for a cup of tea, two gelatine lozenges,
bread and butter, salad, and pie to follow. "The gelatine
lozenges I must have. I require them to precipitate the tannin in
my tea," he remarked to the room at large, and folding his hands,
remained for some time with his chin thereon, staring fixedly at
a little picture over Mr. Hoopdriver's head.

"I myself am a cyclist," said the clergyman, descending suddenly
upon Mr. Hoopdriver.

"Indeed!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, attacking the moustache. "What
machine, may I ask?"

"I have recently become possessed of a tricycle. A bicycle is, I
regret to say, considered too--how shall I put it? --flippant by
my parishioners. So I have a tricycle. I have just been hauling
it hither."

"Hauling!" said Jessie, surprised.

"With a shoe lace. And partly carrying it on my back."

The pause was unexpected. Jessie had some trouble with a crumb.
Mr. Hoopdriver's face passed through several phases of surprise.
Then he saw the explanation. "Had an accident?"

"I can hardly call it an accident. The wheels suddenly refused to
go round. I found myself about five miles from here with an
absolutely immobile machine."

"Ow!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, trying to seem intelligent, and Jessie
glanced at this insane person.

"It appears," said the clergyman, satisfied with the effect he
had created, "that my man carefully washed out the bearings with
paraffin, and let the machine dry without oiling it again. The
consequence was that they became heated to a considerable
temperature and jammed. Even at the outset the machine ran
stiffly as well as noisily, and I, being inclined to ascribe this
stiffness to my own lassitude, merely redoubled my exertions."

"'Ot work all round," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"You could scarcely put it more appropriately. It is my rule of
life to do whatever I find to do with all my might. I believe,
indeed, that the bearings became red hot. Finally one of the
wheels jammed together. A side wheel it was, so that its stoppage
necessitated an inversion of the entire apparatus,--an inversion
in which I participated."

"Meaning, that you went over?" said Mr. Hoopdriver, suddenly much
amused.

"Precisely. And not brooking my defeat, I suffered repeatedly.
You may understand, perhaps, a natural impatience. I
expostulated--playfully, of course. Happily the road was not
overlooked. Finally, the entire apparatus became rigid, and I
abandoned the unequal contest. For all practical purposes the
tricycle was no better than a heavy chair without castors. It was
a case of hauling or carrying."

The clergyman's nutriment appeared in the doorway.

"Five miles," said the clergyman. He began at once to eat bread
and butter vigorously. "Happily," he said, "I am an eupeptic,
energetic sort of person on principle. I would all men were
likewise."

"It's the best way," agreed Mr. Hoopdriver, and the conversation
gave precedence to bread and butter.

"Gelatine," said the clergyman, presently, stirring his tea
thoughtfully, "precipitates the tannin in one's tea and renders
it easy of digestion."

"That's a useful sort of thing to know," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"You are altogether welcome," said the clergyman, biting
generously at two pieces of bread and butter folded together.

In the afternoon our two wanderers rode on at an easy pace
towards Stoney Cross. Conversation languished, the topic of South
Africa being in abeyance. Mr. Hoopdriver was silenced by
disagreeable thoughts. He had changed the last sovereign at
Ringwood. The fact had come upon him suddenly. Now too late he
was reflecting upon his resources. There was twenty pounds or
more in the post office savings bank in Putney, but his book was
locked up in his box at the Antrobus establishment. Else this
infatuated man would certainly have surreptitiously withdrawn the
entire sum in order to prolong these journeyings even for a few
days. As it was, the shadow of the end fell across his happiness.
Strangely enough, in spite of his anxiety and the morning's
collapse, he was still in a curious emotional state that was
certainly not misery. He was forgetting his imaginings and
posings, forgetting himself altogether in his growing
appreciation of his companion. The most tangible trouble in his
mind was the necessity of breaking the matter to her.

A long stretch up hill tired them long before Stoney Cross was
reached, and they dismounted and sat under the shade of a little
oak tree. Near the crest the road looped on itself, so that,
looking back, it sloped below them up to the right and then came
towards them. About them grew a rich heather with stunted oaks on
the edge of a deep ditch along the roadside, and this road was
sandy; below the steepness of the hill, however, it was grey and
barred with shadows, for there the trees clustered thick and
tall. Mr. Hoopdriver fumbled clumsily with his cigarettes.

"There's a thing I got to tell you," he said, trying to be
perfectly calm.

"Yes?" she said.

"I'd like to jest discuss your plans a bit, y'know."

"I'm very unsettled," said Jessie. "You are thinking of writing
Books?"

"Or doing journalism, or teaching, or something like that."

"And keeping yourself independent of your stepmother?"

"Yes."

"How long'd it take now, to get anything of that sort to do?"

"I don't know at all. I believe there are a great many women
journalists and sanitary inspectors, and black-and-white artists.
But I suppose it takes time. Women, you know, edit most papers
nowadays, George Egerton says. I ought, I suppose, to communicate
with a literary agent."

"Of course," said Hoopdriver, "it's very suitable work. Not being
heavy like the drapery."

"There's heavy brain labour, you must remember."

"That wouldn't hurt YOU," said Mr. Hoopdriver, turning a
compliment.

"It's like this," he said, ending a pause. "It's a juiced
nuisance alluding to these matters, but--we got very little more
money."

He perceived that Jessie started, though he did not look at her.
"I was counting, of course, on your friend's writing and your
being able to take some action to-day." 'Take some action' was a
phrase he had learnt at his last 'swop.' 

"Money," said Jessie. "I didn't think of money."

"Hullo! Here's a tandem bicycle," said Mr. Hoopdriver, abruptly,
and pointing with his cigarette.

She looked, and saw two little figures emerging from among the
trees at the foot of the slope. The riders were bowed sternly
over their work and made a gallant but unsuccessful attempt to
take the rise. The machine was evidently too highly geared for
hill climbing, and presently the rearmost rider rose on his
saddle and hopped off, leaving his companion to any fate he found
proper. The foremost rider was a man unused to such machines and
apparently undecided how to dismount. He wabbled a few yards up
the hill with a long tail of machine wabbling behind him.
Finally, he made an attempt to jump off as one does off a single
bicycle, hit his boot against the backbone, and collapsed
heavily, falling on his shoulder.

She stood up. "Dear me!" she said. "I hope he isn't hurt."

The second rider went to the assistance of the fallen man.

Hoopdriver stood up, too. The lank, shaky machine was lifted up
and wheeled out of the way, and then the fallen rider, being
assisted, got up slowly and stood rubbing his arm. No serious
injury seemed to be done to the man, and the couple presently
turned their attention to the machine by the roadside. They were
not in cycling clothes Hoopdriver observed. One wore the
grotesque raiment for which the Cockney discovery of the game of
golf seems indirectly blamable. Even at this distance the
flopping flatness of his cap, the bright brown leather at the top
of his calves, and the chequering of his stockings were
perceptible. The other, the rear rider, was a slender little man
in grey.

"Amatoors," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

Jessie stood staring, and a veil of thought dropped over her
eyes. She no longer regarded the two men who were now tinkering
at the machine down below there.

"How much have you?" she said.

He thrust his right hand into his pocket and produced six coins,
counted them with his left index finger, and held them out to
her. "Thirteen four half," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "Every penny."

"I have half a sovereign," she said. "Our bill wherever we
stop--" The hiatus was more eloquent than many words. 

"I never thought of money coming in to stop us like this," said
Jessie.

"It's a juiced nuisance." 

"Money," said Jessie. "Is it possible--Surely! Conventionality!
May only people of means--Live their own Lives? I never thought
..."

Pause.

"Here's some more cyclists coming," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

The two men were both busy with their bicycle still, but now from
among the trees emerged the massive bulk of a 'Marlborough Club'
tandem, ridden by a slender woman in grey and a burly man in 
Norfolk jacket. Following close upon this came lank black figure
in a piebald straw hat, riding a tricycle of antiquated pattern
with two large wheels in front. The man in grey remained bowed
over the bicycle, with his stomach resting on the saddle, but his
companion stood up and addressed some remark to the tricycle
riders. Then it seemed as if he pointed up hill to where Mr.
Hoopdriver and his companion stood side by side. A still odder
thing followed; the lady in grey took out her handkerchief,
appeared to wave it for a moment, and then at a hasty motion from
her companion the white signal vanished.

"Surely," said Jessie, peering under her hand. "It's never--"

The tandem tricycle began to ascend the hill, quartering
elaborately from side to side to ease the ascent. It was evident,
from his heaving shoulders and depressed head, that the burly
gentleman was exerting himself. The clerical person on the
tricycle assumed the shape of a note of interrogation. Then on
the heels of this procession came a dogcart driven by a man in a
billycock hat and containing a lady in dark green.

"Looks like some sort of excursion," said Hoopdriver.

Jessie did not answer. She was still peering under her hand.
"Surely," she said.

The clergyman's efforts were becoming convulsive. With a curious
jerking motion, the tricycle he rode twisted round upon itself,
and he partly dismounted and partly fell off. He turned his
machine up hill again immediately and began to wheel it. Then the
burly gentleman dismounted, and with a courtly attentiveness
assisted the lady in grey to alight. There was some little
difference of opinion as to assistance, she so clearly wished to
help push. Finally she gave in, and the burly gentleman began
impelling the machine up hill by his own unaided strength. His
face made a dot of brilliant colour among the greys and greens at
the foot of the hill. The tandem bicycle was now, it seems,
repaired, and this joined the tail of the procession, its riders
walking behind the dogcart, from which the lady in green and the
driver had now descended. 

"Mr. Hoopdriver," said Jessie. "Those people--I'm almost sure--"

"Lord!" said Mr. Hoopdriver, reading the rest in her face, and he
turned to pick up his machine at once. Then he dropped it and
assisted her to mount.

At the sight of Jessie mounting against the sky line the people
coming up the hill suddenly became excited and ended Jessie's
doubts at once. Two handkerchiefs waved, and some one shouted.
The riders of the tandem bicycle began to run it up hill, past
the other vehicles. But our young people did not wait for further
developments of the pursuit. In another moment they were out of
sight, riding hard down a steady incline towards Stoney Cross.

Before they had dropped among the trees out of sight of the hill
brow, Jessie looked back and saw the tandem rising over the
crest, with its rear rider just tumbling into the saddle.
"They're coming," she said, and bent her head over her handles in
true professional style.

They whirled down into the valley, over a white bridge, and saw
ahead of them a number of shaggy little ponies frisking in the
roadway. Involuntarily they slackened. "Shoo!" said Mr.
Hoopdriver, and the ponies kicked up their heels derisively. At
that Mr. Hoopdriver lost his temper and charged at them, narrowly
missed one, and sent them jumping the ditch into the bracken
under the trees, leaving the way clear for Jessie.

Then the road rose quietly but persistently; the treadles grew
heavy, and Mr. Hoopdriver's breath sounded like a saw. The tandem
appeared, making frightful exertions, at the foot, while the
chase was still climbing. Then, thank Heaven! a crest and a
stretch of up and down road, whose only disadvantage was its
pitiless exposure to the afternoon sun. The tandem apparently
dismounted at the hill, and did not appear against the hot blue
sky until they were already near some trees and a good mile away.

"We're gaining," said Mr. Hoopdriver, with a little Niagara of
perspiration dropping from brow to cheek. "That hill--"

But that was their only gleam of success. They were both nearly
spent. Hoopdriver, indeed, was quite spent, and only a feeling of
shame prolonged the liquidation of his bankrupt physique. From
that point the tandem grained upon them steadily. At the Rufus
Stone, it was scarcely a hundred yards behind. Then one desperate
spurt, and they found themselves upon a steady downhill stretch
among thick pine woods. Downhill nothing can beat a highly geared
tandem bicycle. Automatically Mr. Hoopdriver put up his feet, and
Jessie slackened her pace. In another moment they heard the swish
of the fat pneumatics behind them, and the tandem passed
Hoopdriver and drew alongside Jessie. Hoopdriver felt a mad
impulse to collide with this abominable machine as it passed him.
His only consolation was to notice that its riders, riding
violently, were quite as dishevelled as himself and smothered in
sandy white dust.

Abruptly Jessie stopped and dismounted, and the tandem riders
shot panting past them downhill. "Brake," said Dangle, who was
riding behind, and stood up on the pedals. For a moment the
velocity of the thing increased, and then they saw the dust fly
from the brake, as it came down on the front tire. Dangle's right
leg floundered in the air as he came off in the road. The tandem
wobbled. "Hold it!" cried Phipps over his shoulder, going on
downhill. I can't get off if you don't hold it." He put on the
brake until the machine stopped almost dead, and then feeling
unstable began to pedal again. Dangle shouted after him. "Put out
your foot, man," said Dangle.

In this way the tandem riders were carried a good hundred yards
or more beyond their quarry. Then Phipps realized his
possibilities, slacked up with the brake, and let the thing go
over sideways, dropping on to his right foot. With his left leg
still over the saddle, and still holding the handles, he looked
over his shoulder and began addressing uncomplimentary remarks to
Dangle. "You only think of yourself," said Phipps, with a florid
face.

"They have forgotten us," said Jessie, turning her machine.

"There was a road at the top of the hill--to Lyndhurst," said
Hoopdriver, following her example.

"It's no good. There's the money. We must give it up. But let us
go back to that hotel at Rufus Stone. I don't see why we should
be led captive."

So to the consternation of the tandem riders, Jessie and her
companion mounted and rode quietly back up the hill again. As
they dismounted at the hotel entrance, the tandem overtook them,
and immediately afterwards the dogcart came into view in pursuit.
Dangle jumped off.

"Miss Milton, I believe," said Dangle, panting and raising a damp
cap from his wet and matted hair.

"I SAY," said Phipps, receding involuntarily. "Don't go doing it
again, Dangle. HELP a chap."

"One minute," said Dangle, and ran after his colleague.

Jessie leant her machine against the wall, and went into the
hotel entrance. Hoopdriver remained in the hotel entrance, limp
but defiant.



AT THE RUFUS STONE 

XXXVIII

He folded his arms as Dangle and Phipps returned towards him.
Phipps was abashed by his inability to cope with the tandem,
which he was now wheeling, but Dangle was inclined to be
quarrelsome. "Miss Milton?" he said briefly.

Mr. Hoopdriver bowed over his folded arms.

"Miss Milton within?" said Dangle.

AND not to be disturved," said Mr. Hoopdriver.

"You are a scoundrel, sir," said Mr. Dangle.

"Et your service," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "She awaits 'er
stepmother, sir."

Mr. Dangle hesitated. "She will be here immediately," he said.
"Here is her friend, Miss Mergle."

Mr. Hoopdriver unfolded his arms slowly, and, with an air of
immense calm, thrust his hands into his breeches pockets. Then
with one of those fatal hesitations of his, it occurred to him
that this attitude was merely vulgarly defiant he withdrew both,
returned one and pulled at the insufficient moustache with the
other. Miss Mergle caught him in confusion. "Is this the man?"
she said to Dangle, and forthwith, "How DARE you, sir? How dare
you face me? That poor girl!"


"You will permit me to observe," began Mr. Hoopdriver, with a
splendid drawl, seeing himself, for the first time in all this
business, as a romantic villain.

"Ugh," said Miss Mergle, unexpectedly striking him about the
midriff with her extended palms, and sending him staggering
backward into the hall of the hotel.

"Let me pass said Miss Mergle, in towering indignation. "How dare
you resist my passage?" and so swept by him and into the
dining-room, wherein Jessie had sought refuge.

As Mr. Hoopdriver struggled for equilibrium with the
umbrella-stand, Dangle and Phipps, roused from their inertia by
Miss Mergle's activity, came in upon her heels, Phipps leading.
"How dare you prevent that lady passing?" said Phipps.

Mr. Hoopdriver looked obstinate, and, to Dangle's sense,
dangerous, but he made no answer. A waiter in full bloom appeared
at the end of the passage, guardant. "It is men of your stamp,
sir," said Phipps, "who discredit manhood."

Mr. Hoopdriver thrust his hands into his pockets. "Who the juice
are you?" shouted Mr. Hoopdriver, fiercely.

"Who are YOU, sir?" retorted Phipps. "Who are you? That's the
question. What are YOU, and what are you doing, wandering at
large with a young lady under age?"

"Don't speak to him," said Dangle.

"I'm not a-going to tell all my secrets to any one who comes at
me," said Hoopdriver. "Not Likely." And added fiercely, "And that
I tell you, sir."

He and Phipps stood, legs apart and both looking exceedingly
fierce at one another, and Heaven alone knows what might not have
happened, if the long clergyman had not appeared in the doorway,
heated but deliberate. "Petticoated anachronism," said the long
clergyman in the doorway, apparently still suffering from the
antiquated prejudice that demanded a third wheel and a black coat
from a clerical rider. He looked at Phipps and Hoopdriver for a
moment, then extending his hand towards the latter, he waved it
up and down three times, saying, "Tchak, tchak, tchak," very
deliberately as he did so. Then with a concluding "Ugh!" and a
gesture of repugnance he passed on into the dining-room from
which the voice of Miss Mergle was distinctly audible remarking
that the weather was extremely hot even for the time of year. 

This expression of extreme disapprobation had a very demoralizing
effect upon Hoopdriver, a demoralization that was immediately
completed by the advent of the massive Widgery.

"Is this the man?" said Widgery very grimly, and producing a
special voice for the occasion from somewhere deep in his neck.

"Don't hurt him!" said Mrs. Milton, with clasped hands. "However
much wrong he has done her--No violence!"

"'Ow many more of you?" said Hoopdriver, at bay before the
umbrella stand. "Where is she? What has he done with her?" said
Mrs. Milton.

"I'm not going to stand here and be insulted by a lot of
strangers," said Mr. Hoopdriver. "So you needn't think it."

"Please don't worry, Mr. Hoopdriver," said Jessie, suddenly
appearing in the door of the dining-room. "I'm here, mother." Her
face was white.

Mrs. Milton said something about her child, and made an emotional
charge at Jessie. The embrace vanished into the dining-room.
Widgery moved as if to follow, and hesitated. "You'd better make
yourself scarce," he said to Mr. Hoopdriver.

"I shan't do anything of the kind," said Mr. Hoopdriver, with a
catching of the breath. "I'm here defending that young lady."

"You've done her enough mischief, I should think," said Widgery,
suddenly walking towards the dining-room, and closing the door
behind him, leaving Dangle and Phipps with Hoopdriver.

"Clear!" said Phipps, threateningly.

"I shall go and sit out in the garden," said Mr. Hoopdriver, with
dignity. "There I shall remain."

"Don't make a row with him," said Dangle.

And Mr. Hoopdriver retired, unassaulted, in almost sobbing
dignity. 



XXXIX

So here is the world with us again, and our sentimental excursion
is over. In the front of the Rufus Stone Hotel conceive a
remarkable collection of wheeled instruments, watched over by
Dangle and Phipps in grave and stately attitudes, and by the
driver of a stylish dogcart from Ringwood. In the garden behind,
in an attitude of nervous prostration, Mr. Hoopdriver was seated
on a rustic seat. Through the open window of a private
sitting-room came a murmur of voices, as of men and women in
conference. Occasionally something that might have been a girlish
sob.

"I fail to see what status Widgery has," says Dangle, "thrusting
himself in there."

"He takes too much upon himself," said Phipps.

"I've been noticing little things, yesterday and to-day," said
Dangle, and stopped.

"They went to the cathedral together in the afternoon."

"Financially it would be a good thing for her, of course," said
Dangle, with a gloomy magnanimity.

He felt drawn to Phipps now by the common trouble, in spite of
the man's chequered legs. "Financially it wouldn't be half bad."

"He's so dull and heavy," said Phipps.

Meanwhile, within, the clergyman had, by promptitude and
dexterity, taken the chair and was opening the case against the
unfortunate Jessie. I regret to have to say that my heroine had
been appalled by the visible array of public opinion against her
excursion, to the pitch of tears. She was sitting with flushed
cheeks and swimming eyes at the end of the table opposite to the
clergyman. She held her handkerchief crumpled up in her extended
hand. Mrs. Milton sat as near to her as possible, and
occasionally made little dabs with her hand at Jessie's hand, to
indicate forgiveness. These advances were not reciprocated, which
touched Widgery very much. The lady in green, Miss Mergle (B.
A.), sat on the opposite side near the clergyman. She was the
strong-minded schoolmistress to whom Jessie had written, and who
had immediately precipitated the pursuit upon her. She had picked
up the clergyman in Ringwood, and had told him everything
forthwith, having met him once at a British Association meeting.
He had immediately constituted himself administrator of the
entire business. Widgery, having been foiled in an attempt to
conduct the proceedings, stood with his legs wide apart in front
of the fireplace ornament, and looked profound and sympathetic.
Jessie's account of her adventures was a chary one and given
amidst frequent interruptions. She surprised herself by skilfully
omitting any allusion to the Bechamel episode. She completely
exonerated Hoopdriver from the charge of being more than an
accessory to her escapade. But public feeling was heavy against
Hoopdriver. Her narrative was inaccurate and sketchy, but happily
the others were too anxious to pass opinions to pin her down to
particulars. At last they had all the facts they would permit.

"My dear young lady," said the clergyman, "I can only ascribe
this extravagant and regrettable expedition of yours to the
wildest misconceptions of your place in the world and of your
duties and responsibilities. Even now, it seems to me, your
present emotion is due not so much to a real and sincere
penitence for your disobedience and folly as to a positive
annoyance at our most fortunate interference--"

"Not that," said Mrs. Milton, in a low tone. "Not that."

"But WHY did she go off like this?" said Widgery. "That's what
_I_ want to know."

Jessie made an attempt to speak, but Mrs. Milton said "Hush!" and
the ringing tenor of the clergyman rode triumphantly over the
meeting. "I cannot understand this spirit of unrest that has
seized upon the more intelligent portion of the feminine
community. You had a pleasant home, a most refined and
intelligent lady in the position of your mother, to cherish and
protect you--"

"If I HAD a mother," gulped Jessie, succumbing to the obvious
snare of self-pity, and sobbing.

"To cherish, protect, and advise you. And you must needs go out
of it all alone into a strange world of unknown dangers-"

"I wanted to learn," said Jessie.

"You wanted to learn. May you never have anything to UNlearn."

"AH!" from Mrs. Milton, very sadly.

"It isn't fair for all of you to argue at me at once," submitted
Jessie, irrelevantly.

"A world full of unknown dangers," resumed the clergyman. "Your
proper place was surely the natural surroundings that are part of
you. You have been unduly influenced, it is only too apparent, by
a class of literature which, with all due respect to
distinguished authoress that shall be nameless, I must call the
New Woman Literature. In that deleterious ingredient of our book
boxes--"

"I don't altogether agree with you there," said Miss Mergle,
throwing her head back and regarding him firmly through her
spectacles, and Mr. Widgery coughed.

"What HAS all this to do with me?" asked Jessie, availing herself
of the interruption.

"The point is," said Mrs. Milton, on her defence, "that in my
books--"

"All I want to do," said Jessie, "is to go about freely by
myself. Girls do so in America. Why not here?"

"Social conditions are entirely different in America," said Miss
Mergle. "Here we respect Class Distinctions."

"It's very unfortunate. What I want to know is, why I cannot go
away for a holiday if I want to."

"With a strange young man, socially your inferior," said Widgery,
and made her flush by his tone.

"Why not?" she said. "With anybody." 

"They don't do that, even in America," said Miss Mergle.

"My dear young lady," said the clergyman, "the most elementary
principles of decorum--A day will come when you will better
understand how entirely subservient your ideas are to the very
fundamentals of our present civilisation, when you will better
understand the harrowing anxiety you have given Mrs. Milton by
this inexplicable flight of yours. We can only put things down at
present, in charity, to your ignorance--"

"You have to consider the general body of opinion, too," said
Widgery.

"Precisely," said Miss Mergle. "There is no such thing as conduct
in the absolute." "If once this most unfortunate business gets
about," said the clergyman, "it will do you infinite harm."

"But I'VE done nothing wrong. Why should I be responsible for
other people's--"

"The world has no charity," said Mrs. Milton.

"For a girl," said Jessie. "No."

"Now do let us stop arguing, my dear young lady, and let us
listen to reason. Never mind how or why, this conduct of yours
will do you infinite harm, if once it is generally known. And not
only that, it will cause infinite pain to those who care for you.
But if you will return at once to your home, causing it to be
understood that you have been with friends for these last few
days--"

"Tell lies," said Jessie. "Certainly not. Most certainly not. But
I understand that is how your absence is understood at present,
and there is no reason--"

Jessie's grip tightened on her handkerchief. "I won't go back,"
she said, "to have it as I did before. I want a room of my own,
what books I need to read, to be free to go out by myself alone,
Teaching--"

"Anything," said Mrs. Milton ,"anything in reason."

"But will you keep your promise?" said Jessie.

"Surely you won't dictate to your mother!" said Widgery.

"My stepmother! I don't want to dictate. I want definite promises
now."

"This is most unreasonable," said the clergyman. "Very well,"
said Jessie, swallowing a sob but with unusual resolution. "Then
I won't go back. My life is being frittered away--"

"LET her have her way," said Widgery.

"A room then. All your Men. I'm not to come down and talk away
half my days--"

"My dear child, if only to save you," said Mrs. Milton. "If you
don't keep your promise--"

"Then I take it the matter is practically concluded," said the
clergyman. "And that you very properly submit to return to your
proper home. And now, if I may offer a suggestion, it is that we
take tea. Freed of its tannin, nothing, I think, is more
refreshing and stimulating." 

"There's a train from Lyndhurst at thirteen minutes to six," said
Widgery, unfolding a time table. "That gives us about half an
hour or three-quarters here--if a conveyance is obtainable, that
is."

"A gelatine lozenge dropped into the tea cup precipitates the
tannin in the form of tannate of gelatine," said the clergyman to
Miss Mergle, in a confidential bray.

Jessie stood up, and saw through the window a depressed head and
shoulders over the top of the back of a garden seat. She moved
towards the door. "While you have tea, mother," she said, "I must
tell Mr. Hoopdriver of our arrangements."

"Don't you think I--" began the clergyman.

"No," said Jessie, very rudely; "I don't."

"But, Jessie, haven't you already--"

"You are already breaking the capitulation," said Jessie.

"Will you want the whole half hour?" said Widgery, at the bell. 

"Every minute," said Jessie, in the doorway. "He's behaved very
nobly to me."

"There's tea," said Widgery.

"I've had tea."

"He may not have behaved badly," said the clergyman. "But he's
certainly an astonishingly weak person to let a wrong-headed
young girl--"

Jessie closed the door into the garden.


Meanwhile Mr. Hoopdriver made a sad figure in the sunlight
outside. It was over, this wonderful excursion of his, so far as
she was concerned, and with the swift blow that separated them,
he realised all that those days had done for him. He tried to
grasp the bearings of their position. Of course, they would take
her away to those social altitudes of hers. She would become an
inaccessible young lady again. Would they let him say good-bye to
her?

How extraordinary it had all been! He recalled the moment when he
had first seen her riding, with the sunlight behind her, along
the riverside road; he recalled that wonderful night at Bognor,
remembering it as if everything had been done of his own
initiative. "Brave, brave!" she had called him. And afterwards,
when she came down to him in the morning, kindly, quiet. But
ought he to have persuaded her then to return to her home? He
remembered some intention of the sort. Now these people snatched
her away from him as though he was scarcely fit to live in the
same world with her. No more he was! He felt he had presumed upon
her worldly ignorance in travelling with her day after day. She
was so dainty, so delightful, so serene. He began to recapitulate
her expressions, the light of her eyes, the turn of her face . .
.

He wasn't good enough to walk in the same road with her. Nobody
was. Suppose they let him say good-bye to her; what could he say?
That? But they were sure not to let her talk to him alone; her
mother would be there as--what was it? Chaperone. He'd never once
had a chance of saying what he felt; indeed, it was only now he
was beginning to realise what he felt. Love I he wouldn't
presume. It was worship. If only he could have one more chance.
He must have one more chance, somewhere, somehow. Then he would
pour out his soul to her eloquently. He felt eloquently, and
words would come. He was dust under her feet . . .

His meditation was interrupted by the click of a door handle, and
Jessie appeared in the sunlight under the verandah. "Come away
from here," she said to Hoopdriver, as he rose to meet her. "I'm
going home with them. We have to say good-bye."

Mr. Hoopdriver winced, opened and shut his mouth, and rose
without a word.



XL

At first Jessie Milton and Mr. Hoopdriver walked away from the
hotel in silence. He heard a catching in her breath and glanced
at her and saw her ips pressed tight and a tear on her cheek. Her
face was hot and bright. She was looking straight before her. He
could think of nothing to say, and thrust his hands in his
pockets and looked away from her intentionally. After a while she
began to talk. They dealt disjointedly with scenery first, and
then with the means of self-education. She took his address at
Antrobus's and promised to send him some books. But even with
that it was spiritless, aching talk, Hoopdriver felt, for the
fighting mood was over. She seemed, to him, preoccupied with the
memories of her late battle, and that appearance hurt him.

"It's the end," he whispered to himself. "It's the end."

They went into a hollow and up a gentle wooded slope, and came at
last to a high and open space overlooking a wide expanse of
country. There, by a common impulse, they stopped. She looked at
her watch--a little ostentatiously. They stared at the billows of
forest rolling away beneath them, crest beyond crest, of leafy
trees, fading at last into blue.

"The end" ran through his mind, to the exclusion of all speakable
thoughts.

"And so," she said, presently, breaking the silence, "it comes to
good-bye."

For half a minute he did not answer. Then he gathered his
resolution. "There is one thing I MUST say."

"Well?" she said, surprised and abruptly forgetting the recent
argument. "I ask no return. But--"

Then he stopped. "I won't say it. It's no good. It would be rot
from me--now. I wasn't going to say anything. Good-bye."

She looked at him with a startled expression in her eyes. "No,"
she said. "But don't forget you are going to work. Remember,
brother Chris, you are my friend. You will work. You are not a
very strong man, you know, now--you will forgive me--nor do you
know all you should. But what will you be in six years' time?"

He stared hard in front of him still, and the lines about his
weak mouth seemed to strengthen. He knew she understood what he
could not say. 

"I'll work," he said, concisely. They stood side by side for a
moment. Then he said, with a motion of his head, "I won't come
back to THEM. Do you mind? Going back alone?"

She took ten seconds to think. "No." she said, and held out her
hand, biting her nether lip. "GOOD-BYE," she whispered.

He turned, with a white face, looked into her eyes, took her hand
limply, and then with a sudden impulse, lifted it to his lips.
She would have snatched it away, but his grip tightened to her
movement. She felt the touch of his lips, and then he had dropped
her fingers and turned from her and was striding down the slope.
A dozen paces away his foot turned in the lip of a rabbit hole,
and he stumbled forward and almost fell. He recovered his balance
and went on, not looking back. He never once looked back. She
stared at his receding figure until it was small and far below
her, and then, the tears running over her eyelids now, turned
slowly, and walked with her hands gripped hard together behind
her, towards Stoney Cross again.

"I did not know," she whispered to herself. "I did not
understand. Even now--No, I do not understand."



THE ENVOY

XLI

So the story ends, dear Reader. Mr. Hoopdriver, sprawling down
there among the bracken, must sprawl without our prying, I think,
or listening to what chances to his breathing. And of what came
of it all, of the six years and afterwards, this is no place to
tell. In truth, there is no telling it, for the years have still
to run. But if you see how a mere counter-jumper, a cad on
castors, and a fool to boot, may come to feel the little
insufficiencies of life, and if he has to any extent won your
sympathies, my end is attained. (If it is not attained, may
Heaven forgive us both!) Nor will we follow this adventurous
young lady of ours back to her home at Surbiton, to her new
struggle against Widgery and Mrs. Milton combined. For, as she
will presently hear, that devoted man has got his reward. For
her, also, your sympathies are invited.

The rest of this great holiday, too--five days there are left of
it--is beyond the limits of our design. You see fitfully a
slender figure in a dusty brown suit and heather mixture
stockings, and brown shoes not intended to be cycled in, flitting
Londonward through Hampshire and Berkshire and Surrey, going
economically--for excellent reasons. Day by day he goes on,
riding fitfully and for the most part through bye-roads, but
getting a few miles to the north-eastward every day. He is a
narrow-chested person, with a nose hot and tanned at the bridge
with unwonted exposure, and brown, red-knuckled fists. A musing
expression sits upon the face of this rider, you observe.
Sometimes he whistles noiselessly to himself, sometimes he speaks
aloud, "a juiced good try, anyhow!" you hear; and sometimes, and
that too often for my liking, he looks irritable and hopeless. "I
know," he says, "I know. It's over and done. It isn't IN me. You
ain't man enough, Hoopdriver. Look at yer silly hands! . . . Oh,
my God!" and a gust of passion comes upon him and he rides
furiously for a space.

Sometimes again his face softens. "Anyhow, if I'm not to see her-
-she's going to lend me books," he thinks, and gets such comfort
as he can. Then again; "Books! What's books?" Once or twice
triumphant memories of the earlier incidents nerve his face for a
while. "I put the ky-bosh on HIS little game," he remarks. "I DID
that," and one might even call him happy in these phases. And,
by-the-bye, the machine, you notice, has been enamel-painted grey
and carries a sonorous gong.

This figure passes through Basingstoke and Bagshot, Staines,
Hampton, and Richmond. At last, in Putney High Street, glowing
with the warmth of an August sunset and with all the 'prentice
boys busy shutting up shop, and the work girls going home, and
the shop folks peeping abroad, and the white 'buses full of late
clerks and city folk rumbling home to their dinners, we part from
him. He is back. To-morrow, the early rising, the dusting, and
drudgery, begin again--but with a difference, with wonderful
memories and still more wonderful desires and ambitions replacing
those discrepant dreams.

He turns out of the High Street at the corner, dismounts with a
sigh, and pushes his machine through the gates of the Antrobus
stable yard, as the apprentice with the high collar holds them
open. There are words of greeting. "South Coast," you hear; and
"splendid weather--splendid." He sighs. "Yes--swapped him off for
a couple of sovs. It's a juiced good machine."

The gate closes upon him with a slam, and he vanishes from our
ken.





End of the Project Gutenberg Etext of The Wheels of Chance


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